Sunday, December 28, 2008

Movie Review: Yes Man.

I’ll go see almost any movie Jim Carrey makes. He’s one of those actors, for me, that even when the movie’s bad, I enjoy watching him. His latest, “Yes Man,” is not the funniest movie of the year, or of the season, or even the funniest movie I saw last week. But it’s innocuous and light-hearted, and I could even go out on a limb and call it “fun.”

Our hero is Carl Allen (Carrey), a middle-aged stick-in-the-mud who works were any middle-aged stick-in-the-mud would work these days: in a bank as a loan officer. People come to him with all sorts of bizarre small-business schemes, which he then has to deny, which sets up where our guy is now: he’s a pro at saying no. But we also meet his friends, Peter (Bradley Cooper) and Rooney (Danny Masterson) and learn that Carl is always turning them down, ignoring their repeated phone calls and requests to “hang out.”

The catalyst of the movie happens when Carl runs into an old friend named Nick (John Michael Higgins). Nick convinces Carl to go to a “Yes” seminar, headed by Terrence Bundley (Terence Stamp). It’s there that Carl sees the error of his ways, and makes a decision to say yes to everything from here on out. And now, the ball is rolling. All sorts of mildly humorous things happen, including a visit to a bar where the band “Munchausen By Proxy,” (bizarre, experimental, psychedelic) is playing a gig, and where we meet our leading lady, Allison (Zooey Deschanel), who happens to be the lead singer of the band. Carl and Allison meet, things happen, and so goes the movie.

Of course, every odd situation must fix itself, thereby this whole saying-yes-to-everything can’t last, and in perhaps the weirdest and weakest part of the movie, Carl gets caught up in the Yes Man scheme and things come crashing down around him, but look! He’s so much better for the experience and by golly, he has learned something.

The script was passable and funny at parts, although I have to say with anyone other than Carrey at the helm, the movie would have been pretty bad. Deschanel was great, as usual. My favorite character was probably Norman, Carl’s manager at the bank, played by Rhys Darby. Think Ricky Gervais in the British version of “The Office.” Most surprising in the movie was Molly Simms, who I remember from some show on MTV where she was very much a deer in headlights. In “Yes Man,” she plays Carl’s ex-wife, and she’s not that bad. I was shocked.

This movie was not smart, not thought-provoking, and will not go down as a “great” comedy. It was a light-hearted chance at escape, and I’m all for that every once in a while. It’s not one to rush out and go see, but if you see it on HBO in several months, it’s worth a TiVo.

Monday, November 17, 2008

On community service.

One of the things I like about Barack Obama is that he plans to encourage Americans to engage in service to the country. And to him, service to the country is more than enlisting in the military: he wants us all to take an active interest in our fellow Americans. He wants us to volunteer our time and money to help make America a better place. I could drink this kool-aid all day long if it's going to inspire me to volunteer.

My first order of business in this quest to be an Awesome American was to quit ignoring phone calls from the Red Cross. They've been calling me about four times every Sunday, trying to get me to donate. I sort of stopped ignoring them: I hate talking on the phone, so instead, I made an appointment online to donate blood today. How rad am I?

On my lunch break, I followed the directions to the elementary school where I was to donate. Once there, they asked me one million questions, but the one that I will remember was this: "You have A- blood, so you qualify for this special kind of blood donation. It will take about 10 minutes longer, but the needle is smaller so it should hurt less. Also, we will get more usable blood out of you and give you back the stuff we don't need." I responded, "Will it hurt more?" He said, "No, it should hurt less."

He lied.

It took me over 45 minutes to donate whatever it is they needed, and it HURT almost the entire time. When the machine was drawing the blood out of me, I could feel the needle tug at my arm. RAD. The woman who had inserted the needle finally said, "Maybe you're not resting your arm right." I spit at her. (Not really.) When she FINALLY took the needle out, she said, "Now it might be sore for a little while because it's been in there so long." Me: "YOU THINK??"

So maybe community service isn't all it's cracked up to be. I haven't given up on the blood donation (yet), but I know the next time I do it, they're only getting the normal supply from me - none of this machine-operated-platelet-return-we-only-take-your-red-blood-cells crap. And luckily, I got them off my backs for another four months.

Maybe I'll get a tattoo between now and then.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Today's quote.

"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."

- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You have to be better than.

On Saturday, gina and I went to Silverlake to march in the protest/rally against proposition 8. I wanted it to be inspiring. I wanted to feel like we were really making a difference. I wanted to feel like it would change something.

When we got there, I was emotional at the sight of so many people coming together for one cause. Then I looked more closely and realized they weren't all coming together for one cause. There is so much justified anger directed at so many different places, it's hard to tell what we're trying to do. I saw a lot of signs aimed at the Mormon church: "Tax the Mormons!" or "Keep Mor(m)ons out of my politics!" Worse yet, I saw signs attacking other gays: "I heart the people who volunteered BEFORE we lost!" or "We needed you a week ago! Where were you?" None of the signs fully illustrated my frustration with the gay community more than this one: "I deserve the right to cum in peace."

Listen up, homos: nothing is going to change until we figure out what it is we want to change, and until we get it through the collective skull of the rest of America that we are not all that different from them. Yes, the Mormons should lose their tax exempt status, but is that going to give us the right to marry? And to those of you who "heart" the people who helped out before we lost, I have news for you: NONE of us did enough. If we had done enough, Prop 8 would have failed. And is now really the time to cause divisions amongst gay people? How will that help?

And to the young lesbian I saw holding the sign about cumming in peace: Do you honestly think you are helping our cause? When people think about "marriage," as in, straight marriage, do they think of sex? NO. They think of love, companionship, and family. No one is disturbing your right to an orgasm. You can f*ck whoever you want, whenever you want, and however you want, thankfully. THAT'S NOT WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR. By holding up a sign like that, you are perpetuating the gay stereotype. It's no wonder people think we are deviant. All they see is b-roll from gay pride parades, with dykes on bikes and guys in assless chaps. (This is not to say that I am not a fan of gay pride parades - I go almost every year. I go because they are crazy fun, and to me, it's like the gay mardi gras. Yeah, we're crazy - this is the time of year we get to let loose!)

I was complaining about this to a friend of mine, and he shared a sentiment that he had picked up, that in order for the minority to be treated as equal, they have to be better than the rest. You will never convince the country that it's normal for men to parade around as drag queens or in assless chaps. And as long as that is the footage news organizations choose to show, America will never get it. What they need to see is how the majority of gay people live. They need to see that what we're after is not crazy gay sex, but a life not unlike theirs, a life in which our children and our partners are offered the same protections as theirs, and our relationship holds the same weight as theirs. And yes, we do get together and celebrate our gayness by waving rainbow flags and wearing fun stuff and getting drunk, but the other 364 days a year, we are just like you. We pay the same taxes, we go to the same gas stations, we vote in the same voting booths, we go to the same churches, we read the same books, we go to the same libraries, we eat at the same restaurants, we watch the same movies, we all pay rent or a mortgage, we shop for the same groceries, and we love the same way.

This is what we have to get across to America. I can't say for sure how we can do this, or how we can make this work, but I just gave you a bunch of examples of how NOT to do this. (Also, maybe we should organize a rally somewhere instead of the place that's second only to WeHo in gay friendliness??)

My frustration with this rally is not to say I think the rallies are pointless. I think it's important to be a part of the movement. I think it's important to show up. But like in any war, it's critical to know exactly what it is you are fighting for. Otherwise, you will most certainly be defeated, and you won't even know it.

The best sign I saw that night was one that read, "If only clever signs cured bigotry..." Whatever it is that we need to do, I know that we need to do it with one voice, together. Anything less will not work.

Suggestions?

Friday, November 07, 2008

More hopeful than frustrated, or You are not going to kill this Barack buzz I've got going on.

In the late summer of 2004, when our hopes were still high a democrat might take the White House in November, my friend Maggie and I were exchanging emails about politics. Maggie is one smart cat, and in those days I turned to her to explain different things to me. I've always thought she somehow has an "in" with the world at large, that she has her finger on the pulse of history as it happens, and sometimes, she just might be able to tell the future. (She is one of my most favorite friends.)

One of her emails in this exchange said something like: "Did you hear this guy Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention? If not, google him and try to find that speech. That guy's going to be president someday."

I don't need to tell you that I googled him, but what I do want to tell you is at that time, I was only able to find the transcript of his speech. I read it, not having ever seen his face, not having ever heard his voice, and emotion welled up in me. Who the hell is this guy, and how dare he give me so much hope?? I couldn't wait for the day for him to announce he'd be running for president.

When Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for 2008, I was elated, but one of the first things I remember telling people is, "I hope Barack Obama doesn't run this year, because she will never beat him." It's not that I didn't want Barack Obama to be the president - it's that I sort of wanted Hillary more. However, when I went into the booth on Super Tuesday of this year to pick my democratic candidate, I felt as though I was choosing between an ice cream sundae and a red velvet cupcake. Both choices were so equally appealing to me, I didn't know how I could possibly be asked to choose. After a lot of thought, and a very compelling article in the New Yorker, I chose Hillary.

Admittedly, I also weighed heavily - who would America vote for? A white woman or a black man? I figured it would be the former.

(It should also be noted that around primary season, when John McCain emerged as the Republican frontrunner, and it was still a tossup between Hillary and Barack, I was feeling pretty good about the election overall - I liked John McCain, and I loved the Democratic candidates. Images of an election whose outcome would be great either way danced in my head. Ah, those were the days...)

Needless to say, when Hillary conceded, I jumped on the Obama train without hesitating, and screamed from the proverbial rooftops about how great this young, "inexperienced genius" was and would be for our country.

Right before it was clear Obama would be the candidate, the California Supreme Court, in a majority opinion written by one of its conservative Republican judges, ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny same sex Californians marriage licenses. Suddenly, we had a black man running for president and gay marriage was legal in California! Could life get any better? Were the founders right? Were we really all created equal? Even the blacks and the gays?! I love it here!!

This week has come with a whirlwind of emotions for me. I can't quite describe the feeling inside of me at 8:00 PST, when it was announced that not only did Barack Obama become the 44th President of the United States, but he did so overwhelmingly, with a ridiculously huge margin of the electoral vote. (He could have even done it without Ohio, but Ohio pulled through for us!) I was humbled, inspired, grateful, hopeful. I watched his speech with goosebumps all over me and tears in my eyes. I had this quieting sense that the easy part was over, and now this man had the most important job in the whole world, not only of leading us, but of reclaiming America's place in the world. I clung to his words, and admired him for being cautiously optimistic, not reveling in victory but reminding us of the task at hand. I have always been proud of Americans, but I have not been proud of America for a long time. It felt good to be proud of my country once more. I was even proud of John McCain once again, whose concession speech was arguably the most important speech of his career. That night, it was obviously not lost on me how monumental it was to see a black family take the stage as our First Family, and I was flooded with pride at our continuing ability to come together and celebrate our diversity, and to show our children that anything is possible, and that while we still have a long way to go, we are well on our way to being the country we should be.

Of course, in the days since then, Californians (and the rest of the country, it seems) learned that Proposition 8 passed, by a very narrow margin. I marveled at how we could defeat a proposition that called for limits on abortions for underage girls (I am glad this was defeated, I voted no on it), and we could pass a proposition giving chickens and pigs more room to stretch their legs (again, I voted for this as well), and we could SOUNDLY deliver California for Barack Obama, but we could not defeat a proposition that aimed to write discrimination into our state constitution, something that, to my knowledge, has never been done in the history of California. How did this happen? The Mormon church is partly to blame. The Mormon church, who enjoys tax exempt status, donated 70 percent of the funds to pass this proposition. (The gay community needs to share some of the blame, but I'll save that for another post.)

I am devastated by this. For the first time ever, I am ashamed of California. I am disgusted. I am embarrassed of this state I have come to call home. If you are reading this and you voted "yes" on prop 8, shame on you. You took away my rights as an equal citizen. You have essentially told me I'm not as good as you, that I should be required to follow the same rules as you, pay the same taxes as you, but not have the same benefits as you, not reap the same rewards as you. You have told me with a resounding voice that I am less than you. Well you know what? Fuck you. FUCK YOU. I deserve everything you have, and MORE, because I believe in equality for all. I believe we shouldn't deny law abiding citizens their rights. I believe we were ALL created equal, just like the United States Constitution says, just like the Declaration of Independence says. I am an American. How DARE you try to take away MY rights? This is not over. I am damn SICK of crying over this. I'm sick of feeling like a second-class citizen. I'm done with that. My fury is rising, and you better watch out. You thought we would go away quietly? Nope. Not anymore.

I realize this post is getting really long, but I do have a point to make.

My friend Wendy called me after the election to ask how I was feeling. She asked me about prop 8 - "are you depressed?" The answer is no. I'm not depressed. Barack Obama is good for America. Barack Obama will change not only my life, but my mom's life and my dad's life, and in the near future. While I also think marriage equality is good for America, I believe so in a much more indirect way. And I know we will get there. It took just 40 years from the Civil Rights movement to elect a black president. It was 40 long years, but that's only half a lifetime. We will get there. Marriage equality will be a federal issue some day. In the meantime, I am overwhelmingly excited about our next president, and about the choice America has made. Straight people have already taken so much away from me this week - they're not going to take Barack's victory away from me too.

Yes we can, yes we did, and YES WE WILL.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A reason to like Sarah Palin.

I have been crafting a long entry in my head about Sarah Palin but haven’t written it because I don’t want to hear any shit from anybody. As you can imagine, I think she’s a tool, literally and figuratively, but I don’t feel the need to go into great depth on her tooldom or inexperience or policy or even her obvious disdain for women. It’s all out there for you to read, and I’m not going to try to convince you about anything.

What I do want to bring up is that today, I found a reason to appreciate Sarah Palin. Of course, it comes with a reason to fear her, but what is giving me hope is this reason to appreciate her. I had in my head that if Obama were to win, Sarah Palin would drift off into obscurity, a la Elizabeth Smart or baby Jessica. Once a pop culture phenom, she would be able to go back to the governorship in Alaska, and continue to carry on as if that embarrassing stint as VP candidate was a bad dream. Perhaps she’d take some civics classes, because God knows she needs them.

Okay, I’m getting off track. I realize that.

John McCain picked Sarah Palin because she is a game-changer. She changed the game, all right. And what I’m finding hope in is that this woman might, just might, actually change the game for the better. Unknowingly, of course.

Here is a quote from a CNN.com article published today:

"A civil war [in the GOP] that is simmering will break out into the open if McCain loses, and the party will have to decide what they want to be in the post-Reagan world," said Gloria Borger, a senior political analyst for CNN.


Decide what they want to be… You know what that means, right? Change. Maybe, just maybe, because of this woman, the Republicans will be forced to really take stock of their ideals, and figure out which ones actually aim to work for the good of the country, and which ones aim to work for the good of the party. Maybe Republicans will get off of the God Train and quit pandering to the extreme Christian right, meanwhile sacrificing the rights of women and, well, ME. Maybe Republicans will go back to basics, and re-examine what it means to be the party of smaller government, and not God’s government. After all, is my God the same as yours?

How great would it be to know that both parties are looking out for me?

This would be great. But what also could happen is that the GOP will see how much Sarah Palin invigorated the base, and they will start going after those folks again for 2012, with Sarah Palin as their presidential candidate. This will lead to a downward spiral, and eventually, even though gays won’t be allowed to be married, Mr. State and Ms. Church will be allowed to, and they will be known as the Church-States. I would prefer not to have them over for dinner, but something tells me I won’t have a choice.

For now, I choose to remain optimistic, because really, what other reasonable choice to I have?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Movie review: Changeling

Changeling, in case you haven't turned on a television in four months or haven't driven anywhere in Los Angeles in the past two months, is the newest film from Clint Eastwood, starring Angelina Jolie. Clint Eastwood has given us several great movies over the past few years, including Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River. Like both of these movies, Changeling deals with several issues that I don't like to think about: kidnapping, pure evil, capital punishment, police corruption. In its dealing with all of these issues and more, the film left me haunted.

The movie is based on the true story of the kidnapping of nine-year-old Walter Collins in Los Angeles in 1928, and his mother Christine's quest to find him. As you can tell from any preview, Walter is missing for a few months and then a different boy is returned to Christine Collins. Christine protests, tries to tell the police that this is not her son. The LAPD, already suffering from a bad image, insists that this IS her son. So goes the next hour and a half of the movie (TRT: 2:30).

SPOILER ALERT

What we learn as the movie goes on is that it's the Walter Collins kidnapping is only a smaller story in a much bigger story. The bigger story is that of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. Once all of this story is interjected, the movie becomes completely unbelievable. It would be at this point in the movie that I would stop my "willing suspension of disbelief" and start scoffing and checking my watch. The only problem is, the story is true. Most of the movie is rooted in actual events, with a few minor changes or additions made (I'm assuming) to further the action and drama. But the bulk of what happens, the really disturbing stuff that happens - it's all true. It all really happened.

Angelina Jolie is, not surprisingly, amazing in this role. Her emotion is raw and appropriate, and only in Christine's rough handling of the man convicted in the Wineville Chicken Coop murders (she slams him against a barred window) did I see more of Angelina than the character. It was hard not to draw comparisons to her character in Girl, Interrupted in some of the psychiatric ward scenes. I'm biased when it comes to Angelina, but I really do think she is arguably one of the best actors today, and this movie continues to prove my theory.

And how much do I love Amy Ryan? She shines in this movie - I can't wait to see more from her.

I think my survival instinct kicked in while I watched this movie, because while I felt bad for Christine, my reaction was not tears, it was more of shocked disbelief. I found myself saying, "I can't believe that," and then I would remind myself, well, it happened, so you might as well believe it. A lot of the times, I would think, THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!!! and then I would remember - oh yeah, it did. I think this whole tug and pull of my emotions and my knowledge that it was a true story impeded my ability to truly enjoy the film. I really liked it - but it was almost too much for me. The bad guy was too bad, the scenario was too devastating, the mother was too wronged. It's almost as if it's just too horrible to be true. When I left the movie and came home, I didn't have the gift of forgetting as I do when I see a movie not based in fact. To think that this happened, that this was allowed to happen was too much for me to process. It was fascinating but not enjoyable, and maybe I would have liked it better if it were one of those crime shows on extended basic cable. However, while I haven't seen pictures of Christine Collins, I would venture a guess she's not nearly as hot as Angelina.

One more thing - I urge the my friends with children to skip this movie.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tails from this year. That's right. Tails.

This year has been probably the most important year of my life to date. I have learned so much about myself and the world I live in. I have had a great year full of things for which I am grateful, but some things have also happened this year that I haven't been too keen to blog about. So I just haven't written, or I've posted political commentary published elsewhere. I figure I have a lot of catching up to do, so I'd like to start with a story I've been meaning to tell for a while.

You might remember a while ago, I posted about the the newest addition to our family. About a month or so after that post, I was walking Noodle and Boy Dog, aka, Uncle Traveling Matt, and a small upper-middle aged woman stopped when she noticed the dogs. Uncle Traveling Matt was particularly interested in this woman, which is weird because he's really not interested in anybody. He jumped up on her and wagged his tail. I pulled him away, apologizing.

"Can you keep a secret?" she asked me.

"Uh, what?"

"Can I tell you a secret?"

"Um, sure." Crazy lady alert!

"This used to be my dog," she said, smiling and pointing at Uncle Matt. (Turns out, I can't keep a secret.)

"Really," I said, not as a question, but more as a statement of annoyed disbelief.

"Yes, I had him for four and a half years, and I almost got divorced over this dog because my husband hated him. He peed all over everything and kept running away. So the last time he ran away, I just didn't look for him." I couldn't think of anything to say, so she kept talking. "I don't want him back," she went on (AS IF I WOULD GIVE HIM BACK), "you girls are doing such a good job with him and he's so happy, I can tell. And I know you think I'm a horrible person" (YOU THINK?!) "but I love my dogs more than my own kids. I wanted a dog like that one," she continued, pointing at Noodle, "so I got him, but I couldn't house train him and he kept trying to bite my husband. My husband hated him. I have this white carpet in my house, and he just destroyed it."

I stared at her. "Yeah, we have white carpet too, and he's still not housebroken. Where did he come from?"

"The pound. And I didn't want to take him back to the pound because I thought they'd just put him to sleep, and I just couldn't live with myself if that happened."

Now, here's where I realized only later what I should have said, which was this: SO YOU THOUGHT IT WAS BETTER TO LEAVE HIM ON THE STREETS IN A NEIGHBORHOOD THAT IS LOUSY WITH COYOTES?!?!? Instead, all I could say was, "He was infested with fleas when we found him."

"Yeah, he had fleas when I had him."

I couldn't believe this bitch. "You have to TREAT them for fleas. You have to give them MEDICINE for it."

"Oh, I gave him flea baths and stuff," she said, at a loss as to why those baths didn't work.

"No. You need to give him Frontline or Advantage."

"I've never heard of those." Then, "I thought maybe he needed a friend, so I went and got a labradoodle, Butch. But this little one kept running away."

"What is your name?"

"Maria."

"Well, we called who he is registered to and no one ever returned our calls."

"Yeah, I've changed my number since we licensed him."

"What is HIS name?"

"Aldo. I named him Aldo because it's a combination of my name and my husband's name, Sal."

I stared at her. "I thought you said your name was Maria."

She smiled warmly. "Maria Dolores."

I wanted to wipe that warm smile right off of her stupid face. I could not believe what I was hearing. But sure enough, when I brought him back upstairs and we began calling him Aldo, he lit up like a Christmas tree. Since then, he's been so incredibly happy - no longer withdrawn and shy, no longer afraid, just at peace with us. We really think that he tried to go home to her but she didn't let him back in, because I found him two doors down from where she lives, and she told me he'd been on the street for four months, which by the way were the wettest, coldest four months of the year. Now when I see this woman, I don't even acknowledge her, and if she talks to me, I don't stop and talk to her, I just nod and continue walking. She doesn't deserve to be a part of Aldo's life anymore. She had her chance and she blew it, and we picked up the pieces.

I do feel bad for the other dog, Butch. Every time he sees Aldo, he just sits and stares at him longingly, like, "Hey! We used to be friends! Where did you go? What happened to us?"

Meanwhile, we've added another great dog, albeit perpetually stinky, to our family, and we couldn't be more grateful. I know now that we are his guardian angels.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Blocked.

In March of this year, my dad called me and told me his friend’s daughter was looking for an internship in television, and asked might my company be interested in her? He told me who the friend was, and he asked me if I knew the daughter and I remembered that I had babysat her when she was a little girl. He told me she was now 20 years old and going to Ohio University, majoring in journalism. I gave my dad my work email and told him to have her email me her resume, and I would pass it on to whoever needed to see it, although I couldn’t make any promises as to the help I would be in her securing an internship. A resume was mailed, and I passed it on. I’m always excited to help a fellow Ohioan.

My memories of babysitting her were pretty foggy, so I myspaced her to see what she looked like nowadays, and to make sure I was thinking of the same kid. My dad had also told me to look her up on You Tube, as she apparently had a few videos up there she took of herself singing and playing the guitar. I never got around to the You Tube portion, but I did see her on myspace, and she actually had pictures posted of when she was little, and sure enough, it was the girl I was thinking of. She had grown into a perfect mix of her mom and dad, with her dad’s small brown eyes and her mom’s angular chin.

She emailed me and thanked me for helping her out in the internship hunt. She also asked for some advice on finding a place to live for the summer, and also informed me that she googled me and found my blog and had enjoyed it. She said it had been her dream to live in LA her whole life and she was thrilled she was going to get the opportunity. (The last I heard, my company had offered her an internship but regretfully had to rescind it because she has a bad back, and being a PA requires a lot of heavy lifting. But luckily, she had found another internship somewhere else in LA and was still able to come out for the summer). She had told me she was looking forward to meeting me. I gave her some advice on living in LA, and told her to let me know when she got here. I ultimately never heard from her, but my dad did tell me she was interning somewhere in Sherman Oaks. I told him that was a good part of town, and he said his friend would be glad to hear that. I assume she finished out the summer internship and headed back to continue school at OU.

My dad called me this past weekend to let me know that she had been taken to the hospital last week complaining of back pains. The doctors gave her an epidural and a shot in one of her shoulders. She had an allergic reaction to either the epidural or the shot, went into cardiac arrest, and slipped into a coma. My dad called me again yesterday to let me know she had died. She was their only child.

I had not thought of this girl in 18 years. I hadn’t seen her, hadn’t heard anything about her. I’m sure her dad came to my college graduation party, and probably even my sisters’ graduation parties, but she never came with him, and he was just another one my dad’s friends. And yet, seeing her pictures on myspace gave me a bit of nostalgia, and wonderment of just how much time had passed, and just how much older we had both become.

I can’t comprehend what this must be like for this family. With the news of this girl’s death, I realized with terrifying clarity that I have no real understanding of death and its finality. I have been incredibly lucky in my life to experience death in a very normal way – grandparents died when I was in middle school and high school. Both of my dad’s brothers died within the past year – one was sick, the other wasn’t. The one that wasn’t sick, it came as a shock, and it was tragic, and I still am in disbelief, but somewhere in my head I told myself this is normal. Uncles will die. This is what happens. But this isn’t supposed to happen. An otherwise healthy 20-year-old girl is not supposed to die in a hospital complaining of back pain. And it’s overwhelming for me to think of it as a reality, that this is something that does happen, and it’s something that did happen.

And even now, this death is on the outer fringe of my world. I have no emotional ties to this girl. The last time I saw her, I was feeding her and changing her diaper and probably reading her a story and putting her to bed. I don’t know anything about her as an adult – how tall she was, what her voice sounded like, if she laughed a lot. I am sad, certainly. I am sad for her parents. I am sad for my father, who is devastated by this, undoubtedly because he too has a 20-year-old daughter. But more than anything else, my mind is consumed with the question, how does someone deal with this? How does this happen, and how do her parents move on? How can we, as humans, possibly be equipped to deal with such a shattering, unending grief?

I don’t know the answer to this, but I know that we are. We are equipped to deal with this. Tragedies like this strike families all the time, and more often than not, they find a way to deal with it. It must be one of those things that you think you can’t possibly have the strength for until it happens to you. Only then does the strength come.

Years ago, I told my friend Donna I felt bad that I had been lucky enough in my life to never experience such a tragedy, and that I felt like I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Donna lost her mom when she was still a teenager. Donna said something like, “I don’t think you should feel bad. I think you should just feel grateful. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

I am. I am so grateful. My life has certainly not turned out the way I imagined. I have encountered things and dealt with things I never thought I would have to. On a much smaller scale, strength has come to me in waves to deal with the things that have arisen. The ultimate question is, I suppose, is it worth it? It is a trite question with a trite answer. All I can do is try to remember that life indeed is fleeting and fragile, and as long as I keep loving, there will always be love coming back. That makes it worth it.

**UPDATE: I just found out a few things about this situation and I wanted to correct myself. She was actually 22, and I'm gathering that she had fibromyalgia, as her obituary calls for donations to a fibromyalgia institute. No less tragic, but I just wanted to be as accurate as possible.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

John McCain and the Lying Game

Full text by Joe Klein, reported on TIME.com

Politics has always been lousy with blather and chicanery. But there are rules and traditions too. In the early weeks of the general-election campaign, a consensus has grown in the political community — a consensus that ranges from practitioners like Karl Rove to commentators like, well, me — that John McCain has allowed his campaign to slip the normal bounds of political propriety. The situation has gotten so intense that we in the media have slipped our normal rules as well. Usually when a candidate tells something less than the truth, we mince words. We use euphemisms like mendacity and inaccuracy ... or, as the Associated Press put it, "McCain's claims skirt facts." But increasing numbers of otherwise sober observers, even such august institutions as the New York Times editorial board, are calling John McCain a liar. You might well ask, What has McCain done to deserve this? What unwritten rules did he break? Are his transgressions of degree or of kind?

Almost every politician stretches the truth. We journalists try to point out the exaggerations and criticize them, then let the voters decide. When McCain says, for example, that Barack Obama favors a government-run health-care system, he's not telling the truth — Obama wants a market-based system subsidized by the government — but McCain's untruth illuminates a general policy direction, which is sketchy but sort of within the bounds. (Obama's plan would increase government regulation of the drug and insurance industries.) Obama has done this sort of thing too. In July, he accused McCain of supporting the foreign buyout of an American company that could lead to the loss of about 8,000 jobs in Wilmington, Ohio. McCain did support the deal, but the job loss comes many years later and was not anticipated at the time. That, however, is where the moral equivalency between these two campaigns ends.

McCain's lies have ranged from the annoying to the sleazy, and the problem is in both degree and kind. His campaign has been a ceaseless assault on his opponent's character and policies, featuring a consistent—and witting—disdain for the truth. Even after 38 million Americans heard Obama say in his speech at the Democratic National Convention that he was open to offshore oil-drilling and building new nuclear-power plants, McCain flatly said in his acceptance speech that Obama opposed both. Normal political practice would be for McCain to say, "Obama says he's 'open to' offshore drilling, but he's always opposed it. How can we believe him?" This persistence in repeating demonstrably false charges is something new in presidential politics.

Worse than the lies have been the smears. McCain ran a television ad claiming that Obama favored "comprehensive" sex education for kindergartners. (Obama favored a bill that would have warned kindergartners about sexual predators and improper touching.) The accusation that Obama was referring to Sarah Palin when he said McCain's effort to remarket his economic policies was putting "lipstick on a pig" was another clearly misleading attack — an obnoxious attempt to divert attention from Palin's lack of fitness for the job and the recklessness with which McCain chose her. McCain's assault on the "√©lite media" for spreading rumors about Palin's personal life — actually, the culprits were a few bloggers and the tabloid press — was more of the same. And that gets us close to the real problem here. The McCain camp has decided that its candidate can't win honorably, on the issues, so it has resorted to transparent and phony diversions.

This new strategy emerged during the first week of Obama's overseas trip in late July. McCain had been intending to contrast his alleged foreign policy expertise and toughness with Obama's inexperience and alleged weakness. McCain wanted to "win" the Iraq war and face down the Iranians. But those issues became moot when the Iraqis said they favored Obama's withdrawal plan and the Bush Administration started talking to the Iranians. At that point, McCain committed his original sin — out of pique, I believe — questioning Obama's patriotism, saying the Democrat would rather lose a war than lose an election. Ever since, McCain's campaign has been a series of snide and demeaning ads accompanied by the daily gush of untruths that have now been widely documented and exposed. The strategy is an obvious attempt to camouflage the current unpopularity of his Republican brand, the insubstantiality of his vice-presidential choice, and his agreement on most issues — especially economic matters — with an exceedingly unpopular President.

The good news is that the vile times may be ending. The coming debates will decide this race, and it isn't easy to tell lies when your opponent is standing right next to you. The Wall Street collapse demands a more sober campaign as well. But these dreadful weeks should not be forgotten. John McCain has raised serious questions about whether he has the character to lead the nation. He has defaced his beloved military code of honor. He has run a dirty campaign.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

30.

I moved to LA when I was 21 and started working in television when I was 22. Because of this, I hung around a lot of people who were five to ten years older than me, and who balked when I revealed my age. "You're a baby!" I also had a group of friends who were upwards of ten years my senior, so I was always the youngest. It was a new phenomenon for me, growing up the oldest, but I was okay with it.

I even bought into this idea that I was this young pup with so much time ahead of me. Right around my 27th birthday, I started to feel like I had been in my 20s for longer than most people. I started to feel that I had been young for too long. I've come to the realization that a few things have helped foster this notion over the years:

1. YOU'RE HOW OLD??: When I would meet people for the first time, they would not believe me that I was 27. They insisted I could not be older than 23.

2. YOU'RE HOW OLD?? Part 2: Older, or rather, better friends of mine couldn't believe I wasn't 30 yet. My birthday came that year, and I remember a couple of people asking me, "So, how old are you going to be this year?" "27." "SERIOUSLY? You're not 30 yet?" This exclamation was so rampant that I labeled my evite to my last birthday, "Still not 30!"

3. WHO ARE YOU AGAIN?, followed by YOU'RE HOW OLD??? Part 3: Family members began to confuse me for my younger sister Jackie, who is ten years younger than me. Yes, there is quite a resemblance, and yes, I do look younger than I am and Jackie looks older than she is, but ten years? Countless strangers have asked us if were were twins, and when when informed we're ten years apart, they are shocked.

4. OUT OF SIGHT: Truth be told, I left Ohio as soon as I graduated college and every time I go back, it seems like not much has changed. I still see the same people doing the same things. And even people that are doing different things, they're still the same friends I had when I was in high school (for this, I am truly blessed). And I work with one of my best friends from high school. So not only do I feel young when I go back home, I feel like I'm 14 every single day when hanging out with Patrick. With Patrick, I can only tell I'm older because HE looks older. But we still talk about people from high school, we still talk about marching band, we still reminisce about those days.

When 2008 hit, I noted casually that this would be The Year. The Year I Turn Thirty. But I still had so much time, and so many things were happening in my personal and professional life, I had very little time to think about it, and furthermore, I didn't think it really deserved much thought. Besides, who cares? I bought a condo in Los Angeles at 28, I had been to Sydney, Amsterdam, Budapest, Roatan, and Curacao all in one year, I was in a happy relationship, I had amazing friends, and I had good credit! Who cares that I'm turning 30? Besides, it's not for nine whole months!

We have two dry erase boards at work that act as calendars. So when one month is over, they erase it and put the next month up. For instance, we had June and July showing. When June was over, they erased it and put August up. That's when it hit me. Like a wall... a moving wall. A fast moving wall. As if those exist.

I'm turning 30. In two months.

I realized that I've been thinking about my birthday as though it were six months away since March. It's not March anymore. We're almost to the middle of July. My birthday? In September.

People ask me if I'm freaking out about turning 30, and I'm not, truly. But I fully admit, it's WEIRD to be turning 30. It's weird to think of myself as a thirtysomething. When my mom was 30, she was pregnant with her third kid. I remember when she turned 30 - I was devastated, because I thought she was on her way to death, surely. It's as though I felt she lost her immortality when she turned 30. Ah, the thoughts of a ten-year-old.

The truth is, I'm very happy with where my life is, save for the lack of creativity I exhibit, which is my own fault. Another truth is that I very much look forward to my thirties, because it will bring marriage (even for the gays!), children, a new home with a back yard, another sister moving to Los Angeles, more professional success (if things go as they've been going), and more memories. So it's good.

But it's still weird.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Lesbian Power Couple, updated edition

When I was younger, living in Los Angeles, I constantly saw well-dressed, beautiful gay women around me, women with things to do and people to see, women changing the world, women who knew everyone. I considered a grey suit and a pair of chunky glasses symbols of power. These women tended to be in relationships with other beautiful women, and these, to me, were Lesbian Power Couples. This was something I aspired to (or thought I did), and if I weren't in a couple, at least I could be a Power Lesbian.

In the past few years, I've had a few people refer to me as a Power Lesbian, which makes me chuckle for a few reasons. I think they call me this because I have a good job and own a home in Los Angeles at 29 years old. However, I am rarely well dressed, unless you consider shorts, tee shirt, and flip flops well dressed. And me? Powerful? Come on.

A couple of weekends ago, we went to Vegas and came home to a broken air conditioner. We called our home warranty folks, and they sent out West Coast Chief Repair. They were originally supposed to arrive between 9 and 12 and finally came at 3:30. They walked in and asked, "What's the problem?" I stared blankly at them. "You tell me." They fiddled and futzed, and asked for the roof access, and after 20 minutes, they came back inside and reported, "It's broken."

My eye twitched slightly. "What's wrong with it?"

"Well, your blower fan is dirty and you have a freon leak."

"Okay, when can you fix it?"

"I don't know." More eye twitching from me. He continued, "We have to submit it to the warranty people, and then they have to order parts, and then we can schedule an appointment to come fix it."

I gave him our warranty co-payment of $55 and sent him on his way, confused as to exactly what I paid for.

A few days later, the warranty place called me and told me they would NOT pay for the repair.

The eye twitch can't be good for the Lasik recovery.

A day after that, West Coast Chief Repair called Gina to give her an estimate. "We have to clean the blower fan, which will be $350, and then we have to do a leak test, which will be $450, and then we can let you know how much it will be to fix it."

Eight hundred dollars to NOT fix it. Great. We agreed it was too much.

A day after that, the new carpet cleaner we hired came to clean the carpets. He came right on time and was exceedingly friendly. He explained that the base rate was $95, and any additional services (deodorizer, etc) were $.25 per sq. ft. He began to take very rough estimates and came back with a price tag of $275 plus the base rate of $95.

"Wait," I said. "We have 1000 sq ft here. 1000 sq ft at $.25 is $250, and you're not cleaning the kitchen or the bathrooms. How are you getting $275?" He tried to argue with me that we had "way more than" 1000 sq ft, to which I offered the inspection paperwork.

After going through his math, I realized his mistake. He was measuring the length and width of each room, adding all of those numbers together, and then multiplying the added numbers. He was coming up with 1085 sq ft for what was about half of the condo. I had to convince him that he was wrong, and he finally agreed to it and the price went down to $132.50 out the door. I don't want to think of how many people don't check his math.

As he was leaving, we asked him if he knew any AC repair people. He did indeed, and two days later, a guy named Moses called me and told me he could come look at the AC. He called me at 10am and said he could come that evening. He arrived, tools in hand, looked at the AC, went to the roof to inspect, called us to tell us to turn on the air, and came back downstairs.

"It's fixed," he said quietly. Sure enough, after suffocating for 2 weeks, it started to feel cooler in the condo. We were overjoyed. The price? $450, total. He came on time, he fixed it in the same amount of time it took the other guys to check it out, and it was $450.

We are totally a Lesbian Power Couple.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hands free - it's the LAW.

I find it funny (not ironic) that today is the widely advertised switch to a Hands Free Los Angeles, a Los Angeles where if you have a cellular telephone held to your ear while driving, you are in violation of the law, and that TODAY is the day that the bluetooth in my car decides to go on the fritz.

(I fixed it, but not before I had to resort to the OWNER'S MANUAL. Sheesh.)

Monday, June 30, 2008

One year later, part 2: the condo.

In two weeks, we'll mark the one year anniversary of owning our condo. It's been a great year, and homeownership has been fantastic for us. Sure, we have to get the carpets cleaned every 6 weeks. And yes, the AC broke and it's looking like it will be well over $1000 to fix. And yes, the market has tanked and if we were to sell the condo now, we'd probably be screwed. But we love our home, and in the past year we have been able to make some minor changes with some major benefits for us, mostly that we've been able to create a space that makes us happy.

To mark the anniversary of the condo purchase, I thought I'd post some photos. Also, I'm working on a design show, and the host/designer encouraged me to post some photos so he can give me some freebie advice. Yay!

Here's the living room:

living room 5

The wall color looks blue-grey in this picture, but looks much grey-er in person. We're happy with it. The sliders used to be covered by horrible vertical blinds. We love the curtains here. Notice Noodle's toys sprinkled throughout the room. We're in desperate need of a new media stand for the TV and components. Also, the tan chair in the foreground will be replaced eventually, but it serves its purpose well now.

living room 3

This is a detail shot of the fireplace. I'm not really crazy about the glass mantle... we tried to make it more "us" by adding little votives all the way across. Also, the shelves on the side were something I loved when we originally saw the place. Now, they're a huge pain because we can't figure out what to put inside on them. Gina just sketched this artwork this weekend, so we think we can get away with leaving those shelves empty since there's finally something to look at above the fireplace. (We both LOVE this piece of art!)

living room 1

Our super comfy couch, which might be too big for our space, and our photo wall. I bought these frames about eight months ago, and we finally hung the pictures two months ago. We LOVE them. There's that tan chair again. Someday...

dining room w/ noodle

This is the dining room, with Noodle being moody under the table. I guess I should've turned the lights on for this picture. The mirror wall was there when we moved in - NOT OUR IDEA. We do not like it, but feel like it's not worth removing. A lot of people say it makes our place look "bigger." I say it makes our place look "70s." To each their own, I guess. I like the table and the high chairs, but I look forward to a time when this can be not our main dining room table, but a spare one. I sort of miss the simple regular-height chairs.

kitchen

This is the kitchen. We originally didn't want to change anything in this space, because we LOVE it, but I'd like a new microwave (this one is from Vietnam, I think), and I really would love to stain the cabinets a darker color. Gina stained the cabinets in the bathroom, which I stupidly didn't take any pictures of in this set, and they look sooooo good. But it was a hard job and she's not too keen on doing it for the bigger kitchen cabinets. Again with the mirrors, though. Whoever designed this condo was very vain.

Bedroom 2

Bedroom 1

We are so incredibly happy with the paint color in the bedroom. It's exactly what I envisioned when I picked it out. We love the bed and the curtains. However, I now realized we probably should have done the curtains to the floor, but it was hard enough finding these curtains that were long enough to cover the just the windows! Just like in the living room, there used to be vertical blinds covering these windows. It was hideous. I'm looking in to getting a piece of furniture made to go under the curtains, like a low shelving unit in a dark wood to match the bed and to add extra storage. I hope that will make up for the fact that the curtains don't go all the way to the floor.

The one thing about the paint color is that now the doors and the light switches and plates look terrible. In time, we'll probably look at maybe painting the doors a crisper white or something... not sure if we'll ever switch the actual switches. The switch plates would be easy, but the switches? Not so much.

Also, Gina and I both used to love that blonde maple color of the night stand, but now we've both moved to enjoying darker woods, so we need to get new night stands in here. Not to mention, the night stand on my side of the bed is a chair. Classy! We want some darker night stands with COVERED STORAGE, since we both read a lot and always have a ton of books by the bed.

There's another room and 2 bathrooms to post, but the other room is so far from being where we want it to be that I don't want to even put pictures of it up. So that's all you get for now!

Unfortunately, I have no good before pics of the condo, but trust me... it is so much better now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It's a laser.

Seventeen years of wearing glasses ended in the most expensive 20 minutes of my lifetime on Friday when I got Lasik surgery. Not just any Lasik – Custom Wavefront IntraLasik or something fancy like that! This means that my eyes were effed up just enough to require an additional thousand dollars or so worth of technology.

I’ve never disliked wearing glasses. As a matter of fact, in the past few years, my glasses have sort of become my signature thing. Some people have red hair. Some people have one arm. I had glasses. I got compliments on them, and they were the one designer item I would purchase.

So why the hell would I spend money to get rid of them? The problem was not wearing glasses. The problem was having no other option. Despite wearing contacts quite successfully in college for two years, I have since become unable to wear them without severe irritation and dry eyes. I’ve gone through four pairs at a minimum of $200 a pair in the last eight years and have not been happy with any of them. So I have gone summer after summer without sunglasses or the ability to see clearly while swimming. I have played tennis, softball, and football, all while wearing glasses. This is not fun.

Gina and I have been talking about me getting Lasik pretty seriously for about 6 months, and not-so-seriously for about a year. My big thing was to get it before we had kids. Oh, I should add “babysitting” to a list of activities I HATE doing while wearing glasses. Kids and glasses do not mix. Anyway, we agreed that the closer we get to having children, the better chance there is that I won’t have the money to get this procedure done, so I just did it. (Believe me, I don’t have the money – but I have until June of 09 to pay it off, interest free! Woo hoo!)

I have to say, I recommend this surgery to anyone. For what the results are, the surgery is a breeze. BUT, I would not want to do it again. (Readers who have weak stomachs, please stop reading now.) The incision part was bladeless for me, which was great, but it still was incredibly uncomfortable and, I admit it, pretty scary. There was a point where my vision went completely black but my eyes were wide open. They quite literally have to suck your eyeballs out of your head to make that incision, and that pressure is NOT fun. It’s that pressure that causes your vision to go black. However, it took about 10 seconds per eye.

The actual surgery was completely painless. The only discomfort I experienced was having the eyelid spreaders in my eyes… but even that was fine once I figured out how to relax. Once they turned the laser on, each eye took maybe 30 seconds. It wasn’t crystal clear like everyone seems to say it is when it was over. Everything was still blurry, but that’s because they kept putting these milky drops in my eyes that are anti-inflammatory. However, I could tell that my vision had improved greatly.

I went home, popped two valium (doctor’s orders!) and a motrin, and slept for 6 hours, which they say is mandatory. I did wake up once during that 6 hours and my eyes felt like they were full of burning sand. I forced myself back to sleep and when I awoke for the evening, they felt just a little dry and a little itchy, but nothing too terrible.

It’s now Wednesday, I am glasses-free and 20/20. My vision is just a little hazy sometimes, and it gets worse at night, but the doctor said that was normal for about the first month. It sort of feels like I’m wearing dirty or old contacts, but it doesn’t hurt or itch at all. I’m not allowed to rub my eyes for FOUR WEEKS, which is probably the hardest part of the whole thing.

I’m also going through a mourning period… I do miss my glasses. I didn’t think that I would, but I do. It doesn’t help that people keep saying, “Oh but I loved your glasses!” or “You looked so cute in your glasses!” Truthfully, I probably hid behind my glasses a lot, but damn it, I’m almost 30 and I don’t want to hide behind anything.

It has been fantastic to wake up every morning and see clearly, and to be able to wear sunglasses every single day in a city that rarely has any cloud cover. It’s amazing to be able to tell the difference in the shower between the shampoo and the conditioner without having to bring the bottle four inches from my face. I love falling asleep on the couch watching TV with no worry that I’m bending my glasses. I love going into the pool and being able to see all around me.

Despite all of this, I might some day be that person wearing prescription-less fashion glasses. Could be worse, right?

RIGHT?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

This is for Mary Reilly.

I shot Julia Roberts.

Well, actually, gina shot Julia Roberts… and if we’re getting technical, the shooting actually happened in a bizarre dream I had the other night. And if we’re getting really technical, I have a feeling it was a combination of Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie, because there was a moment where the widower was Brad Pitt. Maybe I was just confusing “reality” with The Mexican.

I (stupidly) told a co-worker about this dream, and he had a very reasonable question: “Was there a motive?”

Maybe some people might actually have a motive to kill Julia Roberts, but I am not one of them. I hold a special place in my heart for Julia Roberts. So special, in fact, that I am able to overlook such movies as Mary Reilly and Runaway Bride. I was downright obsessed with Julia in high school. I have seen Pretty Woman probably 200 times. When I first visited Los Angeles, I was staying with my friend Becky, who worked in Beverly Hills. I would go to work with her during the day just so I could walk around and find all of the places where Pretty Woman was filmed. (I can show you the Regent Beverly Wilshire, and even the store where she served the mean saleslady a taste of her own medicine.) I have also managed to find the apartment she was staying in with Kit. Yeah. I’m that person.

And even more confusing, I would certainly never want to harm Angelina Jolie. That obsession started well into adulthood, and while I have kept it bay pretty well, I would turn into a 12 year old if I ran into on the street (for the third time). I won’t go in to the intricacies of my everlasting love for Angelina because I have been told more than once it is trite and common, but I’m just saying I have no ill will towards her.

Why then would valuable dream time be taken up by these murderous visions? As I thought more about this, I realized that this might actually officially be a recurring dream theme. Gina and I were just discussing recurring dreams, and I realized I don’t have any, save for the occasional dream where a plane crashes, dreams which (not surprisingly) started after 9/11. But after this movie star murder dream, I realized I have had quite a few dreams where I have killed or have been directly involved in killing someone.

The dreams always begin after I have committed the crime, never before or during, and I am overwhelmed by a crushing sense of regret and doom, and a tangible disgust in what I have done. There is never even a remote possibility in the dreams that I will get away with my crime, but it’s not the punishment that scares me. It’s the disappointment I know I will face from everyone I love, and the disappointment in myself that I so clearly lost control. And even in the haze of my nightmare, I am suffocated by the desire to go back in time, to undo what I’ve done. Even though it’s a dream world, where anything can happen, I am never able to fix the situation. I’m never able to bring the person back to life – I never get a second chance. The best thing that happens is that I wake up whimpering, then terrified, until that warm relief of consciousness washes over me.

I’m not sure what any of this means. I only hope the next dream I have about either one of these women involves much less gun violence and more naked cuddling.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Giovanni

Gina's brother, sister-in-law, and nephew came to visit us from Holland a few weeks ago. It was great to see them - but it went by really quickly.

Here's my favorite shot from the trip, at Venice Beach.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bigger and better.

I quite literally have no excuse to not be posting more. Seriously. So much stuff has happened in the past six months. I want to devote one post to each of them, but they've all happened in the past. I could blog about a few things that happened more recently but I don't have any pictures to accompany. However, I was able to find one picture online that sort of illustrates something that happened recently.



This isn't quite accurate, because the Saturn Vue that I purchased is black. But I do indeed own (am leasing) one of these puppies, and boy howdy do I love it. I love the V6, I love the leather seats, the bluetooth, the remote start, the universal remote, the cargo cover, the cargo net, the FOUR DOORS, the roof rack... sigh. I love it. Love love love.

Yes, I have increased my carbon footprint. But I recycle! I take re-usable bags to the grocery store! I (sometimes) shop at farmer's markets! I vote Democrat!

Okay, okay. I'll buy a hybrid next time. Sheesh.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Making promises I can't keep, and What's in a name?

I promised myself I'd pay more attention to this space. And look, a whole March without a post.

A lot of things keep happening and changing, but there are two changes that happened a long time ago and I keep meaning to update you. First and foremost, my sister Jackie moved in with us January 23rd. She had a rough first few weeks, but then she got a job and realized how cool it is to make good money and live somewhere where it's 80 degrees in February, and she started to love it.

The day after Jackie arrived, I found a small white dog wandering around on our street. He had a nylon rope around his neck, and was filthy and matted. He came to me without much fight, so I brought him upstairs, bathed him and gave him a squirt of Advantage, intending to call Animal Control. Instead, he slept over, and then we took him to the vet, where we found out he was chipped! Yay! we called the owner and left a message... twice. No response. His skin was infected from a flea infestation - he constantly was scratching at himself. We figured we'd find a new home for him, but it's been over two months and he's made himself a part of our family.



When I first found him, I was calling him Boy Dog. I didn't want to name him because I thought if we named him, we'd get really attached to him and we'd have to give him away. Giving him away would be no easy feat to begin with - he's older, lazy, and as sweet and cuddly as he is, he is not completely housebroken. (I won't go into detail about how we got the carpets cleaned a week before we found this dog, and now... well, you can imagine.) Anyway, once we decided we were keeping him, we started to try to think of a name for him. We went through everything from Barkley to Spot, but just last week we thought of Uncle Traveling Matt (think Fraggle Rock). So now, he's Uncle Traveling Matt, or Traveling Matt, or Uncle Matt, or just Matt... but mostly, he's still Boy Dog.



At this point, there's no way we could ever give him away. Noodle would never forgive us.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A day at the beach.

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Notes from Roatan

I wrote this while I was in Roatan last fall:

17 November 2007

I’ve been in Honduras for a week for work; specifically, Roatan, which is part of the Bay Islands of Honduras. I assume this is where most of the tourists come when they come to Honduras. We never got to the mainland, which I believe is 30 miles southwest.

It’s no secret to any of my friends that I’m sick of traveling. When people hear about my job, they marvel at how fantastic it sounds, and I admit, it is a great job. I’m lucky to be able to see all of these places that I would have probably never seen otherwise. I had never been out of the country before I took this job – now I’ve been to five different countries, which I know isn’t a lot, but in one year, that’s an accomplishment. And I’ve gone for free to each and every one… and have gotten paid to be there, have been issued per diem for each country so that I basically don’t have to spend any of my own money if I don’t want to. So yes, that part of it is cool. But I miss gina, I miss Noodle, and I miss my friends. Some of my friends, my closest friends, people that I like to call my best friends, I haven’t seen them in months. My life really is on hold until I’m done with this job.

I’m digressing. I wanted to talk about Roatan. I was nervous about coming here. It’s a developing country, and the Travel Clinic pumped me full of inoculations before I left: typhoid, Hepatitis A, and a tetanus shot just for safety. I also am taking malaria pills. I was told not to drink the water, to even avoid drinking anything with ice in it. I was also told to avoid anything not cooked: salads, raw vegetables, etc. There was even a warning about drinking from bottles – Honduras recycles their bottles by rinsing them out and using them again. It’s not at all uncommon to ask for a Coke and get a bottle with a rusty top, or ask for a Port Royal (local beer) and get a bottle with a paper towel wrapped around the top so that you could wipe the bottle off before you drink it. On top of this, everything I read said to not even brush your teeth with the water that comes out of the faucet. They also suggested you not buy local bottled water – internationally bottled water is best, because you can more guarantee that it’s been purified. And when we got here, Mike my camera guy told me to keep my mouth closed in the shower, which at first I thought, uh… why would I have my mouth open in the shower? And then I took a shower, and realized it’s kind of hard to shower with your mouth totally closed the whole time.

We landed on a runway similar to a domestic airport I’ve been to that I can’t remember now, but we were over water until the very last second. You didn’t see land until the wheels hit it, and the pilot slammed on the brakes. I’ve never experienced a plane slow down so quickly. Our production assistant Omar was waiting for us. Omar was born in Honduras, he’s middle aged with friendly eyes and a boyish smile. He reminds me of my Uncle Mark. He helped us load the van and we were off to the hotel.

We’re staying at a little resort owned and operated by an American couple. It's a nice place, but it's more "beachside cabin" than it is "beachside resort." We each got our own little cabin, and I can see the water from my front door; it’s about a 30 second walk to the water’s edge. There’s a hammock on every front porch. It’s a very relaxing place, except for all of the mosquitoes and sand fleas. They give you an empty bucket and encourage you to fill it with water so that you can rinse your feet off before you go into your cabin so that you don’t bring the sand fleas in with you. They also leave two towels on your bed so that you always have something to wipe your feet off so that the bugs don’t get into bed with you. My pillowcases smelled a little musty the first few days, but as soon as I told the staff about it, they replaced my sheets with fresh-smelling ones. Overall, the beds are pretty comfortable.

View from my room.
View from my room.

View from my porch.
View from my porch.

From the beach bar.
From the hotel bar.

Technology is spotty. The internet did not work for the first three days, then it worked very well for three days, and now is not working again. There are no phones in the rooms. Oddly, there are televisions with pretty decent cable, but the furnishings in the cabin are wicker and do not make for comfortable sitting to view TV. The cell phone my company issued me sometimes would dial out, and sometimes it wouldn’t. Some numbers it would let me dial no problem – others, not so much. Needless to say, I felt very disconnected.

We were told when we got here that it had been raining for a week, and the forecast was calling for more rain. The road leading to our hotel, which is between a quarter mile and a half mile long, coming from the main road, was totally flooded.

Road leading to hotel
Road leading to our hotel.

Omar slowly navigated his van down this road every day we were here; some days it was in three inches of water, some days almost a foot. After the first few days of rain, we started to see ducks swimming around on the road and in the adjacent flooded lot. There is a little house on stilts right before our hotel. The land surrounding the house has been completely flooded since we got here. Yesterday I saw someone on the porch of the house washing clothes in a washtub with a washboard, and hanging them up to dry. I wonder if they left their house all week… you couldn’t pay me to walk through that water.

The roads really have no names; they’re referred to by where they lead. “Meet me at the corner of Flowers Bay and West End.” Those are two neighborhoods probably 7 kilometers apart, but the roads in and out of them do meet at some point.

I feel incredibly spoiled and out of place here. A lot of the houses are in such a bad state of disrepair, crumbling under their own weight. All week I’ve seen children, ranging from five to fifteen, walking around trying to sell stuff to tourists, and I wonder what their childhood is really like. I saw a three or four year old little girl playing at the end of a very long driveway or private road, all by herself, right alongside the traffic. I saw a brother and a sister, probably six and four, alongside the road in another place, clearly far from anyone’s house, looking around in the grass. Kids walking barefoot over gravel, not wincing at all. And men riding in trucks on their way to work – pick up trucks, with one guy driving and six to ten men in the bed of the truck. I made a comment to Omar about how dangerous that is and how it’s illegal in the states, and he said, “It’s illegal here, but it’s not really enforced. These people have no other way to get to work – it’s either this or a cab, and they can’t afford a cab.”

And my god, the dogs. There are stray dogs everywhere. It was similar in Curacao, but I just spent more time here and I can’t believe how many dogs are roaming around. When we arrived, there were two little puppies on the porch next to mine. Their mom had given birth to six, and four of them died in the flood that happened before we arrived. These two were left, and mom was roaming around somewhere, apparently forgetful that she had just given birth. The puppies couldn’t even walk yet – their eyes weren’t open. They scooted around and cuddled with each other on a towel. And all over the island, there are dogs that are left to fend for themselves. I know dogs are animals and usually they have no trouble fending for themselves, but on an island where some humans have a hard time buying food, you better believe that the dogs are having a hard time finding the food. Skinny, ribs-poking-through-their-sides dogs. I saw one puppy, probably six months old, following around it’s mama. Both dogs so painfully skinny, but the puppy could barely walk because he was so undernourished. I think of my dog at home who gets treats all day and has a full dish of food whenever she wants it next to a bowl of filtered water, is treated every month so that she doesn’t get fleas, has probably six toys, an endless supply of rawhide bones, and sleeps in bed with us every single night under the covers. I think of how she would manage, out on her own here, and I get sick to my stomach. If I’m ever wealthy, I want to start an organization that comes to islands and offers money to the locals to bring the dogs to get spayed or neutered, and possibly education on taking care of dogs.

Hotel pooch.
A pooch that hung around our hotel. We called him Chief.

Puppies.
Abandoned puppies, napping on the porch next to my cottage.

Local pooch
Local pooch with collar.

There are several paved roads that run through the island, but a lot of roads are just left to the elements and are muddy and almost impassable. Omar lost his spare tire on two separate occasions in muddy, waterlogged sections of roads. Other roads are just so bumpy, it’s like you’re on a ride at an amusement park trying to cross them – think the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.

West End road
West End Road - West End is the touristy nightlife spot.

Our PA.
Our PA tries to find the strongest spot of the road where his van will pass safely.

I learned that it’s not just the tourists that are advised to not drink the water. No one drinks the water out of the tap. I mean, I say that LA tap water is dirty, but I can drink it if I need to. I can brush my teeth with it. I learned that it’s easy to find a guy to do construction on your house all day for $10 a day.

I enjoyed my hammock one day for an hour and by the time I came back inside, I had nine mosquito bites on my elbow alone. My arms and legs are currently covered with angry little welts that itch all the time.

Hammock.

***

There's no real ending to this, which is why I never posted it. I didn't get malaria, and I ended up having a great time. I guess the ending would be that despite everything I said, I would totally go back. How can you ignore these sunsets?

Sunset West Bay beach.

Sunset in Roatan.

Sunset in Roatan.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No Country for Old Men

When I tell people I travel for work, most people say, “You’re so lucky, that’s so fantastic!” What people don’t understand is how lonely it really can be. You’re at the airport by yourself, you’re at the hotel by yourself, you’re driving by yourself, etc., etc. I finally found something that breaks up my trips nicely. I’ve taken to going to the movies while I’m out of town. I’ll go to Yahoo! Movies, type in the zip code of my hotel, and figure out what’s playing where. I’ll pick my movies based on a few things: what will I NOT see at home? What movies are playing that Gina might not want to see? What am I willing to see by myself?

This past Oscar weekend found me in Seattle. I was originally excited to go to Seattle because I have a great friend who lives up there. When I told her my travel plans, she regretfully told me she was heading to San Francisco the same weekend. Sigh. Anyway, as it was Oscar weekend, and I had only seen one Oscar film, I told myself I’d go see “No Country for Old Men,” since it seemed to be the favorite to win. I did have some concern that maybe this wasn’t a movie I should be seeing by myself, but I put the concern aside and went to the Pacific Place AMC in downtown Seattle and took in a 7:10 show.

I had heard/read so many great things about this movie, I would be lying if I said my hopes weren’t high. I also have enjoyed the Coen Brothers’ offerings through the years, with the exception of “O Brother Whereart Thou,” and even that movie was not a movie I hated, but rather a movie that I felt was overrated.

Possible Spoiler warning

The movie has three main characters: Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin; Anton Chigur, played by Javier Bardem; and Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Ed Tom Bell is the weatherworn sheriff of the small Texas town, Llewelyn is the typical lower-class huntin’ Texan, and Anton Chigur is the local devil incarnate. The movie spends a whole lot of time following Llewelyn and Anton on the most terrifying cat and mouse game ever, one where the mouse has a suitcase full of 2 million dollars, and the cat has a compressed-air cattle gun that he’s not afraid to use… on people. On the fringes and peppered throughout is Ed Tom Bell commenting on life, sheriffhood, and getting old. The movie is beautifully shot, and brilliantly directed. The way the Coen Brothers handle suspense is Hitchockian at its worst and unparalleled at its best.

Here’s the problem with this movie, and this is where the spoiler will come in. This movie is not about the cat and mouse game. This movie is about Ed Tom Bell getting older and being disappointed in life, but being totally unafraid of what’s next. The meatiest scences, to me, were the scenes where Ed Tom was expounding on the times already gone. I mean, the movie is called “No Country for Old Men.” “Old Men” is Ed Tom Bell. It’s not Anton Chigur or Llewelyn Moss. And to me, the problem was that the Coens didn’t want to decide what kind of movie they were making, and it’s almost like they fleshed out the two ancillary stories instead of the one that really matters. And what irks me even more is I feel like they did this because they could, because they are the Coens, and they will do as they please, thank you very much. This was confirmed by the way Tall Coen reacted to getting the award. Sure his words made him seem thankful, but his manner was so unimpressed with the whole thing. And I know they’re not Hollywood, but they just had the better part of 6500 of their peers tell them that they’re movie was the best movie they had seen all year. You cut out the red carpet, the cameras, the glamour, the tuxes, the designers, the jewelry, and even the golden statue, that’s still a pretty big deal. Tall Coen said that when he and Short Coen were younger, they used to make little movies on their own about whatever they wanted, and it feels like they still do that, and they’re grateful for that opportunity. It’s true – they just make whatever movie they want, and it doesn’t matter that you don’t see when one of the main characters gets killed, or one minute you see the bad guy behind the door and the next second he’s nowhere to be found. It doesn’t matter that you’re telling the wrong story in the movie – it doesn’t matter because you’re the COENS. You can do whatever you want.

Having said all of that, I liked the movie overall, I just didn’t think it was anywhere close to the best movie of the year. I’m not purporting to know what the hell I’m talking about, but as a moviegoer and someone who appreciates character driven movies, this movie disappointed me. The Ed Tom Bell storyline was great, and I wanted more of it… I’m curious to find out what story the book tells.

In case you’re wondering, I wanted Juno to win. Yes, it was the only other film I saw, but I loved every minute of it, and can’t think of a better movie I saw all year. Next order of business: join Producer’s Guild so that I don’t have to leave my house to see movies next awards season.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Slowly but surely.

I've been thinking a lot about this blog lately. I know it's hard to tell that, from my crazy lack of posting, but it's on my mind a lot.

The thing is, there are several things happening in my life right now that I can't really share in this space, and these things are kind of big, so it's hard to find other things to talk about. Everything else seems... well, trivial. But I'm starting to think that I'm using this as an easy way out of a commitment I made to no one but myself, and that's to write in this space as much as I can, to keep my mind working and moving in a creative direction. And truthfully, there is no one that wants this updated more than I do. Therefore, I am going to make an effort to start posting with some sort of regularity again... if for no other reason than to satisfy myself.

No promises, everybody... but hopefully you'll hear from me just a little more often from here on out.

It already feels good to be back.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Noodle and Rogue

At Christmas, we finally got to meet my sister Jessie's dog, Rogue, a 30 pound four month old Great Dane Boxer mix.