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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Two Minute Movie Review

Yes, I'm shamelessly stealing from Chad Dotson here. But I sat through a movie last night that deserves (brief) mention.

Paula and I watched the DVD version of the highly-touted documentary, "Grizzly Man," a "devastating and heartrending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska." (link)

I have two observations:
  1. The central character in the movie, Tim Treadwell, not only deserved to be killed by the bears he felt the need to befriend - and annoy to no end, by the time he was attacked and killed and eaten, I was rooting for the bears.
  2. Everyone who currently resides in the Pacific Northwest is weird or stupid or both. Treadwell's ex-girlfriend and the coroner in the movie in particular deserve to be imprisoned for being really peculiar. Everyone else in that part of the country should be prevented from ever multiplying. EVER.

The documentary, for what it's worth, served its purpose. The producer wanted to send a message to all you white boys out there who feel some inexplicable compulsion to head to Alaska and to "be one" with the wildlife. That documentary's message is: Do it at your own peril. The creatures with which you are going there to develop a relationship will enjoy your company - starting with your vital organs and devouring from there.

So. I give "Grizzly Man" three stars for its clear and unequivocal message. And I give the grizzly bear four stars for making the world a better place.

Virginia History To Be On Display

This is going to be kinda cool:
Unveiling Virginia's past
Samantha Sieber, Bristol Herald Courier

The curator of fine arts at the William King Regional Arts Center and others spent most of Friday unwrapping 39 paintings and sculptures and preparing them for the museum’s newest display, “Virginia Collects: Art from Capitol Square.”

The exhibit, which runs from April 15 through Nov. 26, represents the majority of the state’s art collection found in the Capitol building. It’s the first time the collection has been moved outside of Richmond.

The collection, which contains works spanning from 1773 to 1956, includes bronze and marble sculptures of Virginia’s leaders including Patrick Henry ... (link)
April 15. Be there or be ... ashamed of yourself.

On Beavers And Swift Boat Veterans

Well, I think I've discovered who it is that writes those abominable "Briefly put ..." editorials for the Roanoke Times. It has to be some gal by the name of Elizabeth Strother.

If you're not familiar with the regularly published piece, it usually involves a few setup paragraphs relating to some current events topic and a punchline. And the punchline is always dull and lifeless. Often it is disjointed. And more often than not it makes absolutely no sense.

The mystery surrounding "Briefly put ..." is that there's no byline attached (at least in the online version of the newspaper) so we never know to whom we should give credit.

Well, today the mystery is solved. Staffmember Elizabeth Strother must be - without doubt - the (in)famous author. Here's the tip-off:

This morning's Times features one of her musings ("Those tricky, tricky beavers") about the annoying pair of mammals that have set up cohabitation in the park in Blacksburg - again (to be accurate, it's a new couple; the original pair were slaughtered by government decree). But here's the segment of the article that gave away the identity of the author of "Briefly put ...":

They're ba-a-a-ck.

Everybody knew they would be. But their timing is brutal, with Blacksburg's town council and mayoral campaigns in full swing.

Maybe the beavers in the Heritage Community Park and Natural Area are listening to the same advisers who guided the Swift Boat Veterans in the last presidential election. [my emphasis]

Except, in this case, memories are fresh and the record is clear.

Somebody help me here. Better yet, put a gun to my head and pull the trigger.

The beavers were listening to ... what? Swift Boat Veterans - no, their "advisers" - might be doing what? The Blacksburg beavers might be receiving bad advice? Does Liz get paid for such goofy drivel or is this one of those affirmative action things on display?

How on earth did Swift Boat Veterans get into an editorial about beavers?

I knew immediately that Elizabeth Strother was the notorious source of "Briefly put ..." My brain has been hurting for the last thirty minutes as I've struggled to decipher her vacuity - just as it does every time I make the mistake of reading "Briefly put ..."

Maybe the beavers were listening to the wrong advisers. For the love of God.

Now That's What I Call Charitable Giving

I had to look up the stat on the amount of blood that an adult human being has circulating through his or her veins. It turns out to be 6 quarts. Which tells me that the people recognized by the American Red Cross for their donations of blood must be either superhuman or ... really pale about now:

Red Cross salutes multiple-gallon donors

The American Red Cross recognized the following people as multiple-gallon blood donors for the month of February ... (link)
A salute would be fine. But I think a transfusion might do them more good.

The Persimmon Tree

When we were young, I and my two brothers, Steve and Randy, occupied our time by (causing mayhem ...) looking for adventure. We didn't do it so as to cause our parents anguish or embarrassment or economic ruin. We just wanted to have fun. And sometimes our fun was ... misunderstood.

Like the time we invaded a neighbor's apple orchard and harvested the entire crop of his most delicious Granny Smith apples. It took us several days of climbing and picking and eating but we were thorough in our destruction. By the time we were done, the orchard was devastated. I remember we even took some of the apples home and ran them through our mother's orange squeezer and accumulated a couple of gallons of apple cider - that we let ferment for several months. Was it ever powerful. I attribute the hair on my chest to that batch of devil's brew.

Or the time we all got whippin's for throwing burning newspapers into the crawlspace of a neighbor's home. It was innocent fun - I swear.

I think we all got whippin's too for having bent the metal frame of one of our beds in two by jumping on it - something that could have been categorized as being nothing more than boys doing what boys have done throughout time immemorial - but never got whippin's for.

Then there was the time Steve, who is three years older than me and, at the time, had me by twenty pounds, was chasing me with the intention of inflicting great bodily harm. I ran up to the back gate and, because it was latched and I was hurtling at full speed, I slammed against it and knocked my front tooth out. Off to the dentist we went.

Then there was the time that Randy locked me out of the house. I got mad and ran my fist through the door glass - and sliced my wrist in the process. Off to the doctor's office we went.

And there were the normal "boys will be boys" stuff, like the time we were playing baseball in the side yard and I proceeded to put a smokin' line drive through the neighbor's window (steroids played no part in it either; it was all talent, power, and perfect follow-through). I was going to keep the shattered window a secret (yes, it was in the neighbor's living room so they might have eventually noticed the shards of glass all over the furniture) but Dad made me go over and apologize - a humbling experience. Oh, and I got a whippin'. Oh, and off to the hardware store we went to get a new window pane and spackling.

And there was the time that Randy was slugged just above the eye socket with a baseball bat by a neighbor kid. Randy has been nearly blind in that eye ever since. As I recall, Mom whisked him off to the doctor's office that day too. Worst of all, we lost our best pitcher.

We put the doctor into a six figure income in those days. Steve breaking his arm. Me jumping barefoot on a broken coke bottle. Remember the old metal coffee cans and the key you had to use to unseal them? Remember too how, when opened, the edge of the can became extremely sharp? Yep - another trip to the doctor' office for stitches.

Bee stings. Bike wrecks. Rock fights. Fist fights. Food fights. Frightening the neighbors in the dark of night. Tormenting the bejeebers out of our younger sister Suellen - who has loved and adored us throughout the years, in spite of it - oddly. The usual stuff.

I brought a snake into the house once to show everyone. Grandma let out a scream and she and Mom started squalling for me to get out! Get out! It was a relatively small one really. And it wasn't venomous, as best I could tell. Nice looking little rascal too.

Lots of whippin's were meted out as a result of much of this. Such was the nature of our youth. We arose, ate, got in trouble, got whippin's, ate, and went to bed. Every day for years.

I wouldn't give any one of those days back. They resulted in so many fond memories.

Our parents knew about all these incidents, as best I can recall, and they responded to each in their usual parental way...

But there is one story that we've never revealed. It has to do The Persimmon Tree.

Our grandparents lived along a highway out in the country. Next to their rather long driveway they had this really nice, mature persimmon tree. I was never much for persimmon pie or persimmon pudding or persimmon cake but I always appreciated the persimmon for its throwing attributes. Unlike a tomato that was too mooshy and therefore didn't allow for much distance, or an apple which didn't splatter upon impact, a persimmon, when its at its ripened peak, with its gooey innards and tough outer skin, made for the perfect missile.

One night the family had gone out to visit the grandparents. After being there for a few hours, with Mom and Dad and Suellen inside, Steve and Randy and I went out - to do what boys do. We looked for some innocent fun to occupy our time. When we got down to the persimmon tree, we came up with an idea (actually I think Steve came up with it; he usually dreamt up the schemes that got us in trouble).

We decided to throw persimmons at passing cars.

Now picture the moment. It was pitch black outside. Middle of summer. Nice warm evening. There was to the west a hill over which the cars came, doing about fifty. They'd streak past the house and disappear into the night. We'd see them for no more than fifteen seconds.

We prepared. We gathered up the juiciest, plumpest of the persimmons for ammunition and waited. Now the goal was to hit the windshield. The trick was to do it without getting our asses kicked by angry drivers. So we devised the method of launching the persimmons at such a time and with such a trajectory as to gain maximum hang-time - and time to run and hide.

We began. We could hear the cars approaching before we even saw the headlights. We then saw the twin beams appear over the rise and the three of us, in syncronization the likes of which Hannibal would have appreciated at the Battle of Cannae, threw our persimmons high into the air - and took off running.

It took us a number of practice cars to get the range, timing and trajectory down pat but when we did, the resulting mayhem was something to behold. The sound a persimmon makes when it hits a windshield on a car doing fifty resembles that of a 3 wood hitting a golf ball that's been retrieved from the bottom of a water hazard. A kind of thud sound with a touch of ping.

Because light travels faster than sound, we'd sometimes see the brake lights come on before we heard the splat. But that was only in those instances where we were fast enough to gain our hiding place in time.

What we weren't able to witness was the product of our efforts. The goo on the windshields. The enraged drivers.

We hid. In total darkness. No sound except for the summer nightbugs. Only a person with superhuman hearing could have discerned the faint distant giggles of young boys celebrating their mission accomplished.

All this happened many years ago. Steve and Randy and I have until now kept The Persimmon Tree our secret. It was only a few years later it seems that Steve was off in Vietnam and Randy was in the Air Force and I was chasing Paula around the college campus. We'd all gone our separate ways - forever. Of course there was Suellen, tugging at us all to try to keep the family together as much as was possible.

Dad and Grandpa and Grandma - and the persimmon tree - are long gone now.

What lingers though is a memory of a glorious night together, having fun doing what boys do.