A not so chance encounter

I had a wonderful discussion with a man from Rwanda that I met in the parking lot at the FDA where I am serving as a senior business systems analyst. While my French is atrocious, I could see that the book he was carrying was a history book dealing with the struggles between blacks and whites in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994. I asked him if he had seen the movie Hotel Rwanda and if it was accurate. He told me that he had and unfortunately, it wasn’t. We started talking about the Hutus and the Tutsis and racism. He asked about the origins of racism. I talked to him about Dutch and British colonialism, the caste system in India and the Untouchables in particular, and also the treatment of the aboriginal people of Australia by the British settlers and even more contemporary Australians. Then he asked me a very poignant question, “what do we do to get rid of racism in this country?” I told him that the best things that we can do are to dispel falsehoods by teaching the truth and to show ourselves as friendly and respectful toward those of different people groups. We have to dispel the falsehood that there is a unified hatred of one group by another by proving that at least one person of that group doesn’t hate them.
We discussed what sort of teachings might change people’s minds. I spoke to him about the common ancestry of humanity as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. I told him stories of Moses and how his own brother and sister were upset with him because he married an Ethiopian woman. I told him of the Jewish people from Ethiopia that stood as a testimony to the fact that we are truly one race of people, a message he echoed to me earlier in our conversation. I told him of the origin of humanity being from North Africa and drawing the conclusion that if all people came from one place, then the essence of all humanity is identical and we simply have different appearances.
I asked him if he was familiar with the Gospel story and how when the edict went out to kill the male children two years and younger that Mary and Joseph fled to North Africa. He knew the story well. Being a Jew in my heritage and my pedagogy, I asked him a question versus presenting my conclusion. I asked him, “would parents of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy hide in a place where everyone had brown skin and black hair?” He smiled and said, “no.” Then he surprised me. He pulled out a book and asked me if I though it was legitimate because he had a friend that only spoke French who needed this book in French. The title was, “Nouveau Testament.” He knew there were versions floating around that had slight changes to promote the doctrines of certain cults. I opened the book to Jean 1:1, recited John 1:1 in English and asked him if that’s what it said. He confirmed that. I asked him to look at the phrase, “and the Word was God” and make sure that there was no indefinite article there, a trick of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to substantiate their Arian (not to be confused with Aryan) doctrine of Christ. He said there was none. We did a similar drill with Jean/John 3:16. He confirmed that what it says was what I recited. He was very happy because now he could give his friend what he was asking for.
We both ended our work days with a wonderful encounter. I have been telecommuting for five years. While I dislike making the drive, I love meeting people face to face.


My memories of Robin Williams

When I think of Robin Williams body of work, there are a few things that come to mind.
– His appearances on the Tonight Show with Billy Crystal. The two of them had this amazing chemistry and pulled off these improvisational bits that were beyond hilarious.
– His role as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. The greatest performers have the ability to be versatile. He was equally great in a serious role as he was in a comedic role. The scene that stands out the most was where he was counseling with Will and Will was pushing Sean’s buttons while discussing his late wife’s painting. The rapid transition that Robin made from counselor to outraged widower was unbelieveable.
– His role as Alan Hakman in The Final Cut. This is another dramatic role that he was nothing short of amazing in.
– His role as Mork in Mork and Mindy. I can’t help but wonder how much of his work was improvisational. There was never a weak moment in the show.
– His role in Mrs. Doubtfire. I can envision his part toward the end of the movie where as Mrs. Doubtfire, he revealed his character’s heart. There are few roles where I’ve seen such sincere sorrow expressed in such a subtle manner.

The best thing that we can do in his memory is to be very honest about the reality of chronic depression.  It is a disease that in so many people lives just beneath a thin veneer of normality.

What is love?

Love is a willingness to lose anything for someone who means everything while expecting nothing.

That is the love that scores the greatest dramas and the mightiest epics. We sing songs of that love and write poems about that love. Every time that someone dies for that kind of love, a little bit of evil dies too. That is how Christ loves us. That is how we should love each other.

Are you willing to sacrifice a night at the movies?

I’m going to break out my Jewish guilt for just a moment here. Do you go to the movies? I do. My wife and I enjoy about two hours of freedom from the insanity of the world by paying about $24 to see a movie. What if that same $24 could buy a night of freedom for a young girl that is forced to the live the life of a prostitute in Thailand? By sacrificing one night of comfortable entertainment, you are giving a girl or young woman a night free from being a sex-slave. We talk about how much we need our days off from work. How about giving someone a well-needed day off from the disgusting occupation they are forced to be in.

While we are talking about the movies, check out this 4 minute video (http://youtu.be/21vyrOfNgag) from Freedom 4/24, the non-profit that is working to help stem the tide of human trafficking and the sex-trade.

Are you willing to give up a night at the movies yet?

On October 20, 2012, I’m participating in the Run for Their Lives 5k run (I’ll be walking, I’m dedicated but I don’t have a death wish). The purpose is to raise awareness for Freedom 4/24’s mission and raise funds to support it. You can donate very easily. Go to http://www.freedom424.org/donate/ for instructions.

Are you convinced yet? If you aren’t sure, just think of a poor young girl being used by a disgusting pervert while you are waiting for your movie tickets. Enjoy the show.

Still not convinced? If you have $24 of discretionary money and you aren’t willing to sacrifice it, I have one last request. UNFRIEND ME/UNLIKE ME/UNFOLLOW ME/DON’T VISIT MY BLOG AGAIN!

The only solution to domestic terrorism

After the latest tragedy to hit Colorado, let’s hope the governments of the individual states and the federal government don’t make the same mistakes they have made to this point.  Metal detectors, full-body scanners, and bomb sniffing dogs would have all failed to prevent the shooting.  What needs to be done is what El Al Israel Airlines does.  El Al actively profiles everyone, not based on what they look like, but based on what they do.  The entire shooting could have been stopped by an old-fashioned theatre usher with a walkie-talkie that was trained in recognizing suspicious behavior.  In a theatre, profiling behavior is not all that complicated because there is a very small set of activities a theatre patron can perform without rousing suspicion: buying a ticket, buying popcorn, watching the movie, going to the bathroom, playing an arcade game, and leaving the theatre.

When the gunman left the theatre by an emergency exit only minutes into the movie, an usher that was paying attention would think it was strange for someone to have stayed up until midnight and purchase a $12 movie ticket just to run out on one of the most anticipated movies of the year.  All the usher would have had to do was walk down to the emergency door and check to make sure it was closed.  Apparently, the gunman propped the door on the way out, suited up for his killing spree, and returned minutes later.  The usher would have had to remove whatever the prop was and pull the door closed.  If the usher followed that with a quick call to the front desk of the theatre, a place that usually has one or two police officers nearby, the officers could have gone outside to see a frustrated gunman trying to break through a very heavy fire door that was designed to only open from the inside.

With his knowledge of binary chemical agents, the murderer could have even brought weapons into the theatre that would not show up on an x-ray or metal detector, and would be undetectable by dogs.  People trained in behavioral profiling would have spotted him long before he got to the place he could have used those things.  If you aren’t sure about this idea of behavioral profiling, take these two bits of information into consideration.  Since 1948, El Al has had only one hijacking.  Its most sophisticated weapon against terror is a pair of well-trained eyes.  Second, if you don’t believe in the ability of an observant person to predict someone’s actions merely by watching, then attend the World Series of Poker.  Doyle Brunson, a legend of the game, has made a career out of predicting the actions of an opponent through observing the slightest behaviors known as “tells.”  While maybe not as good as Doyle, there are tens of thousands of people in the US that have similar skills and make lots of money using them.

Instead of gambling with our security by putting fairly useless technology in the field, we need to invest in the finest machine walking the face of the Earth, a human being.

Backformation in the vomitorium

I used to think a vomitorium was the place where self-indulgent romans would go to purge their over-stuffied bellies so they could have another round of over-eating.  In a grammar and vocabulary dialog with a left-coast colleague of mine, I said the following as we discussed backformation:

In writing about backformation, I just found another horrendous one [backformation]. I just used this sentence:
“Edit” was backformed from “editor.”
I guess I could have written this:
“Edit” was backformated from “editor.”
Where, pray tell, is the vomitorium?

After the conversation, I recalled that in the movie Hanna (which I totally loved), the character of Sophie was fond of the word “vomitorium.”  I wanted to find the exact line from the movie because I thought it was so amusing.  As I looked for it, I discovered two entries for the Valley of Wrongness.  The first entry goes to me for not knowing the correct definition of vomitorium and using that incorrect definition since I first saw I Claudius as a young teen.  I thought it was a socially acceptable place to practice bulemia.  The good folks at Dictionary.com say otherwise:

Main Entry: vomitorium
Part of Speech: n
Definition: in a theater or stadium, esp. ancient, a passageway leading to and from the seating
Etymology: Latin vomitorius, alluding to the path’s discharging of the spectators

That makes perfectly good sense.  Then, they put the nail in the coffin of my Wrongness when they stated:

Word Origin & History

1754, “passage or opening in an ancient amphitheater, leading to or from the seats,” from L. (Macrobius, Sat. , VI.iv); see vomit. Erroneous meaning “place where ancient Romans (allegedly) deliberately vomited during feasts” is attested from 1923.

The second entry in the Valley of Wrongness goes to the dozens of sites that stated “vomitorium” was nothing more than teenage jargon.  I’m only slightly better than them.  I knew it was a real word.  I just didn’t know what it meant. 

Mea culpa.


vomitorium. (n.d.). Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon. Retrieved July 13, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vomitorium
vomitorium. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 13, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vomitorium


I love action movies.  If that is a genre you appreciate and you enjoyed the Bourne movies, you MUST see Hanna.  I sat unmoving from start to finish.  Not only was the action intense and creative, it was backed by a soundtrack from the Chemical Brothers that is without peer.  The last time I heard a score that was this perfect a match for the movie was Stewart Copeland’s score for Rumble Fish (1983).  The score was as essential a part of the dialog as anything spoken. Close your eyes and hear the screeching violins of Hitchcock’s The Birds and Psycho.  The violins spoke.  Copeland spoke.  The Chemical Brothers spoke.  Just go to http://hannathemovie.com, put on your headphones, turn up the volume, and you’ll understand.

Until this movie, I thought the best action movie teenager was Chloë Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass.  Saoirse Ronan, who plays Hanna, has no equal at this point in time.  You can take the best of Jaden Smith in the Karate Kid remake and combine it with Chloë and it will still not compare to the raw action prowess of Saoirse Ronan.  She is as effortless in her role as Matt Damon is at his best playing Jason Bourne.  Her face is amazing.  You may have seen her before.  She played Susie in the The Lovely Bones.  This ain’t Susie unless Susie learned how to kick some SERIOUS ass.

Accents, accents, accents.  Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett are Aussies.  Ronan is Irish.  None of them sound remotely like the way they speak in real life.  I’m Jewish and I can’t do Jackie Mason.  These three were unbelievable.

I was never a huge Eric Bana fan but he did a really great job.  He was helped by some really exceptional fight choreography that made him fight like a man of his age and size and not some 18-year-old wu-shu wire-artist.

Cate Blanchett is Cate Blanchett.  She was as far into her character as I’ve ever seen her.  IMHO, she took some serious Clarice Starling lessons from Jodie Foster, but hey, if you’re going to borrow, well then borrow from the best.

There was also some very creepy/surreal scenery/underplot/characterization that I won’t touch because I’d hate to spoil it.  Let’s just say that if you liked some of the bizarre-ness of Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange along with some of the off-to-the-side characters in Blade Runner, you’ll get really jazzed over Hanna.

One other thing that I saw, that is becoming a recurring trend, was the lack of R-rated content.  There was no gratuitous gore, sex, or language.  In my mind, that is a big plus.  I Am Number Four also did an exceptional job of being an action/sci-fi hit without bimbos, bowels, or blue speech.  I am a big fan of this approach.  Hanna proves you can do action/adventure with a PG-13 rating.  Bravo to Focus Pictures!  Let’s see more like this.

My favorite movie quotation

Without a doubt, my favorite quotation from a movie is David Carradine’s “Superman monologue” that occurs at the end of Kill Bill, vol. 2. Here it is:

“As you know…
…l’m quite keen on comic books.
Especially the ones about superheroes.
I find the whole mythology
surrounding superheroes fascinating.
Take my favorite superhero, Superman.
Not a great comic book.
Not particularly well-drawn.
But the mythology…
The mythology is not only great,
it’s unique.
Now, a staple of the superhero
mythology is,
there’s the superhero
and there’s the alter ego.
Batman is actually Bruce Wayne,
Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker.
When that character wakes up
in the morning, he’s Peter Parker.
He has to put on a costume
to become Spider-Man.
And it is in that characteristic
Superman stands alone.
Superman didn’t become Superman.
Superman was born Superman.
When Superman wakes up
in the morning, he’s Superman.
His alter ego is Clark Kent.
His outfit with the big red “S” –
that’s the blanket he was wrapped in
as a baby when the Kents found him.
Those are his clothes.
What Kent wears – the glasses,
the business suit – that’s the costume.
That’s the costume Superman wears
to blend in with us.
Clark Kent is how Superman views us.
And what are the characteristics
of Clark Kent?
He’s weak…
…he’s unsure of himself…
…he’s a coward.
Clark Kent is Superman’s critique
on the whole human race.”