Chicken with Plums

I saw Rebecca Jarvis wearing pants while she was doing the CBS Early Show yesterday morning.  Her bare legs must have been getting cold out there in the snowy weather during the previous morning.  It seemed like a routine show until some guy jumped over the fence while she and Harry Smith were on camera.  I thought he said something about G.I. Joe being in the house, or something like that, before a security guard grabbed him.  Hey, it was something spontaneous and interesting.  Harry said that in twenty years of doing the show, that was the first time anyone went past the barrier, and it was his second to last regular appearance on the show.  The most repeated news item of the day was about Conrad Murray’s intended defense in the Michael Jackson trial.  Supposedly, his lawyers were going to pursue the argument that Michael Jackson killed himself with the fatal dose.  There was also a lot of discussion about the famous people who died during 2010, like Lena Horne, Dennis Hopper, Teddy Pendergrass, Tony Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, and Blake Edwards.  They kept replaying the disturbing 911 phone call that Teena Marie’s daughter made.  She was crying out that her mother’s body felt cold.

I took a late walk out to the library.  The most popular area was the section with the computers connected to the Internet.  Each one was given an author’s name, like Dickens or Austen.  There were a few dummies who had problems making reservations or logging on.  I checked my bank balance and also renewed my driver’s license.  I returned home to read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  I finished it late in the afternoon.  I enjoyed it up until the mystery is solved, but then it didn’t know when to stop.  It drags on with a revenge story, and a financial magazine that people are trying to keep afloat.  In other words, it continues with issues we don’t really care about.  We have an unusual girl who is tenacious like a bull in investigating the bad guys, and digging up information using computers.  It seemed that there were touches of “Wall Street” and “The Silence of the Lambs” mixed in with wintry scenes of Ingmar Bergman.  I would like to move on to the next novel in the series, although I haven’t turned into a rabid fan.

I left the TV on to the soap operas and game shows, although I avoided Oprah Winfrey.  I watched a bit of “The Doctors.”  Their theme song is Robert Palmer’s “Bad Case of Loving You,” because it has the lyrics “Doctor, doctor, give me the news.”  They showed a new technique of freezing your belly fat in order to reduce it.  I would not say that the results looked impressive.  I couldn’t see much of a difference.  One of the commercials I rather like to watch is the one for Pam, where the woman tries to get the fried fish out of the pan, and it goes flying, breaking through both the kitchen window and the car window.  The first time I saw it, I wasn’t sure at first if it was a commercial for insurance.

I read through a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, called “Chicken with Plums.”  Satrapi was the author of “Persepolis,” which was a great book.  This one was very good, too.  In fact, I think it was arguably her best book.  It was about her great-uncle Nasser Ali Khan, a musician living in Tehran in 1958.  His instrument is damaged beyond repair, and after he is unable to replace it, he decides that he wants to die.

Satrapi gives the book moments of humor, like an anecdote of a woman who didn’t know she was pregnant, so the story isn’t completely bleak, like “’Night Mother,” but the loss of desire to live that we see is quite haunting.  The days are counted down as Nasser Ali Khan approaches death, giving the tale a sense of urgency.  I liked how this book was a quick read of 85 pages.  It’s like how I prefer movies with a short running time and a fast pace.  “Chicken with Plums” does not waste much time to get to its point.  I liked its focus.

Satrapi always mentions the interference of the American government in Iran.  She also throws in references to pop culture, in this case the movies of Sophia Loren.  Not even Nasser Ali Khan’s brother can entice him to drop the death wish through his invitation to join him to see the latest Sophia Loren film, “Woman of the River.”  All but one of Nasser Ali Khan’s children is apathetic and self-absorbed, not caring about his health.  We sympathize with him when it seems the quality of life in Tehran looks like it’s going downhill, because that’s what it happening here.  “Chicken with Plums” is a worthy book.  I looked I might not like it, because I got sick of the tales about Iran in “Persepolis 2,” but that wasn’t the case.  I was impressed with the way it handled the basic issues of life and death.  It reminded me a bit of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

We had hamburgers as we watched “Knight and Day,” which I thought was a messy movie.  It had touches of “North By Northwest” and “To Catch a Thief,” and maybe a bit of “The In-Laws,” but Tom Cruise certainly isn’t too amusing, and Cameron Diaz’s character at the beginning screeches so much in an annoying way that it is nearly unbearable.  She was a lot like Kate Capshaw in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” in those moments.

The movie started to wear me out after about 45 minutes.  The attempts to convey humor in the middle of a lot of shooting and killing were really tiresome.  The device everyone was after was a battery that released an unlimited amount of energy, which we know is impossible.  I guess that was an homage to Hitchcock, having a pointless device be the engine of the events.  I thought there was virtually no chemistry between Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise, and Cruise is not much in comedy, no matter what he did in “Tropic Thunder.”

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