When The Visitor was released in April 2008, I made a mental note to go see it. It was, after all, director “Tom McCarthy’s follow-up to his award winning directorial debut The Station Agent.” And I loved The Station Agent. As it turned out, I never did see it in theaters. But recently, I cajoled my friend The Hoffinator to put it in her Netflix queue and then let me see it before it got returned. (I have my own Netflix account, but I had The Dark Knight 12 days unwatched.) I watched it Thursday morning at 5 a.m.

Richard Jenkins, best known for being, if I was told correctly, the first to die in the HBO TV show Six Feet Under, plays Walter, a widower without much going on. A professor at a Connecticut college who’s allegedly writing a book, presenting papers for which his contribution is minimal and teaching his one class by rote.

As I thought back on the movie, there’s a Paul Simon lyric which seemed to encapsulate Walter’s persona:
I’ve just been fakin’ it,
I’m not really makin’ it.
This feeling of fakin’ it–
I still haven’t shaken it.

It is while he’s in New York City to present a paper that he visits his seldom-used apartment, only to find that is already occupied. This turns out to be transformative in Walter’s life. Frankly, I don’t want to tell too much more except that the djembe, an African drum, plays a role. In fact, after I watched the movie, I saw the trailer, and I felt that it gave away too much of the plot elements.

Later, I watched the deleted scenes and totally agree with their excisions. Another extra: info on the djembe.

I still haven’t seen Frozen River, The Reader, The Wrestler or Benjamin Button, among others. But of the 2008 films I DID see so far, The Visitor was my favorite.



I really needed to see the new Pixar film WALL*E because the first two people I know who saw it really disliked it. Given its otherwise high critical praise, this was a real motivator. I also decided to see if I could, for the first time, have my daughter watch a full-length movie; we’ve failed with Enchanted, Stuart Little and a couple others.

So, for that first 20 minutes, I was a bit distracted. I was taken in by the charms of the cleaning and collecting robot but would the child be like-minded? Actually, she was OK until EVE came and started blasting all over the place. And when she started blowing things up in the vicinity of our hero, that was the end of that. For her.

For me, it’s when it really started getting interesting. Sure it has those somewhat heavy-handed apocalyptic imagery. Ultimately, though it was a story of heroism, changing from a state of inertia to a state of action. And of course, it was a love story.

In this economic climate, the fact that we ARE producing so much garbage, and that we should think about consuming and producing less of it, is a timely lesson that I got without feeling as though I’d been ho=it over the head with it.

I “get” the less than enthusiastic early reviewers, though. Perhaps too intense for some younger kids, though other kids really like it. On the other hand, animation is not just for kids, and perhaps never was.


VIDEO REVIEW: Who Killed the Electric Car?

Back in March, I watched the video of the movie Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) and have neglected to write about it because I found it so amazingly depressing and infuriating simultaneously. The film, narrated by The West Wing’s Martin Sheen, documented how the Ford Motor Company developed a viable electric vehicle in the mid-1990s, the EV1, that had a small but fervent fan base and was in the process of developing a significant infrastructure to fuel these cars, and then took it away. You’ll see how actors such as Tom Hanks, Ed Begley Jr., and especially Peter Horton of “thirtysomething” were huge advocates for the car, which required minimal maintenance.

Yet, for reasons that are still not clear to me, the car was removed from the marketplace. The people who wanted to keep the cars were unable to do so because the cars were leased to them, and if they didn’t return them to the company, they were threatened with arrest for grand theft auto. Not only were they unable to keep them, they had to stand by helplessly as Ford had these perfectly good cars destroyed. I’m not even a car guy, and I found it utterly painful.

The movie’s director Chris Paine suggests that the blame for the failure of electric cars lies with the car company, the petroleum industry, and the government, among others. He also blame the consumers, and I will take issue with this. For the “sales job” that Ford did on this vehicle was to point out all its deficiencies such as its limited range of miles traveled before refueling, rather than emphasizing the economic and ecological benefits. He gave a pass on the battery, which did have a 40- or 50-mile limit, because it was improved to double that; this information never got to the consumer.

I was watching the news for the past several weeks, and there’s conversation about a new viable electric car, but it seems that the industry wasted the last decade in continuing to be dependent on foreign oil. The argument in the 1990s was that everyone charging their cars wouldn’t work because it’d blow the energy grid. But if people were charging overnight, when demand is less, this argument doesn’t hold water (or gasoline). In any case, a tragedy.


Library Humor

A couple months ago, someone on a library listserv I’m on (BUSLIB) was looking working for videos of people trying to return a retail product or getting gadgets to work. All sorts of suggestions popped up, some of which are shared here. See what fun-loving folks librarians are? The videos are of varying quality, but some are hysterical. In honor of National Library Week.

Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch Monty Python…Monty Python Hilarious Brilliant

A “Best City” Customer Service Story! “Here is a video I made at my former place of employment. were poking fun of the horrible customer service that is so common with the big box.”

The Answer – Retail Return. “I had to augment the living hell out of it. The on-stage actors were not projecting at all….retail return FFHS FFHStudios whispering”

Retail Hell or a Diffcult Life
Retail work sucks but you can get even! Watch and learn….Retail customers from hell getting even.

Wal-Mart’s Customer Service. For more information, visit

Gateway Update – Still No Support . “For three weeks, Gateway is still telling me that they are unwilling to provide me with any customer support or service. BLAH! Still a Grade “F.”

Bad Customer Service #1Very bad customer service

Retail 103: Customer Returns And Exchanges. “NOTE: this one has some foul language so I have a feeling it won’t suffice – but I include it nonetheless.” Not THAT foul…

Funny Dell Customer Service CallA really funny Dell customer service call.

A Comcast Technician Sleeping on my Couch. “This is my tribute to Comcast, their low quality technology and their poor customer service. UPDATE: My service has been restored.”

iPod Customer Service. “the Dirty secret have to watch this… (based on real life experience, no hoax).”

Customer Disservice “Have you ever received really bad customer service?”

How to Get a Customer Service Human. “With a human in customer service can be a godsend, especially after spending hours in ‘automated phone menu’ hell.”

terrible customer service. Make fun of their customers…funny skit.”

Customer Service Training Video

Optimus Maximus Keyboard: Horrible Customer Service. “Read that right. I’ve had it with this company. Their customer service is absolutely horrible.”

Customer Service. “A reenactment of my experience with my DSL provider…Eyeopener Films Home Movies New Customer Service DSL.”

Unboxing – not always on target, but a source.

Expo TV: video reviews of consumer products – “made by real people!” Some are actually positive.

David Pogue’s Song spoofs. Some are over a decade old, but what the hey.


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