Sunday, December 28, 2008

Benjamin Button

There are some movies that, soon after it starts, I begin looking at my watch to determine how much time could possibly be left until it is over; there are other movies that, after it has ended and for as long as possible, I consciously avoid reading a clock so that I will not involuntarily calculate how much time has passed. The movie I saw tonight is one of the latter.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (view the trailer) — I find myself struggling to decide what to say about it. It is a beautifully told fantasy, richly and finely layered with metaphor; the filmmaking is artistry, pure and simple. One of the most memorable sequences is a stunningly lyrical fantasy-within-a-fantasy; it is a sequence that tells a story that is increasingly and candidly unlike what actually took place, and it does so with such skill and impact that its final image, because it depicts what did not take place, elicited audible gasps from the audience.

This movie is a work of art. When the Academy Award nominations are announced in a little more than three weeks, it will be listed multiple times: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Actress (as well as Best Makeup and Best Score) — and it should win. Cate Blanchett certainly should win; Brad Pitt very well could win. In any case, see it, and enjoy.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good Medicine

From an advertisement for Eckman's Alternative, on the back of a newspaper clipping found in a book; from the contents of the clipping, I can conclude that the newspaper was printed around 1915:

What Causes Tuberculosis

In the opinion of many medical authorities, tuberculosis is aided, if not actually caused, by a loss of lime from the system. "Where there is a decalcification, the lime salts must be supplied medicinally," says Dr. J. W. Carhart, of San Antonio, in the May, 1913, issue of "Medical Progress." ...

Wikipedia: Tuberculosis


Monday, December 22, 2008

Family Secrets

Today at work someone promised to bring in fudge for all of us tomorrow. I was reminded of a similar promise made once, long ago, in a time that has now become (urban) legend. In honor of the season, I thought I would take a few minutes to share with you this heartwarming Christmas tale of yesteryear...

The tale begins around a lunch table, shortly after noon several years ago. Several of my coworkers and I were eating together, and the conversation turned to unique family recipes. It wasn't a competition, but had it been it would have instantly ended when one person shared with us the key ingredient in her family's traditional recipe for chocolate fudge. The inclusion of this particular ingredient in a recipe for chocolate fudge (or any variety of fudge, for that matter) was so, shall we say, unexpected that we quite simply did not believe her; nevertheless, she insisted it was so and, furthermore, insisted that the resulting fudge was not merely edible but good and, furthermore, promised to make a batch and bring it in so that we could try it. Time went by, and memories faded, but every now and then the lunch table conversation would return to this unusual chocolate fudge and its as-yet-unproven existence, and our coworker would renew her promise. Eventually, however, our coworker moved on to other employment, and we came to accept that the mystery would probably remain forever unsolved.

Several months later, Christmas came and brought yet another of our coworkers to the office where a friend and I were having a conversation (work related, of course). She bore news: our former coworker had at long last fulfilled her promise and sent with her a batch of the unusual fudge. My friend and I were to be the first to try it, she said — it was more of an imperative than an invitation. We journeyed with her to where the fudge awaited, in the mini-fridge in the corner conference room. Approaching the conference room, we caught a whiff of something evil; it did not bode well. Our coworker proceeded on and, powerless, we followed. Opening the mini-fridge introduced us to a truly malicious stench, the kind of reek one might expect if something had died in some undignified manner, lain somewhere and rotted for a week, and then gotten up and chosen the mini-fridge as the place to store its malodorousness while it went Christmas shopping; we were somewhat relieved to find that the stench originated from the fridge itself (which was empty except for the fudge) and not from the fudge. We retrieved the fudge and retreated to a safe distance — i.e., back to my friend's office — where we recovered from our ordeal.

To be fair to the fudge and its chef, I'd like to point out the fact that, as all cooks throughout history have discovered, sometimes things just don't come together exactly right no matter how good you are. This particular batch of fudge was an example of this unavoidable fact, being, as we found when we unwrapped it, not entirely solid (thus the reason it had to be kept in the fridge). However, procuring spoons, we proceeded with interest to taste it. Doing so, we found ourselves surprised: despite the uncommon makeup of the recipe, the fudge was actually rather good — except. Yes, in spite of its goodness, there was one final aspect of the experience that my friend and I decided it would simply take a lifetime to overcome, having not grown up with this recipe as our former coworker did. The exception was this: after having tasted the goodness of chocolate fudge and swallowed, we were left with the unmistakable tang of the secret ingredient. What, you ask, was the secret ingredient? I am tempted to make you guess, but since this is a Christmas story, I will end by telling you its name: Velveeta.

Some of you might be interested in this video from Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse (co-creator, writers, and co-executive producers of Lost), in which they explain why Lost was canceled:

(I love that they went all out, as you can tell if you read their T-shirts.)

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

When 2 = 1; or, A Story That Makes 2 Hours Seem Like 30 Years.

From a trailer in a movie theater:
" theaters for one night only on December 17th, with an encore on December 18th."

In addition to taking liberties with mathematical axioms, the trailer was completely nonchalant about the rift in space-time inherent in its claim that the story to be told on the night of December 17th "has taken thirty years to tell."

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I am such a nerd.

I confess. I laughed at this joke. Out loud.

Q: Why didn't the trigonometry problem get the apartment it wanted?

A: Because tangent wouldn't cosine.