Saturday, April 29, 2006

Toby at home

Toby and I are watching Blue's Clues on his computer while I type this post on my laptop. We have spent several hours at the park, several hours chasing trains, and several hours in the blowup pool in the back yard. I think he's tired of the whole train business, but that it's just a habit. Next ride, we go back to the park, then back to the house. I'm going to try to break him of the train habit.

The situation with the psycho extended family continues. These people are nuts, evil, and scary too. Details to follow, once it all clears up.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Our own Oscars

DW and I have worked our way through this past year's best picture nominees on DVD. We added one film to the mix that should have been nominated but wasn't. Of course, all of these films have their own strengths and weaknesses, and comparing and contrasting is a game of apples and oranges. I dig social, political, and historical themes, so this was a pretty good year for me. I need to give "Crash" another chance; I haven't been able to make myself watch it all the way through yet. Comments? Suggestions?

Randy's rankings:
1. A History of Violence
2. Capote
3. Brokeback Mountain
4. Good Night, and Good Luck
5. Walk the Line
6. Crash

DW's rankings:
1. Good Night, and Good Luck
2. Capote
3. Walk the Line
4. A History of Violence
5. Brokeback Mountain
6. Crash

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Cold-blooded writer

"More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones."
--Truman Capote

DW and I watched "Capote" on DVD last night. It's a great character study of the writer who may have been America's first professional celebrity. I remember seeing him make catty remarks on talk shows when I was much younger, but I really didn't pay him much mind. All I knew was that he was a famous author, and that he was a major drama queen. Evidently, after he wrote "In Cold Blood," that's just about what became of Truman Capote, and the film "Capote" shows how the process of writing that brilliant piece of literature also destroyed Capote's soul. Thus, his own answered prayer led to his own grief.

Holcomb, Kansas, is not far from where I grew up. I can only imagine how odd this little man from New York with a squeaky voice must have seemed to the townspeople. Yet he won them over and wrote about them. He also became very fond of the two men who killed the local family. However, he needs for them to be executed so he can finish his book, and he needs to get one of the killers to provide him with a first-hand account of the murders. The Capote in the movie is, by turns, kind, loving, dishonest, and ruthlessly manipultive. His childhood friend and fellow writer Harper Lee ("To Kill a Mockingbird") in the end becomes his conscience.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent in the title role. He is believable depicting Truman's quirky mannerisms, his kindness, his ambition, and his ruthlessness. It's well worth a look.

We went to see "Friends with Money" today. I was expecting a light romantic comedy, but this movie was actually somewhat moody. It's a "chick flick" about 40-somethings in relationships. Jennifer Aniston plays a woman who has crappy, self-destructive relationships, while all of her best friends are married and wealthy. But they have relationship issues also, and one of them actually ends up heading for divorce court. Not bad.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Notable visitors

This blog has had some hits from interesting places in recent days. There have been visitors from Washington University in St. Louis (where I went to law school), the Iranian Foreign Ministry (no connection there, uh uh), and, about an hour after my last reivew of "Big Love," the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Someone in Salt Lake must be curious about that show.

The Daily Zen

If you meet a fencing master on the road,
You may give him your sword,
If you meet a poet,
You may offer him your poem.
When you meet others,
Say only a part of what you intend.
Never give the whole thing at once.

- Mu-mon 1228

I just thought this would be ironic to post on a personal blog.

My kids' school in the news

St. Mary's Residential Training School, where my boys reside and attend school, recently established an on-campus autism center and, thanks in part to last summer's meteorological event, has formed a partnership with the Tulane Medical School. Read all about it.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday, 2006

My kids' easter baskets. We attended mass this morning, where the local favorite, "Jesus is clapping my beat" was sung repeatedly. It's got a nice beat, as you might imagine, and you can clap to it. Then it was off for a typical P. family Easter meal. We followed that up with a trip to WalMart, then went back to the school. Posted by Picasa

Traditional Easter feast at Chuck E. Cheese. Strangely, we had the place entirely to ourselves. Posted by Picasa

Adam takes a break between sets. He wants to be the next Keith Richards. Posted by Picasa

He shoots, he scores! Toby actually is a pretty good shot; better than I am, anyway. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The elevator, ad infinitum

The elevator door opens! Toby was obsessive about the hotel elevator today, and our room is directly across from it. By the way, that's a pencil in his hand, not a cigarette. Not even my parenting is that liberal. Adam had fun with us in the pool, but I didn't manage to take any pictures of that. Posted by Picasa

Watching the bridal party. There was a wedding at the hotel, and the bride and her bridesmades walked right by the window. Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 10, 2006

Happy happy joy joy

A little happy news, for a change. Adam's classroom teacher reports that he seemed happier today, after his visit home. We're working back into our pre-Katrina visit habits. The break in home visits caused by the storm seemed to discombobulate the kids. We'll be seeing a lot more of our little guys in the weeks to come.

Something I should have mentioned in my HBO post--the wedding singer in "The Sopranos" last night sang "Daddy's Little Girl." We sing "Daddy's Little Boy" whenever we're putting Toby to sleep. Adam has a couple of other songs that we just made up. Each of our boys likes to hear his own song/songs. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Adam at the park. His favorite new activity was to sit in front of WalMart and watch the automatic doors open and shut. We did that for about 45 minutes. Adam also slid down a hill on cardboard, just like the teenagers, and he and I splashed around in the pool while the roofers worked on the house. Inside the house, DW and I played several rounds of peek-a-boo with Adam. Fun times. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Randy's estate planning

I met today with an attorney whose firm specializes in special-needs financial planning, and we are getting our wills and tutorship (guardianship) papers in order. Because we have children with special needs, and because we live in Louisiana, there are some complexities that make a lawyer hire a lawyer to get it done right. I suppose my sudden awareness of the problems and misunderstandings that can arise from the lack of adequate estate planning is the one silver lining in the cloud of the past week.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Under the Banner of Heaven

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? More to the point in Jon Krakeauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven," does harsh, fundamentalist religion create sociopathic killers or conditions in which they may arise, or do sociopaths merely use bits and pieces of doctrine and scripture to justify their criminal behaviors? Krakauer's book appears to move in the first direction, then seemingly makes a turn in the other direction just at the very end.

Krakauer tells the sordid tale of Ron and Dan Lafferty of Utah Valley, who murdered their sister-in-law and infant niece because Ron had received a revelation telling to commit the murders. The Laffertys were self-styled "funadamenatlist Mormons" (FunMos, thanks Todd!) who believed in polygamy and that the main LDS Church marched into damnation when it discontinued the practice of "the Principle." The Laffertys also fancied themselves--or at least Ron--as prophets ("The One Mighty and Strong" foretold in the "Doctrine and Covenants," a holy book of all Mormon-oriented groups).

They also became obsessive about the doctrine of Blood Atonement, which was preached by Brigham Young. Brigham's record regarding that doctrine was tainted by the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, an incident for which the LDS Church disclaims responsibility, but about which the critics of the Church will not shut up. Recent publications make Brigham appear quite complicit, though most of the evidence is circumstantial. The massacre is recounted in great detail, and blame is placed squarely on Brigham. The MMM is a sort of smoking gun for Krakauer's thesis that extreme faith may lead people to extreme acts of violence. It could be, however, that the massacre is more in line with the notion that people are smart but groups of people are mean and stupid, or however that goes, especially when they are led by individual zealots. By the way, the LDS Church recently officially renounced Blood Atonement as a doctrine in order for the Utah Legislature to abolish the firing squad.

Krakauer's narrative consists of alternating chapters about the Laffertys and about the history of Mormon and FunMo polygamy. Some FunMo groups still talk about Blood Atonement, and all adherents of the religions that call themselves Mormon believe in prophets--though, obviously, the institutional churches can have only one active prophet at a time, or they would disintegrate into tiny groups, each following its own guru. Ron Lafferty, who evidently was not a member of ANY of the generally recognized Mormon churches (though he had been excommunicated from the LDS Church) received a hit list in the form of a revelation. Coincidentally, the people named on the divine hit list just happened to be the people Ron blamed for the collapse of his marriage and for his excommunication. That little coincidence suggests to me that Lafferty was simply a sociopathic nut who would have latched onto some oddball interpretation of the doctrines of, say, the Southern Baptist Convention, were he raised in a Southern Baptist environment, in order to justify his murders.

Krakauer's argument gets a little wobbly here, and, to his credit, he also discusses Ron's retrial, at which the defense argued that Ron's religious beliefs rendered him insane. Various mental health professionals--some Mormon, some not--testified convincingly that intelligent, rational people can hold beliefs that are non-rational, or even extreme, without being clinically insane.

Krakauer closes the paperback edition of his book with the entirety of the official LDS Church response to his book (guess what? They didn't like it.) He replies to the response, which mostly critique nitpicky little details and Krakauer's interpretive spin on facts that aren't really disputed. Krakauer, who is not LDS, closes with a plea for a more open examination of LDS history.

Bet he watches "Big Love."

 Posted by Picasa