Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pining for Pasadena

It’s hard to believe the time has passed so quickly, but it’s been a little over two years now since Matt and I moved to Ventura County from Pasadena. While we’re pretty happy where we are, there are so many things we miss about our old ‘hood – the Huntington Gardens, Amnesty International chapter 22, swing dancing and old movies outdoors in the alley behind Colorado Boulevard in Old Town, free jazz concerts behind Vroman’s, good Indian food (Moorpark, seriously, what gives?), and hot green tea, apples, and Marni at the Yoga House – so we try to get back every once in a while. This past Saturday, we headed down for a salon visit (for me), some soul-nourishing sushi at Zono Sushi, and lots of indulgence at our favorite indy bookstore, Vroman’s. Ahh, Vroman’s. Right next to the fabulous indy movie theater, Laemmle. Right down the street from Zona Rosa CafĂ© and their amazing Mexican hot chocolate. *Sigh* We also mixed in some “driving down memory lane,” swinging by our old apartments and by our dream (make that pipe-dream) homes. (Oh, craftsman on the corner of Hillcrest and Wentworth, you will be mine!). After days and days straight of nothing but rain, we even got a showerless, sunshine-y day despite meteorological predictions to the contrary. All in all, a great day.

Guilty Obsession

Nothing is more entertaining than celebrity fashion “don’ts.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


PBS’ Masterpiece Classics is having a Jane Austen marathon of sorts. I’m Such a sucker for those schmaltzy period pieces. The chivalry, the blushing, the unrequited love. The eloquently delivered overtures, the even more eloquently delivered barbs, the chaste passionate longing. *sigh* My knees are buckling just thinking about Colin Firth – the only acceptable Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in the only acceptable movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

For those of you who are similarly afflicted with Firth fever, here are the remaining show times:

Mansfield Park – January 27
Miss Austen Regrets – February 3
Pride and Prejudice – February 10, 17, & 24
Sense & Sensibility – March 20 & April 6

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Boston Molasses Disaster

The other day when Matt was on the computer, he asked, “Did you know about this?” and started reading something that sounded ridiculous (surely an urban legend) about an enormous tank of molasses that accidentally exploded back in January of 1919 pouring 2,300,000 gallons of molasses into the streets of the North End in Boston. The brown tidal wave of molasses, moving at an estimated speed of 35 miles an hour and reaching several feet high, supposedly rushed through the streets, demolishing small buildings, injuring 150 people, and killing another 21, the force of the explosion breaking the girders of a nearby railway and lifting the train right off the tracks.

What? Pshaw! Surely, you must be kidding. Some Internet hoaxter with too much time on his hands must just be having some fun, inspired by Boston’s authentic history (i.e., the Boston Tea Party) to concoct a flamboyantly ironic counterpoint to that old saying “As slow as molasses in January.”

Matt continued: “The smell supposedly lingered for many years; according to local folklore, molasses left from this disaster can still be smelled on hot days.” My response: “I don’t know. I’ve smelled something in the streets of the North End on hot days, but I’m telling you, . . . it’s not molasses.” Without doubt, I concluded, the Urban Legends Reference Pages will have a related entry debunking this silly myth (a fantastic site for myth-busting of this sort, by the by).

Well, color me surprised! After further Internet investigation on the Urban Legends Reference Pages and Wikipedia, we verified that – this story is actually true! Gosh, I hate it when I’m ignorant of my own quirky hometown history. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been to the North End! I even worked in a bakery there over a summer while I was in college. And I didn’t know?! Oh what a very “improper Bostonian” I am. Excuse me while I go hang my head in shame.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Movie Review: The Human Stain

When we lived in Oak Park, our cable (Adelphia, now Time Warner) was taken care of through the HOA and was part of the monthly fees. Not bad – except that their particular cable package didn’t include the Independent Film Channel (IFC). (But, but, bu, wha, hey . . . [hyperventilation] . . . Noooo! ) Happily, when we moved to Moorpark recently, we picked up a DirecTV package that included IFC. So, not only do we have access to all that indie goodness again, but now I can record hours upon hours of it, glutting myself to make up for the two years of deprivation. Yay to overcompensating. :)

One recently recorded IFC movie we took in was The Human Stain; based on a novel by Philip Roth; screenplay by Nicholas Meyer; directed by Robert Benton; starring Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris. I do so wish I had read the book so I could smugly tell you, “Well, you know, the movie is okay, sure, but the book really is so much better.” (I mean, really? Come on. Does anyone even need to say that anymore? I’ve yet to come across a movie that has outdone the bestselling book from which it was derived. If anyone would care to point out an anomaly of which I’m unaware, please do.) Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, The Human Stain. While I’m not a huge Kidman fan, I do tend to like most of Hopkins’, Sinise’s, and Harris’ work, and I had heard the book was pretty stellar, so we hunkered down on the couch with the cat this Sunday and queued it up.

Ok, this time with all honesty and not as an insolent aside, I will say I Do wish I had read the book. I think the movie does a fine job of telling a tale of identity crisis, pride, shame, fear, loss, skeletons in the closet, and so much more, but I can only imagine that the book does a much finer job of laying out the details and dovetailing the pieces together (e.g., the scene with Kidman and the crow is awkward and not anchored well enough to the rest of the narrative). In the end, though, I think it’s unreasonable to expect movies to live up to the books which inspired them. And, since I seldom go back and read the book After I’ve seen the movie, I can say without prejudice that I was pretty satisfied with the film based on its own merits - not a 5-star rating, but far from a turkey. I’d say a respectable 4 stars. The main storyline, which unfolded through flashbacks interspersed at just the right pace, offered surprising insights and lent deeper meaning to the “present-day” footage (i.e., this often overused cinematic devise was actually employed rather deftly here).

I really want to say so much more about the movie, but I don’t want to give away vital information or highlights, so I will just say I do recommend you see it if you have the opportunity. My little quasi-review wouldn’t be complete, however, if I didn’t also share the following with you. After viewing the movie, I happened to reach down beside the couch and pick up the book review section of the L.A. Times, and there on page R3 was an article called “Affirmative fractions” by Erin Aubry Kaplan. The review was of Harvard University law professor Randall Kennedy’s new book Sellout and was basically a commentary on betraying one’s racial identity versus the freedom to choose one’s racial identity – the perfect thought piece for me to consider after having just watched a movie covering a similar theme. I love those moments in life that seem to be magically tailored to your experience of it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Polly Want a Cracker?

Here I sit, impatiently waiting for the mail to arrive with hopes that my new contact lenses will be in it. My last pair of lenses didn’t hold me over through the limbo time between prescriptions, my current pair of glasses (from TWO prescriptions ago) are giving me a headache, and my new glasses at Lenscrafters were a special order, meaning they will take two weeks instead of the usual one hour to be ready. *sigh* In the midst of all this, I can’t help but be just a little thankful to be living in an age when technology often trumps natural selection for us humans. In another epoch, I’d have been a predator’s hors d’oeuvre - a pterodactyl’s amuse-bouche, if you will. I’d never see it coming. (“Ohh, what a pretty bird!”)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Hysterical" Hillary

I’m sick to death of the hullabaloo over this clip of Hillary Clinton. Could the media be any more collectively misogynistic? Either she’s cold and calculating or “cracking under the pressure,” unable to keep her feminine emotions in check - either an automaton or a “hysterical woman.” Some reporters are even saying she was “crying.” Um, have they watched the actual clip? Choked up, sure, but not crying.

Is it really too much to imagine that she might be passionate, a little tired, . . .human?? Apparently, yes, it is too much to ask because some are even saying she “planned” this as a PR stunt to help her appear more accessible, likable. (Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.) I have a novel idea - how about we judge her on her abilities and qualifications? (Now I really am asking too much.)

This cartoon by Tom Toles in the Washington Post (unfortunately) sums it up pretty well. (If you can’t get to the cartoon, you may need to register. Registration is free though.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Evangelicals and Child Abuse

First, let me preface what I am about to write by saying I respect people of all faiths, although I am not a religious person myself. There are many people in my life, whom I love dearly, who are religious and attend a house of worship on a regular basis. While I may find fault with their beliefs, I would never begrudge them their right to believe and worship or belittle them for doing so.

What I do find fault with is child abuse in the name of “God.” Most of us are all too aware of the sexual abuse rampant in the Catholic church (>>) because of the many many cases that came to light in the past few years, but I’m not sure how many know about the emotional abuse that is being inflicted upon children in the Evangelical church. I watched the documentary Jesus Camp the other night, and to say it was eye-opening would be an understatement.

I have no problem with children being taught the religious rules and traditions of their family and community (I myself went to Sunday school and feel that I learned some very important moral lessons). However, in these Evangelical “Jesus camps,” very young children are being brainwashed and emotionally traumatized; told to take extreme viewpoints and action on political and ethical issues they are too young to fully comprehend or appreciate; lied to about scientific facts; encouraged to adopt an “us and them” xenophobic outlook on life; and asked to be ready to lay down their lives for “God” (likened to the Al-Qaeda training their children to go to war – the camp leader draws this parallel herself).

Non-religious AND religious individuals should be concerned about what’s happening in these camps. If the Evangelical church is, like they state in the documentary, 80 million strong, the damage ultimately done could be quite devastating. The effects of this kind of child abuse on children in the years following the abuse can include: low self-esteem, depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, problems in school and work, delinquency, teen pregnancy, suicide attempts, criminal or antisocial behavior, substance abuse, aggressive behavior, relationship difficulties, and spousal and/or child abuse. And, unfortunately, the domino does not stop there. The dysfunction doesn’t just affect the person individually but the society as well. The implications for social welfare, healthcare, politics (think Mike Huckabee -dude doesn't believe in evolution) and foreign relations are staggering.

I wish I could end this blog entry with a suggested action item to counteract what is being done, but I’m at a loss. The only thing I can recommend is that you watch the documentary for yourself if you haven’t done so already, my reasoning being that “forewarned is forearmed.” And, of course, I welcome any related comments or suggestions from those reading.

Monday, January 7, 2008