Saturday, December 31, 2005


Have discovered a better language immersion technique than rocking to Thalía : Univision. And by that I mean the website and the TV station (accompanied by a grammar book, of course). Commercials are particularly interesting and instructive (written words with the voiceover pronunciations)!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

"Stress relievers"

Note to self: when transporting condoms filled with flour through airport security, don't choose Philadelphia.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

"The substance of things hoped for"

Slate has two really fascinating articles relating to Christmas. In the first one, a minister addresses the problematic Immaculate Conception. Basically, the article posits the notion that even if Jesus had a human father, it doesn't take away from the symbolism of the Christmas story. (There's an awesome quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton: "If a heavenly father, why not a heavenly mother? And if an earthly mother, why not an earthly father? . . . I think the doctrine of the Virgin Birth as something sweeter, higher, nobler than ordinary motherhood, is a slur on all the natural motherhood of the world." I forget how radical those 19th-century American feminists were! Even Lucy Stone is lost on contemporaries.) The second article is an exchange between three theologians about the existence of Jesus, the significance of faith, and the importance of historical and biological accuracy.

Nerdy but interesting articles. I have a tremendous amount of respect for theologians as scholars of texts that some people happen to consider holy -- they analyze, critique, and debate various scriptures like literary hawks dissect a writer's work. That's a rather tough field -- I mean, here are folks who are just double-checking the Greek and Hebrew translations, contributing to a discourse about the cultural roots of and current significance of texts; they're half historians, half literary critics. The only problem is that to understand most their analyses you have to have some familiarity with the texts themselves (and some of us try not to do that anymore). It also just so happens that the subject matter is something for which others have killed or been killed. (Actually, I shouldn't say that... nothing "just so happens.")

Of course, the only reason I think this is all fascinating is because I'm not spending Christmas Eve with family tonight, having declined to attend the apparently mandatory Christmas church service Sunday morning.


Not really a fan of Annie Proulx (her stories are always such depressing reminders that life isn't easily summed up), but the alumni magazine always writes about her. ALWAYS. So I figured, if the latest film based on her work does win a Golden Globe or Oscar or whatever, I should at least be familiar with it before having to read about it in the Spring issue.

Good film! I cried.

And I do think Heath Ledger's performance is brilliant ... although that may be only because I've only seen him in teeny-bopper high school flicks like Ten Things I Hate About You. At any rate, he does a stunning job portraying a character short of words and external affection but boiling with so much more, hemmed in by his own trepidation as well as by social codes and gender constructions.

Gorgeous scenery, too! Ang Lee does an amazing job of visually showing how beautiful and stark and empty Wyoming is, and how beautiful and stark and empty lives of cowboys (especially two in particular) can be.


Pooh turns 80 today! Apparently I looked like Winnie the Pooh as a toddler (and my sisters say I still do), so it's one of my dozen nicknames. To the point where my mother would tape little cut-outs of Pooh onto my college care packages.

Friday, December 23, 2005

It's a Cold, Cold Winter

Continuing the books-from-the-senior-book-recommendation-list, I finished The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah the other night.

In a nutshell, it's about Winter, a ghetto princess who loses her privilege and protection when her drug king father is ultimately busted by the cops. Half the story describes either Winter's shopping sprees or her sexual exploits, since those are the only illusions that can make her happy. But they're not described in any titillating or sensual detail. Souljah writes in Winter's Brooklyn vernacular. She lists things as they happen, with no poetry or lyrical style. Just the bare facts, in one teenger's voice.

Then there's the weird insertion of the author into the story. Throughout the book, Winter hears Sister Souljah on the radio, picks up flyers for a Sister Souljah event, and is referred to a Sister Souldjah discussion group by a friend. Eventually Sister Souljah, as a character in her own story, takes Winter under her wing, exposes her to critical thinking, affairs of the mind, etc. This is the point where the reader thinks Winter will turn her life around. But she doesn't. She's too easily distracted by money and sex, and loses sight of friends, family, and community. The girl is straight up cold in her relations and dealings with other people; she approaches everything and everyone as a business venture to see what she can get from them. She falls in with an up-and-coming drug dealer, and ends up in jail by the age of 18.

I just thought it was a little odd to write yourself into your own book like that, as a beacon of hope for a little ghetto superstar who winds up serving time because she won't listen to you. I was thinking this might be a parallel to hip-hop music, where artists write themselves into their own lyrics.

In all, The Coldest Winter Ever wasn't a great book, and I didn't think it was particularly well-written. I couldn't relate to the main character, and I found myself unable to empathize with her, either. (Your family's belongings have been confiscated by the police, you're technically homeless, you have limited funds availalble, and you go shopping for designer gear every other day???) And yet I couldn't stop reading the book! I didn't particularly care what happened to Winter; I just wanted to see how she'd draw on her street smarts to get out of the messes life kept throwing her. But she doesn't, and ultimately the point is that she can't. Sister Souljah so drastically took the rags-to-riches American "dream" and tore it down: Winter's riches-to-rags nightmare isn't first and foremost a commentary on the state of the inner city. It's a portrait of how money, sex, and beauty are fleeting, and therefore so are any human connections based on them.

It's the first book from the '01 book recommendation list that I've liked somewhat!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mucho queso

I have six months to learn to converse in Spanish. Or more accurately, to possibly give a short speech and toast in Spanish, and talk to people afterwards.

So I've been listening to Thalía. Specifically, her Dance Hits Remixed album. All the dance tunes are awesome, and make the morning bus rides bearable.

But I don't think it's helping me with the grammar!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ghosts of Christmas Past

One of my favorite real-life Christmas stories used to be the Christmas truce of 1914, for two reasons:

1. In middle school, I discovered the John McCutcheon song "Christmas
in the Trenches"
one day at the library; and

2. My mother made me watch the children's story "Silent Mouse" whenever it aired on PBS, and it briefly alludes to the first holiday season of the Great War.

My other favorite real-life Christmas story is, of course, Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cocktail party fodder

A group called KnowledgeNews had an interesting ad in's Word of the Day:

"A Cure for Brain Flab!
One brain-building, at-a-glance email a day helps keep unsightly ignorance away."

Apparently getting factoids emailed to you, for $19.95 a year, is analogous to going to the gym; and the marketing certainly plays up the feel-bad-about-yourself angle. Because of course, brain-building doesn't have inherent value; in order for its absence to be "unsightly," others have to notice it and care...

Can't people just pick up a book of their own choosing?

Besides, does the same thing for free. =)

Friday, December 16, 2005

More Bluntness

Currently sandwiched between Tupac and the Megs on one of my playlists is James Blunt's "Out of My Mind."

Judging by the look on the organ-grinder,
He'll judge me by the fact that my face don't fit.
It's touching that the monkey sits on my shoulder.
He's waiting for the day when he gets me,
But I don't need no alibi - I'm a puppet on a string.
I just need this stage to be seen.
We all need a pantomime to remind us what is real.
Hold my eye and know what it means.
I'm out of my mind.

Normally, I wrap Christmas presents to Christmas music. But the Time-Life Treasury of Christmas gets old after a while. . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Makers and Missions

Today's birthday girl chose the Sterling Cafe for her dinner. Excellent food! It's all-organic (or almost so), and she was really psyched to try the kefir, but they were out so she had to settle for the kombucha instead. Apparently it all conforms to the Maker's Diet. Her cousin and sisters, on the other hand, opted to split a bottle of wine. (If it's red can we swing it as a healthy drink, too?)

Yesterday's birthday boy chose Mission. Not a big fan of the food, but I'm admittedly automatically suspicious of "gourmet" Mexican restaurants -- I feel like the cuisine of La Raza is supposed to be simpler, earthier, and available in greater quantities. But the place serves a GREAT exceptionally strong drink called the Bartender's Margarita. Yowsa!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Planet That's Evolving

Sometimes an eCard says it better than a paper card (which wouldn't reach Chicago by tomorrow, anyway!): Monty Python's The Meaning of Life as a birthday greeting!

The Fox!

The Legend of Zorro is currently playing at the Admiral, that awesome West Seattle bastion of second-run films. I liked it better than The Mask of Zorro!!! Then again, the old 1958 version (The Sign of Zorro) is a film I think I've seen the most in my life, second only to The Great Escape. But I digress... I LOVED this sequel!

However, there are a TON of historical discrepancies, the first being that the film wants to take place 1861 by having Abraham Lincoln and the Confederacy make appearances. The whole storyline revolves around California attaining statehood in time to join the Union before the Civil War. But since California became a state in 1850, that's when the story has to occur, even though Lincoln was still practicing law in Illinois and the Confederacy obviously hadn't formed yet. Also, the intro sentence claims that Californians were "poor and desperate" and wanted statehood (implying that joining the United States brought economic prosperity), but I always thought the Gold Rush of 1848 brought a hell of a lot of business to California (though maybe not the Los Angeles area so much), for better or worse, and sped up the process of statehood. It also brought ethnic conflict, and I doubt that Latinos were allowed to vote for statehood, as the movie happily portrays.

All of this was in the back of my mind as I watched the movie, but I'm learning to suspend belief. (In my younger, more intolerant years, I would've hated this movie because of its inability to insert itself properly into history. Ah, but wisdom comes with age... or maybe it's apathy, not wisdom! Like I said, I loved this movie.) Then again, post-Civil War American history interests me more, so I don't necessarily care that much to do the research.

The cheesy opening scenes have Zorro saving a ballot box full of brown people's votes from the bad guy who doesn't want statehood. I think this opener can only make sense to a post-Election2000 audience! But it's the kind of movie that kids would love because there's a kid who gets to participate in all the action; the heroine likewise gets to kick some ass; and there's a cheesy secret international organization out to rule the world. So many holes, historical and otherwise, but it was all good fun.

Speaking of films, I can't wait for King Kong!!! I had to watch the original twice for a class back in the day, and this latest version apparently is fairly faithful to the 1933 film. But of course it can't appeal to its audience in the same ways (there's no Depression wreaking havoc in cities, but there are different monsters for a modern audience). So I'm curious to see what's been changed for 21st-century viewers, and how those viewers might read a storyline that is placed in the 1930s.

Le Chef

Making a real Sunday breakfast while finishing up writing the holiday cards proves that it's going to be an AWESOME winter!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Back to Bedlam

Because I heard James Blunt's hauntingly beautiful song once, I borrowed the entire album to rip. And DAMN it's excellent! I might have to buy it. The whole album is essentially an anthem to jaded, disaffected human relations, but that's fine. It'd go nicely with my Keane album, which is all exploratory and innocent.

"You're Beautiful" is still my favorite, but "Cry" and "Goodbye My Lover" are now up there too. Seriously, "Cry" is so good I have to post the lyrics, sans le fromage, although I fully expect to hear it on an OC or Seventh Heaven episode soon:

I have seen peace. I have seen pain,
Resting on the shoulders of your name.
Do you see the truth through all their lies?
Do you see the world through troubled eyes? . . .

I have seen birth. I have seen death.
Lived to see a lover's final breath.
Do you see my guilt? Should I feel fright?
Is the fire of hesitation burning bright? . . .

You and I have lived through many things.
I'll hold on to your heart.
I wouldn't cry for anything,
But don't go tearing your life apart. . . .

I have seen fear. I have seen faith.
Seen the look of anger on your face.
And if you want to talk about what will be,
Come and sit with me, and cry on my shoulder,
I'm a friend.

Not Feeling the Love

The Fam Peeps, as they are known in my cell phone contact list, went and bought the Christmas tree without me this year. (And it's not the typical Charlie Brown tree we normally get, either...)

Plus, to pour salt in the wound, they decorated it without me! There are only three decorations I care about putting on the tree -- the little bead figure I picked out at a bazaar when I was six, the Frosty and Crystal ball, and the unicorn I broke when I brought it for Show and Tell in kindergarten. Hmmph. Rearranged those three. Showed them. Bah humbug.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Carte blanche

I spend waaaaay too much time finding the perfect birthday cards for people, and matching the cards in the holiday card sets to the people who will be receiving them. =) But it's fun! Cards always scream people's names at me!

Watching people watching people

And, from the ever-fascinating world of observations in human behavior, a new study in Germany indicates that the larger the group watching someone in trouble in a public space, the less likely anyone is to offer help. The exception is when the situation turns violent or dangerous.

Gut reaction: "That's horrible! See? People are uncaring, unfeeling monsters en masse! Where's the humanity???"

Rational but optimistic reaction: Maybe people don't offer help when there are others around because they assume someone else will. Degree of responsibility lessons, not necessarily the level of compassion.

Need to work on overcoming those visceral judgments....

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Just a tad fishy

A new creature may have been "discovered" in Borneo, according to the WWF. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but this seems suspicious:

Researchers hope to confirm the discovery by setting cage traps to catch a live specimen, but warn that Indonesian government plans to clear the rainforest to create the world's largest palm oil plantation may interfere with plans, WWF said.

The proposed plantation scheme, funded by the China Development Bank, is expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares, equivalent to about half the size of The Netherlands, said the WWF, formerly known as the World Wide Fund for Nature.

The potential new species of carnivore in Borneo would be the first since the discovery of the Borneo ferret-badger in 1895, the WWF said.

Pictures of the animal were first taken by WWF researchers in 2003, the photos kept unpublished by the WWF as research continued.

The WWF's website claims its "researchers have not yet established whether this is an entirely new species or if it is a new species of marten or civet cat, which looks like a cross between a cat and a fox." Also, the animal "might remain a mystery for ever, if its habitat is not adequately protected."

I agree, protecting wildlife and the environment are top priorities (I think I donated to WWF once). It just seems like such perfect timing that photos of a potentially new creature are released right when bulldozing plans are becoming a reality.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Still incredibly sore from hauling all my worldly possessions eight blocks!