Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shutes and Ladders

While the rest of the world watches saints and colts, I watch an extraordinary personae walk through shutes and ladders.

On Friday the NPR radio program "Fresh Air" did a tribute to animal husbandry scientist Temple Grandin. They were honoring her work because HBO was debuting this weekend with a movie about Temple. I have to admit, the idea of the movie didn't light me on fire--Temple is a difficult woman to listen to, and after "Beautiful Mind" and "Awakenings" a person starts to feel a little tapped out on overcoming the mind movies. But it's SuperBowl weekend, I have the remote, and I was treating myself to a good meal with ingredients from the farmers' market anyway, so why not? What else was I going to watch? Football? Netflix? What's to gain, really, there? The movie was new and the "Fresh Air" broadcast was interesting in that I thoroughly enjoy anyone who offers a fresh approach to understanding animals and our relationship to them.

The movie was stunning not just for the ideas, but the presentation--like a really good stew presented in a four-star restaurant style. Like the movie "A Beautiful Mind," "Temple Grandin" portrayed her life as she would have seen it. In "A Beautiful Mind" we see how Nash's mind works, and we see the same special effects in "Temple Grandin." The one thing that continually struck me was how little so many people tried to understand her--it didn't surprise me, just struck me. The indifference and the ridicule from most of the world served to make the characters who did wait to take in the patience with her more significant--folks like her mother, her caretakers, her science teacher, her later bosses, and so on.

The viewer also forgets that she watched Claire Danes several times too--I kept thinking I was watching Temple in real life. The ideas explored made sense--want to save time? Then make everyone in the process calmer. I imagine this was difficult for Grandin to convey, since she isn't known for her calm demeanor. Nonetheless, there's a lot to be said for human behavior by studying animals.

And now, for the Netflix.

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