Monday, September 18, 2006

Friendship Heights Panera: Young Love, Class Warfare, Random Acts of Kindness

Sunday afternoon in lovely Friendship Heights, I'm enjoying the free Wi-Fi, checking email, catching up on the news (well, okay, the celebrity gossip and, surrounded by college students. Across the aisle: two young lovebirds smooching (and Panera's romantic fireplace wasn't even blazing) and an earthy, social sciences or development work-looking girl with her Forever 21-clad friend.

An older, very polite homeless man starts walking the aisles asking for money. This takes everyone a bit by surprise...with the whole spectrum of reactions.

"What are you doing here?!?!" Earthy girl bolted to her feet, face tomato red. "This is a restaurant! People are eating here! You can't just come in here and ask people for money!" She ran for the manager, livid perhaps that the less fortunate had sprung from her schoolwork into real life.

Meanwhile, the boy half of the lovebirds quietly approached the man, took him to the sandwich counter and bought him lunch. "That's my boyfriend!" his girl swooned proudly.

Some good samaritan's getting some lovin' tonight. Indeed, a happy denouement for all: The manager placated Earthy Girl. We diners got peace from her ranting, and the homeless man enjoyed a meal. Though the poor guy's timing was off. Had he arrived just half an hour later, he'd have been able to graze unabashedly off the trays of free crostini samples.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Africa: Where do old American school buses go to die?

The Congo, of course.

For only $2,000, one of these sturdy yellow American beasts (preferred over European models) can be put to use hauling fish, cassava and dozens and dozens of people over the rocky roads of Africa. Fun fact: Many of these "pre-owned" vehicles come from Virginia or Maryland.

"This bus is all about speed. Pedestrians are used to it. They know how to get out of the way."

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Monday, September 04, 2006

When Things Go Awry at the Renn Faire (Otherwise Known as "The Wicker Man" remake)...

From the creepy promotional poster to a talented director (Neil LaBute) and cast (Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Molly Parker, Frances Conroy), "The Wicker Man" gave every appearance of having potential. After the gale-force storm of Friday, it seemed the perfect scary-movie hibernation actitivy.

The first half was good, in a Children of the Corn/Twilight Zone kind of way, as Nicolas Cage's character travels to a womyn-ruled island commune to find a missing girl. There are plenty of admirably surreal images a la "Picnic at Hanging Rock" - ominous bee-keepers in Amish garb, children in animal masks popping up out of the shrubbery.

But this movie committed things to film that just shouldn't be:

1. We first see the commune leader (Burstyn), the whispered-about and feared Sister Summersisle, floating around the place in Chico's separates with all the scary gravitas of a writers' workshop facilitator.

2. And Sister Summersisle? What's up with that name anyway? Sounds like an (ahem) *feminine* product produced in a collective where neither plants nor animals (or their auras) were harmed in the process.

3. "Get me some mead, womyn!" The commune has a pub! With actual serving wenches! Seems a little odd that such a feminist place would still have barmaids when there are man-servants on the island.

4. Yet these man are mute. Their tongues have been cut out. Subtle.

5. Nicolas Cage karate-chops the pub workers. Yes, our hero is in danger. Yes, they are taller than he is. But guys just shouldn't be punching out women in 2006.

6. The waif love interest has no brain. Literally, she does not even complete her sentences. A new low in girlfriend roles.

7. Every cliche from cop and pagan cult films seems to be employed here - from the haunted, burnt-out officer to the abundance of ribboned braids, harvest references and bucolic cottages.

8. A maypole appears.

9. A bear suit appears.

10. There is a grand finale a la Burning Man, with robed throngs shouting, "The drone must die! The drone must die!"

Just as entertaining, the reviews on, including:

"Maybe it serves as a cautionary tale of what America may look like if Hilary Clinton ever becomes president. I guess LaBute, Cage and I better get ready for a trip to the re-education camp."

Will Oscar snub this masterpiece? Hmmmm....

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