Friday, May 29, 2009

Toil, sweat, and tears

It sucks to be repeated told you are overqualified for jobs. But on the upside ... at least they call to tell you? Um.

To console myself, I've begun a cycle of running to the beach, experimenting with various recipes and other cooking-related phenomena, and vegging out. I couldn't get into Veronica Mars after 8 episodes, so I've started The Wire. However, the neffy makes it hard to watch DVDs because he's learned how to turn the TV and DVD player on and off.

I have, however, managed to get some solid vegging done during his naps or when he and the rest of the fam are at church. . .

I'd seen the last hour of Blood Diamond several times, but I finally watched the film in its entirety. And I liked it. To be fair, though, the fact that it addressed the issues of both conflict diamonds and child soldiers got it on my good side immediately. Unfortunately, that's also the downside: the movie was more a vehicle. Leo's romance with Jennifer Connelly was a little out of place, and the story could have worked without it as well as her, and possibly him. (But, as La Otra Hermana pointed out in one of her few political commentaries that I agree with, tales about "Africa" are generally only understood by "the West" through a white experience there.) Also, I didn't quite buy Leo's mercenary -- though well-acted, the character's sudden transition from arms- and diamond-smuggler to noble humanitarian wasn't that smooth or believable.

But in all, I really liked the film. It had a compelling story with, for the most part, interesting characters. It got preachy at times, but then I guess it had to.

Sin City was different. For half the movie, I was really disturbed. For the other half, I was fascinated by the graphic-novel adaptation style and narration. In a few interlocking stories about serial killers, prostitutes, mobsters, corrupt cops and politicians, some of the plot twists were predictable; some induced cringes, as crime tales can do.

Overall, it was well done. The visuals alone were creative: comic-style animation based on real footage, drawn in black and white with only certain key colors to contrast.

I'm a sucker for narrative form that is somewhat disjointed and often incomplete, and that's part of the reason the movie fascinated me. The stories weren't necessarily that unique, but every level of presentation was.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Post-exam boredom

There's nothing to do but sit around and wait now. Really, all I've been doing is job searching, jogging around West Seattle, trying to cook different foods, and meeting up with friends and family.

Oh, and vegging out. As usual.

When I first saw previews for Nacho Libre a long time ago, I was not interested in watching it. Then Mi Hermana called to say that her hubby the Latino Studies Ph.d candidate was watching a bunch of old Mexican films starring a well-known wrestler, and that they were going to watch Nacho Libre because it parodied many of the old movies.

So of course I put it in my Netflix queue.

Clearly, I did not get the parodic references. But it was a little obvious that the whole movie was, in fact, a parody of something -- most of the scenes were way too random. (Mi Hermana told me later which scenes she remembered from the original films.) (Also, how sad is it that I recognized the little weird kid from Hannah Montana?)

At any rate, Jack Black plays a Mexican priest who masquerades as a wrestler. He's the cook at the parish orphanage, and has a crush on a nun. His wild-man sidekick makes fun of him for being fat, and he makes fun of his sidekick for believing in science. Suffice to say, I laughed my ass off -- something I was not expecting to do at all!

Book Three in the Artemis Fowl children's series didn't take that long to read. A former colleague gave me the first book as a going-away present, and I'm now hooked. Not in a Harry Potter way, but still vested in the series in ways that are possibly unhealthy for an adult.

The Eternity Code follows our teenage criminal mastermind as he attempts one last scheme: to blackmail a multimillionaire using fairy technology. Naturally, the dwarves and trolls and gnomes and fairies and centaurs don't like this, and send a retrieval team to the human world.

I like this book the best so far, perhaps because the two underlying themes are that people can change and that aging and growing up are not necessarily bad, scary things. Artemis has been slowly growing a conscience along with friends as the series progresses, and in this installment his long-lost father renounces the family business of evildoing and pledges to do nothing but good. Meanwhile, the Fowl bodyguard deals with having to retire early and pass the torch on to a hot-headed successor.

Ah, summer! Time to come up with a more extensive reading list...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pre-exam denial

The comprehensive exams have been written, fretted over, and emailed ... but before they even started, the procrastination continued.

Perhaps because of the impending four-day intensive exam (though our department admin assistant was kind and emailed them a day early), I felt little connection to the 18-year-old protagonists in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.

I'm not the biggest fan of the graduation genre to begin with, whether it's high school or college. I just can't relate. Loved the friends I made at all the schools I've attended, but I still couldn't wait to get the hell out and get on with life.

At any rate, Nick and Norah stars Michael Cera, who doesn't seem to be able to leave his Arrested Development typecasting, which fits well with this high school breakup tale about a music geek who can't get over his ex until he meets this really cool chick who also likes the same type of music he does.

It's cuter than that, actually. As the graduation genre goes, it was slightly more creative in that it revolved all the drama around the indy band scene. (Also, positive inclusion of Asian-Americans and gays!) I just had a hard time relating to all the underage drinking and clubbing and friends-with-benefits and band-chasing --some of us barely (or never) had that experience in college, let alone high school. And the cynic in me kept thinking the teenage lovebugs wouldn't last in their planned long-distance relationship, even if they both go off to universities in New England.

In fact, I spent most of the film shaking my cane at the TV screen.

Oh, do I sound jaded? If so ...

Quantum of Solace -- pure and excellent eye candy! As Bond films go, it was definitely a disappointment after Daniel Craig's debut as 007 in Casino Royale. (But honestly, how do you beat that? It was amazing.) Still, this second Craig-as-Bond film was decent. It tried to follow up on the whole "explaining Bond's psyche" theme, but I thought that was unnecessary.

Cool gadgets and flashy computer technology, good chase scenes and exciting fight sequences. What more is needed to take one's mind off of studying?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Triple X

The neffy has been over a lot. He claps for himself now, when he accomplishes something new ... like dragging a kitchen chair to the fridge and climbing on it just to grab the magnets we deliberately placed out of his reach.

Following his innocent and youthful example, I've been similarly celebrating ... or rather, dragging out the celebrating in order to avoid studying statistics. Birthday drinks, brunches, and happy hours have also given me good excuses not to study for the upcoming Master's-qualifying exams. I've officially been a thirtysomething for over a week now, and love it!

In other news, because La Madre used all her vacation time to visit the new neffy in Michigan and the soon-to-arrive new niece, I skipped my graduation ceremony.

So I was a little shocked and disturbed to hear on the local Seattle news that, had I walked, I would not have been allowed to shake my dean's hand as is the tradition because of H1N1 paranoia.

Guess the mumps scare the week I left disappeared rather quickly!