Friday, June 30, 2006

Superman Returns

Sandy's movie #18: Superman Returns

Blame "Smallville" if you like, because I was not even excited to see this movie... until the opening credits. When John Williams's eighties-licious score kicked in, along with those whooshing 3-D titles, it was like I was four years old again, totally crushing on Superman! I was giddy.

But that didn't last long.

Don't get me wrong, Brandon Routh channeled Christopher Reeve admirably. Love the eyebrows. Meanwhile, buttless wonder Kate Bosworth channeled a whiny 16-year-old. Ugh. Double ugh. Couldn't they have found a grown-up to play this role? Then again, the character of Lois Lane is so implausibly foolhardy that she probably wouldn't be likable no matter what. Oh, and apparently in this iteration, she's a vegan? I guess the writers wanted to try and explain Buttless's resemblance to a bean sprout. In between bad hair days, Kevin Spacey chewed up the scenery-- we couldn't have expected more from him.

But even more criminal than Lex Luthor's brilliant criminal mind was the colossal waste of Kal Penn. I thought he would have a semi-juicy role (Jimi Olson, anyone?), but instead, he was a walk-on. Another brown villain with no lines. Tsk, tsk, Bryan Singer!

I think Christian Bale said it best when accepting his MTV Movie Award for Best Hero: "I'm sorry, Superman, but Batman, he's the bad-ass." Yup. Seems all Superman can do over the course of a film's trajectory is lift increasingly heavy objects and then gingerly set them alight. When you take the sun away, he's just a pretty-boy in an incredibly gay suit. With a Dairy Queen geri-curl. Still, a worthy crush for a four-year-old of any generation.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reading Vacation

Book #7 – A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean

Coming up with my Top 50 Movie List made me nostalgic, and when I want to feel nostalgic, I watch A River Runs Through It. So I figured it was time to read the book. The movie is a pretty faithful adaptation, with one noticeable exception. If you've seen the movie, you probably remember Norm as a pussy. A soft, writerly wimp whose younger brother clearly got all the cojones in the family. The real Norman Maclean seems to have been much gruffer and saltier than Craig Scheffer's version. In the other two stories contained in the book, he works a few summers in a logging camp, and then a few summers fighting fires in the mountains. These are not jobs for Whitman-spouting dreamers. Maclean's writing style sometimes gets a little damp, but he can also knock out a beautiful description of an entire vista in a few words.

Book #8 – You Shall Know Our Velocity, by Dave Eggers

Here's a synopsis: following the death of their best friend, two guys embark on a journey they hope will take them around the world. Doesn't that sound uplifting? It is in a way, but most of the novel is spent in the thoughts of the narrator, who can barely suppress his grief at what happened to his friend and himself, or his horror at the world around him, or his continuous disappointment in humanity and God. Fun stuff. Anyway, YSKOV was a very engaging read, though not as good as A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which was not quite).

I also started and finished this book in a day or two, which always leaves me somewhat discombobulated. Did the character have drinks on the deck of the ship, or did I? Did he almost run over a rabbit, or was that me? Does that happen to anyone else? Maya, when you watch the X-Files for hours at a time, do you ever start to feel like the characters exist in your world? (If this is a sign of insanity, please don't tell me.)

A Tourist in Morehead (heh heh) City, North Carolina

Cultural Event #11 – Fort Macon

Bud, Jim Sr. and I took a morning of our vacation to visit some of the tourist destinations in Morehead City. The first was Fort Macon, which is unique because it was built into the ground as a means of hiding its location from incoming ships. The problem with this plan is that it didn't take into account the ease with which the Union army would overtake it by land. Oh well. Too bad for the good ol' CSA. I will say that people in the South sure have more sympathy for the confederates than I'm used to. It was an interesting place though. The highlight was a copy of a letter that the C.O. at Macon (a confederate) wrote expressing his pleasure in declining the Union's offer to evacuate his post. It's all so civilized until people start getting blown up by cannons.

Cultural Event #12 – Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores

After the fort, I overcame my vomity feelings about fish long enough to make a pass through the brand new Aquarium. It was as cool and creepy as ever. I refrained from touching the rays or picking up the nasty crab things (like Jim Sr. did), but I did look at everything. Tiny icky octupus, big scary shark, little pretty angel fish. There was a sizeable freshwater section too, which reminded me of the DNR building at the State Fair. The highlight of this trip was Bud using one of those penny smashers for a souvenir with a big shark mouth on it, and then promptly dropping it and almost losing it down a crack in the patio.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cultural Event #15

Gay Pride Parade

Well, I went back to the Gay Pride Parade (it’s been at least 7 years). It was a rainy morning, but by the time afternoon rolled around, it was hot and sunny – see, God didn’t want the gays to have a rainy parade! Anyway, I went with Ryan and Kelly, and once again was astounded by the wide variety of gay people in this city, and surprised by the huge numbers of gay thugs. I don’t really know any gay thugs, and I don’t associate those two things together, so whenever I see one it’s an eye-opener to be sure.

Here are some photo highlights from the afternoon:

Some religious protestors, who were preaching on a nearby corner. Here you can see the line of police officers protecting them (a few drunk queers were getting riled up, throwing beer bottles, etc.) The crowd at one point was chanting at the bible whackers: “You’re gay! You’re gay!” That was pretty funny. Also, one woman yelled out, “I saw Mary’s tits!” I thought that was funny too.

The cleanup afterwards. All of a sudden cops all over the city are zipping around on these dune-buggy things. I don’t think they’re necessary… I think the cops just wanted some cool vehicles that would look great in a high-speed chase.

Ignore the gay gentleman in the foreground. Look past him, at the brightly-colored menorah.


Movie #32

The King

Well, let me just say that this movie left me disturbed, horrified, upset, hungry, and with a general sense of ickiness that I can’t quite shake. This is a must-see for any Gael Garcia fans, but be warned that you must be in a macabre mood first. I was extremely tense throughout the whole experience – this is one of those films where you keep thinking to yourself, “Oh no, oh please no… oh no…. oh no, don’t let this happen…” etc. And although a lot of it seemed unmotivated and implausible, well, that happens to be how most people in this country operate anyway. I’d also recommend this film to anyone interested in tragedies in general, or the role of religion in our society in particular. And for anyone who thought that William Hurt was too hammy in A History of Violence (you know who you are), this movie will totally redeem him in your eyes. His performance was incredibly nuanced and moving (especially in contrast to Gael’s character, who was really quite inscrutable).

That’s not to say that Gael did a bad job. Far from it… he nailed the Mexican-American accent, and does a great job as always. It’s not his fault that his character isn’t very fleshed-out (in fact, it’s pretty integral to the character). Anyway, suffice it to say that he was incredibly hot… practically heroin for my eyeballs. Oh, and I was hungry because there was a lot of food in this movie, and instead of letting it sit on the table while shooting in order to avoid continuity errors, the actors actually ate it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Rhythmic Delights

Sandy's cultural event #9: Kalabarathi School of Dance Presents "Rhythmic Delights"

This was a 20th Anniversary performance by Kalabarathi School of Dance, which according to the program is "one of most respected Indian Classical Dance studios in Portland." To which I ask, how many are there?? This was a really cool performance, though, partly because it was a joint venture with Portland Taiko. Now you might not think Taiko drumming and Bharatnatyam dance would complement each other, but they do!

Unfortunately it was 101 degrees on the day of this performance, and the venue was a high school auditorium. Many of the audience members probably felt right at home in the stifling heat, but I was dying. So we left at intermission (which, for the record, was 1 hour 45 minutes into the performance. Apparently Indian dance recitals follow the Bollywood philosophy of "more is more.")

Oh and by way, any aspirations I had of taking bharatanaytam lessons were dashed with this performance. The only white (or non-Indian) girl performing was 1) really fat and 2) playing the role of a man. Her costume looked like something Bam-Bam from the Flinstones should be wearing. No, I think this is an art better learned from early childhood. Maybe in my next life.

Sausaji Festo

Sandys' movie #17: Tokyo Drift

Justin Lin did a commendable job with this testosterone-soaked summer flick, with one exception: the casting of blindingly ugly caveman Lucas Black. In one scene (set in a sento or public bath) he was dressed only in a towel and I had to literally avert my eyes. Bleccch! If anything his hideousness was an interesting counterpoint to the of-Asian-descent hotties. Almost outshining Sung Kang was Brian Tee as D.K., whom you might recognize from the laundry list of mediocre TV shows he's been in (thanks, imdb.) I like that guy's stinkeye.

As for its depiction of teenaged wildlife in Tokyo... not bad. The apartment ol' Ugly shared with his pop was realistically small, cramped and cluttered. The high school scenes rang true... except for the presence of a cafeteria, of which there are none (students eat in their classrooms.) And those "hills" above Tokyo? Nope. I'm 98% sure those scenes were shot in California. One would have to drive about 3 hours west to reach anything remotely resembling that.

Overall I think this was a score for Justin Lin, which he certainly needed after Annapolis. Yay. Let's hope he puts Sung Kang in all his movies!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cultural Event #14

Barbara Morgenstern at Sonotheque

I’ve seen Barbara Morgenstern before in Chicago, years ago, back when she was doing noise. It was fun, and even though she was spinning pure noise (i.e. non-rhythmic noise), she was dressed like a hippy and seemed really cheerful.

This time around she was back in cheery Euro-pop mode. The music from her new album was really good, and I bought it. Unfortunately the place was crammed chock-full of hipsters. That would be the kind of hipsters who show up on ‘Blue States Lose’ every week on Gawker. Well, not quite that bad, but you get the general idea. Kelly said she’s never seen so many terrible haircuts in her life, and there were a few people who looked like they were special ed kids on a field trip who snuck off the short bus. It was like Revenge of the Nerds. And the women weren’t much better… lots of short shorts paired with pumps. Huh? Whatever.

So the music was great, Barbara Morgenstern was super-friendly and open, and we spotted a crabby old couple in the corner who must have been her parents, on tour with her from Berlin… which is pretty cool… they were definitely not enjoying themselves though. I’m going to play her new disc at my martini party, for sure. It’s infectious and fun, but with that Euro edge that prevents it from being sappy electro-shit.

On a tangent - this was the first show I’ve been to where I longed for the smoking ban to kick in. I don’t mind the occasional waft of cigarette smoke, and used to crave drags (although not for quite some time). But tonight my bronchioles inflamed to their maximum level, my eyes were burning, I couldn’t see or breathe… it was terrible. There was no ventilation whatsoever, and I actually left before the show was over, missing the last few songs, just to get some fresh air. The cigarette smoke was really gross and horrible. Like I said, I don’t mind so much, if there’s VENTILATION. That’s really important. It triggered an allergy attack which I still am enjoying an hour later. Yay!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Action Movies, Part Three

Movies 6 & 7: Mission Impossible 3, X-Men 3

OK, that picture is probably overstating things, because I did enjoy myself while watching both of these. But in retrospect, they seem kind of gross. I barely remember MI3, so I'll just pick a bone with Brett Fatner. If you have the wonderful Ian McKellan and the awesome Patrick Stewart at your disposal, please refrain from making them utter so much ridiculous bullshit. Save that for Famke Janssen and James Marsden. One example, from a battle scene: Ian McKellan stops one of his righthand men from rushing into the fray and says, "In chess, the pawns go first." OK, fine. That's pretty subtle for a comic book movie, actually. But, alas, we can't stop there. After several of these muties get killed, Magneto turns to his pal and says, "That's why the pawns go first." No, really. I got it the first time. THANKS. Poor Ian.

I feel like I've had a greasy burger and fries and about three Mich Goldens, and now I just really need a fruit salad and some mineral water. Does that sound very blue state? Anyway, I hope to see A Prairie Home Companion and An Inconvenient Truth very soon to push away all thoughts of Crazy Tom Cruise and Brett "Smells Like a" Ratner.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Movie #31

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

OK, I went to see Justin Lin’s Gay-for-Pay Hollywood film on its opening weekend. I’d like to think that there was some sort of racial subplot that was completely lost on the cutting-room floor. I suspect that there was, there are snippets of themes that are completely lost later. Let’s face it, Lin didn’t have a lot of control over the final product; at least I hope he didn’t.

It wasn’t all bad. A lot of the scenes are really exhilarating, especially the big car chase through crowded downtown Tokyo. Sung Kang has a really big part, and even though it’s pretty lame, it was just nice to see him have a really big part in a Hollywood film. The setting was great, of course… The critique of how this movie compares to actual life in Tokyo is Sandy’s job, however.

As a feminist, I was bothered by the role of women in this movie. It basically took the booty-shaking girl in hip-hop videos to the extreme (even though none of the girls had any booty to speak of). I learned that the skirts I wear are nowhere as short as they should be. I mean, EVERY girl in the movie looked like she got her outfit at Bai Ling’s rummage sale. I swear I saw one girl’s pubis symphysis. Yeah, the male roles were pretty much just as vapid and empty… but no, not really. This portrayal of women lately is a real problem, I’m serious about that. It almost makes me want to drop the Asian-American film baton and pick up the Feminist film baton.

As for the dudes… Some of these guys were pretty smokin’…. No, I’m not talking about the ostensible lead of the movie, Mr. Whitey Snaggletooth. The film does a good job of sexualizing Asian men… but anyone who watches Hong Kong or Japanese film will not be surprised that this is possible. Anyway, the highlight of the film was when my friend Ryan leaned over and whispered, “The second one was better.” Yes, he’s seen all three installments of The Fast and The Furious. Oh, and I got to see the Miami Vice trailer again, which I’m not ashamed to admit looks like the highlight of Hollywood Summer for me.


Sandy's book #10: Nana (vol. 1,2,3) by Ai Yazawa

Do manga count as books? I'm counting three volumes as one book here, in case you're skeptical.

Nana Komatsu is a boy-crazy girlie girl intent on following her boyfriend to Tokyo. Nana Osaki is a rough-around-the-edges rocker trying to mend her broken heart by running away to Tokyo. On a crowded train, the two women meet by chance, sparking an unlikely friendship...

I saw the trailer for the live-action movie adaptation of Nana last summer in Tokyo, not knowing it was already an extremely popular chick-lit manga series. In case you didn't know, manga for women is a huge market in Japan, and perhaps it's finally starting to catch on here in the U.S.? Granted, sometimes I just REALLY wanna ogle pictures of doe-eyed, extremely busty cartoon girls with shaved nether regions!-- then I reach for the traditional manga!! But if I feel like an actually story, then I prefer this more realistic, dare I say "wholesome" sub-genre. Maybe you will too. The characters have awesome clothes.

I went to Powell's yesterday and bought up all the volumes in Japanese, too. I figure I can learn some new vocab by comparing the pages of my English version. It's proving to be quite time-consuming, however.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Cultural Event #13

Brazil vs. Australia, at Bar Mitad del Mundo

So I watched a soccer game at a bar. It was pretty fun. They jammed in at least twice as many people as the fire code allowed (at least that’s what I suspect). There was no A/C and it was really, really hot and sweaty. The excitement of the crowd was infectious though, and I had to cheer along when Brazil scored their two goals. Australia got no points. There were only two Australian people in the entire bar, and we were crammed in the back corner with them. I thought they were pretty good sports, to go watch a game in a bar filled with the opposing team’s supporters, knowing full well their team was going to get creamed anyway. Chicago Samba was there, and they played music whenever anything exciting happened. And I had two drinks before noon. But I stopped drinking there, and we got some Indian food, so I won’t have another unfortunate episode. An interesting way to spend a Sunday morning, for sure.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Celebrity Crush Sighting

Sandy's cultural event #8 (#7 was wine country)
Anthony Bourdain lecture and book signing

This was one of my favorite "cultural events" EVER. Of my whole life. Other than that Bowie concert in 2002, this was the only time I've seen a celebrity crush in person. (Jason Schwartzman doesn't count because that wasn't a prolonged crush, just a brief fascination.) And like David Bowie, Tony Bourdain is even better in the flesh!! (Sorry our camera sucks so hard and you can't really tell how hot he is.)

I insisted on showing up two hours early to the Heathman Hotel, which meant 4:30 for a 6:30 appearance. Go figure that even though the hotel was expecting 600 fans to show up, they didn't schedule the event in an actual banquet/meeting room, but in the "tea court," which is a modest-sized dining room with a smattering of upholstered chairs facing every-which-way and a bunch of thick, wooden beams with view-blocking potential. No stage. No additional chairs. No common sense.

After sitting in the bar for about a half-hour twiddling our thumbs and observing all the other Tony fans (including a mid-forties female who was braless... wonder who she's trying to impress?), Marc suggested I go see if they were allowing people into the tea court yet. Apparently they had been for some time! I spotted the last two available chairs-- way over in a corner-- and asked the stately-looking couple sitting at the table if I could sit down. They obliged. The four of us ended up hitting it off swimmingly, downing quite a few Gin and Tonics, and doing Larry David impressions while waiting for the lecture to begin. (Maya, they remind me a lot of your parents. I think we're having dinner with them next week.)

As we sat sucking back our cocktails, the tea court began to fill waaaay past fire code capacity. A crowd hovered on the 2nd floor above us, people sat on the stairwell, and we had no idea when/where Tony might appear. Then, out of the din, a roar of applause. I jumped to my feet to see Tony directly in front of me, holding court on the stairwell. If it weren't for the 6'4" imbecile sidling up to me to block my view every 3 minutes, I would've had the perfect vantage point from which to ogle the T-man. And wouldn't you know it, the imbecile also had B.O.

No matter. Tony was charming, gracious, witty... everything you'd expect him to be. Once the hotel finally cut the ambient pan flute music, he read a selection from his new book wherein he totally dissed gastro-pubs, and then opened the floor for questions. He was awesome. When asked what rock star, living or dead, he'd like to cook for, Tony replied, "Keith Richards... he's a little bit of both isn't he?" and then laughed delightedly at his own funny. The man can think on his feet. When asked whether he came to Portland for the microbrews, he said "You know, what's wrong with a Guinness or Heineken? They got it right years ago. Plus, I don't trust hippies to make my beer." Hippie-bashing has never been sexier.

Our lucky tablemates had tickets to the long-ago-sold-out dinner, so they were treated to even more of Tony's company. Meanwhile, Marc and I went to a pub called Blue Moon and tried their sliders (a.k.a. mini-burgers. When I said sliders the waiter gave me the crook eye.) Better than White Castle, I tell ya! And definitely no snooty gastronomic abomonations like "snowpea froth" on the bar menu-- Tony would approve.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Movie #30

V for Vendetta

Just caught this movie during its last week at the Logan Budget Theater. I have to say everyone who recommended it was spot on – I really, really liked this film. I wasn’t convinced during the first 3 minutes or so, and then all of a sudden I just completely got swept into the story. I also wavered a little after Evey’s torture sequence… I didn’t quite buy that part, and I did giggle when her first reaction to the person who was torturing her was “You cut my hair!” as if that’s the worst torture imaginable.

I love the way that British films are all a parade of great British actors: I saw Rupert Graves (Dominic, one of the investigators) for the first time in years! Slightly puffier, but still looking adorable. Also very happy to see the usual suspects who turn up in every British film: John Hurt, Stephen Fry, etc. Also, very very happy to see Ben Miles in a pretty big role (Dascomb, on the government panel always being yelled at by John Hurt) – I know that probably doesn’t mean anything to you guys, but I know him as Patrick from Coupling (a hilarious British show that you all should see – seriously). Also, Sinead Cusack was there – she’s cool, I won’t begrudge her her acting talent or success, but that woman has been cockblocking me for years… in other words, Jeremy Iron’s wife. England has a lot of great actors, put it that way. And Natalie Portman didn’t even ruin the movie… except for her silly line about her hair, she was really good (a first for her, I was even bothered by her in Garden State). Anyway, loved the film, can’t wait to see it again.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Al Gore in 2008

Sandy's movie #16: An Inconvenient Truth

I just took the little calculation quiz at to determine my own personal contribution to global warming. Based on some guessing (about miles driven per year, etc.) my household is responsible for 17,100 pounds of CO2 per year, which is considered "average." Well that does it, I am going to quit my job so I can stop driving every day! I needed an excuse!

Everyone needs to see this movie. Even Republicans. Even illegal immigrants. Even smelly hippies who might think they already know everything. Even high school students (although I wish they weren't all on a field trip to MY screening... why do girls have to go to the toilet in pairs? Seriously. I wanted to put the smackdown on these chicks who kept falling and tripping all over me on their way back on forth.)

Al Gore has my vote in 2008!

The Nasty Bits

Sandy's book #9, The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain

Oh, Tony.

I had a semi-steamy dream about Tony last week. The next day I bought his new book, a compilation of essays written for a variety of other publications that span his Food Network days and beyond. The day after that, I checked his tour schedule on-line. Lo and behold, Mr. Bourdain will be in my fair city on Wednesday!

I would recommend this book to Tony fans. It's dripping with his signature machismo and irreverence... sexy sexy. The notes in the back, however, reveal a somewhat mellower, definitely wiser Tony who admits embarrassment over some of the potshots he's taken at the likes of Rocco DiSpirito and Emeril.

If I am lucky enough to get my picture taken with Tony on Wednesday, I'll be sure that he's in the foreground (so as not to have another Sandy-eating-David Cross-photo repeat.)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Movie #39

Deep Sea 3D

As mentioned below, we saw this at Navy Pier with a bunch of kids. They all had that really irritating trait where you announce whatever it is you see as it appears onscreen. A jellyfish floats across the screen, and someone says, “Jellyfish!” It’s almost as if they were narrating the film for a blind person, although I don’t think a blind person would spend $11 for a 3D film.

Cultural Event #12

Tourist in Chicago, Part II

The very day after our trip to Navy Pier, Ryan and I went to the aquarium. It was free week at all of the museums, but to see any of the cool new exhibits you had to pay extra – since we didn’t have much time, we just saw the same old exhibits that were there when I was little.
The day was absolutely gorgeous, which was great since we had to wait in line 45 minutes before even getting inside. While in line we were accosted by a woman trying to get donations and signatures for a global warming petition. We skipped the donations but talked to her for awhile and signed up (meaning they’re sure to start pestering us via email and phone calls soon enough). While we were talking to her, this retarded Indian kid (maybe 14) came up and told us, “I doubt that global warming is really caused by humans.” I asked him if he had seen An Inconvenient Truth, and he told me he had seen The Day After Tomorrow. When I say retarded, that’s not entirely true. He was some sort of savant, and was spewing all sorts of obscure facts about ice ages and disease in Africa. His keeper (probably his father) was a few people behind us in line and seemed amused that we were taking the time to talk to him.
Anyway, we finally got inside, and although I thought the aquarium would be less depressing than the zoo (which I refuse to go to), it really wasn’t. They had a Caribbean reef tank with small sharks and stingrays, and they kept swimming around and around in a circle – they clearly needed more room, it was almost as bad as watching the lions pace back and forth in their tiny pens. Even some of the jellyfish looked unhealthy and sad. I don’t mind seeing things like anemones and scallops cooped up, but anything that needs space to swim around is bound to suffer in an aquarium.
I’m totally fascinated by undersea life, I think I was a marine biologist in a past life. Maybe I need to overcome my fear of oxygen tanks and learn how to scuba dive. But I think that even though the aquariums are cruel for the bigger fish, I’ll still bring my future kid/s there, although the zoo is strictly off-limits.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tourist in My Own Town - Event #11

OK – I’ve never been to Navy Pier before. Not really. I’ve been to the IMAX theater before, yes, of course. I saw some cool 3D films there – including the latest deep-sea creature film, “Deep Sea 3D,” and James Cameron’s 3D underwater spectacle, “Ghosts of the Abyss.” 3D IMAX really lends itself to underwater imagery. I could sit there all day watching it… unfortunately, the stupid 3D educational films only last about 45 minutes long.

I’ve also seen regular films on the Navy Pier IMAX screen, including the third Matrix movie (whatever that was called) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

To make a long story short, I’ve walked through the front doors of Navy Pier and gone straight from the ticket booth to the IMAX seat without realizing that there was ¾ of a mile of pure, disgusting materialism stretching beyond the ticket booth. It’s basically a hybrid between a state fair and a city mall for almost a solid mile. It’s disturbing and disorienting.

Luckily enough, for the parents involved there are myriad opportunities for intoxication. Every fourth storefront advertises some sort of “liquered coffee” or “ice cream liquor sundae” or “3-foot tap beers,” etc. Bluntly put, it’s hard to walk through Navy Pier with a valid ID and come out at the end perfectly sober. I did it just because I had a clinic shift to perform. If not, I would have been bellowing drunk on Kahlua and coffee just like every 45-year-old Dad in the place.

Just in case you think this was not a valid Cultural Event, Ryan and I rode the trolley from Navy Pier back to State St. Oh, and I forgot to mention that fact that I was only at Navy Pier because Ryan wanted to drop off an application at a restaurant there. The place is like glue – you go to drop off one application, and it becomes impossible to leave for 5 hours, even if you WANT to leave.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Movie #28

An Inconvenient Truth

I followed up the double-dose of summer blockbuster fluff with a good punch in the face, the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Why wasn’t Al this charming and entertaining and funny when he was running for president? Editing can do a lot to a person. But this movie does a great service by highlighting his attempt to spread an environmental message (in particular, information about global warming). I believe that it is very important for everyone to see this movie, and not just because the movie itself told me to tell all my friends to see it. Even though I consider myself relatively well-informed about the environment, there were some truly shocking and disturbing facts outlined in this film. I won’t tell them to you – this way you can be shocked and dismayed all on your own when you see the film! And if you insist on not seeing it, then fine, I’ll tell you later. Oh, and this movie will make you despair at the thought that the world truly WOULD have been a different place if Al Gore had been president. I have to stop typing now before I start sobbing.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Puffy Chair

Da Vinci Code - Sandy's Movie #13
X-Men The Last Stand - Sandy's Movie #14
The Puffy Chair - Sandy's Movie #15

So my first thought tonight was "Let's go see Vaughinston in The Break Up!" which proves that I am indeed a media zombie, no doubt thanks to network television, celeb magazines, and Katie Couric. Luckily I thought about it for .2 seconds and-- realizing the last two (no, three!) movies I saw were Hollywood crapola -- decided to purge myself of my Multiplex rut. So we went to see The Puffy Chair.

Portland is one of only six cities nationwide where this movie is playing theatrically. It was a Sundance selection and SXSW Audience Award Winner, but being that it was shot on DV and has no stars and all, it's not exactly arthouse material these days. Anyhoo-- it was damn good! It's like watching a funny/sad relationship/roadtrip movie starring YOUR OWN FRIENDS. Or people you wish were your friends because they are so attractive and witty (but not in an annoying hipster way. Mark my words - "Rhett" will be a big star.)

Bonus! The star\writer was there for a pre-screening hello and post-screening Q&A. And he thanked us personally for not going to see The Break Up. He gave us Puffy Chair stickers to help spread the word about his little ole movie, so we left ours at the entrance of a Tapas Bar (Patanegra AGAIN, Maya! Loving that place) with "Go see The Puffy Chair" scrolled across the back. GO SEE THE PUFFY CHAIR!!!!! It even renewed Marc's and my faith in indies -- Halleluljah! It's about time!

The Remains of the Day

Book #6 - The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro

For those who haven't seen the film version (myself included), this book is narrated by an English butler who takes his job VERY seriously. While in the beginning, this comes off as comical - like when Stevens mentions several butlers with the assumption that his reader must know of them - the tone isn't condescending, it's sympathetic. As the story progresses, the reader can see what Stevens is really talking about when he goes on and on about the quality of the silver in the house. And anyway, the details of anyone's job are never as interesting or important to others.

At the time of the World Wars, Stevens is a butler for an English gentleman who seems to have some influence in global affairs. WWII signalled the end of the Aristocratic system in England, and Stevens's story seems to mirror this. His fervent attachment to the past and almost delusional belief in the importance of his position reflects England's refusal to see their true position on the world's stage in the post-War, post-colonial era.

But ignoring all that political and social stuff, The Remains of the Day is a pretty sweet and sad story about a man who cannot allow himself to feel desire or ambition beyond those of his employer - one cannot be the perfect servant if one has wishes for oneself. It's only when he finally takes a break to reflect on his life that he starts to see the cracks and realizes too late that he might have tried for more.

So I finally finished it, only four years after I was supposed to have it read for my Booker Prize Winners course in college (sorry Professor Draine!). It's barely 250 pages, so it shouldn't have taken the past two months to read, but there you are.

Cultural Event #10

Romanian Dance Party!!!!

I heard through the grapevine (i.e. Lehn) that the lead singer of Gogol Bordello (Eugene Hutz, i.e. Alex from Everything is Illuminated ) was going to be the DJ at a local Eastern European bar in Chicago tonight. Lehn texted me to tell me that it didn’t pan out… it was actually a groupie/compadre of Hutz’s. Kelly and I decided to go anyway, and it was so much fun. It was at the Continental Café, which is actually a Romanian restaurant, and at night they have DJs and leave the tables there. When we walked in, I commented that I felt like I was walking into a wedding party that I wasn’t invited to, but that feeling quickly dissipated. The DJ was playing some rockin’ Eastern European music, so you have to bob up and down while kicking in order to dance to it. They also mixed in some Latin music and even some Bollywood songs. I actually DANCED (anyone who knows me knows that I don’t dance without being coerced… and I wasn’t drunk). No one there had an accent, but they all appeared to be first-generation people who had their own sub-culture, which still wasn’t weird enough to exclude us. I don’t know how to describe it, but I was really excited, and we’re making plans to go back during the weekend when they’re sure to be busier.


While in Portland, I took the time to watch two great summer classics:

1. The Da Vinci Code (#26 for Maya, who knows for Sandy)

2. X-Men: X-Men Return, or Revenge, or Whatever X-Men Do in this Particular Movie (#27, ditto)

Da Vinci was better. They somehow turned the book, an admittedly exciting page-turner, into a moderately exciting plot with less-than-inspiring cinematography (especially considering the locations they used). The best decision the filmmakers made was to cover Audrey Tautou’s ears with her hair. The worst decision they made was to somehow make at least 60% of this movie totally boring. But a sheen of credibility was added by Ian McKellen, who is consistently awesome in everything he touches.

X-Men kind of sucked. I’m adding this picture because it was on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s totally hilarious. It’s almost as if Brett Ratner is trying to teach Patrick Stewart how to act, or something. Huh? Dude, don’t go there. Patrick Stewart is one of those people who mysteriously appeared on a TV show (Star Trek TNG, duh) and the TV show was great, but he was SO much better than he needed to be for that show, it wasn’t even slightly funny. And now Brett Ratner is teaching him how to emote. Oh, anyway, in X-Men there’s a climatic scene where mutants are fighting other mutants, and they keep trying to outdo each other, and the final thing the “good” mutants do is throw flaming cars at one another…. I mean, seriously, if you have ANY power in the world, is the pinnacle of your power really going to be setting a car on fire and flinging it at your opponent? But a sheen of credibility was added by Ian McKellen, who is consistently awesome in everything he touches.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Cultural Event #9 – Wine Country

I guess I could count my entire trip to Portland as a cultural event since I’d never been there before. But visiting Wine Country during Memorial Day weekend was probably the most festive thing we did. I’d never been to a winery, and I really enjoyed the experience. We visited three wineries and got pretty tipsy. I bought wine at each place but somehow neglected to buy a bottle of pinot noir, which Portland is really famous for. Oh well. I’ll just have to do that next time – and hopefully we can have some sun and wander through the fields. Many thanks to Marc and Sandy, the gracious hosts (and Marc for his chauffeuring abilities). The night was topped off perfectly with an awe-inspiring meal at Lovely Hula Hands, which I also hope to hit again sometime.