February 2011 Issue

Um, what else? We had a Kindle for about a week but sent it back. The screen is gray. Did you know the screen is gray? If you have anything wrong with your eyes, it’s damn near impossible to read the thing. And there are no page numbers. And you have to jump through hoops to find the table of contents of books. Kathy (it was hers) hated it and, after playing with it for 30 seconds, I concurred. Creepy little gizmo. But your mileage may vary. I played with a iPad in an Apple Store for a few minutes a few weeks ago, and it’s much easier to read on one of those, but they’re heavy and expensive.

Onward to movie reviews! I recently saw Green Zone on cable and actually liked it a lot. The more you know about the run-up to the Iraq war, the more sense it makes, though the character played by Amy Ryan is a very mild take on its apparent inspiration, Judith Miller. Matt Damon is very good, and I think I may have finally overcome my tendency to confuse him with Brad Pitt.

By the way, even a mild inability to tell people apart can be a real problem in a small town. I keenly remember, about ten years ago, failing to recognize a guy I’d spent more than two hours with earlier that same day. I know he thought I was either a real jerk or insane or both. It was mortifying. And I have actual in-laws around here I wouldn’t recognize outside of a family gathering. Life would be a hell of a lot simpler if people would just wear the name tags I give them.

Kathy says that sometimes when we’re shopping in a grocery store she’ll see me looking at her from down the aisle and I clearly don’t recognize her. I assume that’s true, because I don’t remember seeing her, which I wouldn’t if I didn’t recognize her, would I? I guess I should make a mental note when we go in of the color of her coat or whatever. This is nothing new. One of my earliest memories is of mistaking some stranger in a store for my father, and as a child I actually used to confuse Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra. When I took six hours of cognitive tests right after I was diagnosed with ms a few years ago I did miserably on the facial recall test. Quelle surprise.

This makes movies with even vaguely similar characters problematic. A few weeks ago we finally saw Black Swan, which, when I first heard references to it, I had honestly expected to be vaguely about epistemology with a car chase or two thrown in (the way that He’s Just Not That into You, a self-help book, was spun into a romantic comedy). It turns out to be about ballet. (As Paul Carr recently said on TechCrunch, “If I were Nassim N. Taleb I’d tell my publishers to immediately re-release The Black Swan with a picture of a ballerina on the front.”)

So, anyway, Norma Bates, Ballerina. Interesting concept. On the drive home, however, I learned that the good ballerina turns into the bad ballerina (or vice-versa) several times (and into the has-been ballerina at least once). But I had missed all of these subtle and pivotal psycho-points (and therefore the meat, lean as it was, of the movie) because I couldn’t tell any of these ballerinas apart. So I thought Natalie Portman was just really, really unhappy, not gonzo nuts, and I sat through the entire movie being bored to tears, watching other patrons text their friends, and being repeatedly reminded of how much I hate Tchaikovsky. Sigh.

Meanwhile, back on TV, one of the cable channels recently showed The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, which I had expected to hate (snotty Tribeca filmmaker making fun of hillbillies, etc.), but which was actually remarkably sympathetic to its subjects. Oddly enough, meth didn’t seem to be in the picture for these people, who trade in prescription drugs, although it’s a major industry where we are. I must say I had never heard of people huffing gasoline before. Wow.

Oh, well, so it goes. And, lest we go, please consider subscribing.

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