Sunday, August 29, 2010


The following "For Better or For Worse" comic strip was in this morning's newspaper.

I thought, how sweet little children can be. And how easy to put a smile on a mommy's heart.
I, of course, feel really really old now, because I am nearly as old as my grandmother was when I lived with my grandparents during the summer I graduated from high school.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hollywood's Breach

The other evening, the Knight and I watched “Breach,” a 2007 movie which I had wanted to see for quite a long time. The movie is based on the true story of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent, convicted of spying for the Soviet Union / Russia for more than two decades.

Alas, the movie lacked 3 key elements which the Knight especially enjoys in movies: lots of stuff blowing up, lots of car chases, and lots of people getting the tar kicked out of them. You know, gratuitous special effects violence. (LOL) Nevertheless, even with none of that, the two-hour production was nerve-wrackingly tense. We knew from the first few minutes of the movie what the outcome was going to be, but it was still tense.

My interpretation of the film was that it was an interesting study of pride and anger. Agent Hanssen was angry because he felt that his keen intelligence and brillant work were neither sufficiently recognized nor justly rewarded by the FBI. As a consequence, he sold out to the Russians for big bucks as his way of punishing the FBI for dissing him. Ultimately, his pride and anger became a self-destruct-mechanism—first, it slowly pulled him apart as he lived two different lives, and then it triggered his final traitorous act which resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. It was a sad, cautionary tale about pride and anger.

Hollywood, however, was not satisfied with a psychological portrait of Robert Hanssen the traitor along with a chronicle of the careful work done by the FBI to nail the guy. The screenplay writers and the director decided that they needed to spice up the story for the big screen by adding a few fictitious elements, namely, “sexual perversions” and religious hypocrisy or fanaticism (Catholic). And, Hollywood style, they also felt the need to make political commentary. Several major scenes were entirely fictional, as listed in Wikipedia:

• The real O'Neill knew going in that Hanssen was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. There was no cover story about sexual perversions, and no dramatic meeting where O'Neill learned the truth.

• There was no extensive contact outside the office between O'Neill and Hanssen as portrayed in the film (the O'Neills visiting the Hanssens, the Hanssens dropping by O'Neill's apartment). However, Hanssen did take O'Neill to church.

• The scene where Hanssen takes O'Neill out into the woods and drunkenly fires his pistol is fictional.

• Unlike in the movie, O'Neill never saw Hanssen after the arrest.

In my opinion, all of the scenes depicting sexual and religious “deviancy” were distasteful and added nothing of value to the movie. On the contrary: these scenes detracted from the story and its presentation, and distorted the truth. These scenes could have been deleted and some more accurate parts added, along with some terrific acting, to result in a more powerful story. Truth need not be fictionalized to make it compelling. Resorting to cheap sensationalism and an appeal to anti-religion sentiments were unnecessary.

As the distasteful and repulsive scenes transpired, it was as if obnoxious commercials were interrupting the story. During those scenes I began thinking about the writers and the director, and the ax they were obviously grinding, as well as their cynical opinions of American movie-goers. They obviously did not want anyone to leave the theater with any feelings of respect for the FBI, since the movie included scenes that belittled the FBI, in general, and suggested that the FBI itself could be blamed for Hanssen’s actions. Hollywood apparently also believes that religiously-minded people are dangerous or mentally unstable—they definitely are not “normal.”


My new favorite brain game is solving the cryptoquips that appear in each day’s morning newspaper. It usually takes me less than ten minutes to solve a puzzle, which is a lot of fun to figure out. I can actually feel my brain shifting into high gear—it’s exhilarating! Once I’ve solved the puzzle, I always end up with a smile on my face because the quip is a clever play on words.

This morning’s cryptoquip was:

“Since that poor hammerhead lacked any companionship, I suppose you could call it a lone shark.”

Some others this week included:

“When a chicken farmer needs to urge folks to take action, I would assume he eggs them on.”

“If somebody were obsessed with snaps and zippers, that may be characterized as a fasten-ation.”

Here is one you might like to try to solve (I put an underline mark between each word, because otherwise it all looks like it runs together):



“TKKM_ JXX_ WDK_ IVA.” Clue: A equals S. [See solution in comments.]

Brain games keep our minds limber and working. Without challenges, our brains literally wither and die. Our brain power doesn’t have to decline with age if we keep learning new things.

Try it, you may just like it!


Monday, August 23, 2010


Just in time for our Alaskan cruise, I bought the Knight a “travel blazer” and two short sleeved light blue dress shirts to go with it. The blazer was navy blue with gold buttons and about a dozen inside pockets (thus it was a “travel” blazer for holding miscellaneous documents, etc.). He looked really [really, really] cool wearing a blue shirt and the navy blue blazer. He was cleancut, neat, debonair, suave. James Bond had nothing on him!!

Our cruise line, on the other hand, boasted its “Freestyle” style. Everything was “freestyle.”—meals, dress code, etc. “Nice casual” was mentioned somewhere in their brochure. But even on dress-up night, dressing-up was strictly optional (and very few made the effort). “Freestyle dining” meant eat whenever and wherever you liked, wearing whatever you liked (within reason—a cover-up over your bikini was suggested).

Maybe half of the people on the cruise tried to maintain “nice casual.” The other half (or more) wore sloppy attire—stuff that was more appropriate to working in the yard or vegging out in front of the TV during a long weekend at home. I was a little surprised at how sloppy some people looked.

Actually, I was appalled.

It bothered me a little.

Okay. It bothered me a lot.

I criticized myself for these feelings.

And then I read something that helped me understand why I felt the way I did. The author said:

“There are many ways of showing respect to ourselves and those around us. Minding our bodies is one of them, and certainly not a minor consideration. We all know that we can offend others with our bodies. We do that with the way we look, the way they smell, and what we do with and to them. Thus we all need to become conversant with the civility of body management, which begins with good basic grooming habits. When we take good care of our bodies and our appearance we implicitly validate who we are. We look at ourselves as deserving of attention and act upon that feeling. As we are being good to ourselves, we also show that we consider others important. Behind that attention to our grooming are the goals of appearing at our best on the stage of everyday life and of being as pleasant a presence for others as we can.

“Essential to good grooming are a clean and odor-free body, recently washed hair, finger- and toenails in perfect order, a close shave, well-applied makeup, if worn, and clean teeth and fresh breath. Also essential are clean and unrumpled clothes, well-kept shoes, unfrayed socks, and run-free stockings. Good grooming is simply good maintenance.

“When we are well groomed, we often experience a sense of both physical and psychological well-being. We feel good, and we feel good about ourselves. When this happens, we are better disposed toward others, treat them better, and are thus better treated in return.” [From Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni]

Having read the above three paragraphs, I understood my feelings of discomfort while in the company of people who didn’t seem to care how they looked, nor considered whether they were offensive in dress, or manner or behavior. (Yes, they displayed other incivilities as well.)

I am sure that the cruise line gave up, as a lost cause, on trying to encourage “nice casual” and thus gave in to “freestyle” sloppy. I, of course, will definitely avoid cruising with “Freestyle” cruises in the future.

Having said that, I want to return to how I felt about the Knight when he was wearing his travel blazer and light blue shirt. I felt pleased to be in his company. I felt respect for him. I felt joy and gratitude about being his companion. I felt special. He was special.

If he looked that way every day, I would be flattered that he took the time and effort to look well groomed even if he wasn’t going anywhere. I have never appreciated the snaggly unshaved look. I don’t think any man is “sexy” who neglects to shower and shave or dress neatly. Or get his hair cut before he looks like a hippy.

Concerning at-home slovenliness, P.M. Forni said: “If it’s hard to do the grooming just for yourself, do it for those who share your home. No one will be physically closer to you for a longer time than your companion, your spouse, and your family. Make sure that your body care is such that it adds to their pleasure in being with you. … Being civil to your family is one of the most concrete ways to show them that we love them. Love is not simply made of feeling. Real love is made of doing.”

Sounds good to me!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.

Today’s newspaper contained mostly bad news. But, then, that is the way of newspapers. There are so many depressing developments, one can’t help but notice the dramatic deepening of darkness across the world. Many people purposely avoid reading the news (or watching it on TV) because it is disturbing. I sympathize with their desire to look the other way. However, there is that admonition to “watch”:

“What I say unto one I say unto all: Watch, for the adversary spreadeth his dominions, and darkness reigneth.” (DC 82:5)

Keeping one eye on your adversary at all times seems to be a wise strategy so as to guard against any surprise attacks. And, of course, with the other eye, we are supposed to be focusing on light and truth in order to stay strong and fit for an inevitable battle. At least, that is the way I have interpreted the admonition to “watch” for most of my life.

But I think I’ve been wrong. Keeping a constant eye on darkness can result in a debilitating despair that declares that all is lost and defeat is inevitable. The Adversary, of course, wants us to think he is winning; that the ultimate victory is already in his hand. Unfortunately, our news media aid him in that illusion.

After reading some of the current depressing news this morning, I then read some of the good news in the Mormon Times section of the paper. I felt ever so much better—even optimistic! Even happy! I read of people who are doing good things, exercising faith, combating evil in inspired ways, making the world a better place. I read the insightful views of others who are using the challenges and adversities of this world to become better people, to do a good work. I was uplifted and strengthened. So I had a new thought: if we focus on light and truth with both eyes, we will still be prepared for the surprise attacks. Perhaps even much better prepared because we will feel hope and courage to continue in faith, to be valiant.

[Do you need a boost in your optimism and enthusiasm? Click on the image of Christ in the right column to go to Mormon Among many great articles, I recommend Wayne Brickey’s article, “Iron hath entered his soul.”]


Sunday, August 1, 2010

How Low Is Too Low?















I am continually amazed at the low quality of so much of TV programming. It's not just so "mediocre" that it is an insult to one's intelligence-- although that would be sufficient reason to complain. Some of the new programs promised to begin next month look to be worse than the worst currently showing.


"How low can you go?" used to be the challenge in doing the "limbo" (for those too young to know--the limbo is a "dance" from the West Indies where you "dance" under a stick that progressively gets lower and lower). Today, striving to get as low as possible seems to be Hollywood's most earnestly sought goal.


How low is too low???