HAPPY UNICORN APPRECIATION DAY!

I wouldn’t want everyone to feel I’d failed to note this important post-holiday holiday. Today we appreciate the Unicorns in our life because — (trumpets, drumroll) — it’s Unicorn Appreciation Day.

No, really. It is. All day.

music unicorn

I have a couple more — or I used to — but I’m not sure where they are. Sorry other Unicorns. I am not sure what shelves you are occupying.

BONE PICKING – LITTLE STUFF THAT GETS ME

Bone of Contention – Pick a contentious issue about which you care deeply — it could be the same-sex marriage debate, or just a disagreement you’re having with a friend. Write a post defending the opposite position, and then reflect on what it was like to do that.

Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It's Alienware!
Even my computer is part of the plot against us! It’s Alienware!

I definitely have a few bones to pick and I’m going to start picking right now. You see, I have these questions. Important questions. And there are, as far as I can tell, no answers to them.

1. Why does WordPress allow us to approve or disapprove comments, but anyone can follow us? Doesn’t that seem wrong to you? I leafed through my thousands of “followers” the other day and exactly as expected, most of the recent ones are spam bots. Short of using Captcha, which I consider cruel and unusual punishment, there doesn’t seem to be anyway to prevent the spammers from following. I can get rid of their comments, but I can’t get rid of them.

2. No matter what you do, every pingback has to be personally moderated … yet if you allow reblogs at all — and most of us do — these do NOT need to be moderated, not even for those who have never commented and are essentially anonymous. Thus my posts have been reblogged on all kinds of horrible sites where I would never venture to go, much less see my work posted. Forgive me if the logic of this eludes me.

3. Object linking has become the function that powers our internet experience. For those of you who don’t know much about programming and computer development, a “link” is really an embedded address. Thus a pingback is actually an object “pointer.” It takes the address of a website or some other thing on the internet (it could also be an email address or a picture … or a part number in a database), embeds it in a graphic or text so that when someone clicks on it, it takes them to that place. Like the transporter on the Enterprise. It’s the computer equivalent of “Scottie, beam me up.” The other day, all my links went wacko. If I clicked on a notification from a follower, I got sent to the Reader … but not to that blogger or that post. Just the top of the Reader. Sometimes, I got the message that the address didn’t exist.

I panicked, contacted WordPress. Who said they would check it out. Yet, before they even had a chance to look at it, it fixed itself and the problem disappeared. That was when I got a notice that other people had begun to have the same problem. What’s up with that? Is our technology beginning to fail because chaos reigns and magic is loose in the world? Just asking.

4. When my links went berserk, my knee jerk reaction was to get mad. After all the goofy “upgrades” WordPress has been making to their user interface (in my world, it is known as the GUI, pronounced Gooey, or graphical user interface), anything is possible.

I assumed this was another bizarre piece of programming they were foisting on me. Eventually, I realized even WordPress could not possibly consider this acceptable, much less an improvement. Not unless they were all taking some heavy hallucinogenic drugs up there in the office.

So there you have it. My contentious bone picking for the day. I know, I know. I was supposed to choose something Important. Something involving Truth. Justice. The Meaning of Life. But this is what I’ve had on my mind. Today seems a good day to air my thoughts.

Watch your links. Keep watching your links. Aliens are invading the servers.

IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE – RICH PASCHALL

Watching Foreign Language Films, Rich Paschall

Unless you were born in another country or became fluent in another language, you probably have little interest in foreign language films. The language barrier is something many of us do not wish to overcome while reading subtitles. So we take a pass on them, and in turn may be missing some of the best films ever made.

Even if you are interested in films of another language, where would you go to see them? Large cities might have “art houses” that show indie and foreign language films, but that is not the case in most locales. You can always order them online, but do you want to own a foreign language DVD or stream a film to your computer or tablet? Perhaps the whole process of tracking down the good ones to watch seems to be more trouble than it is worth.

For most of my life I had zero interest in these films. Yes, I could find some and I was aware that there were excellent foreign films showing here, but basically I thought it should be left to the snobs who were proud of themselves for seeing something the rest of us did not. I thought of that in much the same way I see pretentious art critics standing in front of a painting while making pronouncements about brush strokes or some other obscure point. I was wrong, not about the art snobs but about foreign language films. They are as vibrant and artistic as anything Hollywood has to offer.

Living in a largely German American neighborhood, I often heard of the 1981 German-made World War II movie, Das Boot (The Boat). Some friends talked me into watching the gritty and often claustrophobic tale of life and conflict on the U-Boat. At the time it was made, it was the most expensive German film ever produced. The picture received six Oscar nominations. It was both unpleasant and powerful.

Years later a French intern at the company that gave me my day job was surprised to learn I had never seen the highly praised French film, Amelie (French title: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain). The 2001 comedy concerns the title character and her attempts to manipulate everyone’s life but her own. She even sets out to improve the life of her father, depressed since the death of his wife. Without giving away more, I can say that I now know why there was a travelling gnome in the Travelocity commercials.

My friendship with several Frenchmen, including one who is now among my best friends, has led me to a number of French films, including the classic comedy La Cage Aux Folles. Roughly translated this means The Cage with Madwomen (or Queens, as in homosexuals).  I have enjoyed the French films, and while my French is terrible, I followed along nicely with the aid of subtitles.

Recently I was reading a list of best films of 2014 and found a Portuguese language film from Brazil, Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (Today I Want To Go Back Alone), but titled The Way He Looks for English-speaking audiences. It is based on a highly regarded 2010 short film, Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho (I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone) by the same film maker. The coming of age story originally ran just 17 minutes, the new feature runs 96.

There are plenty of coming of age stories and I thought I had seen my fair share. This included the German language film Sommersturm (Summer Storm) which I viewed at the Music Box theater in Chicago. The one time first run theater, and home of many of my Saturday afternoon movie and cartoon features as a child, has mercifully found new life playing indie films and old features. A former screening room, holding less that 100 seats, is now the site of many of  these foreign language films that will not find a wide audience.

On the recommendation of the reviewer, I sought out the Brazilian short film on You Tube. It was easy to find and I confess I was memorized by the tale of the teenagers trying to make their way in the world.  The writer and director Daniel Ribeiro found his young players through auditions. They are all perfectly cast and totally believable in their roles. This was particularly difficult for the lead character as I will explain below the short.

When it came time to make the feature, some years after the short, the director faced an interesting decision. Who shall be the lead teenagers in the movie? After all, the charm of the short, now with almost 4 million hits on You Tube, is the principal players. The solution was to bring the two boys and lead girl back.  The fact that they looked a little older actually works in pushing the story a little further. No, you will not see portrayals of teenage sex. There is nothing even close. You will learn how they feel as they grow to realize their feelings for one another.

My research indicated the DVD would be out in March, but my good fortune discovered the film was playing at the Music Box! I was off to see the feature film almost immediately. The longer version meant additional characters. Leonardo, the main character portrayed by Ghilherme Lobo who at this writing is only 19 in real life, now has protective parents. Additional classmates include boys who torment him for being different. He’s blind. Giovana, portrayed by Tess Amorim, is the girl who helps him get around and develops feelings for her friend. The new boy, who gets a seat in class behind Leo, is Gabriel as played by Fabio Audi. His introduction into the mix creates both an awakening and confusion of feelings for Leo.

When someone mentions that Gabriel is good-looking, Leo asks Giovana if he himself is good-looking. He has no idea the way he looks. When Gabriel takes Leo on adventures only sighted people have, Leo is intrigued and Giovana is jealous. Just who loves whom will become clear enough in due time. The ending, while not a total surprise or even huge in a cinematic sense, is nonetheless satisfying.

Having opened in Brazil in April 2014 to strong attendance and critical acclaim after a round of successful screenings and awards at film festivals, Brazil chose this film as its entrant in the Best Foreign Film category at the 87th Academy Awards. Fifty countries submitted their best efforts. The short list for consideration by the Academy was cut down to 9 movies. The Way He Looks was not on the list, so you will not hear it announced in the coming week. Perhaps it did not stand a chance against the heavy crime dramas and political stories. It is just a charming film, beautifully enacted by a crew of handsome young players and a strong supporting cast. It will leave you with a smile, and sometimes that is all a film should aspire to do.

Be sure to hit the CC at the bottom for captions, unless you know Portuguese, of course. Here is the trailer for American audiences:

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: HUMOR WITH DOGS

A Photo a Week Challenge: Humor

This picture comes with a back story.

We have four dogs. Technically, Garry and I have two and the other two belong to my son. Ours are the two terriers, Bonnie, the Scottie, and Nan, the Norwich. Owen has the big Australian Hairball — I mean, Shepherd — and Amber, the odd-eyed Miniature Dachshund. Amber is a Velcro dog and only puts in an upstairs appearance if there’s a biscuit in it or when dinner is served.

Bishop, on the other hand, is upstairs more than he is downstairs. He’s big, hairy, and friendly. The only dog in a houseful of bitches. (Well, they are bitches. Dogs are male, bitches are female. Get used to it.)

On this day, the two terriers had just come home from the groomer. Looking good. Time to get a few pictures before they went outside to roll in the dirt, or dig a tunnel to Australia. I had cajoled Garry into putting on a nice pair of jeans, and posing with The Girls.

Neither terrier will let me take a picture unless they are physically restrained … or sleeping. Why not? No idea. I don’t even use a flash. Nonetheless, the moment I take a camera out of the bag, they head for the doggy door and all I get is a picture of their furry butts as they make their escape.

I had them lined up. Garry was smiling. I think the girls were smiling, but it can be hard to tell. And suddenly, Bishop decided he was not going to be left out.

dogs with bishop and gar

I could have shot around him, but he clearly felt he was being unreasonably excluded. Even though Bishop is usually no more eager to be a photo subject than the other canines. This time, though, he was going to participate. One way or the other.