Thursday, February 21, 2008


Recommended: "Class C: The Only Game in Town"

This fantastic, independent film recently won the Big Sky Film Festival. I was lucky enough to catch a screening of it tonight in Bozeman. In a word, it was poignant. I actually shed a tear and laughed very hard.

Class C follows five girls basketball teams from the smallest category of Montana high schools. The film's narrative is driven by their pursuits of a state championship, but the movie is rarely about basketball. Defeat, victory, ruin, possibility, humility, pride, place, and self-discovery all play much larger.

Beautiful cinematography featuring Montana's sweeping vistas give the film a wonderful flavor. An original soundtrack provides rich texture.

I was very impressed with the balance that the film's young directories demonstrated. Often with such movies, I cringe more than I emote. The directors successfully walked a fine line, exploring racial tensions, broken homes, and dying towns in a way that hurt just enough. Then they'd backhand me with a finely juxtaposed knee-slapper.

The girls, of course, are the stars of the movie. With a few exceptions, they're very impressive, grounded individuals who know exactly how much and simultaneously how little basketball matters. They articulate with compassion the struggle and joy of rural livelihoods.

I think the show has wide appeal, despite being set in Montana. I watched the film next to a woman who grew up in New York City; she enjoyed it very much.

I highly recommend trying to catch Class C. It airs on Montana PBS Wednesday, Feb 27 at 8pm and Monday, March 3 at 7pm.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Quote o' the Day

The Gallatin County Republicans held their Presidential nominating caucus at a local bar. The biggest name in attendance was Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who was there to stump for John McCain. According to the local paper, Brownback approved of the choice of venues.
“I love the Montana style of holding this at a bar with cheap beer.”
The caucus coincided with happy hour at the bar, during which beers were $1.

On a slight unrelated note, Montanans spend the most per capita at bars. Amazingly, the average spending is nearly 5 times the national average. Combined with Montana's bar prices tending to be lower than elsewhere, well, that's a lot of drinking.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Are you one of the smartest 60 million people?

Are you one of the smartest 60 million people? For that matter, are you among the top 60 million at anything? 60 million is a lot of folks. The two largest of the United States, California and Texas, total roughly that number. It's 100 times the number of folks in Vermont.

60 million is one percent of the world's 6 billion people. Mensa members are required to be in the top two percent of intelligence. To say that you're one of the smartest 60 million is to say that you're not just eligible, but you'd be one of the smarter members.

I mention this not to put anyone down, but just to give scale to the gigantic numbers.



Matthew 25:29 reads in part, "For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance..." This is the same principle upon which modern consumer banking operates. The rich have something to offer for collateral, or better still have a reputation for handling money well, so banks are willing to loan to them. The poor have nothing to offer to secure a loan. They're "obviously" bad with money; why else would they be poor?

With this in mind Muhammad Yunus founded Grameen Bank to make very small loans to the poor. The initial round of loans averaged around $0.50 apiece. His position was that the least qualified should be given priority for loans. A woman who claimed she didn't know how to handle money because she'd never even touched it was their prime loan candidate, according to Yunus. The bank has grown to 2,100 branches, nearly 25,000 employees, and 7.4 million borrowers. For his trouble Yunus and the bank were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2006.

My favorite anecdote from listening to the podcast of Yunus' address to the Commonwealth Club involved his work with Dannon. The giant yogurt company wanted to work with him to produce an inexpensive, nutritional-supplement yogurt. He said they needed to find a way to package the yogurt that was biodegradable, instead of using plastic. Dannon searched far and wide and returned with plans to use a corn starch substance for the container. Yunus asked if the container could be eaten. They said no. He said it was no good to sell the poor something they couldn't eat. "When I buy ice cream, I can eat the package it comes in," he said.

I hadn't thought of a cone quite that way before.

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