Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A Murder in Bloomingdale

My parents were big city people, from New York. We moved to Bloomingdale from Yonkers, by way of Lodi and Long Beach, Calif., in 1960.

They moved here because they couldn’t afford the high taxes in Westchester County in New York and there was no work in Long Beach at the time, as my uncle had promised. My parents wanted us to grow up in safety. They figured Bloomingdale, approachable only by secondary roads, secluded among rolling hills, was the place, at the right price.

It’s not that there’ve been no murders in Bloomingdale over the years. But they’ve been few and isolated, mostly the result of domestic disputes. Drugs have been a frequent visitor to the town, an intruder against which there seems to be no barrier.

Still, the town was safe and quiet. My father used to patronize the barbershop which Mr. Halat came to own, although it was before Halat took ownership. Then we would walk over the bridge built by the Bloomingdale Cornet Band and funded by Fred Sloan, to Sloan Park, an island of solitude in the middle of the stream where children may run freely because nothing built ever stands there.

Nothing much happens in Bloomingdale (other than the regular floods – the River Nile has nothing on the Pequannock River)and no one wanted anything to happen. The biggest thing to happen in Bloomingdale was the rubber factory fire (there were several; this was a bowling ball factory – when the river is low, you can find discarded bowling balls in the riverbed as far down as Pequannock). Until the late 1980s, the town didn’t have a single traffic light. Once a factory town, the residents being employees of the Butler Rubber Factory, it evolved in a bedroom community.

Frank’s Barbershop is located on Main Street, in the mall just before the Methodist Church. The barbershop has been there ever since I can remember. My father would take my brothers in for haircuts when we were children. There used to be an Acme there, which became a curtain wholesaler, which became a roller skating rink, and finally, another part of the strip mall.

Mr. Halat, 79, a retired bus driver, bought the barbershop 24 years ago. He was well-known and much-beloved in the town. His murder - in broad daylight on a weekday morning in his shop - came not just as a shock but an injury to this quiet little town.

Today was the Little League Parade. The town band, the Bloomingdale Cornet Band (of which I’m a member), led the parade. We marched up Main Street past the stricken barbershop.  When we got to the baseball field, we played as the kids marched into the field. The announcer then asked for a moment of silence for Mr. Halat. No doubt, some of the “little shavers” had been in Mr. Halat’s shop in the last few years.

Some had to be reminded to remove their caps, a custom that has been falling off of late so that it’s no rebuke to them. But I noticed that some of them not only didn’t have to be told but knew to hold their caps over their hearts. Young as they were, they understood the loss. For some, it appeared to be personal.

My mother once said that Bloomingdale residents had the idea that they could keep the world out of their little hamlet forever, but that sooner or later, the world would find Bloomingdale and ruin it. That maybe, but today on the baseball field, I saw a generation of youngsters who’ve been taught to value the meaning of life and love and neighborliness and respect.  Their parents should be very proud.

Lotsa luck, invaders. I didn’t know Mr. Halat personally, but they did and that’s good enough for me. Rest in peace, Mr. Halat.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Tax Guzzler

Obama needled a questioner at an event who asked about gas prices, now averaging close to $3.70 a gallon nationwide, suggesting that the gentleman consider getting rid of his gas-guzzling vehicle. The event was at a wind turbine plant in Fairless Hills, Pa. Clearly, Obama's needle is clearly stuck on clean energy. If SUV’s are gas-guzzlers, we could make the case that Obama is a tax guzzler and that we need to trade him in for a better model.

Pitching the promise of energy independence, Obama cautioned Wednesday that it’s going to be tough to transition. With electric power, however, there will be no “energy independence” for Americans. We will be hooked up to the grid, long-feared by the fiercely independent Pennsylvania Dutch and as much at the mercy of the government as we are at the mercy of the Arab’s with their oil fields. What’s Obama has promised we’ll pay a heavy price for this “energy independence”; that our electric costs will “necessarily” skyrocket.

Some independence. We need to trade Obama in, but we also have to consider what kind of candidate car we want. By necessity, they’re all used. In selecting a car, we want the newest model. In selecting a president, we need one with some mileage, that’s been broken in.

We know what kind of presidential car Obama is. We should have consulted Car Fax. Some researchers did, but everyone was taken in by the “cool” exterior and the smooth sound of the engine. What they neglected to do was kick the tires, check the interior, and the transmission. Nor did anyone bother to ask what sort of mileage this particular car had, who the previous owner was, and who rode in the car.

Turns out, the interior was littered with an assortment of communist and socialist literature, some of it in his own hand, and others in the handwriting of such associates as Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. The seating is straight out of the Sixties, with some after-market headrests and seatbelts that could strangle a sumo wrestler put in for safety. There’s also a peace sign bumper sticker on the fender. He took out the cigarette lighter, but forgot to empty the ashtray of Ayers’ leavings.

The engine may have sounded smooth, but it hadn’t been run-in properly. Some undoubtedly young driver revved up the RPMs on the car in its first few hundred miles, mangling its working parts. You also might be interested to know that the car has no oil. The previous owner tried to substitute vegetable oil for motor oil, as a gesture to Mother Earth.

They also rode exclusively in the left lane, wearing out the tires on the left-hand side of the car until they were nearly bald. The steering is faulty, with the car going nearly sideways to the left down the road. The driver also had a tendency to roar up to and sometimes run through red lights. That’s very bad for the brakes. What you wind up with is a car whose accelerator jams and whose brakes are useless from lack of moderation.

Finally, this lemon of a car guzzles our money like water. Not to mention the high price of insuring it. This car has an automatic transmission; manual transmissions are a thing of the past, like manual windows. Automatic is so much easier, at least until you get into a crisis, like hitting an oil slick or hydroplaning. Then when you want to steer or stop the car, you find yourself upside-down on the concrete meridian, wondering what the heck just happened. Then someone has to use the jaws of life to extract you from your predicament.

So now we know we must trade in this president for a better model, one that’s safer, more efficient, respectable but modern, and reliable. Let’s take a look at what’s on the market. The current polls list, in order of current popularity:

1. Mitt Romney – 21%
2. Donald Trump – 17%
3. Mike Huckabee – 17% (tied for 2nd place)
4. Newt Gingrich – 11%
5. Sarah Palin – 10%
6. Tim Pawlenty – 6%
7. Michele Bachmann – 5%
8. Rick Santorum – 3%
9. Haley Barbour – 1%

Mitt “Limousine” Romney looks every bit the president. He’s definitely auto-aristocratic; his father, George W. Romney, was the CEO of American Motors in the mid-Sixties, best known for its Ambassador sedan. The limousine is squeaky clean. The Media frets over his Mormon religion, but this limo doesn’t sport any plastic Jesus figures on the dashboard. More problematic is the “insurance” on this car; as Massachusetts governor, the Romney instituted Universal health care in the state. The car fax on the limo lists it among its assets Romney's entrepreneurial success, his rescuing of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, giving him the image of a star player who can straighten out what’s wrong in the nation's capital. Romney also had solid political experience as governor together with a political pedigree courtesy of his father, a strong work ethic and energy level, and a large, wholesome-looking family.

The Romney is a wealthy piece of machinery, but a surprise entry has entered the race – the Lamborghini The Donald. This is a fast, incredibly expensive sports car. Its previous owner has raced in the business world successfully, but this is the first time for him on the political track. It has very poor fuel mileage and has run out of gas several times, which can ruin a carburetor in no time. The owner has excellent “mechanics”. His best “mechanics” died in a tragic helicopter accident in the 1980s but Trump has still gotten back into the race. He should know, however, that political racers are even more unscrupulous than business racers and one bad spin-out, wealthy as he is, will completely total the crash-sensitive Lamborghini.

Tied for second place is The Huckabee. The Huckabee does have a plastic Jesus on the dashboard; Huckabee is an ordained Baptist minister. This car has plenty of power, although the plastic Jesus attracts as many detractors as supporters. The car has a good record; the third longest-serving governor of Arkansas. When he was elected Lieutenant-Governor of Arkansas, the departing Democrats had nailed the door to the office shut, stole all the furniture, and emptied the state coffers. He had been a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center accused of racism, a group from which Huckabee had withdrawn. There are some dents in the fender from minor accidents involving the commutation of prison sentences as governor, twice as many as his three predecessors combined, and his assertion that America is a Christian nation. With the Tea Parties gaining prominence, and his own television show on Fox News, Huckabee has risen in the rankings.

As a former Speaker of the House, The Newt-Mobile has a good track record with his Contract with America and leader of the Republican Revolution, ending the Democrats 40-year record. Powered by the Reagan years, this car performed well against stiff competition. Among its trophies are Welfare Reform and balancing the federal budget. The Newt was a history major, professor, and author, making him of interest to the Tea Party. The exterior is well polished though there is some considerable damage. During Gingrich's term as Speaker, eighty-four ethics charges were filed against him, most of which were leveled by House Democratic Whip David Bonior. Eighty-three of the eighty-four allegations were dropped. The remaining charge consisted of two counts "of failure to seek legal advice" and one count of "providing the committee with information which he knew or should have known was inaccurate" concerning the use of a tax exempt college course for political purposes. To avoid a full hearing, Gingrich and the House Ethics Subcommittee negotiated a sanctions agreement, which Democrats accused Gingrich of immediately violating. Nonetheless, the agreement was forwarded to the House for approval. On Jan. 21, 1997, the House voted 395 to 28 to reprimand Gingrich, including a $300,000 "cost assessment" to recoup money spent on the investigation. This was the first time in the House's history that the Speaker had been disciplined for ethics violations. The Newt was compelled to resign as House Speaker, and in fact, left Congress altogether, although the full committee panel did not reach a conclusion about whether the "Renewing American Civilization" college course had violated federal tax law and instead opted to leave it up to the IRS. In 1999, the IRS cleared the organizations connected with the courses under investigation for possible tax violations. He has also been criticized by Conservatives for supporting Medicare Part D and partnership with Hillary Clinton on the 21st Century Health Information Act, which would have computerized all personal health information. There is also some interior damage due to two well-publicized affairs that led to divorce and marriage to his mistresses, and converted to Catholicism upon his third marriage (which should hardly be a matter of record on this model).

Then, there’s the Sarah Palin Denali. This is an SUV that had great potential. But the owners put it on the track too soon before the driver was ready or the engine had been fully run-in. As Governor of Alaska, the Sarah Denali performed well, with a strong engine and transmission and a very stylish exterior. The fax record on the production of the car was confusing and muddled, but it turns out her educational record was a matter of funding, not ability. This is an SUV that can take the corners and the headwinds with gusto. Having put it on a faster track, though, it suffered a lot of exterior damage, with the opposition banging and sideswiping it at every opportunity. The Sarah Denali was run right off the track during her gubernatorial stint and she was forced to forfeit the race due to nefarious litigation by the opposition. The Sarah Denali is a gutsy car, though, and despite all the problems, got right back into the race. The SD is a family car, and with family cars, you get interior damage – wads of chewing gum, ice cream spills, ripped upholstery. It would be great to see the Sarah Denali run again, but she’s got to drop off her kids first.

The Pawlenty Pulpit is a good, solid Conservative car, kind of a stepped-up version of your dad’s Oldsmobile, only newer. Pawlenty campaigned as Minnesota governor on a pledge not to raise taxes to balance the state's budget deficit, requiring visa expiration dates on driver's licenses, a 24-hour waiting period on abortions, implementing a conceal-carry gun law, and changing the state's education requirements. He prevailed over both challengers at the polls. His largest gains since a poll conducted that September were among voters in the suburbs of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The timing on the Pawlenty is a little off. In 2008, he expressed support for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), however in 2010 he stated that he had been speaking solely as a surrogate for GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona and never actually supported the idea himself. he thinks United States Social Security and Medicare need to be cut to balance the federal budget. The Pulpit is another Tea Party family-values minivan. He opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, and is aligned with the Christian-right group Family Research Council. However, being from a prairie state, this is a mini-van that runs on the highly-controversial ethanol, which is being blamed for destroying important food crops in the name of climate preservation. The insurance on the car is high too, as he supports a universal health care plan in Minnesota by the end of this year.

The 2008 Republican models didn’t go over well with the public. Its top of the line model, the McCain, was much too old. Nearly all their cars had a tendency to drift over the center line to the other side with the Democrat cars, whose Marxist engines are all designed overseas, made with foreign parts, and fueled with foreign money. The Republicans need a good, Conservative car that can keep to the right. The 2012 models have gotten religion. We have yet to see if their engines and drive trains have been redesigned on the Constitutional model. They also have to do a better job of marketing to the younger demographic without getting lost in Progressiveville.

Put the Founding Fathers on your GPS, keep on your own side of the road, have a clean driving record, and the Conservative model will get you there.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Ousting Glenn Beck

Fox News has a bad habit of crucifying its prophets. Glenn Beck’s predecessor wrote a book called, “A War on Christmas.” Shortly thereafter, John Gibson disappeared, never to be heard from again and Glenn eventually took his place. His book is still on my bookshelf, though.

Glenn may have 2.2 million viewers, even while Fox claims that his ratings are dropping, a circumstance they blame on Glenn for accusing Obama of being a racist. From what I’ve heard, though not yet read (only because I refuse to put any money in that Obama’s coffers), all the evidence is right there in his two books, which Bill Ayers lays claim to having ghost-written. Authorities seem to agree that not only is Obama not a good speaker, he’s also not a particularly good writer. Which makes one wonder how he ever came to be the head of the Harvard Law Review.

Glenn could be gone by the end of the year, or he could be gone sooner. All I can say to Glenn Beck is: welcome to the club! I’m in the exact same situation. My job is going away, officially, in December. “The End” could come sooner, though, as early as August, and almost certainly by October, when we put the final edition of our local magazine to bed. After that, like Glenn, I’m on God’s good humor. Only Glenn has the funds to make it on his own, to write his own ticket.

Glenn certainly isn’t on Fox’s good humor, nor on their advertisers’, who all quailed when Liberals threatened to boycott their companies if they dared to advertise on Glenn’s show. Free markets are only as free as their bottom line, I’m sorry to say. A relative handful of angry customers and a compliant media can make most companies quail. My company advertises on Rush Limbaugh’s show, but not Glenn’s.

In making the official announcement last night on his show, Glenn was gracious, noting that is relationship with Fox has always been good and that (for his part) there’s no animosity, no hard feelings. He said that he wanted to go on to do other things, and that he would still have a relationship with Fox News as a producer of programs. Fox sent out a press release saying the same things.

Not that Glenn has anything to worry about (he has the wherewithal to pursue freedom). But his followers do and so does America. He’s telling America a truth they don’t want to hear. As he’s often advised people: do your own homework, don’t just take his word for it. If you read any of the books by Andrew McCarthy, Brigitte Gabriel, or Sayyid Qutb himself (I’d left Social Justice in Islam at the movie theater on Saturday, put on my hazmat suit, and recovered the noxious thing yesterday afternoon), you’ll read the truth for yourself.

I've been reading up on the “real” Islam. Islamists mean what they say when they cry, “There is no God but Allah.” They consider Jesus' mission and the claims that He was God incarnate, divinity in the flesh, as the supreme insult, “blasphemy.” In the writings of Muslims like Sayyid Qutb, Jesus is reviled in every way. The Islamists do, in fact, consider Christian worship a “crime” by their shariah law.

Westerners get taken in by this bill of goods that Islam is a peaceful religion that promotes freedom. Sure, it's peaceful - if you're a man and a true believer. They believe that their all-encompassing laws, as set down by Mohammed received directly from Allah, is what sets Man free from sin. But only because the believers are so strait-jacketed by shariah that they could hardly sin if they wanted to. And those who do face brutal corporeal punishment, even death.

Brigitte Gabriel’s “They Must Be Stopped” (2008) is an easy to read, but horrifying account of how dangerous the Islamists are. Driven out of her native Lebanon, Gabriel is a Christian with a dire message for Christianity. She gives direct quotes for the Quran on its violent nature. By the account of one imam, the Quran harbors over 400 directives towards violent jihad, advocating the murder of Christians, Jews, and other “non-believers” of other faiths.

Another female writer of Mediterranean and I believe French descent also wrote such warnings. Now she’s dead. I can’t remember her name, but I remember her columns in the Wall Street Journal. Other authors are being threatened or black-listed by the multiculturalists and the Liberals. Today, they’re dancing on what they presume is Glenn Beck’s career grave.

If they can’t silence him completely, they’ll at least marginalize him to his faithful followers. His radio program was forced out of the critical metro New York market and now Fox is dropping his television program by the end of the year. The headlines state that he’ll be transitioning out.

He can make more money from his website broadcasts, they say, but I hope he remembers that a good portion of his audience is older, with luddite tendencies. Nor are his broadcasts completely safe from interference. Hackers can access viewer’s computers, cutting off the sound, as they did on my home computer. I have the Insider Extreme, for all the good it does me without the sound on my computer. It’s harder to interfere with a televised broadcast.

I’ll probably have to tote my hard drive to Staples, which has a computer repair service so I can listen in again. We can’t let the foes of free speech defeat us. Glenn will survive and even thrive (Rush Limbaugh has, because he’s independent) and so will we, but this is yet another bad portent of things to come – a 1984ish world where freedom is trumped by corporations, clerics, and communists.

Still, as the Jeff Goldblum character noted in Jurassic Park: “Life always finds a way.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Gambler-in-Chief

So “The Donald” is throwing his hat into the 2012 Presidential ring, is he? Good for him. Our country is an economic mess, with no remedy in sight. The chances of a Democrat solving the economic crisis are about as good as my co-worker’s chances of hitting the jackpot last night at Trump’s Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.

While you have to wonder at a presidential nominee who’s made his fortune in casino-building and real estate (well, the second’s not so bad). Success is the secret to success. Trump’s a guy who knows how to make money getting other people to spend their money and be happy about it. How happy are you about paying your taxes on April 15th.

But when you spend money at the Taj, or the Plaza (you can’t miss the Plaza, it’s at the entrance to the city, all blazing lights and neon signs), you spend your money in style. Where does all that money that you lost in the one-armed bandits? As one casino employee told me once (it was one of Trump’s AC rivals), “Here it is. Just look around! There’s all your money. The fine carpeting, the ocean views, the lights, the bells, the whistles. Fabulous, isn’t it? And you paid for everything!”

Well, I didn’t, because I don’t gamble. I was there for the New Jersey Emergency Planning Conference, in a hotel considerably less than 1,000 feet from the ocean. Strange thing is, the Jersey Shore rarely gets that ravaged by hurricanes. The hurricanes think Atlantic City is too déclassé; when they come north, and only the lesser hurricanes tend to leave the tropics, they head straight for the Hamptons or the Cape. They prefer to wreak havoc on the better beaches and tear up the more expensive homes. Maybe they just hate Liberals.

We could do much worse than have a business person for president. Steve Forbes tried a run at the office of president 10 or 15 years ago, but the Media just wouldn’t have it. A businessman for president?! Perish the thought. Or if not president, Trump could be the Secretary of the Treasury. Now, there’s a job for him. My company’s CEO would make a pretty nifty president, although he’s said to be camera-shy. He wasn’t shy when I photographed him. However, he has good business sense and everyone respects him. He knows how to handle the Media, he believes in ethnic diversity (which would play well with the Moderates), but he’s definitely a conservative fiscally.

He’s really, really big on education. Our company makes many donations to educational organizations. Our CEO recognizes that if your workforce isn’t educated, you’re not going to get much done. He has a good sense of the American spirit, understands the law (all too well), and is very diplomatic. He’d never think of insulting anyone, no matter how much they deserved it.

But he’d probably rather stay where he is, whereas Donald Trump is active, ambitious, patriotic, and knows where his chips come from. He knows how to please his customers, even when he’s taking their money. He at least gives them their money’s worth in fun and entertainment.

We took a gamble on Obama and lost big time betting on that ponzi scheme called Obamacare. The polls are actually looking pretty good for Trump for President. He’s second behind Mitt Romney in one poll. What have we got to lose by electing Donald Trump president of the United States? He might tell a few government slackers and union hacks – “You’re fired!”

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Show Trial Will Not Go On

Those of you holding tickets for the show trial of the century are just plain out of luck. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and his cohorts will face justice in a military tribunal in Guantanamo, far from the public eye.

Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement yesterday. He made the announcement but it’s widely believed that Obama made the call. Just recently, the Administration announced the Guantanamo would not be closed and that the terrorist detainees would be tried there.
Obama’s concession came with a price, however. For not turning the trial into a media circus, the detainees will be allowed their own counsel and they’ll be able to examine classified evidence and question witnesses. Intelligence operatives lives will be put in jeopardy and Al Qaeda and their ilk will have access to the CIA’s operations and methods.

Ordinarily, KSM could have been tried in a civilian court. Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Abdel Rahman were tried successfully and they’re now lifetime prison mates at some super max prison out West. But KSM presents an unusual case. He was caught overseas, as Yousef (KSM’s nephew) was. But where Yousef was successful, not only in the World Trade Center bombing, but in blowing a hole in an airliner in the Philippines, how responsible was KSM? KSM was involved in the planning of 9/11, but no one is sure to what degree. How much of what he says is boasting and bravado, how much is coercion, how much is fabrication, how much is cowardice, and how much is ignorance on his part?

Still, at least we’ve got the little worm on the hook and he’s going to be tried where he can’t insult the memories of his victims by declaiming the righteousness of Islam (which does exhort its followers to terrorize unbelievers). His theatrics will be contained on a little tropical island in a closed courtroom where his propaganda will be extremely limited and his message of violence constrained.

The one thing AG Holder hasn’t announced is when these trials are to occur. No doubt as close to the 2012 election as possible, so Obama may benefit by them. He had a lot of nerve noting that it had taken 10 years for justice to be brought about. Good luck to the courtroom personnel, the prosecuting attorneys, the judge, and the panel. God help the witnesses.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Jane Eyre Film Wakes You Up

Unless you’re a jaded critic who’s seen plenty of hair-raising horror movies or a teen bored by everything, there’s one sure thing about the new Jane Eyre movie starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender:  you won’t sleep through it.

Director Cary Fukunaga, apparently realizing there are at least 20 versions of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel of an orphaned governess who falls in love with her wealthy and mysterious employer, does us the favor of jumbling things up a bit.

The movie begins with Jane’s flight from Thornfield Hall.  Weeping and wandering amidst the English moors, she falls on the doorstep of a lonely cottage, whose owner St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) admits her.  As she recovers and her benefactors question her about her past, we’re shown flashbacks in lightning stroke breaks that had audience members jumping out of their seats.

Her story begins with her childhood, reared by a despised and despising aunt-in-law.  When her cousin attacks her, she retaliates with spirited fury.  The outburst earns her incarceration in the dreaded Red Room and ultimately expulsion from Gateshead Hall.  Sally Hawkins, as Mrs. Reed, does not dither at Jane’s rebellion against her cruelty, as in the book, but simply tells the girl to “Get out.”

With the crack of switch or a cane, we learn about her life at Lowood School for Orphans, run by the pious Mr. Brocklehurst.  Fukunaga treats us to details we don’t ordinarily see in most Jane Eyre productions, such as being disrobed of the expensive dress she wears entering the school.  One person basically missing is the kindly Miss Temple, who befriends Jane and clears her reputation as a “liar.”  That’s one of the downsides of a film production of Jane Eyre – someone must be cut out.

Jane’s best friend, Helen Burns, is played with extraordinary beauty by Freya Parks.  She’s a strawberry blonde with soulful blue eyes that just rivet the audience’s attention, the way Elizabeth Taylor’s did decades ago.  The scenes of Lowood are brief and it would have been enriching to hear a little more of Helen’s philosophy before she dies of consumption.

The final jolt brings us to Thornfield Hall and we remain there as Jane enters her post as governess to the ward of “a certain Mr. Rochester.”  Judith Dench is certainly not the dithering, simple housekeeper of the novel.  She plays Mrs. Fairfax with sense and a good deal of wit.  An excellent actress, she plays well against Fassbender’s impossible irascible Mr. Rochester.

If Fassbender is a bit slender for the role physically, he makes it up for it in his range of acting as the brooding master of Thornfield Hall.  He makes his presence known, even off screen, shouting at servants and cursing when he shoots at birds from his balcony and misses.  Fassbender, in treating with his ward, Adele, goes for an approach I’ve never seen before, which brought howls of laughter from the audience.

We mustn’t forget about our Jane, for although Rochester is the love of every Jane Eyre fan’s life, it is still Jane’s story.  Wasikowska is the quintessential Jane.  As Mrs. Fairfax observes upon meeting, she is quite young.  She’s also small and the right age to be the 18 year-old Jane (Wasikowska is 21 – close enough).  Her Jane is reserved, but determined and courageous.  Rochester flirts with her, tries to charm her, and puzzles her.  However, she’s cautious and doesn’t take the bait readily.

In places, the script deviates from the novel.  But in the most key scenes, it’s nearly all Bronte, though without quite so many words.  Some critics have complained there’s not enough chemistry between them.  In the scene after Mr. Rochester’s bed is set ablaze, the pair smolder in the smoky musk, without quite crossing the values of the times in which they’re set.

It’s a pity there was no gypsy scene in this production; with his humor and timing, Fassbender would have made a marvelous old crone, and it would have been interesting to see Wasikowska’s reaction.  Ah well.

Just as it seems all is going well, a mysterious stranger from Rochester’s past appears.  He receives the news just as he’s interrogating Jane yet again, to get past her reserve.  Fassbender is more angered by the news of this visitor than dismayed.  This Mr. Mason seemed awfully young to be the person he’s supposed to be.

In the mansion also are some other guests, including a certain Miss Ingram, towards whom rumor has it Mr. Rochester has conjugal intentions.  He gives every indication that marrying her is his intention, flirting with her and admiring her, to the despair of the smitten but quiet Jane.

There is also another resident of the Hall, as Jane is informed by her ward, Adele, one who walks the halls by night like a ghost.  When Mr. Rochester’s guest, Mason, is attacked in the middle of the night, she comes close to discovering their identity.

Jane is called away from Thornfield to the bedside of her aunt, who reveals a secret to Jane that will ultimately alter her future financial circumstances.  But Jane’s mind is on her uncertain short-term future.  Returning to Thornfield Hall, she informs Rochester that she will seek another situation.  At that point, amidst a gorgeous scene of blossoming cherry trees, he proposes to her (in the book, the proposal took place in the evening, but what the heck).

Thinking he’s playing games with her again, Wasikowska really tells him off.  This is no rote performance.  It’s one of those reasons she earns the honor as “the” Jane Eyre.  Once convinced, though, despair turns to bliss amidst Thornfield’s beautiful grounds.

The wedding day finally arrives, and it is here the Fassbender proves he’s definitely a front-runner as “the” Mr. Rochester, as he literally drags Jane from Thornfield to the nearby church.  His impatience as the ceremony proceeds past the objection stage is finely detailed.  But there is an “insuperable impediment” and the wedding is off.

It’s an angrier Jane than normal who finds Mr. Rochester camped out in front of her bedroom door.  Wasikowska cuts Fassbender no slack as he offers his apologies.  He explains how he came to be married to Bertha Mason.  A harrowing scene ensues as Jane tells him firmly that she must leave him and then does so.  Some of the footage was edited out (we Eyre Heads have followed the progress of this production closely) and there’s too much of a jump between the parlor scene and when he bursts into her room to find she’s gone (which as a Jane Eyre fan, I was very appreciative to see).

At this point, the movie returns us to the weeping girl on the moors, for the understanding of those not familiar with the book.  Jamie Bell is forceful as St. John Rivers.  He’s clearly interested in a relationship with Jane and doesn’t so much ask her to marry him as he commands her to do so.  Jane is cool, even upon hearing news that someone has been searching for her.  One marvelous scene in her new life, more jarring even than the whip crack in the beginning, will leave even die-hard Eyre Heads picking their jaws up off the floor, and add yet more mystery to those who don’t know the novel.  It left the audience members whispering and murmuring.

Not to give away endings, but as a certified Eyre Head, this reviewer approves of Fukunaga’s ending.  He doesn’t depart from the essentials; it’s not a different ending, just a – different – Mr. Rochester, the much more likely one given the circumstances and Rochester’s impassioned nature than the one Bronte wrote about.

Are there an awful lot of Jane Eyre productions out there?  There are, but each one has certain merits but flaws, too, that cause dissatisfaction.  The gothic moodiness of the 1944 version with Orson Welles, the charm of the 1983 Timothy Dalton version (and the closest Jane any production had gotten to up until now), the brusqueness of William Hurt’s Mr. Rochester, the utter sexiness of Michael Jayston’s Mr. Rochester, the realistic gruffness of the 1996 Mr. Rochester, as that of George C. Scott. 

The 1973 version’s party scene with the duet between Miss Ingram and Rochester is classic.  The 1944 version’s portrayal of Jane’s childhood at Lowood School, with the utterly beautiful Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns, is a classic.  The bedroom scene in the 1996 miniseries was a bit over the top and beyond the morals of the time it was depicting, if gratifying to a modern audience. 

That climactic scene is the key to the movie.  The actor and actress who can both pull that one off will win the favor of Jane Eyre fans everyone.  Congratulations to this production of Jane Eyre.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Anti-Christ

When we think of the term Anti-Christ, we assign the word “anti” the meaning of being opposite, that is, the “opposite” of Jesus Christ. But for the Islamists, the word also has the meaning of being “opposed” to Christ, an opposition that crosses into virulent hatred.

I’d been reading Sayyid Qutb’s book “Social Justice in Islam.” I’d taken it with me to the movies to read while waiting. Once the movie started, I knew I’d put it in my bag and was sure I’d taken it into my house with me. I was debating whether to read some more of it or a magazine, and decided I’d had enough of its flagrant and misleading rantings against Jesus so I chose a magazine instead. When I got up this morning, I couldn’t find the book.

It wasn’t in my bag, on my kitchen table, on my coffee table, beside or under my bed. It wasn’t in my car, my kitchen, or on a bookshelf. Either I was mistaken and it fell out on my way to my car or something weird happened to it. I finally gave up and proceeded on to the next book on my list, “They Must Be Stopped” by Brigitte Gabriel. She gives just as thorough an account of Islam and the Koran, without the Qutb’s noxious salesmanship.

We in the West really do not, as Gabriel and others have insisted, understand Islam. Gabriel says we mistakenly refer to Islam’s followers as Muslims and other names such as Tartars and Moors, but the proper term should be Islamists.

“There is none but Allah,” the Islamists say, and they mean that literally. Allah has no partner. He has assigned messengers over the centuries – Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed. But no one else can claim his throne. They especially object to Jesus’ claim of being the Son of God and that He has no divinity. He was simply another teacher.

Islam is all encompassing. Their notion of freedom is quite different from ours. Islamists believe that if the world becomes one community, under Shariah law, or murdered if they refuse to accept the tenets of Islam, sinning will be outlawed upon pain of death, and therefore no one will sin and they will enter paradise.

If the communists think they have an ally, they should know that the Islamists regard them as irreligious dogs. They’re only useful because they share a common belief in the redistribution of wealth. Islamists believe that Christians are too much concerned with the world to come and not enough about this one. Given freedom of will, and the concept of forgiveness, Christians go about flouting all the Christian laws. According to the Islamists, only Shariah will set you free.

Throughout history, the Islamists have usurped the portions of a different religion that they agree with, lay claim to it as their own, and then outlaw the religion from which they stole their tenets. Islam is something of a jig-saw puzzle of a religion. Some parts of it you would say you understand, others, not so much. Only when you piece it all together, do you begin to develop a bad taste for it. For Christians, their true revilement of Jesus Christ is the true revelation of Islam’s danger to our religion and our society.

That is why anyone who believes a bridge can exist between Islam and Christianity – or any other religion or political believe (Islam is both religion and political belief) – is a dreamer, a liar or a fool. To accept their tenets is to deny the divinity and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In attempting to show respect for Islam, without understanding it, we do the gravest disservice to Christianity.  We have Jesus to thank for our reconciliation with God; it is because of Him that we and God are on speaking terms.  You’re either for Jesus or you’re against Him.  Heaven help you if you’re the latter.