On the Wagon

April 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

The film ‘My Name is Joe‘ begins with the main character, Joe at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Joe is very devoted to football team he coaches. Later in the film, when prompted for a picture of his family, he pulls out a picture of his team. He has few others in his life.

A few years ago I found a copy of Augusten Burroughs‘ memoir, Dry. He is better known for Running With Scissors and subsequent film adaptation of his unconventional upbringing. Dry was a very personal account of his darkest times just before he stopped drinking. Unlike, Joe, or most other memoirs about alcoholics, he was still high functioning for most of that time the book chronicles. He had this great divide between his personal and professional life. He was still very successful in advertising despite being an alcoholic.

I read the memoir and couldn’t believe just how revealing and personal all of the information was about him. But ultimately that’s what the memoir and the recovery was about, finally exposing what the drinking was attempting to cover up. He was self-medicating with the alcohol for emotional problems, problems that stemmed from his childhood.  In the beginning and for most of the book, you see this very self-indulgent, irresponsible, professionally successful young man. If you were one of the men he tried to pick up at a trendy bar, you may even envy him, but at home he had this sparsely decorated apartment covered in empty bottles. He wouldn’t even let anyone in to clean it.

Joe is a very different character, perhaps he was a different person when he was a regular drinker. He selflessly tried to give his friend and his family a chance, no matter how helpless the situation seemed. He tried to renegotiate his debt with the local drug dealer.  He was even willing to compromise his own happiness with Sarah. She was a social worker, with him he had recently begun a relationship. He was honest with her about his drinking and even honest with her about striking a woman with which he had an unhealthy drinking relationship. He risked everything, even his sobriety, and loses it all, even the friend for which he risked his relationship.



April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

 After class on Tuesday and the discussion of forced marriage, the words of Casim’s cousin in Ae Fond Kiss struck a chord with me. He told him to just suck it up, marry the woman his family wants him to marry and do the family thing. He assured him he can still sleep with the other girl. Casim wasn’t willing to make that compromise. How many men make that compromise across the globe?

I had a Pakistani American coworker that was a sharp guy in his 20’s that was up on current events and well-traveled. He was like most American guys at his age. I was surprised at the time when he mentioned that his upcoming wedding was an arranged marriage. He said sometimes you get blinded by factors that aren’t important. He went on to say that the decision is better left to people who can weigh all of the factors and make a better choice. He believed that he would grow to love her and start a family with her.

It brings me to thoughts of the British Royal family and their upcoming wedding. This time William and Kate seem to be marrying for love but just a generation ago, his parents had a very well calculated marriage like several generation of their ancestors. We saw how that turned out for his parents. Prince Charles’ great uncle, Edward VIII gave up the throne to marry the woman he loved. It’s hard to resolve the pull of individual freedom and the duty to your family, community, or a country. It’s hard to believe that the idea of romantic love and marriages for love are a very new social convention in the Western World. Still, as we see in the film, not among all communities.

I also began thinking about my own ideas of weddings. I didn’t grow up on Disney films full of fairy tale princesses. I don’t have the same ideas of weddings that many women do that had a steady diet of Disney films and Jane Austen films. I know a few women that would love to find her own Mr. Darcy. Nope not me. There is a loss of autonomy I’ve associated with marriage. I still have to resolve the pull toward independence and the need to love and be loved. I’m also afraid of the idea of being painfully bored with a husband after exhausting all topics of conversation and interests.

Maxed out on all of this Royal wedding fanfare, I googled ‘royal wedding’ to find the date hoping it would be over soon. I stumbled on the Official website and found that the Archbishop of Canterbury posted a video. I couldn’t believe they dragged him in this! I was stirred by his words

Every marriage is a really big commitment to the people involved. It’s a lifetime commitment. It’s a commitment that says actually I’m prepared not only to spend the rest of my life with you but to spend the rest of my life finding out about you. There is always going to be more of you to discover. If that’s what people are saying to each other in a wedding that says something very deeply important about what human beings are like. There is a mystery and a delight at the heart of human beings and it’s possible to spend a lifetime and more exploring just that.

I think I’ll know when I find the right one when I can say “I know that I want to spend the rest of my life finding out about you”

Wooh that’s a slippery slope argument…

April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment


Since beginning this Ethics class, I’ve been acutely aware of silly Slippery Slope arguments.  The fallacies in the logic of slippery slope arguments aren’t always what amuses me, it’s usually how seriously it is taken by the one arguing it.

One of my favorite all time slippery slope arguments has been that Same Sex marriage will lead to polygamy and interspecies marriage. Thank you, Bill O’Reilly and the information you get from HBO shows.

My most  recent slippery slope argument comes from passiveagressivenotes.com. I find dirty dishes in communal sinks annoying too, this is why I live alone. I agree that order is maintained when everyone follows the rules and considers the community. However, when chaos ensues after society completely breaks down in a post apocalyptic society, I don’t think dirty dishes will start the chain of events. I can’t imagine the reasoning that would lead to a note like this.

A Lesson on the Nature of Celebrity

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tiger Blood

My favorite church holiday is Palm Sunday. Growing up I attended Catholic schools but I was from an Agnostic family, on both sides. I know some love it for the souvenir palms. The little bit of excitement from the usual mass is refreshing to some. Others that consider themselves a little more faithful prefer the special meaning of it beginning the Holy Week countdown. Not me. Palm Sunday has the most personal meaning to me of any day. It’s a reminder of how fleeting popularity can be.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the week of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is the day that Jesus’ enters the town of Jerusalem. By this time Jesus has a following. He has everyone worked up and excited that he’s come to town. They lay their palms for him to walk on as he walks into town. They love him, he’s a rock star of his day.

It’s a reminder of the power of media and celebrity. If Jesus had Tiger Blood or had lived in the age of digital media, we wouldn’t have had the same lesson to learn. We build up these people and can’t wait to see them fall from grace. We don’t really know them, we just know these crafted images. Later they do or say something in an unguarded moment and we tear them down. Where is the forgiveness? Ask John Galliano! Few manage to bounce back. Ask Charlie Sheen how he did it!

Let that be a warning if they love you that much on Sunday, by Friday they are yelling Crucify Him! Jesus was supposed to experience the life of man. There are few more human experiences.

Raining Stones

April 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ken Loach’s film Raining Stones left me thinking about the relationships between fathers and daughters and fathers as heads of households. I wasn’t expecting the priest to react and counsel Bob. Unemployment drives Tommy and Bob to go to desperate measures to provide for their families.

Bob, as a father was so concerned about his little girl’s big day that he borrowed the money for a dress.  He didn’t ask her but he knew how important those things can be to a child at that age. Even his wife, the little girl’s mother didn’t understand it. Ironically, in his attempt to protect his little girl from embarrassment, he put her in harm’s way when the loan shark came looking for his money at home. As a father, Bob, wanted to help his friend’s daughter when he saw her dealing drugs at a local club, risking his job. Later he’s unable to tell his friend, Tommy, that he saw her doing something less than admirable.

A man as head of the household protects and provides for his family. It’s a hierarchy with responsibilities and an order that puts children and parents in their place. Gender roles have stood the test of time for a reason. As unemployed men, Bob and Tommy aren’t fulfilling that role. Tommy’s adult daughter visits and offers him money, money he wasn’t in a position to refuse. It emasculated him. As she leaves the house with her mother, Tommy is left crying. Bob also reacts out of a need to protect his family by looking for the loan shark. It’s a visceral reaction to want to protect his wife and daughter.

I expected the church, or the church represented by the priest to be another oppressive factor on the main character, Bob. I expected the priest to tell him that what he did was wrong. To further say that no man deserves death at the hands of another person, it is for God and God alone to judge men. Ironically also passing judgement on  and that he should turn himself in.

Although the film is nearly 20 years old, we can see unemployment and poverty becoming factors in the lives of many families globally. Unemployment and poverty are factors stressing individuals and family dynamics. Trying times may tear some families apart or test their bonds and bring them closer together.

When a cup of tea can’t fix it…there’s Vera Drake

April 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bless Vera Drake’s sweet heart. She believes she is just helping out girls that find themselves in trouble. Vera Drake lived in a very conservative society that didn’t treat unmarried women in the situation of unwanted pregnancies with the kindness and compassion they needed. Most of the women she met were working class women. Sally Hawkins character, Susan, found herself pregnant after having been raped. She was the daughter of one of her employers. In Susan’s case it was just as shameful but she was able to have a legal abortion by claiming to have a history of mental illness and suggesting that it could lead her to suicide. Between the cost of the legal abortion surgery and being able to know what to do to have it done legally, wealthier women had the advantage over working class women.

Vera Drake isn’t an activist that is trying to make a point or is politically motivated to perform these abortions. She isn’t even taking payment for this service. She is just helping out women, mostly strangers that need help to get out of trouble. She has this personality that just wants to fix things with a cup of tea. She invites stray older bachelors, like Reg, over for dinner. Her sister-in-law, I’m sure like many around her, must have been skeptical about this sweet demeanor. She seemed to do this out of compassion for these women, these strangers in this situation. Aside from her intentions, or whether abortion is right or wrong, or even the social conventions of the era in which she lived, she had no medical training. What she was doing was still very dangerous.

What I find most interesting is that this captures a point in time where a society is in the middle of a change in attitude. Women are gaining social equality, women have jobs and are gaining financial and social independence from men. Women and men as they always have, are having sexual relationships outside of marriage. There are still laws against abortions. Birth control is still so tightly intertwined with feminist politics. There is a strong correlation between large families and poverty, access to birth control and the success of women. Still Vera Drake wasn’t an activist. She saw a need and did what she could, not for society, but for individuals.

Privacy in the Digital Age

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Cameras are everywhere… Google yourself and you can see more information about yourself than you would ever give a stranger…Pictures with friends are all over your friends’ Facebook pictures…even the occasional news stories of young children committing suicide over cases of cyber-bullying by classmates.

I’m still amazed at Facebook stalking and peacocking. I prefer to learn about a person organically from conversations and long chats over time. Am I just being overly romantic or old-fashioned? I really post very little information about myself. My real good friends know what I’m doing.

I find that there is a generational divide on this topic. If you are under 25 you are far more comfortable posting intimate details or slightly embarrassing to very embarrassing pictures.  I’m also amazed at how much people expect me to be aware of what they post on Facebook. I don’t go through pictures very often unless it shows up on my newsfeed from the last 3 hours and it doesn’t seem very personal and I don’t go through big albums.

Ultimately, all you can really do is ethically control the information forwarded to you. Be respectful of pictures and information about your friends as well as yourself. You never know where those pictures can end up or who will hear that information.

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