Peak conditions

Gladwell wrote an interesting review in this week's New Yorker of a book about the deadly Chicago heat wave of 1995. Anyone from Chicago knows the summers are hot and humid, but that summer, a confluence of rare conditions caused 739 deaths in the span of a week.
One of the points he makes is that politicians and social structures shouldn't be judged on how they perform under normal conditions, but how they perform under peak conditions. Chicago's systems failed when the heat wave hit its peak. Local power company transformers burned out, leaving tens of thousands without air conditioning. City hospitals failed to call upon help from the suburbs quickly enough, leaving a shortage of ambulances throughout the downtown area. Some hospitals closed their emergency rooms because of overflow. Under peak conditions, Chicago's infrastructure failed the elderly of the city, and more died in that week than died in the TWA Flight 800 crash or the Oklahoma City bombing, though you don't hear nearly as much about the Chicago incident.
What interests me is the idea of judging people under peak conditions. For example, your friends might be happy to help you out from time to time, but then you become an alcoholic, and they head for the woods. Your spouse vows to be by your side through thick and thin, but as soon as you lose your job, you're on your own. You're reasonably happy with some people on your team, then a big crunch hits and you need them to work overtime on a weekend to nail a deadline, and they grumble or beg out. Chris Webber is acknowledged to be an immensely talented power forward, but come the end of playoff games, he's at the top of the key, back to the basket, waiting to hand the ball off to someone else to take the shot.
There's something to be said for judging all people that way, including ourselves.

Don't Look Now

Everyone has one strange movie that just plain terrifies them. For me, that movie is Don't Look Now, and it's finally coming to DVD. Everyone talks about the "really sexy for the time" romp in bed between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie (director Nicolas Roeg did a very clever thing and spliced together alternating scenes from their lovemaking with scenes of them dressing later that evening for dinner--it's one of the more memorable uses of montage in movie history). But all I remember is...well, I won't ruin it for you. It's a great film, and it scares me. Something about the cinematography, the plot, the acting. Very few people seem to have seen it, and more should.
By the way, DVD lovers need to crack open the piggy bank (not the small one, the big one). Band of Brothers, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition), The Simpsons Second Season Box Set, Grease...that's not even mentioning some other DVDs which reasonable people might consider must own, like Spiderman, Monsters Inc., Amelie. There are people who don't own a single DVD, don't own a DVD player, never watch movies more than once. I've long since stopped trying to understand them or judge them. The gulf is there, and we stand on opposite sides.
After all, it's so easy to judge.

Spoiler spoiler alert

Love The New Yorker, but if you don't enjoy reading movie reviews which give away key plot points, Anthony Lane and David Denby are reviewers you want to read AFTER you've seen the film. Lane's review of Signs casually reveals the secret about the entire film. Granted, Shyamalan (pronounced SHAH-mah-lahn) films are tough to review without drawing attention to the mysteries at the core of the story, but Denby and Lane don't even pretend to care if you want spoiler warnings.