Saturday, April 11, 2015

Chill, Meandering, Life as Art

Boyhood Poster

Watching this movie was like walking through a museum exhibit of a photographer or painter that catches your attention, and letting moments of a the retrospective ebb and flow around you. You get glimpses of what the artist wanted you to see, and are reminded of some other experience or thought that lives in your head. By the time you finish and leave the place, the light has changed outside and you feel something in yourself has, too.

From Manohla Dargis' New York Times Review:


Excellent review for an excellent movie. Boyhood2 And an awesome soundtrack that takes you home with Arcade Fire's "Deep Blue."

Friday, March 6, 2015

For All Those Reasons

From just-a girl tumbler

I'm struck by the way reflection is stubbed out for later consumption. I don't smoke, but someone very important to me does. And I wish the need wasn't there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thoughts on winner for this year’s best picture.

Birdman Poster

Of the nominees, I had only seen Gone Girl and The Grand Budapest Hotel by the time the Academy Awards aired last Sunday. The next day I downloaded Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which I hadn’t even heard of before, taking note of its dubious three star rating on Netflix and Amazon. I finished watching it last night.

Less than halfway through I knew why the movie has not reached public acclaim. It wasn’t made with a typical American demographic in mind. Classified as a comedy, it is the dark kind (which makes many people uncomfortable), and it’s a movie that would connect primarily with people in its own industry. In fact it is a self-conscious look at the ego and angst of an actor, a story within a story, full of scenes ripe with the subtext of social commentary.

I also finally understand why Neil Patrick Harris had that gag in his underwear as host of the 2015 Academy Awards. At the time it just seemed like such a desperate ploy for a laugh.

What I liked about Birdman was that the main character, played by Michael Keaton, is not terribly relatable, nor loveable (I found his real-life and open-mouth gum chewing at the Oscars repulsive, actually). I also liked how all the actors’ faces were laid down on film that didn’t edit out all the bad skin.  I liked the vitriolic lines of the self-righteous critic, who in telling him she was going to destroy his play without even seeing it, drove the actor to a psychotic break that ironically seemed to rebuild his career (as well as his nose) at the end. I like it that the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, apparently made this movie for his own pleasure and not solely with box office success in mind. He also wrote and produced the film, which testifies to his personal investment in this story. Finally, I really enjoyed the drum score by Antonio Sanchez.

And yet, will it be my favorite movie, even of this year? Probably not.

But I get it. And it makes me think. That’s a lot better than most new movies Hollywood has to offer these days.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Wait! What?


Harper Lee to publish a second novel this July, which was written before the one that won her The Pulitzer, and from a older perspective of Scout.

I know what almost every bookclub in America will probably read this year and next.

Story here.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Rejection Therapy

I read about Jia Jiang's quest for 100 days of rejection in The Happiness of Pursuit, by Chris Guillebeau. I loved the idea. Courage to not be afraid of rejection!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Soccer NationWorldCup2014

I guess I am part of the phenomenon this summer. The World Cup games have been burning through the June weekend hours especially, but I tell myself it is almost too hot to do anything else (okay, except write—but watching the Cup trumps writing for the moment as I justify it as “together time” with my husband who loves the game too ;-)). Anyway, so sorry to see Mexico eliminated today. The guy below – Memo Ochoa – was my pick since the Brazil match for MVP of this tournament. And even though the Dutch are an amazing team and I usually root for them as well, the last minute penalty kick and yellow cards calls did a lot to shut down the game that had been going Mexico’s way. Meme_Ochoa

7/1/14 Update: The most heart-racing games of this Cup seem to have goalies with superman powers. Tim Howard for Team USA!Tim Howard

August 2014 Update: My memory of Summer 2014 will always contain the World Cup. For soccer fans, such an emotional finale with the Brazilian team especially will go down in the history books. The last week and a half of the Cup we were traveling and it was fun sharing the excitement in airport lounges and in different parts of the world. We got up at 5 am to watch the final match -- so devoted we were! However, in the end like all sports that require team skills, one or two people couldn’t carry the game and a well-oiled “machine” always wins. Congratulations, Germany! Germany2014Cup

SUNDAY, February 23 2014

BuzzFeed Me

BuzzFeed has become more interesting lately. I think they finally discovered how to attract those looking for news sites that seem both entertaining and personally relevant.

They are using lots of quizzes now, which appear on social media sites as conversation starters. They have appealed to our narcissistic, but how does it relate to me, society. I recently followed some links and took a few of their quizzes. Like verbal personality selfies, here you go:

What Career Should You Actually Have?

What City Should You Actually Live In"

What 90s Alt Rock Grrrl Are You?

What Kind of Bird Are You?

Click on the links above to take your own quiz. Enjoy!

SUnday, OCTOBER 13, 2013

Freedom, a novel by Jonathan Franzen

FreedomWhen I gave into perceived publishing industry pressure and signed up for Facebook a couple of years ago I remember having sections to complete “About Me,” one of which was “favorite quotes.” I gave this some thought at the time, because it was more important for me to lay down something meaningful that might give the few people who looked a true glimpse into what I cared about, rather than simply choosing a whole bunch of TV shows or music that I currently liked, which would only represent who I was in a much more context-based and transitory way. When I finished the Franzen book today I thought of that quote I had chosen again and had an urge to revisit it.

Jonathan Franzen’s book Freedom, published in Fall 2010, about a Midwestern American family spanning the last three decades has won many deserved accolades, not the least of which among these is the cover of Time Magazine’s tribute to “The Great American Novelist” and the final Oprah Book of the Month club selection on the original Oprah show.

On the other hand, the book has also been criticized as out of touch with most of America in its intimate depiction of upper-middle class white guilt and anxieties. Most of Franzen’s characters are well-bred, well-heeled, well-read, well-schooled and mostly, well – verrrrry liberal. As much a preoccupation with the different levels and meaning to the word freedom in our post modern, over-populated and highly competitive society, the book also devotes a serious amount of pages to the soul searching by key characters on mistakes [that] were made.

The quote I highlighted from the novel, which seemed to speak to the friction and depression Franzen gets at in the social commentary that is at the heart of his story is:

The quote I had once dropped on Facebook, in my own self-conscious, self-psychoanalytic way is “Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better,” by Albert Camus. I think I chose it at the time thinking about how compromised the world was, how lucky and grateful I normally feel, how sometimes both hopeless and hopeful life can seem in the global and personal challenges it presents.

Somehow, I think Walter and Franzen might be into Camus too.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Glasnost and Quantum Physics

The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New PhysicsThis weekend I finished The Dancing Wu Li Masters : An Overview of the New Physics by Gary Zukov. It has taken me some time to read it, though it is touted as an easy layman’s introduction to the history of Quantum Physics. I took a while not because the experiments of Planck, Einstein, Finkelstein and Bohm the author breaks down for his reader so well are hard to conceptualize. It is the meaning of the ideas behind these experiments that are heavy to digest.

A central idea is that there is energy in everything and what happens to B will always affect A in some way. Although you can’t predict specific events, you can predict probabilities. And, “Not only do we influence our reality … we actually create it.”

Another idea is the fundamental belief that we don’t know what we don’t know and that the new physics might actually be the study of consciousness.

There are also intriguing comparisons made in this book between some of the tenants of new physics and eastern religion and mysticism.

Some argue that Quantum Mechanics is the only science that allows for the concept of God. Newtonian physics doesn’t apply to the subatomic world although the subatomic world includes Newtonian physics. Quantum Physics goes beyond the machinery of things and explains matter in terms of energy and organics. It describes an openness to experience, rather than sole reliance on scientific description that physicists have learned to place value on.

In this book Zukov captures a moment for scientists when they realized they didn’t know what they thought they knew. It wasn’t the first time the scientific community and the world had come to such realization, of course. For hundreds of years we thought the world was flat only to find out it was round. But I was fascinated by the idea in a more recent day and age of how such enlightenment and monumental shift in thinking might feel.

My Perestroika

It just happens that last night I also watched a documentary – My Perestroika – on Netflix that painted a very moving and intelligent picture of a similar, earth-shaking paradigm shift on film, rather than through words on a page.

My Perestroika is of different subject matter – the fall of the USSR versus the rise in the acceptance of Quantum Physics, but this movie and the Wu Li book both share a powerful common denominator know in Russian as Glasnost and English as Openness, which both the works are about.

My Perestroika reflects on the lives of five Muscovite classmates in the 1980s compared to what happened in their thinking after the dissolution and disillusion of the USSR.

They talk about the fact that when they grew up, they learned and believed the world was a certain way: that monstrous Americans could drop an atomic bomb at any time; that they were so lucky to grow up in the USSR where there was no poverty, crime, and depravity like there was in the West. Life held less choices, but they didn’t know about them, and therefore niceties we in the West take for granted such as blue jeans, pizza and rock and roll didn’t matter. They were happy knowing what they knew, having what they simply had. But when the iron curtain fell, the propaganda they had been nurtured on became exposed for what it was. Their world turned upside down. What people once collectively believed, they started to doubt. They went from trusting the State to only trusting themselves. A rug was pulled out from under these people, setting them off balance which at the end of the movie – taking place during the same Putin era we are still living in now -- they have yet to regain.

Watching My Perestroika helped me recognize the emotions of joy, fear, confusion, embarrassment and hope the people featured within it felt match up perfectly with how the Dancing Wu Li Masters aims to show how scientific principles and the fundamental understanding of human experience changed with the discovery of quantum theory. And how that discovery can still change us all.

Relating to the movie this way was a weirdly coincidental, aha moment of understanding, best summed up in perhaps my favorite Zukov quote from the book:

“’Reality’ is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.”

Both the book and the movie are worth your time. I would recommend them to anyone.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

2012 Olympic Coverage:
Enchained by the NBC Agenda


When I was growing up, watching the Olympics used to be special and different. The coverage wasn’t exclusive to one channel and through watching I learned about sports I had no personal experience with like judo, fencing, rhythmic gymnastics, Greco-Roman wrestling, archery, steeple-chase, water polo, even soccer – back then. Now a child growing up would think the summer Olympics are just about swimming, basketball, gymnastics and beach volleyball if they have no access to cable.  Even with cable, you have to be at home during the day to see non-primetime events like soccer, boxing, rowing, etc. So the Olympics have come to this: only sports that feature American dominance, and sports that are already a big part our entertainment world. It is just sad. The Olympics could be heroic, truly international, truly competitive, but instead I just feel force-fed a steady diet of misplaced chest-thumping that passes for patriotism.

In 2016 it is my hope that technology turns this lockdown inside out and I can stream coverage from all different countries or international channels over the Internet where I can pick and choose the events I want to watch and when. To add insult to injury NBC never posts a schedule and just strings people along through commercial break after commercial break until they show something like the 100 meter dash final at 10:30pm on a Sunday night. That is one of the highlights of the games and it is tape-delayed and buried under volleyball and basketball matches that are not even in the semi-final rounds. On Sunday the women’s marathon final happened and I did not see one glimpse of it, despite flipping through the NBC stations all day. American viewers are being held hostage by some NBC corporate agenda to feature only certain sports they think worthy of advertising dollars and they make the five rings they hold exclusive rights to feel like chains. Their monopoly has stifled viewing choice.

Below is a picture of the women’s marathon I found on the Internet.Women's Marathon 2012 Olympics

Tiki Gelana of Ethiopia won. Her time was 2 hours, 23 minutes and 7 seconds. She bested the previous record by seven seconds, even with heavy rain that day. The second place finisher, Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya, came in only five seconds behind her. Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova of Russia came in third. I am sure it was a good race. I wish the American Olympic television coverage sponsor NBC would have given me the opportunity to see it.

Monday, July 16, 2012



I love how members of this band met each other on vacation in Greece, came home to the States and kept in touch, and then visited each other after about a year and decided to record those songs they created when they met, thus forming, Grouplove. And, I want this t-shirt.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Leaving Baggage Behind


There is this new show the Travel Channel keeps advertising called Baggage Battles. When I see it I'm left with an agitated sense of confusion, because seriously, who deliberately leaves their baggage in airports? I can see a few criminals here and there needing to abandon things, and maybe someone who is clinically forgetful or even tourists en route to another destination who give up on the red tape of tracking down their items in another country would have plausible excuses. But I am supposed to believe that hundreds, even thousands of people just leave their baggage every year in a port of entry -- enough so that there is a cottage industry built around the occurrences and now a TV show about people who fight over bidding on all these unopened bags? I thought with the new TSA laws, baggage had to fly on the same flight as their owner. How can airlines and people just lose all these bags? *shakes head* IDEK

TuesdAY, February 28, 2012

Wouldn’t it be better to just be loved?


I watched the movie The Help the other night on Netflix, which is a great movie based on the book by Kathyrn Stockett and one that I recommend. However, I’ve been thinking about Aibileen telling her little charge “You is good. You is kind. You is important.” since then and the “important” part bothers me.

I know it is fashionable now to give kids self-affirmation and positive reinforcement, and the word important supports this psychology. The word also makes sense on some level for the maid Aibileen to use, who sees neglect going on with Mae Mobley, the little girl she looks after. She wants Mae to know she matters. Her heart is in the right place. However, she and all the other maids also talk about how most of the little girls in the houses they work in grow up to be like their mamas—self-centered and oblivious to the ugly prejudice that they perpetuate. In my opinion, telling her she is important might be inadvertently contributing to that outcome.

Here’s why:

The word important is troublesome because it is so tied to markers in life. To me, someone who is important might be someone who has paid their dues, someone who has attained something through their own merit. Children, although important in a general sense, as all human beings are, are still not adults and have not earned all their rights in life. They don’t drive or vote until they come of age, they don’t become independent until they make their own way, they must learn how to socialize and share before they have friends. They don’t start out being the same kind of important as a head of state, or great scientist or someone who contributes something to the greater good with their life’s effort. They need to work for and up to that. So to tell a child from the get go they are important seems to me a sentiment that is not only a misrepresentation of the word, but also a displacement of other fundamental elements of good character. When kids start to focus on their importance over other qualities, it can backfire badly. In fact, nothing is more cringe-worthy to me than seeing a kid sass their parent or another adult, or throw a public fit to where the parent just capitulates to their every whim. This is an attitude of importance gone wrong and almost makes them unbearable little monsters. Think Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka.

the helpA sense of self-importance is often unaccompanied by a sense of humility. And I do believe humility is seminal to seeing yourself as belonging to the world, rather than vice versa. A person who has no humility may not be as capable of seeing the worth or viewpoint of others. A person who has no humility, often is lacking in love. So I ask myself, wouldn’t it be better to just be loved? Doesn’t love accomplish what Aibileen wanted to convey to Mae? You is kind, you is smart, you is loved. Now that is something I can agree all kids should hear.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Between Sunset and Sunrise

Jesse: Okay, I realize there are a lot of serious problems in the world.
Celine: Okay, thank you.
Jesse: Okay. I mean, I don't even have one publisher in the whole Asian market.

(dialogue from Before Sunset, not In Support of anything I have to say below, but makes me laugh.)

I recently saw the movies Before Sunrise and Before Sunset starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. I had seen Before Sunrise long ago, but didn’t realize there was a sequel to it until now.

Before Sunrise came out in the mid 1990s and is about an American guy (Jesse) who meets a French girl (Celine) on a train in Austria on his last night in Europe. He had come to Europe to see his girlfriend in Spain and she broke up with him (you find out as the story progresses) and he has spent the last two weeks just walking around on his own. She is coming back from Budapest where she visited her grandmother.

Before Sunrise Phone Conversation

They meet on the train because this couple Celine is sitting near has a nasty fight and she gets disgusted and decides to change seats. She moves near Jesse and they begin talking. They move to the lounge car. His final destination is Vienna and he proposes that she get off with him and spend the evening walking around until he has to catch his plane home the next morning, because they are getting along so well and he doesn’t really have enough money to spend on a hotel room. He also convinces her to take this chance by suggesting that when she’s married and jaded about her future husband she will always wonder if she should have, and if she does she’ll see he’s got quirks too that she won’t like and she’ll be saved from ultimate regret.

So she gets off the train with him, and they talk and walk and stop in a few bars and cafes along the way all night.

I always liked the premise of how they meet and how he convinces her to take this impulsive action because it strikes me as so authentic for the time and their age. Maybe it is because in my early twenties I also backpacked with a Europass all over the continent, met random people, walked all day, napped in public spaces and had those momentous, intense thoughts or conversations throughout the experience.

I also get how they are so fatalistic and idealistic they don’t want to exchange contact information at the end. They’ve got the attitude that they have time and they’ll meet lots of people in life and they don’t want to ruin something perfect by placing a bunch of expectations on top of their encounter. That alone is so realistically twenty-something. So they end up agreeing to meet in a certain spot in six months if they can’t forget each other.

This leads to the sequel.

In Before Sunset, Jesse is a successful writer on a book tour with a last stop in Paris. He is publicizing his novel about a guy who meets a girl on a train one night in Europe and has the best night of his life. At that point, Celine shows up at the book signing and we get to see why the characters are only meeting now and how they have changed, and really how they haven’t in important ways.

Before Sunset Garden Walk

Before Sunset is set 9 or 10 years later than Before Sunrise and in real life they filmed 9 years later, as well. I love that fact, because I think it brings even more credibility to the concept and movie. They look and act like thirty-somethings and it is a more visceral experience for a viewer to see how life unfolded for each of them and years passed, while still retaining this fundamental essence of who they used to be. I think I even like Before Sunset better than Before Sunrise in fact, because the characters seem so poignant. But maybe it is because I am in a different point in my life too than when I saw that first movie. Or maybe it is because I feel I know them from the first time they were together and their characters have grown on me.

Another thing I like about the movies is that they are conversation-based. There is no real action, but for me they are gripping. Movies where people really connect and play off each other, holding long conversations without being boring or superficial are fairly rare. It is not exactly My Dinner with Andre (the epitome of a great conversation-based movie IMO) but they do have things to say and express points of views about universals in life.

I read somewhere Delpy and Hawke both wrote a lot of the dialogue for the movies, although I believe they were officially only credited in the second one. I am certain this also helps their quality because the ways the dialogue and the scenes flow show a real emotional investment from both of them. In a Wiki on Hawke I also read he has written two novels of his own because he did not want life to pass and only do acting without trying other things. Delpy is also a musician and struggled with health issues, including panic attacks. Bits of their real lives seem to closely align to those of their characters.

In reviewing the movies I also came across the news that 2012 marks another nine years since the second film was made and there is talk of starting on a third film in this series this year. I would really love to see them together in their forties. I don’t want to spoil what happened in the second movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but there are still issues for them to resolve in their lives and relationship and I am curious to see what happens next. I think if they keep it honest like the prior two movies, this third one could be the best installment of the series yet.

The movies make me think about exchange students, even though neither one of them are when they meet, I guess because they are from different cultures but find so much in common.  However, these movies also have much larger appeal by exploring universals like star-crossed love, long distance relationships, the meaning of life and just connecting with another person in a really special way.

Other favorite quotes from the movies:

You know what drives me crazy? It's all these people talking about how great technology is, and how it saves all this time. But, what good is saved time, if nobody uses it? If it just turns into more busy work. You never hear somebody say, "With the time I've saved by using my word processor, I'm gonna go to a Zen monastery and hang out". I mean, you never hear that.
Jesse (Before Sunrise)

If there's any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed, but…who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt.
Celine (Before Sunrise)

Maybe what I'm saying is the world might be evolving the way a person evolves. Right? Like, me for example. Am I getting worse? Am I improving? I don't know. When I was younger, I was healthier, but I was whacked with insecurity. Now I'm older and my problems are deeper, but I'm more equipped to handle them.
Jesse (Before Sunset)

You can never replace anyone because everyone is made up of such beautiful specific details.
Celine (Before Sunset)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Face of Christmas 2011

Look at his name. Look at his attitude. What is it about the white lights? Lots of people see them before death. What does it mean? Angels, God, or is there an alternate explanation? I am thinking of something I wrote for Luz where the main character wants to see some lights, but says she needs the dark.

On Christmas Day 2011, Ben Breedlove died at age eighteen. There are two parts to this video presentation. His story ison many news sites today, like a ghost of Christmas past.

SATURDAY, November 19, 2011

Breaking Dawn and the Twilight Series

Breaking Dawn PosterLike a lot of people around the world (some would say sheeple), I have been following the phenomenon that is the Twilight Series. Stephenie Meyer gets trashed often for her writing among literary circles, but hey, these books are part of our collective pop-culture now (influencing readers, writers and media for decades to come) and I've always maintained she deserves props alone for that. It doesn't stop me from seeing the series or its devotees from this critical perspective, however. For example, it is a bit strange and uncomfortable to consider how the fairy-tale concept of prince charming little girls grow up referencing has just become supernatural, cold-blooded, and with complete power to make them feel frantically inadequate until they become more like him. In other words, falling in love and meeting Mr. Right have never been more unrealistic and unobtainable.

In fact, for a brilliant, cynical (and best of all picturesque and LOL hilarious) take on all the book/movie installments, I can do no better than point you to Pop Suede. Did I mention the cats?

Popsuede Twilight characters

But yeah, I went to the movie this weekend and rolled my eyes more than a handful of times ... and enjoyed it thoroughly like the guilty pleasure that it is. I was especially interested to spot Stephenie Meyer herself in not one, but no less than three Hitchcock-ian cameos during the wedding scenes. Meyer has said before that she loved Bella like the daughter she'd never had, and so I saw those appearances as having meaning. It must be a proud moment for her, in and out of the novels. And yet I'm sure the haters will throw some harsh psycho-analysis her way for it.

Charlie Nevertheless, I can't help wondering whether Meyer's novels could be so popular if they were not reflections of society's canons of romantic relationships and love, rather than prescriptions of them. It wasn't just dumb luck on her part to write some of the biggest novels of the first decade of this century. We, as a society and women, who are looking for the love of our lives to save and change us, are just the dumb ones. Or confused with mixed messages. Or as whimsical and overindulged as cats, who are almost impossible to satisfy.

SATURDAY, October 29, 2011


Jeania as VampireThe popularity of the vampire novel seems to me rest in the creature's ability to do whatever it wants, break inhibitions and social mores with very little negative consequences, and be forever young.

Celebrating Sheridan le Fanu, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Stephenie Myer and L.J. Smith.

Happy Halloween!

SUNDAY, September 11, 2011

on PATH and Pulse

From my diary, September 13, 2001:

PATH Escalator 1970sWhen I lived in New Jersey last year I would travel into Manhattan by switching to the PATH train at Newark, which for only a buck, would transport me to its final destination underneath the Word Trade Center.

I remember getting off the subway and heading out and up as if riding a wave to that first set of escalators. The last set were the most amazing though as they angled sharply up, kept you in suspense of the horizon line, and made you want to hold on -- just to steady yourself. In the mornings or during rush hour I was invariably in awe of all the people, though everyone else appeared so nonchalant about the numbers. I remember thinking once how we all resembled a colony of cockroaches in a New York City basement scattering in droves when suddenly the lights went on. People were everywhere. The place was just teaming with activity, faces,legs, arms, eyes -- so many as you were floating among all these body parts.

I remember what it was like to walk out of the WTC on a chilly day. Atmospheric pressure and wind shear would catch those doorways in such a manner that I was greeted with the bracing impact of cold air swooshing around my ears, a sound that made me think I was being sucked into a brave new world with vacuum action. In those streets in front of the buildings was another sensation. Many times I felt this tingling, energizing effect that was the heartbeat, the pulse of that great city. The heartbeat and the pulse of being in a place of possibilities and opportunity -- of being an American.

When I think of the twin towers, I will always remember that pulse. As I look at the wreckage on TV I feel a heart pumping now. A survivor under steel and concrete who hasn't lost hope, the sweat and fatigue that raises the pulse of rescue workers, the jolting fear and then release of all those witnesses. The echo of ghosts who jumped and suffocated and burned and were crushed. My own heart knows all these rhythms and will carry them with me like that wake up kiss of wind from when we last parted.
Twin Tower

Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memoriam


My dad didn't die in combat, although he participated in two D-Days (North Africa and Sicily) and one D-Day, plus 2 (Normandy, France) after being drafted in June, 1942. However, I remember that during his last days he told me he saw those old war buddies who did die in his dreams. He teared up and looked far away when he spoke of them. Though only in the war for a little over three years, it was easily one of the most influential events in his life.

My father never had the desire to travel outside the United States after WWII, yet he always followed world events and politics very closely. He was very concerned about the potential of the U.S. getting involved in any military offensive. He had complete empathy for the soldier and wouldn't wish his own war experience, however glorious in history books, on anyone.

SATURDAY, April 23, 2011

Are We There Yet?

Inside Job Movie

I caught a mention of this movie in Oscar news and thought, why hadn’t I heard of it?

If more people could see it, they might think seriously about how conflict of interest is killing the American ideal and sense of justice for everyone.

“Poor Iceland,” you say, “totally fleeced by its banks and government. How could they let that happen?”

But is Iceland a cautionary tale or an analogy?

Inside Job is the film that cost over  $20,000,000,000,000 to make.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Arcade Fire Visits Sprawl


I had such a great time last night at the Arcade Fire concert in Phoenix.

I love their newest album The Suburbs, which won the grammy for best album of the year.

As with their other albums Neon Bible and Funeral, The Suburbs is thematic and a collective experience. The songs belong together like pieces of a puzzle and their arrangement is a story with a beginning and an end. Actually you could even say some songs are paired up like two different characters in the same scene but from unique perspectives. For example, in Sprawl I (Flatlands), Win seems to express a moment in time from a very somber point of view, while Regine sings Sprawl II (Mountains beyond Mountains) with ethereal lightness -- though deceptively so, because the lyrics are still on one level about running into cops on the street and on another, about existential crisis. In fact, I want to share the lyrics of Sprawl II -- the last song they played of the night. It's pure poetry and Regine rocks it!

Sprawl II (Mountains beyond Mountains)

BTW, Regine's family is originally from Haiti and $1 off of every ticket to last night's sold-out show went to fund Partners In Health, an organization the band has helped get well deserved attention. It's been over a year since their devastating earthquake, but these people haven't forgotten:

Friday, march 25, 2011

Consumption & Diseases of Affluence

ConsumptionDoctor and author Kevin Patterson, in an interview on Fresh Air, has an interesting approach to dissecting cultural differences. He compares diseases people have in different areas of the world to those in the North America and talks about the rise in diabetes in our own country that can be attributed to obesity, especially abdominal fat that increases insulin levels. What really caught my attention in this interview and accompanying article is the way he describes what the internal organs look like in a typical Afghan:

Referencing social science, Patterson, who also wrote an article on the Diseases of Affluence, points out how four different societal stages shake down in terms of medical problems. Stage 1 consists of hunter/gatherer societies that principally die of starvation and predation (think of the Bushman of Kalahari Desert). Stage 2 is the equivalent of agrarian societies, like Afghanistan, which have the principle problems of infectious diseases caused by overcrowding, although starvation is still an issue. In Stage 3, societies become industrial and have enough to eat but by-product illnesses, such as those caused by pollution or carcinogens, start to cause health problems (e.g. China). Finally, Stage 4 occurs with post-industrial societies where the common use of antibiotics helps life expectancy increase dramatically. Yet new diseases like diabetes and obesity are skyrocketing in these societies because of the food we eat and our sedentary life-styles.Diseases of Affluence 

My Russian teacher used to love saying движение это жизнь which means movement is life. I think she meant it as a philosophical world view, that it is to always stay interested in something, to not stagnate, but I also remember it now in a very practical way. Modern society in so many ways needs to get off the couch and seek out physical activity to stay healthy. It is hard with desk jobs (like writing), but all the more important.

The points Patterson makes remind me as well of the documentaries, Food, Inc. and Supersize Me. These films convinced me to stop drinking cola and avoid eating junk and processed food as much as possible. If you haven’t seen them, check out the trailer for the first, which also plays sometimes on PBS.

Watch the full episode. See more POV.

SATURDAY, MArch 5, 2011

on Finding Your Voice

The King's Speech

I saw the King’s Speech last night and loved it. Collin Firth is amazing and I so understand his win as Best Actor this year. I was told they waited thirty years to produce this script until Queen Elizabeth passed. What I loved most about it was the juxtaposition of his personal struggle to that of his country (well — actually the movie points out that one fourth of the world was under the British Empire at the time!) and how he as one human being -- and you really come to see him that way rather than as just a reserved monarch-- made such a big difference in modern history. Plus, he had to get over not believing in himself to rise to his destiny ...

It’s funny having heard the speech before the movie, I always thought the pauses were for effect and solemnity, rather than strenuously engaged.

Finally, if you are a fan of the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice like I am, how great was it that Jennifer Ehle played Lionel’s wife in this film? The chemistry those two brought to screen in the film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel made them my all-time favorite representations of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I can’t reread that novel without their faces in mind!

SATURDAY, February 19, 2011

OK The Greatest American Word?


The title of a recent BBC Magazine article How ‘OK’ took over the world grabbed my attention this morning and the author’s assertion that “we generally spell it OK - the spelling okay is relatively recent” made me break out my Chicago Manual of Style to check its advice on usage. I couldn’t find any there! This lack of mention made me even more curious. I still have a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style from my college days and had a look there. Again I couldn’t find either spelling addressed, but note to self: this little book looks worth re-reading in its entirety.

OkayTshirtOK — so back to the Web. I find loads of postings about the possible etymology of OK (e.g. a vernacular abbreviation for “all correct;” a fashionable play on pintails that started with the presidential candidate club, Old Kinderhook, in support of Martin Van Buren whose political opponents had fun with making up unflattering alternatives such “Out of Kash” or “Out of Kredit;” and a number of other cultures who claim the English word has roots with their language: the Greek “Ola Kala,” the Turkish combination of OK and AY, Choctaw Indian “okeh,” French “au quai,” Scottish “Och aye,” and Finnish “Oikea”)  but still I don’t see a definitive argument about using one variant spelling over the other.

computerOKDisclosure: In my own novel I used “okay” instead of “OK,” even though I commonly write OK in emails or in notes. In text I’ve often even seen just “k”.  Writing “okay” for me at the time seemed more correct. My editor left it alone too. But why?  

In nontechnical writing, the conventional preference seems to be to spell things out. We don’t write “O,” it’s “Oh” (unless, again, it’s phone text). I did get corrected from the editor in changing things like “In the U.S. it’s different” to “In the States it’s different.” Also as another writer on this topic points out “We don't actually say 1, 2, 3, we say one, two, three. We always speak words, even when we mean numbers. In fiction, I think the same rule should apply to OK versus okay.OKTshirt

And yet, after two hours researching this word, I wasn't satisfied.  I went back to the original article to find out more about the author, Allan Metcalf, Ph.D. He’s a linguistic professor who’s just written the book OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word. At that point I figure out he has a disclaimer too. But he makes a fascinating point on his website that is not highlighted in the article when he says:

I had to laugh. Even though I’m still not sure if my spelling choices have been exactly right, I guess they’re okay.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Social Networks & Identity

EloAlgorithmAs someone who is a fairly private person by preference, the public part of being a debut author has sometimes been uncomfortable for me. Publicists and people within the publishing industry have a universal recommendation for authors, other than just write good books: work on your platform.  What is your platform? It is your network, how you reach readers. How do you work on it? The easiest and least expensive way is through the Internet. Create a website, write a blog, join facebook, twitter, tumblr, etc.

With this in mind, it was interesting to see the movie, The Social Network, and realize the person who founded Facebook, the site with over 500 million “friends,” is portrayed as a person clearly more at ease in a closet than in any interpersonal relationship.

Which brings me to a huge truth about social networking that I think is worth pointing out for the irony:  Your online identity is not who you really are.  This is also apparent in the movie when co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, tells his obsessed girlfriend he hasn’t changed his facebook status from “single” to “in a relationship” because he doesn’t know how.

There are other ironies brought up by the movie that make me think about the whole social networking phenomenon:

  1. Facebook started from the the mashbook, which originally Zuckerberg came up with as a mean-spirited, elo algorithim- based way of having people choose the hottest of two female Harvard colleagues, whose photos he had hacked from their respective house networks.

  2. The original concept behind “connect U” or thefacebook had to do with the exclusivity of its members. Only people with a email address extension could participate and now it has grown to over 500 million users.

  3. “The Internet is not written in pencil, it’s written in ink.” This is a line that comes from Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend in the movie, who lights into him over the stuff Zuckerberg posted about her to his blog when he was drunk and upset. It’s amazing to think that the Internet which is growing and evolving a lightning speed, still has a way of never dying, and things one posted years ago, in what feels like another lifetime, can easily come back to haunt them through digital footprints.

  4. And finally, the irony of what facebook has become.

    “I was your one friend.” Saverin tells Zuckerberg during deposition where he is suing him, because Zuckerberg traitorously deceived Saverin into signing a stock renegotiation deal that screwed him out of his share of the company.

    Our online social behavior, our beloved semi-private friend network, is all data to be mined and used to “enhance our online experience” by targeting and tailoring advertising to our profile. In other words, facebook is “turning our social behavior into actionable intelligence.”
  5. At one point in the movie, Zuckerberg faces academic probation for hacking into the school’s network and invasion other’s privacy by stealing photos and information about the women at Harvard to create the mashbook faceoff pages. He’s smart enough to realize that if you create a site that starts with an “exclusivity” cache, where people want to be involved and use it to meet other people, they’ll buy into the concept, and in effect, give away all this information for free.

Although I haven’t joined facebook (yet), this movie does make me think about the pressure people (authors and public personalities in general) face for building their platform through social networks and what that really means. In some ways it a bit of a group think game: “I am not anyone until I have a facebook page.”  “I am not anyone until I am someone with five thousand plus friends.” And for a debut author, “I can’t make myself standout, unless I join the crowd.”

Ergo, my blog post for the week.

Love the Radiohead song, and it's a brilliant choice for this trailer!