How Snow Arrives
By Michael Collier
The pine trees stood without snow,
though snow was in the air,
a day or two away, forming in the place
where singing forms the air.
"Mother?" is what I heard my mother say,
said in such a way she knew her mother
didn’t know her, as if they stood
beneath the trees and breathed the singing air.
How frail the weather when its face
is blank or, startled, turns to find
its startled self in a child’s voice,
flake by flake of the arriving snow.
"Mother?" is what I say, as if
I didn’t know her, standing blank
and startled where she stands beneath
the trees amid the singing air.
Did lots of writing Tuesday, some for fun, some for work -- Of Gods and Men wraps filming with a cast of minor Star Trek alumni (or if you really want to see Trek actors, you could just watch Boston Legal) and Star Trek: Encounters is shipping which means that I have to do lots of articles about Trek gaming which all say pretty much the same thing. I hardly saw my kids, though, because younger son had Hebrew school and older son got off at the late bus stop, and I turned them over to my mother so that apaulled and I could go see The Last King of Scotland, for which I had won a pass from The Washington Post. It was playing downtown at the theater where I first saw Master and Commander (also a free screening), and it was absolutely packed, with people being turned away in droves -- we got there nearly an hour and a half early and there were at least 30 people in line in front of us.
Under those circumstances, it was impossible to go out to any of the wonderful Georgetown restaurants and we had to settle for chicken tenders in the theater. But it was worth it, because the film was excellent and Forest Whitaker is a sure bet for a nomination for every film acting award -- James McAvoy is very good too, but when Whitaker's Idi Amin is on the screen, you never take your eyes off him. I hadn't read the book -- the woman sitting next to me in the theater was in the latter chapters and we talked about it a little waiting for the film to start -- in fact, most of what I know about Amin comes from films about Operation Entebbe, which tend to be passionately biased against the Ugandans. I am not sure what I was expecting from Last King: not a film that would make a hero of Amin, but maybe some kind of perspective on him as a hero to his people.
What we got was a portrait of an incredibly sad situation, a country where one corrupt dictator follows another while one group exterminates another, through the eyes of a man who is precisely as selfish and narrow in his perspective as his accusers declare to his face. The Scottish doctor is in no way a protagonist, which saves the film from the kind of condescension of all those movies where it's the lone white hero among the exotic others who is supposed to be the audience's point of relating. Garrigan goes to Uganda looking for excitement and fun, fucks the first African woman who looks halfway interested, tries to fuck the wife of the doctor who runs the clinic where he's supposed to be working (the excellent Gillian Anderson, better than her tiny role), is seduced very quickly by Amin's facilities and cars and luxuries...but it's mostly the charisma of the man, who has a fetish for all things Scottish and once proclaimed himself the last king of Scotland because he promised to liberate the Scots from the British the way he claimed to have liberated Uganda.
The first hour of the movie is magnificently done, funny and fast-moving and ironic; the second half inevitably gets bogged down in politics and blood, but Whitaker makes Amin complex and unhinged enough that in spite of everything, he actually comes across more positively than the callow foreigner who has no idea what he stands for, if anything, just doesn't want blood on his hands. There really aren't any good guys -- certainly not the obnoxious colonialist British, none of the competing would-be petty tyrants, and the women are so disempowered that it's hard to identify with any of them (the main one we see has a child with epilepsy whom her ashamed husband would rather hide away than allowed to be treated, and when an affair results in a pregnancy, she meets an even more grisly fate than one expects). But in an Evita-like way, it's impossible to look away either from the atrocities or the magnetism of the leader, and there's an extremely peculiar love story between Amin and Garrigan, who really want to believe in each other and trust each other until the betrayals of trust become impossible to tolerate.
Given the current state of the world, it's interesting that if I hadn't known Amin was Muslim going into the film, I would never have learned it from the film; besides having several wives, sympathizing with the PLO against the "Zionists" and dying in Saudi Arabia, there's no indication that he has any faith and he's certainly not shown practicing it. Nor is Garrigan any sort of Christian; the only religion being practiced is tribal. Amin throws all the Asians out of Uganda (mostly Indian and presumably Hindu, though by dress some are evidently Pakistani and some Sikh) because he wants to sieze their property to try to save the country's economy and keep the military happy -- there's no religious angle to this and though he gives lip service to Africa as the cradle of civilization, it doesn't seem racially motivated either, just a selfish desire to control more of what he governs. There's no "system" being condemned and also no solutions being hinted at, no good-guy leader waiting in the wings, no kindly British making any real difference. It's a very bleak film in that way -- a very bleak situation.
Then came home and watched Boston Legal, having missed the first few minutes. And wow, they are doing arcs this season! Two out of three storylines this episode! I gather Ivan returned to beg Shirley for help getting out of the post-nuptial agreement she drafted and he signed, with Alan ultimately agreeing to represent the cheating Ivan while furious Shirley represents the heartbroken Missy, who says she really wants to hear the details of the sex Shirley had with Ivan to help her get over the betrayal. In court Alan argues that Ivan signed the agreement in an erotic haze and calls Shirley to the stand as a witness, also asking for details of her sex with Ivan the morning he signed the agreement. Before stepping into the witness box, Shirley suggests that Alan get his resume in order.
Paul keeps objecting to Alan's questions about whether Shirley was sexually satisfied. Alan suggests that the post-nup was designed for blackmail, though Shirley insists that it was legal and fair, Ivan just got bored as usual and now doesn't want to lose his precious belongings. In private, Shirley tells Paul that she promised herself she wouldn't lose her composure around Ivan but she did again, and Paul asks gently how many times she has promised herself that concerning Ivan (I still think Paul and Shirley should get it on, despite the fact that every man at the firm who isn't hitting on Denise wants Shirley and she can have her pick). Ultimately Ivan agrees to meet Missy's demands as long as Shirley, whom he is certain still loves him, will have dinner with him. Ivan is convinced Shirley insisted on the post-nup to keep herself away from him, not to protect Missy, whom Ivan says has an attention span like a goldfish and will find someone else. Ultimately Shirley agrees to dinner, but nothing else; she has given Ivan too many chances already.
In the Denny-and-the-dwarf case, Claire -- who believes Bethany obviously has psychological issues to accept a date with a 72-year-old man, particularly THIS one -- suggests that it was disingenuous for a woman to have failed to mention to a prospective blind date that she was under 3' tall. "Look at him! Did I get Mel Gibson?" retorts Bethany, who then looks at the bigoted Denny herself and adds, "Maybe I did!" Claire believes that Denny genuinely ruined Bethany's crush and will have to apologize if he wants her complaint dropped, but it turns out that Bethany is rather more conniving: rather than an apology, she wants Denny Crane to argue a case with her! He suggests that she take off her clothes instead, which inspires her to call him disgusting and vulgar. So he goes to the table with her, where he resents being called a prop and agrees that Crane, Poole and Schmidt will partner with her on the medical malpractice suit.
In the Major Case of the episode, being argued by Jeffrey with the help of Denise, the prosecutor makes a direct plea bargain offer to the kid, saying that Jeffrey wants his OJ moment and won't ever tell the kid his options. Jeffrey then visits the psychiatrist, forcing the doctor to see him by scaring away his clients with a waiting room scene shrieking about how the doctor revealed private information about his sex life. Inside, Jeffrey learns that the doctor gave the tape of the kid's sessions to the husband of the murdered judge (aka Armin Shimerman). He comes up with a theory where the husband killed the unfaithful wife and framed the lover, just like in the movies; he explains this to Denise, who goes with him to ask the kid for permission to watch the tape, but the kid refuses to sign the waiver and won't explain why to his own lawyers. Denise calls in the flaming peeping tom neighbor, who says that the boy had an automatic garage door opener for the judge's house, just like all her other lovers. The neighbor, too, thinks the husband may be responsible for the murder. Then Denise and Jeffrey learn that the father of the kid plans to testify for the prosecution because he is furious that the mother kept him from his son for so long. (Ethan Phillips is playing the father! See, this is as much a Star Trek cast reunion as Of Gods and Monsters!)
In the end, Alan claims that he agreed to represent Ivan just to have time in court with Shirley, for whom he professes adoration. When Alan admits this to Denny, though, Denny brusquely tells Alan that he can't have Shirley even if Shirley were interested. Since Denny can't have Shirley either, he is all excited about his "little powder keg" and asks Alan whether the little person he once dated was a dynamo in bed. Just like last week, Denny never looks down to notice that Bethany is RIGHT THERE! She explains that she no longer wants Denny, but does want to report that they now have a trial date, and as she walks away, Denny and Alan agree that she has a cute ass. They toast all shapes and sizes, new and exciting adventures, "but not with Shirley," Denny warns Alan.
See how close the houses are? This area is so overdeveloped that the deer literally have nowhere else to go to graze and to reach the creek. I wonder what will happen to them in the winter, when there is even less grass.
Not a good picture, taken in deep woods near Locust Grove on the border of Cabin John Park on Sunday, but it's an antlered stag so I like it anyway. At least this one is on park land!
Wednesday older son is having his new molars capped and I have a bazillion things to do that I did not get done today because of movie date! Eee! Not that I am sorry. *g* Will answer mail in the morning!