What a Difference a Week Makes
I barely knitted this whole weekend. I did finish sewing together the pieces of the Cardigan for Merry and started the hood:
Now I just have to finish the hood, which at least has the cables in each end, and I'll finish my first Christmas gift. It'll be here before you know it. Friday night I went shopping and the mall is in full on Christmas season. There are sales and displays of Christmas gifts in every store. The Christmas decorations are everywhere and there were Christmas songs playing.
What else did I do instead of knitting this weekend? I do apheresis at the Red Cross, so I did that on Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon I took Red and Michael to Gameworks for some fun playing videogames. They each won a stuffed animal in the crane games and they made it all the way through an Ocean Hunter game, so I think it was a good day all around. That night Greg, Michael and I went out for an Asian buffet dinner and then spent the rest of the night playing Buzz. I did pretty well as far as getting the answers correct, but I'm a step or two slower than Greg most of the time on the timed parts of the game. I blame age - my mind just doesn't work as quickly as it used to.
Minnesota Film Arts has been having a little bit of a documentary film festival at the Bell and Oak Street Theaters. There were a couple of films last week that I wanted to see and missed, but I finally saw one yesterday:
It's a film exploring both sides of the issue of abortion. The director, Tony Kaye, who also directed American History X, worked on this film for almost 20 years. A lot of the footage is pretty dated - there are a lot of protests referencing Bill and Hillary Clinton. But I think it captured pretty well that American society is at a kind of war and it's not just about abortion, but the very nature of what is valued in society. The director has reported that he is conflicted about the issue himself and I think he did do a pretty good job of laying out both sides of the argument fully and fairly.
I did get the feeling that he leans toward pro-choice simply because a lot of the pro-life people he interviewed were borderline insane. They were just so far out there, that it was frightening. Of course, that may just be what he had to work with because that's what is out there. He interviews Village Voice writer Nat Henthoff, who is a civil libertarian, but is pro-life based on his belief that life begins at conception. He explains it very sanely and rationally, unlike some of the more religious zealots interviewed.
One benefit of having such a long-term project is that he gets some really interesting footage of Paul Hill. Mr. Hill is shown advocating that many sinners should be put to death - not just doctors who perform abortions, but also blasphemers - anyone who says "God Damn It". Mr. Hill later went on to shoot and kill a doctor who performed abortions as well as a man who escorted him. Hill was eventually convicted, sentenced to death and executed.
The film also shows a band singing pro-choice songs featuring a lead singer in hip boots, black panties and black tape over her nipples. She beat herself with a coat hanger and sort of masturbated with it. So, there was a little "out there" behavior on the pro-choice side as well. One of the more interesting interviews was with Norma McCorvey who was the Jane Roe in Roe v. Wade. Ms. McCorvey was a choice advocate for many years, working at a clinic and targeted by the pro-life movement. She described being so depressed that she started cutting herself. A few years ago, Operation Rescue moved into office space next door to the clinic she was working at and she started visiting their offices. She said she felt welcomed and peaceful there and she eventually became a pro-life advocate. They show her speaking at some sort of Pat Buchanan rally, to thunderous applause. You could see the struggles that she had had and personally I think she just really craved the care and attention that she now gets.
There were quite a few other things that were difficult to watch. There are two abortion procedures shown in the film and footage from a graphic pro-life video. The first procedure is the termination of a 20 week pregnancy, so the fetus was quite developed by that time. It was really, really tiny, but the body parts shown in the tray are recognizable as a head, arms and hands, feet and legs. The second procedure was only a few weeks into the pregnancy and there was nothing recognizable as a human being in that procedure. The termination was just part of what the filmmakers showed of this procedure. They showed the woman coming to the clinic with her ex-boyfriend, being interviewed about her history and why she had chosen to terminate her pregnancy, and then a post-procedure interview. The woman who agreed to open herself up in such a way was so brave. It was one of the most compelling things I've seen on film. The whole thing took place right here in the Twin Cities and she was almost exactly my age, so I perhaps felt a little more close to it.
As far as the filmmaking goes, I thought it was presented really well, mostly consisting of interviews. The film was shot in black and white, which is actually hundreds of shades of gray, of course, just like the issue itself. A lot of the interviews were shot in extreme closeup and brightly lit from the front, so the effect was that you could see every little blemish on the person's face and they did not look that sympathetic or attractive. It seemed like he did that more for the women he interviewed, while the men like Paul Hill, Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz were interviewed in medium shot. Overall, though, I would really recommend this film. No matter what your views about abortion, it will make you think about it and consider the arguments on both sides. I think it also highlights something about our society that is really concerning to me. Instead of having a marketplace of ideas where people debate and discuss issues, we've become completely polarized and the strong polemics drown out any real exchange of ideas.