Why I love America (updated)

I love America.

I love the First Amendment. I love freedom of speech, assembly, religion. I love the fact that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster could petition the Kansas board of education and request that their alternative theory of intelligent design, that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster, also be taught in Kansas schools, and that they got a respectful hearing.

I love our heroes of the past. Like Abby Hoffman, Frank Zappa, Lenny Bruce, Hunter S. Thompson. Michael Stipe and the B-52s and the music of Athens, Georgia and Seattle, and LA and Provo.

I love Richard Pryor, and Chris Rock and George Carlin, and the words you can’t say on TV. I love a country that could produce the Smothers Brothers and Lucille Ball and Stephen Colbert.

I love the fact that a hippie named Leon Varjian ran for mayor of Bloomington Indiana when I has in high school, and almost won. I love the guy in my old ward who ran for President every four years, on the platform that we need to get the CIA to tell us the truth about the space aliens. I love the fact that he would almost certainly be a better President than Sarah Palin. I love, though, that she’s a serious and viable candidate.  Also that Newt Gingrich can suggest that we colonize the moon and everyone in the media wondered stuff like ‘which demographic is he trying to appeal to’ instead of ‘is he kidding?’

I love Harvey Milk. I love Mo Udall. I love Bobby Kennedy. I love a country that can produce a Martin Luther King. I love every single word Taylor Branch wrote about him, and Malcolm X, and the entire amazing movement.

I love Rachel Maddow. I love Jon Stewart. I love Glen Beck, with his chalkboard and all those tears, and the idea that someone so clearly off his meds can be taken seriously as a political commentator.

I love the fact that a fast food restaurant chain can pile fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy, and cheese in a bowl, and call it a meal. I love the fact that in Provo, a restaurant called Fuddruckers thrived for awhile because they made a damn fine hamburger. I love a country where fine dining means Appleby’s, or Macaroni Grill.

I love the fact that our founding document says our purpose is to pursue happiness. I love that we built a country on that premise, the rights of people to have fun. Building hot rods, or fly fishing, or eating hot dogs competitively, or wine snobbery, or avant-garde art. Pursue happiness.

I love the fact that we named two continents after a small-town pimp and conman named Amerigo Vespucci, because he wasn’t a half-bad navigator, and a really good self-promoter.  I love that we also call our continent “Columbia” after a religious fanatic who was also a fabulously talented sailor. 

The Flag’s a piece of cloth. The Pledge’s thinly disguised propaganda. The Anthem’s a war song, from a battle that didn’t matter, in a war we lost, on which we were anyway fighting on the wrong side. America is Woody Guthrie singing ‘this land is your land, this land is my land.’ America is Sinatra singing New York New York, or Jay-Z singing New York State of Mind, or Lynyrd Skynyrd singing Sweet Home Alabama, even though they were wrong, and Neil Young was right, about Alabama. America is Aimee Mann singing Wise Up. It’s Gangsta’s Paradise. It’s Andy Kaufman, and REM’s song about Andy Kaufman, and Jim Carrey’s movie about Andy Kaufman.

I love the fact that John Lennon moved here and became a football fan.  I love that Mario Andretti moved here and won the Indy 500.  I love a country where an Austrian body-builder can move here and become a movie star and governor of California and married to a Kennedy.  I love the fact that my father, a Norwegian sheet metal worker, could become an opera star and locally famous singer of our National Anthem (though I’m not wild about that song.)

I love the San Francisco Giants, a baseball team built on wonderful pitchers, each with his own wildly idiosyncratic facial hair, except for their best pitcher, who has wildly idiosyncratic hair on his head. I also love that, in the midst of appalling racism, the same town in the south could produce Henry Aaron and Willie McCovey.  Above all, I love Willie Mays and Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonds and The Kung-Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval.

I love Scorcese movies and Quentin Tarantino movies and the vulgar poetry of David Mamet. I love Wes Anderson, and Paul Thomas Anderson, love Magnolia and There Will Be Blood and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I love the Coen Brothers and the Wachowski brothers even though one of them’s not a brother anymore and the Duplass brothers, and the fact that they’re going to make ten great movies over the next twenty years, with budgets and stars and Hollywood marketing, and their best movie will still be The Puffy Chair.

I love our cross dressers and our weightlifters and high school football coaches and kids who sing on cruise ships. I love the fact that in New York City there’s a little shop that only sells tee shirts with the F word on them. I love the fact that someone decided to put a Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City Utah, and someone else decided to build a little town, Branson Missouri, entirely on variety shows. I love our nuts and our weirdos and eccentrics.

 I love America.

Ten reasons I couldn’t be a politician

1) I would be lousy at fundraising.  It’s astonishing, how much time professional politicians have to spend getting people to give them money for their next campaign.  Imagine it, all those nights eating rubber chicken at some banquet hall, pretending some rich guy’s jokes are funny, or that his policy ideas are sensible.  No thanks.
2) I’ve read a lot, and thought a lot, and have pretty carefully reasoned views on a lot of issues.  But I don’t know everything, and I don’t have an opinion on everything.  But you’re supposed to.  I don’t think there’s any harm in saying “I don’t know squat about fracking and don’t have an opinion on it.”  But you’re not allowed to say that if you’re a politician. You either think fracking is an environment nightmare or that it’s a great, safe, technology.  What you can’t say is: “Dunno.  Beats me.”  Which I would say a lot. 
3) I also think there’s a lot to be said for changing your mind.  I have a son who is an economist.  He knows more about economics than I do.  I’ve studied economics, but if he has a different opinion than I have on some economic issue, odds are, he’s right.  I’d be the worst flip-flopper ever.
4) I don’t think disagreeing with someone makes them a bad person.  I also don’t think the ideas of my parties’ leaders matter one solitary hoot. I’d be a really bad partisan. 
5) I think abortion is an important and complex moral issue.  I don’t think it’s a political issue at all.  I think prayer in school is awesome.  I prayed my way all the way to a PhD.  Not a political issue.  I think there are a lot of moral issues that don’t lend themselves to political solutions or argument.  If, in a debate, I was asked if I was pro-choice or pro-life, I’d say ‘none of your doggone business.’ 
6) I figure, if the US has nuclear weapons, we’re hardly in a position to tell other countries they can’t have them.  In fact, I don’t think it’s our business to tell other countries what they can or cannot do, ever, about anything, unless they attack our citizens. 
7) I also don’t give a crap what my constituents think about anything.  I think most folks who write their members of Congress are responding emotionally to some slanted thing they read on the internet.  I’ll make up my own mind, thank you very much.
8) I also don’t give a crap if the women’s basketball team from my state won a NCAA title, or some such.  I like sports. I like ‘em a lot.  I’ll root for whoever I feel like rooting for. Don’t expect me to waste everyone’s time with some proclamation.  I don’t think sports has anything to do with politics.
9) On any issue, on any policy, the only real question is, will this help people?  Will this make the lives of ordinary citizens better?  Will this help families pay the bills and maybe get a little ahead in life?  If it’s good for some people and bad for others, then look at income brackets–if it’s good for poor people, I’m for it, even if it’s bad for rich people.  Easy litmus test.
10) I would accept, with gratitude, absolutely any free thing or goodie offered me by a lobbyist, long as it’s legal.  I would then vote however I darn well please. I’d make that clear from the start–’steak dinner, sweet! I still oppose your bill.’  If  a lobbyist wants to influence my vote, use logic, use evidence, support it with facts. Then I’d listen to the other side too before making up my mind.

Weird stuff we say in Church

In Church today, not for the first time, I was struck by the seriously strange things we say as Mormons that we never actually think about.  One of my favorites is: “The Book of Mormon is true.”  What do we mean by that?  We never say it about any other books.  We don’t say “I believe that Hawking’s A Brief History of Time or Newton’s Principia are true.”  We don’t say that about Hamlet, or Great Expectations or Huck Finn.  What exactly do we mean? Even stranger is “The Church is true.”  I’m not against saying that–I just don’t know what it means, except a sort of generic ‘yay, rah, us!’
I’m dumb that way.  In church today, we heard a talk about the afterlife, and someone mentioned ‘Spirit Prison.”  What’s Spirit Prison?  It suggests that spirits can be, in some sense, restrained, that there are cells to put them in, or shackles to fasten them with.  Doesn’t really fit my understanding of what ‘spirits’ can do. Seems they’d just float on out of that prison. Then I thought about haunted houses, where ghosts of people killed in some horrific way can’t leave the place where the horrificness happened.  Bingo!  Spirit Prison!  Then it made sense to me.  
It’s a curse, really, to hear some absolutely commonplace Mormon phrase and drive myself crazy trying to figure it out.  “Stakes” for example.  I get the tent metaphor, but if the main tent is in Missouri, and there are a million stakes holding it up on its west side, and twenty on its east side, that seems to me a seriously lopsided tent.  And, think about it, the name for one of our major organizational units is a tent peg?
We also have all these names we use for youth organizations.  I adore ‘Sunbeams.’  It just fits, their cute little smiles, their amazing running noses, those darling twenty minute tantrums. I love the Primary program, with the boys sucking on their clip-on ties, the girls with bows in their hair and band-aids on their knees.  As I left Church today, I saw three little kids sitting waiting for the next meeting.  One little boy had his suitcoat and tie, holding his basketball, another little boy was wearing seriously awesome looking shades.  And a little girl was beating her Barbie’s head in against the pew sides.  Sunbeams all.
But Beehives?  We named one of the age groups in our youth organization after 50′s hairstyles?  Mia Maids sounds like they’re hanging out with Robin Hood’s Merrie Men.  And Laurels reminds me of that mean-girl-black-comedy, Heathers.  Like, if you’re not named Laurel, you’re not cool enough to hang with us. 
We used to have two organizations for older single people: M-Men and Gleaners.  M-Men made it sound like guys couldn’t get married because of their stutter.  And Gleaners, isn’t that a lovely metaphor.  Like, all the good guys have already been harvested, so your job is to glean.  “Good enough for the dregs” should be their motto. 
I don’t get why we use ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ when we pray and never any other time, and I don’t get why we pray for ‘moisture’ instead of ‘rain,’ and I don’t get why we insist on ‘nourishing and strengthening’ our bodies.  Seems to me that if they’re nourished, they’ll also get stronger. 
I also don’t get why we’d want to ‘hie’ to Kolob.  But that’s another conversation altogether.

Dissing Sarah

I’m sort of into Sarah Palin. Not that I think she would make a good President.  I just love the story, the giant leaps from small town mayor to Alaska Governor, to Vice-Presidential candidate.  It’s all very Horatio Alger, very Frank Capra. 
I’ve recently read two books about her.  One is Blind Allegiance: a Memoir of Our Time, by Frank Bailey.  Bailey was her campaign manager when she ran for Governor, a long-time friend and ally, an evangelical Christian and true believer.  The other is Joe McGinniss’ The Rogue:  Searching for the real Sarah Palin. 
The books have similar agendas, to warn America about the dangers inherent in a Sarah Palin presidency.  Bailey once admired her; he was lied to and mistreated and fired, and his book is about his story, his humiliation at her hands.  McGinniss is the journalist who, rather famously, rented the house next door to hers in Wasilla.  She overreacted so tremendously to his presence there–which admittedly could have been annoying if they had ever interacted at all in any way– that he basically repeats every bit of gossip anyone would tell him about her. 
Both books tell us that she’s a nasty bit of work.  She’s vindictive, she’s thin-skinned, she’s mean-spirited, she was bad at her job as governor.  Her marriage is rocky, her parenting skills suspect, her past history carefully whitewashed.  Fine, they don’t like her.  Bailey doesn’t like her because she treated him badly and McGinniss doesn’t like her because she went sort of berserk when he moved in next door.  Well, if someone was writing a hatchet job book about me and moved in to the house next door, I wouldn’t care for it either. On the other hand, the previous next-door tenants used the house as a meth lab, and Sarah never complained about that so . . ..
I tend to discount McGinniss.  He uses all these anonymous quotes, which means he’s basically repeating gossip.  Lots of people in Wasilla can’t stand her.  Others love her.  He doesn’t interview them, because he moved in next door, which means her friends wouldn’t talk to him.  His big revelation–she had an affair with basketball star Glen Rice–is no big deal.  He also doesn’t think Trig–her youngest, Downs Syndrome baby–is hers.  He follows up best he can on the whole faked pregnancy allegation, and concludes–well, he doesn’t so much conclude as insinuate.  Trig’s not hers.  She bought a baby so she could be a heroine for pro-lifers by carrying a Downs Syndrome child to term. The alternative, McGinniss suggests, is that her whole story about the birth–she was in Dallas, her water broke, but she gave her speech and then flew back to Alaska to her regular doctor–is true, in which case she was guilty of incredibly poor judgment on her part and medical malpractice on her doctor’s part. 
Me, I loathe conspiracy theories.  Until some hard evidence surfaces, I’ll go with poor judgment and bad doctoring. 
Lots of people adore Sarah Palin and lots of people loathe her, and I’m in the middle.  I think she was in way over her head trying to run a state, and that she’s pretty thin-skinned.  I think she’s more shrewd than bright, and was woefully ill-prepared for national politics.  I also think she has amazing political charisma, sharp instincts, and a real knack for image politics.  She should never be President, and never will be.  She’s got the job right now she was born for.  She hosts a TV show.  It’s pretty entertaining. That’s enough. 

Awake: the unequivocal best show on television ever (until I change my mind))

There’s a certain kind of show on television that is awesome, and critics love it, and the fan base is nuts about it, and because it’s so unusual and great, it doesn’t get good ratings and ends up getting canceled, infuriating everyone who cares about it.  It makes me think that TV ratings should have a passion indicator.  Nobody cared when The Playboy Club got canceled, because nobody actually cared about that show.  But when Firefly got canceled–it felt like the end of the world, like we lost something magical and wonderful and irreplaceable.
And yeah, it’s just TV and who cares?  I care.  The best writing I know is happening on TV right now.  It’s where art is happening.  Also a lot of garbage, which is all the more reason to embrace the good.
So this is another show like that, another Pushing Daisies, another Persons Unknown.  It’s called Awake, and it’s awesome.
So: Awake.
Jason Isaacs (who played Draco Malfoy’s Dad) is an LA detective, married, with a teenaged son.  He’s involved in a terrible auto accident, and a family member’s killed, his son Rex, (Dylan Minnette) or his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen).  Since the accident, he lives in two parallel realities, one in which his son was killed, and he and his wife are trying to work through that pain and heartbreak, and one in which his wife was killed, and he and his son are trying to cope.  Every time he wakes from a night’s sleep, he’s in the opposite reality from the one he was in the night before. 
He regularly consults two psychiatrists, one in each reality, each convinced that his/hers is the actual reality and that the other one is a dream. But although both psychiatrists want him to abandon, in their view, unhealthy dream states, he resists.  He doesn’t want to lose his wife or son, and in his weird dual reality, both are alive.  Just not together.
In both worlds, he’s a homicide detective, but he has different partners in each, and different relationships with co-workers.  But in both worlds, he’s become, since his accident, almost spooky good at his job.  This is because he finds clues to cases in one reality that affect his understanding of the other reality.  So his partners keep asking “why did you insist on checking out that warehouse, there are twenty warehouses here, why that one?  And he can’t tell them it’s because of something someone told him in the other reality.
Oh, yeah, and there are also these tantalizing suggestions of a larger conspiracy of some kind, involving his boss, played by Laura Innes.  
Isaacs is wonderful.  The writing, by a guy I’ve never heard of named Kyle Killen, is tremendous.  It even works well as a police procedural–the cases he solves are genuinely intriguing, though that’s not the main thrust of the thing. 
I think one reason people haven’t embraced it is because of the nature of the storytelling.  If you missed the pilot, you think you won’t be able to follow the overall narrative.  This is not an unrealistic fear, and I do suggest you go on Hulu or something and watch the pilot.  But watch it.  It’s either the best psychological drama I’ve seen in years, or the best alt-reality sci-fi show, or the best cop show.  Kind of all three.  It’s great, genuinely great, Mad Men-level great.  And it’s in trouble.  So save it.  Watch it.  You won’t regret it–my wife and I both think it’s the best thing we’ve seen in years.

Joan of Arc and Queen Yolande

Just finished a terrific book: The Maid and the Queen: the Secret history of Joan of Arc by Nancy Goldstone.  It’s about Queen Yolande of Aragon, mother-in-law to the dauphin who would become King Charles VII, and it’s about the visionary peasant girl named Joan, who Yolande discovered and whose appeal she utilized.

Why hasn’t anyone else written about Queen Yolande before? As Goldstone puts it, the best way to ensure historical anonymity is to be a woman.  I think it’s more than that, though.  We love the story of Joan from a religious perspective.  In order for Joan to even get to see Charles required the intervention of lots of powerful and important men.  We like the narrative in which they heard Joan out, were moved by her, were converted by her, and against their training and instincts and cultural inclinations and respect for power, decided to advance her interests.  That’s a great story: God converted all these powerful men, so His righteous purposes could proceed through her.

More likely, someone was behind the scenes, making it happen.  And the person doing the string-pulling was a masterful, subtle, brilliant politician.  Yolande of Aragon was not just Charles’ mother-in-law.  She basically raised him.  He was allowed to visit her as a child when his marriage contract was signed for him to marry Marie, Yolande’s daughter, and the exigencies of war made it difficult for him to leave.  Yolande was the closest Charles ever had to a mother.

But Charles was irresolute.  An intelligent man, and eventually a strong and capable king, early in his life he was paralyzed with indecision.  The English siege of Orleans needed to be lifted, and Charles’ generals couldn’t get him to give the necessary orders.  So when Yolande heard about this peasant girl who was going around saying God was speaking to her, she must have thought that getting that girl to meet her son-in-law could motivate him.  

Goldstone’s research is impeccable, and the story she tells is a marvelous one.  I don’t mean to suggest that Joan’s own character and conviction and courage weren’t important–Goldstone clearly loves Joan, loves writing about her, admires her.  But Yolande was just as admirable and just as important.  If, as some have suggested, there would have been no France but for Joan, well, there would have been no Joan but for Yolande.

As a Mormon, as a believing Christian, I want to believe in Joan’s voices, I want to believe that she was a fifteenth century Deborah, a prophetess.  But her mission was . . . to kick the English out of France?  God’s purposes were advanced by . . . creating France?  Shaw’s play argues that nationalism was a political advance important enough to warrant divine intervention.  Well, maybe.

But as a political junky, I love it.  I love reading about a master politician at the height of her powers.  And best of all is the post-script.  Yolande ended up raising, and teaching, a favorite grand-daughter.  Her name was Margaret.  You may remember her from Shakespeare.  That’s Queen Margaret of Anjou–Yolande schemed and plotted and finally got this pretty obscure girl married off to King Henry VI of England.  And she became the central figure in the Wars of the Roses.  A nice revenge for Agincourt, n’est pas?

Mormons running for President–Mitt and Mo

So I guess a Mormon is running for President or something.  Who knew? 
This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last.  If Mitt loses (a consummation devoutly to be wished) Jon Huntsman is angling for his shot in 2016, trying to attract the ‘non-crazy Republican’ vote, which means he’s doomed.  Joseph Smith was running for President when the state of Illinois collectively shot him, and George Romney looked to have a chance to win the nomination, until he got caught telling the truth about Vietnam. 
Then there’s Mo Udall.  I was on a mission when he ran, in ’76.  A Mormon, positioning himself as the further left alternative to Jimmy Carter.  Yep–that wasn’t a typo.
Mo was tall and funny and had one glass eye and was a good basketball player, and was liberal in all the important ways.  Pro-environment.  He added half of Alaska to the National Park system, and fought to increase their funding.  He was pro-Indians, figuring apparently that, having stolen their land, we could at least let ‘em fleece us in casinos. 
Best of all, he was funny.  After losing another primary in ’76, he said he felt like the missionary sent to convert a tribe of cannibals.  “They listened intently to every word he had to say.  And then they ate him.”  He loved to joke about his eye–said he was collecting one-eyed man jokes. I recommend his book Too funny to be President. It’s still in print, I think. 
And yes, he was a Mormon.  Up to a point–spoke out strongly against the LDS position on blacks and priesthood, despised Vietnam and challenged those in the Church who supported it. 
Thing about Mo is, he knew what he believed, and he stood up for it.  He was a liberal who won race after race in conservative Arizona because people knew he was a straight shooter–he’d tell ‘em directly what he was for and against, and they appreciated that.  His son Mark, who is now in the Senate, is the same way. 
Mitt Romney stands for . . . not sure.  Lower taxes for millionaires.  Um . . . something something restore confidence in America.  He likes America, apparently.  And Michigan’s trees, because they’re just the right height. And motherhood–in fact, that’s been a thing; some idiot on TV dissed Moms on TV, and now that’s supposedly the official policy of the Obama administration, or something equally Fox-y. 
Here’s the thing: I remember with great pride the Salt Lake Olympics.  It was the coolest thing to ever happen in our state, and we took the kids up to Olympic Park and to a couple of the cheaper events and it was amazing.  And for awhile, the Olympics were in scandal-ridden trouble.  Mitt took over, and ran a very good Olympics.  I feel some warm fuzzies over that achievement.
Mitt Romney’s a successful businessman, with no real ideological attachments politically.  He has zero political instincts.  He’s gaffe-prone.  He’s running for President, so he’ll say anything, because I think he thinks that policy positions don’t matter–what matters is problem-solving. This might even be true sometimes.  But politics right now is defined by the tea party right.  And they’re crazy.  They have to be stood up to, because their ideas would be catastrophic. 
If Mitt’d won the nomination in 2008, he might have made an okay president then.  Following a terrible President, a non-ideological problem-solver might have been what we needed.  Right now, it’s not.  He’s the worst possible candidate for this moment in history. Not a bad guy, but not the right choice today.    

Mirror Mirror

It’s gotten to the point that terms like ‘post-modern’ or ‘deconstruction’ don’t mean anything anymore.  I’m not saying this is a bad thing, or that we should cut it out.  They’re the water we swim in, the air we breathe.  Everything’s inter-textual, everything’s a deconstruction, everything’s irony and snark, and that’s probably healthy and at least it’s not without value.  But it’s a scary and violent world, and maybe we should think about that a bit too. 

I thought that when I watched Mirror Mirror last night.  It’s a fairy tale, it’s Snow White.  And fairy tales are genuinely scary, genuinely full of real monsters and human cruelty. I kept thinking “well, it’s a bit like Shrek, oh, that bit reminds me of Stardust, oh, look, a Bollywood ending.”  None of this diminished my enjoyment of the film–it was fun and light and attractive and passed the time agreeably enough.  It’s another deconstruction of fairy tales, because fairy tales are hot right now and since we don’t do anything but deconstruct them, well, this is another deconstruction.

What we’re really deconstructing, of course, isn’t the Grimm brothers or Asbjornson and Moe, we’re deconstructing Disney.  That’s our way in.  At a key point in the film, Snow White (Lily Collins) locks the Prince (The Winklevoss Twins) up, because, although she knows the hero is supposed to rescue the princess, screw that.  She says it “that’s one way to tell a story, but I’m the Princess, I’m heir to the throne, this is my problem, I’m going to fight the Monster.”  And the Prince says “I like the old story, it’s a perfectly good story, let’s go back to that story.”  And he does end up escaping the seven dwarfs’ house (and, another deconstruction, they’re not Sleepy and Sneezy and Dopey, but have much more dignified names, like Half-Pint and Grub and Chuckles) and fighting the Beast (or Monster or what evs), though she beats it, she deals it the death blow.  Well, she has to do that–our mythology requires that nod to girl power.  Point is, they fight it together.  And that’s fine, I like that, but  . . . you know, sometimes evil wins.  Mostly evil wins. 

One of the main ideas in the movie, as in Stardust, is beautiful women, and the lengths they’ll go to to not let aging win.  Michelle Pfeiffer in that, Julia Roberts in this; they’re both fighting the inevitable ravages of time, using the darkest of dark magic.  Julia Roberts, as the Evil Queen, also has her own beauty regimen, involving leeches and bees and big goopy handfuls of parrot poop.  As a parody of Hollywood and botox, it was one of the funniest moments in a film that pretty much went for laughs whenever.

But then the Queen has to raise money for her wedding to the Prince, and she taxes the peasants, and they’re all dirt poor, like, parodies of poorness in the costume choices.  And, so, okay, she’s a 1 percenter, and she’s taxing poor people–a tiny nod to the real world.  But it’s all pretty fleeting–mostly it just gives Snow White a chance to go all Robin Hood on poor Lord Nathan Lane, the Queen’s right hand cockroach.  (Literally–to punish him, she turns him into a cockroach.)
The movie was great to look at, and Lily Collins is lovely and probably can act a little, though she didn’t show it much here, and I loved seeing Mare Winningham as a kindly cook.  And I needed light entertainment, and it was duly provided.  Just wish it had been a little better, a little more creative, a little more real.  Like all those other movies it kept reminding me.