Warmer, partly cloudy. Simpsons-credits clouds, if you wish – lots of big puffy flat-arsed clouds with patches of blue. At least I’m getting all my use out of the several jackets I bought at Eddie Bauer’s before they closed the store – ninety dollars each, marked down to about $15. I bought one in each color. If I was truly an obsessive I would have made copies of all the necessities of life – keys, mints, Swiss Army Knife, Zippo, radio, sunglasses – and put a group in each coat so I always run out the door without having to pat myself down five times like I’m doing a one-man show on “The Best of Cops.”

This is my current Zippo. (Big 250KB pic warning, if you're on 56kps.) It’s too nice to carry, though; coins scratch the pictures. I recently fixed an old favorite – it worked fine, but didn’t chink when you opened it. And they have to chink. I fiddled with the innards until I got it to chink, and now it’s back in rotation. It’s horribly tarnished, too, which makes it look like something I’ve carried for 30 years. Stopped a bullet in the Congo with this one, I did.

Friday is busy – I’m a parent helper at Gnat’s Lunch-School, as she calls it, which means that I have to get next Tuesday’s column in the system Thursday night. Oy. Then piano lessons; then Target; then home for Friday afternoon housecleaning, then off to the Apple Store to get Tiger. So tonight I work. Which means I am now about to write a Joe and then finish this . . .

. . . okay, back. That one was done to the third movement of the New World Symphony and an interminable remix of New Order’s “Crystal.” (New album on order; I like “Waiting for the Siren’s Call, but not with unslakeable enthusiasm.) Now something else. Not very consequential, so either skip to Joe or head along whatever path your bookmarks take you.

Note: the following is not about abortion. Everyone relax. It's about - well, I'm not sure.

I read a review of “Palindromes” in Entertainment Weekly, The movie was directed by Todd Solondz, one of those filmmakers whose work is invariably described as “edgy,” and concerns himself with finding the truths in human life revealed by those least likely to negotiate it successfully.

“Early on, Aviva offers herself, without pleasure, to the horny young son of her parents’ friends. She wants to get pregnant, and she does. For her mother, played with a queasy mix of devotion and insensitivity by Ellen Barkin, the course is clear: Aviva must get an abortion. Many in the audience may think that’s the wise choice as well, but this overly rote parental decision has a ghastly outcome, creating a potential unease.

Is Solondz making a pro-life statement? Yes, but not the one that you think. On the road, Aviva connects with Earl, a trucker with a guilty taste for young girls, and she lands at the homestead of Mama Sunshine, the relentlessly upbeat Christian matriarch of a family of wayward adoptees.”

Uh oh, you’re suppose to think. Relentlessly upbeat Christian. We all know the type. A fakey up-with-people type whose façade masks either cruelty, hypocrisy, or just plain empty banality.

“A devout antiabortionist, with a husband whose feelings on the subject are even more extreme, Mama Sunshine regards herself as a holy savior of children. Many of her kids have disabilities (there’s a girl with no legs), and when we see them perform the catchy-creepy teen-pop number “This Is The Way (That Jesus Made Us),” the layers of irony are headspinning.”

Because, you see, uh –

Because it’s ironic that –

Oh, let’s keep reading.
“Solodnz flirts with creating a youth version of Freaks, except that he treats these kids without a trace of mockery [“Freaks” mocked its freaks? It mocked the people who mocked the freaks], letting any exploitation reside in the eye of the beholder. Mama Sunshine clearly loves the children, yet she comes off as a subtly domineering cult leader who has made them over with a wholesome conformity that renders them mere reflections of her ‘goodness.’ It’s no wonder that Aviva feels saved and lost at the same time.”

Maybe the kids needed structure? Guidelines? Rules? They were, after all, wayward. But here’s the kicker, and the reason I brought all this up:

In Solondz’s surreal image of the red state / blue state mash-up, Aviva’s mother embraces the right to abortion, yet she fails to grasp its spiritual toll. Mama Sunshine prizes ‘life’ but not the idiosyncracies of the lives she rescues. So who’s really pro-life?”

I'm taking a flier here, a wild guess, but: the one who takes in the adoptees and, however imperfectly, lets them have a life?

Is it just me, or is this what people mean when they talk about moral relativism?

Not fair to cut him off there. He continues, alas:
“In Palindromes, no one is – at least, not fully.” Well, if I was floating in the amniotic sac, I’d want Mom to be the imperfect adoption advocate, but that’s just projection on my part. “That leaves a girl like Aviva floating in the winds, swatted around by an America that’s caught between dueling visions of cut-rate humanity.”

So the two camps are morally equally, inasmuch as both are imperfectly conceived and realized by the characters in the film. Rewind: the mom is pro-choice but doesn’t grasp its “Spiritual toll.” The group-home mom doesn’t prize the “ideosyncracies” of the cast-off children she takes care of. “So who’s really pro-life?” The question makes no sense, but we're so used to the construction, the false premise, the setting up of disparate ideas as moral equals, that we nod and say "ah, yes. Indeed." What's he trying to say? One's pro-life credentials are tarnished if you don't allow life to be all stumpy and weird and freaky, and pro-choice people should consider that abortion can be as much of a bummer. Both you sides, hang your head in shame! You're both cut rate. Now shake. See? That was easy.

It’s the sort of argument that marks the Modern Mind in its most facile and aggravating: the presence of hypocrisy on both sides renders both equally suspect; wisdom is best manifested by posing trick questions; people who believe stuff are all alike, in a way, inasmuch as they believe stuff, and what’s most dangerous is not what you believe, but how much you believe it. Conviction is good if the last word in your credo is “but.” Otherwise you’re a fundamentalist.

The people who say these things - and again, I'm stuffing straw in the manniquins and waving the lighter around, I know - don't really believe that all conviction requires moderation, just the convictions of the other side. My point? I don't know. Maybe this: As much as I love Entertainment Weekly, they need new film critics who love pop culture, and don't always sound as if they feel ashamed they're writing for EW instead of a highbrown film quarterly. But I could be wrong.

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