Friday, December 28, 2007

Mourning the M-bag

Just before Christmas I went to the post office to ship 40 pounds of books to Spain. The books were obscure English language books on linguistic history. On calculating postage I was informed by an apologetic postal employee that my preferred shipping method, cheap, take as long as you like, slow boat, surface mail (the M-bag) no longer existed.

The M-bag died on May 14, 2007, and with it the incalculable value of the paper diplomacy of ideas, stories, poems, and literacy programs. Myriad scholars, book dissemination non-profits, and generous individuals who believe in the value of ideas, of sharing books, and of literacy, have been struck hard by this passing. In lieu of a dollar a pound by slow boat, offered is four dollars a pound by air.

The United States Postal Service, by offering universal service to all of the Union, with special rates for dissemination of ideas in the form of media, print and library materials has a distinct role in American civic life. This historic civic role is what distinguishes it from a fully private corporation whose sole civic mission is to operate ethically and profitably enough to pay taxes.

So readers you have a choice. Accept this passing and read 101 Uses for a Dead M-bag, or sign an online petition to request the return of the M-bag, and affordable surface shipping of books around the world. Think of it as homeland security.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First Ladies, Sir!

If I were truly a follower of Emily's List I would be writing poems to spur Hilary onward to the presidency. Instead I am loving Barack Obama and John Edwards. I have an irrational desire to see children in the White House: Jack, Emma, and Obama's little girls sliding and running, giggling and cavorting through the various wings. Of course Bill as First Lady tempts me but I am having a running bout of Hilary-As-President Fatigue Syndrome.

I have been reading The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pisan (1364-1430) . Christine rebutted 14th c. literary misogyny with wonderful stories, lively details of thousands of years of women who ruled fierce tribes, incipient nations, nation-states; women who fought wars, commanded troops, fed poison to their enemies. I seem to remember Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, and more recently Victoria, Indira Ghandi, Mrs. Thatcher, Mrs. Merkel. That's the incomplete list. I fail to feel the novelty of Hilary's run. Alas....

In other news, a lovely woman who interviewed Hilary during the 1992 campaign, Nardi Reeder Campion, died November 29th, at the age of 90, shortly after talking with her editors about her next book. She was a 1938 graduate of Wellesley College, Hilary's alma mater. She lived in Amherst for several years starting in 1970, worked at the Emily Dickinson House, wrote the book that became the Tyrone Power movie, The Long Gray Line(1955). Kudos for a life well lived.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Movie Moment II

Offside (Iran, 2006), 93 minutes, was the feature film at the Asian Arts and Culture Series , Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007 , 7PM at UMass, Isenberg 137. It was preceded by some delightful amateur videos.

Emily's review:

Random girls dress like boys to sneak into the Iran-Bahrain soccer playoffs at the big stadium in Tehran. They get caught. They talk in the prisoner pen. The men talk. Lots of talking heads. The big excitement is not the soccer game but a trip to the bathroom. Talking heads, scenes of Iran, no music. Nothing much happens. I missed the end, and thus leave it as a surprise for you.

Potentially interesting premise, with under-developed characters, stiff acting. You see & hear men, men, men: stupid men, protective men, possessive men, craven men, cowed men, howling men, discouraged men, bossy men, with cameos by a handicapped old man and a young boy. The dialog is mostly back-forth argument for why men are protecting their daughters, sisters, mothers, spouses from other men. Talk about twisted self-loathing! The girls inexplicably yearn for all the hooplah surrounding soccer and soccer-crazed men. Hard to believe.

Good idea, and a chuckle or two, but not quite there. I do suggest, however, reading some alternate views and the backstory to balance my rather harsh comments. That said, I give this movie: 2 1/2 soccer balls.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Another Movie Moment

Tomorrow night at UMass, Isenberg 137, courtesy of the Asian Arts & Culture series :: Little Red Flowers.

Emily's Review : Do you remember those scary days when you were five years old and monsters lurked in the dark, when the great unknown of kindergarten loomed bigger than life itself, and a little gold star was your most coveted desire? Watch an impish little fellow navigate these perilous waters as you once did.

Charming, well done, this production joins noodles, silk, and Marco Polo in a long line of Italian-Chinese adventures . Five little red flowers. *****
Available on DVD from Amazon in the UK, perhaps sometime soon in the USA.