Sunday, January 24, 2010

Three Moments

I think three of my favorite moments of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards were:

1. Kate Hudson presenting with Justin Timberlake, and their little joke in which Kate acknowledged what was on the minds of many viewers at that moment, that we didn't know Justin was SAG.

2. Mo'Nique, on her way to accept her Best Supporting Actress award, exchanging a knowing look with Best Supporting Actor Christoph Waltz as she passed by him. The two of them are the surest things in their categories, awards show after awards show, and they are everywhere, and totally understand each other right now. What else but Awards Season could have brought the two of them together in such a simpatico life moment?

3. Sandra Bullock, in her acceptance speech, thanking her husband Jesse James, the death defying motorcycle man. Sandra said he shows up at these Hollywood events -- not exactly his scene, if you will -- and comes back to her table "with, like, Morgan Freeman's email address. I don't know how you do it."

Those were fun.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

SAG Awards Drinking Game

I didn't think of this in time to do it for the Golden Globes, but I think tonight's drinking game will be to take a shot every time they show some woman wearing a one shoulder dress. Warning: You WILL be wasted.

What the hell is up with this trend? I really need symmetry back on the Red Carpet. Strapless or sleeves or whatever, but this one-shoulder thing has GOT to go. You will also notice that a lot of the dresses that are strapless or two-shouldered have an asymmetrical thing going on in the design. It's this year's look, clearly. We are an off-balance world.

I told Brian he could play EW's suggested drinking game, where you drink every time an actor says, "This award means the most because it's given to me by my acting peers..." and I'll play the one-shouldered dress drinking game, and we'll see who's drunk first.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Television Trash

Q: What do you get when you combine The Deep End and Jersey Shore?
A: Hofstra Law School.

Oh, don't worry, it doesn't need to be funny. It's true.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Golden Globage

Oh, the agony of not having promptly blogged about the Golden Globes! Apologies to my adoring fans; it's just been one thing after another. Believe it or not I have actually been keeping all of my New Year's resolutions. I just didn't make a resolution to be better about blogging. Apparently, that was needed! So, what did you think of the ceremony? Was Ricky Gervais all that you hoped he'd be and more?

I must say, I wish we had got even MORE of him. His zingers were top-notch ("I like a drink as much as the next guy. Unless the next guy is Mel Gibson" when introducing Mel himself to come out and present! So wonderful!) but I could have used way more. I suppose there were the typical concerns about "Oh well gee gosh if he had more time there talking, you know, well gee the ceremony would be so long! And well gosh, those folks there at home watching, well, they just don't want to watch if it's too long, see..." Yawn! Get over yourselves.

Must we go through this every year? So the biggest award ceremonies of the year last a few hours. OK, they last a few hours. Why can't you accept this? Do you think they ought to shorten the Super Bowl too? Think Obama ought to trim down that State of the Union speech? Things last however long they last. It's so dumb that this is a crisis for people. What gets me the most about it is that the VAST majority of the people in this country, and the majority of the people who complain, spend hours each week watching television. Hell, they spend hours each DAY watching television. They are perfectly content to sit flipping through the channels, frittering away their lives. But when a show is on that lasts the length of time they will sit on the couch watching anyway this is a problem. SO DUMB.

But enough about stupid people. On to the celebrities! My favorite red carpet moment was Tom and Julia (Hanks and Roberts, of course) who were hanging out with the yammering interviewer and discussing the rain. Rain that, by the way, took by surprise much of Beverly Hills. The storm was supposed to move away, but no. So anyway, Julia made a crack about NBC not being in such a good place right now and the interviewer was like, Julia! You're live on NBC right now! trying to deflect the insult. So Tom says, "NBC said it was going to rain at 10 p.m., but then they pushed it back to 11:30." Ha! Love it.

James Cameron is such an interesting man. He's so creative, and he totally makes it happen. He doesn't even need The Artist's Way! I liked his shout-out to (his ex-wife, but friend) Kathryn Bigelow that maybe she should have won the best directing award that he in fact won. I really haven't decided how I feel about this whole Avatar versus The Hurt Locker versus Up in the Air thing, yet. I like Kathryn and I like the vision in her film, but I think Cameron's execution of his Avatar vision might be a but more statue-worthy. Noticeably absent from the directors' race is Spike Jonze for Where the Wild Things Are. This really bothers me. That movie was, first of all, far superior to what I imagined it could be, but secondly, the textbook definition of good directing, and realizing a vision. No offense to Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) - truly, none - or Lee Daniels (Precious), but I think the directing that Spike Jonze did for WtWTA was better.

As for the best picture, though? I'm partial to In the Loop, which was sadly not nominated. Out of the Golden Globes' Best Picture - Drama nominees, I would have chosen Inglourious Basterds, with a nagging thought that maybe I wanted Up in the Air. I really, really liked Up in the Air a lot. But Inglourious Basterds was so magnificent and hugely well done.

Needless to say, if you have not watched both In the Loop and Inglourious Basterds, you should do so immediately if not sooner. They are both out on DVD, so crank up your Netflix queue and get on that! (And, something else we apparently have to go through every year -- if you're not yet a Netflix member, e-mail me! I'll send you a free trial so that you can mend the error of your ways.)

Now about that Golden Globes Best Picture - Comedy/Musical category. Hmmm. I've seen (500)Days of Summer and The Hangover, but I haven't yet seen Meryl I, Meryl II, or Nine. I'm cool with The Hangover's win, though. It really was a funny, well-acted, enjoyable movie. It just blatantly had no worthy, righteous characters in it, but in a silly way. It didn't take itself too seriously, and it came off really well.

Now, do I think Mo'Nique's acceptance speech at the Globes was totally amazing? No. Do I think her performance was good? was great. But it's so boring when the Supporting Acting races are foregone conclusions -- her for Precious and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds. I like them both, I just wish there was some tension and excitement and speculation!

All in all I am not doing too bad in seeing the main awards contenders. It helps that the Oscars are later this year. If they were in early-mid Feb, I would have had to spend a week in Chicago by now just to watch movies. Ugh. The movies in the theaters right now that I need to see are The Lovely Bones, Sherlock Holmes, Nine, Brothers, and It's Complicated. The movies definitely on their way to Grand Rapids are A Single Man, The Messenger, The Damned United and Crazy Heart. The Oscar-potential movies in my Netflix queue are Julie & Julia and Moon. Plus I have The Cove at home. I really want to see The Beaches of Agnes and Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country, but they both have unknown DVD release dates at this time.

Movies movie movies movies movies. What do you think was the best picture of 2009?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thirsty Jerk Update

The universe has continued to bonk me ... Click here to see pictures of water arriving in Haiti, among other things. Sigh.


The following relates how I was a jerk about Haiti today. Last night, Brian and I attended a Grand Rapids event with beer-tasting and comedians called the "Brew Ha Ha" - isn't that clever? Needless to say, many beers were tasted. And apparently, insufficient water was drunk before going to sleep. I am usually a stickler for drinking water before bed after drinking to stave off hangovers, but I clearly did not drink enough because I woke up really thirsty in the middle of the night. Luckily, I had a bit of water by my bedside as I always do, which I drank, leaving just enough in the bottom to have another sip if I woke up thirsty again. Why? Because I knew I would be too lazy to go downstairs to refill my bottle if I woke up again and was anticipating my laziness. A little psychological trick.

Not long after that, Brian woke up and told me he was so thirsty he was dreaming about drinking water. (I'm telling you, we had drunk a lot of beer.) I have had that happen a few times lately. Dreams about water's so disappointing when you wake up still parched. So, I told him "me too" and I lay there thinking I should really get up and go get water, for both of us. Obviously I was thirsty enough to still be waking up repeatedly. But I was so tired and wanted so badly to go back to sleep. It was like a little war among my thirst, my fatigue, and my laziness. I even thought about whether I should go into the bathroom, right next to the bedroom, so that I wouldn't have to walk all the way downstairs. The fact that I lay awake long enough to ponder all this means my thirst was stronger than my fatigue, but the fact that I didn't even get up to get water from the bathroom sink, let alone the kitchen downstairs, means my laziness was strongest of all. At this point I also couldn't in good conscience drink the remaining sips in my bottle without sharing them with Brian, although there was barely enough to share at all, and I didn't want him to be jealous if I drank, now that I knew he, too, was so thirsty he was dreaming about water so I just didn't drink it. That's right - my laziness was so selfish and misguided that it became self-destructive. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Or several.

Finally, at some point between 8 and 9 a.m., I woke up again. I was now insanely thirsty and not feeling particularly rarin'-to-go, and this time the thirst finally conquered the fatigue and laziness. It did this because I started thinking about how thirsty earthquake victims in Haiti must be right now. Not just the survivors who are out of a home and had to wait for food and water supplies to arrive, but people trapped in the rubble. Damn, I thought to myself, I am lying here whining in my head about how thirsty I am and not doing anything about it, while how many hundreds of people have been lying, trapped, for DAYS, unable to move AT ALL? I started getting really weirded out about how thirsty they must be, with no ability to do anything about it. I told myself to stop being an asshole, and I got out of bed and went downstairs, filling up both my and Brian's half-liter bottles with cold, filtered water.

The Kopinskis' radio was on in the kitchen, like always, tuned to NPR. Of course as I stood there filling the water, it just happened to be a story about searching for survivors in the Port-au-Prince rubble. They were talking about how search dogs alert to the presence of someone, and how the rescuers hear sounds and say "knock three times" and if they then hear three knocks, they know it is a person, alive, and not dripping water or a rat or something else. It was like the universe just bonking me on the head while I filled my cool, refreshing water, repeatedly saying "Jerk, jerk, selfish jerk." Honestly. I brought the water upstairs, so happy I could give it to Brian to quench his thirst, but really disappointed in myself for not doing so at 4 a.m. And just generally appalled at how wonderful and easy my life is.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Everything I know about Haiti I learned from Jennifer Green

Well, OK. Not everything. I have actually read a bit, watched documentaries, and met some folks during my off-the-beaten-resort-path Caribbean travels. But the first person to teach me about Haiti was definitely Jennifer Green. Who on earth is Jennifer Green, you ask? Excellent question. Jennifer Green is the main character/narrator of a series of intermediate fiction books by Jane Sorenson that, I'm not going to lie, kind of border on the insipid. But I absolutely ate these books UP when I was an adolescent. I made my mom read them, too, an act for which she may have yet to forgive me, even though I wised up and have been giving her good stuff to read ever since.

So anyway, this series, "The Jennifer Books" as they were known - my, how original - consisted of twelve books in which our hero, Jennifer Green, moves from Chicago to Philadelphia, makes new friends, learns lessons, attends junior high, becomes a Christian ... wait, what? Yes, it's true. They were totally Christianed out, these books. They might even be categorized as intermediate Christian fiction, if there is such a genre. We are talking hardcore: the gimmick is that Jennifer is talking to the Lord. Seriously. Each chapter starts, "Lord, it's me Jennifer" and then she tells the Lord all about her day, the bus stop, homeroom, the winter carnival committee, the youth group hayride, horseback riding lessons (she get her own horse in book #7, Fifteen Hands), and so on. Just in case the reader should forget she is talking to the Lord, Jennifer interjects little Lord-asides every so often, such as when trying to figure out which of her two neighbor boys she likes, or when her dad is laid off, or upon finding out her friend's mom is an alcoholic, or some other crisis looms. "You have a plan, Lord, don't You?" she'll say.

Not only do I really think I may be the only person on the planet to have ever bought these books (and my mom and sister may be the only other two to have ever read them, because I forced them to), but isn't it kind of funny that I of all people in fact read them? I adored them, though. I wrote letters to the author, too, and she answered. I even argued religion with her. Damn, I was a freaky 12-year-old.

So anyway, Haiti. Book #8 is In Another Land. Jennifer Green's beloved grandma lives in Florida; she's a widow since Jennifer's grandpa died in book #4 (Jennifer Says Goodbye). Grandma sponsors a child in Haiti (so 1980s, these books) and as she is preparing for a long-planned trip to Haiti along with her retired friend who also sponsors a child, suddenly the retired friend can't go for some reason. So Grandma invites Jennifer to go. Jennifer's little brothers (Pete and Justin) are initially jealous, but of course the family all has a learning, growing experience because of Jennifer's trip. Before Jennifer goes, they each learn a fact about Haiti and share it at dinner -- clever way to teach the young reader a thing or two, no? -- and after Jennifer's trip she is inspired to sponsor a child of her own. And on an 8th-grade income! What a good Christian soul.

No but seriously - here's the thing. I learned so much about Haiti! Almost the entire book, minus the cheesy family togetherness scene around the Haiti encyclopedia entry at the beginning, is the chronicle of Grandma and Jennifer's trip. Obviously the author Jane Sorenson had been there. Port-au-Prince, the landscape, the lifestyle, the Creole language, the food, the bumpy roads, the children she meets, the no-see-um bugs, the nice tourist hotel versus the ramshackle citizen dwellings, the utter friendliness of the Haitian people, and so on. It was pretty much the first travelogue I ever read, even though it was a random Christian-fiction intermediate novel travelogue.

In fact, when I went to Cuba a few years later, on our initial drive into Havana from the airport, I immediately started thinking about Jennifer Green In Another Land. It resonated a few times during my Cuba trips, although I daresay Cuba isn't nearly as poor and politically ravaged as Haiti. But even apart from Cuba, I always sort of forget that almost no one else--OK, no one else--has these same "memories" associated with Haiti as I do, that not everyone has such vivid pictures and anecdotes and life lessons immediately spring to mind when Haiti is mentioned.

I'm reasonably certain the Jennifer Green books are out of print, but hey, that's why God made, Abebooks, and Alibris. If you are looking for a quick Haiti primer that you can read in, honestly, probably one hour, or if you just want to try to figure out how I could possibly have been sucked in to twelve books - TWELVE - narrated by a wide-eyed, born-again 8th grader, then hie thee to one of those used book sites and plunk down a dollar for ol' Jennifer Green. I am fascinated to find myself saying this, but I really think I recommend In Another Land! The rest of the series, I'm not so sure...although it is exciting when Jennifer starts to fall for Matthew Harrington....or when she gets her colors done...and we can't forget the petition for Heidi Stoltzfus to be winter carnival queen...oh dear...OK, I take back the almost-insipid comment. Just thinking about Jennifer Green has been like reuniting with an old friend.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Deux choses about Haiti right now...

First of all, I think the U.S. military should have immediately taken 10,000+ troops each from Afghanistan and Iraq to Haiti, including as many medics and doctors and nurses as possible, on aircraft, bringing medical supplies, search and rescue teams, sniffing dogs, the whole bit. They could be there now, pulling trapped victims from rubble, and setting up triage, field hospitals, and - sadly - morgues. They could coordinate with the Red Cross, other agencies and other countries that have also sent help. This is an immediate need and would help the hospitals that have crumbled, or have no power to operate, or are too crowded and overwhelmed, or all three. Why not have thousands of deployed U.S. citizens do something good instead of continuing to be destructive?

Second, I'm intrigued by the offhand comments people make about praying for Haiti. I mean, on some level, it's just whatever. People always say that stuff -"my thoughts and prayers are with them," "I'll pray for your loved ones," etc. It's mindless, but mostly harmless. But just a few minutes ago I saw where one acquaintance had posted online an almost lecturing kind of comment: "Prayer works, so please pray for the people of Haiti." It struck me as weird. Instead of just "please pray for the people of Haiti," expressing one's own opinion, it was prefaced with "Prayer works." Why? I mean, is anyone really going to read that and go, "Oh!! Oh, prayer works, OK. I wasn't going to pray but now that this online comment told me it works so I'll go ahead and do it"? So weird. I guess it doesn't strike people as weird when they all feel the same way - i.e., that prayer "works" - so they don't even question such a statement, but then they're just preaching to one another. I wonder if it will ever dawn on them that anyone to whom they say that either already thinks like them or is unlikely to be swayed by a comment. I guess it's maybe meant to be a testimony, not really a lecture or piece of advice. Well, in that case I will testify that international aid works (war, however, doesn't). I definitely am hoping for supplies, action, coordination, and workers to show up in Port-au-Prince. I kinda feel like Haitians need those things just a wee bit more than prayer right now, eh.

I've been watching Anderson Cooper live on the scene. He's interesting and good; it reminds me of what CNN used to do and be good at, before they started playing the same two-minute nonsense over and over 24-7.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

What Is Up in the Midwest 2010

Well, happy 2010, blogosphere! Sorry it took me a week to get here. I've had to take the plunge into my New Year without bloggage for the first few days, getting all my ducks in a row. I've noticed quite a few people making comments about how much 2009 sucked, but how high are their hopes for this whole twenty-ten thing. I personally did not have a terrible 2009, despite being broke and stuck for much of it. The stuckness was definitely the worst. Being stuck is even worse than running out of money, or having to pay for crappy medical care, or having to move out of New York City before necessarily being done there (and, I might add, shortly before the advent of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' effort to lure me back to the "Empire State of Mind").

I had an okay 2009, and some things about it were spectacular, such as being done with law school forever! and being done with Long Island forever! and getting freelance work! and other long-awaited wonderful things like those.

I suppose I haven't really updated the blogosphere on What Is Going On With Me in the big picture sense in a while, but I haven't really felt like the blogosphere needs to know. (The blogosphere certainly hasn't asked...sigh...all the asking is done on Facebook these days. Even these blog posts are imported to Facebook as Notes, which always makes me a little sad, knowing that more friends read them that way than by paying an actual visit to Linda Without Borders.) The other thing about What Is Going On With Me updates is that people so rarely understand the successes of others when their goals are different. However, at least one thing that needs to be addressed is this whole Michigan thing.

Yes, we are still in Michigan. I know - yikes! We have now been here for more than four months. Not only is four months a long time to live in someone else's house, but it is actually almost twice as long as we stayed Chez My Mother, in Phoenix, and we are supposed to be equally distributing this whole parental mooching thing, so we are way past our Grand Rapids prime. This is mostly due to that whole running-out-of-money thing I mentioned earlier, and the whole everyone-is-unemployed thing, shared by Brian and about twenty other close friends I know. The unemployment seems to be equally distributed among law school and non-law school people, so it's comforting (or is it?) to know everyone is in one big miserable boat together.

Now that I am employed, albeit as an independent contractor, I can feel myself becoming both happier and less stuck. Freelancing makes me really, really happy. We are talking happiness that permeates deep, on the cellular level. Of course, the flexible schedule and being able to wear a sweatshirt on the couch while working are wonderful, but honestly I kind of miss having a commute. Just a little. I like how the morning commute feels: stopping for coffee, people reading the newspaper on the train, the sense of purpose in the air. Or, if it's a driving commute, that newspaper/train time is replaced by personal reflection time against the backdrop of NPR news. I don't have that right now. My ideal existence would be to have a job where I commute two or three days a week and work from home two or three days a week.

Worse, still, is my lack of independence transportation-wise in our Grand Rapids existence. I have been careful not to complain about this on the blog as frequently as I complain about it in my head, or it would be a really annoying incessant whine. So I'll just explain it once and be done; the long and short of it is that while we have access to a car, it's not mine to jump in and go where I please. Nor should it be. I don't even drive around here; Brian does, as it is his family's car. What this means is that while we can go places, I can't really go that many places. Most of the time this is all right, because either Brian and I want to go to the same place (to the movies, to the gym, out with friends, tailgating in East Lansing, etc.) or else he can drop me off somewhere only I want to go (writing group, an evening cultural event, my bellydancing class) and pick me up later. But the problem is that the lack of freedom makes my brain crawl around inside my skull, gnashing its little anguished brain-teeth and struggling to be free.

I mean, it's freezing-ass cold right now, so walking twenty+ minutes each way to Dunkin' Donuts seems absurd when you can just jump in the car and go. But this finds me literally asking Brian, "Can you take me to Dunkin' Donuts?" and feeling like a child. It's really awful. It makes me think about what it must be like for someone to live an entire paralyzed existence this way, maybe in a repressed society or something, an existence from which you really could not escape, not one in which you are just temporarily stuck.

It sucks on more levels than just the coffee, though (although I do suffer exquisitely from that one, fiercely missing my 'round-the-corner walking distance coffee shops in New York and Boston and even Hollywood). It also sucks because we're here in this new (to me) state and my approach when living in a new place is to explore it. Try new things, whether they seem silly, random, off-the-beaten-path, or whatever. Like, who cares if there's "nothing to do" in Muskegon? It's 45 mintues away and I've never been to Muskegon - so I want to jump in the car on a random Saturday and go see what's in Muskegon. It's like my 1999 North Dakota vacation all over again. People look at me blankly, asking "Why would you want to go there?" and not seeming to understand that the answer "Because I've never been there" is all they should need.

Brian is definitely more of a homebody than I am. (Most people are more of a homebody than I am.) Like many people, Brian enjoys relaxing on the couch. I was thinking about this the other day - I have literally never owned a couch. In all of my moves, dwellings, roommates, what have you, the couch has never been mine. The couch is, like, the least useful part of existence to me. I don't really care for television, and I'd rather be going out and doing things than sitting around home in the evenings. The things that I do like to do at home, like sleep and read, are done in the bed. I was always the roommate who was never home. "The invisible roommate," I was initially dubbed in Boston. And while I like watching baseball and making a date with the Oscars or the season premiere of Lost, I definitely loathe sitting around every evening flipping through the channels to see what's on. I have always loathed spending evenings that way. The difference is that I've never really had to do it before.

I am aware that this makes me unlike most of you, who are perfectly accepting of relaxing on the couch at the end of the day. But what I can I say? I am unlike most of you. This, coupled with the fact that I now spend my entire day working at home from the couch, and at the end of the day want nothing more than to get off it, probably goes a long way toward explaining my dissatisfaction with our life in Grand Rapids, which is not bad otherwise. The couch. I want off of it. But it's cold outside and we're in tree-lined suburbia. The only things within walking distance are CVS and the library. I am not free.

Naturally, the answer is to get the f out of said stuck existence. I am WAY ahead of you on that one. This brings us to the heart of the dilemma, which is about Where We Are. Running out of money in NYC and having to move back in with the 'rents is never fun, but that move-back-in-with-the-'rents time ideally is spent saving up money to get out as quickly as possible. Somehow that hasn't happened. It took me a while to find work and get my writing/freelancing going, and Brian still hasn't found work. He's also super-embedded in that terrible trap of wanting to find a job in a different city, but not being in that city to look for jobs, but not being able to move to the city until he finds a job there, and that whole thing. That one always sucks.

Meanwhile, my upcoming interview with the State Department seems to have some people under the impression that we "can't do anything" until we find out whether or not I get that job. Which is oh-so-very-wrong. "Can't do anything" is basically a synonym for stuck, is it not? I have been doing all sorts of things in the meantime. The idea of waiting to find out about X before you make any other decisions between Y and Z just seems silly to me. Besides, how do I know I will even like X if I do get a chance to do X? But some people do seem to be suffering from that delusion. I would like to take this opportunity to un-delude you, if you are one of those people. I did not come to Grand Rapids to wait out the time until my State Department interview. Quite the opposite: I came here to wait out, with Brian, the time until he has a job. I was working on writing and living off my savings. Now I'm working on writing and building new savings.

Anyway, that's the long and short of What Is Going On With Me. It's a New Year and all sorts of groovy things are on the horizon and I am excited about them! Also, it is looking more and more like Chicago is a distinct possibility in the very near future. For a while this fall I had my eye just as much on other Midwestern cities, places that are within striking distance of here, so we could easily move to them, and that are cheap, because they are in the economic wasteland of the Midwest. Actually that's not fair; the entire Midwest isn't necessarily an economic wasteland, just Michigan. But I've sort of decided against Detroit (even though I'm interested in it and have friends there) or Indianapolis (where there is apparently employment and good cost of living and lots of hope for young professionals) because I don't want to buy a car if I'm going to leave the country within the year, plus that whole no-money thing again. Which means, public transit. Which means, Chicago. Which I have been saying for years, actually, as careful readers know: clearly Chicago needs to be my next city, after having lived in L.A. and New York for several years each.

See what happens when I go too long without blogging? You get the whole story in one fell swoop. But this was my long neglected What Is Going On With Me in Michigan update, and I hope my next blog on the subject will be when I announce my moving date to Chicago, or possibly D.C. Meanwhile, we have way more important things to discuss -- hello, Oscars?! It's awards season!!! - and we shall resume that tomorrow.