Sunday, 12 August 2007

A.R.K. INC.

I'm not entirely sure why, but I've always had a fascination with the story and imagery of Noah's Ark and, over the years, have collected all kinds of arks and ark-related iconography on the pretext of, maybe (one day!), writing a book...

I was, therefore interested to see the recently released movie Evan Almighty (sequel to the film Bruce Almighty) in which former TV anchorman-turned state senator, Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) gets the call from God to follow the example of Noah and build an ark in the middle of a housing development in Washington.

The conceit begins with considerable charm and some wit (for example, the name of the mysterious wood company which starts delivering vast quantities of timber to Evan's home is GO FOR WOOD!) although, unfortunately, it rather rapidly degenerates into an uncomfortable combination of moral messaging and silly slapstick.

Anyway, somewhere towards the end, God (Morgan Freeman, naturally) presents the word ARK to Evan as being an acronym for Acts of Random Kindness - which struck me as original and rather clever.


Of course, I should have known: there is nothing new under the sun (or the rainbow) and it turns out that it's originality is only in the ordering of the letters and that Random Acts of Kindness is a universally known catchphrase - but a rotten acronym!

According to Wikipedia, the phrase originated as follows:
The phrase may be a modification, or paraphrasing, of "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty", coined by Anne Herbert. Some claim that the phrase was created by Dr. Chuck Wall.

Dr. Wall, (holder of a Ph D in Educational Administration and Marketing Management) was looking for an assignment to give to his Human Relations class at Bakersfield College in California when he heard a local radio announcer talking about yet another random act of senseless violence. "I remember thinking, 'Is this the new definition of the news?'" he recalls. "A group of kids doing wonderful things ... sadly, that isn't news."

That phrase – "random act of senseless violence" – intrigued Wall, who imagined turning the negative message into a positive one just by changing one word. When he returned to the classroom the next day, he shared with his students their next project: commit one random act of senseless kindness. At the time, Wall had no idea what the efforts of his class would bring. Nor could he know that his minor change in verbiage would result in a catchphrase that would spread across the world. "You would have thought we discovered human kindness — that no one had ever come up with the concept of being kind to another," he says.
Google Acts of Random Kindness (or vice versa) and you'll find any number of websites including The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Sadly, however, I couldn't find any useful information whatsoever on ark-building or wild-animal wrangling...

7 comments:

Suzanne said...

Some interesting points here, Brian. To begin with, why oh why did Noah bring on board mosquitoes, flies, spiders, or any kind of creepy crawly you care to think of?
Secondly, I think if you try an act of random kindness, most of the time people with regard you either as an alien or as a potential criminal...
Example, the other day I was following a couple down the escalator of a department store, both of whom were struggling with big boxes of household goods. A bit further on, I caught up with them again, and she was struggling even more with her box which was beginning to fall apart. I had time to kill and not too much shopping to carry, so I offered to help her carry her load. She didn't even look at me to say "no thanks" and try and get away in such a hurry that I thought maybe I'd forgotten to wash that morning!
And yet all I was doing was what I would have liked other people to do for me in a similar situation...
The notion of "ARK" needs to be spread...

Brian Sibley said...

Concerning your First Point: Not only that, but why did he forget the unicorns?

Concerning your Second Point: As it happens, in the story of Noah, no one wanted to know about his A.R.K. either - otherwise they wouldn't have ended up in the drink!!

But I agree, Acts of Random Kindness are potentially very likely to become Acts of Random Hostility (which as an acronym is, fortunately, impossible to say)

Elliot said...

I have not seen this film, and probably wont bother, but Steve Carell is an very fine actor as well as a comedian.
You've maybe seen the terrific American film, Little Miss Sunshine.
If you haven't I heartily recommend it.

In the original Bruce Almighty, Steve Carell has a silly sequence where he's speaking gibberish.
The rest of the film is rotten but that has me in tears no matter how many times I watch it.

Eudora said...

To do good thinks, even if nobody admits our good actions, I think is a chance to feel as a human being, a chance to survive... ( sorry, is difficult to explain what I mean)

Very good idea for a book. From the Poem of Gilgamesh to the iconography of Noah, the different sources to the biblical story, the simbolism, etc.

But the film... Is a comedy, is fiction, but with a problem: In the Bible God promise to Noah, after the Flood, that he will not destroy the world again...

Brian Sibley said...

EUDORA - Yes you are right and in the story, the rainbow is God's promise, or covernant, that he will never destroy mankind again in that way.

For this reason, I spent 2/3 of the film thinking "How can they have made such a basic mistake?" But there is a twist to the tale and the "Flood" is not quite the same as that described in the book of Genesis...

I will say no more for fear of giving too many spoilers away - even though, I sense that people aren't exactly going to be rushing off (two-by-two) to see EVAN ALMIGHTY...

Diva of Deception said...

I think I'm rushing off to see it but one-by-one as it's not going to be a Rob thing at all!

I saw the trailer and it appealed to me then but for the plot rather than the slapstick which will be inevitable and which I will endure for the sake of the better bits.

Rob isn't so tolerant....

Brian Sibley said...

JEN writes...

Greenpeace recently built an ark but didn't reveal the construction blueprints!

Does your piggy bank need emptying? Here's a sites for arkoholics...