Hannah Scribbles

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

3WW: Swing Set

In Creative on April 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm

The swing glides through purple twilight, slicing air like butter.  Its chains are well-oiled, its rubber seat weathered but not worn.  The chains are set too high for her feet to brush the mulched ground beneath, and she smiles.  The swing moves like a pendulum, unwavering, resolute and in time with her heartbeat.

This is not the only swing set.  It is not the closest swing set.  It is not even the best swing set, but it is the one she returns to in the evenings when the sun has gone and the moon not yet risen.  It is here that she sits, listening to children playing a block over and the slow crunch of tire on gray asphalt down the road.

A dog parks down the block.  Children rumble on their Little Tyke tricycles.  Motorcycle engines roar on the highway.  Eighteen-wheelers scream across the interstate overpass, audible from miles away.  A helicopter chops through the night. The noises melt and mingle with each other on the edge of her mind.

She visits because, of all the playgrounds in the city, this quaint section of land is the only one that can cleanse her mind of its troubles.  It opens into an older, sprawling neighborhood of modest houses.  Tall trees create a distant border that gives the paradoxical illusion of enclosed and open space all at once.  A walking path runs behind it, but no one bothers to stop because there are farther, prettier places to visit and not enough hours in a day.  Unlike newer developments, the moist air here smells too complex to have come from a garden center.

She can admire this neighborhood and the characters it must hold.  Each house is unique, painted and shaped as if an artisan had kneaded it from clay.  He must have worked years to form that weeded garden and battered screen door.  That shed next door, stacked high with tools and a retrofitted door, could only have from careful study.

It is a neighborhood crafted by time and the razor-like cut of her pendulum swing.

Review: Staring at goats could be bad for you

In Movies/TV, Pop Culture! on April 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm

You’re not supposed to laugh about roadside bombs, but that is the joke’s punch line.  You’re snickering, a hand to your mouth to hide it, but the amusement is showing through.  Comedy strikes again.

“The Men  Who Stare At Goats,” a dark comedy set during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, features a voice over by Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), the lead character, that leaves you humored and bemused but not gripped by outright laughs.

Wilton is an average reporter for the Ann Arbor Times who travels to Iraq prove himself and to make his ex-wife jealous.  While waiting to cross the Kuwait-Iraq border as an embedded reporter, he meets Lyn Skip Cassady (played by a mustachioed George Clooney), an ex-military contractor with slightly crazed eyes and a sincere belief that he is a Jedi warrior – but not the kind you might think.  Whalton joins up with Cassady to cover his story on what turns out to be an explosive and absurd mission through the Iraq.

Cassady explains that he was the most gifted student of Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), a hippie officer, during the U.S. Army’s experiment with paranormal techniques that created a new sector called the New Earth Army.  He is a sincere believer in the New Earth Army while his reporter companion, whose mocking voice over lampoons the earnest mission at hand, is at first dubious of his psychological powers and sense of direction.

However ridiculous the storyline, this partially-true story is supported by a willing cast that plays through the absurdity with straight-faced determination.  For proof of great acting, one need only look at Clooney’s reaction to McGregor’s declaration that he wanted to be a Jedi, which had me in stitches.  The duo plays off McGregor’s presence in the Star Wars prequel trilogy by ignoring it, which is either a brilliant joke or a misplaced distraction.

The drawback to this movie is that you can’t tell whether the jokes are intentional.  If they are jokes, should I laugh at that?  Most of the comedy comes from inserting such a high level of absurdity into such a serious setting, and that doesn’t fly with a lot of people.  Confused, they watch on and wonder where the comedy is.  It’s there, moviegoers, but if you missed it the first time I warn you not to try again.  It won’t make any more sense the second time around.

Running Time:  94 minutes

Director:  Grant Heslov

Rating:  C+

why you should meander through “O Pioneers”

In Movies/TV, Pop Culture! on April 10, 2011 at 10:49 am

Willa Cather’s novel “O Pioneers” transports you through time into the untamed prairies of the West and into the heart of the men and women who first conquered the wilderness with their plows. It is a story of sacrifice, of love lost and of resilience in the face of sorrow.

The story follows the life of young immigrant Alexandra Bergson as she takes over the family farm upon her father’s death.  She faces resistance from her two brothers Oscar and Lou, who are ashamed of standing out from other farmers and of their origins, and criticism from the surrounding landowners.  Alexandra, in her endeavors to raise her youngest brother, Emil, into a man not burdened by the soil, puts aside her personal happiness.

The novel faces criticism for its meandering plotline and lack of typical conflict-resolution formatting.  That flaw, however, is its brilliance.  The story flows in waves and lulls of action, weaving the scenery into a character that develops alongside the pioneers that work it and changes with every springtime, birth or death.  It follows the path of real life rather than a constructed formula, which is part of the poetry in the words.

Cather captures the mentality of the characters exquisitely, detailing the pain and happiness of their rugged existence with sincerity.  You can neither grieve nor smile entirely for Alexandra or her family, because each person is uniquely flawed.  Their choices live with them and are as complete a character as the backdrop against which they live their lives.

It was a beautiful book.  Read it.


%d bloggers like this: