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Friday, November 21, 2003

8 Thanksgiving blunders her family won't forget
By Laura J. Schaefer

The holidays are a time of family togetherness and good cheer ... in movies. In real-life, they are probably the first time you will be bringing home your new guy and silently praying for a smooth dinner. Don't worry, however, if hijinks ensue. Your holiday can't be any worse than the following hilarious Thanksgiving debacles:

1. Please pass the pectorals
"In the middle of dinner, my new guy told everyone that he was a bodybuilder (as if they couldn't tell from his too-tight t-shirt). When no one looked suitably impressed, he took off his shirt and flexed for them. I wanted to die."

2. Don't forget to hang up your coat ... and your phone
"I hadn't known my new guy for very long when the holidays came around. Since his family lived in a different state, he came home with me. Everything would have been fine if he had turned his cell phone off. Instead, he took four calls in the middle of our Thanksgiving meal. My dad wanted to strangle him."

3. Perhaps the "secret family recipe" should remain secret
"In the middle of dinner, my mom and grandma started discussing a recipe for burgoo, which no one who lives anywhere near an urban area would know about. Unfortunately, my date realized that they were talking about squirrel meat just as he had taken a large bite of what he thought was turkey stuffing. The spit-take that resulted sent his half-chewed food (which did not contain squirrel) all the way across the table."

4. A dash of pepper and a dash for the door
"My dad is famous for his cooking disasters. So, no one was too surprised when his turkey sent flames shooting out of the oven along with a billow of smoke. No one, that is, except my date, who — in full-on George Costanza mode — yelled 'Fire!' and pushed past my bemused relatives for the door."

5. Splitting the wishbone would be a safer superstition
"My date wanted to entertain my family with a trendy new skill he had picked up. Unfortunately, his idea of a good time meant reading the tarot for my relatives. When he pulled out the death card for my grandma, she started crying. We had to leave in a hurry."

6. Stick with pilgrims for the next history lesson
"My family is very traditional, so I was nervous about bringing my new boyfriend home from college for Thanksgiving. The talk at dinner turned to a famous statue of Abe Lincoln that was located at the center of our campus. My date related the legend of how old Abe stood up when a virgin walked by. My family looked uncomfortable until my aunt said brightly, 'He must stand up everyday for Susie!' It would have been fine if my date hadn't snorted and started laughing ... until I kicked him."

7. Sometimes you can be too thankful
"My new boyfriend was quite appreciative of my, 'well-endowed' figure. Unfortunately, he came home with me for Thanksgiving. Upon meeting my mother and grandmother, he looked directly at my chest and said, 'I guess they really are real.' Thank goodness my grandma is a little hard of hearing."

8. A glass of wine with dinner is good for the heart — or was that four?
"My date made an innocent mistake: He confessed to being in medical school. Thanksgiving dinner talk turned into a litany of health issues, described in graphic detail by my aging relatives. Everyone loves free medical advice. Too bad all of his wisdom was colored by three or four glasses of wine. I think my great aunt might actually try to cure her arthritis with Vitamin C."

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The Healing Power of Friendship
By Melinda Marshall

Fun and Functional

On the morning after September 11th, just before dawn, I walked over to my friend Mary Ann's and knocked tentatively on her door. She appeared, in her bathrobe.

"I know it's early," I blurted, "but I haven't slept all night and I thought -- well -- want to go for a walk?"

The moon was still out, mind you. But Mary Ann threw on some clothes and we set out, at a blistering pace, to talk ourselves through the first waking hour of the second-most difficult day in American history.

Crises have always driven me to my friends' doorsteps. Now I know that the reason is at least partly health-related. Stress makes us secrete oxytocin, the hormone that triggers milk letdown in nursing mothers, according to Shelley Taylor, Ph.D., professor of psychology at UCLA and author of The Tending Instinct. Not that we start suddenly lactating. But we women do feel a heightened desire to nurture -- to "tend and befriend," as Taylor puts it. We're more inclined to seek out friends and reach out to family. Social support brings down our blood pressure, signals our adrenal glands to stop pumping out corticosteroids, and voila! We feel less anxious, less overwrought, less overwhelmed. We may even live longer as a result of coping this way: Taylor says the friendship response to stress may explain why women outlive men.

So, do you have enough good friends? Are you making new ones?

Making Time

I know, it's a challenge. We modern-day wives and mothers are breathtakingly busy. We're already scrambling to spend quality time with our kids; we're guilt-stricken about how little time is left over for our husbands; we're desperate for a little downtime for ourselves. Just how are we supposed to find the time to have a meaningful conversation with anyone outside our home or office?

Supposedly, cell phones and e-mails are the answer. They allow us to make use of those tiny windows of opportunity -- the "downtime" we experience while we're chauffeuring around our kids, for instance, or waiting for a plane or a doctor.

In my experience, however, real relationships are never built and rarely sustained on these info-bit exchanges. That's because one or both parties are doing something else while conversing: trawling the aisles of a supermarket, maybe, or driving the interstate. And when the person you're conversing with isn't able to give you her full attention, it's hard, if not impossible, to feel heard, let alone understood. It fails to comfort because it's not nurturing -- kind of the way popcorn fails to satisfy, even if you eat a bucketful, because it's not nourishing.

Worse, it's hard not to actively resent someone who demands your full attention when she's offering only half of hers. I have a neighbor who has a headset mobile phone. The minute she's in her car or otherwise multitasking, she puts in a call to me -- interrupting my family's dinner, summoning me in from the garden, waking us on Saturday morning on her way to soccer practice. And for what? The tiniest of questions, the most passing of thoughts, the slightest of impulses. She has, after all, "only a minute."

If I've learned anything in my harried life, it's that I won't just find the time for my friends; I have to make it. I've got to prioritize face time, schedule get-togethers, and then honor them instead of canceling at the last minute with a quick message left on the answering machine. In fact, anything administered in the way of a quick fix -- a volley of e-mails, a cell phone "check-in," even long messages left on the answering machine -- turns out to be counterproductive to real soul-restoring contact. And I can't be complacent about making new friendships, either. I have to put myself out there if I ever hope to meet others with whom I could have a connection.

Knitting the Network

As you sow, so shall you reap. That's what I tell myself whenever I think I cannot summon the energy or sacrifice the time needed to build up my friendship network. It helps to remind myself that for every hour I've given my full attention to my children or husband, I am enjoying the fruits tenfold. For every walk I've taken, every lunch I've shared, every souls-bared conversation I've held with friends, I am indeed more secure in my skin and more confident in my powers to cope.

But the payoff isn't just psychological. The support of a wide network of friends, in fact, may be the cheapest medicine you can buy. A considerable number of studies document the positive effects of social ties on physical health and longevity. One, from the Harvard School of Public Health, found that men with strong social ties had an 82 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease than men who were more socially isolated. The study's lead author, Eric Rimm, Sc.D., associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition, believes the risk reduction is similar for women. As for keeping you young, a key predictor of physical and mental health as you age is your degree of social connections, says Gary Small, M.D., author of The Memory Bible and a professor of aging and psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine. "People who are socially involved live longer," he says. "They enjoy better overall health and have better cognitive functioning."

These are all pretty strong arguments for making time for the friends you have and for refining your befriending techniques. I have more priorities vying for my attention than I did 10 years ago, but I no longer waste time looking for love in all the wrong places. See if at least one of these tactics works for you:

Find something larger than yourself to force relationship-building time into your schedule. I've filled up a whole new page in my address book with women who are walking with me on an Avon breast cancer three-day fund-raiser. The event bonds us on a number of levels: We all have to train for the 60-mile walk, we all have to raise thousands of dollars, and we all feel there's no copping out. I meet four fellow walkers Thursday mornings, two on Sunday afternoons, and one every Tuesday evening, which shoehorns six hours of uninterrupted gab time into my week. I'd never have prioritized either the walking or the talking if I hadn't committed myself to something this gigantic.

Don't wait to be invited. Nobody ever asked me to join a book club. So I started one. A friend of mine and I each invited three of our non-mutual friends to participate in a once-a-month discussion. We established important ground rules, such as 1) it helps to have read the book, 2) all diets are suspended for the evening, 3) wine goes just fine with chocolate cake, and 4) even though literature is the topic of the day, at least an hour will be devoted to discussing our husbands, children and neighbors. We're in our 10th year.
Confide your worst fears to absolute strangers. A good way to bypass all that nasty one-upmanship women engage in when they feel insecure is to simply throw your insecurity on the table. I got to know my new friend Adriane when I announced at a Girl Scout function that I was ready to set my hair on fire with regard to my son's academic difficulties. Because Adriane had a daughter with similar issues, she couldn't do enough to hook me up with people she'd found helpful.

Throw a party where the guest of honor does all the inviting. There's no network more instant than your friend's friends. I met four women I intend to know better by hosting my pal Gina's afternoon birthday party. Gina came up with the invitation list; I furnished the Pinot Grigio, the pasta salad, and the two-hour window in which we got to know each other without it seeming like we were trying. Each guest was told to bring a funny story about Gina instead of a gift, which I must say worked even better than the wine to loosen up the crowd. Lots of children got home that afternoon to find their moms in downright better moods than usual.

Get a hobby you need help on. I took up knitting on a whim. Alarmingly, the sweater I was making quickly took on the proportions of a fire hydrant. I asked everyone I knew if they could help me and lo! I met Elise, a knitter who taught me the importance of not fudging the gauge. I also learned that you can share an awful lot about yourself while unraveling 500 yards of worsted.

Take a class. What could be more efficient in steering you to like-minded individuals than a course catalog? Sign up for a seminar if you can, instead of a large lecture: It's easier to zero in on a compatible classmate when you can sit back and listen to what she has to contribute. (And if you don't click with your classmates, there's always the professor to befriend. That's how I met Nina, who introduced me to all her colleagues, so now I don't even have to pay tuition to hear what they have to say.)

Remember that watching Friends isn't the same as having them. I know the temptation: You just want to zone out. You want to vegetate. You want to recharge your batteries with an hour or two of passive entertainment. But remember, none of those fascinating TV characters are ever going to take you out for your birthday or bring your family lasagne when you've got the flu. Same with those Internet liaisons. Sure, it's possible one might turn out to be your best friend for life and live in the next town over, but hey -- maybe you'll win the lottery, too. Real relationships require real face time. Don't let TV -- or any other virtual reality -- rob you of it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

4 Simple (but Surprising) Ways Men Express Their Love

"I can sleep with her, marry her, take care of her, but love -- that's something else," said Tony, a married man in his late 40s. "Guys don't like to talk about love. They don't know what to say. Of course guys feel love. But they express it differently."

Why don't most men just come out and tell us the way they feel? In my years spent as a therapist, I've learned that love can make men feel vulnerable, childlike and unable to do what's expected of them, especially those who believe they're functioning in a dog-eat-dog world. Still men do love, and different types of men express their love differently. In fact, love means different things to a man, at different times in his life. This means that a woman needs to be alert to who her man is and what love means to him. If you're frustrated with waiting to hear those three magic words, take a look at what your man may already be saying -- in other ways:

Simply Saying "I Love You"

Actually, saying these three words is a huge step for some men. That's because it means a lot more than simply expressing a feeling. For some it feels like a life commitment, for others it is fraught with danger.

"When I say I love you," said Steve, "I feel like I'm taking my life in my hands and giving it to her. It's scary. I've got to really trust her and know she won't throw my love away in order to actually say the words to her." In this case, the fear of rejection comes up strongly. Rejection is enormously painful for most men, and saying "I love you" can be an invitation to be hurt. Most men must feel very secure in the relationship and in the woman's feelings for him before he'll dare say those words.

For others, saying "I love you" means, "I'm offering a commitment. I'm going to be here to do things for you." For many men, love is expressed through action, so these words are a promise of what is to follow. Simply by saying these words they feel they are agreeing to be there, to give to her and support her. If they don't do it, they'll feel like a heel.

When some men say "I love you," it means "I'm not leaving" or "I'll always be faithful." This can be very scary for some men. They feel the words themselves are a promise, and if the promise is broken, they will suffer as well. Men don't want to break their promises to you. Most want to be able to follow through and give you what they want. In the end, they just want you to feel good about them -- and to feel good about themselves as well.

Offering Tokens of Affection

There are many different kinds of gifts a man can give. The obvious ones include those wrapped in packages, candy, flowers and special notes. But there are others that a woman may or may not be aware of. For example, for some men, giving their time to you is a gift. When they spend more time with you, and less with family and friends, this is their way of saying that they love you. They are choosing to be with you.

Some other men choose other gifts. Whether your partner stands up for you during a difficult time, goes with you to visit your family, does little jobs for you, attends important functions with you, puts you first in his thoughts or plans trips, dates or outings, the message is the same. He loves you. If this sounds like your man, keep in mind he, like many men, may not be comfortable with expressing his feelings directly, so these behaviors are indicators that he cares a great deal. The trick to understanding a guy like this lies in realizing two things: These actions are being generated out of love, and he expects you to know that.

Showing You Affection

Affection can mean anything from handholding to lovemaking. In fact, some men can most easily express their feelings during lovemaking. That's because after being intimate they feel as though they've loved you, and often feel loved as well. The physical contact breaks down barriers and provides a feeling of closeness that cannot be so easily be obtained in another manner for them.

This can be a complex area, because sex can mean so many different things to different individuals. Most women need affection and foreplay as well as the sex because this is what makes them feel loved. Some women even require hearing words of love spoken during this time as well. So when a man is open, giving and affectionate with a woman on an ongoing basis, it is often his way of expressing love. For him, love means meeting her needs and having his needs met as well.

Still other men use sexuality to avoid or cover up areas in the relationship that might be difficult. They feel that if the sex is good, everything else will fall into place. Usually, when the sex is reluctant, or not happening, it is an indicator that something is missing emotionally, or that conflict exists in the relationship. Sex is a sensitive barometer to what's going on in all aspects of one's life.

Introducing You to His Family

Another way of saying "I love you" is taking you home to meet the family and close, meaningful friends. This is often an indicator that the man has deeper feelings for you. Not only does it say that that he's proud of you, but he wants to connect you with the people who mean the most to him. He wants you to care about them, and for them to care about you as well. This is a sure sign that intimacy and love are increasing for him, and that you are becoming a significant part of his life. Some women complain a great deal about not having met the family and being kept separate and apart. When this goes on for too long in a relationship, it can be a sign that the depth of his feelings for you, and his involvement, are lacking.

Some men compartmentalize relationships. They have someone for dating, someone for sex, someone else for the kind of love that leads to marriage. By being aware of the people in his life that he introduces you to and includes you with, you can get a good idea of how he operates in this area. Does he want you in all parts of his life, or is this a limited relationship? Love, in the deepest sense, includes sharing all parts of ourselves with another.

It is helpful to keep a little journal of your relationship. So many acts and expressions of love go unnoticed and unfelt, because we simply get used to them or become too busy to stop and take note -- or to stop and say thank- you. Take a few minutes each evening to note what you received that day, and also what you gave. Write it down. Be specific. List everything, like phone calls, kind words, a surprise visit, etc. You'll be amazed when you look back and realize all the ways your partner is giving to you. Plus, it'll help you find new ways to give back to him.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Actor Art Carney dead at 85
Associated Press

Hartford, Conn. — Art Carney, who played Jackie Gleason's sewer worker pal Ed Norton in the TV classic The Honeymooners and went on to win the 1974 Oscar for best actor in Harry and Tonto, has died at 85.

Carney died in Chester, Conn., on Sunday and was buried on Tuesday after a small private funeral. He had been ill for some time.

The comic actor would be forever identified as Norton, Ralph Kramden's bowling buddy and not-too-bright upstairs neighbour on The Honeymooners. The sitcom appeared in various forms from 1951 to 1956 and was revived briefly in 1971. The shows can still be seen on cable.

With his turned-up porkpie hat and unbuttoned vest over a white T-shirt, Carney's Ed Norton with his exuberant "Hey, Ralphie boy!" became an ideal foil for Gleason's blustery, bullying Kramden. Carney won three Emmys for his role and his first taste of fame.

"The first time I saw the guy act," Gleason once said, "I knew I would have to work twice as hard for my laughs. He was funny as hell."

In one episode, Norton and Ralph learn to golf from an instruction book. Told to "address the ball," Norton waves his hand and says, "Hellooooo, ball!" In another episode, Norton inadvertently wins the award for best costume at a Raccoon Lodge party by showing up in his sewer worker's gear. Another time, the loose-limbed Norton teaches Ralph a finger-popping new dance called the Hucklebuck.

Carney told a Saturday Evening Post interviewer in 1961 that strangers were always asking him how he liked it down in the sewer. "I have seasonal answers," he said. "In the summer: 'I like it down there because it's cool.' In the winter: 'I like it down there because it's warm.' Then I've got one that isn't seasonal: 'Go to hell.'"

After The Honeymooners, Carney battled a drinking problem for several years. His behaviour became erratic while co-starring with Walter Matthau in the Broadway run of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple in the 1960s. He dropped out of the show and spent nearly half a year in a sanitarium.

His career resumed, and in 1974 he was cast in Paul Mazurksy's Harry and Tonto as a 72-year-old widower who travels from New York to Chicago with his pet cat. He stopped drinking during the making of the film.

When it won him his Oscar, Carney wisecracked: "You're looking at an actor whose price has just doubled."

"Art was and is one of the most endearing men I have ever met," the late actress Audrey Meadows (the caustic Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners) wrote in her 1994 memoir Love, Alice. She called him a "witty and delightful companion who went out of his way to help each new actor find his niche" on the show.

Carney was born into an Irish-Catholic family in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Nov. 4, 1918, and baptized Arthur William Matthew Carney. His father was a newspaperman and publicist.

After appearing in amateur theatricals and imitating radio personalities, Carney won a job in 1937 travelling with Horace Heidt's dance band, doing his impressions and singing novelty songs.

"There I was, an 18-year-old mimic rooming with a blind whistler," he told People magazine in 1974. "He would order gin and grapefruit juice for us in the morning, and it was great.... No responsibilities, no remorse. I was an alcoholic, even then."

Later he won a job at $225 (U.S.) a week imitating Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and other world leaders on a radio show, Report to the Nation.

He was drafted into the army in 1944 and took part in the D-Day landing at Normandy. A piece of shrapnel shattered his right leg. He was left with a leg three-quarters of an inch shorter than the other and a lifelong limp.

Carney returned to radio as second banana on comedy shows, then ventured into television on The Morey Amsterdam Show in 1947. That brought him to the attention of Gleason.

Among his movie credits: W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings, The Late Show, House Calls, Movie Movie, Sunburn, Going in Style, Roadie, Firestarter, The Muppets Take Manhattan and Last Action Hero.

Around Westbrook, where he and his wife had a waterfront home, Carney was known around town as "Mr. C."

Family friend Janice Buglini remembered how Carney came to cheer up her 11-year-old daughter, who had leukemia. "He would bring ice cream over for her and a lobster — anything she wanted," Buglini said.

Carney married his high-school sweetheart, Jean Myers, in 1940. After the marriage broke up, Carney married Barbara Isaac in 1966. They divorced 10 years later, and in 1980 he and his first wife remarried.

"We always kept in touch because of our three children," he said in a 1980 AP interview. "After our second divorces, it was sort of like the puppy coming home: 'Oh, it's you, come on in.' We decided to give it a go again."

Carney was the last surviving member of the four principal characters of The Honeymooners. Gleason died in 1987 and Meadows in 1996. Joyce Randolph, who played Carney's wife, Trixie, died in 1998.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Does your guy need space?
Margot Carmichael Lester

How many times have you been totally into a guy who seems totally into you, only to have him suddenly tell you he needs more space? What does it mean and what can you do?

"Guys need more space than women," says Mark, 37. "You wouldn't want us if all we wanted was you; you'd think we were too needy. Asking for some space doesn't usually mean anything more than wanting some time to do something on our own."

Sometimes, however, the request does mean something. "If he includes the phrase 'seeing other people,' he's not asking for space," Mark quips, "He's asking for early release. The best thing you can do is to honor his request. Maybe he just wants some time to decide if he's really ready to get serious with you."

A healthy dose of space
That was the case with Joe, 37. "I was totally into Kate," he recalls, "but I wasn't sure I was ready for a serious, adult relationship. So I asked her if we could back off."

Kate, 32, complied. "It was hard, but it was the right thing to do. I didn't want a guy who didn't want a relationship, but I also knew if I wanted a chance with Joe, I'd have to give him some space."

Her move paid off. After four months of not seeing each other, while still trading periodic emails, Joe suggested they meet for coffee. "It was great seeing her, and I decided I wanted to take a step toward dating again ... a baby step."

Today Joe and Kate see each other frequently. "It wouldn't have happened if she'd gotten mad at me for asking for the room. That would have ended it forever."

Dealing with it
How can you avoid being devastated if your guy asks for some space?

"The best thing is always to have a well-rounded, well-developed sense of yourself," counsels psychoanalyst Sheila Newton, PhD, MFT. "If you have your own hobbies, friends and interests, you remain an independent individual with your own life."

Not having a balance between your lives together and apart can be detrimental. "Always being available and too often anticipating the other's needs can cause a sense of smothering and too much familiarity," Newton explains. "There's no mystery, and it robs the other person of the opportunity to do some investing into the relationship."

If you find yourself in a similar situation, Newton offers this advice: "Take a look at the driving need behind wanting to be together all the time, such as being lonely, not wanting to be alone and the big one — fear of abandonment."

The bottom line is that doing things on your own, independent of your relationship, is normal and healthy. It shows you take interest in your own development. Newton says, "If you're not interested in yourself, your partner will lose interest in you rather quickly."

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Dumb critics versus Matrix Revolutions
by Dragonfirexx

I give Matrix Revolutions a 7 out of 10 and the same score that I gave Matrix Reloaded. I think many critics are bashing Matrix Revolutions because doing so is an opportunity to look cool by going against the grain and bashing a major movie, Matrix is Sci-Fi (computer and technology related which some hate) as oppose to a slow boring drama with little ticket sales that only jaded critics like, and Matrix Revolutions followed an unconventional format which forces people to think about the answers. Furthermore, critics that gave Matrix Reloaded passing scores are showing hypocrisy by turning around and trying to bash Matrix Revolutions because essentially Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions are 2 parts of the same long movie. The plot twists, creativity, and special effects are of the same stuff. It is not like Matrix Reloaded came out 4 years ago, it came out a few months ago so how can you be bored of all of its special effects and Matrix Revolutions did throw in a few surprises. The purpose of Matrix Revolutions is NOT to give a fruity critic a damn Oragasm in his/her seat, but to provide entertainment and Matrix Revolutions delivered on the Entertainment and then some. Many critics are simply not into computers, technology, Minority or Black characters being onscreen, Kung Fu, Dance Music, looking "cool" or thinking. If the movie ain't like an up close slow talking head that is spewing boring crap you see and do in the suburbs everyday, a classic Walt Disney, or "Gone with the Wind" than they just can't "GET IT".

The Meaning of Matrix Revolutions

The key to understanding the nature of the Matrix is to understand the ORACLE. I suppose various people and critics decided to overlook the Oracle, in the mistaken belief that Neo, The Kid, Morpheous, Trinity, or just anybody else would be more important.

The One (Neo) is the RESULT of an UNBALANCED EQUATION. The problem for the Architect (creator of the Matrix) was dealing with human CHOICE. No matter how he tried, at some point, a human was going to figure out that the Matrix was an artificial world and make UNPREDICTABLE CHOICES (thus the One) that were beyond his control. The RESULT of these uncontrolled and unpredictable choices would, sooner or later, result in the CRASHING of the Matrix. Agent SMITH is the end result of the uncontrolled and unpredictable force that can CRASH the Matrix. Agent Smith’s ability came about as a RESULT of being CORRUPTED by Neo (the One). When Neo did the unpredictable and overwrote Agent Smith’s code, he passed on the “corruption” which is unpredictable choices and “FREE WILL”. This “corruption” of Agent Smith setup the chain of events that could destroy the Matrix.

The Oracle was assigned or created for the TASK of attempting to:

. Understand the nature of humans

. Find a way to DEAL with the unbalanced equation.

. Find a way to RESOLVE the unbalanced equation in such a way as to maintain the STATUS QUO and preserve the continual existence of machines AND humans.

Lost on many was the fact that the Oracle, in Matrix Revolutions, did INDEED SUCEED in all of her assignments. The Oracle setup a PLAN where by she would use her increasing understanding of HUMAN NATURE to MANIPULATE humans and even OTHER programs to CHOOSE what she wanted them to do. You will notice in the movie that humans and programs alike come to the Oracle for advice and predictions. The Oracle tells them what is necessary to control their choices, so that their next moves can be anticipated or range of options limited. The Oracle is also LEARNING. After every encounter and version of the Matrix, she becomes better at manipulating, but this version of Neo is the BIGGEST THREAT the Matrix, the Architect, the machines, and herself has experienced so far because he made the most feared choice. Without DIRECT CONTROL of something, your next best option is MANIPULATION.The Merovingian understood this and realized that Neo, Morpheous, and Trinity were simply being MANIPULATED by the Oracle. In Matrix Reloaded, the Merovingian, told all three of them that they were being manipulated and did not understand the WHY of the basis of their decisions. Neo and the rest were victims of cause and effect. They were told to do something and that is what they did and he put an exclamation point on this by giving a blonde in the restaurant “orgasmic cake” and getting her to give him “oral sex” in the bathroom (in order to not get X rated the oral sex was done off camera and simply alluded to by Persephone). The Merovingian understanding of how things were being manipulated, is WHY he attempted to KILL the Oracle (also because she was responsible for him losing the Key maker) and hold Neo in the train station LIMBO.

The Oracle’s level of manipulations went so far as she “tricked” Agent Smith. When Agent Smith overwrote the Oracle’s code, he used her information for the basis of his actions against Neo. Using the Oracle’s information to fight Neo is a close as you can get to the Oracle telling you what to do. This is why Agent Smith got confused at the end when fighting Neo. Instead of killing Neo (if that is even possible inside the Matrix), Agent Smith was tricked into replicating himself onto Neo. This was a huge error, because this allowed Neo and/or the head machine to broadcast his “death wish” to ALL Agent Smiths and destroy them. Another point, is the phrase used by the Oracle, “Everything that has a beginning, has an end.”, was spewed out by the Agent Smith/Oracle (they were joined by Agent Smith replicating himself onto her) and gave Neo the CLUE as to what to DO.

What happened at the end was the best result that the Oracle could get for the situation that was faced. Neo and Agent Smith, the result of UNBALANCED EQUATIONS, DESTROYED each other. The issue of the unbalanced equation being brought out by trying to directly control and oppress humans via agents and other means was resolved by allowing humans the FREE CHOICE of staying in the Matrix or being released. By allowing humans “free choice” and to leave the Matrix, you eliminate the main PURPOSE of the One and the war between the machines and humans. The Oracle realized that the attempt to destroy the One and eliminate all unbalanced equations within the Matrix is futile. The futility of destroying all unpredictable choices and trying to get complete control, is also WHY, ZION was SPARED. Even if the machines killed every man, woman, and child in Zion, it would be inevitable that unresolved unbalanced equation and humans seeking to get free from the Matrix would happen AGAIN. Allowing discontents to leave, means there are NO UNBALANCED equations IN the Matrix, thus the Matrix has the chance to be PERFECT. The human threat OUTSIDE the Matrix is one that can be dealt with. The human threat on the outside would be limited because “humans need machines” to SURVIVE (as pointed out in Matrix Reloaded), so instead of killing each other they can help each other. Furthermore, programs need a PURPOSE. Humanity is what has provided the purpose for the existence of the machines and besides for “battery power” is a good reason to explain why the machines keep humans around. Furthermore, the programs met by Neo in the train station show that the machines are continuing to EVOLVE. Like the Oracle, there are programs that are starting to/do understand human emotion and what it is like to be human. This understanding of humanity may also be another reason why the Oracle made the request to the Architect to allow free choice. The Architect only understands logic, perfection, and equations; the Oracle understand humans and emotions. It should also be understood, that the symbiotic relations between humans and machines is what has allowed humans to survive after the nuclear war.

You don't have to be spoon-fed everything in life, it is alright to THINK about things. The Wachowski brothers had the intent of making people think about the nature of life, belief systems, destiny, computers, etc... using an exciting action movie to convey the message, while making a "few" bucks for themselves at the same time.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

The machines are the stars
Rina Jimenez-David

"THE MATRIX Revolutions" is supposed to document how a human, Neo, helped bring about the end of the war between humans and machines. Keanu Reeves reprises the role of Neo with his patented cool and enigmatic approach to character, conveying by posture and pose what is cannily concealed in dialogue and characterization. What is Neo all about? Alas, not even the end of the Matrix franchise gives us the full picture.

But Neo isn't really the star of this final installment in the trilogy. And neither is it any human. Instead, the real starring roles are given to machines: the spider-like probes and multi-tentacled attack clones fielded by the Matrix, as well as the gigantic human-propelled robots (reminiscent of the one employed by Ripley against the Mother Alien) that the humans rely on to fend off the onslaught of the machine forces. The machines are awesome: loud, clanking, gleaming dark metal colossi that shrivel all opposition by their display of sheer power. There is something truly frightening about an enemy that is intelligent and cunning and yet unhampered by such sentiments as compassion or fear.

(Editor's note: Spoiler alert)The humans battle the machines heroically, including the hardy crew led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishbourne) and Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) who have defied the Council to give Neo one last chance to bring an end to the war. But in the end, it is logic and self-interest that settles matters, not heroism or emotion. When Agent Smith, who has transformed himself into a rogue virus that threatens even the machines' hegemony, inquires of Neo why he fights so hard to free humans, our hero replies simply: "Because I choose to." And it is by choosing survival over domination that the machines release the humans of Zion to their own flawed reality.

* * *

WHILE "The Matrix Reloaded" created early buzz with such blockbuster scenes as the "burly brawl" and the freeway chase, "Revolutions" focuses much of its time and creative power in depicting the final battle in the war between humans and machines. But it does have its own classic fight scene: the final clash between Agent Smith and Neo. While the "burly brawl" had Neo fighting off dozens of Agent Smith clones, this time the two sworn enemies go at it mano-a-mano in a rain-soaked scene.

The Wachowski brothers, who created the Matrix saga and ushered us all into their alternate reality, were reported to have been unhappy with the rain in this climactic fight scene, arguing that the rain drops were too small to create much of an impact onscreen. Special "rain" thus had to be developed, soaking Reeves and Hugo Weaving throughout the eight weeks it took to film the scene.

This reminds me of the account that emerged from the filming of "Singing in the Rain," and the director's similar unhappiness with the invisible rain drops in Gene Kelly's song-and-dance number. Their solution? Mixing a little milk with the water, creating "fatter" and more cinematic rain drops.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

12 Things You Didn't Know About U.S. Presidents

Not only were these men leaders of our country--they were multitalented, unique, and even downright quirky. We've heard a lot about their contribution to United States history. But would you have guessed the following...?

1. First U.S. president George Washington rejected a movement among army officers to make him king of the United States.

2. Andrew Jackson, 7th U.S. president, dueled with Charles Dickinson after he insulted Jackson's marriage. Jackson let his opponent fire first, giving himself time to take aim. Jackson took a bullet in the chest and, without flinching, calmly killed his man.

3. James Buchanan, 15th U.S. president and the first unmarried man to be elected president, reportedly took great pride in his tiny feet, although he was a large robust man.

4. Often depicted wearing a tall black stovepipe hat, 16th president of the United States Abraham Lincoln carried letters, bills, and notes in his hat.

5. The 18th U.S. president, Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but he changed his name because he did not like his monogram, HUG.

6. Both ambidextrous and multilingual, 20th president of the United States James Garfield could write Greek with one hand while writing Latin with the other.

7. William Taft, 27th president of the United States, weighed more than 300 pounds and had a special oversized bathtub installed in the White House.

8. The 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson allowed sheep to graze on the White House lawn during World War I; their wool helped raise money for the Red Cross.

9. The 38th president of the United States, Gerald Ford turned down offers to play professional football for the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.
10. As a young lifeguard at a riverside beach near Dixon, Illinois, future 40th U.S. president Ronald Reagan rescued 77 people from drowning.

11. An avid golfer, 42nd U.S. president Bill Clinton was infamous for taking a high number of "mulligans," or "do-overs" while playing. The only Rhodes-scholar president also developed a reputation for creative math skills in tallying his score; according to one report, Clinton once took some 200 swings to record a score of 82.

12. The 43rd U.S. president, George W. Bush was head cheerleader at Phillips Academy, a prep school in Andover, Massachusetts, where his father had been a legendary student leader and athlete. Nicknamed "Lip," George W. also organized an intramural stickball league at the school.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Italian Scientists Plan to Open Petrarch's Grave
Mon Nov 3, 2:34 PM ET

By Estelle Shirbon

ROME (Reuters) - The 14th century Italian poet Francesco Petrarch left hundreds of letters detailing his life and thoughts. Now scientists plan to dig up his remains to find out more about his flesh and bones.

Researchers will open the poet's marble casket this month in Arqua Petrarca, a village in northern Italy where he died in 1374 and that was renamed for him. They will scrutinize his remains for clues on his physical appearance and health record.

"If the remains are in good condition, we will be able to find out what Petrarch looked like, his height and girth, and also his illnesses," Vito Terribile Wiel Marin, professor of pathological anatomy at the University of Padua, told Reuters on Monday.

Petrarch became famous for the hundreds of love poems he wrote to the mysterious Laura, a woman he worshipped from afar. For her, the poet perfected the sonnet form that would influence William Shakespeare and myriad others.

He was also a great classical scholar and is considered the precursor of Humanism, a philosophical current inspired by the Ancients that turned away from the Middle Ages' focus on religion in favor of an emphasis on secular concerns.

Marin, who has taken part in other exhumations of illustrious figures including Saint Anthony of Padua, said a 19th century study of Petrarch's bones had left dubious results that he was anxious to correct.

"They wrote that Petrarch was 1.83 meters tall, which in his age was freakishly tall. If he had really been that height he would have gone down in history as a giant," Marin said.

He also said his team hoped to reconstruct Petrarch's cranium, which was split into several pieces in the earlier exhumation, then have it molded and use the mold as a basis for computerized imaging of his features.

"Medieval portraiture was very inaccurate but thanks to these modern techniques we may yet find out what Petrarch looked like," said Marin.

Whatever the results, we already know how the poet himself judged his own looks.

"In my prime I was blessed with a quick and active body, although not exceptionally strong; and while I do not lay claim to remarkable personal beauty, I was comely enough in my best days," he once wrote.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

A child's grief
Posted: 6:33 PM (Manila Time) | Nov. 01, 2003
By Cathy Babao Guballa, Contributor
Inquirer News Service

Most affected

"BATA pa 'yan. Hindi pa niyan naiintindihan." When a family suffers a loss, a child is often neglected. And yet the child is often the most affected by grief.

When death occurs, things can no longer be "normal." A life has to be built without the loved one who passed away.

Surviving family members need to make sense of what has happened, get over the chaos and acquire a new normalcy that will enable survivors to find new meaning in their lives and move on.

Grief can be a complicated process for children and adolescents. Going through different developmental stages, every child creates his/her own meaning of life that is tied to his/her development and experience. Whenever a loss occurs, such as death, that meaning is disrupted. For some children, it can be devastating and even traumatic.

Five years ago, my eldest daughter was 7 when her 4-year-old brother passed away. For many months after he died, she refused to be alone in a room. Up to two years after his death, she would be inconsolable every time I had to go away on a business trip.A dam breaks

It took two sessions with a child psychologist before she suddenly had catharsis. Like a dam that broke, my 9-year-old finally let go of all the hurt and fears she had kept in her heart for two years. Even now, questions about her brother's early demise crop up in conversations.

A child's grief is cyclical. It repeats itself at every developmental stage. Sometimes there are triggers-birthdays, holidays, milestones, a troubling time. At seven, my daughter's comprehension of her brother's death was only up to a certain level. At 10, she would ask questions about the nature of his illness and the circumstances surrounding his passing. Now at 12, she is philosophical about his early death.

As parents, we should not tire of answering our children's questions. We should be patient and address their queries at a level they can understand. When our son lay in a coma, we explained to our daughter how his systems shut down so he would no longer feel the pain of his illness.

If in explaining you feel that it is appropriate to add a spiritual dimension, then go ahead and do so. Do not, however, use euphemisms ("Lola is just sleeping") or say that God took away your loved one, especially if you are explaining death to a very young child.

A young man I know was told by his mother that God called his father home because they were short of angels in heaven. He was 5 when his father died in a vehicular accident. When the young man became an adolescent, he began to rebel for no reason, giving his widowed mother much heartache.

At 13 and in therapy, he confided that he was angry at God for taking away his father. "What kind of loving God would do that?" he told the psychologist.

One of the students in my grief class at the Ateneo de Manila University carried the burden of his grandmother's passing for many years. His lola passed away suddenly on his eighth birthday and he was not able to say goodbye. For many years after she died, he kept the toy cars she gave him under his pillow.

As a teenager, he joined his school's varsity football team and channeled his hurt into the game. He was one of the school's best athletes. "I would offer each victory to my lola," he said in one of his papers. Two years ago, at 20, he finally bade her goodbye when he poured all his feelings into a letter that he buried beside her grave in the cemetery in their home province.

Healing process

Rituals are important in a child's healing process. Especially when death is sudden, children need an opportunity to express their sadness. Encourage children to have a journal, to write, draw or paint after the loss.

Telling stories helps organize and concretize the experience for children, particularly the very young. Dr. Kathleen Gilbert, a professor at the University of Indiana who teaches a grief course, says, "A painful event becomes more real when it is made explicit in language. Frightening elements can be made less fearful when organized in the narrative structure of a personal story. Children and adolescents need to tell their grief story so they can make sense of the grief experience. Working with a caring, trusted adult to tell their story gives them a sense of power and control over their lives."

Loss can be both positive and negative. Often it gives you a kind of compassion you would not have had otherwise. However, for parents and caregivers, it is important to help facilitate in a positive and supportive manner a child's transition from grief to a place of hope.

Psychologists Martinson and Campos (1991) found that, for adolescents whose siblings died of cancer seven to nine years before, good communication in the family, sharing the death experience with others, expressing pleasure in the siblings' company and the family's emotional support contributed to a more, positive long-term outlook on life.

On a personal note, five years down the road, my 12-year-old is one of the wisest and more sensitive adolescents I know. Yes, in spite of the pain, grief can be a good thing, too.

How do adult attitudes affect a child's grief process?

WHAT you can do to help facilitate your child's grieving process:

* Get as much support for yourself as possible. The stronger you are, the more help you can be to your child.

* If you are very distraught, allow others to step in and help the child.

* Give accurate information appropriate to the child's developmental level. This requires a very good judgment and is incredibly difficult when death involves suicide or violence, or the death of a child. The child's first impression of death is very critical, and that is when adults are least prepared to tell it well.

* Allow the child to express feelings and show acceptance. Be a role model for the child in expressing your own feelings. Share memories of the deceased.

* Try to make expressions of affection to the child as often as you did before the loss.

* Try to avoid any new losses (moving homes, changing caregivers, or getting rid of a pet) for as long as possible.

* Give the child an object to remember the deceased by (a possession, a photograph, a piece of clothing).

* Encourage the child to do artwork and/or writing to express feelings and come to terms with the loss.

* If you have more than one child, make a point of periodically spending some time alone with each child (go to the mall, eat out) to allow the child to ask questions and express feelings.

* Read up on childhood bereavement and do not be afraid to get professional help if you think you need it.

From "Grief in Family Context," by Peggy Bruno spring semester, 1997

E-mail the author at

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Ray of fright

Posted: 10:30 PM (Manila Time) | Oct. 31, 2003
Inquirer News Service

IN THE Reincarnation Room, three floors up from Hell and a stone's throw away from the neighborhood Gap, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone Ritchie contemplates her next move. Her SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) takes her from the bullish Gaultier cone-bra years to her most recent hype-driven spit-swap with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. So before an audience of overworked PR people, cynical stylists, and confused allies, she asks how the trajectory was reversed despite help from a phenomenally less pudgy Missy Elliott.

"We saw the same kiss from tATu and it was way hotter," answers Gwyneth Paltrow, stroking Chris Martin's bean-shaped head.

"You should stop exercising so the world would be a better place," suggests Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore.

Ashton Kutcher guffaws, "And while you're at it, date me! It did wonders for Demi!" He was definitely referring to his trophy MILF's Lazarus-like regeneration.

At this point, Madonna lets Rocco and Lourdes out for an etiquette seminar with Sharon Osbourne as she signs copies of her "Remixed and Revisited" EP. With tears in her eyes, she realizes that "American Life" is a clunker, that it's been reduced to the most debased musical currency there is: the hastily-put-together remix CD. The faux-Brit accent downgrades to her old Detroit drawl as she assumes her favorite yoga position, the Corpse. Guy Ritchie rushes to his wife's side and strokes her hair which, after years of bleaching, feels like really expensive hay.

"No worries, love. We can still make movies like 'Swept Away'." The conviction in his voice is dead real, creepy enough to frighten bats. The Ritchies then stand up and leave. After all, there are tourists standing by the Lulu Guinness Store in Notting Hill that they can startle.

Capturing the zeitgeist in the early '80s, Madonna flew in the face of convention and sold loads of records with her smart-whore act. Despite being described as "a teaspoon of talent in a sea of ambition," she rose then fell then rose again, the last two instances being "Evita" and "Ray of Light," respectively. (Her assault on electronica in 1998 was brilliant, but it was something that Bj"rk had been doing since 1993.) Of late, however, she has done nothing buzzworthy. "Beautiful Stranger" was cute but forgettable. "Music" tried to be cool but the lead-off single, "American Pie," failed to amaze an audience already used to younger, bigger- breasted pop stars. Two million years later, she appears bony in "Die Another Day" and sounds bone-dry with "American Life." In fact, she has apparently dozed off into the realm of "lame, boring, and irritating."

With the grace of a lumbering elephant, Madonna has been too busy taking care of the next generation to notice her incredibly shrinking talent. Her daughter Lourdes, called the new Wednesday Addams by a gossip website, is Madonna's little monster. Popbitch writes: "At a recent Top of The Pops appearance, Lourdes demanded a Diet Coke. When a crew member brought her a normal Coke, the seven-year-old's reply was, 'I said Diet, asshole.'" With a mother who's the author of terrible books for children, it comes as no shocker. The proper little madam also attends a spiritual school which teaches that there is "the good you" and "the bad you." We can only wonder how Rocco would turn out.

Guy Ritchie who, pre-Madonna, was known as the forward-thinking director of "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels," has been bellying up at the box office as well. The jewel heist film "Snatch" was tepid and apparently not recession-proof. But the biggest turkey of their creative partnership has been "Swept Away," a hopelessly inept remake of the 1974 Lina Wertmueller original that made viewers moan with agony before finally heaving their popcorn. In the right hands, "Swept Away" could have been Oscar-worthy. With Madonna on board, it was pure poison.

There's nothing particularly exciting about what Madonna's doing now. She joins the ranks of J.Lo, Britney, and Mariah Scarey as car-crash singer-actresses who believe that there's enough room on the IMAX screen for all their t 'n a. Her West End debut in London's Wyndhams Theatre earlier this year was in a comedy called "Up For Grabs," a headline that seems to sum up her curtains-down thespian talent.

Since her acting career is one long mockumentary, Madonna has resorted to co-branding to remain musically relevant. She allowed Kelly Osbourne to cover "Papa Don't Preach" and revisited herself with "Into The Hollywood Groove," obviously scraping bottom both times. Her collaborations with Mirwais were inspired, but the high-octane electronic purring soon sounded like a computer farting underwater. For much needed street cred, her unsexy groaning in "Justify My Love" is sampled on "Justify My Thug," one of the tracks on Jay-Z's "The Black Album: The End of an Era." Is this an omen for Madonna? I can only hope.

As a piece of nightlife driftwood, Madonna is trying her damndest to get back on the front pages. Clearly capitalizing on the stiff tonsil hockey episode at the 2003 VMA's, Madonna teamed up with another possibly washed-up blonde, Britney Spears, on "Me Against The Music." The desperation made her catch the wave, but even hardcore Madonna fans admit that she has already missed the boat. And despite her undeniable influence on pop culture, sociopathic devotion is completely unnecessary and frankly, quite pathetic. Since reinvention is something that anyone can easily do these days, should we wait for her next makeover? A Junior Vasquez club hit from 1996 has the fitting reply: "If Madonna calls, I'm not here."