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moviesreligion & philosophy

Why forgiving others makes life better for you

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The first time I was given advice about the importance of forgiveness was at the most unlikely of places: an advertising school I was attending in Atlanta. The school had brought in speaker Joey Reiman—a very successful advertising executive who ran his own agency. Almost immediately, I could tell this man had a lot of wisdom, but it was towards the end of his presentation when something he said really resonated with me. [Read more →]

books & writing

Lisa reads Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

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One of the best reasons for joining a book club is that it encourages you to read books you wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. Several years ago, I read The Known World by Edward P. Jones for a book club and counted it as a gem that I would probably have never read otherwise, and I would put Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout in the same category.

The book is a collection of stories — 13 chapters about different characters and events that are all tied in some way to Olive, our main character. She’s a big woman, gruff, much-loved by her husband, Henry, and alternately loved and feared by her students in their little town of Crosby, Maine. The stories vary in how closely tied they are to Olive, but she’s a fascinating character throughout. (In fact, the chapter I liked the least, “Criminal”, is the one that is most loosely associated with her.) The stories are told by different characters, from different points of view, and they all remind me so strongly of the relationships and generations-old hurts and grudges in the small town where I grew up that it was almost frightening.

This seems to be a book that inspires strong feelings. Most folks in the group I belong to rated it fairly high on our scale of 1-5; although some didn’t really enjoy the book, they found it well-written and interesting. A few gave it a lower rating because it was sad, which doesn’t make much sense to me. There were also some strong differences between the way younger readers (mid-20s to mid-30s) saw the book as compared to older readers (45+). Younger readers in particular saw it as a cautionary tale — How do I keep from ending up old and bitter like Olive? — whereas older readers could sympathize with Olive and her predicament. She pushed people away, measured her success by others’ failures, and never showed any vulnerability. You had to respect her toughness even as you could see how much it hurt her.

In truth, this is not a happy book. There is that sort of quiet desperation about the book that can be so heartbreaking — lives lived without any great expectation that they should be happy, or at least without much surprise when they aren’t. The few things that Olive does wish for — that her son will live in the beautiful home that Olive and Henry built for him — are often taken away from her. But there are flashes of humor. I loved Olive for her behavior at her son’s wedding (I’ve a bit of a mean streak myself) and I thought she and Henry were very cute together. It is lovely and well-written, but mostly a pretty somber read. I enjoyed it very much, all the same.

My copy of Olive Kitteridge (on audiobook) was provided by the Kent Free Library.


Is THIS the time for aerospace in West Texas?

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A lot of space and time in the local news of West Texas – and in discussion of said news – being devoted to a recently-concluded deal between a private aerospace firm, the Midland City Council and the Midland Development Corporation, to bring that firm’s headquarters and research-and-development operations to the Tall City. [Read more →]

all workThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that your hard work means nothing

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. V-14: Owing to the convergence of two Internet events (first, the publishing of this article by esteemed WFTC columnist, Alan Spoll and, second, to a Facebook post by a friend of the Emperor’s —  name of Pete — in which said friend quoted Mark Twain as having written: “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first”), along with the Emperor’s lifelong disgust with people who think they are entitled to success strictly by virtue of their “hard work,” your benevolent ruler hereby decrees: Your hard work means nothing. You are owed absolutely squateel for that hard work. Results matter. Your hard work is laudable, but it is not binding contract that guarantees your desired outcome. It is perfectly fair for you to work every day, all day, and then to lose the race or to not get the part in the play or whatever else you want. (Them’s, as they say, the breaks.) It is also fair for someone who works only half as hard as you to be chosen or to be promoted over you or to get the position that you desired. (That’s called “superior talent”; or, perhaps, superior conniving.) You cannot do anything you put your mind to. The world is not a grade school character-education class or a high school locker room. The world is a place in which great people make their way without excuses for their failures.

The Punishment: Anyone heard, by the Imperial spies, as having said, “It’s not fair [sob, sob, sniff]…I worked so hard” will be sentenced to death. The accused will be placed in a wicker cage and he will be allowed to slowly claw his way out. (This will take a lot of hard work.) The Imperial Executioner will be in the room, lounging on a pile of cushions, clad in silk pyjamas and having his feet rubbed by comely, hard-working servants. When the prisoner finally emerges, the Executioner will yawn, return his attention to a book, reach out, absently, and gun down the accused with machine gun fire.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

books & writingmovies

Movie review of The Amazing Spider-Man movie: spinning a web of excitement and you will love it, too!

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The Amazing Spider-Man is the newest movie to spin a web of excitement around our hearts. It stars Andrew Garfield, of Facebook Is Ruining Our Culture, and Emma Stone, from the Jim Carrey video, as the star-crossed lovers of the title. It is so good, I haven’t actually seen it, because it is too precious to be seen. The most pure way to experience a great film like this, with all its action and romance, is to only dream about it rather than see it, which is what I did.

Andrew Garfield proves that acting isn't just a spectator sport anymore!

The villain of the film is Lizard Man. He was born without arms, so he uses his toes to buy vegetables and play guitar. [Read more →]

art & entertainmentmovies

Somebody still loves you, Tom Cruise

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Recently I was mildly surprised to hear that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are getting divorced. Why, only a few days before I had read an interview in People magazine in which Cruise kept banging on about “Kate” and his daughter Suri, and how he was looking forward to a happy 50th birthday celebration with his family. And then this Tuesday Tom turned 50, alone… How could it all have gone so wrong so quickly?

I’ve had a soft spot for Cruise since 2002, a year I spent exclusively watching movies made by one of the Toms, either Cruise or Hanks. I was forced into this because I was living in Russia, where English language movies were in short supply. A recent encounter with a preposterous French movie entitled Trouble Every Day had led me to the epiphany that while bad art house films were just that, even the worst Hollywood movies at least had high production values. It was time for a Tom. [Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Olympic sprinter quits before run-off

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Although I am not a big fan of watching the Olympics, I greatly admire the athletes that compete in the games. Most of them are competing in sports that have no shot of making them rich, and real fame is pretty unlikely as well, especially when you compare it to that of someone who plays one of the major professional sports. It is clear that these people are competing for the love of their sport and the love of competition. To spend years working, focusing, and doing little else other than preparing for the Olympics takes an extraordinary person. That is why I find the actions of runner Jeneba Tarmoh so shocking. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmoney

Top ten summer vacation ideas for people on a tight budget

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10. Instead of springing for expensive airline tickets, just pack your bags and then ask a friend to lose them for you

9. Can’t afford a trip around the world? Try the International House of Pancakes!

8. Find a movie theater showing 3-D travelogues

7. Convince your kids it’s originally pronounced ‘spraycation’ – then get out the garden hose for a week of fun!

6. No need to spring for a pricey ski lodge! Just turn the thermostat to sixty, have a loved one hit you in the knee with a hammer, then drink some cocoa!

5. Eat baked beans before getting into the bathtub and – voila! – you’ve got your own Jacuzzi!

4. Convince your kids that basic training is kind of like summer camp

3. Find a hotel where kids stay free, then dress everybody like 10-year-olds

2. Why not try a Mitt-cation? Have someone strap you to the roof of their car

1. Hang out with the Tanning Mom and you’ll always feel like you’re at the beach!

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.


Why I’ve stopped eating animals

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This is my first summer without hamburgers; no hot dogs on my grill, no chicken or shrimp on my shish kabob. I’ve quit eating meat. Now, before you stop reading and dismiss this as yet another victory for the tenderhearted but unrealistic vegetarians, the healthy but wimpy hippies– hear me out. [Read more →]

on the lawpolitics & government

Obama’s taxing rhetoric

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ends & odd

Some pics from last night’s Fourth of July festivities on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon

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From down on the Willamette River last night.



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creative writingfamily & parenting

The Bicentennial with Grandpa Andy

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In the 1970s, we’d met Grandpa Andy before, on a trip or two to his government-subsidized apartment. It was on a high floor among a cluster of pale brick buildings—the standing tall but defeated housing projects of Newark, New Jersey. I’d learn years later that he was worried enough about the “bad element” living there—what he no doubt saw as young men with darker skin—that he’d ride the elevator with a butcher’s knife in his belt. If anyone enjoying the ride looked menacing enough, Grandpa Andy would contort to reveal the weapon hidden under his trench coat.

He finally appeared in Philadelphia at my father’s house in University City in 1976. [Read more →]

Michael Cade's audio files

Audio files: Special July 4, 2012 unstoppable summer listening guide!

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A lot of big hits have been racing up the summer pop charts in recent weeks.

Unfortunately, I can’t name any of them.

So I’ve decided to create a super-great SUMMERTIME PLAYLIST of my own.

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art & entertainmentbooks & writing

Graphic Novel Review: Pandemonium & Whispers in the Walls

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My interest in comics ebbs and flows. So much that is published is embarrassingly bad, but I still love the medium, and so I want there to be books that are good. English language comics publishing remains dominated by superheroes, an exhausted genre which was great when the stories were aimed at young lads, but which stinks now that the target audience is 30/40something anally retentive boy-men. Nor have I ever been able to develop a taste for autobiographical “indie” comics, which are often (though not always) a) boring b) poorly drawn and c) solipsistic. As a result, I search hopefully for European comics in translation, where the standard of craft is usually higher, there is a broader spread of genre and there are no images of Cyclops in a red thong. [Read more →]

art & entertainmentThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees an end to childish attempts at “women’s literature”on film

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 222-134-56/66Q: When the Emperor speaks, he speaks indisputable truth; therefore, if he bans an artistic work, it is the right thing to do — we’re not talking about “censorship” by mere mortals, here; we’re talking about benevolent and infallible reasoning for the benefit of all. That said, the Emperor now bans movies about women, with perfectly kind and dedicated husbands, who go off on their own into some bohemian part of the city and meet a random, younger French guy in possession of an interestingly decorated apartment and a cool scarf and a shock of black hair that hangs down over one eye that causes him to flop his head sideways to get a decent look at his coffee and who, subsequently, reads the heroine some Rimbaud and then introduces her to a new world filled with the violent and breathless pleasure that is her birthright as a woman but that has been denied her by a life lived within the constraints of her oppressive role as wife and mother, especially if these movies show the cheating, self-centered strumpet in a sympathetic light. (And before ye — unwisely — try to cast the Emperor in the image of a perpetuator of the male-centered mindset, bear in mind that he highly recommends the work of Kate Chopin, if you want to see how these issues can be treated with insight, depth and artistic merit. It’s not “women’s issues” that the Emperor dislikes; it is morons creating puerile treatments of it that he loathes.)

The Punishment: Producers and directors and writers of these tedious and pretentious attempts at art will be forced to watch Romeo and Juliet, as rewritten by Paula Abdul (to “bring it up to date”) and starring Sylvester Stallone and Rosanne Barr as the star-crossed lovers — all without popcorn.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

art & entertainmentfamily & parenting

Be careful what you name your children

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As it turns out, “Mommy Tattoos” are a “trend.” Even among celebrities. So, I made a little comic about it.



politics & governmenttravel & foreign lands

A short history of useful idiots

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Mussolini: you might think he was just a blustering fool in a fez, but once upon a time many people took him very seriously. I remember my shock when, aged 15 or so, I learned from my history teacher that Churchill had spoken approvingly of the black shirts in the 1920s. This week however I was reading a biography of the first Fascist and learned that Winston was not alone. Franklin Roosevelt praised the Italian dictator as a gentleman; Chiang Kai-shek asked for a signed photograph; and even Gandhi (yes lovely, non-violent, vegetable-munching Gandhi) described him as the “Savior of Italy.” Hmm. That’ll be the guy who let his soldiers use live Ethiopians for target practice and ended his political career shipping Jews to Hitler for extermination? All right then! [Read more →]

bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: At long last, college football has a playoff

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Has Hell frozen over? Are pigs flying? After years of officials stating that a playoff would never happen in major college football, a playoff is going to happen in major college football. The commissioners of the Division 1-A (I still refuse to call it FBS) football conferences gathered recently and approved a plan to recommend a move to a four-team playoff to the university presidents. This week, those presidents said yes to the plan. The BCS as we knew it is no more, or will be no more as of the 2014 season. Is this a good thing? Absolutely. It’s not really good enough, in my opinion, but it’s a start. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingpolitics & government

Top ten X-rated Fourth of July movies

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10. Sin Dependence Day

9. Drop Your Pants and Fire a Rocket!

8. Forming a More Perfect Union

7. Give Me Librium or Give Me Meth!

6. My Cunty ’Tis of Thee

5. Time for Some Fireworks!

4. There’s a Barbecue in My Pants

3. The Fourth of Julie

2. The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming!

1. Yank My Doodle! It’s A Dandy!

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

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