Goodbye February -- 02/28/07

Wow, February really does zip past... Just when you think winter is going to be around forever, short but wintery February makes its annual early exit, followed by in-like-a-lion, out-like-a-lamb March.

Of course when we lived in upstate New York, March was a definite part of winter, no matter what the calendar said would happen on the 21st. Here in coastal Rhode Island there is always a chance of getting a foot of snow dumped on you by a March snow storm, but it is just a chance... in the Binghamton area we used to be certain of at least one of those and some years two... And much, much more in those really "upstate" towns (such as Oswego and Pulaski and Watertown) that shiver between the eastern shore of Lake Ontario and the Adirondack Mountains, the places that hit the news a few weeks ago for getting as much as ten or eleven feet of snow in one week.

Thanks to the Friday night computer failure at the Boston Toyota parts warehouse, my car has been sitting in our garage with its driver-side front door disassembled since Friday afternoon...

Jeremy and I picked up the door handle mechanism yesterday and he had the new part installed in just a few minutes and it scarcely seemed to take much longer before he had the rest of the door fastened back into place.

I can see how he earned a perfect 100% score on the mid-term exam in his door class.
The new mechanism is in place; it looks as if it
has always been there.
Jeremy let me provide the formal final push to snap
the final piece into place.

Jill is a big fan of anime and, since she and Jeremy gave Nancy and me a year's subscription to Netflix as a Christmas present, I thought it might be interesting to look for some Japanese animated movies. I'm not that big an anime fan (quickly tire of giant battling robots, etc.) but I really enjoy, for example, the animated films that Hayao Miyazaki has directed (such as his lovely and haunting Spirited Away) so I looked around on Netflix and found Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies. The Netfix site described the film as "Named Best Animated Feature at the 1994 Chicago International Children's Film Festival, this film proves that not all anime tales are pixie-dust fantasies or brutal sci-fi standoffs. Orphans Seita (voiced by Tsutomu Tatsumi) and Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi) fight for survival in post-World War II Japan."

They were wrong on some details... for example, it is not post-war Japan, the movie takes place during the later part of World War II, only the final few minutes come after Japan's surrender. However, it was deserving of awards for its presentation of the story of a brother and sister who are orphaned by war and must struggle to survive.

Jill said it was "the most miserable movie" she had ever seen and she left the room with just three or four minutes remaining in the film. She did not mean that it was a badly made film -- on the contrary, it was a very well made film, filled with scenes of love and tenderness, brief moments of joy and laughter amid the destruction of war, moments of beauty that only serve to increase the intensity of the pain and suffering. It was heart-breakingly sad, tragic without the catharsis of classical tragedy. Sad, painful, sinking ever deeper into heart-wrenching misery, death, and despair.

And beautifully done.

But how could it have been nominated for a prize (and won it!) at a children's film festival? It sometimes seems to me that our society overreacts at times -- the way it seems that whenever there is an accident of some kind that injures or takes the life of someone under the age of 18, there is an immediate influx of "grief counselors" into any school system where anyone involved had attended. All I can say is that if this movie were ever shown in a theatre as a children's movie, I sure hope they had grief counselors on hand.

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