Poe’s First Christmas message, Yo Yo’s Match Point

In First Christmas Homily, Pope Reflects on World Conflicts

‘Osservatore Romano-Vatican Pool/Getty Images
"The modern age is often seen as an awakening of reason from its slumbers, humanity’s enlightenment after an age of darkness," Benedict said on this rainy Christmas in Rome.

December 26, 2005
In First Christmas Homily, Pope Reflects on World Conflicts

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 25 – In his first Christmas address, Pope Benedict XVI prayed Sunday for peace in poorer, war-torn parts of the world as he warned the more comfortable that they "risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements."

"Wake up, O men and women of the third millennium!" Benedict said on a rainy Christmas day from the balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica, where he first appeared as pope in April.

"The modern age is often seen as an awakening of reason from its slumbers, humanity’s enlightenment after an age of darkness.

"Yet without the light of Christ, the light of reason is not sufficient to enlighten humanity and the world. For this reason, the words of the Christmas Gospel – ‘the true light that enlightens every man was coming into this world’ – resound now more than ever as a proclamation of salvation."

His message, the traditional papal "Urbi et Orbi," a sermon to Rome and to the world, was greeted warmly – and quite loudly in some corners closest to the basilica – by the three ever-present components of this city: Romans, tourists, and nuns and priests from around the world.

The cheers seemed most enthusiastic when he continued a tradition started by his predecessor, John Paul II, sending Christmas greetings in 32 languages, including his native German, and Arabic, Swahili and Latin.

Wearing a bishop’s mitre and cape, both gold, Benedict stuck to his prepared remarks, but he had lost all the seeming hesitancy of his early days as pope.

He seemed relaxed and warm, waving to acknowledge the cheers, even though to some in the crowd it seemed as much the first Christmas without the charismatic John Paul as the first with the more reserved Benedict.

"Italians love him, even if he is different from John Paul II," said Valter Cassar, 52, a military official from Rome, standing in the light rain on St. Peter’s Square.

His wife, Rita, said: "He is our pope. For Italians, it is like this. For Catholics, it is like this."

The square itself, as always, was transformed for Christmas: In front of the ancient obelisk stood the traditional life-sized crèche, blessed on Christmas Eve by Benedict before a crowded midnight Mass in  ST. Peter’s,  and a 100-foot-tall tree from Austria, decked in silver and gold balls.

The themes in Benedict’s Christmas homily are ones he has often addressed. He has expressed his concern for decades that modern man has put himself at a distance from God, reflected in the diminishing church attendance in Europe. In the weeks before Christmas, he said frequently that Christmas was about God’s love, not about expensive presents.

Also in keeping with Vatican tradition, he used his holiday message to reflect on parts of the world that are in conflict. In his address on Sunday, Benedict called for an end to the wars in Africa, citing especially the Darfur region of Sudan. He referred to "signs of hope, which are not lacking," in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel. He also called for continued dialogue over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

He also called for a "new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships."

The pope’s schedule will continue to be busy in the first weeks of the new year. On Jan. 6, he is to celebrate a public Mass for the Feast of Epiphany, a major holiday in Italy. In early January he is also expected to release his first encyclical, the first major statement of his priorities as pope.

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Cipher or sociopath? Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a former tennis pro with Scarlett Johansson as an American actress in "Match Point."

December 28, 2005

London Calling, With Luck, Lust and Ambition

Because Woody Allen’s early films are about as funny as any ever made, it is often assumed that his temperament is essentially comic, which leads to all manner of disappointment and misunderstanding. Now and then, Mr. Allen tries to clear up the confusion, insisting, sometimes elegantly and sometimes a little too baldly, that his view of the world is essentially nihilistic. He has announced, in movie after movie, an absolute lack of faith in any ordering moral principle in the universe – and still, people think he’s joking.

In "Match Point," his most satisfying film in more than a decade, the director once again brings the bad news, delivering it with a light, sure touch. This is a Champagne cocktail laced with strychnine. You would have to go back to the heady, amoral heyday of Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder to find cynicism so deftly turned into superior entertainment. At the very beginning, Mr. Allen’s hero, a young tennis player recently retired from the professional tour, explains that the role of luck in human affairs is often underestimated. Later, the harsh implications of this idea will be evident, but at first it seems as whimsical as what Fred Astaire said in "The Gay Divorcée": that "chance is the fool’s name for fate."

Mr. Allen’s accomplishment here is to fool his audience, or at least to misdirect us, with a tale whose gilded surface disguises the darkness beneath. His guile – another name for it is art – keeps the story moving with the fleet momentum of a well-made play. Comparisons to "Crimes and Misdemeanors" are inevitable, since the themes and some elements of plot are similar, but the philosophical baggage in "Match Point" is more tightly and discreetly packed. There are few occasions for speech-making, and none of the desperate, self-conscious one-liners that have become, in Mr. Allen’s recent movies, more tics than shtick. Nor is there an obvious surrogate for the director among the youthful, mostly British and altogether splendid cast. If you walked in after the opening titles, it might take you a while to guess who made this picture.

After a while you would, of course. The usual literary signposts are in place: surely no other screenwriter could write a line like "darling, have you seen my copy of Strindberg?" or send his protagonist to bed with a paperback Dostoyevsky. But while a whiff of Russian fatalism lingers in the air – and more than a whiff of Strindbergian misogyny – these don’t seem to be the most salient influences. The film’s setting is modified Henry James (wealthy London, with a few social and cultural outsiders buzzing around the hives of privilege); the conceit owes something to Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books; and the narrative engine is pure Theodore Dreiser – hunger, lust, ambition, greed.

Not that the tennis player, Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), seems at first to be consumed by such appetites. An Irishman of modest background, he takes a job at an exclusive London club, helping its rich members polish their ground strokes. He seems both easygoing and slightly ill at ease, ingratiating and diffident. Before long, he befriends Tom Hewett (Matthew Goode), the amiable, unserious heir to a business fortune, who invites Chris to the family box at the opera. From there, it is a short trip to an affair with Tom’s sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer), a job in the family firm and the intermittently awkward but materially rewarding position of son-in-law to parents played by Brian Cox and Penelope Wilton.

When "Match Point" was shown in Cannes last spring, some British critics objected that its depiction of London was inaccurate, a demurral that New Yorkers, accustomed to visiting Mr. Allen’s fantasy Manhattan, could only greet with weary shrugs and sighs. Uprooting a script originally set in the Hamptons and repotting it in British soil has refreshed and sharpened the story, which depends not on insight into a particular social situation, but rather on a general theory of human behavior. London is Manhattan seen through a glass, brightly: Tate Modern stands in for the Museum of Modern Art; Covent Garden takes the place of Lincoln Center. As for the breathtaking South Bank loft into which Chris and Chloe move, it will satisfy the lust for high-end real estate that has kept the diehards in their seats during Mr. Allen’s long creative malaise.

In this case, though, what happens in the well-appointed rooms and fashionable restaurants is more interesting than the architecture or the décor. Mr. Rhys-Meyers has an unusual ability to keep the audience guessing, to draw us into sympathetic concord even as we’re trying to figure him out. Is he a cipher or a sociopath? A careful social climber or a reckless rake? The first clue that he may be something other than a mild, well-mannered sidekick comes when Chris meets Tom’s fiancée, an American actress named Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson), in a scene that raises the movie’s temperature from a polite simmer to a full sexual boil. (The scene also quietly acknowledges a debt to "A Place in the Sun," George Stevens’s adaptation of Dreiser’s "American Tragedy." The parallels don’t stop there. Mr. Rhys-Meyers’s hollow-cheeked watchfulness recalls Montgomery Clift. Which makes Ms. Johansson either the next Elizabeth Taylor or the new Shelley Winters. Hmm).

What passes between Chris and Nola is not only desire, but also recognition, which makes their connection especially volatile. As their affair advances, Ms. Johansson and Mr. Rhys-Meyers manage some of the best acting seen in a Woody Allen movie in a long time, escaping the archness and emotional disconnection that his writing often imposes. It is possible to identify with both of them – and to feel an empathetic twinge as they are ensnared in the consequences of their own heedlessness – without entirely liking either one.

But it is the film’s brisk, chilly precision that makes it so bracingly pleasurable. The gloom of random, meaningless existence has rarely been so much fun, and Mr. Allen’s bite has never been so sharp, or so deep. A movie this good is no laughing matter.

"Match Point" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has some steamy (though not explicit) sex scenes and a few moments of shocking violence.

Match Point

Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Jim Clay; produced by Letty Aronson, Gareth Wiley and Lucy Darwin; released by DreamWorks Pictures. Running time: 124 minutes.

WITH: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Chris Wilton), Scarlett Johansson (Nola Rice), Emily Mortimer (Chloe Wilton), Matthew Goode (Tom Hewett), Brian Cox (Alec Hewett) and Penelope Wilton (Eleanor Hewett).

Yo yo’s

Yo Yo Museum

The Patriot features a wide gap and oversized bearing. Great weight distribution as well. The Patriot features a starburst return system and is similar in shape to the FreeHand. Take apart design with adjustable gap.

A successful lower end model, with a move to a larger diameter bearing. This one came mainly in "patriotic" Red, White, and Blue. This is a more unusual color, made from Clear Glitter Enyo Plastic

Type Production
Shape Butterfly
Axle Bearing
Color Clear Glitter Enyo
Packaging Boxed
Construction Multi-piece plastic
Response Starburst
Gap Adjustable – Twist
Size 2.25" Dia
Weight 62 g
Estimated Value $45
Condition Mint
Date 2002
Owner David Hall


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Yo Yo Museum

The evolution of the Element X continued with the release of versions with recessed SPR axle systems. That is the halves were machined so that the response surfaces for the SPR system were flush with the yo-yo halves. The standard version of the recessed Element X featured their SPR axle system with a small diameter bearing, just like the earlier releases.

Pictured here is the Skilltoys Edition Element X. A long time in the making, Dave’s Skill Toys online store requested a special color, marble blue swirl. With custom logo designed by Oke Rosgana. Also note the Weight rings are anodized blue with the store name engraved, and link to skilltoy.net , the Skill Toys Network



The Yo Yo Museum


This special edition of the Redline was made especially for Tom Kuhn, to advertise his yo-yos and his dental practice. Click on the Logo Side Views to see both sides.


Type Advertising
Shape Butterfly
Axle Bearing
Finish Painted
Color Red & Black
Packaging Boxed
Construction Three piece wood
Response Turbo Disk
Gap Fixed
Size 2.25" Dia
Estimated Value $25
Condition Mint in Package
Date 2005

David Hall





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The Museum of Yo-Yo History

Yahoo! Picks Don’t miss the Picks of the Year
The Museum of Yo-Yo History
How would you ask cellist Yo-Yo Ma to try a yo-yo — "Yo, Yo-Yo, yo-yo?" Sure, he’s probably heard it before, but that’s no reason not to enjoy this cornucopia of information about the underrated pastime of yo-yoing. As with any museum, start with the exhibits. Then walk the dog to the photos section, go ’round the world with memorabilia, and finish on a dime with the company profiles. You can even search by manufacturer, and when you see something you like, click on it to view pertinent stats. Don’t forget to take a spin through the history section, not to mention the profile of 1992 World Yo-Yo champion and "father of the modern freestyle yo-yoing technique" Dale Oliver. Because while life may have its ups and downs, those in the yo-yo-know have the world on a string. (in Toys)



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