Saturday, December 30, 2006

ODTAA and Subjunctive History

I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I went into The History Boys thinking the plot was going to be clich├ęd, and it definitely was: students study to take important test, teacher gives lessons in life rather than just books. But the old familiar premise wasn't the driving force behind the film.

After acing their A-levels, a group of boys at a grammar school in Yorkshire study for history exams for admission to Oxford and Cambridge. Hector, the old teacher, has the boys for "general studies," mainly literature and music. Irvin, the new, younger teacher (played by a really cute and dorky unknown actor who unfortunately has the most unflattering photos available online), tries to challenge their automated answers. And here I show my bias. The movie pits Hector's literature-and culture-disguised-as-fun approach against Irwin's teaching-to-the-test ideas. Hector tells them to be themselves and pursue truth; Irwin tells them it's okay to lie and to highlight the irregular.

As a history major, I resent the portrayal of Irwin's history class. The old stodgy history teacher had them memorize nothing but years and facts; Irwin had them questioning the dominant paradigm. How is that lying? How it that opposed to truth and honesty? How is that teaching to a test? It shows critical thinking! "Revisionism" has a completely different context in popular culture and partisan politics than it does in the academic field of history.

Hector also teaches the boys to memorize poems and songs and essays, but it's portrayed as the enjoyment of enduring human sentiments rather than only in historical context. The problem is, the movie depicts a "detached" approach to history as necessarily a unhuman one, and yet fails to

So as a cultural studies major, I disagree that the two teachers' methods are at odds (yay, interdisciplinary approaches). There's a scene where one of the boys says the answer to a question depends on whether they need to seem "thoughtful" (gestures to Hector) or "smart" (gestures to Irwin). They shouldn't be separate, and neither should the two classes. The film confuses the feelings stirred up by Hector's coursework with all things related to thinking. There were too many scenes where Irwin says "What?" to a reference Hector taught the boys, and vice versa. Hello, tear down the walls in the ivory tower.

But in spite of all this, the debate on the role of teaching and knowledge (however muddled and uninformed) is presented in such a wonderfully compelling way, with great dialogue, that I love the film. What other film out there addresses theory and history and literature at the same time? The movie throws out a ton of really great questions (and answers them pretty sloppily), but the conversation continues in the viewer. There were so many great nuggets of conversation that I wanted to see expanded. And now I can bug everyone I know to see it so I can yap their ears off. =)

There's also a hilarious scene spoken entirely in French, but it's French spoken as teenagers learning the language speak it. So if you took high school French, it's pretty easy to understand. And laugh. (Judging by the lack of reaction in the theatre, though, I think everyone else took Spanish in high school...)

The characters aren't very deep; in fact, not much is revealed about the boys or the teachers. Except for a few scenes, we only see them in school, in their respective roles. Not having much insight into the characters gets a little dicey because there's also the subplot involving the molestation tendencies of some of the teachers. Actually it isn't so much a subplot, it's pretty central to the story. Basically Hector is a lovable fat mentor except when he gropes his students. And Irwin has his own issues too. In fact, all the male teachers at the school except the religious gym teacher are revealed to have inappropriate interactions with students. And the students are all weirdly okay with it, which the movie doesn't explore at all. Also, the unstated correlation between being gay and being a potential child molester made me a little uncomfortable. There's wrongness at all levels with this theme of the film. Personally, I think the movie would have worked even without it.

Obviously, a teacher would interpret this film differently in light of this aspect of the film. I choose to focus on the history part, with the other stuff as useful tangents. Maybe it's really the opposite....

That's the beauty of polysemic texts.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tin Roof Rusted

One would think that, growing up in the Northwest, walking 8 blocks with a paper bag in the pouring rain would be intuitively unthinkable. But nooooo. Three paper bags (albeit slightly laminated ones from a department store) full of Christmas presents, I walked 5 blocks before one of the handles sogged off. Hugged the bags for another two blocks before they just turned to mush and all the gifts spilled onto the soggy street. And it had to be in the dark, in the sketchy area close to the bus stop. Had to pile everything on the bus stop bench and guard everything while calling my mom and sister (whichever had the free car) to come pick me up.

But Santa, like the postal service, made it through the rain.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Holla Daze

After several people mentioned how great it was, Holidays on Ice happened to be a strategically-placed impulse-buy at the local bookstore where I was frantically getting a last-minute birthday present for a friend. I knew it was a collection of short stories, which I always like better than long novels (it's the ADD thing), so I bought it.

It cracked me up. David Sedaris has a really sarcastic, snide way of writing about situations. All of the stories are about the modern madness of Christmas. There are only six stories, and I found myself laughing uncontrollably while reading the book at the bus stop. (Nearby people edged away and pretended not to notice.) Some of the stories are irreverent and impolite, and some have faint autobiographical undertones, but they're all tongue-in-cheek and hilarious. They're all told first-person, so what the reader ends up with are a full range of snapshots of character's holiday experiences, told in their jaded, snarky voices. And it's funny.

My favorite story was the first one, "SantaLand Diaries," about a 30-something elf at Macy's. The insights into the behavior patterns of store employees and customers are brilliant, and anyone who's ever worked retail can relate. "Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol" was a hilarious review of school holiday pageants from a guy who doesn't care that they're just kids and not actors. "Dinah, the Christmas Whore," a story about a brother and sister who bring an abused prostitute home to their family, was at its core just a great story about being nonjudgmental and recognizing the good in everyone (this premise always works better at Christmas, it seems).

The three that started off interesting, went on a bit long, and had ridiculously improbably endings, were the ones I liked but didn't love. These three were also stories where the reader slowly begins to realize that the reliability of the narrator is questionable. "Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!" started off as a funny parody of holiday letters, where it's revealed that a recent addition to the family is the daughter the father unknowingly sired while serving in Vietnam. I was a little uncomfortable with stereotypic descriptions of the girl's choppy English, scanty outfits, and inclinations towards incest, until it gradually dawned on me that the narrator, the mother, was a little unbalanced, and the whole description of the girl was from her warped viewpoint. It was the same thing with "Christmas Means Giving," about two rich families who try to outdo each other every Christmas; the story quickly snowballed from the familiar and believable to the impossible and ridiculous. "Based Upon a True Story" made fun of made-for-TV movies that capittalize on tragic stories. It was probably my least favorite, but it was still well-written.

If anything, everyone should read "SantaLand Diaries."

A story you'll get only on...

Watched Scoop the other day. I'm not really a Woody Allen fan, and both Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman are just great to look at, but I haven't overwhelmingly loved any of their movies. I liked this one, though. The basic plot is that college student Scarlett teams up with magician Woody after getting a tip from a ghost that aristocrat Hugh might be a serial killer. It played mind games on its over-thinking audience --is he the murderer? No, it's his dad! No, it's the magician! No, it's the butler!

The film was definitely quirky (the dead are ferried on the River Styx into the afterlife). And there are some plot holes (for instance, how is the dead journalist able to keep coming back with more info for Scarlett and Woody?) It was a different kind of role for Scarlett Johansson, too, and I rather liked her in it; she got to be goofy, and not just sulky and mysterious and pretty like she is in most of her films. It was also kind of funny seeing how the costume people kept putting her in bulky, awkward, unfashionable outfits in an attempt to make her look unbeautiful. (Meanwhile, everything that Hugh wore was droolable.) The only beef I had was that Scarlett's character considers herself a journalist, and she's only in college. Nobody considers themselves a journalist yet if they only write for a small college paper. That was a little ridiculous.

A friend pointed out that it was kind of like the comedy version of Match Point. And it did have similarities. But I liked this one better.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bored at work

Have already googled the gingerbread Nazi story, which was mentioned on The Daily Show last night (there's also a brief audio file on NPR).

But now, the news that the final Harry Potter book has a title. This is very exciting. Also very exciting and coincidental: someone brought really cool Harry Potter napkins into the office, with homemade fudge. I made off with more napkins than fudge.

If you go down to the woods today...

A really sad news item: bears in northern Spain have stopped hibernating because of changes in the climate.

Poor little bears. They're probably confused, and don't know why they have insomnia. They're wandering around, thinking it's eternally spring.

And now I'm sadly reminded of the CG polar bear from An Inconvenient Truth, swimming and swimming in the Arctic waters, unable to find an ice floe big enough to rest on. That's obviously a very different situation. But it's still a bear. I like bears. They shouldn't suffer because their human neighbors are destroying the planet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Closure at the almost-four week mark

Breaking up with Mr. Coffee has been difficult. The fatigue and the early-morning prevalence of annoying people still hasn't gone away, as well as the heartache whenever I pass a coffee shop and get a whiff of java. Oh, the memories. The memories! Some of the morning grogginess can also be attributed to late nights and, uh, Christmas cheer, but the decaffeination doesn't help much.

But I finally took one of the next steps, and put Mr. Coffee on top of the fridge, with George Foreman. There's now a big, weird blank space on my kitchen counter where the coffeemaker, several pounds of coffee, and coffee filters used to be.

The coffeemaker, which was programmable, also happened to be my most reliable clock. The others, like the stove and the VCR, are always a little off. So now, in addition to the big white space on the counter (and in my heart), there's also a time warp in the house to deal with.

Reading schmeading

Haven't been reading much lately. Not even the Atlantic Monthly that's been sitting near my couch. Instead, I've been watching a lot of movies. I somehow lost my cable (wasn't paying for it anyway), so TV isn't really interesting anymore. So Netflix is a staple source of entertainment these days, as well as friends' DVD collections or rental preferences.

In the recent tradition of watching movies not normally on my radar, I saw Old School last weekend, under similar circumstances as the Super Troopers viewing. The Vince Vaughn/Luke Wilson/Will Ferrell comedy team worked really well. Luke Wilson played a good straight man to the other two: Vince Vaughn's verbal antics are almost always hilarious in any movie, and Will Ferrell is better when he's totally outrageous (then again, I always think streaking is way funnier than it probably is....) It made for a lowkey Saturday. Followed up with a few episodes of Police Squad, which I'd also never seen but found funny.

And two days of singing (first at karaoke, then at a holiday caroling party) makes your throat hurt.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Norman Bates!

In high school, when I was soccer captain, I'd post flyers on the players' lockers on game days, with pictures and personalized notes. When it came to putting my own up, I didn't want to be the only one without a handwritten note of inspiration, so I'd scribble something like "Hey B! Good luck today! From, B" or "From yourself." I'm sure it scared the nosy kids who read them. Anyways...

I've been designing this week's email alert, which is a holiday e-card. I usually have to test for compatibility in Firefox and Internet Explorer, then check Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail to see if there is any wonkiness with different systems. (A lot of love and micromanagement goes into the weekly alerts....) At any rate, since I have half a dozen email accounts, I've been sending myself the test messages. But they're c-cards! You can't send an e-card without a note of some kind. So I've also been writing myself little messages, like, "Yo B, how's it going over at Yahoo?" and then I reply by sending another e-card, this time to Gmail. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

It makes the work a little more exciting. But also, admittedly, a little more schizophrenic.

I am Spartacus...!!!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Windstorm, the Windy City Gal, and the Granny

The recent windstorm left my sister without power on her birthday, so we had the celebrations in my little basement apartment (my neck of the woods was completely unaffected). She and my mom clung to the hope that power would return at any minute. In fact, they clung so tightly that they neglected to tell me they were spending the night until I thought they were leaving. They didn't even want to drive home for PJs, clothes, and a toothbrush, because the traffic lights weren't working on the Westside. So naturally I had an OCD freakout (my mom's classic parent-guilt response: "What do you mean you're not mentally prepared for us to spend the night? I'm your mother....") So stay they did.

Day two: mom and Joy were out doing things during the daylight. Instead of going to the gym, I mopped the floor, scrubbed the bathtub, bought groceries and toilet paper, washed their towels and blankets, and re-fluffed the couch pillows. Fully expected them to have to spend the night again. At the last minute and after three voicemails ("Meeting some friends for drinks, Mom, here's where I'll hide the key for you guys"), their power went back on and all that tub-scrubbing was for nothing.

My arms are still sore.

Well, but not for nothing. A friend from college is in town for two days for a medical residency interview at UW (Torgo, your old suitemate and Xtina, your current fellow Chicagoan). Mom took us out to the Thai restaurant that we impose on all family guests because it has a great view of the city. Had fun driving around and showing off the hometown. And I think I talked her into coming to karaoke tomorrow. Mwahaha.

Amid the guided tour, we're managing to catch up. I found out that my freshman roommate apparently got married and just had a baby. (We, uh, had extreme personality differences and so didn't communicate after freshman year. But Jackie, who lived with her after I did, is still on the email list, and got the flickr links. So I checked those out.) Anyways, it reminded me of the fact that one of my senior year flatmates just had a son, and another one just got married and so will probably have one soon. This means of the 5 people I lived with in college, 3 are married and 1 is partnered, and 2 have kids. Which is cool in terms of accumulating life experiences. But auuuugghhh! It also means that retirement is just around the corner!!!!

Good thing I started that IRA for my 25th birthday.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Aaaaaalvin!!!!!

The characters in The Hudsucker Proxy were all such giddily deliberate caricatures of '50s film: they really do up the voices and phrases in particular. That was really awsome.

The story itself could have used some help, though. Aside from all the anachronisms (which you take in stride because the whole spirit of the movie is more about fun and invention and fighting greed, not the precise years the hula hoop and bendable straw were patented), the characters weren't very well developed. For instance, who exactly was the kind, grandfatherly, guardian angel-like black dude who lived in some timeless factory behind the ticking clock? I know they're all supposed to be stock types straight from black and white movies, but the film also purports to be an all-American portrait of greed and fat cats and corporations and the little guy. If it didn't pretend, it would have been a hearty all-in-good-fun movie.

I like scenes of snow falling in cities. As mentioned before, I am also obsessed with clocks and the concept of time. The opening scenes of Hudsucker had snow falling on empty city streets, and slowly moved towards the building with the giant clock. It was a kind of magical moment, but after that, it all went downhill. It was a fun ride downhill, though. Just one I couldn't take too seriously because at time it took itself too seriously.

But speaking of corporations...

One way self-admitted nerds and their friends can celebrate the holidays: a blind eggnog tasting. With six different brands of eggnog, six people tasted them all without knowing which was which, then ranked them on several characteristics. Darigold won. Horizon was a close second (and my personal favorite, though the Darigold was my second-favorite). And the really expensive brand came in last.

And I have to atone at the gym for a while...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Fozziwig!

So far it's been a very Dickensian December. The Muppets version was surprisingly true to the book (which I admit I haven't read in about 6 years, but the friend who reads it every year said the same thing). Except for the singing, of course. And Michael Caine was a great Scrooge.

The oddest and yet strangely fascinating thing was watching the bloopers and outtakes. Of muppets!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"Me, I want a hula hoop..."

The improv "Christmas Carol" has triggered the annual cheese dripping.

Finished my holiday cards! I did them in timed geographic order, with the non-U.S. ones going out first, then the east coast and midwest ones a few days later, then the California ones. Have just penned all the ones for Washington State. Yeeawww.

I have my little $1-from-the-Target-sale-bin 1' silver Christmas trees up, decorated with my Mardi Gras beads and miniature disco lights. Random bells and stuff I've collected from the Dollar Store over the years are up on the doors. Took forever, but I managed to line the walls with the same holiday lights I've had since college. Can't find the musical reindeer ears I bought to embarrass my sister at the airport, but I think they're at my mom's.

Even made a little dent in the shopping tasks. Wrapped a few presents while listening to last year's holiday playlist. Mental note: heavy on the oldies, need to make new playlist, even I have to borrow my sister's CD collection to add Amy Grant's "Tennessee Christmas." After Grandma died, I inherited her entire Time-Life Christmas CD collection, so I think I have every holiday song recorded before 1965.

The hibernation began last week

For some odd reason, part of me was expecting with Secretary to be a thinly-disguised S&M porn flick. I was expecting to have political issues with the female as both the automatic submissive role and the fact that she only gains self-confidence when an older man teaches it to her and the fact that a lawyer should know sexual harrassment laws. And yeah, those aspects bugged me (couldn't the shy girl turn into a dominatrix? Couldn't the male character have some metamorphosis or parallel character development? Geez.) But it turns out, the movie was kinda cute. Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader were both great. It was just your average little romance story, except with the mental illness history and the S&M thrown in. The weird workplace harrassment aside, at least it didn't try to justify or explain why two adults doing whatever they want is okay. That was the unspoken premise of the whole movie. It was a little odd, though, that in setting up these characters in what is considered an unconventional relationship, they end up reinforcing conventional social norms by getting married.

I have no idea how American Dreamz got to the top of my Netflix queue. I'll watch any parody. Can't guarantee I'll like it, but I'll watch it. Even if it's a terrible movie that's trying so desperately, and failing embarrassingly, to "make a statement" about "American culture." The problems arise when it's unclear what either of those are. (Unfortunately, due to over-conditioning on postmodern theory and social critique, I have pretty high standards for what constitutes even a barely-decent cultural analysis.) In Dreamz, I was impressed with Sam Golzari and Tony Yalda, but I think that's mainly because there are so few Middle Easterners in the media. It was good to see John Cho again. And I think I've realized I like Mandy Moore better when she knows she's playing a caricature, in Dreamz as well as Saved!.

This film was terrible on so many levels, I can't even begin to start, so I won't. I don't care about the irreverence or un-PC aspect, that was actually vaguely amusing. The film's only redeeming quality: it made me sing along to Sinatra's "My Way," in the scene where the one-time wannabe terrorist embraces that good ol' American spirit of indepedence and chooses not to blow up the President with a suicide bomb on national TV.

Finally, a movie that wasn't even on my radar was Super Troopers. But there was caffeinated beer, chai and rum, and good, fun company, so it got on my radar. It had a better and more believable plot than American Dreamz, and I like the idea of cops vs. highway patrol. One fascinating thing was watching some of the bloopers, realizing the a lot of the antics weren't really faked. One of these days, I should try chugging syrup, just for the hell of it!

My favorite aspects: the little mixed kid really did look mixed, and the gray stone shots of the trooper HQ really did kind of look like Vermont. And all references to a state fiscal budget were accurate.

A fish toss away from the Market

Back in early November, I attended the Emerald City Swank for the fourth year in a row. That happens when you have three friends on the board. At any rate, with so many friends at different nonprofits with annual dinners and fundraiser, I used to be really addicted to silent auctions. I'd arrive on time, of course, bid on several items I was kind of interested in, then run around in a panic thinking I'd have to pay $800. It helped me to walk around and be social (and holding a wine glass never hurt either), instead of pretending to read the emergency exit maps and liquor license details in the corner by the free food.

The weening-away process is easier than with drugs, so this year (for the first time), I didn't bid at several silent auctions attended. Except at this one. And I ended up winning tickets to "An (Improvised) Christmas Carol" at a local improv theatre. The tickets were donated to the silent auction by the live auction emcee, who also happened to be our trivia host from the old EMP days (it's a small, small town) and starred as Scrooge in the production.

I love improv when it's done well, and this was definitely top-notch. The audience got to come up with a list of words or scenarios, which then changed the details of the Dickens storyline but not the heart of it. Good evening. And next year, I wouldn't mind paying to see it again!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Teapot Dome Scandal, sans oil

Day 11 of no coffee. No headaches yet, just uber-fatigue and a proliferation of stupid people everywhere, especially in the mornings.

Had been drinking buckets of the peppermint and chamomile tea I found in the office cupboards, but then realized three days late it's all decaf. Oops. Felt happier after drinking the bad tea from the machine (the same machine which dispenses what I didn't count as coffee when I tried to quit last year....)

It's amazing how much a little caff- um, tea can brighten the day and make the surrounding people smarter.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

This has been on my mental task list for a while. I practically had to hide it at checkout counter at the library, but I finally got around to reading Madonna's The English Roses. I've been wanting to to read it for the simple fact that one of the characters has my name. Spelled the same and everything!

Hmmmph.

It was REALLY, REALLY WEIRD seeing my name in a book. I'm not used to seeing it in the third person. Whenever I see it, it's usually written by me or addressed to me or about me. Because it's not a name!!! It's a word!!! I half suspect Madonna chose it because she's into the Kabbalah. Why else name a little English girl in her story with the Hebrew word for "understanding"? (A quick wikipedia search shows that the word is also some sort of division on the Kabbalah tree of life.) The other girls were named Nicole, Amy, Charlotte, and Grace. Why not name the little outcast girl Beatrice? Or Betty? Why me?????

The story itself was pretty unoriginal, and the narrative style was disjointed.

Hmmmph. Hmmmph. Hmmmph.

Hmmmph.

Monday, December 04, 2006

And on the seventh day...

HA! Made it 7 days without coffee!

No withdrawal symptoms until today's headache, but perhaps being slightly sick has something to do with that. Unless being irritible with the crowds downtown counts as a symptom, but that might also be the street un-savvy Christmas hordes.

Alea iacta est!

Finished the trilogy. The Reckoning completes the Sharon Kay Penman saga of Wales and England. The conquering of Wales is a depressing story, so the book doesn't end on a happy note. The main characters (or at least the ones based on real people), their children, and their friends, all end up wasting away in English prisons, hung/drawn/quartered, or beheaded and their heads on pikes. There's also one death-in-childbirth chapter with one of the main characters. Two made-up characters survive to symbolize hope. But the rest is still a sad, tragic tale.

I knew I wouldn't like reading about the late-13th century. But Penman again does a good job of getting into the minds of characters who are also historical figures. Like Davydd, the last Prince of Wales, who festers in an English jail knowing he'll be hung, drawn, and quartered. She did a good job of writing defiant and despairing thoughts that seem logical for a man about to face that horrible fate. Her character depictions work well except with Edward I. (She had the same issue with King John, in the first book of the trilogy.) She tries valiantly to reconcile the loyal family member to the heartless butcher, but the only sentiments she can fall back on are politcal. Where she was okay with simply not resolving those contradictions in John (the whole point was that he's a big, evil mystery), with Edward she tries to throw in a King Arthur complex. But it doesn't emerge until the final chapters, this desire to conquer the entire island, and doesn't really explain away his earlier cruelties.

Though the third and final book ends with a lot of violence and misery, it's still better than the second, which pretty much had a death per chapter. This last book also featured a pirate kidnapping a royal bride, a notorious murder in an Italian church, foiled assassination plots, and of course, several Welsh rebellions. It all really happened, which I guess makes it both intriguing and sad.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Not Number One!

Just heard another song I like featured in a TV ad, this time for Target! At first I thought I'd accidentally started my media player, but then realized it was the TV and stared in horror.

Arrrrggghhh!!!!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Confession: I rigged the music charts...

Continuing the post-turkey veg-out, I finally watched A Mighty Wind. I have no idea how I managed to not see it before, seeing as how it's about folk music. And wow, there are some good songs featured by the fake folk groups. The faux-documentary itself is funny too, especially since you can kind of make parallels between real-life '60s folk singers and the film's fake ones. But mainly I liked listening to the songs.

Which reminds me of the incredible folk-related guilt I've been carrying for several years: I pseudo-rigged the folk charts at WMHB by recommending only the political, call-to-arms songs for airplay. Or ones that told cool stories. Not that everybody went with the recommendations, but a surprising number did.

Yesterday, after building-hopping home in an attempt to escape the snow and the cold, I also watched another Colin Firth movie. Of course, it was also a Kevin Bacon movie, and it was pretty bad. I've seen worse. It was supposed to be a noir-esque murder mystery. But I think it was just a vehicle for as many people as possible to get naked onscreen. Plus I figured out the murderer early on. And Alison Lohman got on my nerves. And Colin Firth can do better.

I think this is more movies than I've watched in the past couple of months...

Cultural Learnings ...

Saw Borat. Overall, it was hysterical. The opening scenes, I admit, were awkward, where Sacha Baron Cohen relies on demeaning misconceptions about developing countries and small towns. I couldn't really laugh at all that, in part because there are probably people out there who believe every little shtetl really does have its own lovable town rapist. But of course, the rest of the film only works because nobody Borat encounters knows anything about Kazakhstan. I had no problem laughing after the first ten minutes.

And geez, the people say the most shocking things. The drunk frat boys go on an unprovoked rant about the proper place of women and minorities; the rodeo owner goes on a homophobic, xenophobic tirade; the etiquette society members get up and leave when the (black) prostitute (fake, I'm pretty sure) arrives for the party. And it all works amazingly well, because in pretending Kazakhstan is a sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic, backwards place, Cohen is able to get self-righteous Americans to unknowingly expose those elements in themselves.

There are people, like the driving instructor, the humor coach, and the car salesman, who don't come off so badly. Mainly because you can see in their faces how they decide to just do their job and not react to the particular weirdness that Cohen throws at them.

The whole thing isn't just interviews intended to get red state folks to embarrass the U.S., though. There's a loose plot involving an obsession with Pamela Anderson, and some of the scenes were obviously faked (like the Jewish couple, the prostitute, and Pamela Anderson). At least all logic points to those ones being faked, but maybe I was overthinking it. Along the way, there's also a bizarre nude scene.

My favorite line, though, has to be when Borat is at the rodeo and shouts into the microphone in his fake accent that Kazakhstan "supports your war of terror," and people cheer. That took guts. I don't know how Cohen didn't laugh or cry while filming the movie, but I'll give a fellow history dork mad acting props.

I still like Ali G better, though.

Post-turkey vegging

Either the tryptophan has made me extra-happy and uncritical, or the post-Thanksgiving movie fest (to avoid the shopping frenzy) has been particularly good this year.

Technically the vegging started the night before the turkey was carved, with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which both I and a friend hadn't seen in like ten years. And for good reason. This is the odd film out in the trilogy --Indiana Jones is at his best when he's fighting Nazis and protecting biblical relics, not
eating shock-value foods that have nothing to do with real Indian cuisine. Besides, IJ's love interest in Temple of Doom is a ninny. We had fun heckling. And I won't watch it again for another ten years or so.

Batman Begins was cool, despite Katie Holmes and (again) the vague "yellow peril" undercurrent. (Wooooo, Asia as the source of ancient, mysterious secrets that teach truthseekers how to master the mind and body.... It's been done and overdone. But the scene with the ninjas, where Batman outsmarts his mentor, was really cool.) And Batman has some sweet gadgets and gear. Good superhero movie overall.

Shanghai Knights was good, despite all the anachronisms. Normally anachronisms irritate me (a la Zorro), but this was all done in good fun. Everyone in this movie is portrayed ridiculously, from the evil duke in line for the throne to the London street urchin to the keeper of the seal of the Forbidden City. I saw Shanghai Noon a long time ago and remember I liked it, too. It was delightfully goofy. And Jackie Chan always has some creative fight sequences and funny bloopers.

The old classic White Christmas was good, as always. I could sing along to most of the songs, as well as happily ignore the man-as-knight-on-a-white horse idea. It's the holidays. I love holiday specials. And holiday music. And holiday commercials. And all that cheese.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ahoy, matey!

Was not expecting to have minor surgery this afternoon, but it turns out the small bump underneath my eyelid could be removed with a small incision after applying local anesthesia. I got to wear an eye patch for two hours afterwards, and pretend to be a pirate! My mom was not amused. Now it just looks like I have the remnants of a tame black eye, but I can still pretend to be all hardcore.

Avast, me hearties!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Rebus

+ =


(Izze sparkling pomegranate pop + my favorite movie = good times)

Friday, November 17, 2006

If Only Big X had Obi Wan's powers!

Not so much the Star Wars geek, but The Great Escape is the movie I've seen the most and can quote most easily. Watched it every Friday one summer in middle school. Long story.

This has been the week from hell. Have gotten little sleep each night since Tuesday, hope I never have to visit an ICU again, sent a soppy, depressing email to half my address book, and will miss a very dear friend.

So this video, passed on by Torgo, made me laugh a little harder than I probably should have. Wish it had really happened, and that they'd all been saved!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Trilogy blues

When Sharon Kay Penman wrote Here Be Dragons, which I liked, I don't know if she intended it to be the first in a trilogy. Because she ended it so perfectly, on a happy note, with the protagonists finally reunited and the little Welsh clan momentarily at peace.

But, since she's writing a historical novel and these people actually lived and died, in book two she has to kill off everyone she didn't in book one. Since it's the early 13th century, most of them died either by some horrible (and now probably preventable) disease or in some gruesomely violent act.

First of all, one of the main characters is Simon de Montfort, so I knew it couldn't end well; reading descriptions of the Battle of Evesham in college was enough to burn lasting, horrifying images into my mind. Because the story spans 30 years and skips around between de Montfort's attempts to bring representative government to England and Llewellyn ap Gryffud's attempts to save Wales from both itself and the English, none of the characters that are dying off have been fully developed. There's no time to get to like any of them.

And geez. It can only get worse from here! Penman leaves the story with Henry III still alive and his son Edward, who grows up to be the Hammer of the Scots, running around all power-hungry. He's also the one that eventually steals the title of Prince of Wales for his son after conquering the Welsh, which means half the characters and families from books one and two will suffer humiliating and cultural defeat. Not sure if I want to read the third and final book, because it won't be a happy one.

Book one was about Llewellyn the Great. Why would I want to read about Longshanks? This is the guy that steals the Stone of Scone! I might as well just pick up where Grandpa made me start reading as kid, with the slightly boring Balliol saga.

But I can cross that bridge when it book three arrives from the library.

One Republican I'll miss

Toby Nixon. State legislator from one of the Seattle suburbs. He was trounced by a totally random Democrat last Tuesday. But he was a moderate, and he stuck out his neck on a lot of privacy issues, when a lot of Democrats were too chicken, and I'm sorry he won't be back in Olympia in January.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Roar!

Moved a couch today. In the rain. In the pouring rain. That sounds like a Hemingway story, but it's not. And actually, it wasn't raining too hard. And the couch was fairly light. Moved it from Fabulous Girl's near-empty apartment to the basement apartment of Friday's shopping buddy. Whose dad technically helped move the couch too. . . .

But still!!! I feel all buff and capable and hear-me-roar-ish!

Little turquoise dress

After Stranger Than Fiction, I went shopping with a friend, who now has her entire winter wardrobe. The problem when I go shopping with others is that I don't buy anything, but I get all these ideas. Then in the next day or two I run out and overdo it. So yesterday I went back to Anthropologie and bought the most expensive dress I have ever bought (not counting the formal dress for Torgo's wedding and the bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding -- participation in weddings doesn't count. Plus my mom paid for those. . . .) Anyways, wore it to the Emerald City Swank, the Seattle Works annual fundraiser last night. Must also wear it to the annual dinner for work next weekend, and every other possible outing this winter.

I realized that, though it's been about five years since I've salsa'd and a few months since I've done swing dancing, I can fake both pretty well!

It was also incredibly ironic that this year, I cut back on the number of silent auctions items I bid on, and yet won tickets to an improv show. For the past four years I've been attending the Swank, I'd rush around bidding on a ton of items, then panicking that I'd have to pay for them all, then getting outbid on everything. It was kind of like crack. Very addictive. Very bad. Messed me up in the head. I'm over all that now.

The Truth Can Sometimes Be ...

Saw Stranger Than Fiction on Friday. Normally I don't like Will Ferrell (except in SNL), but this one was good. He plays a guy whose life is mysteriously narrated by an author. Emma Thompson was brilliant as the eccentric artist who has writer's block and can't figure out how to kill her main character. Dustin Hoffman is almost the same character as his existential detective in I Heart Huckabees, but is still quirky and cool.

As I mentioned to a friend, while playing Taboo until 3 a.m., Will Ferrell's character reminded me a lot of J. Alfred Prufrock. He calculates life so exactly and has such a predictable routine, while people all around him are having fun and laughing. he knows death is imminent and feels he has to change his life somehow.

Still, you can't approach the film as if it were a serious commentary on life and death. There were some holes in the plot: Emma Thompson's mysterious narrative power is never explained, Will Ferrell's fate can easily be changed, and I doubt Harvard Law students live in dorms. But it was a good time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mas y mas

Muchas gracias to Xtina, who let me know that her home state just elected its first black governor. In my euphoria, I missed that. I've been mapping my new state legislature, and there are 10 new Dems, with 10 more races still too close to call. I should say, I've been mapping it in an impartial and nonpartisan manner for our lobbyist's impartial and nonpartisan presentation to the Board this weekend.

THIS is a good morning for America!

Now having to map out the state-level results for session-prep at work, but there's more good news from outside the Evergreen State: South Dakota defeated a horrible anti-choice initiative, as did California and Oregon.

Though my brother-in-law might be the last Latino to get a degree from the University of Michigan, the state at least voted to save the birds.

And Rumsfeld is stepping down.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Uber-happy dance!!!

This is awesome. And it's not just the 3 strong drinks at the election night parties.

The first female Speaker of the House. Two more women elected overall (because 76 is sooo much more representative than 74, out of 535 voting members). The first black guy elected from Minnesota is also the first Muslim ever elected to Congress. Rick Santorum went down (smirk very much intended). Bernie Sanders moves on the the Senate! Cantwell re-elected here in WA, defeating her blatantly anti-immigrant opponent. Allen looks like he's losing by 1% in Virgina, but it's still too close to call. The estate tax in WA will not be repealed. It's been a good night, despite the fingernail-biting. And that's not counting the local state races, which are also looking good.

There's the bad news, of course. Michigan's constitutional amendment to ban affirmative action passed overwhelmingly. Arizona now has English as its official language (though it defeated a ban on marriage for same-sex couples, forbidding one form of discrimination doesn't make up for enacting another).

The two Independents I know, both running against incumbent Dems, didn't do so well: Linnea only has 4% right now here in WA , and Dexter has 9% in Maine. Obviously, the numbers will change as more ballots are counted. But more power to them for having the courage to run in the first place. They're both my heroes!

Happy dance!!!

I get help during legislative session (the first 3-4 months a year when I have no time during the day to eat or chit-chat)!!! Our Executive Director just approved a part-time temporary position to help with all the non-legislative stuff I still have to do.

Now I'll have time to eat lunch and smile!

Monday, November 06, 2006

More than just the shoes

It was just a matter of time. Imelda Marcos is opening her own fashion line.

Maybe there will be sub-collections called "Martial Law," "Political Prisoners," and "Aquino Assassination."

Anniversaries and birthdays

This is a terrible movie to watch if it's anywhere near the anniversary of a death in the family. I sniffled and sobbed through almost the whole thing.

I have no idea why I thought it was a comedy. I think it was a good movie, though. All the yelling and screaming and weird behavior and crying seemed true to life. I didn't quite see how the sexpot teenager character fit in, though; she added unnecessary drama, and her failed attempt to seduce the older married guy did nothing to further the plot.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

To Catch a Thief

I never saw the original, but I've seen both Ocean's 11 remake and Ocean's 12 on planes, with no sound. Watched them both today as I was -- finally!-- cleaning the apartment.

I liked 12 better. Maybe because I like art heist films. I thought the whole film was funny. Or at least, it was all pretty funny after sniffing various household cleaning fluids.

Abracadabra

Saw The Prestige yesterday. I didn't read the book, but a friend gave me the synopsis, and it sounds really good too.

Two magicians (stage magicians, not Harry Potter types) start out as colleagues but end up as rivals. They try to outdo and sabotage each other's acts. The movie is told in several sets of flashbacks -- one is being tried for the other's murder. As a storytelling device, the trial-as-narrative is usually a good one. Overdone sometimes, but here it works well. The story is also moved along by each magician's journal entries, and flashbacks within flashbacks. It was very well done. I figured out one of the twists about 2/3 of the way through the movie, which took away the shock of the ending shot.

The story also switches back and forth between London and Colorado Springs, where electrical engineer Nikola Tesla has a lab and works to advance science, not magic. It's kind of funny that the (true) rivalry between Tesla and Thomas Edison, Edison is the thug hiring hit men to squash his opponent's ideas. In that way, the two scientists' rivalry mimics the two magicians'.

I disagree with the central notion that people like magic shows because they want to be deceived, though. I think it's a combination of curiosity and appreciation. There's a moment where, if you can't figure out how the magic is done, you clap for the good presentation of a clever ruse. Small children, I think, who aren't as cynical, will clap because there's the possibility that it really is magic, and there's more to the world than the easily explainable.

The film explores the darker side of magic acts. Some of the tricks to the acts are clever, some are just downright cruel, and the audience is blissfully happy because it is ignorant of everything that happens behind the curtain. That still doesn't mean they want to be decieved; they realize they're being tricked, they're just fine with not knowing how.

There's a segment where Hugh Jackman's character needs to find a body double, so his friends search the London streets and drag in some random guy that resembles him. The delightful irony of "trick" photogaphy goes so well with the movie's theme of magic --it took a good couple stares before I realized the lookalike was also played by Hugh Jackman. On a side note, it was also great to see Christian Bale (always a Newsie, sometimes a Swing Kid to me) not faking an American accent; and Scarlett Johanssen does a good job of faking her accent, too.

I'm putting the book on my reading list. Don't know when I'll get to it, but from my friend's description, it's very different and has entirely different creepy moments.