May says that Richard Dawkins popped into her bookstore. He was followed by two other gents or the UK persuasion, one carrying a camera and the other a boom mike and other sundry pieces of filmmaking equipment. He came into the shop because he saw his book, The God Delusion, in the shop window. He browsed a bit and then struck up a conversation with one of the booksellers. After some small talk about the shop and the neighborhood, Dawkins asked whose book was selling better: his or Hitchens's.
The bookseller told him that Hitchens's book was selling better.
Dawkins made no reply and there was an uncomfortable pause.
The bookseller pointed out that Hitchens's book was shorter and, for reasons only known only to the Dawkins, this seemed to please the famed biologist and god-slayer.
Dawkins then explained that he was in town to participate in a debate with, of all people, Ann Coulter. He was going to film the whole thing and he had already shot some footage of him roaming the town. Dawkins asked if it would be okay if they filmed a bit in the store's café, a few feet of him "studying" some of Coulter's work in preparation for the debate.
The bookseller explained that they didn't carry any of Coulter's books.
"That's all for the best, I suppose," said Dawkins.
Went with Dean to see Saw IV at the Court Street theater. At this point, it is something of a forced march. We've seen every installment of that particular neo-torture porn franchise at the Court Street Theater. And, in the properly geeky spirit of completeness, we felt it had grown into something of a tradition.
Once again, the film – which is not the weakest of the series, but it only slight less feeble than III – was redeemed by the finest audience in the world: The Courtesans.
Politicians, sociologist, and everybody over 50 are fond of telling me that the American family is an endangered species. I wish I could convince one of those gloomy-gusses to join Dean and I for a horror flick at Court Street. There, family still comes first. Sure, some might question the wisdom of bringing an eight-year-old girl to Saw IV. It is, after all, a movie that features a scene in which a man must basically rub is face into a catcher's mask-like apparatus full of steak knives – a scene that last for something like ten or fifteen seconds (which doesn't sound like much until you watch a guy rub his face into a catcher's mask-like apparatus full of steak knives). But I say that such that such folks are simply anti-family. Your kid's going to learn about sticking people's faces into catcher's mask-like apparati full of steak knives eventually. Wouldn't you rather be there, as a responsible parent, to explain things to your child and answer any steak knives to the face questions your child may have. The Courtesans may well be the best, last hope that the American Family (a registered trademark of America LLC) has.
I also admire their willingness to openly discuss the fine points of the film not only with their friends, family, and seat neighbors, but also with the characters within the film. Long before interactivity became a industry buzzword, it was the SOP of the Courtesans.
Admittedly, none of the Courtesans at Saw IV had the field day with the flick that they did at 30 Days of Night. For those who have missed or avoid said flick, it takes place in a small town at the snowbound limits of habitable Alaska. Said town gets attacked by a tribe of vampires who use the long night that they call winter as a chance to go nuts. That's the plot. It's like Vamps Gone Wild and has the dope pusher from The Faculty as a cop. Now, the audience at Court didn't have any problem with vampires. Though they seemed to really doubt that anybody lived in Alaska. The media asks them to swallow a lot of crap: that actors cross-dressing as fat women is hilarious, that pro-sports are an important part of the life of a nation, that Rihanna can sing, that democracy and free-markets are complementary systems, that good can triumph over evil. But honestly, that anybody is crazy enough to live in Alaska with all tht snow and vampires and whatnot! This is some shit they would not eat (with all apologizes to e. e. cummings). If I understood correctly, the Courtesans believed that becoming man-sushi for vampires with the table manners of Bruce the Shark from Jaws was basically what people who decided to live in such a lousy place deserved. For God's sake, man – it's night for 30 days. What sort of crazy person would live in such a place? Mule-grade stupid frozen-lumps of vampire mushi, that's what kind of crazy man.
With Saw IV they mostly tried to save characters from their own vast stupidity. Say, for example, you’re an FBI agent tracking a serial known for his insanely complex Rube Goldberg-like traps and, during your investigations, you find a room that contains a letter to you, a child's school chair, a clown doll, and a ring of candles surrounding clown and chair. I should point out that you are at a busy crime scene where cops and SWAT and CSI and several other letters of the alphabet are present. Do you A) call the bomb squad to investigate the curious set up the mad trapper left behind or B) do you grab that doll and hold it near your face? The Courtesans nearly ripped their frickin' vocal cords out trying to convince the agent in the above example to pull a big ol' A. I was there. I heard them. That she stuck her face in freakin' trap was not their fault.
There's something almost nobly tragic about the Courtesans' efforts to save film characters. They never manage to actually influence any character's behavior. They can't and they know this. And, yet, every single time somebody goes off to investigate a strange sound or leaves the machete in the hands of the safely unconscious mass murderer, they try again. I reckon that's kind of how God acts when he watches the Earth. Only, later, he's going to ask us, "Dude, why didn't you take his gun?"
The Courtesans are also generous people. Concession stand prices are now only understandable using the unique analytic tools of a special branch of economics known as "You're Freakin' Kidding, Right? Theory." The Courtesans aren't having it. But, as is their way, they aren't content to sneak in boxes of greymarket JuJuBees. Hells no! They sneak in entire dinners. Saw IV marks the third time in Court Street Theaters that I've been offered half an egg roll by a complete stranger. It is heartwarming. Such unwarranted generosity is so rare these days that your first instinct is, of course, to turn it down. Plus, like, did they bite off the other half? But, on further reflection, I love being offered half an egg roll. I think the world would be a better place if we all just offered people half of our egg roll, for no reason. Next time you see somebody looking a little glum, offer him or her half an egg roll. See if it doesn't cheer them up. I still wouldn't take it 'cause, you know, they may have totally bit off the other half. But I appreciate the gesture.
Song title: Ben Allison's Quirky Dungeon
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