Friday, April 30, 2010

Too busy....

Man, I really need to post a blog entry - my stream-of-consciousness paragraph is old, a week has gone by, the month is over, etc. But I am still just busy and tired. If I could just get all my Tajikistan travels sorted out I would be accomplishing so much right now. Sigh - there must be a reason for all this, fate, right? Yes? No? Maybe?

When I finally finish working for the day I just want to go read Moby Dick and then post about it to my Literary Supplement.

I took frequent flier miles to Utah to see Grandpa, and discovered a -->new independent coffee shop in Payson!!!<-- so that was amazing.

Um - Cubs vs. Diamondbacks. Yesterday and tomorrow.

But Tajikistan...Tajikistan...

What is everyone ELSE doing? Huh?!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Arizona Senate Bill 1070

I just posted a comment to a friend's Facebook status about Arizona's Senate Bill 1070. After I submitted my stream-of-consciousness remarks, I decided I'd share them here too. The summary? Stop being ignorant! Learn something about immigration law before you start mouthing off about it! It would also be nice if you weren't a racist drowning in patriotic rhetoric, but I suppose I can't ask for too much.

My comment:

What I hate - and this is NOT just Arizona, or even just Southwest - is the sheer amount of ignorance equating "immigrant! illegal!" and "Mexican." Besides the obvious lack of understanding of immigration law, there is a serious lack of global understanding revealed. The media and government do absolutely nothing to help with this; our immigration law and public debate about it have ALWAYS been racist. (See: Chinese exclusion laws, WWII Japanese and Germans, etc.) There are thousands and thousands of undocumented Canadians, Italians, eastern Europeans etc in the U.S., who are "flouting the law" just as much w/o being noticed by the hypocrites. And if one more person tells me a Mexican should "immigrate legally" or "do it the right way" I want to smack them. Not everyone wants to immigrate. Contrary to what the jingoistic god-bless-America contingent preaches, not everyone wants to move here and start waving the stars and stripes. AND there is no way for most Mexicans to enter the country legally! There is no line! You have to have family or employment here! I really hate hearing people (not you) talk about this because there is SO MUCH IGNORANCE about the basic FACTS.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dep: ??? Arr: LJN

Just added to the Life Things to Do List: fly into or out of Lake Jackson, Texas. Why? Because the three-letter airport code is LJN! My initials! Who knew? I certainly didn't.

I was actually on a totally different wavelength wondering "What does LCD stand for, anyway?" My subsequent web search took me to, which I quickly realized was a site that could provide not only the LCD answer but also at least a few minutes of distraction/entertainment/procrastination. So I tried my initials. And what do you know? The sole thing LJN stands for (besides me!) according to Abbreviations is Lake Jackson, Texas. At first when I saw the name of the town as the one LJN result I thought, "That's lame!" but then I realized it was an airport code. How exciting!

THEN I read all about Lake Jackson on Wikipedia and it totally has famous people from there and really interesting streets. You should read about it, too.

I looked up Brian's initials, too; BMK turns out to be Borkum, Germany, which is an island just of the coast in the North Sea there.

It is totally my new quest for us to go to Borkum and to Lake Jackson, Texas. But it can't be a road trip! I don't even know if there are commercial flights to Lake Jackson, but if not, then one day I will need one of my good friends with a private jet to hook me up. (I'm looking at you, corporate lawyers.)

Do you know which airport has your initials as a three-letter code?

And by the way, LCD is for liquid crystal display. Don't EVER let me hear you speak of an "LCD display." Or you will be banished from my LJN flight. Those of you who know how I feel about abbreviations -- ATMs and the like -- can appreciate the fascination that has just taken over my day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Julia Sugarbaker Forever!

Today I dedicate this space to Dixie Carter, classy actress of stage and screen, who portrayed the fierce, intelligent, compassionate, sassy, incomparable Julia Sugarbaker on one of my all-time favorite television shows, Designing Women.

I just want to head over to Burger Guy for lunch, scream at New Orleans from my hotel balcony, and stick my head in the Abbott banister. Such fabulous times! Here are some more memories...

From 'Julia Drives Over the First Amendment'
Terry: Just so you know Mrs. Sugarbaker, this is still America, and free speech will always be protected.
Julia: I know it will. But pornography won't always be, Miss Wilder. This country will let the Nazis speak, and the Ku Klux Klansmen speak, because as despicable as their statements are, they are speaking their mind. But when you publish your magazine, you're not speaking your mind. You'd shut that magazine down tomorrow if it weren't turning a profit. You know it and I know it. Pornography is not free speech, it's commerce. Otherwise you couldn't zone it out of certain nice areas of the city.
Terry: Well, I see I am getting nowhere. We're both business women. Let's just leave it at that. I won't bother you, and you won't bother me.
Julia: No, that's not quite right, Miss Wilder. You bother me very much...Shame on you for calling yourself a feminist. And shame on you for hurting and demeaning women everywhere -- all for a lousy nickel.

From 'The Candidate'
Julia: I have had it up to here with you and your phony issues and your Yankee Doodle yakking! If you like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance everyday then I think you should do it! In the car! In the shower! Wherever the mood strikes you! But don't try to tell me when or where I have to say or do or salute anything...I am sick and tired of being made to feel that if I am not a member of a little family with 2.4 children who goes just to Jerry Falwell's church and puts their hands over their hearts every morning that I am un-religious, unpatriotic, and unAmerican...the last time I checked, God was neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

From 'Reservations for Eight'
Julia: It has been the men who have done the raping and the robbing and the killing and the war-mongering for the last two thousand years, and it has been the men who have done the pillaging and the beheading and the subjugating of whole races into slavery. It has been the men who have done the law making and the money making and most of the mischief making. So if the world isn't quite what you had in mind, you have only yourselves to thank!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Prize Time!

So the Pulitzer Prize winners will be announced this Monday, April 12th. I love the Pulitzer Prizes - um, hello, understatement - and look forward to the yearly announcement. This year, however, it's kind of weird. I have NO idea what will possibly win any of them.

I particularly have no idea what will possibly win the Pulitzer for fiction, and that's the weirdest of all, I think. This is the first year in quite some time that I did not spend any portion of the previous year, the time during which potential Pulitzer winners were released, working at least part-time in a bookstore. I was off and on slinging books for so much of this past decade, that some portion of a stint always made it into most every calendar year -- but not after 2008.

And I certainly haven't been reading new fiction! Oh, I've been reading a lot, but it's all these projects I've concocted for myself in the last decade or so, like (funny, this:) reading past Pulitzer winners, and reading a bio of every president in order to see where we went wrong (started during the Dubya administration, obvio), and "re"-reading Moby Dick, which I am doing now.

So - what the heck were the amazing books of 2009? I was reading old stuff. Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City was on my radar a little bit. Lorrie Moore had a new book out, but I heard it was weird and disjointed. Sherman Alexie? What about that Tennessee family generations drama that got all that buzz a couple months ago, was that still 2009?

Note to self: read new stuff and classics during 2010!

This doesn't even touch on any of the other categories. It's also interesting to think about what the journalism winners will be. Pulitzers! My favorite! Well, one of my favorites.

(I realize this is a totally book-themed post, but it seemed in my head to be more current eventy than literary supplementy, so I put it here on the "main" blog.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Lost, War, Good, Evil

So while I absolutely love to watch Lost, you may have noticed a distinct lack of posting on this blog about Lost theories. When I consider writing about this amazing show, I run into one problem: I am waaaaaay out of my league.

I have really come to care about Lost, since that 2004 day when we of the old Borders Westwood crew tuned in to see this random new ABC show, but my brain is just not at the level of the devotees who scrutinize and dissect each and every word. And most of the fans who develop theories support those theories with really, really specific supporting details. Who am I kidding? I'm lucky that I watch it with Brian, because he remembers every face and event, and sometimes I have to ask him who a character is when s/he recurs, like, two seasons later. (Brian's good at that outside of the Lost world, too. He can see an actor with two lines on a TV show and pick them out three years later in a bit part in some movie, and tell you the commercial they did in between. Not me; I'm more the type to confuse famous actors and be like, "Where do I know her from?") So yeah.

Nor am I any more than a casual reader of Doc Jensen's column or Lostpedia or any of the other post-game analysis. I think maybe I approach all that stuff the same way I think of Cliffs Notes, or commercial outlines in law school. Which is to say I think they are for weaklings. I know they're not exactly the same thing as Lost junkies, but it's a similar kind of judgmental take on the matter: if I can't "get" the meaning from watching the show, then I somehow don't deserve to or something. Actually, flip that around, because it's more like the literary analyst/English teacher in me who thoroughly enjoys talking about the story, but is loathe to admit I would actually need someone else to explain it to me ... even though I probably do ... Also, I am wary of some sources. Like, I'll read a trusted professor or admired novelist's ideas about Moby Dick, but have disdain for some "commoner's" opinion. I sound like a snob?! I totally am, I think. But the joke is totally on me, because the people who read those know what's going on, and I really probably don't, at least not as much. I still think less of customers who came into Borders to buy Cliffs Notes the night before their papers were due, though. Especially when they wanted Cliffs Notes for, like, Of Mice and Men, and we were sold out, and they wanted you to call another store to find them. I'm like, "Of Mice and Men is not that long, you idiot! The time you're wasting trying to buy the Cliffs Notes, you could read the book!" That's why it's not a perfect analogy -- Lost fans at least aren't looking for a substitute for their show, and definitely not trying to make it easier. It's all about making it more complicated.

Anyway the POINT of all this (I have one!) is that you don't really see me posting Lost theories here. But I will say this: as we wend our way through the final season, there is some question about which one of Jacob or the Man in Black is the "good side" and the "bad side." There are also those fools who for some reason like or trust Ben (best Ilana line ever, in response to his question of why she didn't believe him: "Because you're speaking") and think he could possibly be "good" in opposition to Charles Widmore's "bad." Only now all those people are confused as to whether both Ben and Widmore and their "sides" are against the MIB, and they are both on the "same" "side" somehow ... etc. etc.

Needless to say I haven't dissected all any of this or read about it online, but this is what I hope: You're all wrong! (with potential to be right) Or, to put it in Clue terms, "They ALL did it!" I want it to work out that when "war comes to this island" it's like when war comes to this rock we all live on (Earth) and nobody is right, and everyone's wrong. I want it to be that the "right" people are the ones who lay down their weapons and realize you can't "win." I want it to be that Ben is wrong, wrong, wrong for all his lying, manipulating and killing, but that Widmore is also wrong for using other people for his purposes and keeping Desmond and Penny apart, but that Dogen is also wrong for holding back answers and trying to off Sayid, and so on. I want the person who is "right" if there is a "right" to be revealed to be the peacemaker(s), but not anyone who took sides. Which, if you think about it, could very well be the candidates, although Sayid and Sawyer have done very bad things. But, they are so primed for redemption, in my opinion. (Sayid went to build houses with a Habitat-for-Humanity-like group! Of COURSE he was redeemed!) And they always seemed to act for themselves instead of taking sides.

Part of why I want all this to happen is that I want it to be a giant "F!@$%*" to religion and specifically violence in the name of religion and/or the misguided notion that "war" is "right." I mean, even to the point that Sayid, conveniently the "evil" Iraqi "torturer" of the show, but who is clearly smart, capable of many things, and very awesome, could be a symbol of how stupid people in the U.S. are for scapegoating Iraq for all their problems (while stealing Iraq's oil).

I have had little patience for people (Brian, mostly, I suppose) when they justify Ben's dastardly deeds or anyone else's by saying they did it for the island. I want the whole point of this to be that whenever humans start justifying actions that are wrong (namely, killing and lying, as well as a whole lot of kidnapping) in the name of some "greater purpose," be it an island, God, or whatever else, then they are wrong. But when they do good things, they are right.

Of course this doesn't even begin to get into the flash sideways, whether exploding the bomb worked, or my favorite (ahem), the time travel. Or why dead people communicate with Miles, or what the numbers mean, or or or or or or ... anything else for that matter. And, I can almost guarantee that my preferred philosophy is so not even close to what will actually happen on the show. Which is why I should go back to not bothering to write about it in the first place.

"We're sculptured from youth; the chipping away makes me weary.
And as for the truth, it seems like we just pick a theory,
The one that justifies our daily lives..."

--indigo girls, 'deconstruction of love'

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Another Chance!

I know, you didn't think you could still donate. What can I say, it's like an Easter miracle!

Click here to put the $10 you're otherwise bound to squander on something silly toward the fabulous cause of Habitat for Humanity.

Happy April, everyone! And you know me, I'm not the biggest fan of April -- but I have an OK feeling about this one!

Run, Linda, Run II: Linda Runs on Dunkin'

It was almost three years ago that I started running and actually paying attention to my running. Prior to that, I was a totally half-assed jogger, but my running stars aligned in 2007 as detailed in Run Linda Run. The next year, 2008, I joined Brian and fifteen thousand of our closest friends in the 25K River Bank Run in Grand Rapids. Needless to say that was the longest run I had ever run and I was slo-o-o-o-ow!!! We were going to do it again last year but did not make it to Michigan in May due to lack of funds, etc. Which brings us to 2010. Hello, 2010! Hello 25K #2!

I am deep into the training for this year's May 8 event. For those of you who don't know, 25K = 15.53 miles. I am up to 12 miles for my weekend long run, and next weekend will do 14. And I must say, I am just in much better condition to train for a 25K this year than I was in 2008. The fact of being in law school alone is enough stress and takes enough time to preclude a stellar training effort, not to mention that Spring 2008 was my least favorite law school semester. Remember the clinic? Yeah. Let's not go back there. So anyway, I've decided that not being thoroughly miserable all the time while training is better than being thoroughly miserable all the time. Agreed?

I have also realized that eating/drinking orange slices/juice on my long runs is the way to go. I had a very bad habit of not eating or drinking anything on my long runs, and I had a very resultant habit of wanting to collapse in a heap afterward, and taking the entire next day to recover to comfortably walking briskly again. When I added orange into the mix, my legs felt completely different after the long run than they ever had. And I did not hit that dreaded 90-minute/8- or 9- mile wall. I have also been eating oodles of carbohydrates during the week and really building up those glycogen stores. Don't I sound knowledgeable? I'm really just quoting all the running blogs I read. At least I'm quoting someone knowledgeable.

No, for reals, though. Carbs, carbs, carbs throughout the training, that's my new mantra. Usually on Saturdays we get a delicious pastry, bagel, croissant, or other carbolicious breakfast in the morn in anticipation of the long run, which I've been doing midday (although I need to start doing them earlier in preparation for race day). This past Saturday I happened to have a coupon for a free bagel from Dunkin' Donuts so I went there for my carbs and small iced coffee, even though DD is usually a weekday thing for me, not weekend. Lo and behold I did my long run and my legs felt stronger and better afterward and all evening/next day than after any other long run - this year or any year. I am ever more convinced of the glorious truth of their "America Runs on Dunkin'" slogan.

My general goal for the 25K this year is to just finish it in a slightly more normal time as opposed to the dreadfully slow, more-than-three-hours, fourth-from-last-place-in-my-division time I ran last time I did the race. But I have a more specific goal which I shall reveal when the time is right.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Top 10 Movies of 2009

Movie time! What? So it's April 1st, so? The cinematic year doesn't end until the Oscar ceremony, much like how a fiscal year in business doesn't follow the "normal" calendar. Since Oscar weekend, however, I have been busy with a few other things *cough* Tajikistan fundraising *cough* like working and running (the 25K draws ever nearer!) and not having a keyboard for a few days. Bloggage took a big ol' back seat. But it's back! Back in the front! Seat!

So at long last, I can unveil my Top Ten Films of 2009. Very few of which were nominated for Best Picture, or any Oscars at all, now that you mention it. Here we go!

1. The Good Soldier Watching this was one of the most important experiences I have ever had. Every person must see it. Every person. It doesn't matter what kind of movies you like; the fact that this well-crafted work is a film is almost beside the point. It is so stunning that I bought the DVD (I buy DVDs extremely rarely) and offered to mail it to anyone who wants to see it, with the only requirement that you mail it on when done. That offer still stands. Five veterans talk about war and what it is and who they are. It is nothing short of amazing, and I wish its truth, that war = killing human beings, would get through the thick skulls of, oh, most people on the planet. The greatest thing about The Good Soldier is the hope it offers that one day that just might happen. It's on Netflix and there are upcoming screenings. Let me know if you need to borrow my copy.

2. In the Loop My favorite film of 2009, unsurpassed, until I saw The Good Soldier, which transcends the medium (hi Brad!) In the Loop is utter genius. I read lots about it being a dark political satire, but was wholly unprepared for the experience of it. It's casual--no sweeping vistas or big swelling crescendos--just the smartest, funniest, scariest look at government ever. A bunch of U.S. and British bureaucrats pretty much start a war because the media asks if there's going to be a war. The whining and sniveling, the backstabbing, the overly ambitious bright young things, the relentless mocking of politicians who think they're all that. The jokes come at you maniacally, but the depressing yet hilarious realization is that the real U.S. and Brits were about equally justified in starting their real life wars. Some have compared it to The Office, but I think it has more of a M*A*S*H/Breaking Bad sensibility, only faster and more furious. Just rent it for god's sake.

3. The Men Who Stare at Goats Criminally underrated and, apparently, criminally misunderstood, from what I could tell reading reviews. I wondered if my beloved EW even watched the right movie. Inspired by the true story -- I believe the film said "You'd be scared by how much of this is true" -- it follows some crazy Special Forces-hatched psy-ops plan to have soldiers use psychic powers, like reading enemy thoughts and killing goats with their minds. The humans' mind. No, none of it is sensible. But while there is the question of "No way, would the military really do this?" (answer: yes!) the whole glorious satirical point is even deeper, along the lines of yes, this is crazy, but SO IS sending twentysomethings to murder one another, you dummies! It's a fantastic film, and by the way Jeff Bridges and George Clooney are in it. Hey, they had a good year! At least they got nominated for Oscars somewhere.

4. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus See, my top films aren't all about war! This one's, well, it's hard to say exactly what it's about. But it's not war! Famous for being Heath Ledger's last film, and for three other actors finishing his part after he died during filming, it deserves to also be known as a wild, fanciful, funny, sharp, magical, bizarre meditation on life, art, creativit, and who we are. And who we are to each other. I adored it.

5. Inglourious Basterds OK, more war. But come on. If you've seen Inglourious Basterds you know it's not "about war" in the way some movies are "about war." It's also about Quentin Tarantino's genius, and movies, and the course of history, and it's about a giant spectacle of blow-me-away entertainment. With lots of dark twists.

6. Summer Hours Ohhhh so good! It's a Frenchy film about three generations of a family who do vacation at the grandmother's house. But what will happen to the house and the family and their memories when she passes away? It's sunny and wonderful and will make you think of all your childhood summers, your coming of age, and your responsibilities as and adult in this world. That sounds so serious though; it's exquisite and lovely!

7. Up in the Air I'd pick it over The Hurt Locker. It has a lot of layers that sneak up on you if, for example, you partake in a long post-film discussion at John Serba's screening event in Grand Rapids. It is also entirely enjoyable throughout. I relate to the main character so much! Of COURSE it's more interesting to not settle down. I love the little things, like when he asks Little Miss I-Type-With-Purpose, "Didn't you ever wonder why they called it 'The Spirit of St. Louis'?" and she's just like, "No!" I was appalled by her too! I loved it, I loved the performances, and I loved what it had to say. Yay!

8. Where the Wild Things Are This was my most pleasant surprise of the year. (Well, this and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Shout-out to the Fox!) When we first started hearing about WtWTA, I was immediately annoyed by all the hipsters and Gen-X and -Yers carrying on about how much they LOVE this book it's so AWESOME oh my god they're making a movie! Whatever, thought I. Little did I know that it would be the most perfectly realized vision I'd seen in quite some time. Emotional, wondrous, and so totally worth the journey.

9. Julie & Julia Speaking of surprises, really?! I know! I had no idea I would love it, and I put off watching it forever, even though I knew forever Meryl was going to get nominated and I would have to watch it. But I loved it! I liked Amy Adams too, being all young professional in NYC with lame job prospects and wanting to write and really create something, and I realy relate to her. Except the fact that she "escapes" by cooking. So maybe if The Hurt Locker is the Iraq war film for people who don't like Iraq war films, Julie & Julia is the story about cooking for people who don't like hearing stories about cooking. Or reading books and blogs about cooking. Or listening to public radio shows about cooking. Or who want everyone to just shut the !@$%* up about cooking for once, geez! That would be me. But I loved this movie. And I have just as little desire to read those books from the Food Literature section as I ever did.

10. Invictus Now this book I did read, even after seeing the movie. It is a very inspirational story and we here in the U.S. know exactly nothing about it. Rugby? Rugby who? It taught me a lot about what happened but was also just a well-executed story that effortlessly does a lot more than you realize it's doing. And it's poetic. You know there's going to be a big, climactic scene for the championship match, but it totally earns it. Also have you noticed how many of my fave films start with "In.." for 2009?

Honorable Mentions I should probably mention The Invention of Lying, which also starts with "In" and which I did like. But really my honorable mentions are simple.

  • Two amazing documentaries: The Cove, which has got a lot of attention and acclaim, and Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi, which has got very little. Both are emotional tales of horrific, senseless slaughter, as it turns out.
  • Avatar. I mean, it wasn't my favorite, but it was a fabulous experience, in all its 3D IMAX glory, and I'll tell you what, I like me some James Cameron. Everyone says he's a jerk but I read the interviews and just see that he's sardonic and has little patience for stupid people, which is fine by me.
  • Precious. I didn't really love it as I was watching it, but over the next day or two I kept bringing it up and thinking of more things to say about it. It really stays with you. I will also add that I think the best parts about it were the classroom scenes - so great! I was glad to hear Lee Daniels praising them too, at some Oscar function. The message is that literacy and education will save us from all the violence, which is clearly necessary since so much of the world is made up of that violence, as is evidenced by my list of films.
Now, onto 2010! Actually I've already seen a couple of this year's flicks. Will any of them make the final cut? We'll find out one cinematic year from now.