Thursday, August 30, 2007

4 things

Not much to say this early on a Thursday morning, so here's a meme from Stewgad's blog:

4 jobs I've had in my life
-newspaper delivery - my first job in high school (before child labor laws) and it was a toughie. Had to get up at the crack of dawn on weekends, which sucked every way you can think of. My hands got all ink-stained from wrapping papers, and I sometimes had to ride my bike in the rain if someone wasn't available to drive me. I even got attacked by a dog once, who chewed a hole in my newspaper carrying bags attached to my bike. Maybe this is where I got my work ethic.

-Circuit City salesperson - this was actually my favorite job because I love hanging out in electronics stores, and the people I worked with were fun to be with, lots of interesting personalities. This was the only job where I made some real friends (one of my co-workers lived with me and my family for a few months). Also got some nice employee discounts!

-DOT spokesperson - this job made me famous in Houston. I was on TV a few times every month, talking about highway construction and every time I went to gatherings, people would always come up and say they saw me on TV. There were some fun moments where I got to be a photographer and newsletter editor, and I met some famous people (Nolan Ryan, Clyde Drexler, Houston mayors) but overall it was a pretty repetitive job.

-PR agency executive - so this is the job that pays the bills. Again, some high points and some nice people I've met along the way, but after doing it for eight years, it's become a little repetitive.

Come to think of it, those are practically the ONLY jobs I've had that weren't related to school. I got paid for working on the college newspaper and I had a couple of paid internships at newspapers and PR firms, but that's about it.

4 places I've lived
-Phoenix, Arizona, for less than a year and don't remember anything about it
-Scotland, when I was a child and I wish I could remember more about it
-Houston, Texas, which will always be my hometown after spending more than 30 years there
-Wayne, New Jersey, my current abode

4 favorite foods
Every once in a while, I dream about what my last meal would be, if I could have anything I wanted, so this question is easy!
-a platter of steamed Pacific oysters from East Ocean Chinese Restaurant in Houston on Bellaire, topped with garlic and scallions, or black bean sauce
-shredded Szechwan pork (the #10 lunch special) from Feng Ling on upper Westheimer in Houston
-Thai steamed mussels from Thai Spice on Bellaire near Fondren in Houston
-Dim sum in a nice restaurant in Hong Kong

4 places I'd rather be
Than here at work? That's easy...
-in bed with one of my loved ones
-Glastonbury, UK (or anywhere in the UK, for that matter), standing in a crop circle or watching a cricket match
-in a bungalow over the water in Tahiti, being served breakfast by canoe
-in a redwood forest on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, listening to the trees

4 movies I can watch over and over
Wow, this is a tough one. There are my all time favorites that are well-known (Casablanca, West Side Story, Ben Hur) but I'll pick some of my more obscure pleasures.
-Every Time We Say Goodbye (an early Tom Hanks movie, sort of Romeo & Juliet in Jerusalem)
-JFK (yes, it's Kevin Costner, but once you muscle your way past the gag reflex all kinds of possibilities open up)
-Legends of the Fall (I love watching this on a cold winter's day when I'm home all day alone)
-As Good As It Gets (Oscar-winning actors doing great comedy and drama at the same time!)

4 TV shows I like to watch
Like Stewgad, I don't have any TV reception or cable at the moment, so these are all historical favorites.
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer
-Iron Chef / Iron Chef America
-Star Trek (the Kirk/Spock/McCoy version)
-The Twilight Zone (the original Rod Serling version in b&w)

4 websites I view daily
-Family & friends blogs

4 computers I have owned
I'm dating myself a little here...
-Franklin DOS machine
-Apple Macintosh SE
-Apple iMac
-Dell Inspiron notebook

4 people to tag
-Chris (because he LOVES surveys!)
-Colleen (because I know she's reading)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Top 50 movies I haven't seen

There's a full-page ad on the back page of today's New York Times Business section (page C10) that asks, "Dear Ketel One Drinker, Are these the 50 best films of all time?"

Now, I'm not a Ketel One drinker, nor do I love drinking alcohol at all. But I do love movies, and of the 50 movies listed (all of them from the AFI's Top 100 list) I've seen them all except 11:

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Deer Hunter
Doctor Zhivago
Easy Rider
The French Connection
The Godfather Part II
High Noon
Midnight Cowboy
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Some of these, like Rocky and Doctor Zhivago, I might have seen a long time ago, but I can't remember if I sat all the way through it, so that doesn't count. So one of these days I'll have to get around to seeing some of these.

My ethanol proposal got done and out the door last night, so it's back to business as usual for me. I'm hoping to leave a little early today to go get my allergy shot and go grocery shopping - my icebox is quite empty this week, and I've even run out of eggs, which is a big no-no for the South Beach Diet. Luckily Costco sells packs of 36 eggs for about $4.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Acting method

So, pursuant to my last post, my friend Colleen wanted to know what kind of "quantum leap" my acting instructor was referring to in his evaluation. He's referring to my ability to find the authentic feelings moment-to-moment in the course of reading a script with a partner. Many people think that acting is "pretending to be someone else," but that is not strictly the case. "Pretending" to be someone will invariably ring false, much like an impersonation or a caricature.

Real acting is about finding the character on the page inside of you. It's about channeling your unique energy, perhaps your own divine connection if you like, and letting that inhabit you as your character reacts moment-to-moment in the course of the scene to what's happening with your character and your partner's character. It's actually a lot more complex than most people think, and I certainly gained an appreciation of acting as an art form.

The scene I did in my second-to-last class that the instructor referenced was from the movie She's the One, the second scene between two ex-lovers, played by Cameron Diaz and Edward Burns. Mickey is in Heather's apartment reclaiming his television set after their breakup due to her infidelity. It's a short scene, but lots of opportunities for channeling feelings of loss, anger, contempt, scorn, lust and loathing. If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it as an intelligently written romantic comedy.

But while I feel I have some natural ability (probably honed from my real-life experience) I don't have the desire or passion to pursue it as a hobby or career. It's fun for me, but it's not something I love doing. If I am going to pursue an art form, I want it to be something I feel truly passionate about. If I never find that opportunity then I'll just remain a patron of the arts instead of being an artist.

This weekend was very quiet, and I hardly even left the apartment - mainly because it was record-hot on Saturday. I did get a lot of cleaning done, and watched a lot of movies, including another go-round with the Lord of the Rings extended trilogy. Sunday night Tara and I watched Brazil, the second in our Terry Gilliam trilogy, and we're planning to finish that up this coming weekend.

The big excitement these days is that Tara is recording a new album with her band at a studio in Connecticut, so she's been working long hours these past two days (they wrap it up on Wednesday). It's a project that's had a long gestation, and I'm sure it's enormously satisfying for her that it's finally happening. I'm so proud of her for sticking through all the trials and tribulations to get to this point, and I hope the recording is a smashing success.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Getting out of my head

I've been reading a library copy of Daniel Pinchbeck's book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and I'm on the last few chapters now. It's fascinating stuff. It reads partly like a scientific journal, partly like a diary, and partly like a travelogue of strange and exotic places and events.

Some of the things I find to be particularly resonant with my current life, such as the author's stance on the current state of interpersonal relationships (as outlined in his article The Sexual Revolution, Take 2). I've also become newly interested in crop circles, and I hope to visit England in 2008 to look at some, as well as visit the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, an organization of which I am a Companion (you can see a replica of the well cover I wear around my neck in my pictures, given to me by my family as a Christmas present last year).

Couple of other interesting tidbits from Pinchbeck's book I wanted to share:

"In the version told to me, one of the Buddha's disciples went to him and asked to be shown Heaven. The Buddha said, "If you want to see Heaven, you will have to see Hell first." The disciple agreed. The Buddha took them to Hell, where an enormous banquet table was set up, piled high with fabulously delicious food. Unfortunately, all of the diner had, instead of hands, enormously long forks on the end of their wrists, and they kept trying to get the food into their mouths, but could not reach them. They wailed and gnashed their teeth in misery. The Buddha then took his disciple to Heaven. Heaven was exactly the same situation - diners at a sumptuous banquet table, with long forks on their wrists instead of hands. The only difference was that, in Heaven, everybody was feeding each other."

"Robert Johnson notes that the English language reflects our emotional paucity. Ancient Persian and Sanskrit possessed more than eighty words for love, denoting different qualities and valences of communal and erotic feeling. Whether we want to proclaim our affection for Krispy Kreme doughnuts or our significant other, we are stuck with just the single word, obliterating differences and qualities."

In other news, I went to my last acting class last night. I've enjoyed my time there immensely, and of course it's great that my company paid for those classes, but I think I've learned everything I can learn from that class and it's time to move on. As part of evaluation process required by my company, my instructor wrote a summary of my progress in the class, and I think his comments on my character are pretty illuminating and probably align with what most people who know me would say about me.

To Whom It May Concern:

Michelle began to study with me in my beginning acting class on Thursday, April 5, 2007, participating once and week for five months. Initially she exhibited an openness and willingness to learn and amazing courage in letting the class share in some of her private and personal challenges. This is rare for a beginning actor and it parallels what I teach, for the class is as much of a life class as it is an "acting" class. Overcoming your fears to trust yourself enough to fully express your uniqueness while being raw, open, and truthful moment-to-moment - this is the challenge of acting. And Michelle was open to the coaching. Her progress was steady and she showed improvement every week.

Michelle's challenge is to get out of her head and to trust her gut instincts more often. Yogi Berra once said "you can't hit and think at the same time." That is also true of acting: you can't act and think at the same time. Although still a little "heady" in her acting, she made a quantum leap in her last class and is moving in the right direction. If she wants to continue on in this field, I would recommend a class in improvisation.


I'm not sure if I want to continue to study acting, as I don't have aspirations to be an actor, and I think the craft has limited benefit to me professionally. However, it did help me in other ways, so it's something I might revisit at a later date.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Craving ramen

Obviously one thing I miss on my diet is pasta. Next to Italians, there is probably not another ethnic culture in the world more concerned about quality noodles than Chinese, who are credited with inventing noodles, or at least being the first to write it down sometime between 25 and 220 CE (Common Era).

One of my favorite movies of all time is Tampopo, a story that celebrates the art of Japanese ramen. This is one of those cult classic movies that has been in and out of print a couple times in the past 20 years, but it's available now from Amazon. I first saw this movie at a film festival at Rice University with a girl named Darien, who is probably the president of some company in China by now (she got a job at Andersen Consulting, shipped off to China and I never saw her again). But enough about that - the movie is hilarious, sexy and practically invented a new genre of "noodle western" movies in Japan.

So today I saw this restaurant review for a new noodle shop called Ramen Setagaya Ramen Setagaya in the East Village that referenced Tampopo. Told you it was a cult classic! So now I'm dying to watch the movie, and then go down to the restaurant and try it out.

Of course, I have to wait for a few weeks because whenever a restaurant gets a good review by the New York Times, it's going to be crowded and crazy in there for a while. Plus, I have to get into Phase 3 of my diet before I slurp down a bowlful of ramen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

So far, so good

Last night I stepped on the scale to weigh myself since it's been exactly one week since starting my diet, and I have lost five pounds. So I'm right on course in losing the 8-12 pounds I expect to lose by next Monday when I go to Phase 2 of my diet. I was happy to know that my friend Colleen is giving the diet a try too - I hope it works as well for her.

The basic philosophy of the South Beach Diet is based on the power of positive reinforcement. Sure, you can diet any number of ways and lose the weight slowly, maybe a pound a week, and many people consider that healthier. However, by "crash-dieting" in Phase 1, you get fast results that motivates you to stick with the diet. Also, in Phase 1, by restricting almost all carbs, sugars and fats, you not only lose most of your cravings for such things (plus a lot of your appetite), it also makes Phase 2 (where you reintroduce good carbs) seem like indulgence by comparison. Eating bad carbs (white bread, refined sugar, corn syrup) puts your metabolism on a roller coaster of quick energy and carb cravings that's hard to break just by slowly reducing your intake. Let's face it - it's easier to maintain your willpower for two weeks than for two months.

The point is that I've tried traditional "slow and steady" diets and I tend to get frustrated at the slow progress and just give up. I suppose that's in my nature - I'm very results-driven. But in the end at Phase 3, the South Beach is like any successful diet in that it should produce a lifestyle change. In my case, it's about cooking more food at home and eating out less (especially during the work week, which saves money and weight gain), eating treats in moderation and eating more vegetables. A big part of that is learning to cook healthier foods and using healthier ingredients, like olive oil (or as Rachel Ray chirps "EVOO") instead of butter, herbs instead of salt, and hot sauce instead of ketchup.

The first week of my diet I pretty much ate the same thing over and over every day:

Breakfast: 2 hard-boiled eggs with A-1 sauce
Morning snack: 15-20 dry roasted cashews
Lunch: 1 soy burger patty and stir-fried vegetables
Afternoon snack: Two slices of roasted turkey with low-fat Laughing Cow cheese rolled up
Dinner: 1 soy burger patty with roasted garlic hummus and stir-fried vegetables

Other ingredients included pickles, capers, salsa, Indian garlic relish, and whatever else I could find that fit the criteria. I also had sugar-free Life Savers and other hard candies for desserts. When I went out to eat, I could usually find broiled fish on the menu - I just skipped the rice it came with. I could also have salads with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, but I didn't bother to mess with the fresh ingredients. You'll notice that everything on my list can be prepared in advance and refrigerated, which isn't as healthy as fresh food, but a whole lot more convenient. Also, everything I'm using is available at Costco, which makes shopping even easier. And the thing about Phase 1 is that it only lasts for two weeks, so it's not very long to put up with such restrictions.

I'm also starting to do more experimental cooking with fish and my soy burgers. I got a spice rack from Costco with 20 difference spices on it, and I'm trying different combinations. On Sunday I made a Cajun blackened salmon steak that tasted really good. I used to enjoy cooking, and I hope to continue to make progress on it.

Some of my other lifestyle changes are that I'm trying to exercise two or three times a week now, and I'm taking a daily multivitamin again. Bringing food into the office requires coolers and plastic containers, which I had to acquire, and cooking requires more pots and utensils. All these things I planned for in advance of my diet, and that's what's going to make this effort a success.

Of course, I feel that the reason I did not keep the weight off the last time I was on the diet is the tremendous upheaval in my life immediately following the diet in 2005 and 2006, namely quitting my old job in Houston, leaving my family and moving up to New Jersey and looking for a new job while staying in a hotel for two months. But now that my life has achieved what I feel is a pretty stable equilibrium in all areas, I can focus on improving myself and making lasting changes - not just with the dieting and exercise, but also with the allergy shots, expanding my reading list and having new experiences in general.

Friday, August 17, 2007


I'm completely slammed at work today, so the only thing I'll post is this recipe for ratatouille that I might try once I get out of Phase One of my diet (after Aug. 27). I don't expect it to be better than the Pixar movie, though.

I'm excited about tonight - going to see Tara's band play at a restaurant in Battery Park City. Then tomorrow Tara, Bug and I are having a museum outing. How I live for the weekends!

Make it a good one, wherever you are!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are men just gullible?

You know what's interesting about sex-related spam messages? Almost all of them are directed at men - "Gain up to 5+ inches" "Become the man you always wanted to be" ad nauseum. I see very few ads these days on increasing bust size, although they were quite common in the past.

From what I know about the science of human anatomy, it's much easier to grow boobs than penises, so I'm wondering why all the penis enlargement ads. Could it be that they have indeed found a way to enlarge male anatomy, or could it be that men are just more gullible and likely to fall for a scam than women? I think we can all agree that men, not women, are the more concerned party when it comes to penis size, although women seem to have more body image issues than men in general.

It's the third day of my South Beach Diet and things are going well. I've noticed a diminishment of my waistline, not so much that it's flat, just that it's not protruding as much as it was before. There is a noticeable loosening of my "fat" clothes that I've been having to wear, and hopefully soon I'll be able to wear more of my "thin" clothes. I just hope that I don't lose fat from my butt or my boobs, since I've gone from a C to D cup in the last year and I'd like to stay there. Hopefully losing the fat in my belly will make me look a little curvier by not being so thick-waisted.

On the work front, I got put in charge of a project to submit a proposal for an ethanol advocacy group, which is a pretty interesting subject and a politically hot topic right now. Unfortunately it means a lot more work for me, so less time to goof off like I'm doing now. Also, I'm thinking about canceling my acting classes to lighten my schedule, which is a shame, but I need to get more sleep, especially at the tail end of the workweek.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Unwelcome overtures

It's a beautiful day up here in New York - 74 degrees, clear and sunny. After the recent heat wave and rain, I'm so happy to not have to dread the weather, which is magnified down in the subway. I feel sorry for those people in Phoenix though. I heard a story about the city on NPR this morning and how because of global warming and urbanization, the city stores up heat during the day and radiates it at night, meaning hotter days and little respite from triple-digit temperatures.

So last night I had to go back to Paramus because I needed a new bed frame. I had an old frame, but I didn't realize it had no center support, which is a requirement for a queen-size mattress. So since I was there, I went back to Barnes & Noble with my coupons and got my book, Charles de Lint's The Wild Wood and my DVD of Brazil. We're planning to do a Terry Gilliam festival someday with his loose trilogy of Time Bandits, Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Gilliam has said these three films represent allegories of youth, middle age and old age, respectively. I've seen the last two, and most of my family has seen one or two of the others, but none of us has seen them all.

So in other news, last week I actually got propositioned by a guy from my old life in Houston. It was a guy I'd met once or twice before on the job back in Houston, and he called me up out of the blue and said he was coming to New York on a business trip and would I like to get together and have a drink or something? So me being friendly, I said sure, but his work ran long and he had to stand me up. Then later I got an email from him:

I was swamped all day. Sorry. Not sure if you can travel but maybe we meet in Dallas or san Fran or next time I am here.

Please.......between is only.....very discreet. I would like to meet up. Could be fun.

Interested? But please keep this between us please.


It seems a little ambiguous, but I'm certainly not going to travel to another city to meet up with a man I barely know, so I politely declined and told him I'm only available for lunch here in New York. Anyway, just thought it might make interesting blog material.

Speaking of traveling, I have to go to Washington DC on Sept. 12-13 for a business presentation, which fills me with ambivalence. On the one hand, it's exciting to go to such an important city where I've never been (despite years of half-hearted planning for family vacations), but on the other hand it's a bummer that my first visit to the nation's capital has to be for business and not for pleasure. At least I can get some maps and brochures for a return visit someday.

Also, I was astonished to see in the newspaper that you can buy a plane ticket to London from New York for only $199 each way these days. Makes a trip to the UK not all that far-fetched someday, perhaps next year when I have some vacation time again.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Beds and Boca burgers

It was a fairly eventful weekend, although it doesn't make for exciting blog print. Stardust was wonderful, although they changed a lot from the book, so it was not as faithful a rendition as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Still, it was a well-crafted and engaging fantasy movie, although I would hesitate to call it a classic. Perhaps subsequent viewings might change my mind.

Saturday I slept in late until after noon since Bee and Tara were off on their own and Bug was spending the day writing. I woke up with a very stiff back from being in bed so long, and I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and buy a new bed. The current double bed I had been sleeping on was not only too short for my liking, but it was also too firm for my liking, since it was a donated set following the fire of 2005.

I had bought a new bed last year that was very well-used earlier this year when I was recovering from surgery, but I lost that one in the March 2007 fire. The reason that the donated mattress survived the recent fire is that I had given it to Bug to replace that awful inflatable Sleep Number bed she was using. So when I moved into my current apartment and bought all the furniture, I got a bed even more firm than the one I'd given Bug. Since she likes firm beds, we switched them, and that's how it came to be that I was back to sleeping on the bed I was sleeping on in Houston after the first fire. But with the disposal of that bed, there are no more pieces of furniture left from my days in Houston.

So Saturday I went to Paramus to find a bed, but first I stopped at the big B&N bookstore to look around. I had picked out a book and DVD, but didn't buy them because I discovered I'd left my coupons at home. I'm sure they will still be there when I go back this week. On the way to Sleepy's I stopped at Burlington Coat Factory and found several nice tops, mostly in black. This was a nice find because they were the same brand as Tall Girl typically carries that are designed for tall women, but at 75 percent off the price that Tall Girl would charge. I got two short-sleeve tops and two hip-length tunics with 3/4 sleeves.

At Sleepy's I tried out all the Simmons mattresses (I'm a fan of their pocketed coil design - two of the last three mattresses I've actually purchased have been Simmons) and liked their pillowtop the best. It was pretty expensive, but they gave me 20 percent off, and free financing for two years, so that makes it a lot easier to pay for. Sometimes it's nice to have good credit. Plus, they even threw in a dust-mite barrier cover for free, plus free delivery and removal of my old mattress (about $200 all told) since I had to wait around so long. The best part of the deal is that I bought the mattress at 9:30 p.m. and they were still able to deliver it on Sunday. That's what I call service!

Sunday morning I got up before noon and went to buy some queen-size sheets for my new bed and pick up my monthly prescriptions. Almost as soon as I got back, the delivery truck arrived and we set up the bed. Ah, it's like sleeping on a cloud! Unlike the rest of my family, I like soft beds, and this one is probably the softest I've ever had. I should have done this months ago - sleep is too important to skimp on.

The rest of the day was spent washing sheets and preparing for my diet, which starts today. It's the South Beach Diet again, and I'm back in Phase 1, which lasts for two weeks with minimal carbs and fat and no sugar. That means I'm eating mostly eggs, nuts, turkey, low-fat cheese, Boca soy burgers and stir-fried vegetables for the next two weeks. At the end of two weeks, I'm supposed to be 8-12 pounds lighter and ready for Phase 2. We'll see if I'm as successful this time around as I was last time I did this.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Google Black

Just a short entry today, as I have things to do at work before there's a happy hour at 4 pm - we are saying goodbye to all our summer interns, which is as good as any reason to celebrate around here.

Practically the only time I talked to any of them was when I was asked to be one of the four judges for their summer PR project. I was a pretty hard judge - more of a Simon Cowell than a Paula Abdul, despite being the only woman on the judging panel. But there was one crusty judge that out-Cowelled me - he's our resident friendly curmudgeon who has been around longer than anyone. I think he's in his 70s, but still walks around and says hi to everyone every day. But he was a tough judge!

Tonight Tara and Bee are picking me up in the city to go see Stardust with Bug later, which is great because I don't have to take the train home. Another reason I have to get going, so I can leave on time to meet up with them near the American Museum of Natural History, assuming the subways are working after a day of rain. Yesterday's storm caused me to be about two hours late to work due to flooding in New Jersey along the rail line.

So for those environmentally conscious readers, here is a Web site that my Corporate Responsibility team leader forwarded me today - It's basically the Google homepage but all blacked out so that you conserve monitor power while using Google's search engine. Pretty ingenious, if you ask me. Al Gore can stop crying now.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Movies, magic and Speed Racer

I saw a very interesting and fun movie last night - The Illusionist starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel. I didn't have much high hopes for it because of reviews I'd read, but it turned out better than expected. The ending was very satisfying, and that's important for a movie - to end well, and a happy ending certainly doesn't hurt. I'm not going to say more because some of my readers are interested in seeing it and I don't want to spoil it for them.

I've always been fascinated by magic - the stage kind at least. Real magick has been a recent interest. I used to practice sleight-of-hand tricks with cards, coins, balls, etc. I can roll a quarter across my knuckles, make a golf ball appear between my fingers and throw a playing card about 15 feet indoors with enough force to break a corner. These are mostly flourishes, not real tricks, because I never had the discipline to practice. But for as long as I can remember I've always been interested in cards and card games.

This past birthday my family got me my first tarot deck and a book to study on the art of tarot, and I'm looking forward to learning more about it. I used to have a card game called Dragonmaster that used a deck very similar to a tarot deck - large, colorful cards with beautiful artwork. In fact, the same artist did a vintage electronic game called Dark Tower which I also enjoyed playing as a child. Interestingly, this game was discontinued due to a copyright infringement lawsuit and now is becoming increasingly a collector's item. I wish I still had mine - they go for hundreds of dollars now on Ebay, but I'd like to play it once more for old times' sake.

Anyway, speaking of nostalgia, I've been watching episodes of Speed Racer a lot lately - I bought the first five seasons on DVD and I'm just starting the third season. What strikes me is how violent the show is when seen through an adult's eyes. As a child I didn't pay much mind to the number of casualties that occurred in a typical race - as long as all the major characters made it out okay, what did it matter right? But in one episode when Speed and Racer X (in disguise) race through a volcanic mountain course, at the end Speed says that 96 men started the race and only two made it out (!!!) you realize what a tremendous toll in human life we're talking about just for a sporting event. I started counting car crashes in some of races, but couldn't keep up. But it's not just the car crashes - there are numerous scenes of people being gunned down by machine guns, burned alive in pools of molten lava and all manner of mayhem. Lots of organized crime bosses, Speed almost goes blind in one episode, nuclear bombs in cars, ICBMs, etc. etc. It's funny how I never realized how violent these shows are until now - a loss of innocence I suppose.

I had a nice dinner with Agnieszka last night at Uno's Pizzeria, and she gave me a copy of Milan Kundera's novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, as a belated birthday present. The movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin, has long been one of my favorite dramas, and I've been meaning to read this book forever, and now I have no excuse! We talked a lot about expressing emotions and how we each have difficulties in our own ways. It reminded me of a French movie called Un Coeur en Hiver (A Heart in Winter) starring Emmanuelle Beart (from Mission Impossible) that I'd recommend to anyone with a Netflix account and a taste for foreign movies with bittersweet endings.

Monday, August 06, 2007

24 hours of Bourne

The theme for this weekend was pretty much summed up in two words - Bourne and Police. With The Bourne Ultimatum coming out this weekend, I suggested to my family that we should go see it, but none of them had ever seen a Jason Bourne movie, and it didn't make sense to see the third in the series until you'd seen the other two. So Friday night I stopped at Best Buy on my way home and picked up The Bourne Files, a three-disc set of the first two movies, The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy with a bonus DVD in a mock expandable folder. It's on sale for $14.99 this weekend, plus you get $5 for using a Mastercard, which make it less than $5 per movie - you can't beat that! I had actually purchased The Bourne Identity separately about a week ago from Borders for $11 (before I knew about the three-disc package) but since I hadn't opened it I was able to return it on Saturday and get my money back.

So Friday night we watched The Bourne Identity, and everyone seemed to like it - it's definitely my favorite of the three. Some of us wanted to just plow ahead and watch The Bourne Supremacy that night, but as it was getting late, we decided to watch it Saturday afternoon before going to see the third movie at the theater Saturday night, which we ended up doing. We came out of The Bourne Ultimatum at the theater only a couple hours later than we'd finished the first movie the night before. After three Bourne movies in about 24 hours, we figure the next one should be called "The Bourne Redundancy".

Now, I'm a big fan of spy movies, if you consider James Bond a real spy. I've seen every Bond movie ever made, some of them more times than I can count. I also loved Sneakers and I was even a big fan of the Bond spoof TV show Get Smart, which is coming out on the big screen next year. But I have to say there are few spy movies as smart and contemporary as the Bourne movies. Unlike Bond and some other spy movies, Bourne movies are totally serious. No quips, no corny punchlines, no laughing in the face of danger. In the Bourne movies death is a real threat (except when Jason Bourne is driving a vehicle, apparently) and the violence is brutal and realistic. But what I really like about the Bourne movies is how the character is so smart - he's always thinking two or three steps ahead of his situation, and the films do a good job of portraying that intelligence without dumbing down the movie. In other words, you have to pay attention and be pretty smart yourself to follow what's in Bourne's head with what the director shows you.

On Sunday afternoon we went to Giants Stadium to see The Police in concert on their reunion tour that I'm sure you've heard about. Our seats were way up in the nosebleed section, but aside from the distance it was a nice view of the entire scene, and the breezes were cool up there. After sitting through two opening acts, Sting, Stewart and Andy hit the stage about 8:30 pm and played about two hours with two encores. The Police have long been my favorite all-time band, and it was great to see a concert where I and most of the audience knew all the songs, and you had 50,000 people singing "Roxanne" in unison. It was probably the best rock concert I've ever seen in my life so far.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Heel thyself

Interesting article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal:

Heelpolitik: The Power of the Stiletto
Why Female Executives Keep A Pair for Clashes and Crises; Ferragamos to Be Fired In

Look under many a powerful woman's desk and you'll find a serious pair of heels. Whether they're on her feet or tucked in a drawer, the shoes' key attribute is a three-inch spike that, if redirected, could put your eye out.

I've been wearing a modest heel more often lately, not the lethal stilettos a la "Single White Female", but heels nonetheless, usually about two inches. Being almost six feet tall, I really don't need the additional height, and with my size 12W feet it's hard to even find decent shoes to begin with. Despite this, I have a fairly impressive collection of shoes, most of which I've never worn outside my bedroom. I bought most of them after the fire of 2005 when I didn't have any shoes and got caught up in building a shoe wardrobe.

Back when I was job hunting in New York, I wore heels on days I had to walk a good piece from interview to interview. I picked shoes that looked good and made my feet look smaller, but they didn't fit well and consequently I have problems with bunions now. These days I'm a little more sensible with both buying and wearing my shoes, but it was a hard lesson to learn.

Probably the highest heel I have is a three-inch skinny heel on a bright pink strappy sandal. It actually does fit pretty well, but it's hard for me to walk in, and I'm sure I couldn't go very far if I did try to walk in them. I suppose I bought it because it's such a rare event to find a pretty shoe that actually fits me. Plus, I thought I might want something dressy if I were ever to go to a cocktail party or fancy dinner where I wouldn't have to be on my feet very much.

But the truth is that I'm not really part of that world anymore, if indeed I ever was. However, I do admire women I see who can walk around on four-inch heels with ease - I just feel sorry for their feet.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007!!!

I had my family over to see 300 last night, which of course was released on DVD yesterday. We're all fans of Frank Miller, who wrote the original comic book on which the movie was based. I've been a fan of Miller's since college when his classic Batman story The Dark Knight Returns was published in the original form (yes, before it was a trade paperback, I read it in individual issues). As you may know, that landmark work completely reinvented the Batman mythology from being a self-caricature in the Adam West-Burt Ward TV show to the obsessed and ruthless vigilante that defines his character.

I even wrote an opinion piece in my college newspaper about this change, and got some flack from a bleeding-heart liberal who took offense to my implied support of justice without due process. However, a fellow Batman lover (and someone a little less literal in their thinking) came to my defense with a letter that made two points - first, if you see Batman beating up on somebody, you KNOW that person is guilty, and second, that of COURSE he reads the college newspaper every day, like the real-life person that he is.

In addition to Batman, I was also a big fan of Miller's art in the Wolverine mini-series by Chris Claremont, one of the early solo adventures for Marvel's favorite mutant, and Miller's work on Daredevil in the Electra/Bullseye era and his graphic novel with artist David Mazzucchelli called Born Again, both of which I recently reacquired in trade book format. Heck, I've even read Ronin, one of Miller's less-known works.

I hadn't embraced Miller's more recent work with Sin City and 300 until I met Tara back in 2005. And I'll admit the first time I saw Sin City at a friend's apartment in Houston, it kinda grossed me out. But it wasn't long before I came to appreciate the Miller vibe once again, especially the artistry in Zack Snyder's film rendition of the epic Spartan/Persian battle.

Plus, check out this cool collector's edition of the DVD that I got from Best Buy yesterday - it includes a replica Spartan helmet cast in resin and painted to realistically look like bronze, plus four movie poster postcards. They were in very limited supply (only 15 per store), so I was smart enough to buy one online and pick it up at the store after work. Sure enough, by the time I got there to pick it up, they were sold out - I actually overheard people asking for them and being given the bad news. And of course, the very next day they are now going for more than twice the purchase price on Ebay. Seems like someone could make some money doing this sort of thing if one were so inclined...

Anyway, a fun time was had by all last night, with a kickin' movie, popcorn and frozen treats aplenty. It was nice spending time with my family where we didn't have to go anywhere and still make it a special evening.