Movies and real life
It's been an interesting 24 hours, with a bit of a movie theme emerging. Yesterday my friend Judy's synagogue showed a documentary called King Corn. An added attraction was that one of the film's writer/producers, Curt Ellis, was there to answer questions afterwards.
King Corn is the story of two Yale grads who decide to learn about corn by planting, harvesting and selling one acre of it. Their interest was sparked by learning that a chemical analysis of a typical American's hair (!) shows that we get 60% of our nutrition from corn. Not much of it comes from tasty corn on the cob. Instead we ingest vast quantities of corn products in nearly every food and beverage we consume. The worst culprit? Soda pop sweetened with a heavy dose of high fructose corn syrup. The recent dramatic increase in obesity in America closely parallels our increased consumption of soda.
But don't worry, this isn't a movie that you need to hold your nose and watch because it's good for you. It's an intelligent, funny, gentle movie that doesn't point fingers at "the bad guys." It talks with people more than about them.
It's pretty simple, really: a couple of mildly goofy but very intelligent guys set out to learn about something that affects us all, and we get to come along for the ride. A ride on a tractor, a ride to the grain elevator, a ride alongside a train heading for a high-fructose corn plant. It's both thoughtful and enjoyable.
After the film, Curt answered questions with the same combination of humor and thoughtfulness that permeates the film. Seems like a truly nice guy.
Asked about parallels between King Corn and Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan's excellent book on what we eat and where it comes from, Curt replied that they and Pollan were researching the topic at the same time, and Pollan appears in the film several times. If you want to learn a whole lot about what we eat, how it affects us and the planet, and the huge role corn plays in all of this, watch King Corn for a quick, painless introduction, then read The Omnivore's Dilemma to fill in the blanks and take you further into the subject. I loved them both.
The Yes Men
It must be my lucky day. I was going to Pacific Northwest College of Art to meet with an instructor, and in their gallery they had a collection of costumes and props from The Yes Men documentary.
You've gotta see this movie too, a very funny film in which a gold jumpsuit with a huge inflated phallus plays a large (sorry) role.
The Yes Men spoof the WTO (World Trade Organization) with a website that soon leads to speaking invitations at major trade conferences. As the movie shows, they deliver speeches that offer outrageous ideas for bringing back slavery (and more) and are met with applause and praise from an audience of businesspeople.
Seeing the actual augmented jump suit, presented in the film as a way to monitor the activity of distant workers via a TV screen in its tip, was nearly worth the price of a trip to Portland. OK, maybe not that significant, but great fun anyway.
I really love the complex texture of Portland, with lots of small shops, cafes, garages, bakeries, and most of all people walking around from SE 42nd where I'm staying, all the way through the downtown area.
Many of the newer buildings downtown are generic glass-and-steel high rises, but at ground level there's much better stuff going on.
I love the food trailers set up near the Portland State University campus. Boring parking lots are enlivened by funky ethnic take-out shops. Here Mexican, Thai and Indian foods sit side by side.
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