Friday, July 30, 2010

Save Our Algae

It was well over twenty years ago that I first read that algae -- that green stuff in the water --replenishes the earth's oxygen every fifty years. Not trees, although they add their share. Algae. From the kelp forests to the gulf stream plankton, all within eighty feet of the surface of the oceans and lakes, mostly oceans.

But something is happening. On NPR yesterday, I heard a report that scares the green clean out of me. Over the last century, records exist that help scientists determine that the world's algae, as well as zoo plankton, are deminishing rapidly. With satellite imnages over the past few decades to help, it looks as though we are losing one percent of this material every year. More blue seas, less green -- universally, in all major bodies of water. Less food for the whales, and more importantly, less air to breathe, since we carbon based life forms breathe photosynthetic bi-ptoducts.

They think global warming is the reason: more stretches of the ocean's surfaces remain too warm to allow nutrients to rise up from the cooler depths.

Can you feel the air getting thinner?

Hannie Caulder

I find it wonderfully ironic that I would write a review of this movie for Helium and weeks later Entertainment Weekly would issue a brief review of their own on the updated release of a new DVD of that film. Even better, the reviewer echoes what I wrote for Helium. So, my friends, I post my review here:

For a long time, those who decide such things determined that Raquel Welch could not act. After “One Million B.C.” (1966), this is an understandable conclusion, but far from accurate. In a movie in which she was required to run around in a furry bikini and grunt emotionally as cave men battled dinosaurs and each other, her skills weren’t stretched. She looked good. She looked great. That was all that was required. It sold tickets. As silly as the film was, we remember Raquel -- endangered by hungry animals and sex hungry men.

The poster from that film was so iconic that it became a prop in “The Shawshank Redemption,” one of the posters Tim Robbins used to cover up the hole in his cell wall that eventually became his escape route. No one ever questioned Robbins’ placement of the poster.

But Raquel can act. In “Hannie Caulder,” an existentially influenced British produced contribution to the Western genre directed by veteran TV and movie Western director Burt Kennedy, she plays a woman who takes on the role usually reserved for a wronged man and hits the Vengeance Trail with all the determination of a Clint Eastwood. Unlike the females in Clint’s Wild West, Hannie Caulder does not sit around and wait for her knight in a shining white Stetson to avenge her. She learns how to do it herself.

The plot is simple. After a badly botched attempted bank robbery, three inept but very violent criminals, the Clemens brothers, played by Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin and Jack Elam, escape from the Mexican army and make their way to a Pony Express station. They kill the tender and take turns raping his wife, Hannie. They burn down the station and leave her for dead. Hannie survives, and enlists the reluctant help of bounty hunter Thomas Price (Robert Culp), not to track down the trio for her but to show her how to shoot and kill. Price helps, going as far as bringing Hannie down into Mexico to have a special gun made by an expert gunsmith (Christopher Lee), one that will carry all the fire power she needs but be easier for her to handle.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man in black (Stephen Boyd, unbilled), lurks on the horizons, watching. Is he some sort of protector? Or is he some sort of menacing figure waiting for his chance at Hannie?

Price finds himself falling in love with Hannie and attempts to convince her to let it go, move on, hopefully with him. But when he stumbles onto the trio, they kill him, leaving Hannie alone to face them down. Which she does.

“Hannie Caulder” is largely a revenge film, in the tradition of older Westerns, with the clear moral that the bad guys will get their comeuppance in the end, even if they manage to inflict more damage on the way. As such, the film is clever and centered, even if the often comic performances by the Clemens brothers seem wholly at odds with their violent behaviors. That juxtaposition is jarring, and intentionally so because it makes the viewer uncertain and uneasy and puts the main character, who has already lost so much, further in jeopardy. These men may be fools, but they are also cold hearted killers and rapists who have no second thoughts or doubts. They are sociopaths.

As to Hannie’s soul, as she seeks that revenge, there is less of an issue there. What she seeks is righteous, and we root for her. We want the bad guys dead. There seems to be no other possible outcome.

This is not a great Western, but an interesting and original one. The actors all are in fine form, from Culp’s strong support to the veteran character actors Borgnine, Martin and Elam exuding, in equal measures, sleaze, menace and ineptitude. Raquel Welch is stunningly plain, a woman of unquestioned beauty beaten down by the country and the events that befell her, trying to get back up. She is strong, determined, single-minded. But the poncho? Who wears a poncho to a gunfight? Well, Clint, maybe . . .

The film’s originality comes from allowing Hannie to be a strong and ultimately deadly force. She is a woman who is trying to take back the control and self esteem that were literally stripped away from her. That she needed the help of a man to learn how to shoot a gun at the start is realistic. That she became self-reliant afterwards is empowering not just for women but for anyone who ever was a victim.

You go, girl.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

All Caught Up And Newsweek, Too

It's amazing what a few free hours can do. I am on OT -- overtime desired list -- at work and they have been using me every day. But they must let me have one eight hour day each week or face paying penalty OT, an absolute no no. So my very smart supervisor, Damasio, let me have Thursday so I can be available on Friday, which is the end of the work week. Any OT people who haven;t had an eight hour day by Friday MUST get it then.

So I get to catch up a little -- and on the blogging front, I feel pretty caught up, at least with time. I still have two more blogs to write after this one, but three in one day is more than enough. My poor readers!

Speaking of reading, I don't think that Newsweek will mind if I use their material. Since the magazine is dying, as are all weekly news mags and daily newspapers, crushed in the internet age (are books to follow?), it seems only fitting that I use the information highway to remind us all that these great sources once were, and still struggle to be.

Over the two past weeks Newsweek has had articles that particularly struck home for me in my current mental state (no guffaws or wisecracks, please). The first one dealt with healthy living at any age. I have ragged on about this before, so I will only cite the NUMBER ONE rulke for proper living, according to that article. It is, "LEARN TO COOK."

Therein lies true independence, individuality, and control.

The second article had to do with creativity in America and how we are losing it. There are seven "bubbles" or rules to follow to promote creativity. I want to cite four, briefly.

REDUCE SCREEN TIME. Kids spend about 3 hours a day in front of the TV, reducing play time by one-third. It is play that drives imagination. Look at me.

FOLLOW A PASSION. People wh are focused on one great interest or love tend to excel at it, and are better disciplined in their approach. Remember the old adige,m Jack of all trades, master of none? And I find that people who are creative in one area almost always spill over onto others, as well, as a matter of natural progression.

EXPLORE OTHER CULTURES. Cross cultural experiences encourage adaptability and flexibility, and promote new ideas.

GET MOVING. Just 30 minutes of exercise improves cognition everywhere, including creativity. But thgere's a catch -- you have to be fauirly fit, otherwise the exercise will cause fatigue and stop the brain from wantng to work. So, fitness, whatever that is, is a boon to creativity.

It all goes hand in hand. It all matters, not just to each of us as individuals, but also to the society in which we live and which will benefit from our creative outputs, whether in art or science or living.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

the world cup

Orange is the color of the day. The Netherlands managed to hold off a pesky and talented Uraguay team and win their semi-final match, 3-2. Now they wait to see who they play against in the final for the world cup! Spain or Germany. No one can help it, but everyone hopes it's Germany.

Even my nephew, for whom sports is like Christmas to Scrooge, has caught a slight case of Orange fever. He will be watching the game on Sunbay, beer in hand, like a true and loyal Dutchman!

The best part of the whole world cup so far for me, apart from my national pride swelling in orange hues, was to hear sports pundits talking about how European futbal just does not have the energy or stay-with-it-ness of the South American power house teams -- but the Dutch beat Brazil, an old nemesis, and three of the four teams in the quarter finals are European. And now the final two will also be European. So much for pundits!

One last thing: GO ORANJE!!!!!!!!

And you all thought I was getting too serious,