Sunday, September 28, 2008


This week’s movie:

I used to be smart once.

I have this theory that we are all born knowing everything. All the mysteries of the universe - the sum total of human knowledge PLUS everything humans have yet to discover - is all there right in our heads from birth. But because the human brain has a limited volume, any acquired experience must ultimately push something else out. The upshot of this is that the older we get, the more we experience, the stupider we become. Ironically, babies are just not physically equipped to deal with omniscience. They might, for example, understand that quarks spontaneously decay in a degenerate spin field, but believe that this just a trivial matter that must be obvious to everybody - and instead, content themselves to totally dominating every other human surrounding them.

Humans tend to peak around 12 or 13 years old - that is, until puberty hits and our bodies betray us - when the sudden influx of new information and priorities herald the exodus of every single other bit of useful data - leaving one in hormonal dufusity, instead of philosophical brilliance. Adults don’t understand children. We adults think that we are mentally superior - but the truth is that we just can’t comprehend the utter vastness of a child’s mind that is totally unencumbered by the details of the adult world. The adult world is is designed , from very first principles, to fill the mind with insignificant trivia in an effort to keep us from figuring out too much of the world because, after all, we’re at the age where if we knew too much, we would surely hurt ourselves.

Kids know better than to try to explain themselves to us. I can remember a time, I think I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, when I told my mother I didn’t want to go to school that day. She asked, “What’s the matter? Do you feel sick?” I thought about it for a second and replied, “Yes. Yes, I do.” I just somehow knew that she wouldn’t have understood if I told her that I had this idea for time travel and I needed a little uninterrupted time to work out the details. …..and I did it too! …..I just wish I could remember how it worked……

Children instinctively know what they need to do and do it. It often doesn’t make sense to adults but then, we are not as well-informed. For instance, I have a friend whose (then) 8-year-old son, Jeffery, had cut off all his hair with the kitchen shears. He then taped it all to the living room wall. When they asked him why he had done it, he just shrugged his head and mumbled, “I don’t know.” They thought he was brain damaged, but he’s not. Children just don’t bother to explain themselves to us - we just wouldn’t understand. Maybe the slight weight of his hair was applying just enough pressure on his brain to interfere with with his meditations and needed to rid himself of it to complete his journey of enlightenment …………..or maybe he was just brain damaged.

The 12-year-olds in this week’s (month’s) movie find themselves faced with a tragedy and have to find some way of dealing with it. They each do it in their own particular way, and although the adults don’t seem to understand any of it, the kids know what they need to do. And though each is different, they all have the same sort of logic, proven by the fact that they all see a resolution of one form or another.

It’s refreshing to see a film that portrays pre-adolescent characters in a realistic way, without reverting to Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys cleverness, or Disney-style cuteness. These children are not Hollywood stereotypes, they are not precocious, they’re not super-heroes, they’re not geniuses (except as mentioned above), they are undergoing changes that they themselves don’t understand.

In a Hollywood film, these kids would have to negotiate all the normal hazards normally facing your typical movie pre-teen. For example, they would have to put up with humiliating put-downs by the “cool” popular clique at school, tyrannical school principal, clueless parents, bullies in the neighborhood, and probably a pair of inept crooks. They would end up solving their problems by: making the cool clique a little less cool; detective work to expose the principal’s plan to skim school funds; make the cheerleading team by beating the team captain in the big competition; put on a musical; get the girl; stand down the bully by not backing down; set up booby traps that torment the crooks until they turn themselves in to the police; or maybe - all of the above. This stuff doesn’t happen in this film. Instead, they ………………well, I let you find out for yourselves.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend’s son Jeffrey, who cut off all his hair. I feel that if I can understand this behavior, I can maybe reawaken the lost memories of my own youth - or maybe of yesterday at least. So here are some possible …………


  1. Needed to lose half an ounce of weight - the quick way.
  2. Watched a late-night showing of the film Westworld, with Yul Brenner, on cable.
  3. Wanted to convince himself that he, contrary to his parents’ accusations, was NOT the Antichrist, by checking his scalp for the tell-tale “666″. Fortunately, he found only a harmless “999″.
  4. Watched a late-night showing of the film The Magnificent Seven, with Yul Brenner, on cable.
  5. In order to save for a 10MeV magnetron, for his “Space Drive” experiments, he decided to cut down on extravagances, like shampoo.
  6. In an effort to stave off ecological disaster by global warming, cut off his hair and polished his scalp in order to increase the albedo of the Earth and reflect more light back into space. …..and it would have worked too if not for you meddling adults!
  7. Watched a late-night showing of The King and I, with Yul Brenner, on cable.
  8. Employed the following train of logic: Everything costs money; money is made of paper; paper is made from trees; trees grow in the forest; forests convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to oxygen; there are rain forests in South America; The Conquistadors explored South America looking for gold; there is money to be made in gold; everything costs money; wouldn’t it be a good idea to cut off all your hair and tape it to the wall?
  9. Watched a late-night showing of The Ten Commandments, with Yul Brenner, on cable.
  10. Step 1 in his “fuzzy wall” project.

Parent advisory: This film is rated R by the MPAA, which means that the young 12 year old stars cant legally go to see their own movie. The film portrays young children dealing with tragedy and changes within themselves in a very realistic and no-nonsense way. This often frightens off many adults who feel that children shouldn’t see such things - that is, until they have to go through it themselves. I, personally, didn’t find anything very disturbing about it, but if you have young children, you may want to preview the movie first and then decide if you want to watch it again with them.

Cut off all your hair and watch 12 AND HOLDING


watch the trailer


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