Out Of The Furnace

It’s cold and bleak today, so Kish and I decided to go see a movie.  A bleak day seemed to demand a bleak movie, so we went to see Out of the Furnace — which is bleak, indeed.

Out of the Furnace is purportedly the story of two brothers, one of whom avenges the other, but in reality it’s a grim tale of small town and rural America.  The brothers, played by Christian Bale and Casey Affleck, live in a mill town.  One of the brothers has a job at the mill, the other has served multiple tours in the military only to return to find . . . nothingness.  No opportunity, no hope, and no way to shake the demons created by his experience overseas.  He turns to bare-fisted fighting, and the fight scenes are brutal.

Without spoiling the plot, the brothers run afoul of Harlan DeGroat, a twisted sadist played with blazing intensity by Woody Harrelson.  You realize that DeGroat is as much a victim of the dead-end world in which he lives as are the two brothers — he’s just turned to drug manufacturing, drug pushing, gambling, and other forms of criminal activity because that’s a way to use his talents.  Harrelson is astonishingly believable in the role, and his portrayal of DeGroat is harrowing and will probably inspire a nightmare or two.  This is not a guy you’d want to encounter even in broad daylight with a policeman nearby.

Out of the Furnace is a riveting ride, but it isn’t a movie for the faint of heart, and not just because the story is a sad one.  We left the theater wondering if the tattooed, beer-swilling, snaggletoothed hopelessness depicted in the movie really reflects what is going on in for young people in small town and rural America — and hoping that it wasn’t.

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Snow Snout

IMG_5532Penny loves the snow — notwithstanding her perennially knit brow and apparent concerned expression.  She loves to romp in the snow and, especially, to stick her nose down into the white stuff for a good, long sniff.

This shouldn’t be surprising.  Labrador retrievers originally hail from Newfoundland, where they plunged into the icy waters to help fishermen pull in their catch.  For Penny, a little snow and ice is just a bracing reminder of her roots.

At The Old Sledding Hill

Today is a perfect day for sledding in New Albany.

IMG_5530The temperature is in the low 20s, the sky is cloudy, and snowflakes are drifting down on the existing snow cover.  That means there will be a base of packed down snow sufficient to bear the weight of even a Flexible Flyer sled, with a dusting of new snow that will minimize friction and enhance speed.  The weather conditions mean there won’t be high temperatures or sunshine to turn the snow mushy.

People have recognized the prime conditions, and the sledding hill next to number 1 North at the New Albany Country Club already has a good crowd.  It’s a fine hill for sledding.  There’s a gentle slope, so it’s not a terrible chore to trudge back up to the top after a sled run, and there’s a nice long run out to let you really enjoy a good sled ride.

It’s nice to see that saucer sleds remain a perennial favorite for kids.  Some classics just can’t be improved upon, and the saucer sled is one of them.

Parking Passions And Passive-Aggressiveness Placards

It’s the holidays.  We try to love our fellow man — except when they stink at parking.

What is it about parking that stirs the passions so profoundly?  Perhaps it’s because parking is such a simple, commonplace, communal activity that we take it for granted, and when someone violates the basic societal norms that have long governed the parking process it shakes the foundations of our world in deeply infuriating ways and suggests that we may live surrounded by clueless, self-absorbed idiots.

Whether the disturbing scenario involves going to a crowded parking lot and seeing that some jerk’s bad parking job has effectively taken up two of the precious spaces, or parking at a meter and returning to find that the kind people parking in front of and behind have left you no room whatsoever to maneuver out of your spot, or shoveling out your standard parking place after a huge snow storm, marking the spot, and then returning to find it occupied by someone else’s car, bad and inconsiderate parking tends to fuel rage.  And often the only meaningful outlet for the inward rage is a pointed, passive-aggressive note that can be hilarious to those of us who are only passing by.

Some years ago, BuzzFeed carried a story that displayed 40 great passive-aggressive parking notes.  There’s even a website called passiveaggressivenotes.com that collects choice examples of anonymous signage in which angry people try to change the behavior of the thoughtless people in the world.  And passive-aggressive signs aren’t limited to America; Richard and I saw the sign accompanying this post on our visit to Paris a few years ago.  The lesson for those of us with passive-aggressive tendencies is:  always have pen and paper handy, because you never know when you might see some jerky behavior that needs some gentle correction.

C’est La Vie

I was rooting hard for Ohio State to beat Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night.  But Michigan State is no Duke, and my wishes went aborning.

IMG_1822I give all credit to Michigan State, for a game well played.  I wish we had just pounded the ball after we took the lead in the second half, but I am not a coach.  Michigan State won, fair and square.  Tonight, they were the better team.

The holiday season beckons.  We’ll play in a bowl game, but not in a national championship game.  As I communicated to Uncle Mack during the game. c’est la vie.

I’m still proud of this team, and this season.  Don’t get down!