Friday, March 26, 2010


"Master of the Flugelhorn!"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ode To Crazy Uncle Joe

Okay, everyone at this point knows about the "Big F'ing Deal", right? Well I'm here to say that Mr. Biden, you are awesome. You remind us that none of us is perfect, we all say stupid things sometimes, and it's important that we laugh at ourselves and move on.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Will The Health Care Bill Affect You?

Check out this handy device from the Washington Post to see how.

I'm pretty happy to see that if I chose to sign back up with my employer, that my premiums, deductible, and co-pays would all be lower than they would be now....and they'd have to accept me back, TMJ and all.

The Past Few Weeks in Pictures

A few weeks ago, we were lucky to have a return visitor. We hosted Nozomi, from Japan, last year for three weeks when she was here on a sponsored visit to Arkansas through her university. We've hosted for this program for the past few years and always enjoyed it, but we just had a special connection with Nozomi. She was so much fun and adventurous and independent. She had the opportunity to come back to the States this spring. She did a short internship at an elementary school in Michigan and then visited a few cities and returned to Fayetteville to see her friends, including us, from last year. It was really great getting to see her again and I hope one day we can visit her and her family in Hiroshima, her hometown.

Here she is with Stella at a dinner theater performance by Stella's G/T class. Stella was a server for the dinner portion. I could really get used to having her serve me! Such cute smiles.
Last week I met a friend for lunch over at the Student Union here on campus. After lunch we went to the coffee shop and were surprised to see this sign at the register. It begs so many questions - why only espresso? Do they check IDs? Was there a problem that led to this? Unfortunately the woman working was no help and I'm left to ponder these things at 3:30am.

Last Friday (March 19) was gorgeous and sunny and I even got the beginnings of a sunburn while soaking up the rays and delicious 70 degree weather. Saturday morning we woke to rain, which quickly transitioned to sleet and then snow. And it kept coming. Sunday morning looked like this:
I think we got at LEAST 10 inches (how can one control oneself from NOT making "that's what he/she said" jokes? I need help).
This is the most snow we've had in several years. On the first day of Spring!
We all went a little stir crazy. Especially these guys:
Rocket baits Chicklet. She sits there calmly as he twists himself all around and then BAM! She goes in for the kill. It was more entertaining than health care talking heads.

Monday, March 22, 2010

More HCR Thoughts

Okay, so I spent some time reading tweets (gag) with the #hcr hashtag (double gag) today and noticed that those opposed kept linking to two things over and over - a CNN poll that stated that 59% percent of Americans are opposed to the health care bill. Now, I can't find a single link to that poll that isn't from a conservative blog or website. It doesn't even appear as a link, only a .pdf. I don't even know if this poll is legit. How can that be?! Perhaps because, if they read the text of the poll they'd see that of that 59%, 13% said it was because the bill wasn't liberal enough? This is the big problem I have with statistics that people flash around and don't take the time to research. The other link I see over and over is to this poorly-written and obviously partisan article called "20 Ways ObamaCare Will Take Away Our Freedoms." Nice title, eh? The text of it is so full of misleading facts and mean-spirited phrases ("Your employers' slacker children" comes to mind) that it hurts my brain, and my bleeding heart.

I don't even want to link to the article and add to its pageloads. You can search for it and find it easily if you want. After a few hours of reading what The Other Side has to say about things I feel that I can securely state that I am on the right side here. I'm on the side of compassion and empathy and doing what should be done, because it can be done. Do I wish we could all just hold hands and sing a song and become friends again? Fuck, no. I'm angry. I'm sick and tired of name calling and fear mongering and meanness.

Morning After Thoughts

A big aspect of my job that I'm very grateful for is how it allows me to see my culture through outsiders' eyes. I'm always answering the funniest and oddest questions that I'd never think to ask because it's such a part of my everyday life. One thing our international students were never able to understand was our health care system. It's not hard to see why...hell, I barely understand it. What I did understand was that insurance companies got richer and richer, more and more people were denied coverage, prices got higher and higher....and I felt like the entire system was destined for imminent implosion.

How many more times could I bitch about my own miserable health insurance (that I've since dropped, finding it more of a cost than I could handle, thereby probably making my co-workers' premiums higher in the long run), or worry about friends who couldn't afford to see doctors, or attend yet another benefit for the medical expenses for some artist, musician, underemployed friend, or child who couldn't NOT receive care?

I do not think this House Bill is the Holy Grail, or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or a panacea, by any means. I do think it is a start. And I'll take it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Are we supposed to feel sorry for this girl through the whole movie? Because she's riding in the back of a chauferred car? She needs to just take an Abilify!"

D.'s review of The Devil Wears Prada and on his second Appletini.

It's snowing. On the first day of Spring. Now I'm watching The Devil Wears Prada and D. is playing the guitar solo from Hotel California. I am not shitting you.
On what planet is Natasha Richardson the annoying 2nd fiddle and Jennifer Lopez is the desired one? Yes, I might be watching Maid in Manhattan. Oh god. Save me from myself.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Who's Henry Thomas?"

I can't believe I almost forgot to tell you this story.

A few weeks ago I took my students on our regular trip to Little Rock. I brought Stella with me this time, thinking that we'd enjoy the time together and she'd learn a few things. Friday night we went to dinner, joined by my childhood friend Faith. We had dinner at Flying Fish, a restaurant where you order at the counter, wait for a seat to open up, and hope that you're seated before your food comes out. We were sitting waiting for our food when Faith noticed a man standing by himself, waiting for a table to become available. "Look at that guy, Alannah," She said, "I think we grew up with him. I think he was in your grade. What was his name?....I think it started with a Ch, but it's not Chad." I did that thing where you have to turn around completely but can't look like you're staring so you casually look over your shoulder, like you're just oh...scanning the restaurant. He did look really familiar but I was fairly sure he wasn't from Eureka. If I had graduated from Eureka Springs High School after all, I think our graduating class had something like 35 people in it so I was pretty sure I'd know if he was my age.

"No," Faith said, "You know who I think it is? I think he looks exactly like that guy who was in E.T.!" At this point Stella became very involved in the conversation. She turned around a few times to look at him. She thought he might've been Henry Thomas too. Eventually he was the table directly next to us, allowing much less obvious staring and discussion. Stella dared me to talk to him and ask if he was "that guy from E.T." but I didn't want to bother him. Stella then called me a wienie, and said that in a game of Truth or Dare I'd probably always pick Truth. At this point the discussion became so animated that I was sure he could hear every word. Stella pulls out my phone and insists I do a Google image search of him. They were looked exactly like him. So, as we get up to leave the restaurant I (to had to prove to my teenage daughter that I CAN accept a dare) discreetly went over to him and said, "I'm so sorry to disturb you, but my daughter insists that you're Henry Thomas." He looks at Stella and said, "Well, your daughter is right." She smiled triumphantly and we thought we could just leave him to eat his fish in peace. We were wrong. The large, boisterous, drunk table behind us were listening in on our conversation and the women from the table IMMEDIATELY jumped up and ran over to him, asking for photos and autographs. "That's Henry Thomas!" one of them screamed. "Who's Henry Thomas?" her drunk companion asked. Meanwhile all the other diners in the restaurant are beckoning to us, asking who this guy is, what the fuss is over, etc, etc. I was mortified. I went back over to him and apologized profusely and then we hustled out of there.

Stella was still so excited over her brush with celebrity. Faith and I laughed and laughed over thinking he was someone we grew up with. "Well," She said, "We DID grow up with him, in a way." He looks just like...a grown up Elliot.

The cool part? It spurred us to research why he would be in Arkansas. Apparently he's playing Hank Williams Sr. in a biopic.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Pictures Of The Week

I'm a grammar nerd who gets a big kick out of The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. I've been reading it for a few years and now I think my eyes are trained to notice them more than ever. Yesterday I was getting gas and noticed this lovely sign. Err, "notice." So is it really a notice, or just a sarcastic reference? And really, this is just a smörgåsbord of punctuation marks, wouldn't you say?
In other news, I've been on a big internal Spring Cleaning. And no, that wasn't a reference to the parasite cleanse (now over and nothing exciting to report. Sorry, Kelly). I'm getting my ass in GEAR! I've been cooking and eating much healthier and making a point to exercise at least a few times a week. My friend Pearl and I go walking together when we can. Last Friday we walked up and around the big hill behind her house and then got down to the fun part: drinking wine and playing with her new puppy, Captain.
Lucy is so sweet and gentle with puppies. She should have been a mama. Here she and Captain are, looking adorable sticking out their tongues.
And a sweet kiss. Notice sneaky Millie in the background.

And dogs aren't the only animals killing me with cuteness. Rocket (who we're pretty sure is autistic, but that's for another post. Sheesh) stretched out on the bed Saturday afternoon. I had briskly walked four miles, had some sushi with my awesome friend Liz, and perused Target all before 1:00pm so when I came home and found this I couldn't resist a little nap.
I love, love, LOVE this snapped nap photo of D. and Rocket from a few weeks ago. Rocket will only allow D. to hold him this way. I'm blind with jealousy and knocked out by the overwhelming adorable-ness of this picture.

This has a long intro story. A few months ago when D. and I went to hear David Sedaris, I stood in line for over two hours afterward to get a book signed. I'd waited for him to sign my copy of Naked a few years ago and then loaned it out and forgot to whom. And I just had to have another signed book of his. The wait didn't bother me. I actually had a lot of fun, chatting away with my friend Jennifer and her daughter Greenley the whole time. D., however, couldn't deal so he decided to have a little solo pub crawl up and down Dickson St. while the line moved in incremental inches. He reappeared just in time to get the book signed, buzzed and bored. Turns out he'd discovered a new drink that he loved: the Appletini. Ever since then he wants that drink when we go out. I will probably never tire of bellying up to the bar and saying, "A whiskey on the rocks for me, and an Appletini for the gentleman." That's my lady-like boyfriend! Last weekend I got the ingredients to make them at home and I must say, they're deliciously simple to prepare at home - equal amounts vodka, apple schnapps, and apple juice shaken with ice and poured into a martini glass. We made drinks and appetizer snacks and stayed in Saturday night, enjoying the perks of being grown-ups.

Monday, March 08, 2010

New Addition!

No one was surprised when Christoph Waltz won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor last night. At one point over the holidays I meant to write about Inglorious Basterds but forgot or lost my mojo. Overall, I liked it but maybe I'm getting a little tired of QT's pattern of long, talky scenes punctuated by overly violent ones? His dialogue is still so very sharp, though, and in this film the dialogue worked to amp up the anxiety and sense of foreboding so intensely that I could barely sit still.

One thing I love about the film is that it introduced me to yet another Imaginary Boyfriend. He combines many of my favorite things (Germans, obvious intelligence, beards, a love for film, good sense of humor) in one pretty package. Once again I must link to his great interview with Charlie Rose. And then I found this little nugget. Christoph Waltz, you are fantastic, sir.

Friday, March 05, 2010

You Get Me In A Room Of High Class People...

I LOVE BILL WITHERS! I think it was my friend Jude who long ago turned me on to him. And I've been thanking her ever since.

I loooove this slowed-down but no less funky version of "Use Me," the sexiest song every about masochism.

And there was a phase, in the late '90s, where the only tool I had in combating depression and stress was listening to "Lovely Day" each morning. You can not have a bad day when it starts with that song.

If you're wondering what happened to him over the years, then you'll be as thrilled as I was to hear the story on NPR yesterday about the two filmmakers who followed him around for two years to make the documentary Still Bill.

Apparently the filmmakers will send you a copy of the movie if you agree to host a screening. Are there enough Bill Withers lovers in Northwest Arkansas to qualify for a screening? Because I really really want to see this. If you listen to that NPR story, you'll hear a snippet of Bill singing with his daughter. Based on that scene alone, the documentary will be awesome.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Proof That A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

Last night Rachel Maddow promised that we would get to see "the best graph ever." I didn't know what to expect, but I was still a little surprised when I saw how simple it looked....but understood what she meant. She later explained that after months of trying to explain how past tax cuts HURT our bottom line economy and this proposed one (health care reform) will HELP, it was a relief to see one graph that perfectly explained how.

And is the best graph ever (thank you to The Political Carnival for making it so easy to find):

PS - those numbers represent BILLIONS of dollars.

The first bar is the impact on the unified budget balance of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) of 2001. The second is the impact on the budget balance of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (JGTRRA) of 2003. The third bar is the CBO estimated impact on the deficit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act proposed in the Senate on November 19, for 2010-2019.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Writing About Film: Dancing About Architecture?

For a hardcore film lover like me, this is the very best time of year.  Not just because so many good movies are released and Oscar season gets people excited, but also partly because film criticism really gets the attention it deserves for a few short months.  There are millions of film reviews out there, but very few really good film critics.  My current favorite is Stephanie Zacharek for Salon.  

I don't remember when or how I first discovered Pauline Kael, but she definitely changed things for me.  In college I would hang out in the library reading her collected reviews instead of doing research.  No one could, but someone should at least try to fill her shoes.  Of course she was in the right place at the right time with the right skills.  To have her talent and to be writing during the very best decade for films:  the 1970s.  At least 65% of my all-time favorite films were made during that decade.  As a matter of fact, as I'm writing this, Tootsie is my background distraction.  If you're a crazy person who has not seen this movie yet, waste no time and see it immediately.  Dustin Hoffman will blow you away.  Not to mention so many other greats:  Jessica Lange, Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Sidney Pollack...I really could keep going down this rabbit hole and my mind is jumbled with so many other things I want to write about (Gene Hackman in The Conversation, the sharp focus and rich palette of the films from back then, New York vs. LA and nothing in between, etc).

But back to film critics...did anyone happen to catch Roger Ebert on Oprah today?  I had no idea what he'd been through the past few years.  He inspired me so much with his unfazed dedication to writing and his passion for movies, his wife, and living a full life.   Life is too short to not spend as much of it as possible doing what you love.  Carpe Diem, baby.  I'm working on some big changes and need inspiration from all sources.  

I've also been enjoying Charlie Rose's periodic features on this Oscar season's favorites.  He had a great interview with Christoph Waltz, whose performance in Inglourious Basterds was a chilling delight (although it makes me feel weird to say, given that he was playing "The Jew Hunter).  Everyone says he's the shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor and I can't wait to hear his acceptance speech; I just know it'll be a good one.  I love the whole spectacle of The Academy Awards, but really it's about seeing people rewarded for great work, and that's always fun.

The other shoe-in this year is apparently Jeff Bridges for Best Actor in Crazy Heart.  D. and I saw it a few weeks ago and I still can't stop thinking about Jeff Bridges' character, Bad Blake.  Yes, the story was pretty clichéd and employed just about every trope available in the Tortured Genius Seeks Redemption With A Good Woman After Hitting Rock Bottom genre, but his performance lifts the story out of the same old-same old.  It's hard to believe he's the same Jeff Bridges that was in one of my favorite films from the '70s, The Last Picture Show.  And, to really bring it around full-circle, read how freakily accurate and predictive Pauline Kael was when she wrote of him, "Sometimes, just on his own, Jeff Bridges is enough to make a picture worth seeing. . . . He may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor who ever lived; physically, it's as if he had spent his life in the occupation of each character. He's the most American--the loosest--of all the young actors. . . If he has a profile, we're not aware of it. . . . Jeff Bridges just moves into a role and lives in it--so deep in it that the little things seem to come straight from the character's soul." 


Remember when films had "love themes?"