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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Night at the Museum: Secrets of the Tomb. Just Okay.

You don't go into "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" expecting great art. You expect a few laughs and some moments of wonder as you witness museum displays magically come to life. The first "Night at the Museum" disappointed me. The second, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" surprised me with how much better it was than the first. Amy Adams was wonderful as Amelia Earhart in that film.

This new, third installment, "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" was only okay, but it wasn't horrible, either. I really, really wish it had been a bit better. It's one of Robin Williams' and Mickey Rooney's last movies. Both died this year. Robin Williams does look visibly tired and sad.

One of my favorite stars makes an unbilled cameo appearance, but it is more awkward than special. Dick Van Dyke, who is a national treasure, is in the film, but only for a few minutes, and he isn't given much to do. Ditto Ben Kingsley as a pharaoh. If I were a director, I'd want to milk Sir Ben Kingsley as a pharaoh for all it was worth. Not here. Dan Stevens, formerly of Downton Abbey, is charismatic and impressive as Sir Lancelot, but his character is demoted from good guy to bad guy, and his face is disfigured, in a way that feels envious. It's as if the movie is punishing him for being a tall, gorgeous, heroic white male. Museum night guard Ben Stiller's relationship with his now teenage son is emphasized, and it doesn't feel real at all.

My two favorite scenes involved Luke Wilson as a miniature cowboy and Steve Coogan as a miniature Roman soldier. In one scene these tiny people try to comment on a youtube cat video. In another scene they are saved at the last minute from an exploding volcano.

In terms of plot or special effects magic, "Secret of the Tomb" doesn't offer anything that you can't get from the two previous films. There are no moments where you say, "Wow, I am really glad that they made this movie, so that we could see *this.*"

Even so, I mildly enjoyed the movie. If you are looking for a mindless, family-friendly good time, "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" may serve your needs. 

Chris Rock's "Top Five." Amos and Andy for 2014

"Top Five" is billed as a romantic comedy. Chris Rock plays Andre, a movie star comedian; Rosario Dawson plays Chelsea, a journalist sent to interview him. Their relationship is not what I will remember about "Top Five," though. What I will remember: the words f---, m-----------, s---, the b word, the p word and the n word. These words constitute a good twenty-five percent of the script, as in "Hey, n word, would you like an f word drink?" "Yes, n word, I would like an f word drink." In other words, the obscenities are sprinkled throughout the script without adding any meaning.

Most of the female characters onscreen are vile, naked, prostitutes and strippers. There are many naked female body parts onscreen. These female bodies are there to perform simulated sex acts. They also rob strip club patrons, and hide their wallets in their private parts. After servicing a couple of men, they extort money by screaming "Rape!"

I don't understand why anybody made "Top Five." If you want to hear unfunny jokes whose only appeal is to those who think repeating the f word and the n word over and over is funny, and if you want to ogle naked female characters who are also made out to be nasty human beings, why would you go to see a movie billed as a "romantic comedy"?

Chris Rock knows he lives in a country where a white person could lose his job, his friends, and his social respect for using the n word. But he, Rock, can use it, because he is black. By using the n word repeatedly, he rubs his audience's face in the privilege to intimidate that he enjoys.

Chris Rock is one of the luckiest and most successful people on the planet. A good chunk of this film is Chris Rock complaining about being black. At the same time, he and the rest of the cast never stop hammering away at reminding the audience that they are black. We're black. We're different. We use the f word and the n word a lot. We speak Black English. We listen to hiphop. Taxis won't stop for us. Okay, okay, okay, Chris, we get it. You are black. Can you get on with the movie now? Like, can there be a plot?

The movie tosses a bunch of aborted plot points into a blender and presses "mash." You get alcoholism, reality TV, men obsessed with fat women, cheating, and hidden identities. None of these plot points goes anywhere. The movie always comes back to women getting naked for money, obscenities, and the n word.

There is a particularly nasty, ugly scene evoking the anal violation of a white man. The film's one white male character is a duplicitous homosexual. He is made to kneel naked on a bed while another character forces hot sauce into him. He writhes helplessly, begging for the hot sauce to be removed. This is a hateful scene.

As for the putative romance. Chris Rock is not sexy. He's skinny, googly-eyed, and his voice is unmodulated, loud and grating. Romances have been built around men who aren't conventionally attractive. See Woody Allen. But Rock can't carry it off. He's paired with a very desirable woman, Rosario Dawson. The movie seems to want to make her unattractive. She's given a butch, Cuban-political-prisoner hair-cut, with half of her head shaved, no makeup, and she wears the same dress through most of the film. Even so, she is out of Rock's league. The script does very little with their pairing.

And … comedy? I did not laugh once, and neither did anyone else in the theater. I guess if you find African Americans wanting to steal hangers from a hotel thigh-slappingly funny, this movie is for you. You might also enjoy Amos and Andy.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Western Pornography Causes Islamic Terrorism": Hamza Yusuf, Influential Muslim

Mohammed Sajjad Source
We witness the horrible crimes committed in the name of Islam. We read the manifestos distributed by terrorists, manifestos that cite Koranic verses and hadith to justify the sex slavery of little girls in the Islamic State, the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar, Pakistan, the decapitation of a British soldier on a London street.

We say, well, at least Muslims will see this, and begin to question how their scripture is interpreted and applied. And then they will call for a reform of Islam.

In my experience, though, Muslims often don't do this.

I have face-to-face conversations with Muslims who are convinced that crafty Jews created ISIS, that George Bush planned the 9-11 terror attacks, that the CIA is responsible for the murder of schoolchildren in Pakistan.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we have the ritual of confession. You examine your conscience, confess your sins, ask for forgiveness, and start anew. In Christianity, that ritual is highly developed.

I don't see the same thing in Islam.

Rather I see finger pointing, never at Islam, never at the Koran, or the hadith, or their interpretation or application.

This tendency was exhibited on December 15, 2014, at Georgetown University.

Hamza Yusuf is a highly influential American Muslim. Of him, The Guardian newspaper said "Hamza Yusuf is arguably the west's most influential Islamic scholar." The New Yorker magazine said that Yusuf is "perhaps the most influential Islamic scholar in the Western world"

From Wikipedia: "Jordan's Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre currently places him 42nd on its list of the top 500 most influential Muslims in the world. The magazine Egypt Today described him as a kind of theological rock star, 'the Elvis Presley of western Muslims.' Recently, Hamza Yusuf was ranked as 'the Western world's most influential Islamic scholar' by The 500 Most Influential Muslims."

Hamza Yusuf used to be Mark Hanson, American son of two "academics" in Washington State and Northern California. Interestingly, Yusuf studied Islam in Mauritania, one of the worst human rights abusers in the world. Mauritania is notorious for its huge number of slaves. These slaves, and their horrific treatment, apparently did not alert Yusuf to any misgivings about how the Koran is applied in the Muslim world. You can read more about slavery in Muslim Mauritania here. You can read about how attempts to liberate Mauritania's slaves "violates Islamic values," in Al-Arabiya, here

At the Monday, December 15, 2014 Georgetown conference, Yusuf acknowledged jihad violence, but said that the West was to blame. Western pornography causes Muslim men to blow themselves up. From Investigative Project:

"Intelligence agents routinely find sexually explicit materials on laptops belonging to captured jihadists. Yusuf offered a theory in which young men 'become deeply defiled' by the pornography habits and blame the West for providing the corrupting influences. They turn to jihad for religious purification and redemption.

'I really think that we underestimate the amount of people that have this experience of wanting to restore some kind of purity to themselves,' Yusuf said, 'and the only restoration for them is blowing themselves up and get rid of the part that is the source of my defilement which is my body.'" source

Yusuf's "blame the West" finger pointing does not work. Jihad predates the invention of the West and of modern pornography by hundreds of years. Jihad began under Mohammed, 1400 years ago. Further, all cultures are exposed to Western pornography. Not all cultures engage in jihad.

Yusuf's comment is significant because it is typical of an influential approach to Islam. Many Muslims, and many Western leftists, refuse to engage in any serious critique of Islam.

I am Catholic. My church is regularly criticized. That's a good thing. The criticism invites Catholics to examine ourselves and constantly realign ourselves with the right path.

I heartily applaud Muslims like Zuhdi Jasser, who confronted Yusuf at that same conference, who want Muslims to take a look at the violence committed in the name of Islam, and who want Islam to be reformed.

As long as influential Muslims like Hamza Yusuf allow no serious critique of Islam, and as long as Muslims like him have powerful support among Western leftwing professors, journalists, and cultural leaders, any reform of Islam will remain remote.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Need a Girlfriend: Blogging a Broken Heart

This guy goes on a cruise. There is a terrible storm at sea. Boat sinks. Guy survives. Finds himself washed up on a desert island. There is one other survivor: Angelina Jolie. So, this guy is alone on a remote island with Angelina Jolie, the most desirable woman in the world.

Time passes. They have learned to spear fish and catch rainwater. The inevitable happens. They make love on the beach under the vast sky full of stars, the sound of waves crashing in their ears.

More time passes.

Angelina notices that her man is not fully satisfied. He obviously wants something she is not giving him.

"Honey, what is it?"

"Oh, Angelina, our lives here are almost perfect. The beach, our love … it's all so great. There's just one thing … one thing I miss … one thing I need."

"Anything, darling. Name it. I'll do it for you."


The guy snips a lock of hair and affixes it to Angelina's upper lip – a mustache. He takes another lock of hair, and affixes it to her chin – a beard. He makes her wear his baseball cap. He teaches her to walk like a guy. "Now, Angelina," he asks. Please pretend that you are my old buddy John, from back in the States."

Not sure what is going on, Angelina agrees to act like a man, and pretend that she is John.

The guy walks up to her, slaps her on the back, and says, "John! It's great to see you! Long time no see! Listen – you wouldn't believe who I've been fucking!"

I love that joke.


God hasn't given me an easy life. The past three years God has been really letting loose.

There have been two hurricanes, two and a half cancer diagnoses, a chronic illness, a broken arm, and endless struggles to get health care, struggles that have resulted, more than once, in wrong diagnoses or even worse illness.

And a broken heart.

In all this agony, I have often wished that I had a girlfriend.

There was a time in my life when having a girlfriend was a really easy thing. You just showed up – on the playground, in the high school cafeteria, at the university, the protest rally, the tramp steamer plying the waters between Burma and Thailand.

One night in an airport in, I think, the United Arab Emirates? – I honestly don't remember where this airport was – I unfolded some newspaper and lay it down. I would sleep on this newspaper. A couple in their fifties approached. They wanted to sleep next to me. Sure, I said. Bob and Sally Herbert, from Lake Park, Iowa. Bob and Sally and I ended up traveling through Israel and Greece together. I loved them. When I got back to the States, I visited them in Iowa.

People were just there.

Marie Center was my girlfriend in Nepal. Marie fell in love with John. She was a tall and brilliant Dartmouth grad. Feminist. Very liberal. He was a plug ugly, abrasive, macho, dope-smoking, bongo player from Jersey.

Marie and Julie and I had a pajama party. We stayed up all night. All we did was talk about Marie and John. It was blow by blow. "And then he said this, and then he did this, and then I felt this, and then …" There was another pajama party after Marie and John broke up. Years later John would email me after Marie died. He was in Southeast Asia then. Or maybe Egypt. But thanks to email, we got to talk. Really talk.

Through my recent cancer diagnoses, the hurricanes, the evacuations, the broken heart. I have wished for this. I have wished that I mattered enough to someone else for that person to say, "I will have lunch with you Tuesday." And for that person to spend time looking at my face and saying my name and hearing what I have to say and responding to what I say.

For there to be time for that. Not, "Oh, I can squeeze in fifteen minutes a week from now" and then canceling at the last minute because something more important has come up.

Not a casual encounter during which the other constantly stares at her cell phone. "Oh, my daughter just sent me a photo of the house she is thinking of buying."

Sometimes people say, "Oh, I wish I could do something." And what they mean is: "I wish I could cure your cancer / cure your sister's cancer / drive the Passaic River out of your home after the hurricane / hire you in a fulltime job so you had health insurance."

But that's not really what I want. I want someone to be willing to pencil me in for lunch, look at my face, not at their cell phone, say my name, and HEAR me, and to have time for that.

There was a time in my life when I had that. And I think that time is forever gone, and has been gone for a good ten years at least.

So I talk to myself through my writing.

I sometimes post about the broken heart on Facebook. I always say, "Please don't give me unsolicited advice, and please don't say hateful things about Ted."

And some – not all – people respond by giving unsolicited advice, and by saying hateful things about Ted. "He's a bastard!!! Forget him!"

And I remember the rich luxury of talk during that pajama party with me, Marie Center, and Julie. It was a feast of words. We could pick and choose; we had all night. No one was rushing us. No one stayed our hands. We could grab, or pick, suck or swallow any word from the fully laden buffet table. We could laugh or cry or burst out in what suddenly seemed to be unbearably profound pop song lyrics that had to be sung at that exact moment at top decibel. No one was looking at her watch. Cell phones had not yet been invented.

The other day I took the risk of asking someone if I could phone her. She emailed back. "Yes," she said. "I have time now for a phone call, as long as we don't talk about Ted."

I passed.

Women my age have husbands and children. I've never had either. I think that's one reason I have no girlfriends. Women my age like to talk about their daughters. It's a different kind of talk. They are not talking to discover the workings of a relationship, and how to best fit in that machine. They are either bragging or mourning their daughter's successes or failures. That's why they use words. Their husbands are permanent fixtures that they take for granted, like furniture. How often do you feel the need to verbalize about a couch?

So, in the past three years of utterly pointless craptastic misery, amidst the broken bones and once glamorous body parts that once held such promise and once demanded so much attention, and that have since been gauged out to become medical waste, over the Passaic River flowing into and out of the building, there was a heart, and it was broken.

I want to blog about that here because I don't have a girlfriend, and I am convinced that talking is healing.

I have no plan or discipline. Yesterday I blogged about the horrors of the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar, Pakistan. Today I blog about one small broken heart, and my wish for a girlfriend.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Murder. Rape. Children.

Kronos eating his child. Goya
Islam justifies the murder of children. So say the Taliban, the "students" of Islam.

Islam justifies the rape of slaves. So says ISIS, led by a man with a PhD in Islamic studies.

Islam justifies the rape of child slaves. So says ISIS, citing Koran and hadith.

Islamic jihadis murder children. See today's headlines.

Islamic jihadis murder CHILDREN. See today's headlines.

Islamic jihadis murder C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N. See today's headlines.

c/h/i/l/d/r/e/n do you get it? Do you get it?

Do you see these children in your mind's eye?

Children. Children. Children.

Innocent. Defenseless. Children.


What's the latest score?

One hundred Pakistani children.

School children.

With their books, with their pencils, eager to learn, itching for recess, daydreaming, having crushes, understanding something for the first time, now dead.


Their blood. Their bodies. Their body parts.

Limp. Lifeless. Scattered.

Once as beautiful, as precious, as full of promise and joy, as YOUR child.

Dead. In the name of Islam.

Thousands raped in the Islamic State.

In the name of Islam.

Muslims, Might now be a good time for you to start rethinking and retooling Islam?

Westerners – Americans, Brits, college professors, Facebook posters – Westerners who apologize for Islam – those of you who play the cultural relativism game.

Do YOU care about c_h_i_l_d_r_e_n???

Do you CARE about [r][a][p][e]?

Islamic state, citing the Koran and hadith, publishes pamphlet justifying the rape of war captives, including children, details here.

Taliban murders over one hundred Pakistani school children, details here.

This post is dedicated to American college professors I know who will allow any negative thing to be said about Christianity, but who demonize any criticism of Islam.

This post is dedicated to a Facebook poster I know who bashes Christianity, and especially Catholicism, as inherently evil, but who will not allow a breath of criticism of Islam.

This post is dedicated to the American driving public, who has had ample notice that we need to find alternative sources of energy, and energy independence, but always places its gas tank above its heart and its head.

This post is dedicated to precious, violated, Pakistani and Iraqi children. I pray that there is a heaven for you especially, and that I might see you there one day, and that I can teach you something, and that you can teach me something, and that when the recess bell sounds, we can play. 

Reading "Save Send Delete" Livened Up Our Whole Relationship!

Very, very grateful to "Kate" for the fabulous review, below, of "Save Send Delete" at Amazon.

If you'd like a signed copy of "Save Send Delete" for yourself or for your loved one for Christmas, please contact me!

"I can't put it down. A very inspiring 'love story' over the internet between a Catholic Professor and a famous Atheist through email. This book is written so beautifully and thought provoking, it will make you laugh, cry, and contemplate the meaning of life. You want to jump into the pages and debate these topics with them.

Since reading 'Save Send Delete' I have realized how much I was stagnating in my own thought process and it made me want to broaden my horizons, to read more, to educate myself more, to be more, think more, love more, act more.

It is NOT a book just about being Catholic or being Atheist. It is more about Life. About cultures, classes, diversities, and what we ultimatelyall have in common. This book gave my husband, a born again Christian, and I, a Catholic school girl Catholic, so much to discuss and debate. It actually livened up our whole relationship. I HIGHLY recommend this book. One of the best reads I have had the pleasure of reading in a very long time."

Review at Amazon here

Monday, December 15, 2014

"I'll Ride with You" Christians, Shiites, and Yazidis in the Islamic State. Will Australian Twitter Activists Ride with the Real Victims of Hate?

Australian Twitter activists responded to the Sydney hostage crisis by announcing "I'll ride with you" to Muslims who feared the "inevitable Islamophobic backlash" against Muslims. 

Australian Twitter activists announced -- oh so very bravely and multiculturally and diversely -- that they would ride with Muslims in Australia to protect them from those evil, violent, non-Muslims. 

In fact if these Twitter activists really wanted to be brave, diverse, and multicultural, they would announce that they will ride with Christians, Shiites and Yazidis in the Islamic State. 

By the way, you can read the Islamic State's pamphlet defending sex slavery of Christian, Shiite, and Yazidi girls here