Thursday, December 25, 2008

'Ere he drove out of sight

Ad infinitum, perhaps ad nauseum for some folks, it's time for my annual Christmas posting. My two favorite Christmas stories have been a tad overly-mythologized and romanticized, but are rooted nonetheless in actual events.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
, the 1897 editorial in the New York Sun remains one of my favorite essays. It's a succinctly and beautifully written note about cynicism and faith, and I've re-posted it here.

The other favorite is the Christmas Truce of 1914. There's one good first-person account here that's taken from various seminal books on the Great War. (Also, there's a song called "Christmas in the Trenches" that I used to listen to in middle school. Yeah, I was a weird teenager.)

Happy holidays!
DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O'HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Against a pearl-gray sky

As 8" of snow piled up outside and the neffy crawled happily around the Christmas tree, I settled down to read The Oxford Murders. I love a good mystery, and this one was good. Because it involved mathematics and symbols and mentioned a secret society, I feared that it might be some weird Da Vinci Code rip-off; luckily, it wasn't.

An Argentinian graduate student at Oxford (we never learn the narrator's name) becomes involved in solving a series of mathematics-related murders: the murderer leaves a note and a symbol before every death, in a cat-and-mouse game with a math professor.

Sadly, if I can figure out the explanation for a mysterious series of symbols tied to murders, the symbols aren't that difficult. Just sayin'. What was more interesting were the tangential monologues about cause and effect and alternate possibilities in both ethics and mathematics. I guessed half of it, so it's obvious the answers themselves weren't the key -- the proofs were. Ho, ho, little math joke there...

In the end, without giving anything away, the plot and its resolution were just one big mind game. Definitely enjoyable!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Yipes

Frightening tale. At least no one was seriously hurt:
Students were screaming as bus crashed through barrier (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
(Photo: Seattle P-I)

A couple of charter buses with dozens of people aboard slid down ... snow-covered cobblestones ... and crashed into each other Friday morning, crashing through a guardrail... 20 to 30 feet above Interstate 5.

(Rainster's note: Basically, to the left of the photo is a very, very steep hill. I used to live a few blocks away. Meanwhile, a similarly steep hill near La Madre's house has been blocked off by police since the day before it snowed.)
Last Sunday, I was on a bus (public transportation, unlike these ones) that did the same thing, though in a different part of the city. (And the county has since put chains on all the buses.) We slid backwards, though, and hit the guardrail but didn't go through it. I walked two miles before my bro-in-law picked me up.

Still, safety concerns aside, I lovelovelove snow.

No matter how far away you roam

Ah, vacation! Leaving your winter gear in Boston, safe in the belief that the weather at home will be in the typical December 40s, with gray skies and drizzle.

One again, the universe reveals its sense of irony. Seattle is currently bracing for Round 3 of a mega-snowstorm. And the mere threat of snow is enough to paralyze the city...

But so far it's been jolly, filled with family and friends.

For starters, the Jeopardy Champ went and got herself formally and very publicly engaged at the karaoke bar where she met her fiance. She suspected it was coming, but the devil was in the details: an unusually packed karaoke night (word had spread), champagne, and cake. It's on youtube, actually ... while The Agent is proposing, I was up at the bar with the bride's roommate, Ms. Tungsten, another friend, and the bar staff, preparing the champagne and cake. The Scot managed to get a good view up front.

Then, a few days ago I met up with an old friend from middle school. We recognized each other at a Get-Out-the-Vote Halloween event, even in our costumes (I was Zorro, complete with mask, and she was a chicken, complete with beak. Bizarre.) At any rate, it's always good to catch up over whisky and rum.

Good times.

And, appropriately, I read Book 2 in the Artemis Fowl series: Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident. After trying to play in the snow like I haven't done since I was a kid and catching a slightly cold, I figured reading a children's series was entirely apropos. In this one, the teenage evil mastermind tries to rescue his father from Russian kidnappers, and the fairy and elf world agrees to help him in exchange for his help in stopping a goblin coup.

Fun, especially on a snowy day!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Razzle dazzle 'em

While not writing my last policy paper of the semester, Ms. Tungsten posted this on the FB:



I stand amazed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Still the same old story

Just when I started the Intellectual Property law class, my procrastination reading material turns out to be all about intellectual property. (I interpret this as The Goddess telling me it's okay not to do the readings for tomorrow's class just yet...)

Continuing my Connie Willis vein, Remake was a typical and short Willis story. The premise: Hollywood has stopped making movies and just recycles and remakes all of its old ones, using the digital (and copyrighted) images of actors and props and sets. The main character is a guy who remakes movies for studio bosses. There's a girl who wants to dance like Fred Astaire and be in the movies. There's also a fascinating subplot about censorship: part of remaking the old movies is scrubbing them clean of alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs. Bottles of booze are replaced by teacups or glasses of lemonade, and entire plots have to be rewritten if they involve drunkenness or addictive substances.
Casablanca is the film our hero, who struggles with his own drug and alcohol addictions, struggles to remake. Hint, hint.

In all, it was a quick read. Not one of Willis' best, and honestly, not that engaging. But I was really drawn to the concepts of the nature of escapism, the illusion of the movies, and revising past cultural products to fit changing realities. Also, the book reminded me a bit of Lincoln's Dreams, a Willis book I read earlier this year, in that the male main characters are tragically obsessed with kind but afflicted women, and the endings to both sort of fade to black sans resolution. Like many of Willis' other stories, this one also mentioned time travel, but didn't completely explore that possibility, much like Lincoln's Dreams strongly hinted at dream travel but didn't take the full plunge.

And now, I think I'll avoid having to read up on trade secret laws by reorganizing my Thanksgiving photos of La Ping├╝inita.

The more things change, the more they . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Toil and trouble

Xtina lent me Wicked. She warned me it was completely different from the play, which I've never seen, and that it was also a very dark tale.

It was actually fairly gripping and well-written; but as predicted, it was also really, really depressing. The nature of good and evil, the role of religion, political dissent (yeeaww), animal rights, and complications inherently wrapped up in sex are all at the heart of the "other side" of the story of Wizard of Oz. Wicked is the biography of the Wicked Witch of the West, and Maguire does a brilliant job of painting a portrait of Oz as a land of magic and mystery and barbarism and political intrigue. The reader sees green-skinned, outcast Elphaba the future Witch, born into a missionary family; raised in near isolation, she sees soldiers from the Emerald City pillage and plunder natural resources; off at university, she becomes a radical animal rights activist. It's a disturbing and violent biography.

I didn't expect religion to be so central to the storyline, but one of the main themes is Elphaba's struggle to fit her atheism into her own life's melding of free will and destiny: her minister father's proselytizing; the spiritual devotion of her deformed sister, the Wicked Witch of the East; the vanity of her college friend Glinda the sorceress; the comforting pagan beliefs of the rural folk; the magic she teaches herself; the struggle of animals to make humans understand their sentience.
"A person who doesn't believe in the Unnamed God, or anything else, can't believe in a soul.

If you could take the skewers of religion, those that riddle your frame, make you aware every time you move -- if you could withdraw the scimitars of religion from your mental and moral systems -- could you even stand? ... The history of peoples who have shucked off religion isn't an especially persuasive argument for living without it. Is religion itself -- that tired and ironic phrase -- the necessary evil?"
There's also a conversation in one scene, a discourse on the nature of evil -- is it the absence of morality, or its (therefore structured and explicable) opposite? Is it an act, or an idea? Or is it, as Elphaba says at one point, defined by the fact that it's secret and unknowable?

Theological implications aside, the story of Elphaba (like life, as Maguire probably intended) seemed incomplete. I was left wondering who murdered a few characters, if the revolution ever comes, if there's an afterlife in the land of Oz and magic, if justice prevails.

There's a sequel, but I'm not sure I have the heart to read it in a gray Seattle winter or a cold New England one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The campaign to save the humans

I didn't intend to stay up and read So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish nonstop, but that's what I ended up doing.

Like Book Three, Book Four in the Hitchhiker's Guide series lacked a certain connection to the first two, even if the plot directly addressed the most crucial event from Book One (the destruction of Planet Earth). The series kind of mellowed out. Sure, there are still the spaceships and the existential agonies, but Book Four kind of got all weird. For starters, it wasn't as ADHD; it stuck to only one moment in the space/time continuum. The flying was a little out of place (just like Mary Poppins!), as was the quasi-spiritual sentiment (it's a little more sympathetic in this book, in marked contrast to the first two). But on the other hand, Arthur Dent finally scores with a girl! Woo hoo. The Universe, and all its readers, cheered for him.

In a way, I guess, the series grew up in Book Four?

Taken alone, though, the book was good -- as evidence by the fact that I couldn't put it down.

Also, I found it funny that the character known as the Rain God has the same name as Washington State's Attorney General. Hehe. Still cracks me up.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A truth universally acknowledged

Because the shortest Bollywood movie I borrowed from Ms. Tungsten is just under three hours, I watched the shortest online movie in my Netflix queue.

I was not the biggest fan of The Jane Austen Book Club. I didn't read the book (hahaha!), where the characters are possibly more well-rounded and three-dimensional. But in the movie they really weren't. Sure, some of them were interesting. But none were very exceptional, and since it was also really obvious which couples/characters were supposed to parallel which Austen ones, the contrast was pretty striking. There was a certain lack of depth in the film's people and plots.

The idea is that six people, wit' all they drama, start a book club to discuss Austen's six books. One woman is going through a divorce after her husband of 20 years leaves her, another is a teacher lusting after a student and dealing with her own failed marriage, etc, etc. There wasn't anything new about any of the situations, actually. If I had to choose, the best one was the pair that paralleled Emma, but I'm admittedly more drawn to that particular subplot because it involves books and a newly discovered interest in science fiction.

Other than that, I was bored. Except for the times I was yelling at the screen because there wasn't enough yelling on the screen. Then again, I do have issues....

Anyways, the movie gets automatic brownie points because Hugh Dancy and Jimmy Smits are in it. Even if Jimmy Smits plays the smarmy cheating husband whose wife should've never taken him back. IMHO, that is. I yelled at her, too.

If I had watched the Bollywood movie, there would have been appropriately dramatic emotive reactions ... set to song and dance, of course.

Hi-ho, ho-hum

My pre-Christmas goal is to finish the Douglas Adams volume that Xtina lent me. Another goal for the same time frame is to avoid writing both a research paper and a policy memo....

The third book in the Hitchhiker's Guide series, Life, the Universe, and Everything, wasn't as good as the first two. It was decent, it just didn't have the same. In fact, it seemed disjointed, as if Adams hurried to write it. The characters were left isolated on several planets and at several points in the space/time continuum, so perhaps the desolate feel to the storyline is what makes me think the book as a whole didn't patch together as well as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The third installment just seemed . . . anticlimactic.

Then, because I neglected my Netflix queue in the pre-election madness, I ended up with The Naked Gun. It ended up being exactly the zany, slapstick goofball fest I needed to avoid doing research. I saw it once, a long time ago, and forgot that I'd already seen it.

The Seattle Mariners in the baseball game where Leslie Nielsen has to thwart an assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth II is what made me remember... I think we watched this one day in band class in middle school when the instructor didn't feel like teaching. (He did that a lot. We also watched Police Academy and Labrynth and probably a bunch of other movies I won't remember ever having seen until I accidentally watch them again.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Too hot or too cold, too young or too old

Continuing the much-needed escapist trend, I finally finished The Fourth Bear, the second book in Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime series. (Admittedly, I started reading it because I thought I would have to lend it to someone else, but that situation, for various reasons, did not end up materializing.)

I liked it better than the first. Fforde has a knack for making storylines zany and zanier with each page, and he's brilliant once again in this sequel to The Big Over Easy. Detective Jack Spratt and Inspector Mary Mary are back, to try and hunt down an escaped mass murderer (The Gingerbreadman), and figure out why investigative journalist Goldilocks went into the forest if she was writing a story on giant explosive cucumbers. Meanwhile, Punch and Judy move next door to Spratt, and bears and aliens walk the human world and have to have bills in Parliament grant them equal rights.

Good stuff! Full of Fforde's notorious and delightful puns, of course!

Recovery mode

Movies are always a good escape from reality, and I very much needed that my last week at home post-election.

Ms. Tungsten's collection of Bollywood films continues to grow, and I have since absconded to Boston with several. But not before we watched Jab We Met. Karina Kapoor isn't my favorite Indian actress, but I really liked her here; she was just quirky and outgoing, as opposed to ditzy and outgoing. The plot was kind of cute: strangers on a train meet and through a series of slightly funny mishaps keep having to spend more and more time together, and the obvious love triangle appears. It was cute, though. And the color contrasts on the sets were amazing.

Then, a friend from Idaho was in town and wanted to see Bill Maher's Religulous. The friend is an avowed atheist, and I am not (I usually label myself agnostic if asked). The film was funny at times, and Maher the stand-up-comic-turned-talk-show-host cracks a lot of good jokes. But the documentary had problems deciding between advocating for religion as ridiculous (creationist museums, Holy Land theme parks in the American South) and religion as dangerous (the Second Coming brought on deliberately with nuclear war). My biggest problem with the film was that Maher found some of the most bizarre and fringe freaks out there (a rabbi who denies the Holocaust and a man who believes he is Jesus Christ reincarnated, for instance), and held them up as examples of what religious culture and belief can be. There was no middle ground, no moderation, no balance. Just nonstop fundamentalism as the be-all and end-all for people of faith all around the world. Kudos to Maher for travelling all around the world, though, and having the balls to talk to people about potentially volatile topics like suicide bombers and hate crimes. In all, though, I think 100 minutes was way too short a timespan to delve deeper into all the theological issues and geo-political controversies (which Maher rather annoyingly refused to separate from religion). The film is all over the board and only scratches the surface of debates that have been going on for millennia. With humor, admittedly. But also, ironically, with an apocalyptic vision.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The morning after

The day after the 2000 election, I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee. CNN had called Florida for Gore the previous night, and my roommates and I all went to bed content. The next morning, The Common Man, one of said roomies, was camped out in front of the TV in the living room, but I didn't think anything was amiss until he yelled "B! B, you gotta see this! This is history!" Two months later, I attended my first political protest, on the gray, rainy streets of DC.

The day after the 2004 election, I was extremely hungover. After work, the FG and I parted ways in the downtown shopping area. I acquired a Nordstrom card and bought these shoes, along with many other depression-induced purchases. I don't know why I kept this pair of Ponies all these years, even after holes in the soles made them impossible to wear in the Northwest rain. Now, finally, I'm tossing them in the trash.

Today, I can't wipe the grin off my face as I'm looking at election coverage from around the world. And it just occurred to me that people I've spent Election Nights with in the past decade are all people with whom I'm still in touch.

Stuff that's moved me to tears in the past 18 hours:
  • Trivial Kate's Facebook post, saying she sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" with 4000 other people in the streets of her old neighborhood last night.

  • President-elect Obama's victory speech. Twice, three hours apart.

  • The nonstop car horns, cheers, and impromptu street partying in my hometown last night (as well as across the country).

  • This BBC video.

  • Torgo's wife's Facebook post saying maybe their little boys can be President one day.

  • This photo from The Stranger.

  • Another friend's Facebook status, saying he voted for change, hope, and his son's future.

  • And lastly... the fact that, for the first time ever, everyone in my immediate family voted for the same presidential candidate. La Madre and La Otra Hermana, to my delight and shock, voted the same way as me and Mi Hermana.
Hey Mikey! This is history...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yippee ki yi yay

This cracked me up. Although if it had happened on my flight (tomorrow), I would have been irritated...

Poodle escapes, delays 8 flights at Logan
Boston.com
Cramped after a Saturday night flight from Detroit, Choochy the poodle broke free after her plane landed at Logan and for the next 17 hours, the tiny white fugitive managed to elude nearly a dozen Massport employees and State Police, holding up runway traffic as she cavorted on the tarmac. . . .

Yo ho ho

While we were wandering around a fair trade fair in the West P on Sunday, Pastor X reminded me that I hadn't blogged our recent trivia win.

Bob Loblaw's Law Blog came in second at the Squealing Pig, and won a big wonking bottle of coconut rum, which will be consumed at a party sometime after midterms.

Woot.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

True

Several friends posted this on the FB, and I can't believe it's been eight years since the Budweiser ads! Lordy, time flies...

Also, one of my first reactions was "What PAC paid for this?" But I think it was just the five actors, unaffiliated with any 527.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oh, there was a hockey game?

Normally I dislike interacting with the undergrads, but last Friday was Northeastern's Homecoming Week, and Jon Stewart was the guest speaker. Normally I dislike paying more than $8 for on-campus events, but it was Jon Stewart. So I forked over the significantly higher ticket price (and I was lucky -- it sold out really quickly), dragged Lady Grace because I owed her dinner anyway and needed to pay off the debt, and endured the undergraduate hordes.

I was impressed -- he spoke for an hour and a half, and then also took questions from the packed house! Sure, he recycled a lot of his jokes from The Daily Show, but it was live and therefore somehow funnier. The coolest thing was that he engaged the sign language interpreters. So now I know how to sign both "blowjob" and "fuck" in ASL.

And, as promised, he mentioned Northeastern in his Monday opening dialogue as well as right before the moment of zen:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Avian flu

A friend recently showed me video of his first skydiving trip out in Snohomish County; since we're both in Boston now, we went to see Adrenaline Rush: the Science of Risk at the Museum of Science IMAX Theatre. The short, 40-minute documentary follows skydivers and base jumpers around; record-holding skydivers also team up with researchers to build and test Da Vinci's 500-year-old sketch of a possible parachute, which was pretty cool.

Sure, there's some cheesy analogy about a kid's first day of school and the "fight or flight" instinct. But there's some seriously awesome footage of skydivers playing a ball game while falling though the air, as well as some breathtaking views of a drop off a cliff in a fjord. Except for the base jumping, which looked thrilling but has a high casualty rate (I didn't know they don't carry a spare parachute), it all looked really fun. I felt like running out and going skydiving after the film. But we opted for Belgian beer and talked about Seattle and Boston instead.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Scrambled and unfertilized

Since I read and loved all of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, I finally got around to starting his other equally zany Nursery Crime Series.
Detective Jack Spratt, with his new assistant Inspector Mary Mary, investigates the death of Humpty Dumpty. Half the nursery rhymes I never knew I ever knew become part of the main plot, a side plot, and various other twisting plots. Brilliant as always.

I couldn't help but draw a comparison to Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, which I read during last winter's inadvertent week of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. The Big Over Easy, which has the same basic underlying principle of nursery rhyme characters living amongst real-life people and then getting murdered, upstages Chocolate Bunnies. Fforde's familiar plot devices, puns, and creative histories are still as enjoyable as they are in the Thursday Next series. (In fact, they sort of overlap, or at least reference each other.)

I left the second book in Seattle, so I'll have to wait a week and a half to read it.

Where the streets have no name

Lesson learned the hard way #1762: Clarify the exact type of establishment a friend recommends before heading there solo to check it out.

Speaking of nerds, when a certain MIT post-doc friend who should know better says there's this "cool bar" with karaoke that you should check out, that sometimes translates as "in a dorm" with "two card-key entries and a security guard" who assumed I had an assignation with a student ("Hey sweetie, you meeting a friend there?") and gestured across the gated quad; said student patrons (all six of them, all male) ranged in age from 21 to 24, and were not singing but watching the Red Sox in the playoffs.

I fled, stopped by a real bar to grab a quick slice of pizza and pint of beer, then went grocery shopping. And emailed my friend...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

404 File not found

I realize I'm cross-posting this several times on Facebook and Delicious (which re-feeds to my Facebook wall), but I'm in a hate-the-world-for-telling-women-to-change-just-to-bag-a-man mood.

I fully support ogling hot bodies in fundraising calendars as well as posing in them (seriously, how fun would the photo shoot be?!), but the general trend of commodifying and oversexualizing the appearance of intelligence (not intelligence itself) is a tad repulsive.
Bostonist | "Nerd Chic" not really "Nerdy"

... Maybe we wouldn't be so annoyed by this if it didn't seem to be part of a trend. Tufts' "Nerd Girls" proclaim, "Brains are beautiful, geek is chic, smart is sexy, not either/or"--subtly suggesting that if you're smart but not sexy you're not actually smart. That strikes us as pretty problematic. The club was supposedly created to "empower" female engineers, but slapping on some makeup and a halter top is not necessarily empowering--it's just a way to dress, nothing more.

The Nerd Girls recognize only attractive, skinny women as "chic geeks," recreating exactly the type of exclusionary social structure they're pretending to subvert. They laud a cheerleader and aerospace engineer as though there's something wrong with just being a plain ol' aerospace engineer, and praise Natalie Portman for her "intelligent hotness," as if intelligence alone isn't worthy of note.

... Of course smart and sexy aren't mutually exclusive. But nor are they the same thing. Putting on a skimpy top doesn't give you brains--and knowing the answer in math class doesn't make you unattractive. Smarts should be appealing, and all women (and men) should be able to flaunt their sexuality (without being labeled stupid) if they so choose. But being sexualized is not a required part of being smart. It's okay to be dumpy and dowdy at times. Self-worth should come from personality and intelligence, not appearance. By overemphasizing the physical, the Nerd Girls are de-emphasizing the intellectual and undermining their own stated mission.
And now, off to an MIT karaoke bar that a friend recommended...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My fellow prisoners...

Tonight's third and final presidential debate between Obama and McCain was the first debate I've watched this election cycle without alcohol. That sounds bad, I know, but I thought this debate was the best, and I have no idea if the absence of beer or wine was indeed a factor.

The Common Man's hilarious liveblog-style post on tonight's debate
summed up almost all of my sentiments exactly. Hats off to my old roomie for capturing the spirit of the debate with such humor!

On my entirely sober ride back to my apartment from the Political Science Department's debate-watching gathering on campus (there was free pizza, so naturally half the attendees were graduate students), it occurred to me that, since I was born in the last quarter of the Carter administration, Bill Clinton is the only Democrat elected President in my lifetime. And I wasn't of voting age either time he ran.

I might disagree with Obama on a few issues (yeah yeah yeah, I'm way farther left), but in the past twelve years I've learned to live and work pragmatically within the two-party system. And damn it! I want to see a Democrat in the White House --one that I voted for!

Getting very excited for Election Day...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Four corners

Via the FG:

Four places that I go to over and over: campus (duh), Trader Joe's, CVS, and The Dubliner

Four people who e-mail me regularly: Mi Hermana, La Madre, Lady Grace, and my friend Jenn in LA

Four places I would rather be right now: here in New York for a few more days, London, Seattle, and someplace warm and tropical

Four of my favorite places to eat: Phoenicia at Alki, Thai on Alki, Zoe, and La Madre's (the grad student budget doesn't allow for eating out much in Beantown)

Four people I'm tagging: the FG, Trivial Kate, Xtina, and The Common Man

Four TV shows I watch over and over: The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The West Wing, and CSI:New York

And then there's:

Clothes Shop: Nordstrom
Furniture Shop: IKEA (grad student budget!)
Sweet: tiramisu, and anything involving raspberries or lemons
City: Seattle has my heart, London has my imagination, and New York has my shopping addiction
Drink: scotch, Mac & Jack's, red wine
Music: blatantly cheesy remixes, and whatever else is in my voice range
TV Series: The West Wing
Film: I Heart Huckabees, The Matrix
Workout: the elliptical
Pastries: rarely, but whatever has raspberries or is raspberry-flavored
Coffee: drip, with whole milk and honey

Thursday, October 09, 2008

These vagabond shoes

Four years ago in October, on a visit to DC, I went to the recently-opened National Museum of the American Indian. Since it was still new I thought it was really well done. And because I also am bizarrely fascinated by museum cafes, I thought the idea behind the NMAI food court was really cool too. What I found really positive was the emphasis that what happened to various peoples (oh, say, annihilation by disease or massacre, forced reservations, broken treaties, etc.) significantly shape but do not solely define who they are. So the Museum highlighted various ways that different Native peoples are empowering their communities.

That was Columbus Day weekend in '04. To come full circle, it's Columbus Day weekend again, and the irony of my visiting the New York branch of the NMAI is not lost on me. I didn't actually intend to go to this particular museum, but now I'm really glad I did.

The "Chinatown bus" got me from Boston to New York in a shocking 4 hours, so I had an extra two hours to kill before meeting my hostess. Wandering around Battery Park across the street, I noticed the Museum had large banners advertising free admission, so of course I went inside.

The main exhibit was Native Women's dresses in the nineteenth century. I learned a hell of a lot! I can't stitch worth beans, so the art of sewing and making clothes is lost on me. But the thing I'll walk away with is the differences between one-hide, two-hide, and three-hide dresses, which were also regionally based, to some extent. (For the spatially challenged, there were computer aids to diagram exactly how the number of hides is made into a dress. I had to study the digital aids frequently...)

The exhibit also showcased dozens of gorgeous, intricately detailed dresses from across the continent. (At one point, when I was stooping down to examine the beadwork on one dress, a security guard came over and offered to shine his flashlight so I could see exactly how extraordinary the handiwork was.)

Lesson learned the hard way #1761: The bottle of wine you bought for your hostess does indeed show up in a museum security detector.
"Miss? Do you have a bottle of wine in his bag?"
Blink, blink. (I'd forgotten.)
"Wine? Do you have any in this bag?"
Blink, blink. (Travel fatigue.)
"I see a bottle of wine here. Is it open?"
"Oh! OH! No, it's not. Open. I didn't open it. It's a gift for a friend...."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A pulse in the eternal mind

I didn't plan on going from the quintessentially English murder mystery to the quintessentially English garden show, but it turns out it worked. I also didn't know that Greenfingers was loosely based on a true story about prisoners-turned-gardeners, and that it also crossed genres into the field of prison reform stories.

Clive Owen leads a motley crew of fellow prisoners who enter England's most famous gardening contest; the always-wonderful Helen Mirren plays a world-famous gardener and horticulturalist whose daughter falls for Clive. (Who wouldn't fall for Clive, though?) It's your typical underdog tale, told with a good cast, in a short and enjoyable manner. As a prison-reform story it sort of fails (the audience has to take for granted that workforce training is good for society), but its heart is in the right place.

Then, still on the English theme, I read Jerome K. Jerome's sequel to the hilarious Three Men in a Boat. Three Men on the Bummel, however, lacked the same level of humor and hysterical insights of the first book. The premise is the same: the three friends go on a two-week trip together (this time a bicycling journey through the Black Forest), and most of the book is actually anecdotal ramblings about funny social situations or sometimes less-than-tolerant cultural observations. This time, the fellows are a decade older, and are angling to escape their wives and children. So they go biking across Germany. (It's worth noting that the book was written less than thirty years after the unification of Germany, so Jerome's observations about regional differences, though told from the humorous and bumbling tourist's point of view, are actually rather interesting. My great-great-grandfather roamed all over the regions Jerome mentions, avoiding Bismarck's wars, before ditching Europe and settling in Michigan. But I digress.) The chapters in this sequel, however, are longer; and the collection of humorous diversions seems forced and less fluid.

Also, this history nerd couldn't help but cringe while reading Jerome's long descriptions of both the beauty of Dresden and the Jewish sections of Prague. It's only heartbreaking a hundred and ten years later.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Wonders to perform

After the Moonstruck disappointment, I watched a better-done dark comedy about a dysfunctional family. Keeping Mum features Rowan Atkinson outside of his usual slapstick role: as a country vicar whose wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) is involved with her golfing instructor (a hilariously self-parodic Patrick Swayze), teenage daughter is oversexed, and tween son is bullied. Enter Grace the new housekeeper (yes, the pun is significant to the storyline) and an upcoming sermon on God's mysterious ways, and the movie is a truly enjoyable twist on the quintessential English murder mystery.

LOVED it!

Also, apparently the screenplay was written, in part, by Richard Russo, who used to teach at the old alma mater, and whose Empire Falls I've been inching through whenever I'm at Ms. Tungsten's.

When the world seems to shine like you've...

In preparation for my trip to the Big Apple next weekend (and also because my movie shipment was messed up for this weekend), I watched Moonstruck on Netflix Instant Viewing. I have bad memories of La Otra Hermana running around the house shouting "La luna! La bella luna!" so I finally wanted to see what the fuss was about. (She would also run around shouting "I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his bride!" and now I finally know what the hell she was referring to...)

I was not a huge fan; I didn't dislike the movie, but I didn't like it either. I could have been a fan, if I'd liked any of the characters a little more. But they all were sort of surface-level neighborhood caricatures. Also, I didn't buy Cher's superstitious widow (and, quite frankly, didn't really like it). I know some of the underlying themes were family and acceptance and time, but let's face it, most films about Italian-Americans seem to be. I didn't think it was anything special. Maybe it was too much carmenere, but I was slightly bored watching the whole thing.

The only character I thought that had any depth was (ironically!) Nicolas Cage's, and it was odd but refreshing to see him both younger as well as in a very different type of role. I am NOT normally a Nic Cage fan, but I actually found his hostile, broken character believable. Plus, he uttered my favorite line of the movie: "The storybooks are bullshit."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Left a good job in the city

After reading Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, which frequently references the Jerome K. Jerome original work, I finally got around to reading Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog).

I was hooked in in the first few paragraphs by the hilarious description of the narrator's hypochondriac panic attack, which drives him to go boating up the Thames with his two buddies and his dog. (One of the funny parts is that the narrator talks about the dog as if he were a fourth person...)

It's one of the funniest books I've read lately! (Then again, for full disclosure, this past week I've been reading about the history of the EPA, so my perspective might be a bit skewed.) It's not really about a boating excursion upriver, it's about the neurotic social tendencies and bizarre memories of the main characters. Each one tends to romanticize their trip or their fishing prowess or their singing abilities, and then abruptly swings the other way (often with the weather) to despise fellow travelers and curse the camping gear. The book is more a collection of very true-to-life anecdotes told in a skillfully hilarious fashion, with the boating trip as an excuse to throw together a bunch of character sketches. Jerome supposedly originally intended it to be more of a tourist's guide (boating the Thames was popular in the late 19th-century), and parts of the book definitely seem to randomly mention various pubs and hotels in small river towns. But it's still a great story!

Not to mention 55 electoral votes!

Something about the "No on Prop 8" ads just make me all sniffly and weepy, though it could possibly also be the meds or that I missed the cutest niece in the world's first birthday last weekend. At any rate, I like the videos. Especially the 5-minute montage of faith leaders in California explaining why they support the freedom to marry.

Then there's this one, which is just a lot of people and couples (gay and straight) reciting 1 Corinthians 13. I love how it's both subversive and affirming.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Time for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster

Last week, while perusing a used bookstore with Pastor X, I picked up the book I should have read back in middle school. I watched the movie (on opening weekend, I believe, with, among others, the FG and The Scot) and loved it. But decades ago, I was still overly skeptical of science fiction.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was brilliant! It was sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek and irreverent and insightful. Just as his house is about to be bulldozed to make room for a freeway, human protagonist Arthur Dent's planet is destroyed by otherworldly beings to make room for an intergalactic highway. Dent is thrown together with a motley crew, including the only other human left in existence, a woman who ditched him at a party back on Earth to hang out with, as it turns out, the President of the Galaxy. Wackyness ensues, sandwiching fleeting but perceptive commentaries on various beings' social behaviors and beliefs. Spoiler alert: the answer to the question about life, the universe, and everything is 42, and Earth was a giant computer built to figure out what the question itself is.

So then I ran back to the bookstore and bought the second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. It picked up where Hitchhiker left off, with the crew on an odyssey through space and time to discover the ultimate question about life, the universe, and everything.Suffice to say, I thought this second book toned down the wacky factor a tad (but just a tad!) and waxed a little more existential (in a satirical sort of way). Restaurant did also have longish stretches where some of the protagonists wander around trying to solve their own identity crises (particularly Zaphod, the President of the Universe, who is unaware that those in powerful positions are supposed to distract attention away from those who actually have power). But it was all fine by me. It ended rather abruptly, though.

So now, of course, I'm hooked....

Xtina has kindly lent me her big thick volume of the books, so I now have reading material for the next few weeks!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

No Soy Marinero

In the ongoing quest for free food events (though the grants post this Friday, so it shouldn't last much longer), Lady Grace and I met up with two others at an alumni function on Wednesday. Turns out we were the only ones over the age of 23, so we ditched the private event and headed to the main area of the bar (but not before I got two platefuls of free hors d'oeuvres), where it happened to be trivia night.

We fared badly, but one of the questions was "What Mexican-American singer's former bandmembers went on to form Journey?" Partly because I sang "La Bamba" at karaoke two weeks beforehand, and partly because we couldn't name any other Mexican-American singers, we guessed Ritchie Valens. (Incorrect. It was Carlos Santana.)

Based on that, though, I decided to watch La Bamba via Netflix Instant Viewing. Except for the plane crash with Buddy Holly and the one hit song, I didn't really know anything about Ritchie Valens (or, for that matter, that "La Bamba" was a Mexican folk song before it was rockified.)

Also, ever since I watched Stand and Deliver as a kid, I'd been a fan of Lou Diamond Phillips. Then a few years ago, I found out he was a hapa brotha, which escalated the cool factor.

At any rate, as biopics about musicians go, it was pretty good. The genre has a formula, like all genres do: struggling, talented artist overcomes personal issues to make it big, then struggles with success. Movies about modern musicians seem to always have a nostalgic tinge to them, too, and this one was no different. The stories are really about innocence lost, whether it's the singer's or the audience's; viewers are left only to compare the depiction with contemporary entertainment legacies.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Click!

I finally finished Framing the Future: How Progressive Values Can Win Elections and Influence People, four months after the author led a training for candidates at work this summer. (For some odd reason, I kept falling asleep at my work desk while trying to read it....)

Having read George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant almost four years ago (it was the book that catapulted Lakoff from linguistic, nerdy obscurity into the mainstream political spotlight) and having had to attend many work-related trainings on the concept of issue "framing" as well as re-reading articles for a policy class last spring, there was nothing conceptually new in Horn's book. What was different was that he relied on polls and surveys to test frames, which was fascinating.

The idea of framing is, to be blunt, that words are loaded. For better or worse, like it or not, certain words carry certain images and convey specific wordviews (or frames). Everybody knows the "illegal alien" versus "undocumented worker" frames -- each phrase conveys a different ideology. ("Illegal" lumps people with murderers and rapists, "alien" makes them "not one of us"; "undocumented" calls attention to the paperwork, and "worker" on the fact that individuals are both working as well as, well, hired by someone...) But my favorite example is the conservative "death tax" versus the progressive "estate tax." It's not hard to figure out how those words affect voters.

Conservatives have mastered the art of framing; progressives have not, sadly. For the past five years, it's been drilled into my head that using the Other Side's frames does nothing but reinforce the Opposing Viewpoint. (So anytime anyone's ever said "gay marriage" I've always responded with "marriage equality" or "equal marriage rights" or "marriage for same-sex couples" ... if nobody's ever noticed...) Lakoff as the cognitive linguist goes into detail how frames determine the starting point for all political discourse; Horn backs it up with survey data to show how many Americans will run off and vote for politicians that oppose their values, based on how an issue is presented. Framing the Debate is specifically geared to persuading the "moveable middle" voters.

A cynical person might think that framing is just another attempt at political spin, but it's not. The vast right wing network has been honing the craft of framing for almost thirty years now, to the point where frames that were deliberately constructed to further one political agenda have entered the mainstream vocabulary (see "partial birth"). The values, as Horn points out, stay the same; it's the language that changes.

Horn's three frames are freedom, security, and opportunity. Every issue can be framed according to these values -- frequently all of them, depending on the goal. Three years ago, after the Washington State Supreme Court smacked down our challenge to the state DOMA, one recourse for same-sex couples was domestic partnerships. The first few weeks of the legislative session after the ruling, our framing around the bill was one of freedom: LGBT Americans work hard and serve their country, and should have the right to basic benefits that the government only gives to married straight couples. Then, as it became obvious that the "denial of rights" argument worked with some legislators and constituents but not others, the framing switched: LGBT familes and their children deserve basic protections in order to remain stable and healthy. That's the frame that worked, and the bill passed. Both frames are true, but only one persuaded enough elected officials and members of the public at that time.

I like how Horn ends his book, by saying framing is just one of many, many tools in a progressive activist's kit. There's still a lot of organizing and hard work, not just talking to do!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Feeding time at the U

A classmate recommended King Corn last spring while we were surviving the Econ class and dealing with the assignment on farm subsidies.

The documentary can be summed up pretty easily: most corn grown in the U.S. is destined to be made into cattle feed for the beef industry (and cows are grass-chewin' creatures) or corn syrup for soft drinks and other highly processed foods.

It could have been as horrifying as Supersize Me, but it wasn't. The filmmakers rented an acre of a corn farm in Iowa for a year, talked to locals, learned about the corn-growing business, and then followed all the routes their corn might make after harvest. It started a bit slowly, but picked up towards the middle. It
wasn't as in-depth as it could have been, but it was a good effort, with some enlightening bits.

Scary in totally different way: Best in Show, which I watched with Ms. Tungsten before I left the Emerald City. I have all of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries in my Netflix queue, and have been watching them when the mood is right. This one was, as expected, funny -- though to date, A Mighty Wind is still my favorite. Maybe because folk music is dearer to my heart than dog shows!

And speaking of Netflix... its online viewing offerings (along with Hulu) are my saving grace while broke and bored, before 1) the fellowships and loans post in a few weeks and 2) the homework assignments start to eat away at the free time.

Currently getting through the first season of 30 Rock. HILARIOUS!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Next up: a Star Wars convention...

In the ongoing quest to read all of Connie Willis' books, I finally got around to
Light Raid.
It's essentially a war spy story, almost Blitz-esque with its regular air raids. (And one of Willis' favorite periods for constructing alternate realities is the Blitz, as we know from some of her short stories...) Except in this delightfully cute story, a teenage war refugee escapes from a home for war orphans and heads home to find that her mother is accused of treason, her dad is shellshocked, and global alliances hinge on her investigative abilities. The hilarious assortment of nations at war, though, are Quebec and Victoria. (Sleeply little Port Townsend -- really in Washington State where, in fact, where my cousin lives-- gets a nod as one of the cities full of secret agents and military secrets.) In all, a great way to spend an evening when you're still tired from being cheap and walking around the city on errands.

Unlike a lot of Willis' stories, Light Raid did not involve time travel. This is only relevant because I also finally got around to reading H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. It is surprisingly short! Appropriately, it is the grandfather of time travel stories. Though I knew the general plot (especially since "Eloi" is a typical answer in many crosswords),

I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. But I was roped in from the very first pages with the dialogue and debate on the Fourth Dimension!

One thing that irked me (but only slightly) was the Time Traveller's assumptions about the descendants of capitalists and workers. The man goes 800,000 years into the future for all of eight days, manages to become semi-fluent in Eloi, and by pure observation of a completely unfamiliar world, manages to somehow know how human history progressed. Riiight... because if someone from a mere 1000 years ago traveled forward to our 21st century, they could definitely do the same thing. Also, though Wells had socialist leanings, there's still a smattering of classism in both the 19th-century characters' attitudes as well as in how the whole narrative of future class stratification between the Eloi and the Morlocks plays out. Ironic!

It did remind me at times of The Planet of the Apes ... but of course The Time Machine was not only the first (I'm pretty sure!) time-travel story, but one of the first to offer the "humans will annihilate themselves" theme. So many other stories have drawn from it heavily, and it's so much a part of pop culture at this point, that I didn't realize how much of the story was already imprinted in my brain. I'm glad I finally read it!

Both Wells' classic and Willis' story did reinforce some of my preconceptions about the sci-fi genre, though: that many sci-fi tales are really just concerns about present social situations (technology, racial inequality, sexuality, or war), transposed onto a thinly disguised alternate present or set in a future that can be altered only if present-day humans change their ways.

Classes resume tomorrow!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Napaholic

Lesson learned the hard way #1760: Saving money this month by walking everywhere and NOT buying a T/bus pass is excruciatingly exhausting.

And it's only been three days! Granted, campus is about 45 minutes to an hour away by foot, depending on which route I walk (it's 45 minutes cutting through the Fens, but I won't do that if it's dark). And lugging books and then groceries (10 minutes away) is extra-tiring. But still!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rock of Ages

Admittedly, I was packing while watching the last film in the Rocky series, so I don't know if the final Rocky movie was actually as bad as I thought it was...

The plot: Rocky returns! Again. Except this time, he can't come to terms with Adrian's death, his businessman son is embarrassed about him, and the online fight community claims he was never the best. To vindicate his record, prove his sport is still relevant, and join Indiana Jones in celebrating elderly sports-action heroes, Rocky fights a much, much younger boxer.

It did wrap up the series neatly, though. I was really only a fan of the first two Rocky films; after the second it all got a little ridiculous.

La Madre has an odd DVD collection, and I found Amazing Grace sandwiched between 3:10 to Yuma and The Pursuit of Happyness. (Strangely, La Madre's media collection gained numerous R-rated films only after Mi Hermana, the youngest sibling, left for college... there were virtually none when I was a teenager.)

At any rate, I thought Amazing Grace was going to be the Merchant Ivory version of the life of John Newton, the former slave ship captain and author of the well-known hymn. Plus, I vaguely remember watching sometthing similar on PBS as a child.

However, the film turned out to be the story of William Wilberforce, the abolitionist MP credited with outlawing the slave trade in Britain.

Unfortunately, the actor who played Wilberforce was also the guy who, many years ago, played Horatio Hornblower in a series which I was sliiiightly obsessed with in college. So in between packing sessions, I kept wondering

The film was the typical rushed period piece. I didn't know enough about Wilberforce, so I read his wikipedia entry while watching parts of the movie. Looks like they toyed with the timeline a bit, but other than that it was okay. I'd recommend it only for its educational inspiration, not its stellar acting or plot twists. (Because the abolition bill eventually passes in Parliament. Not to ruin the ending or anything...)

The one interesting story development, where I actually stopped packing watch, was the discussion on whether or not criticizing one's country was appropriate in a time of war. The irony struck me as timely (especially given today's anniversary, though I watched the film a week ago: my first job out of college, though horribly traumatic, relied on bashing the Bush Administration. Then 9/11 changed political advocacy forever. Gathering signatures for the public comment period on drilling in ANWR suddenly had to stop and be reframed, as did every other legislative or policy issue.

At any rate, the irony comes in the fact that I was packing to finish up a degree in public policy, in the city where I working seven years ago on 9/11 when that whole "patriotic" debate took on new meaning. It was just kind of interesting how Amazing Grace highlighted the same dilemma for a different time, a different issue, and a different set of political organizers.

The rest of the vacay was spent with family and friends. The neffy will be crawling by the time I'm home for the elections!

Lesson learned the hard way #1757 : Shoes are damn heavy!
Especially when you want to take, uh... many, many pairs back to Boston, but end up having to leave some in Seattle. (Side note: many, many pairs awaited in Beantown...) But since the airline luggage limit is now 50 lbs, shoes now rival books as the heaviest things I transport, and are thus the cause of much re-arranging and re-packing. Arrrgh.

Lesson learned the hard way #1758: There can be moments of bliss in old, unhealthy behavior patterns
Last-minute, unexpected relapses could also be indicative of, in the words The Champ, a subconscious but nonetheless determined attempt to be "as dramatic and tragic as possible." Ahem.

Lesson learned the hard way #1759: Your cat allergy is very, very serious
And apparently it's possible to either build up a tolerance to Benadryl, or for the FG's cat to somehow haunt the couch she sold to the The Champ several years ago. (The cover was washed the night I crashed on it, and the anaphylactic reaction I got after sitting on it for a few minutes didn't lessen even when I overdosed on OTC drugs and moved to another room, causing both The Champ and Ms. Tungsten to rearrange bedding options.) Whatever mystery caused the abnormally strong reaction, it warrants a doctor's visit before the end of the year.

Summer days drifted away, indeed....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Because she'll have the nuclear codes..."

Sarah Palin, that is.

That was my favorite line in this AP interview with Matt Damon:



Yeah, it all does kind of seem like a bad Disney plot...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sleep, read, veg out, repeat...

The internship ended last week, just in time for Labor Day. I learned a hell of a lot about elections this summer, and think I will return to school next week a better-prepared student of public policy. I doorbelled for candidates for the first time ever, examined past election results at the precinct level, and met a lot of great people trying to change politics.

But vacay is, of course, an all-powerful force that makes lazy pumpkins out of even the most overly stimulated graduate student. =)


Ms. Tungsten lent me Courtesans: Money, Sex and Power in the Nineteenth Century. The story of five English courtesans in the late 18th and 19th centuries, the book traces the various experiences of women who became prostitutes. The point of the book is that, in a time when "respectable" women had no legal rights and few educational or vocational opportunities, courtesans actually had more freedom than even some of the most privileged women. The price of independence and business acumen, working within society's sexual double standards, was virtual invisibility in "polite" circles.

Hickman did a good job of selecting women who entered the business for different reasons: one had a mutually open marriage that eventually led to a string of wealthy patrons, another was raped and too ashamed to return home, another was tossed out on the streets by a guardian and had no choice but to join a brothel. Similarly, their last days were equally varied: one died in poverty chased by creditors, another married her longtime aristocratic lover, others slowly faded into comfortable retirement. Surprisingly, many wrote memoirs later in life, or had biographies written by acquaintances.

Though I appreciate the fact that Hickman illuminated parts of the past that I, for one, didn't get in two semesters of Women's History, their stories were sort of the same. Between becoming a prostitute and rising to the status of courtesan, and then eventually dying, the five women really just went through a succession of lovers/clients, and the roll call got a little repetitive.

What I found more fascinating than the five mini-biographies were Hickman's background asides on the history of condoms; the evolution of the crinoline; the descriptions of jewelry; the slow passage of bills in Parliament that gave women the rights to divorce, own property, and inherit ... Within the context of how powerless women were, the book made a very loud statement about the price of cultural subversion. But after a while I didn't really care how many lords each had slept with, and how much all the diamonds they received in payment were worth.

Ms. Tungsten and I returned to our Hrithik Roshan roots with Mission Kashmir, in which the hottest man ever to have lived plays a terrorist separatist. To be fair, the film is actually a kum bah yah tale of hope and peace and how cycles of violence only hurt everyone. Hrithik plays an orphan of violence who wants revenge for his family's death and so joins a separatist cell.

The plotline is barely believable. There is also the creepy factor -- the policeman who murders Hrithik's entire family tries to adopt Hrithik to ease his wife's pain and to replace his own murdered son. The rest of the movie is a cat-and-mouse game as Hrithik wants to kill his adoptive father to avenge his own family, and the policeman hunts his adoptive son because he's, well, a terrorist. The whole cycle of violence thing being rather crucial, there were only two possible outcomes: either the cycle continues and some main character dies, or the cycle ends and some main character still dies to atone for the past... (Turns out, I guessed incorrectly which character would be sacrificed for the larger message of peace. Oh well.) At any rate, the ending was the stuff of dreams -- literally, it was complete with the dream-sequence-as-metaphor-for-a-happy-afterlife.

But then, we weren't really watching it for the deep plot... ;-P

By contrast, I See You, Bollywood's version of the Reese Witherspoon film Just Like Heaven, was hilarious.

Arjun Rampal, the creepo from Om Shanti Om (which we also watched again, just for the hell of it), was great as a TV personality "haunted" by the spirit of a coma patient that no one else can see. Of course, she's a hot coma patient whose job is to just look pretty the entire movie and to show Arjun how to stop being an arrogant, womanizing prick. I haven't seen Just Like Heaven, but its wikipedia summary looks like the same as I See You. (But I'm guessing Just Like Heaven didn't have the random Hindi-speaking London bobby. It was a kind of funny.)

One of the coolest things about the movie: cameos by Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan!

Vacation rocks. Especially since the last week at work was really hectic.

Now it's nap time again...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Not a Trekkie, but ...

I would TOTALLY watch this!
The Onion| New 'West Wing' Animated Series
SAN DIEGO—On day two of the 2008 San Diego SorCon, the biggest Aaron Sorkin convention in the world, screenwriter and producer Aaron Sorkin revealed plans for his next project, an animated continuation of his most popular franchise, The West Wing.

"I'm excited to bring my Emmy Award–winning writing to the field of animation," Sorkin said in a speech before approximately 30,000 screaming fans, many of whom were dressed up in the business-suit costumes of their favorite Sorkin characters. "[A]animation technology will enable us to provide fans with extended
40-minute walk-and-talks, digitally compressed dialogue for faster delivery, and a cast of over 70 main characters."

...The pilot ends, Sorkin said, with a 15-minute speech from President Santos about holding unpopular ideals.

"And I can promise SorCon that there will be at least two filibusters in the first season."

*Sigh*

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A beach, a highway, beautiful ...

In the first post-SCOTUS testing of Washington State's Top Two primary system (in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party), all of our candidates advanced! Also, at one election night celebration, I got a kick-ass T-shirt and won a dim sum gift certificate. Causes indeed to celebrate...

The morning after brings much reflection on the summer's bizarre connection between keys, cars, karaoke, and campaigns. Such introspection almost always calls for the Second Person Narrative and the illusion of emotional impartiality.

Maybe mental notes are the same thing as speeches you imagine giving to the person you were three weeks ago, before the madness...

******

Lesson learned the hard way #1749: Keys are tricky, sneaky creatures
When you're holding down the office fort, they sometimes make you lock the doors without remembering, and then magically reappear inside the locked office. You then have to wander around the building to search for the security guard to let you back in. (Also see Lesson #1755.)

It being your podunk hometown, said security guard might recognize you from your previous job because the same company manages many buildings downtown. He might decide to tell you about several personal issues that went unresolved even after repeatedly contacting the legal department at your old job... You have no qualms about playing a ditz to get out of this awkward scenario. (Also see Lesson #1756.)

Lesson learned the hard way #1750: Cars are tricky, sneaky creatures
Cars are also in cahoots with the American Automobile Association to humiliate spacey drivers everywhere. Weeks and weeks ago, while dining and theatre-going with The Scot, it took AAA an hour to get downtown to let you back into La Madre's car, where you had locked the car keys.
(Unlike Pastor X, you did not leave them in the ignition with the engine still running in the middle of rural Maine while on your way to Torgo's rehearsal dinner).

Then, about a week later, you allegedly killed the battery by leaving the overhead light on overnight, thus making La Madre late for work in the wee hours of the morning.... Once again, it took AAA an hour to get to a neighborhood with a lot of auto body shops, to jumpstart the car.

Which brings us to...

Lesson learned the hard way #1751: If you're no longer young, you need sleep
The one night you leave the regular karaoke place before midnight so you can get a full night's sleep the day before your state's primary election, you somehow also kill the battery in La Otra Hermana's car and have to call AAA again, to jumpstart a different vehicle. Thankfully, it took less than an hour ... but you lost an hour's worth of much-needed sleep the night before a busy, busy day.

Sleep was especially needed since you only got 4 hours of sleep the previous night. You had a few glasses of wine with one friend and then had to sober up at a different friend's house after closing down a different karaoke bar.

And somewhere, in the glasses and glasses of water and a 7-11 hot dog and Cheetos, you encountered...

Lesson learned the (frustratingly) hard way #1752: You have moments of quasi-maturity after all.
Even if kind of hurts. Again. See Lesson #1748.

Lesson learned the (not-so-) hard way #1753: Choose the whisky
Again, 100% of your PAC's candidates survived the Top Two primary, advancing to the general election. When your drink ticket at one of the evening's many parties gets you either a bottle of beer, a glass of cheap wine, a mixed drink, or a dram of Talisker, there is NO contest. The family whisky gods might even bless you with a server who pours a generous portion into a wine glass...

It being podunk Seattle, you might run into an old family friend who tells you, "Days like this I miss your grandfather" and you can reminisce together about how unapologetically partisan he was. So when your coworkers say "Hurry up and drink your wine so we can get to the next party," you can tell them "This is not wine, it's scotch." Then you can let them know it was also your Grandfather's favorite, that you and four of your cousins downed an entire bottle at his ash-spreading ceremony, that he was the first person in your life to talk to you about political events and take you precinct-walking, that you get your rambling tendencies from him, and why you miss him a hell of a lot this election cycle.

A hell of a hell of a hell of a lot...

Lesson learned the hard way #1754: J-Lo's "If I Had Your Love" is difficult for karaoke
It's also OK to sing only if election night is also your state director's birthday and she specifically requests it. Never, ever anytime else!

Lesson learned the hard way #1755: Post-election "mornings" bring spaced-out behavior
You might wake up at noon, then accidentally leave the house with your purse (and cell phone, wallet, and keys) still inside. With nothing but your bus pass, which is inexplicably in your pocket, and sporting your newly-acquired blatantly partisan gubernatorial T-shirt, you can head to the office and email La Otra Hermana to pleasepleaseplease bring you the spare key, after the peak hour bus fares go back down to regular prices in six hours and you can once again head back to the Westside.

Lesson learned the hard way #1756: You might be crazy after all
Additionally, the Second Person Introspection process might make you realize you have boozylicious and slightly schizophrenic tendencies. (But tell yourself at least you're not in denial, and to buy yourself a drink sometime...) ;-P

******

If Present Me had only imparted these words of wisdom to Past Me several weeks ago!

Eh. I probably still would've chosen the red pill.

C'est la ... quelle?