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Wedding Crashers, the film

Wedding_crashers The Wedding Crashers is a stupid movie and I almost walked out a couple of times, but I stuck it out to the end because I wanted to finish my large popcorn with no butter.

It has a stupid premise, that two lawyers well into their 30s pick up chicks crashing weddings, and then crashing funerals. The comedy is raunchy and sophmoric and if you find the main character geting jacked off under the dinner table by his "class 5 clinger" girlfriend in front of her whole family at a formal dinner funny, well then this movie might be for you, but I found it boring.

John McCain has probably done more damage than good for his political career by making a cameo in this movie. When he appeared on the Daily Show with John Stewart this week, McCain demurely defended his appearance and then said that he had not yet actually seen the movie which is hard to believe.

Wedding Crashers was #1 at the box office this weekend, July 29-31, 2005 which only goes to show what a dismal summer its been for movies or the banal state of our popular culture. Movie attendance is down this year and it is understandable given the product that they are trying to pass off to the public.

Yahoo Weekend Box Office Report said,

The top 12 movies took in $112.1 million, down a steep 21 percent from the same weekend last year, when "The Village" led the box office with a $50.7 million opening. For the year, movie attendance is down about 10 percent compared to 2004.

This movie is rated R as it should be and I would add a B for boring. I don't recommend this movie.

Link: Wedding Crashers (2005).

Income gap grows in U.S.

Patrice Hill reports in the July 31, 2005 issue of the Washington Times that the income gap is growing mostly because of increases in stock value and real estate values. Those Americans who work hard and rely on wages find that their earnings are stagnant or falling behind.

Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Chairman, blames the disparity on the poor educational system in the United States that is not producing smart enough people to participate in the new information age global economy. Greenspan argues that if Americans were smarter because they were getting better educations they could get better jobs. American students consistently perform worse than European and Asian students on math and science. Consequently, they find it difficult to access higher paying jobs in computer science, engineering, and health care which are increasingly being outsourced to Japan, India, China, Europe, and even Russia. This leaves low level service jobs for less skilled Americans to fill.

The median income in the United States is $43,000.00, but the number of Americans whose net worth increased last year to a million or more increased by 21% so that over 7.5 million Americans are now millionaires.

According to the IRS the top 25% of taxpayers, those are the people with earnings over $56,401 per year, pay 84% of the federal income taxes in the United States, while the bottom half, that is, people earning less than $28,654, pay only 3.5% of the federal income taxes.

"Incomes are growing smartly for the first time in years, spurring unexpectedly robust spending by consumers. The revival, however, is mainly among top earners who receive stocks, bonuses and other income in addition to wages. The nearly 80 percent of Americans who rely mostly on hourly wages barely maintained their purchasing power, according to the Labor Department. Raises have been meager, averaging about 2.7 percent in the past year -- a tad above the 2.5 percent inflation rate. Incomes are up a more robust 7.5 percent when bonuses, stock compensation, commissions and other wage supplements are added, according to the Commerce Department. Most of the boost, though, is felt by those at the top end of the income scale."

Link: Income gap grows in U.S.?-?Special Report?-?

What God Tells Who What? Is This Anyway To Make Foreign Policy?

Whose more Christian?

Former President, Jimmy Carter, said on July 30, 2005, according to a report in Newsday, the Long Island New York newspaper, that the Iraq war is wrong and the imprisonment of people at Guantanamo is an embarassment to the people of the United States.

"Former President Carter said Saturday the detention of terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base was an embarrassment and had given extremists an excuse to attack the United States.

Carter also criticized the U.S.-led war in Iraq as "unnecessary and unjust."

"I think what's going on in Guantanamo Bay and other places is a disgrace to the U.S.A.," he told a news conference at the Baptist World Alliance's centenary conference in Birmingham, England. "I wouldn't say it's the cause of terrorism, but it has given impetus and excuses to potential terrorists to lash out at our country and justify their despicable acts."

Carter said, however, that terrorist acts could not be justified, and that while Guantanamo "may be an aggravating factor ... it's not the basis of terrorism."

Critics of President Bush's administration have long accused the U.S. government of unjustly detaining terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base on the southeastern tip of Cuba. Hundreds of men have been held indefinitely at the prison, without charge or access to lawyers.

"What has happened at Guantanamo Bay ... does not represent the will of the American people," Carter said Saturday. "I'm embarrassed about it, I think its wrong. I think it does give terrorists an unwarranted excuse to use the despicable means to hurt innocent people."

Earlier this month, Carter called for the Guantanamo prison to be shut down, saying reports of abuses there were an embarassment to the United States. He also said that the United States needs to make sure no detainees are held incommunicado and that all are told the charges against them."

Carter said this at the Baptist World Alliance Conference in Birmingham, England.

"The Baptist World Alliance, comprising more than 200 Baptist unions around the world, was formed in London in 1905. The headquarters of the alliance, which meets in a different location every five years, moved to the United States in 1947.

An estimated 12,700 delegates gathered in the city of Birmingham in central England for the conference. Carter, a Sunday school teacher in his hometown of Plains, Ga., was due to lead a Bible study lesson during the conference.

Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war."

Bush claims that he speaks for God since God has asked him to rid the world of terrrorism and bring democracy and freedom to countries of the world whether they want it or not. Bush also is highly regarded in righ wing religious circles as one of them, that is, as a born again Christian.

But, then there is Jimmy Carter also a devote Protestant Christian whose views seem to be opposite of George Bush's. What's a Protestant American Christian to believe?

It reminds me of the bumper sticker, "My God Can Beat Up Your God".

So, I wonder, gentle reader, what your God tells you?

Link: New York City - AP World News.

Prom Night in Kansas City, the film

Prom Night In Kansas City is a documentary distributed in 2002 which depicts four different proms in Kansas City. There is the white prom, the black prom, the prom in the conservative religious school, and the prom for the gay kids.

The film explores the sociology of the prom such as its marketing, its ritualistic components like the election of King and Queen, the social expectations and disappointments it sets up, the ambivalence that kids feel to both be a part of it and to make fun of it.

The ritual of prom is a romantized attempt for adolescents to pretend that they are adults. This pretend ritual marks in some way the passage and transition to adulthood. It is probably as close as our contemporary culture comes to a rite of passage demarcating the line between childhood and adulthood.

Like so much in our culture it is pseudo, conterfeit, not really real, but a lot of fun to pretend, to try to role play the images and dynamics portrayed in magazines, movies, TV about the prom being the crowning event of the best years of our lives in high school before we give up childhood and enter the larger world of adult responsibility. The reality rarely lives up to the fantasy but the fantasies live on and become, in our minds, bigger than life which fuels the adult energy invested in adolescents to try to live the dream.

As a couple of the kids say, all dressed up in prom gowns, but looking tired and stressed as the fantasy bubble has burst, when asked by the interviewer how they are enjoying the prom, "This is bull shit."

I enjoyed Prom Night In Kansas City and recommend it.

Link: Prom Night in Kansas City (2002).

Bad News Bears, the film

Bad_news_bears The Bad News Bears with Billy Bob Thornton is just offensive and repulsive enough in a satirical way to be very funny.

This certainly is not a kids movie. It is for adults and the literal minded might not find it amusing, but if you have an ironic funny bone, which I hear only 20% of the population has, you will find it hysterical.

Marcia Gay Harden who plays Liz Whitewood, an attorney and Toby's mother, is worth the price of the admission alone.

The basic schtick is that Coach Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton)is a washed out major league pitcher who actually only played 2/3rds of a inning in the majors for the Seatle Mariners and who now pays his rent in a mobile home by working as a rodent exterminator. Most of his spare time he spends drinking and chasing voluptuous women.

Why he takes on the coaching of this little league team is unclear other than Ms. Whitehead has talked him into doing it because the kids fathers are either absent or too buy. And a motley bunch it is with an assortment of nationalities and body types including a parapalegic kid in a wheel chair.

It's the classic underdog to victor story with many bawdy and offensive detours along the way which include lying and coaching to lie, exploiting the kids by having them spray toxic chemicals in his extermination business, etc.

At any rate, as satire I thought it was funny, and of course in the end they all bond and love their totally irresponsible coach who in real life would be sued and in prison for endangering the welfare of children. Coach Buttermaker can get away with acting like a child because the kids often have the wisdom of and act like adults. This role reversal seems to make adult incompetence tolerable, if not funny. In the real world, outside of the movies, the kind of adult incompetence carricatured in this movie leads to multiple tragedies and is not funny at all.

I recommend this film with reservations for adults only. Don't let the PG-13 rating fool you. It should have been rated R.

Link: Bad News Bears (2005).

Widow's mites

In my previous post "Sex offenders live in Catholic rectories" I said:

Then I am reading in the August 1-8, 2005 issue of America magazine, the magazine published by the Jesuits, on page 6, how the San Francisco diocese just settled some of its sex abuse cases for 16 million and the month before had settled a bunch of cases for over 21 million which in two months brings the total settlements to over 37 million bucks!. That's a lot of widow's mites in the collection box.

Rodrigo left a comment asking what a "widow's mite" was?

It was a reference to a passage in the New Testament of the Christian bible in Luke 21: 1-4 where it says,

"And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, "Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all; For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God, but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had."

So a "mite" was a coin of the day.

My comment was ironic implying that the Catholic church is exploiting the generosity of the poor layperson who gives of their sustenance to support the church while the Bishops are using this money to pay off the civil judgments won against it for the crimes of their priests. In other words, it is my view that the victims get exploited twice. First, they and/or their family member is abused by the clergy, and second the clergy get the lay people they are exploiting to give them money so they can pay off their fines and civil judgments.

I don't think too many Bishops have missed too many meals or slept in a cockroach infested house with no heat like many of the poor people who give them money do. Philanthropic surveys find that 80% of the charitable dollars donated each year are given by individuals not corporations or foundations as you might expect, and 80% of the 80% of the charitable dollars given by individuals are given by people in the lower socioeconomic classes and most of the money these poor people donate is to churches.

The quickest way to change the governance structure of the Catholic church would be to starve its hierarchy by stopping the cash flow. The widow's mites are enabling a dysfunctional church to continue being dysfunctional by sexually abusing their children and grandchildren.

Sex offenders live in Catholic rectories

This article is not about bashing the Catholic church. I was raised Catholic, was an altar boy, and spent 4 1/2 years in the Catholic Seminary. What this article is about is the systemic child abuse that has been perpetrated over decades by the main professionals of the Catholic church, its priests. This abuse, further, has been covered up and enabled by the Church's hierarchy responsible for such behavior, it's bishops.

Here in Batavia, NY there has been a big flap over the last month when neighbors found that a Class 2 sex offender was living in their neighborhood and they were not informed. On July 27, 2005, the City of Batavia police department has put up on its web site the list of names, addresses, pictures, and details of the crime of all sex offenders now living in the city. This is a move in the right direction to protect people whom sex offenders live among, but it got me thinking. The most systemic child abuse in the United States among a professional class, and the most outrageous bungling of it that failed to protect the public, has been in the Catholic church. So, if the community is really concerned about its safety they should make note of the location of, and who is living in, all Catholic rectories in their communities, because the statistical chance of identifying child sex predators would be greatest by identifying who the priests are living among them.

Do you think I am over reacting?

Well, here we go again. On July 25, 2005 it was reported in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that a priest who had been assigned to St. John's parish in Spencerport, NY, just 8 miles from my office, has been arrested for sexual abuse.

(July 26, 2005) — A Spencerport priest accused of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Rochester City Court.

The Rev. Dennis Sewar, 54, will be arraigned on charges of third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, both misdemeanors. The charges stem from an alleged incident when Sewar was pastor of Church of the Annunciation in northeast Rochester, where he was pastor from 1999 to 2001.

Then I am reading in the August 1-8, 2005 issue of America magazine, the magazine published by the Jesuits, on page 6, how the San Francisco diocese just settled some of its sex abuse cases for 16 million and the month before had settled a bunch of cases for over 21 million which in two months brings the total settlements to over 37 million bucks!. That's a lot of widow's mites in the collection box.

For the second month in a row, the San Francisco Archdiocese has announced a multimillion-dollar settlement in cases of sexual abuse by a member of the Catholic clergy. The archdiocese announced on July 8 that it settled 12 cases for approximately $16 million. On June 10 it announced it had reached a settlement for $21,250,000 in 15 cases. In his July 8 statement, Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco said all the cases in the latest settlement involved the late Rev. Joseph Pritchard. “No parish or school assets were used in the funding of this settlement,” the archbishop said. The amount of the settlements to come from insurance coverage has yet to be determined “so no specific dollar figures concerning the archdiocese’s contribution can be disclosed at this time, other than to confirm that the contribution is in the millions,” he said.

Recently, I have gotten interested in their disengenuousness when authority figures, representing various sectors of our society, diminish the seriousness of the abuse perpetrated by their representatives by saying that it is the behavior of just a few "bad apples" as if this relieves them and their organization and their administrative structure from responsibility. We heard that from Rumsfeld regarding the abuse at Abu Ghraib, and we have heard that from Bishops and other Catholic officials regarding the extensive and pervasive priest pedophile abuse.

Obviously, it is not just a "few bad apples", and without a change in the governance structure and the policies and procedures that are designed and implemented by these organizations, the dysfunctonal behaviors will continue to manifest from time to time because they are a product of a system larger than the symptomatic individual.

Link: Democrat & Chronicle: Local News.