Archive for the ‘review’ Category.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

I just saw this film a few nights ago, and I found it so ridiculous!

The plot is that a black man and a white woman fall in love and want to get married, and their families have to deal with their attitudes about interracial marriage.

Through most of the movie, the main problem anyone has is the black/white thing.

More importantly though, everyone in favor of the marriage acts like the only reason anyone could not give their blessing would be because they were racist, or romantically dead inside.

However there were several major, big-time problems with the proposed marriage:

1. They only met 10 days ago. 10 days on vacation in Hawaii, a whirlwind romance, and they now want to get married. Not only that, they want to get married in another week’s time.

2. They arrive in San Francisco and tell her family. They have one day to get to know their future son-in-law, John, then he will fly to Geneva, and their daughter, Joanna, will leave a week later to get married, in Geneva.

3. Joanna believes her parents will have no problem with the marriage, but indicates she’s going to do it regardless of what they say.

4. John, however, privately tells her parents, without her knowledge, that he doesn’t want any problems in his life so that if they don’t give them a full blessing with no reservations, he won’t marry her.

5. John is 37, she is 23. He is 14 years older than her. He has been married before and had a son; they were both killed in a car crash.

6. They later decide that Joanna will fly with him to Geneva that night, instead of waiting a week.

7. John’s father expresses his disapproval and John responds with a speech which includes this: “You and your whole lousy generation believes the way it was for you is the way it’s got to be. And not until your whole generation has lain down and died will the dead weight of you be off our backs!”

Now, I don’t care that they are an interracial couple. Actually I kinda like to see interracial couples, just because the contrasting skin tones make for a nice aesthetic.

So from a 2009, not-raised-to-care-about-race perspective, the racial issue was a complete non-issue.

Putting myself in the father’s place, I would have zero problem with my daughter marrying a person of another race. I wouldn’t even have the initial shock/surprise that everyone seemed to have.

However, I would totally have objected to the marriage!

It’s ridiculous to make a lifelong commitment after 10 days. There’s just no reason to. What’s the rush? Seriously, why does it have to go so quick? And to only get to meet the guy for a few hours… I could never give my blessing for my daughter to marry a man I’d only met for a such a short time.

Then there’s the fact of the age difference. I’m 8 years older than my wife and while dating it didn’t seem to matter but it actually does, sometimes. Not necessarily a lot, and not necessarily enough to be against a marriage, but it could be relevant, and 14 years is likely to be even more relevant.

Of special concern is the fact that John is giving an ultimatum to the parents that Joanna doesn’t even know about! And they know she doesn’t know… that he’s doing this behind her back, saying he’ll not marry her if they don’t approve because he doesn’t want that problem in his life… to me that would indicate he didn’t love her that much or was too selfish to be worth marrying. I’d definitely object on that ground if no other.

I was horrified at the way John talked to his father. Obviously Joanna’s parents weren’t there for that. Sure, John’s father had racial problems, but have some patience, he’d only know for about an HOUR that his son was marrying a white girl. And even if he didn’t have any problems with white people, he had a point that it was going to be a big deal to a lot of people. At that time, it was illegal in several states (though thankfully overturned by the Loving case before the movie actually hit theatres).

Give the man some time to adjust. If he’s a good man, he’ll come around and give his blessing, but it’d ridiculous to expect that in an hour or two. Again, the rush of the marriage (for no good reason from the pov of the parents) ends up putting completely unnecessary pressure on the parents.

(By the way, after John’s horrifically disrespectful speech to his father, his father never utters a single word for the remainder of the film.)

It’s also pretty selfish to get married in another country when you know your parents would really like to have a nice wedding and such that they are other friends/relatives could attend, without a pretty good reason. A wedding ceremony is a part of the community. They did at least belatedly invite the parents to fly to Geneva for the wedding.

The worst part of the film for me was that all these completely valid reasons to object to the wedding were either not addressed at all or only given lip service, and those in favor of the marriage had nothing but pity or contempt for those who weren’t, painting them as bigots or being against love or something.

At the end, Spencer Tracy’s character Matt gives a big speech which ends with approving of the marriage. We, the audience, are obviously supposed to have been on the side of the “young” lovers all along and therefore to be happy about this.

To me, it just seemed sad that Matt was so bullied by everyone and distracted by irrelevancies that he lost track of the many and major reasons to object.

I don’t care what the guy looks like, if my 23-year old daughter comes home from vacation for a few hours and informs me she’s leaving that night to fly to Geneva and marry a man she’s known for 10 days, I will object. I don’t care if he’s got the cure for cancer in his pocket, there is no reason to do it that quickly!

Unless you simply don’t care how other people feel. In which case, why are you even asking for a blessing in the first place?

Now, from a 2009 perspective it wouldn’t make sense to object on the grounds of race. How about in 1967? What if you, yourself, had no problem with a mixed-race marriage, but knew that 100 million people in the country did, and they’d face a lot of persecution for it? Might you object to spare them that?

For a “we’ve known each other 10 days” relationship, definitely. Joanna might have been raised not to care about race, but that’s easy when you’re in the majority race. We really have no idea how she’ll react when she and her husband go to a predominantly black location and she ends up on the receiving end of racism and hate.

She’s probably never experienced that and probably thinks it’s only an issue for John, not her. Or she might weather the persecution just fine, but the point is we don’t know, and there’s no way they do either, yet. Joanna displays remarkable naivete throughout the film so I have little doubt it’s never occurred to her.

If they both know the score, and know it’ll be an issue they have to deal with, and want to get married anyway because they love each so much, then fine. But they didn’t have time to have reached that level of thought.

Of course, “I don’t have a problem with race, I’m just worried about how you’ll be treated by other people” is frequently just code for actually having a problem with race. But it doesn’t have to be… I think, under certain circumstances in history, it’d be right to voice misgivings because of that.

When I was 17, I asked my dad what he’d think if I were to marry someone of another race. He said he wouldn’t care but he wouldn’t advise it because of society’s problem. But that wasn’t code, because even just a few years down the road society had changed, and when I was in a long-term-relationship with a girl from another race, he didn’t have any problem with it at all. I think I only caught flack from “society” once or twice in the form of some random guy on the street, and that was it.

At least in the social circles I move in, it’s a non-issue today. I was hoping this film would be a good exploration of 60’s racial issues, since I wasn’t around then. Instead, the racial issues were mentioned but not really discussed, and the myriad of reasons the marriage was a bad idea, at least at that time, were glossed over.

In all, I was very disappointed. It must go to show how deeply racial perceptions were at play in 1967 so that people were so focused on the racial issue that they didn’t pay attention to everything else.

And, it did have one of the all-time best film scenes ever, when Katherine Hepburn’s character fires her assistant for being a racist busybody that calls her daughter stupid:

“Now I have some instructions for you. I want you to go straight back to the gallery – Start your motor – When you get to the gallery tell Jennifer that she will be looking after things temporarily, she’s to give me a ring if there’s anything she can’t deal with herself. Then go into the office, and make out a check, for “cash,” for the sum of $5,000. Then carefully, but carefully Hilary, remove absolutely everything that might subsequently remind me that you had ever been there, including that yellow thing with the blue bulbs which you have such an affection for. Then take the check, for $5,000, which I feel you deserve, and get – permanently – lost. It’s not that I don’t want to know you – although I don’t – it’s just that I’m afraid we’re not really the sort of people that you can afford to be associated with.”

So you installed the wrong heater, thermostat, wiring… all is not lost.

I grew up in a house with no insulation and only one source of heat, which didn’t make it to most parts of the house.

When remodeling the house, I tore out the bedroom down to the dirt under the house. I propped up the roof, and removed the floor and walls, fixed the foundation, and then rebuilt it all.

I insulated it well, and then put in a small gas furnace. Gas is cheaper than electricity, I reckoned, and it definitely needs a heat source, so with effort I ran a new gas line and hooked it all up.

The pilot light alone warms the room.

Usually too much. So the furnace is unused, and an electric oil-filled space heater heats the room. What a waste.

So when building my daughter’s nursery, I opted to put in an electric heater instead, since it has off mode that’s actually off…

I roughed in the can and ran 240v wiring to it, and 24v wiring from there to another wall where I wanted the thermostat to live.

Then all the finish work was done, the drywall and the painting, and it was time to install the heater itself.

And I discovered I’d installed a line voltage heater, which needs a line voltage thermostat. And instead I had a low voltage thermostat. 24 instead of 240. Only off by a factor of 10.

Worse than having the wrong thermostat is the fact that the wiring is already done and inside the walls and there is not 240 volt electrical cable leading from the thermostat to the heater.

I googled around for a solution, and found this transformer/relay (Model RC840T-240) to connect the two.

But at first I didn’t see how it would work. A light switch has the black “hot” supply wire come in, and another one leave and go to the light, right? And the switch determines if the current stops at the switch, or continues on to the light fixture.

Well I figured the relay would work the same way… two 120 volt supply wires, a black and a red, leave the circuit box and go to the relay, and then two 120 volt wires leave the relay and go to the heater. The thermostat is also hooked up to the relay and that is basically the switch. Right?

Except the wiring diagram showed the relay had three wires, a black, red, and blue. Just three. Not four. Shouldn’t it have a black/red pair for the incoming power and a blue/something pair for the outgoing power? The way it looked, one of the supply wires still went straight to the heater.

I was confused because the heater’s manual indicated that you should use 120 volt power with a 240 volt heater; that it wouldn’t run at full power that way.

So I figured if one 120 volt wire went straight to the heater, it would always be on, but at half power, right?

By the way I e-mailed these Aube people that make the relay, and they never answered. I also e-mailed the makers of the heater, but they said it would probably work but I sure really just buy a line voltage thermostat from them instead (ignoring that it would be a hardship to rewire the finished room) and didn’t answer my question about why the relay only had three wires.

Well, I finally figured out that a 240 volt heater needing two supply wires simply won’t work at all with only one. It doesn’t run at lower power. It doesn’t run at all. The warning against using 120 volt power on a 240 volt heater is probably for some yabo that would twist both heater wires together to avoid running two wires or something.

So the relay works great, and the wiring diagram makes perfect sense given my newfound knowledge. I had to break the wiring in the attic crawlspace (which I was going to have to do no matter what, since I made the initial mistake). I put in a nice box with the relay attached and was able to use all the wiring I had put in.

My daughter’s room has heat with a programmable thermostat! I wish I had had that, growing up.

Anyway, in case any other idiot out there doesn’t realize some of these things I learned the hard way, and googles for help, perhaps this page will come up.

The Backyardigans: Who Goes There?

I know I’m an American parent now, because despite my best intentions, my daughter watches television. I didn’t want it, but putting it on a show called The Backyardigans will get her to eat. I try to limit it. While children are watching television, their brains aren’t really developing. Doesn’t matter how educational it is supposed to be. It’s just not good for toddlers.

However, the show is actually pretty cool. I don’t know much about shows like Teletubbies or Dora the Explorer, except to know that I hate them from what little I’ve seen.

But this show has some pretty awesome music sometimes. The hook is that five children (anthropomorphic animals/aliens) share a big backyard and have adventures in their imagination. They all play well together, taking turns being in charge (in one episode one will be a Butler, obeying the others, in another the Boss at a racetrack, giving out orders), and usually playing with cooperation instead of competition, but when they do compete it’s always good natured.

In the most recent episode I watched, “Who Goes There?” Tyrone is a security guard at a museum. In an homage/ripoff of the film Night at the Musuem, Pablo, Uniqua, and Austin are works of art that come to life.

The musical style of this episode is Flamenco, and it is wonderful. I’ve been listening to it when my daughter isn’t even in the room.

Here’s a youtube clip I found, and the lyrics transcription.

Uniqua:   Tired of hanging around
Pablo & Autin:   Tired of hanging around
Uniqua:   I’m still all day, now I gotta play
  I’m Tired of hanging around
Pablo:   I’m Tired of standing around
Uniqua and Austin:   Tired of standing around
Pablo:   The public’s gone and the party is on
  I’m Tired of standing around
  I’ve been posing in this pose
  Since sixteen forty-two
  It’s great being part of famous art
  But it gets boring too
Uniqua:   I’ve hung in the gallery
  A hundred years or more
  My beauty is immortal
  But my neck is kinda sore
Austin:   I’ve spent two millenia
  Reclining on that pot
  Yes that means 2000 years
  And yes that is a lot
  I’m tired of laying around
  Tired of laying around
  Life on a vase has a slow pace
  I’m tired of hanging around
Uniqua:   We stand all day in artful poses
Austin:   Never stretch or scratch our noses
Pablo:   But when it’s night this place closes
All:   Say bye-bye to the daytime crowd
  Time to get busy, time to get loud
  Tired of laying around
  Tired of standing around
Uniqua:   Come on boys, let’s make some noise
All:   Tired of hanging around
  Tired of laying around
  Tired of standing around
Austin:   We’re gonna make this whole place shake
All:   Tired of hanging around