Monday, January 31, 2005

Happy Birthday, Sunil!

Happy Birthday to my friend Sunil, born one day, and quite a few years, after yours truly. Sunil is pictured here with his boyfriend Fernando; I met them both last summer through Denis & Christian, my friends visiting from Paris who know their friends from Paris... Sunil and Fernando were on hand at my wonderful birthday party yesterday. In fact, just about every friend I have in greater New York turned out. I hope to post pictures of the party in a few days, when I resolve a few technical glitches...

Not So Hard To Swallow

Many have needlessly shied away from "Maria Full Of Grace" fearing 100 minutes alone with a difficult topic: drug mules, as the women who transport heroin from Colombia by swallowing small containers of it are called. I strongly encourage you to see it (it's out on Netflix) This movie doesn't beat you up with tragedy or hype it with melodrama, but tells an interesting story in a matter-of-fact way, and is very engaging and thought-provoking. Even more amazing: stellar acting from people with no acting experience or training, which makes it feel even more like they're living it rather than acting it.

The film's final half takes place in Jackson Heights, the South American immigrant barrio where I lived for a surprising 15 years.. For four of these years I lived was living with Andres, my South American first boyfriend. I can tell you that the network of support and connections shown in this movie are quite authentic.

Another thought: Maria longs to escape her dead-end life in Colombia, where she's stuck living with her mother and sister, earning minimally in a dreary job. It's poverty, I guess, but her standard of living is no worse than that of tens of millions of Americans, rural, urban, and suburban. It's not squalor - it's the soft poverty of limited opportunities...

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

Aaron-o-Rama, Vol. 1

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Friday, January 28, 2005

Bush Campaign Paints Kerry As Pre-Raphaelite Contessa : - )

Men Screw Up Romance:

How's my driving?

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Thursday, January 27, 2005


From yesterday's Onion, my favorite feature, “What Do YOU Think?
Question: “After a delay caused by Congressional Democrats, Condoleezza Rice will be confirmed as Secretary of State this week. What do you think? ”

Answer 1: "Great. Now the public face of U.S. diplomacy is that of a pissed-off terrier."
Answer 2: "So she had to explain why she's the best candidate for the job? Big deal. I had to do that last week when I applied at Panda Express."
Answer 3: "I say, why not give Condi a shot as Secretary of State? It might help her self-esteem and encourage her to start taking an interest in her appearance."
Answer 4: "Ms. Rice should make an ideal Secretary of State. She's already proved to the U.S. that she can evade questions in front of a Congressional panel."
Answer 5: "Twenty years ago, I never would've believed that we'd have a black, female Secretary of State, much less one who was a conservative warmonger, too. We've come a long way."

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Months Not Years

Estimate revised! The subway wheel that squeaks, gets oiled? I rarely soapbox here, but some more socialized and progressive societies don't have people out on the street in frigid weather - this wouldn't happen in Canada. or Sweden. Also, thanks to Mr Pataki and Mr Giuliani for skimping on the subway budget for a decade while passing a 100% cumulative fare increase to commuters... There, I've said my piece : - )

And now, here's something we hope you'll really like...

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Five Years, Huh?

Somebody Pinch Me, Please! No C train and a 33% capacity A-train? We need to replace hundreds of 60-year old switches? Which were barbecued by freezing homeless people trying to build a fire in a control room? And now they must direct trains by hand signals? And we should walk instead if we can? As Richard M. Nixon used to say, "(Expletive Deleted)"

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Powder To The People

or, 'A Penny For Your Thaw' : - ) More Humor Below...

Happy Birthday, Erik! (pictured left in Kenya with Dr Dawa, maker of potent spirits drowned in honey)

Erik's birthday bash in Boston was beaten by the blizzard... (and avoid asinine alliteration :-) )

Click here for more of Erik

From this week’s Onion, my favorite feature, “What Do YOU Think?
Question: “Last week, a U.S. district judge ordered a Georgia school district to remove stickers reading, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" from its textbooks. What do you think?”

Answer 1: "The thing is, they're right. Evolution is nothing more than a well-supported, predictive, scientifically rigorous theory."
Answer 2: "I hope they replaced the old stickers with new ones that read, 'Do not burn.'"
Answer 3: "Good. Now could New York please take the sticker off my literature textbook that says Surrealism is just a school of thought often in conflict with Abstractism?"

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Monday, January 24, 2005

Me, Go Outside? Brrrrrr

Spent yesterday indoors. Alas, work awaits me, as does a "Preventing Sexual Harrassment" workshop at 8am. Brrrr

William Safire leaves the Times today, not to retire at 75, but to head a charity foundation. I enjoyed his quartet of farewell op-ed pieces, the best of which is "How To Read A Column."

This contains perhaps his best line: "And avoid all asinine alliteration"


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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Snow Place Like Home

My lazy powder white weekend continues.. Sunshine poured through my windows for a few hours but I chose not to venture forth. Perhaps I shall sally yonder to ye olde gymnasium before my dinner date...

Movies watched, to be reviewed this week, included "Spirited Away" and "Maria Full Of Grace." My Mom noticed today that I posted a page of early childhood pictures to my permanent site late last year - click here to enter the world of Little Aaron... Or just click on my little kid picture on the left side of my blog page, it'll take you there...

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Snow Patrol!

What is it about the weekend that makes me so blog-lazy? I've been lost in music today, as the snow accumulates and slowly buries our fair city. I am NOT in Boston - poor Erik was obliged to postpone his 50th Birthday Bash (sob).

I finished "Before Sunrise" this morning, after sunrise, and found it very captivating for a movie that is essentially a 24 hour conversation, sealed with a kiss. Boy meets girl, boy talks girl off train, boy and girl exchange impressions and insights as the hormonal current flows beneath the surface. Ethan Hawke and French actress Julie Delpy(pictured below) bring depth and nuance to their strangers on a train, the dialogue is sharp, the minor players are colorful, and Vienna charms with its Italianate strudel of relaxed old-world rococo.... Next week I'll watch the equally-admired sequel, "Before Sunset"....

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Hello, all. Busy end to a busy work week. Off to Boston tomorrow, overnight, for Erik's 50th birthday party! Otherwise, pretty dull here. Interesting bloggery from Thomas - his friend's peace corps pictures from Gruzya (Russia's Georgia) and a close encounter with Boy George.


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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Brothers/Sisters Of The Envelope

Netflix Nation! This DVD mail-rental service delights both busy urbanites and cinephiles in the great heartland. For the former, no more late fees, you can keep the rented DVD weeks, months, until you have time to see it. You can, in fact, have 3-4 movies out simultaneously, for as long as you want. Out in the vast prairie, mountain, and desert, Netflix provides access to a vast library of classic, independent, and foreign films that Blockbuster just isn't going to stock.

Now, with Netflix's "Friends" feature, I know what my pals and my Mom are renting, and what they think of what they see, and vice versa! It allows, encourages you to grade the films you rent and those you've previously seen, with a click, on a scale of one to five stars. This way, they can zero in on your taste, and find the movies that you haven't seen yet.

Let's close with a cartoon:

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Stroll Through Botswana With A Smile

The book reports cometh, as promised-eth : - ) In December I had the joy of "reading" Alexander McCall Smith's Number #1 Ladies' Detective Agency on audiotape. Episodic and meandering, the book is more than the sum of its several mysteries, at times more a comedy of manners and cultural study than a page-turner. Its heroine, Mma' Ramotzwe, is a wise woman of a certain age who decides to use her meager inheritance to hang up a shingle and be Botswana's first lady gumshoe. Flashbacks tell us her story, and her dad's story as an itinerant miner in neighboring South Africa. Her narration places you right into the Botswanan mindset, fatalistic and wry, proud to be one of black Africa's success stories but cognizant of how much is still lacking. I learned, for instance, that the African ideal of female beauty is a full figure, robust and plump, and that America's models look to them emaciated and sickly. The book gave me the feeling of visiting an exotic place and being taken around by locals, each sharing their unique perspective. Those who fall in love with this universe will be delighted to learn that there are several acclaimed sequels. Pictured right is the German edition of one of the sequels, 'A Cook for Mma Ramotzwe'

Here's a cartoon

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

BLOG-A-VERSARY!!! (Today Marks One Year...)

Who's Bad (Enough)? As a kid I enjoyed "The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle," the ironic and campy serialized cartoon exploits of a perky flying squirrel (Rocky) and his sidekick, a corny, dense, but ultimately endearing moose (Bullwinkle). I later learned that this 1959-1964 series, created by Jay Ward, was considered well ahead of its time: droll, self-mocking, and gently satirical of topics such as The Cold War, with Russia represented, as "Pottsylvania," by the villainous Boris Badenov and his protegé, Natasha (pictured right). (We won't even discuss the dreadful 2000 live-action Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, foolishly conceived and funded by Robert DeNiro.)

Over 25 years later I learned that Boris's name was really a pun from Mussorgsky's opera titled "Boris Godenov". The Russian last name sounds like "Bad Enough," yet another pun. So when "Rocky and Bullwinkle" was released on DVD I ordered it. And it does have a twinkle in its eye. Here's an example of its humor:

Bullwinkle: You just leave that to my pal. He's the brains of the outfit.
General: What does that make you ?
Bullwinkle: What else? An executive..

If you enjoyed that, this Rocky & Bullwinkle quotes link further captures the flavor of my erstwhile companions... As an adult I found it slower and more repetitive than I remembered, but in exchange its charm now includes nostalgia. I do love the animation. An extra bonus is the subversive "Fractured Fairy Tales" segment sandwiched between Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes. In these, Edward Everett Horton throughly lampoons Goldlocks, Rumplestiltskin, etc, providing good, wicked fun.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Coppola's "Lost" Art Film....

While nursing a cold and a three-day weekend, DVDs I perused included "The Conversation," Francis Ford Coppola's brilliant 1974 meditation on privacy, paranoia, and the morality of surveillance. Gene Hackman is indelible as an expert in bugging who shuts out intimacy and is increasingly haunted by the sometimes deadly fallout from his work. Episodic and moody, but very tight, this movies delivers a knock-out ending that makes its inspiration, Antonioni's "Blow Up," look like a major cop-out. Hackman (pictured left), btw, is the trimpuh of acting depth over prettiness, God bless his sould. Finally, you may ask, how "lost" can a film be that was nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. Plenty lost, actually. Has anyone under 40 ever heard of "Sounder"? "The Dresser?", "Bound For Glory"? Coppola made "The Conversation" between Godfather Parts 1 and 2, whose breatheless narrative, iconic stature and pop-culture omnipresence clearly overshadowed our "little art film." Note as well 1974 was the year of Watergate, heightening relevance for a film about wiretapping... Thank goodness for Netflix... : - )


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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Jan Pahechan Ho...

Or, in case your Hindustani is rusty, "oh, come with me, my little darling..." These golden words, sung in the mid-60s by Bollywood legend Mohammed Rafi (pictured left) came to me riding a wave of Ventures-like surf music. Picture Busby Berkeley directing in a turban. Such was the black & white musical opening sequence of "Ghost World," an excellent 2001 indie movie about alienated singles and struggling with the parameters of stunted lives... I hope this blog post isn't too 'stream of consciouness' for you. If it is, worry not.. Below you'll find a cartoon for your amusement...

Do all of you know about Rhapsody? It's the most happiness you can buy for $10 a month... It's a musical E.T. beckoning through your cyberwindow. If you're intrigued, ask me about it...

There is a logic, a theme, running through this post. I haven't gone mad, you know. : - )

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Gefeliciteered met Je Verjaardag, Joost!

And here's wishing a very happy birthday to my good friend Joost Van Kranen from Amsterdam, pictured here (right) with his legal husband, Ronald Vendelmans, in my apartment a couple of years ago...

Below's an earlier picture of Joost, from October 1993 when I met him during a four-country swing through Europe. Amsterdam is a really lovely place with a wonderful vibe. Creative, free-living, while its 17th century exteriors are a snapshot in time.

Joost has lived there since school, but grew up an hour away in Utrecht, said to be picturesque. Joost, like me, is a language enthusiast, speaks Spanish, and has dabbled in Portuguese, Turkish, and others...

Happy Friday... Feeling much better, I'm back at work!

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