Monday, December 27, 2010

Notes from the field

Taking a cue from the ever-trendsetting FG (and also because a colleague tweeted her most recent blog post, which reminded me that I have one too)* ...

HOLY HELL. I haven't posted anything in SIX MONTHS??? Granted, I've been working mad hours, but that's still no excuse for not keeping up the writing. Unfortunately, however, it means that I haven't had much time to watch movies (TV shows on Netflix don't count) or read (news commentaries and articles don't count, either).

I have, however:
  • moved into a new apartment on top of this famous hill in Seattle. I have now lived in 3 of Seattle's 5 legislative districts.
  • finally purchased my own wi-fi subscription after the Firesheep scare - auf wiedersehen to mooching from neighbors and nearby cafes.**
  • acquired a new niece! Little Sailo was born in July, and she is a bundle of joy. She is also quite stocky and large for a baby. I visit her once a week.
  • run another 5K! This time I really did jog the whole thing. I even woke up early in Ann Arbor to run it on Thanksgiving morning.
  • crawled out of bed at 7am on a Saturday to watch CSPAN so I could see Don't Ask, Don't Tell finally come to an end in the Senate.
Everything else in the past 6 months has been work-related. Our state primary in August had some great victories for progressive candidates; the national midterm elections were slightly depressing, though in WA we held on to Sen. Patty Murray's seat (even if it took a lot of work); and because voters failed to pass many revenue-related initiatives, tons of core services are being cut. Gearing up for 2011. Oy.

To end on a happy note: my soccer team won the league championship! We won the game 5-2, and beat the team that had been sporting Reichert '10 T-shirts the entire season. At the victory party, I discovered that most of my team (friends of friends from high school) are either nonvoters who lean Republican or consistent Republican-voting Independents (yes, I quizzed them). Sooooo, will not be talking politics with them off the field when winter season starts! At any rate, we won. I joined the team almost a year ago, when we were losing every game. Watching us learn to play together and eventually become a winning unit has been fun and amazing.

* and also because my home wi-fi network name is a hat tip to this blog
* and also because a New Year reminded me that I post "Firsts" from Last Year
* What the hell, the stars were aligned...

** I remain a staunch advocate of free public wi-fi, despite its political demise.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

On the mark

Even though I promised to do it before the horrible anti-family, anti-doctor, anti-choice law passed in Oklahoma, the Sooner State's legislation nudged me to actually register for the 7th Annual NARAL Pro-Choice Washington 5K Run for Your Rights.

I quasi-jogged this one, in stark contrast to the only other 5K I've done, for an equally good women's rights cause.

I feel confident that I can eventually jog an entire 5K ... maybe next time without a backpack and without running half the route 15 minutes before the race anyway (due to a misunderstanding of which building was the check-in location).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Corner kicks

Accidentally in honor of the Sounders season starting up a few weeks ago, I've been very soccer-focused lately.

First, there was the Iranian film Offside, about a group of young women who get caught sneaking into a World Cup-qualifying match. (I was previously unaware that women are not allowed into sports arenas in Iran.) The women are put into a holding pen until the end of the game, argue about women's rights with the soldiers responsible for transporting them to the police station, and end up listening to the historic game without ever seeing it while at the stadium. The underlying, and fairly basic, idea of the film seemed to be that women are just as patriotic as men - it wasn't so much sports that they were interested in supporting as their country.

This was the first Iranian film I've ever seen, and while I felt like I was missing a lot of cultural subtext, the injustice of sexist double standards is pretty universally understood. The main characters in the film were just young women who wanted to sneak in to see a soccer match and cheer on their national team. They argued more for their immediate rights (to see the game) rather than for larger structural and cultural changes. But the personal, after all, is political. I appreciated the film for its bittersweet snapshot of national pride and inequality.

And then! Shaolin Soccer rocked. That is all I have to say about that....

... or mostly all I have to say. Soccer + kung fu = awesome. It had an over-the-top cheesy plot, and was a self-parody of both the kung fu and sports film genres. A Bruce Lee-like kung fu master wants to bring kung fu to the masses, and teams up with a disgraced former soccer star to do it; he then
(And yes, there's an awesome female kung fu master. Otherwise I would probably merely like the film rather than lovelovelove it. Even if she's stuck in a few other traditional roles. )

But like Offside, there's an element of cultural regeneration: in the beginning everybody in Hong Kong is clumsy and unbalanced, but at the end of the film everyone has gotten back to their shaolin roots and rediscovered how to live a happier life.

I watched it twice.

Then an old friend from high school convinced me to join a rec soccer team. Our first game was this past weekend, and because we had the minimum number of women for a coed team to be able to qualify, none of us had subs. Also, I got stuck playing midfield, which runs virtually nonstop. I fell several times, scraped my knees in ways I haven't since my teens, and had a fantastic amount of fun.

As a result, I hobbled around the immigration reform rally the next morning, and quickly developed a hoarse voice shouting "SI, SE PUEDE!"

Here's my favorite sign, because to me it illustrates how complex the issue of immigration and visa attainment is:

Media coverage tended to portray the one-sided stereotype of undocumented Mexican laborers "sneaking in and then demanding" amnesty. But the rally itself did a great job of showing the need for comprehensive reform, by highlighting the range of experiences, both documented and undocumented, within a broken system.

Translators started off the rally by saying "We are one America" in 32 languages. Loved it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Whirlwind part quatre

In film:
  • I finally watched Slumdog Millionaire. I liked it well enough, even if after the first 20 minutes it became predictable (though still enjoyable). Because I automatically like most films that play around with timelines, I appreciated how Jamal's answers on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" are drawn from various points in his life and lead to his present predicament.

    The film had all the trappings of a feel-good movie: rags to riches with a little bit of luck and hard work and true love. It wasn't a typical bootstrap story, but it still had echoes of Horatio Alger.

    Sadly, the one thing that didn't make sense to me was the love story itself. Either it was the acting or the script or both, but I didn't get the impression that the two protagonists were "destined" for each other. In fact, the two characters behaved more like siblings until almost the end of the movie.

    Other than that, it was a decent story -- and had a great soundtrack to boot!

  • La Cage aux Folles had been in my Netflix queue for ages, and I finally got around to watching it. The Birdcage is an old favorite of mine, so I've long wanted to see the original.

    ....Aaand now I think a little less of The Birdcage. Turns out, there were few
    Americanizations in the remake of the farcical tale about two gay men who pretend to be a hetero couple for the benefit of their son's financee's ultra-conservative parents. Few changes in the American version also mean, unfortunately, little originality in the Robin Williams movie I've loved for so long. Despite the original French film being 20 years old and, well, French, the dialogue and antics and slapstick were identical. (Surprisingly --and a bit delightfully, I'll admit-- it all still worked and made sense decades later and a continent and culture away!)

    Great movie!

  • The Hurt Locker was a disappointment. A friend and I found ourselves wondering how the hell it won Best Picture at the Oscars. As war movies go, this didn't bring anything new to the genre. The thing that made it different was that the servicemen were part of a bomb disposal unit.

    But the character development was nonexistent, and there was a lo
    t of random dialogue that wasn't followed up on later in the film. Then there was the machismo. Like any war movie, it's bound to be there, but without the character development the male bonding that war movies can normally do well, it was kind of bizarre.

    We tried, for a few hours after the film, to read something deeper into it. (The isolation of the viewer from the characters mimics the isolation of the soldiers from everyone else as well as the desert itself? The character who changes his mind about kids and says "I want a son" in the end reinforces the changing nature of masculinity, paternity, and/or paternalism?) In the end, we concluded that we were over-reaching.

    And even though I know it wasn't an anti-war film, parts of it didn't sit well with me. (How can you not think of current, highly publicized human rights abuses in Iraq when the main character in the film goes vigilante with a gun in a residential section of Baghdad and invades civilian homes? Compartmentalizing can only go so far. I can't watch a movie about a war that hasn't ended and pretend to be in a vacuum.)

    As war itself changes, so do the films and literature that take place in it. Maybe I haven't changed with the times, and am trapped watching a new kind of war movie with the old kind's experience. Maybe that was the point?

    But that might be over-reaching, too...
In books:
  • I have a new medieval mystery series that continues my trend of female protagonists. Margaret Frazer's Sister Frevisse seems to be the nun equivalent of the Brother Cadfael series that started me off on the genre decades ago. Loosely based on some of the tales of Chaucer (who is also part of the background story), the series takes place in 15th-century England. The Novice's Tale featured a fierce pack of nuns, defending a wrongly accused novice from accusations of murder. I liked the main characters enough, so we'll see if the next few books warrant reading the entire series!

  • The author of my last medieval mystery series has a new book, and it's set in 19th-century Portland, OR. The Shanghai Tunnel was nothing like Sharan Newman's Catherine Levendeur series. Our heroine this time is a missionary's daughter and sea captain's widow. But the plot itself was slower to develop. The idea was fascinating: tiny, new little town on the Willamette River becomes the center of dark dealings in the opium trade and Taiping Rebellion. As a stand-alone mystery it was okay, but not overwhelming. If it becomes a series I would read more -- the characters have such rich, if fictional, backgrounds that would be fun to delve into more for future books.

    But clearly I'll need to tour the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland next time I visit!

In shoes:
  • Love Privos. Third pair already. So comfy.

  • The Bellevue Arts Museum's exhibit on Beth Levine was fun. I'd never been to BAM before, so that was a pleasant first. But because the exhibit is titled "The First Lady of Shoes" and I only scanned a review before going to see it with Mild Abandon, I mistakenly thought the exhibit had something to do with shoes worn by the various FLOTUS. (I wasn't far from wrong: Beth Levine did design shoes worn by a few First Ladies in the '60s and '70s...)

    At any rate, in a time when women had fewer economic (let alone creative) independence, Levine designed the shoes that were sold under her husband's name. She also introduced a lot of shoes to the American shoe market that I have not necessarily been able to walk in properly but can appreciate and coo over nonetheless: the mule, the stiletto (though Dior apparently inaccurately gets credit), and the fashion boot.

    It was a fun exhibit, and refreshing to see fashion intersect with both women's history and historically male-dominated business and industry.

    Why does this remind me to put Coco Avant Chanel in my Netflix queue?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Logo mojo

I have also had time (16 minutes, to be precise) to watch the Oscar-winning short film Logorama.

The film is a mish-mash of Hollywood disaster genre scripts, set in a Los Angeles (naturally) made up entirely of logos. Ronald McDonald robs a bank and takes hostages in a diner; Michelin men are the police. A waitress and kid flee the disaster zone but still can't escape Logo Land and the destruction it wreaks on LA.

It's hard not to draw a social commentary from the film, or be reminded of Naomi Klein's seminal book about logos and branding. Like the logos that make up a collective, trademarked Toontown, the viewer is visually barraged by the brands that make up our everyday lives. Is it art or infiltration? (Or both?) The film has three layers, in essence: the actual robbery-hostage-escape drama; the destruction, rebirth, and symbolism of the logos themselves and the logo world; and the silent commentary on the viewers' consumerism.

Take a bite out of the Apple apple, Eve?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

'Frisco fangs

Oh look! Some down time, as the state legislature debates revenue and possibly goes into special session. All my overdue library books were not in vain.

The sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, in typical Christopher Moore style, was hilariously irreverent. You Suck starts with Fiends' unwitting vampire turning her boyfriend into one, too. The cast of characters from the old book returns -- everyone from the ancient evil vampire to a Safeway peanut gallery stoner crew. An amusing and clover addition to the list of protagonists includes a goth girl who narrates of some chapters.

It was a quick read: nothing deep or heavy, and perfect for escapism while twiddling thumbs and waiting around for a revenue package from Olympia.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eye of the Tiger

Normally I do this every New Year, but this year has been a little too busy to afford consecutive moments of reflection. Until now, which is coincidentally Chinese New Year. So I'm late but can still save some face by tacking on a "tradition" to the lunar calendar instead.

Firsts or new things from 2009 or the Year of the Ox, for better or worse:
  • A graduate degree! Finished graduate school. Got the M.S. in Law, Policy, and Society. Got the diploma.

  • A niece and nephew born in the same calendar year! Different sisters, of course. Diego arrived in March, and Repeka was born in June.

  • Turned 30! Loving it.

  • Woke up at 4am on Black Friday to go shopping. Mi Hermana and I figured, why the hell not? Michigan needs all the economic stimulating it can get.

  • Called 911 for myself instead of someone else! Survived the Spring Break trip to the ER, after having a very public anxiety attack. Am indebted to the Seattle Fire Dept for a quick response time --granted, the station was only about 4 blocks away from the Farmer's Market, where I was, but still. (Also, how was I supposed to know I was hyperventilating and not having a stroke? Now I know.)

  • Used a hookah. That was actually my first smoke of anything, ever, too.
This new Year of the Tiger, which started today, seems pretty damn fierce and awesome so far!

Here's to 2010 and a new decade: its ups and downs, learning experiences, and opportunities for lifelong growth!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seeing red

Weeks ago, I borrowed a friend's advance copy of Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde's latest book. A huge fan of everything Fforde, I then went to see him talk at a local bookstore, bought the book, and stood in line to have him sign it. Big fangirl. Done that twice now. (Different books, obviously.) There are very few authors I care enough about to wait in line for a signature -- in fact, most autographed books I have were either professors of mine or guest speakers at a community event I attended. So Jasper Fforde is a big deal. (Twice!)

Like the Thursday Next series (time- and book-travelling and pure genius) and Nursery Crime books, this new Fforde world blows your mind! In Shades of Grey's post-apocalyptic society, the colors people can see determine their social standing -- what jobs they have, who they can marry, where they can live. Industries are built around manufacturing synthetic colors; people can get high and overdose on seeing certain forbidden colors; good members of society get merits, and bad ones are sent off to re-education facilities if they get enough demerits. The underlying intricacies for this colortocracy are highly innovative, and yet highly disarmingly parallel to our own society.

The entire plot hints at subversion and fomenting revolution and messing with the dominant paradigms, so naturally I'm pre-inclined to like it. There's a murder. There's a sassy, radical girl. It's awesome. The last chapter, however, was truly disturbing, and its cliffhanger ending definitely did not sit well with me. (I was so disturbed, I rushed across town to return the book to my friend and vent about it.)

Luckily, there will be a sequel. And I trust Fforde to resolve some of the unanswered issues!

Best book of the year so far!

Friday, January 29, 2010

So-and-so has requested to add you as a friend on ...

Cracked me the hell up, especially because:

1) Yeah, I was a Deaniac back in '04. (Oh, '04!)

2) In grad school, I did a PowerPoint presentation on the '08 primaries and social networking sites, and one of my more blatantly partisan slides included Fred Thompson and Friendster.

Love xkcd!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bipolar Legislative Disorder

Because a $2.9 billion state budget shortfall in the legislative session and super-depressing happenings in Congress and the Supreme Court mandate a lot of work-related heavy reading, I'm back on my fiction-only kick for the time being. (I think I was on it for most of grad school, too. Oh well. The book moods -- they come, they go... C'est la vie.)

Who knew Book Four in the Artemis Fowl series, The Opal Deception, would be slightly traumatic?

What's up with the magic-themed children's stories these days having sad, emotional death scenes of major characters?

It was, though, an excellent tool for escapism. The crazy, evil villain from Book Two comes back, intent on revenge. She plots to kill off not only the teenage genius/criminal mastermind title character, but the elves, fairies, and centaur who helped him defeat her. So she schemes to alert the human world to the existence of the fairy world, to start an interspecies war that will eventually allow her to rule the planet. A tale as old as time.

The larger story, of course, is Artemis Fowl's coming-of-age -- making new and different friends, being at a crossroads (whether to remain a criminal mastermind or become an honest kid), etc. It is, after all, a book series aimed at tweens.

Hooray for the Bildungsroman.

Next up: more medieval mysteries on order from the library. And Netflix movies. Mucho, mucho Netflix movies...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moments of madness

Apropos of nothing, the other day a colleague, who also lives in West Seattle, asked me to feed his dog and watch his house when he and his partner go out of town in a few weeks.
Colleague: We're heading to the Olympics that weekend.
Me: Fun, are you guys camping?
Colleague: What? Camping? Oh my God, no! We're gay men!
Me: Oh, so you're staying at a resort?
Colleague: Resort? Nooooo. Way too expensive, especially with everything going on.
Me: Wait, so it's a day trip? Why do you need someone to watch the house and dog?
Colleague: We'll be staying with family.
Me: Oh, I didn't realize you had family out there.
Colleague: We do. But we'll be out seeing the sights most of the time . . .
Me: Yeah, there are some good hiking trails. Bit late in the season, though, isn't it?
Whereupon we realized we were having two very different conversations.

In catch-up news, I saw the new Sherlock Holmes with an old friend the afternoon of New Year's Eve. (I vividly recall reading trading the Sherlock Holmes books with her and reading them during boring documentaries shown in our middle school science classes. Future humanities nerds, indeed.)

At any rate, it was fun. I liked the quirky, edgy, disturbed-genius characterization of Holmes himself. In most cases, movies that stray from the books are not exceptionally brilliant, but I liked it here. Holmes wasn't the cold, calculating, sterile brainiac we're all familiar with from the books and other adaptations -- Robert Downey, Jr. portrayed him as a borderline OCD nutso. That part was fun.

The plot was eh. Most of it was predictable: secret society (this time not the Masons) uses "magic" and murder to try and take over the world. Holmes and Watson sweep in to restore reason, thinking, and sanity. What was cool was the re-creation of London and some of the action sequences.

What I didn't like was Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. In almost a hundred years of film, have we seriously gotten no further than the Perils of Pauline?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The nose, she is still above the water

Good Lord, 2010 has been busy so far! But good.

I'd forgotten how ridiculously chaotic it gets the weeks before and the first week of the legislative session.

The only thing that could make up for leaving the office on Sunday at 11:30pm: this video of our campaign director accidentally running into the "anti-tax" sponsor of the initiative that voters smacked down this past November.

In other news . . . ZUMBA! Turns out, music in a gym class makes all the difference. I'm officially addicted. Two cool things about the class I'm taking: there is diversity of body type, and it's also ethnically diverse. Not that it's a Dove or Benetton ad or anything, but the difference is noticeable enough.

Seriously, it's like clubbing at a Latin dance club, minus the booze. (Also minus the men, but that's tangential.)

I mean, if you "dance" badly and secretly (sometimes in the grocery store, with your headphones on) to the same music anyway, why not just take the class and be productive?