Skiing is beautiful

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The movement is beautiful:

The technology is beautiful:

Every moment is beautiful:

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I feel pretty

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One of the most famous shopping scenes in cinematic history is Julia Roberts going from streetwalker to chic walker in Pretty Woman. It epitomizes the goal of every clothes-shopping experience: feeling special, feeling pretty. Any retailer who lets the customer feel less than beautiful is making, as Ms. Roberts would say, a BIG mistake.

The Pianist

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The Pianist is one of my all-time favorite movies. Partly it’s because Chopin is my favorite composer, and many of the pieces featured in the film are ones I’ve learned. But mostly it’s just for this one scene, which feels so true, and so painful:

Teachable moments in film

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Some of the best teachers in history are fake ones. Real teachers don’t spout out inspirational wisdom in every class, but movie teachers seem to. They always struggle to connect with their students at the beginning, but soon win them over with strange tricks/accents/costumes/martial arts, and then the students eventually stand up for themselves and/or their teachers at the end. Now that’s an education. Check out how the following teachers motivate their troubled charges.

Michelle Pfeiffer gets street in Dangerous Minds:

Stand and Deliver shows the benefits of girlfriend math:

Robin Williams makes a young Ethan Hawke yawp in Dead Poets Society:

Rotten Tomatoes sums it up nicely:

Magnificent men in their flying machines

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Thinking about aviation this week brought to mind an old tune that I couldn’t place at first: Those magnificent men in their flying machines, they go up uppity up up…  Google to the rescue. This is the theme song from an old British movie I watched at my grandparents as a kid that I surely never would have remembered otherwise.

The movie’s full title is Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours and 11 Minutes and features an international flying contest, replete with cliched characters from Italy, France, Britain, the US, Prussia, and Japan who play out in microcosm the tensions of pre-WWI Europe. Now that we have such a standard model for what a plane should look like, it’s fun to see the varied concepts that were featured in this movie:

Magicians of war

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What is the purpose of magic? When purely a stage show, magic is meant only to entertain, but some forms of deception have real-world functions and consequences.

I recently read the first part of a book called The War Magician: The incredible True Story of Jasper Maskelyne and His Magic Gang by David Fisher. The writing style is so overly embellished that I couldn’t finish reading it; I wasn’t surprised to find out that the factual accuracy of this account is in question. Yet, the story is fascinating. If Fisher is to be at all trusted, Maskelyne, a British stage magician descending from other famous stage magicians, volunteered to join the army after WWII broke out, and was deployed to North Africa. There, Maskelyne joined a group called the “Magic Gang,” which included such varied specialists as an architect, chemist, electrician, and art restorer. Again, if Fisher is to be believed, the Gang was able to conceal Alexandria and the Suez Canal from German bombers using mirrors and lights. They also convinced German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel that the British attack would be coming from the south by building a vast army of fake tanks complete with fake construction sounds and fake radio conversations.

Deception has long been a part of war to confuse the enemy. One of the most famous examples comes from Virgil’s Aeneid, in which he depicts the fall of Troy. This, of course, happened after the Trojans pulled a large wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers inside their city walls. The rest of the Greek army had sailed away during the day and then sailed back under the cover of night. The well-placed intruders opened the gates for their brethren, who came in and ransacked the city.

My favorite contemporary allusion to the Trojan Horse comes in the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair. An actual horse statue is delivered to the Metropolitan Museum in New York early in the film carrying several burglars inside, who steal a Monet painting. The climactic scene at the end of the movie, in which Crown arrives at the Met to “return” the Monet, is another allusion to the Trojan Horse and a grandly orchestrated illusion. The magic in this scene is not meant to baffle the detectives, but make them realize that the sleight of hand, the trick, the deception was always in full view.

 

 

 

Belle’s library

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When some people think of paradise, they picture golden sand beaches and calm blue waves. My idea of paradise has always been something like this:

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