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Sunday Night Journal, January 15, 2017

One night last week I dreamed that I was on a college campus that was being terrorized by small (about man-sized) blue dinosaurs. They looked like upright alligators, a bit like Albert the Alligator in the Pogo comic strip, except that they were blue, a rather pretty light shade, rather than green, and not at all cute: more like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. They were running around loose and chasing students. I didn't see a dinosaur catch a student, but the presumption was that when and if that happened the student would be messily devoured, as an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon puts it. The campus was not any that I've known in the real world. Well, maybe it looked in a very general sort of way like parts of the University of Alabama in Huntsville campus, where I had my first job in technology: very open, very "modern" in that the buildings were simple brick or concrete affairs, nothing at all Greco-Roman.

It was night, and I was walking around, a little worried about the dinosaurs, but only a little, because I witnessed one of the dinosaurs chasing a screaming student without being extremely disturbed. I wasn't really fearful for myself (which is not at all realistic) but rather was concerned about the students and the general problem of What To Do About The Dinosaurs. I may have been part of a Dinosaur Action and Awareness Committee or something, because I felt a definite sense of responsibility.

Then suddenly there was a shift, like a scene shift in a movie that's also a time shift, the sort of thing where text across the bottom of the screen says "Five years later" or something. Things had changed significantly. The dinosaurs were no longer terrorizing students, no longer chasing them. In fact they were students themselves. They had been integrated into campus life, and on the surface it seemed that everyone was getting along. But there were subtler tensions. Aside from lingering concerns about being eaten, on the one side, and about being unjustly accused of eating, on the other side, there was just a sort of cultural barrier that made things difficult. It was not clear whether the whole dinosaurs-eat-humans thing was just a big misunderstanding, or a real problem that had somehow been resolved.  But in any case dinosaurs and humans just felt a little awkward around each other, or maybe more than a little, and so tended to keep to themselves. I guess I should say reptile-persons and mammal-persons, because both species were persons.

In this last bit, I was with some mammal-persons, in the campus cafeteria, and there were reptile-persons around. We, the mammals, were sitting together, and there was a sense that we should make some kind of gesture of welcome or at least non-hostility to the reptiles, but we didn't know what to do. Then the mammals I was with left, and I was sitting at the table by myself. In a couple of minutes I was ready to leave, too. But there was a reptile sitting at a nearby table, also alone, and I felt awkward. I thought he looked uncomfortable (don't ask me how an alligator looks uncomfortable), and I wondered if it would be a nice gesture if I went and sat with him, but that might have been unwelcome, and anyway was maybe a bit condescending or something. But then if I just got up and left, which I would otherwise have done without thinking about it, would he think I was avoiding him?

While I was considering the situation, I began to wake up. Sometimes when you're waking from a dream there's an in-between state where you are still in the dream but are beginning to be aware that it is a dream. Or at least it happens that way with me. When I reached that point, I realized that the whole thing was very funny, and by the time I was fully awake I was laughing.

Our difficulties involving ethnic diversity are not quite as bad as that. At least we all belong to the same species. 

Unfortunately they're not very funny, either. Even with good will all around, it's not easy to bridge cultural differences. There are many awkward situations. Natural inertia leads everyone to avoid the effort, just because it is an effort: much easier to just stay with one's own. Misunderstandings arise, and may lead to hostility. Or the groups may differ so much that they simply do not get along all very well, and are more cordial at a distance. What we're doing in the United States is not easy, and hasn't been the norm for most of the human race for most of history. We've managed it in the past, but it remains to be seen whether we can keep it up, with so many centrifugal forces at work.

Jurassic-world-raptor-delta      Albert

*

I watched the Netflix series The OA last weekend and last week. I don't especially recommend it. It was gripping at first, but grew tiresome, and I think there are some pretty major problems with the plot. It's about a young woman who disappeared for seven years and has suddenly reappeared under strange circumstances, and refuses to tell anyone anything at all about what happened to her. There's a complicated and very New-Age-y plot involving her recruitment of several other people for a mystical task. All are outsiders in some way, and all but one are teenagers. There are a number of scenes where they're all sitting around by candlelight in an abandoned house, with the young woman telling her story and leading them in very weird dance-like movements which, when perfected, will have supernatural effects. There's a bit of an encounter group quality to these sessions, as they all become more open and loving, getting past...I almost said "their hangups"... all the damage done to them by their parents and the generally mean old world.

Part way through this it suddenly dawned on me that these group scenes reminded me of the 1960s, and of my own youth: the longing for community and meaning, the impulse to seek those things in flight from the normal world, and in a small pure group of the like-minded. And it seemed very sad.

If you decide to watch it, be aware that there is a sex scene in the first episode which appears without any prelude whatsoever and is pretty much soft-core pornography. I assume someone threw that in as a reliable attention-getter, because it's completely unnecessary.  There's another sex scene in a later episode, and a few scenes of somewhat disturbing fear and violence. All that also owes something to the 1960s, I guess.

*

Another film from Fairhope Film Festival: Lamb, "the first Ethiopian film screened at Cannes." I expect most of us have neglected the Ethiopian cinema. But don't think the presence of this movie at Cannes represents any kind of condescension, because it very much deserves the recognition. It's a small, gentle affair, about a boy, Ephraim, who has a pet lamb to which he is very attached. The boy's mother has recently died and his father has gone to Addis Ababa to look for work. Ephraim is sent to live with an aunt and uncle, and, not surprisingly for poor rural people, their view of the lamb is decidedly businesslike: they expect it to be the main course for an upcoming feast (was it Easter? I can't remember). Ephraim naturally intends to prevent this.

From that description you might expect some kind of Disney-fied sentimental thing, but it's not that at all, and the resolution is not what I expected.  This review in The Guardian goes into more detail without giving away anything important. As the review says, a great deal of the appeal is in the picture of the lives of the people and of the land. You can get a sense of that from the trailer.

Lamb is listed on Netflix in the DVD section but is not currently available, so maybe that means it will be.

 

*

So much of what's wrong with America is exhibited in this:

AmericasAmazingDad

 

Comments

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It did not occur to me while writing this post that today is Martin Luther King Day.

With dreams like that, Mac, you must find waking life pretty tedious.

Im amazed that you have dreams that have a recountable plot. I don't have enough sequence for a plot in my dreams.

A dream with this kind of coherence is very rare for me. And this kind of interest. There is another which was equally coherent that I had eight or ten years ago and still remember because it seemed significant. But mostly they're just the usual nonsense, and the occasional nightmare.

I just put in the link to the Guardian review of Lamb that I managed to leave out (also fixed several glaring typos). Here's the review:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/lamb-review-a-gorgeous-study-of-rural-ethiopian-life

First, are you aware that the velociraptor in Jurassic World is Blue, and blue.

And then, your dream is so much like Zootopia, it's kind of creepy. ;-) Except in Zootopia, it's not just dinosaurs, it's predators in general. I've never been so disgusted with a movie.

Regarding the sex scenes in OA, and that first one really upsets me because it is definitely pornography, I was thinking about them later, and as unnecessary as the graphic reality is, they are used to paint a pretty good picture of what is wrong with promiscuous sex. It's obvious later in the movie that that encounter was empty and that the boy was looking for more than hooking up. And in the second one, it was set up to demonstrate to someone that the person involved had this bestial side.

There was so very much wrong with the series, but there were some interesting things.

On the other hand, I mentioned Travelers before. I really enjoyed it. It's nothing deep and meaningful, but it's a good adventure, I think. And there darn well better be a second series.

A dream with this kind of coherence is very rare for me. Yeah, that really surprised me. It sounded more like one of mine.

AMDG

If they are going to eat the Lamb, I cannot cope with it!

I've never seen Zootopia or Jurassic World. More later when I'm not trying to type on my phone.

I know someone who claims that she *never* dreams. I don't believe that, I think she just doesn't remember them. So who knows how many coherent or incoherent ones we really have? As a rule mine fade from memory almost as soon as I wake up. The exceptions are ones like that that make some kind of sense, and nightmares, which are sometimes hard to shake.

This is sort of a quibble, but it's not just later in the movie (assuming you mean significantly after this scene) that you realize the sexual encounter was empty. It's made clear immediately, when he wants her to stay and she very coldly informs him that she's using him. I would have said at one time that this was unrealistic, but I think there are more cold-hearted young women in the world than there used to be.

There are definitely some very *interesting* things about The OA. The end was kind of frustrating. I'm sure there's going to be a second series, or at least that the creators want there to be.

We're now watching Travellers on your recommendation (Janet) and I'm not as keen as you. It's ok. I don't think the plot bears close examination, but then any story about people in the future traveling to the past to fix something has an intrinsic logic problem.

Oh well, if you don't like it, it will be turn around is fair play.;-)

Of course, it is very implausible, and gets more so.


AMDG

turn about--I'm really losing it.

AMDG

I don't dislike it. It's enjoyable, just fairly lightweight. The OA, although it's very flawed--maybe fatally--has bigger ambitions.

Speaking of things on TV that aren't very good I did watch the first episode of The Young Pope on HBO. Very high production values, very ridiculous plot. I will have to be quite bored to continue watching. It is curious to me how little empathy is out there in the HBO pantheon ... I watched most of Westworld, and all of Divorce. I didn't have HBO when The Sopranos was big, but I'm guessing it might suffer from the same problem. I don't watch near as much TV series as most of you seem to, but I remember someone mentioning The Young Pope.

Lightweight! Yes! I think this is why I liked it. After 8 months of waiting for the phone to ring with the terrible message, lightweight is just what I need. So, it's completely subjective.

As I watching that last episode of Sherlock, I felt like I was being sucked into a vortex of sickness. Bill told me about the ending, which he read about and it sounded nice. We watch this on PBS on our Amazon TV box and there is a commercial at the beginning which for some reason cannot stream for about 4 seconds at a time and takes, I am completely serious, at least 15 minutes to get through. I thought Sherlock was on on Sunday night.

The OA, well, as irritating as some of it was, I'm not sorry I watched and would like to talk about it and might post a spoilerish comment later.

I'm really busy: a funeral tomorrow, a funeral Thursday, and the bishop coming on Saturday.

AMDG

Best wishes with all that.

Yes, Sherlock is on Sunday night, but my comment about liking the new series so far was made Sunday morning (not on this thread).

I don't have HBO so The Young Pope is not available to me till it comes out on Netflix or Amazon. I have been reading about it but figured the likelihood that HBO would do a drama about the Church that I would enjoy is pretty slim.

I saw a few episodes of The Sopranos here and there (mostly in hotels at JAM, Stu). I can certainly see why people got caught up in it but I didn't really want to spend any more time with those evil and corrupt people.

I was the one who mentioned The Young Pope, because I was wondering if it was any good. As I understand it, it's about a "conservative" Pope who is elected by liberal Cardinals who expect him to be their "puppet", but he proves otherwise. That sounds like it could be interesting, but, like Mac, I'd be surprised if it actually turned out to be worthwhile.

By the way, it is an HBO show, in part, but I believe it's a joint American/Italian production. The writer/director is Paolo Sorrentini, a very good Italian filmmaker.

Well, I got an email about The Young Pope from a very conservative man this morning with this. link.

I am not in any way endorsing this website. I get this stuff in my church email.

AMDG

"That sounds like it could be interesting, but, like Mac, I'd be surprised if it actually turned out to be worthwhile."

Sounds like the sort of thing you wait on till the reviews come in at the end and then watch it later if they're positive (presuming they're from good sources, obviously).

Oh great, let's have another one of those controversies where one side rages and the other side preens and enjoys the attention.

My plan is to avoid the movie, the controversy, the raging and the preening. At the moment, I'm thinking the sleeping sounds good.

AMDG

Something kind of funny about Sherlock is that we also watched this week's episode of Elementary (which is another version of Sherlock Holmes, in case anyone doesn't know) which also aired on Sunday, probably at the same time as Sherlock, and they both had scary clowns.

AMDG

Avoidance sounds like an excellent strategy.

Is Elementary the one that has a female Sherlock? So old fashioned. The OA has a transgender character.

"Avoidance sounds like an excellent strategy."

True. How good could it be, right? Odds are definitely against it.

I've never watched, but I think the female Asian character in Elementary is "Watson".

Oh, my mistake. I just had some vague impression.

"Odds are definitely against it." Yes, and in favor of being annoyed.

Right. The thing is, I did not think I would like Elementary. The female Watson annoyed me and I hated the first episode. However, I do pretty much like it. I don't, however, really think of it as being about Sherlock Holmes. He's just a person who has that name, and Joan Watson, although she is a doctor, is definitely not Dr. Watson. (I really like the Dr. Watson in Sherlock.)

I like the supporting characters in Elementary, the mysteries are pretty interesting and they are not always or even mostly about sex. There are actually some about embezzlement. This Sherlock does, however, have some rather annoying sexual encounters, but you never have to watch them.

This Sherlock goes to 12 step meetings because of his addiction to heroin. The development of his character is interesting.

AMDG

Sounds at minimum better than I would have expected. I tend to think it's time for the tv and film industry to stop riffing on those characters and stories, though. The 12-step thing is funny if you imagine the original Holmes in that situation.

If you count the Robert Downey movies, and I think there may be more, there are at least three current versions of Sherlock around and all very popular. Elementary is in its fifth season.

The 12-step thing is funny if you imagine the original Holmes in that situation.
Yes, that's why I say it's just a person named Sherlock Holmes, not the real one. ;-)

AMDG

I imagine that there probably ARE people out there named Sherlock Holmes.

AMDG

A rather traditionalist friend of mine was very much in favour of The Young Pope on Facebook.

Well, what a difference of opinion.

AMDG

I only watched the first episode, but in that hour I was not introduced to any characters that I felt sympathetic towards. I think that is the problem with HBO programming. Whether it be The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Divorce, etc. They do a great job making these shows, but theirs is a rather unsympathetic universe of people you don't like very much.

Are you talking about Elementary? I agree about the first episode, but their characters are always developing. His more than hers.

AMDG

From the brief descriptions I've read, I can see why The Young Pope would appeal at least initially to a traditionalist. The pope in question was apparently elected to be a "liberal" but then acted as a traditionalist. I would be surprised if HBO allowed him to remain both traditionalist and a sympathetic character.

I remember years ago reading a review of some movie about priests. The liberal reviewer, clearly no particular friend of the Church or the priesthood, nevertheless noted the artistic laziness involved in the way the orthodox/traditionalist priest was handled: "very conservative, and therefore must be punished", or something to that effect.

One of the reviews I've read of The Young Pope said that the director, Paolo Sorrentino, is following in the footsteps of Fellini. I never could follow what was happening in most of Fellini's films, so I'd probably miss a lot of whatever Sorrentino's trying to do with The Young Pope.

I doubt this is getting the real Fellini treatment. Kind of hard to imagine. I'm not much of a Fellini fan either.

'Lamb' looks really interesting! I hope to see it.

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