Monday, June 30, 2008


I swear, I didn't just over-analyze cheesy '80s comedies this sweltering weekend while overdosing on Emergen-C and sniffling... I also had dinner and went shoe shopping with a friend, skipped the Pride Parade (it's easier to do if it's disgustingly hot, you have residual snifflage, and don't have to attend for work), and then read Fire Watch, another compilation of Connie Willis' short stories.

Turns out, half the stories in Fire Watch were in Winds of Marble Arch. The ones that weren't were equally as good. There was, once again, an emotional range: disturbing ("The Sidon in the Mirror," another space pioneer story about death and dying); humorous ("Father of the Bride," detailing the aftermath of the Sleeping Beauty tale); and weird ("Lost and Found," about the end times as prophesied in the Revelation of St. John). Good, quick, enjoyable reads!

Since we'd watched the sequel last week and Ms. Tungsten lent me her copy of Dhoom, I was curious to see if the original film was as good as Part 2.

It wasn't. But it was still a decent tongue-in-cheek action flick. It's very different from the second in that the criminals are actually, well, criminals. In Dhoom 2 the audience (or at least this viewer) was rooting for Hrithik to succeed in stealing pieces of art and to escape from the police, but in the first it was impossible to sympathize with the villains because they were clearly crafted to be evil and unlikeable.

The sequel did mirror the first film (as most heist movie sequels must) -- right down to the final climactic cliff scene. And I do feel a little sorry for Abhishek Bachchan -- he clearly has a sense of beat but his shoulder movements and posture make it look like he's a clumsy dancer. (Many of the dance sequences are shot so that he either doesn't have many complicated moves, or is generally frolicking rather than dancing. It's obvious.)

But all in all, a good cops-and-robbers movie to watch while hydrating and sitting in front of the fan...

Make our bed and we'll say our grace

Back in April, Mi Cuñado, the SoCal boy raised on movie culture, was shocked --shocked-- that Mi Hermana and I had never seen Coming to America. He tried to convince me that it was, in part, a unique take on the immigrant experience. Sometimes I can never tell when he's kidding (like when he said he might caucus for McCain because on closer inspection his immigration stance is "stronger"). But that's cool.

At any rate, turns out he was pulling my leg about Coming to America. Again. I think. . . .

As is well documented, I am not the biggest fan of any story involving a romance plot with a prince or princess, mythical or real: all of my defensive heckles about classicism and gender imbalances are immediately raised. Sometimes the genre is clever, but most of the time it just reinforces unhealthy socioeconomic hierarchies and the stereotypic gender roles that go with them.

This one wasn't all that different. As a royal-heir-escapes-pampered-life-to-find-self-and-future-spouse tale, it's the saaaame storyline as Enchanted and The Prince and I and a host of other stories. The only difference is that in Coming to America the mythical kingdom is the always-vague "somewhere in Africa," and all the people in the movie are black. Only difference. (Unfortunately, that difference might lead some to automatically categorize the film as immediately intellectually inferior or aimed a "specific" audience.)

Coming to America wasn't wonderfully hilarious, but it wasn't bad. I liked it. The viewer does have to take the slightly offensive (but tongue-in-cheek?) depictions of "Africans" in light of the fact that the fairy tale genre does the same thing with "Europeans." It does get booster points for satire, though -- especially for making fun of McDonald's! Also, the scene where the Queens residents steal the prince's suitcases and the unsubtle shot of blood on the walls in the apartment that Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall eventually rent cracked me up more than they probably should have.

Mi Cuñado was perhaps speaking with a grain of truth, though, when he attempted to pass off the film as one sympathetic to the immigrant experience. As a fairy tale movie, it follows the genre's standard formula. But if you look at it instead through the lens of the "fairy tale" of the American rags-to-riches story, it's much more fascinating. And what is the American Dream, which includes American immigration experiences, but a type of fairy tale? One that, as one of my college professors used to reiterate and reiterate and reiterate, "we tell ourselves about ourselves"?

The first plot line viewed this way is the most obvious: the prince and his equally spoiled servant, no matter how educated or important in their country of origin, are frequently the butt of jokes, discrimination, and targeting in America, and with few credentials recognized in a new country take on jobs scoffed at by "regular" Americans. The second American fairy tale is the McDowell's restaurant owner, who builds his Golden Arches-like restaurant from nothing and wants his daughters not to have to struggle like he did. Lastly, woven throughout the story are snippets of homeless guys getting unexpected donations, poor residents opportunistically making off with the prince's suitcases, and tons of references to "hot" or stolen items bringing a "better" lifestyle.

Money always equals "success" in any version of any fairy-tale story, which is cynical but perhaps a tad realistic in any capitalist economy: money buys security and food and warmer clothes and safer schools and better health . . . The Disney-fied analogy brings freedom from a curse, an overbearing stepmother, fabulous clothes, and an ever-after that is happy generally only if it is in an isolated, suburban-like manor. This is half of the reason I'm skeptical of fairy tales. (The other half is how women are expected to act, but then that was obvious.)

So as fairy tale stories go (however "fairy tale" is interpreted), I liked this one better than most. The overall story arc was predictable and boring and irritatingly sappy. (It was also one huge reminder of the terrible fashion trends of the '80s, and why it's okay to hide old photographs.) But the better moments were in the details.

Or rather, what the viewer can project onto the details... Maybe Mi Cuñado knew that. ;-P

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sniffling and snuffling this summer

One of the few perks about being home sick is catching up on reading or movies. I was finally able to finish The Winds of Marble Arch, a collection of Connie Willis' short stories. As usual, it did not disappoint. Some of the stories I'd already read in Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, but most of them were new to me. They ranged from depressing ("Chance," a different take on the "butterfly's wings" idea, and "Cash Crop," about a virus that kills off pioneers in space ) to truly disturbing ("All My Darling Daughters," which is so unsettling I prefer not to summarize it) to cute ("Blued Moon," a sweet little tale about linguists and love).

But my absolute, utter favorite was "The Soul Selects Her Own Society," written as if it were an academic paper. The "thesis" is that H.G. Wells documented an alien landing in Amherst, MA, and that in fact, aliens contacted Dickinson and helped inspire her more "WTF" poems. I was ROLLING while reading it! It pokes fun at Emily Dickinson nonstop, and it's wonderfully irreverent and awesome. (Most of her poems can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas," she has dashes every other word, she floated notes down to visitors... ) Hilarious.

Collections of short stories are great for the ADHD sufferers as well as people with colds, who have to zonk out every couple of hours or crawl to the store for more food and meds.

My plan yesterday while recuperating was also to watch Dhoom, but then the neffy came over and I didn't want to infect him so I hid (à la Emily Dickinson) in my room.

Last week, I actually watched Dhoom 2 with Ms. Tungsten... even though I haven't seen the first movie, Dhoom 2 stood alone as an awesome heist movie. Abhishek Bachchan plays the cop (again), and Hrithik Roshan is the art thief. There are some decent, clever art a-thievin' scenes. But of course, the music sequences are the best.

In fact, when the cutest niece in the world was in town last week, me whistling the opening tune from the theme song "Dhoom Again" always made her laugh deliriously. Or maybe it was her perpetual lack of sleep. Or my funny dance moves....

At any rate, it's a fun film. Also, this is the movie with the controversial kiss! The scandal! Hrithik (quite possibly the hottest man alive) actually kisses Aishwarya Rai (quite possibly the hottest woman ever)- and actual kissing is virtually unheard of in Hindi films. We rewound that bit several times, which then inspired us to bust out the Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon DVD and re-watch the scenes where Hrithik is well-oiled on a beach, in the firelight.

My favorite, favorite line from Dhoom 2 is uttered by Abhishek Bachchan at the end (SPOILER ALERT):
"I watched you fall off that cliff, and I thought, what a great love story! And then I thought, what crap!"
Love it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy feet

Staying home with the sniffles in the summer sucks. But this made me happy:

My sister forwarded me the dude's website, and some of the outtakes are funny.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Backwards and in heels

The Goddess has a messed-up sense of humor.

This morning, I was busy summarizing a study by the Brookings Institute that highlights the gender gap in political candidates and tracks reasons why women might not run for office, when a phone company salesperson walked in to try and convince us to switch our service.

The dude tried to chat and figure out what our organization does, and made an attempt at commenting on how busy it must be with elections and politics, commented on the large photo we have of Bobby Kennedy (which is right next to a large, framed article on the state's first Native American female state senator), then pitched his company's phone service. Right after I said "Thanks, but that decision would be up to our state director" the guy said "Well maybe he could give me a call when he's free."

I smiled as politely as I could before pausing and saying pointedly, "She."

Two weeks ago we had an all-day training for candidates on the importance of framing, messaging, and leaving impressions. With a minute or less to pitch a campaign spiel while doorbelling or phonebanking, the images voters are left with often say more than someone's actual policy stances -- whether it's too-short shorts (as one guy at the training traumatically demonstrated) or a misguided but well-intentioned phrase (like "Cuban-style health care").

Tangential impressions matter, especially if you have an important message you want to get across to someone. After five years of issue-based advocacy and lobbying, one of the things you know is that impressions you leave with staffers (often college students or temps) are just as important as the rare meetings with elected officials themselves, if not more so.

Also interns!

When the phone rep left, I tossed his brochure in the recycling bin and went back to drafting the summary of the gender gap study.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday morning woes

I am really, really scared that McCain will choose Bobby Jindal as his running mate.



Meanwhile, "uniting the party" might be at odds with "getting a Democrat elected" in the three uber-key swing states.

Must find more coffee...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

History nerd geek-out!

Found this awesome, awesome site courtesy of Daily Kos. A sample of the ingenuity:

Awesomeawesomeawesomeawesomeawesomeawesomeawesome! \(^_^)/

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Seattle: Colder than Siberia!

Yesterday's headline has been totally rendered irrelevant because of today's SCOTUS decision:

Supreme Court gives detainees habeas rights
"In a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion.... "
It's a start!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oh they say when you're freezing in June...

So not cool, especially since I left my heavy sweaters in Boston:
Coldest June in more than a century (Seattle P-I)
In other news, at work I've been compiling statistics from the 2004 election in swing precincts across the state, and the projection for local races mirrors the abysmal weather. It's going to be a hard fight for Democrats. I've mentioned to both Ms. Tungsten and A-Squared that Dino Rossi as Washington's next Governor scares me waaaay the hell more than John McCain as the next U.S. President. (Don't get me wrong, I would NOT be happy with McCain... but state-level efforts would grind to a halt in Olympia for four years because the state legislature doesn't have the votes to override a veto.)

Must ... guzzle ... coffee ...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Talking of Michelangelo

When I am feeling under the weather (which can be easy in the hometown's cold, gray, rainy June weather), I always read Prufrock. I've done it ever since high school. In a weird way, it inspires me, if only to not emulate J. Alfred's inertia.
... Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume? ...
I've already re-read it a couple times this week (especially the line that my caffeine-addict heart loves so much), before suddenly realizing that I had overdue books at the library, and it would probably be bad if my account got shut down yet again for accruing massive fines. So I got off my ass and read about people and places beyond my mental and physical realities.

Christopher Moore's Bloodsucking Fiends was hilarious. I was at first skeptical of a vampire story, but Moore's usual tongue-in-cheek plot and witty dialogue made me a fan. Hot redhead Jody is one day attacked, bitten, and turned into a vampire; in the process of learning her new instincts on the streets of San Francisco, she teams up with a wide-eyed midwestern newcomer who dreams of becoming a writer but has to work at the local Safeway instead. Meanwhile, a serial killer vampire frames them for murder. It might seem bizarre and potentially campy, but it's all really funny. And fun!

Next up was the Connie Willis novella Uncharted Territory. It reminded me of Firefly because it's essentially a western set in the frontier of space, but that might just be because I watched a few episodes of that excellent and (sadly) short-lived show with Ms. Tungsten the other day. Like every other Connie Willis book I've read, I loved Uncharted Territory! In the first few pages I did, however, catch the "twist" that doesn't show up until halfway through the book. The storyline follows two explorers, their guide, and an accompanying scientist as they chart sections of a planet uninhabited by humans -- but it does not pretend to hide the fact that it's really exploring sex and gender expectations.

So how should I presume?

Lesson learned the hard way #1747: Though it may be your lot in life to attract (and sometimes cause) drama, don't doubt yourself, and don't look back.

'Nuff said.

In the room the women come and go ...