Sunday, January 31, 2010

Poem for January: Invictus (plus bonus poem)


William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Yes, yes, I did memorize this because of the recently released Eastwood/Freeman/Damon movie. And yes, I memorized it so that I could quote from a poem that appeared in Dead Poets Society.

Initially, I dismissed this poem as being incredibly over-the-top, white-man's-burden, straight from the Age of Empire. I mean really, where is the village? But then, I had a couple of annoying and rough days at work and the thing that was so off putting about the poem initially became my favorite thing. When I'm having a bad day, it is great fun to recite this poem dramatically, ideally at top volume. Although in the fell clutch of that circumstance, I actually did do a lot of complaining, which was not really wincing or crying aloud, but still probably not true to the stoic nature of the poem.

Invictus went quickly into my brain which gave me time to put to memory another poem that comes in handy:

How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes

Shel Silverstein

If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
('Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won't let you
Dry the dishes anymore

Let me just say that in my position as Administrative Coordinator (which really just means school secretary) I find reason to recite this poem on a fairly regular basis.

Books read in January 2010

A goodly number of books this month, helped along by the day in bed reading on 1/1/10. This was a good month for reading and I suspect many of these books will appear at the end of 2010 book awards.

Heart Sick
Chelsea Cain
"Gloriously Gruesome Suspense..." said the Staff Pick bookmark inserted in this book. Boy, does that hit the nail on the head. Still, I devoured it, gruesome though it was. How could I not? It's written by the woman I think of as my "older sister" (a theoretical relationship similar to the one I have with my "movie boyfriend" Edward Norton) and the book is set firmly in actual, recognizable Portland.

The serial killer/murder mystery is not really my genre (aside from the book couple--Kenzie/Gennaro--I want to marry) and I suspect this story might be a tiny bit predictable. I had to skip entire pages of text because I don't do torture. Still, aside from those things, how could I not love a book set in my born-again home town, with a main character subletting a condo not far from where I work and dialogue such as this:

"Archie will explain. He's downstairs in the car. I couldn't find a fucking place to park. Your neighborhood is awash with ambling Yuppies."

Can I really refer to a gruesome, disturbing book as delightful? With my soft spot for Chelsea Cain, indeed I can.

Laura Ingalls Wilder: A writer's life
Pamela Smith Hall
I undoubtedly know about this book because the author is a Portlander, but I would have found it anyway. I tend to read everything I come across that has to do with Wilder.

This was a very readable, accessible book that traces Wilder's journey as a writer and seems specifically to have been written to discount the theories that some authors have put forth that Wilder's daughter Rose Wilder Lane wrote the Little House Series.

I had discounted those theories already as they seemed to overlook the writing career Wilder had before she began her famous series. The book follows Wilder's life chronologically, and, in her early years, compares and contrasts Wilder's unpublished autobiographical manuscript Pioneer Girl with details in the Little House series. This in itself was interesting.

A teacher at my school was annoyed at her student teacher for labeling the Little House series as fiction. "They are autobiography!" she firmly stated. I kept quiet, and wondered just how they are shelved at the official library. I have read enough to know that her books are not the whole truth of her life. Hill does an excellent job of highlighting the changes Wilder made to her own story to establish the mythos of her family--her experiences, heightened by her story telling and shaped by her and her daughter's editing, have become the pioneer experience for millions of people across the world.

The other point gleaned from this book is to have a tough hide if your own daughter is your editor. Wilder and Lane were close, but Lane rejected the life her mother chose--leaving it as soon as she could. Hill provides evidence, again and again, of a mother daughter relationship probably familiar to many. It is a relationship both close and strained, and Lane comes across as a ruthless editor, unsparing of her mother's feelings.

Still, the two remained close throughout their lives and their work together provided a series that has probably done more than any other to shape my world view. The book provides a nice bibliography for me to plunder, and has me wondering why, aside from the unspeakable television series, the story of the Ingalls family has never been adapted for the silver screen. Also, is there a good biography of Rose Wilder Lane?

The Dawn of a To-Morrow
Francis Hodgson Burnett
I came across this book while moodily wandering the stacks and checked it out partially because I'd never read any adult fiction by Burnett, but primarily because it was incredibly short and I figured I could handle it.

Had I not started reading it at 1:23 am, I probably could have finished this in one sitting. This strikes me as something that originally was serialized in a magazine at the turn of the century. Unlike most books written before 1950 and written in dialect, this was an incredibly easy read.

People familiar with the Annotated Secret Garden will recognize Burnett's life philosophy in this book. People familiar with Wayne Dyer's beliefs will not find Burnett's views much different than his.

Overall, a sweet story, and a nice way to begin the new year.

The Last Summer (of you and me)
Ann Brashares
I picked this book up at the library off a display featuring "Bildungsromans" which, a helpful sign explained to me was: "a novel about the early years of somebody's life, exploring the development of his or her character and personality." God, I love librarians. Who knew that my favorite type of book actually had a name? And such a fun one.

I was also interested in seeing how Brashares fared writing adult fiction. Sometimes the transition between Young Adult and Adult Fiction *ahem, Judy Blume, ahem* can be a rocky one. Her "Traveling Pants" were fabulous, could she maintain her winning streak in the harsh world of adult fiction?

I loved this book. Every once in awhile I come across a book where the author writes--so much better than I ever could--the feelings I have. This was one of those novels. I've been thinking of first loves now and again lately, and how heart breaking they always are. Even if they end in the best possible way, doesn't every one look back at them with a sense of sadness? I think Curtis Sittenfeld hit the nail on the head in Amercian Wife when she wrote: "..her tone was reflective in that way that is inevitably sad, because the past is part sad."

So this story of three people merging their past with their present was wonderful to submerge myself in. The tension, ache and slowly building tragedy were delightful. I saw what was going to happen and how it would end, and I didn't care. It was the journey I enjoyed the most. What a beautiful way to spend a cold and rainy day. This is why I am a reader.

Beth Bosworth
I enjoyed this book so much at the beginning and through the middle and then, I’m not sure what happened. The premise is one I like—asthmatic dorky Jewish girl in the 60s helps out a superhero who travels through time to help literary figures. It even had a fabulous secondary character in Rachael Fish. But it just seemed to lose steam.

This Cold Country
Annabel Davis Groff
It took me a few weeks to realize the source of the vague sense of unease when I read this book. I was falling for a stereotype that I don’t actually believe: that smart rich people live in the cities, and dumb, poor people live in the country. This book takes place in several different rural places, but they are all in England or Ireland, and happen to also be estates with are lousy with rich people. So my inner stereotype was having trouble reconciling the rich people with rural setting.

I didn’t love this book, but it was engrossing, and had to do with several life choices I’m not familiar with: being a Land Girl during WWII, marrying someone you had only met a few times and then going to live in an entirely different country with your new husband’s relatives—whom you have never met—while he goes off to fight the war.

The author repeatedly used a plot device wherein she would tell the story in chronological order, then suddenly with no warning jump forward so I was confused as to what exactly was going on, then she would go back and fill me in. The effect was supposed to be intriguing, I think, but mostly it gave me literary whiplash.

Dave Cullen
Whenever a big, strange thing happens, one of my first thoughts is, “I will be so glad, when someone writes the book explaining this event.” It’s only natural. When confusing things happen, I want an author to clearly explain to me why the event has occurred.

I had to wait 10 years to find out every thing I wanted to know about Columbine, but the wait was worth it. This is probably one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in years and I couldn’t stop talking about it, despite nearly everyone I spoke with's reaction of discomfort.

Cullen takes you step-by-step through the school shooting, introducing you to the killers, the victims, the parents, the school administrators as well as the sheriff and investigators who worked on the case. As the book moves along, you learn why everything, and I mean everything, we learned about Columbine, was not actually true.

For such a horrific topic, I read this book compulsively until I finished it. The only thing keeping it from five stars was its lack of a who's who list. It was hard for me to keep track of people as Cullen caught up with them. However, now that I’ve warned you, you can make your own list.

Started, but did not finish

Sexing the Cherry
Jeanette Winterson
A clerk at Krakow, a coffee shop, recommended this book to me. I liked the title, but that was a about it. I get what the author was doing, I just couldn't stay focused on the story because of it.

John Kroger
I expected to begin this book and then drift away from it early on and eventually take it back to the library. This is what happened, but not for the reasons I thought. This book is great! It is witty and interesting and easy to read, and a fascinating look at an area of law most of us non-lawyers probably barely think about. I highly recommend it. It is also a very long book and Kroger won an Oregon book award this year so people at the library requested it before I could finish it. I would like to someday, though. And you should read it too.

Three Sentence Movie Review: An Education

Wow! This movie was so good, I'm compelled to write a one word sentence. The acting by all players was fantastic and I always love to see Emma Thompson.

poster from:

Friday, January 29, 2010

Three Sentence Movies: Small Time Crooks

This was a funny movie, in that dry way that Woody Allen is famous for. The storyline was not the most original, but the humor kept the movie moving right along. Matt, in particular, giggled through the whole thing.

poster from:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A good quote from Pete Seeger.

"People ask, is there one word that you have more faith in than any other word, and I'd say it's participation. I feel that this takes on so many meanings. The composer John Philip Sousa said, 'What will happen to the American voice now that the phonograph has been invented? Women used to sing lullabies to their children.' It's been my lifework, to get participation, whether it's a union song, or a peace song, civil rights, or a women's movement, or gay liberation. When you sing, you feel a kind of strength; you think, I'm not alone, there's a whole batch of us who feel this way. I'm just one person, but it's almost my religion now to persuade people that even if it's only you and three others, do something. You and one other, do something. If it's only you, and you do a good job as a songwriter, people will sing it."

From The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger By Alec Wilkinson.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 5

Okay, we're in the home stretch. If you missed the first 40, you can click on the top 49 movies link. The final nine movies of the last five years:

Up. Though its short title causes confusion when writing notes on a message board (I saw Up! You saw what up? No UP! University of Portland? NO the MOVIE UP! What movie? Arrrrrgh!) this is one of the best movies I saw in 2009--animated or not. And 2009 was a good year for watching good movies. 13 of my list were viewed that year. The montage scene will set the montage standard for years to come. Perfect.

Away We Go. I loved this so much I saw it three times in the theater, which, given my cheap-er-I-mean-frugal nature, is saying something. I enjoyed the humor, the main male lead reminded me of someone I live with and also: Melanie Lynskey, fabulous as usual. In fact, this movie was packed with great scenes and actors.

Across the Universe. A story based on Beatles songs? It could have gone so wrong. Instead, it went so right I immediately watched everything by the director (except Titus--I only made it halfway through that movie--the images were visually striking, but way too disturbing.) Incredibly fun and gripping and yes, pretty. Have you not seen it? Get going!

Moon. A brilliant movie and one that had me reserving every movie with Sam Rockwell in it the library carries. Puzzling, suspenseful and intellectually horrifying, you best be watching this movie. Also, Kevin Spacey works well as a disembodied voice of a computer. Perhaps he should just do that for awhile.

500 Days of Summer. A romantic comedy that boys will actively like and not grumble through. Funny and very well done.

Carrie. This movie is on this list because I thought I would hate it. I don't like scary movies, I'm not a Sissy Spacek fan and I'd read the book. But from the first scene, the cinematography was beautiful, something I wasn't expecting. Some of the acting is bad, but the movie itself is very nice to look at. Well done.

Whip It. What I am looking for from Hollywood: Spunky protagonist wants something (not a boy) and does what she can to get it, confronting funny and moral dilemmas along the way. Is this so much to ask? Apparently so, as I rarely see movies like this. Excellent viewing for teenage girls and there should be about four more a year like it.

The Informant! Funny. Great voice overs and (yes!) Melanie Lynskey. The fact it is based on a true story makes it even better.

Lars and the Real Girl. Every cast member is fabulous in this movie which you might, like me, not watch because of uncomfortable feelings about the subject matter, but which you should just get over it and press play. Delightful!

So ends our list.
The stats:
2005--4 top movies
2006--6 top movies
2007--8 top movies
2008--18 top movies
2009--13 top movies

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 4

Onward through the best movies I watched in five years of time. Read the other parts, if you haven't already, by clicking top 49.

The Band's Visit. What people talk about when they talk about good foreign films. Worth seeking out.

Tell No One. There's a reason why it was on Levy's High Five for months on end. French people like U2 too!

Rachael Getting Married. A meander of a movie--long, and kind of like being invited to a wedding weekend, but in a good way. Back in the days of the Princess Diaries, who knew Anne Hathaway would have such staying power?

Mala Noche. I heard about this Gus Van Sant debut feature for years before Criterion re-released it as part of the Criterion Collection. Seeing it, I finally finished my "watch every Gus Van Sant project" and also was amazed at how good it was.

Tully. I watched a lot of excellent films over the 2008 Winter Break and this was the best one. I'm guessing you haven't seen it, but you should remedy that very soon.

City of Ember. A rollicking tale of adventure for the whole family. Then your family can read the whole series together, skipping the weird present day book that is horribly written.

Akeelah and the Bee. Yep, there was a lot of talk about how excellent this movie was, and I couldn't bring myself to watch it. But then I did watch it and the talk was right and I was silly for putting off the watching for so long.

Sunset Boulevard. A classic. And not one of those you-should-see-it-because-every-else-has-and-it-is-referred-to-often-though-ultimately-it-is-boring-to-watch classic. It's actually a very exiting movie.

Adventureland. I was surprised at how good this coming-of-age film was. It captured a lot of things that were true for me of my early post-college years.

Star Trek. So. Much. Fun. Before it ended, I was plotting when I would see it again. That's a very good sign.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 3

Continuing on with our list. To see all five posts, click on "top 49."

Junebug. If you like Amy Adams, this is a film for you.

No Country For Old Men. Engrossing not-funny Cohen Brothers. Beautifully filmed.

Persepolis. You may think you don't want to see an animated film with a female protagonist set during the Iran-Iraq war. You would be wrong.

Enchanted. "Why do we own Enchanted?" our friend Laurie asked her husband Burt. Burt kind of looked at her.

"I bet he has a thing for Amy Adams" I suggested. His face scrunched up in a way that indicated he did have a thing for Amy Adams. I told him I did too. Forget McDreamy, Amy Adams is dreamy.

Iron Man. Much like I will watch anything Aaron Sorkin writes, I will watch anything Robert Downey Jr. is in. When it is this good, I'm delighted.

Gone Baby, Gone. So good I watched it twice in one weekend and showed a deleted scene to Matt. I later found out this was based on a series of books about Boston P.I. I devoured that series over the following summer. Now I've got Matt reading them too.

Once. Utterly charming.

All the Real Girls. Wonderful performances, and a secondary character (Bust-Ass) who steals every scene he is in. This movie was my happy introduction to Danny McBride and Paul Schneider and furthered my love of Joan Allen and Zooey Deschanel.

21. A perfect Hollywood caper movie with the bonus of nerd power. Very fun.

Tropic Thunder. This movie was a wonderful way to end the summer. I read the press, and I was prepared to not liked it THAT much. But I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 2

Continuing with the list. To see all five posts, click on "top 49."

13 Going on 30. I saw this at home, having dismissed it as not theater worthy. But it turned out the main character and I were the same age, which added an emotional resonance to the movie hadn't anticipated. Plus, the Thriller Dance. This would be a scene that would partially inspire the TSDP a few years later.

The Departed. Did I breathe at all during this movie? I don't think so. Gripping! Incredibly bloody! Boston accents!

Galaxy Quest. I refused to watch this movie for a long time, due to Tim Allen starring in it, but Matt brought it home for some reason and I laughed so hard we had to pause the movie so I could catch my breath. Plus, Enrico Colantoni! Such fun.

Breach. "Some of these movies I can't remember" I said to Matt as I was going through the list. "Like, what the heck is Breach?"

"That was a really good movie!" Matt exclaimed. "It was that FBI one."

"Oh yeah," I said, remembering. "that was really good!" and onto my list it went.

It's got a forgettable title, but it's a great drama and based on a true story. I also heard the interview with the real Eric O'Neill on Fresh Air, and that was very interesting too.

The Company. Another title so forgettable I had to remind myself what the movie was. But a quite good Robert Altman movie about ballet. Plus! James Franco as a mostly-silent chef/boyfriend.

Superbad. You either like this kind of movie, which means you have already seen it. Or you don't which means you haven't and you won't. Judd Apatow does male friendship so well. That last scene really kills me.

The Lives of Others. Here is Florian Henckel von Donnorsmark's fabulous film. Incredibly moving. Don't delay, see this today.

Juno. I still think it's over-written as in, no one talks like that. But even with that (I pick over-writing over under-writing any day) this is a perfect movie about which my friend correctly say, "Everyone does the right thing, even though it is hard." Aside from that, it's hilarious.

Atonement. I came out of this movie thinking, "that was okay" and dismissed it as just that. Then I couldn't stop thinking about it for three days and upgraded it to a Very Good Movie. Does anyone not love James McAvoy after this movie?

Charlie Wilson's War. Aaron Sorkin, I'll watch anything you write. And it will most likely be very, very good.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 1

It turns out that my five-year standard diary makes it easy for me to make a list of top movies I saw in the last five years. There are 49 of them. This list consists of movies I saw for the first time during those five years. Some of them were not originally released during those five years, but I'm not Shawn Levy watching 2000+ movies in a decade and it takes me awhile to see things. Sometimes decades. Movies I re-watched during those years, I did not include in this list. Thus, the movie I watched on 7/3/06, Drugstore Cowboy--one of my favorite movies ever--is disqualified because I watched it back in the 90s for the first time. Incidentally, the re-watching was even more fun because at that time I lived in Portland near the neighborhood it was filmed. At any rate, today's entries:

Batman Begins. I'm a sucker for a good superhero movie, especially one that includes the origin story. This was fantastic. We will not speak of the unspeakable sequel which will not be making my list.

Anchorman. Poking fun at local TV news? An easy target. But so, so funny. There are many classic moments in this film. Will Ferrell is great, and the ensemble is a finely tuned comedy team.

The Aristocrats. From George Carlin's opening smile post-joke, this movie which consists of an incredibly nasty joke told again and again was hilarious, despite its repetition. This also introduced Matt and I to Sarah Silverman ("Who was that?" we asked each other on the walk home.) I think Bob Sagat was perhaps my favorite version, but when George Carlin died a little while later, I remembered his smile from the movie which, more than anything, sold the joke.

Serenity. Everyone in my circle was all abuzz that this movie was coming out, so I was surprised when there was not a Harry Potter-esque line at the movie theater. In fact, the theater wasn't even full, despite us going on opening weekend. A reminder that not everyone is as into Joss Whedon as my friends are. This was a fabulous stand-alone movie, which got better after I watched the series, which was also great.

Millions. A delightful story about a boy who finds a million pounds and his brother who talks to saints. Good to watch with kids and sweet-tempered grandparents who don't like swearing.

Walk the Line. One of those movies I didn't want to end, just because I enjoyed the performances so much.

Monster House. An animated movie I liked much more than I thought I would. And I thought I would like it a good amount. Funny and sweet and good to watch with the aforementioned children and sweet-tempered Grandparents.

Intolerable Cruelty. Some critics mark this as one of the Cohen brother's weaker films, but I put it at the top of my list. So many funny characters, (Rex Rexworth! Wheezy Joe!) and plot twists. Plus, Heinz the Baron Krauss von Espy. (This is almost as much fun to say as Florian Henckel von Donnermark) I'm not Catherine Zeta-Jones' biggest fan, but she was perfect for this role. I saw this and then took Matt to see it.

Little Miss Sunshine. Another movie that I saw and then took Matt to see. He laughed so hard, he actually fell off his seat. Managed to be incredibly dysfunctional, incredibly funny and incredibly sweet all at one time. I felt sorry for all the characters, yet felt incredibly protective of them. Do you know how hard that is to pull off?

Stranger Than Fiction. Jan and I traveled to the fancy new theater in Vancouver to check it out and see this movie. Seeing the theater was the true priority, the movie was secondary. Thus, I was surprised to find that two thirds of the way through the movie, I was smiling so much my front teeth had dried out. Everyone in this film is delightful.

Three Sentence Movie Reviews: Up in the Air

I'm a fan of Jason Reitman and George Clooney. I like movies like this and was thrilled to see two of my favorite "unfamous" actors (Melanie Lynskey & Danny McBride). Yet this movie left my brain the moment I walked out of the theater.

poster from:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kid conversations: Alien Invasion

Trapped inside for yet another indoor recess this week I had the following conversation with some members of the K/1 class.

A group of boys was playing with pattern blocks and as I watched them I realized that one of them was talking about dropping a bomb.

"What's your classroom rule about bombs?" I asked. The thing I love about the K/1 class is they will usually tell me what the rule is, even if it means they have to stop doing what they were doing.

"There's no rule about bombs." Owen assured me, most enthusiastically. However, he is one of the K/1's who won't necessarily tell me the whole truth. I waited to see what he would say next. "There is only a rule about guns. No guns." He continued.

"Actually, "Alex put forth, "the rule is no weapons."

"No weapons at all?" I asked.

"No." a chorus of boys assured me.

"Well, a bomb is a weapon." I told them. "If you have a rule about no weapons, then you can't pretend to drop bombs."

"What about missiles?" asked Thai, seeking a loophole. I told him that alas, missiles were weapons too.

"Spears!" Owen, the optimist, asked.

"Nope, also a weapon."

"Well how are we supposed to play alien invasion if we can use weapons?" Owen, was a bit perturbed at this point.

"I guess you are just going to have to use peace, love and understanding," I told them, "because you can't use weapons."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Fuck your light and your bright jacket."

The above was what was yelled at me tonight from a man in a car across Interstate Avenue while I was bicycling as fast as I could to yoga class. My first thought was, "was he making fun of me?" and my second was "was my light too bright in his eyes?" All in all, it seemed entirely unprovoked--I was on the completely opposite side of the street from him and there were Max tracks in between--and left me confused and unsettled.

This is my problem with communicating from cars while driving. Most of the time, I can only make out syllables a la adults on Peanuts. This man gets points for projection and clarity as I could understand every single word. Still. Not very nice.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Middle of the night story

Sometimes when I can't sleep in the middle of the night I tell myself stories. I sort of liked how this one started, but will never actually finish it, so if you would like to make a story out of it, you may.

There once was an Amazon warrior. The woman in question didn't realize she was an Amazon, there not being a huge demand for warriors, much less female warriors in modern American life, but she had in inkling. Though she was short (those old myths always exaggerate everything) she was strong and fierce and while not stunningly beautiful she had a nice smile and breasts small enough that they wouldn't get in the way of a bowstring....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

5 years of standard diary

In late 2004, I had lost interest in daily writing of my journal, which I had done pretty regularly since seventh grade. I didn't miss daily journaling--my life seemed to have calmed down enough that I didn't have to process so many things--but I did find myself thinking, "How did I spend last Memorial Day?" and "Did I make rolls last year for Thanksgiving?" I also needed a place to keep track of books read and movies watched.

I needed something to record daily life on a regular basis, but not in an excessive manner. I thought instantly of "My Dairy." My Dairy was a small, red-bound book with a lock and a key and when you opened it, had a page for each day of the year. Each page was further divided into five sections of about four lines each, so that you could note things daily for five years. Small, compact, perfect. Exactly what I needed.

Could I find such thing? Nope. I found a few five-year diaries. But they weren't quite right in some way or other. I didn't really need a lock and key, or the years were already entered into the dairy pages, so that I would have to start a dairy part-way through its existence. None of them quite worked for me.

So, like any woman raised on a steady diet of books set on the frontier filled with spunky, make-do, clever women, I made my own five year dairy. I started by purchasing this standard dairy from an office supply store.
Before I bought it, I counted all the lines for each day to make sure that there were enough for five lines per day per year. There were. Then I simply wrote in the year, an initial for the day and drew a line under that. Voila! Five year diary.

After I finished the triathlon, I kept my race bib as a marker. It turns out race bibs make great markers. Bright, made of some plastic paper that doesn't tear, just the right size.
The standard diary had extra pages which gave me ample room to keep track of books and movies. Most of the pre-made 5-year diaries didn't have any extra pages.
I didn't write in it every day, but most days. Friday and Saturday are notorious for not having anything written. Sometimes, if I miss a few days, I'll jot a sentence or two as to what was going on. The fun really starts after the first year, when you can compare and contrast what was going on one (or two, three or four) year(s) previous. It's also fun because you can email your friends with things like: Did you know that two years and three days ago we were celebrating your un-bachlorette party? Your friends will be astonished and amazed at your powers of memory.

I'm so happy with how this turned out, I've gotten myself another standard diary for 2010 and will begin the process over again. Look for another post at the beginning of 2015.

I'm too lazy to make my own "top movies of the decade"

So I'm just going to talk about Shawn Levy's list.

First off, Shawn Levy has seen 2463 movies in the past decade! Yikes! I like movies, but I don't think I could hack being a movie critic.

Okay, he starts with Lord of the Rings, which I liked, okay, especially for someone who has never been able to read the books, but that third movie was so darn long that it sort of dragged down the whole trilogy. But then, his next pick is Far from Heaven, which was a movie I loved, not just for the costumes, which were fabulous--so many fantastic coats alone--but for the excellent acting brought by all parts. This movie is totally overlooked, and I'm guessing many men didn't see it, but I loved it and I love him for putting it second in the decade.

Other things I love in his top ten:

The Lives of Others. Because then you get to discuss the directing and say the director's name, Floren Henckel von Donnersmark, which is totally fun to say. Plus: most of the movie is a guy listening through headphones. Could have been incredibly boring, but instead wonderfully gripping.

Memento. Yes! It gave me a headache I was concentrating so hard!

Angels in America. Mormons! Angels! Al Pacino portraying an evil man! Emma Thompson! Meryl Streep in the dowdiest haircut ever! Heartbreaking and fantastic all at once.

Disagreement: Waking Life. Interesting in concept, but I was bored.

Still to see: The Best of Youth, The Motorcycle Diaries.

Movies 11-20:
We are in agreement: An Education. Perfect, just as he says. Once and Before Sunset. Both movies that say so much in a limited amount of time. Before Sunset has the distinction of being one of the happiest surprises in my adult life. Really! The Incredibles. An incredibly funny film that also is animated.

The rest of 11-20 I've not seen.

21-25: No Country for Old Men. Mesmerizing. So good I had a random conversation with a stranger at a bus stop.

The rest of the 25:
Amelie. Yep. Delightful.
Billy Elliot. Also set in Europe and delightful.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Incredibly fun to watch. Sort of a cackling-with-delight movie. This was also the movie where I realized George Clooney isn't afraid to make himself funny looking.
The Queen. Tension filled, in an extremely low-key way.
The Royal Tennenbaums. I hate to think this might be Wes Anderson at his greatest, but it might be.
Shaun of the Dead. Funny, scary and gives hope to all the sad-sacks.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Three sentence movie reviews--The French Lieutenant's Woman

And why should this movie be any different than those watched over Winter Break? It was fine, a bit engrossing in parts, and ultimately I'm most interested to see if the book cuts back and forth between the present and the movie just like this movie did. Not the worst way to spend two hours and four minutes, but I've had better.

poster from:

Three sentence movie reviews--The Namesake.

Another not-so-captivating movie watched over Winter Break. Everything was fine in this movie: the story, the characters, the color scheme. I think scenes from this movie will stick with me for years, but overall, it was not a super memorable movie.

poster from:

Friday, January 1, 2010

Three sentence movie reviews--Some Kind of Wonderful

I hadn't seen this since I was 13 or so, and watching it at 35, I think I got a lot more out of it from my adult perspective than my early adolescent one. Classic lines abound in this film (Well, I like art, I work in a gas station, my best friend is a tomboy. These things don't fly too well in the American high school...) and it is always interesting to see the lack of adults in a John Hughes world. Sometimes what you think you want isn't what you actually want.

poster from:

Resolution 2010.

I've read, and observed in my own life, that the interest in sewing skips a generation. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress. My mother tried, but I can still picture her exhaling sharply as she set out to rip another mis-sewn seam. She once made me a pair of pants for Christmas. Suspecting that something wasn't right, we agreed that I would wear a blindfold and try them on. She laughed when they didn't fit, and I took off my blindfold and laughed too.

My sewing talents don't approach my grandmothers, and I'm in a "not sewing" holding pattern, but my homemaking gene is strong.

Similarly, my resolutions seem to go in an every-other-year success rate. In 2008, I resolved to write a letter per day and before burning out completely in late November, pretty much kept to that. Last year, I pledged to stop eating while standing. On the surface, a much easier task to fulfill, but I failed miserably at it.

With the every other year success rate, this year looks good for resolutions. At the New Year's Eve party I attended last night my resolution was greeted with raspberries, general jeers and calls of "boring!" But I'm pretty excited about it.

Resolved: in 2010, I will spend 15 minutes per day working at my desk. In priority order my tasks will be: checkbooks, in box, blogs.

All three of those things are not really in my control. My checkbooks/money management system is admittedly a labyrinth process that could perhaps be streamlined. But I like the way I have set up its many processes, and checks and balances. When it is caught up, it gives me a sense of security.

It is rarely caught up. When I attack the to-do list monthly, it takes two or three hours and causes much shallow breathing and sighing. I also have a vague sense of unease throughout the month that I could bounce a check at any time. When I neglect the money management for more than a couple months, it takes the better part of a day to dig myself out. After the move, I didn't catch things up for about six months and spent eight hours setting things right. A bit of daily attention would prevent this, and the resolution is designed to do just that.

My inbox is a sorry mess. I caught a reference to it in a previous blog post mentioning something about it's geologic layers. I think I had it down to one object a few Christmases ago, but that was it. I would love to clear out that sucker, and now that my checkbooks are caught up, and presumably easy to maintain, I aim to do just that.
And oh, the blogs. In my mind, I work on them all the time. One of my friends lists my blog on her site. The listing also notes the last posting. I remember the first time I saw that my last posting on the list was three or four months old. I was surprised, then realized that just because I think about the blog daily, doesn't mean that things are published. The thing I didn't realize is that there are so many steps. Taking pictures, prepping pictures, making the blog post, writing it, letting it rest, editing it, editing it again, actually posting it. And I have so many damn interests. All those steps just don't get done very often. It's disheartening.

I don't expect the blogs to get much better any time soon, for right now the money and the inbox promise to eat up that fifteen minutes. But perhaps the blog will move along a bit.

As for implementation, I have printed up calendars for the year and posted them on the door to the office. Each day I do my fifteen minutes, I will make a check mark of some kind on the day. I plan to prioritize this task and do it as soon as I come home from work, or first thing in the morning on non-work days.

Wish me luck.