Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Legacy watch

(Sorry, it's turning into politics-all-the-time around here, huh?)

We all know that Dubya's last SOTU [hurrah!] was all about framing his legacy. [HA! What legacy? ahem. sorry.] Here's a nice post at 23/6 about his lame duck status and what he will try to take credit for in the coming years:
... he'll dedicate his last year in office to ending the unpopular war he started and turning around the economic recession that happened on his watch. He also laid the groundwork for taking all the credit should the next administration manage to balance the budget his administration unbalanced.
But I think my favorite part of this post has to be the graphic, mostly because it expresses the clear superiority of my favorite (faux) Democratic President, Jed Bartlet. :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

An icon re-imagined


If you've ever seen an issue of the New Yorker, you've probably seen Eustace Tilley. You know... the dandy with tophat and the spectacle, looking at the butterfly. Since 1994, the magazine has held a contest, inviting the public to "re-imagine" Tilley.

Here's a Dr. Seuss version. There are some amazing entries posted on the Flickr site. The winners will be announced on Monday, February 4.

Happiest words of the day

heard on NPR this morning:

"Tonight will be President George Bush's **last** State of the Union address."

I swear, I almost shed tears of joy.



P.S. And if you haven't read it, go read Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's OpEd in the NYT.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Signs of (some) intelligence

Last month, I was reminded of the utter idiocy that abounds in (parts of) Texas. This month, I'm pleased to say, my position was upheld by some pretty smart people. Regarding the proposal by the Creation Institute to train "science" teachers in creationism in Texas:
"The latest round of so-called creation science truly scares me and all of my colleagues here at UT Southwestern Medical Center," wrote Alfred Gilman, dean of UT Southwestern's medical school and a Nobel Prize winner in medicine. "Approval of this sort of nonsense as science in Texas will have a significant negative impact on our ability to attract the best minds to the state."
HA! The one that really gets me is from another Nobel laureate:

Steven Weinberg, a physics professor at UT-Austin and a Nobel laureate in physics, [said,] "In my opinion, it would be a blow to science education in Texas, and an embarrassment for Texas," he wrote.

But of course they're getting just as many letters saying that the state *should* allow it, including a message from this guy, who works across the street from me!

[Joe Scientist], senior research scientist at UT-Austin's Center for Electromechanics, asked that the institute be given a fair review. "I am persuaded that the creation worldview has a firm place in science," he wrote.
OK, seriously, dude? You're a scientist. Creation is not science. It's a lovely bedtime story. I think the problem is that these people really do not want to believe that they are in any way related to monkeys. Sorry kids, that's genetics. And genetics IS science. (...and all good genetic research requires a supercomputer. Sorry, had to throw that in there!)


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wading into the mess

For someone who has spent so much of her time knee-deep in politics, I haven't said much about the 2008 election. Well, here we go.

With primary season in full swing, the political machinations of the 2008 election have "officially" started. I have been reading political commentary and listening to NPR, and even if I hadn't already decided who I was going to vote for, I would have come out for Barack Obama.

There's a lot of chatter out there comparing Obama with Bobby Kennedy. I have been thinking this same way for a while - this man has the right attitude and is saying the right things to bring a lot of people out to vote who never bothered before. I've heard and read in multiple places that he gives people hope, which is exactly what RFK did in 1968. (There's also a discussion about whether he's just saying nice things to get elected, or he means them, but I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.) The first-time voters in 2008 really only remember Presidents Bush(41 & 43) and Clinton, and are eager for a change. George McGovern even suggests we should go forward with impeachment -- Bush and Cheney are worse than Nixon:
Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.
Yes, it's historic that a woman is running for President. And as a woman maybe I should be more supportive. But having worked for the Gores in '93 and the Campaign/Inaugural in '96-'97, I am just not impressed with Hillary. I'm sure, as any Arkansas Travelers will tell you, she's a wonderful woman. But -- until she actually showed some emotion on camera -- she doesn't give that impression to the rest of the world. Would she make a good President? Probably. Does she come off sounding too smart and calculated, the way Al Gore did in 2000? Generally. Are the Republicans champing at the bit to run against her, rather than Obama? Definitely.

So what is it? To be perfectly honest, his speeches give me goosebumps.
Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. What led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. What led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause.... Because we are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America. And in this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.
Because he does have a chance, a great chance, to be our next President. I like John Edwards, too, but not as much. (It's sort of a shame that the mainstream media has mostly ignored Edwards, because he's the handsome white guy running for President, which isn't nearly as historic.) And what scares me the most is that some lunatic white supremacist is going to come along and try to assassinate Obama. Ugh.

My prediction for the '08 race: Obama-Edwards vs. McCain-Huckabee. It'll be a good one!

On a related topic, Bill Clinton ought to be ashamed of himself (if he knew what that feeling entailed... which he clearly doesn't.) The former POTUS should not be out there slinging mud at another Democratic candidate! He was doing such a good job being a former President, giving even Jimmy Carter a run for his money... doing charitable works, traveling around the world with Bush Sr., raising money for all kinds of causes. His cause at this point should be to get the Democrats out to vote en masse (which I think we'll all do anyway, just to get the GOP idiots out of DC)... not denigrating a candidate who, truth be told, is having the same kind of "hopes and dreams of a new generation" impact at campaign rallies that Clinton himself had in 1992. Hello?!?

ok, off my soap box, for now. ;) Hope you're registered to vote!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Glitz-less Golden Globes

With the Hollywood writers on strike, the glitz and glamour of the Golden Globes (yes, I love alliteration!) last night were truncated to a one hour press conference-type deal. I understand the actors' solidarity, not wanting to cross the picket lines, but I wanted to see some hot men in tuxedos! to check out the fancy (and freakish) dresses! Sigh.

The good news is, the foreign press picked some real winners!

[selected] 65th Golden Globe Award Winners

Hollywood Foreign Press Association 2008 Golden Globe Award Winners for the year ended December 31, 2007 (click here to see the full list of awards)


BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA: ATONEMENT *ooh, must see this one.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, There Will Be Blood *must see this one too!

BEST MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET *YAY!*

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL

JOHNNY DEPP, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street *YAY!*

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: RATATOUILLE (*I have this at home from Netflix, maybe I should watch?) :)

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE

JAVIER BARDEM, No Country for Old Men *ooh, Javier es muy guapo. :)

BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE

ETHAN COEN & JOEL COEN, No Country for Old Men *Excellent. They rock.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – MOTION PICTURE

“GUARANTEED” — INTO THE WILD, Music & Lyrics by: Eddie Vedder *heck, if Phil Collins can write movie music, why not Eddie V?

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A SERIES, MINI-SERIES OR MOTION PICTURE MADE FOR TELEVISION

JEREMY PIVEN, Entourage *We luuuuuuuurrrvvve Piven!!! YAY!!!


Here's hoping we actually get an Oscar night, so I can have a theme-filled birthday party next month! If Sweeney Todd is nominated, should I make... blood orange tart? or should I make meat pies, and promise not to use Mrs. Lovett's recipe? ;)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Switching to Organic

I started a new program at my gym, which includes bi-weekly sessions with a nutritionist, continuing to work with my trainer, plus a pedometer and a food diary. The nutritionist is very nice (much better than the woman who was there before). At our first appointment last week, she started suggesting that I lean more toward natural foods -- real butter instead of margarine, almond butter instead of JIF (waaah!), etc. She was impressed that I already knew how to keep a food diary, but after all these years on Weight Watchers, it's really second nature.

She took me to the (regular) supermarket yesterday, to talk about what to buy and what not to buy. We looked at organic everything, from apples to cereals to milk to energy bars. We talked about the nutrition content of the stuff that I had been buying, which was full of chemicals and preservatives. I always look at the fat and calorie content of the foods (to count WW points), but I have to start looking at the ingredient list and avoiding things like sucralose and MSG. This is harder than you might think -- what we used to call MSG (and avoided like the plague in Chinese restaurants), is also called hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, or protein isolate. Did you know that? MSG is everywhere!

Basically, I can eat foods that are slightly higher in fat or calories, as long as it's in moderation, and the ingredient list is made up of things I can pronounce! :) This is the biggest challenge for me - re-learning everything I've been taught about low fat, low calorie foods. Another example: she said "eat the whole egg!" I don't eat egg yolks if I can help it, except sometimes in scrambled eggs. Eat real maple syrup, just don't eat a lot of it. So this will be a real learning experience.

Here's a snapshot of what I bought at the supermarket... of course, the shock of organics is that I only got 28 items, but I spent $75! Ouch!

I should have taken a snapshot of all of the things that went in the trash/recycling when I got home -- "butter-flavor" lite syrup, margarine, barbecue sauce, Nabisco 100-calorie packs, Cheerios... I get the feeling I'll be buying a lot less of the big national brands from now on!

The pedometer has been kind of fun, too - I discovered that tapping my foot/dancing at Cedar Street for two hours (we went to hear the Spazmatics on Weds.) got me an extra 5,000 steps! I also racked up 2,000 steps walking around Costco (and avoiding the free taster stations). And it definitely makes me want to walk down the hall to talk to people at work rather than staying in my office and using IM.

I also noticed that Costco has a lot of Organic stuff... never paid attention before, but now that it makes a difference, I'll be checking it out.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd...

His face was pale and his eye was odd.
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
who never thereafter were heard of again.
He trod a path that few have trod,
did Sweeney Todd,
the Demon Barber of Fleet Street*
Paul and I went to see Sweeney Todd at the Alamo Downtown last night. I've been itching to see it since it came out, although I will admit I was a little hesitant about Johnny Depp's singing voice. But the show is one of my all-time favorites -- I know all of the songs, and I listen to the Original Broadway recording with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou all the time.

So we went! First thought: Johnny Depp's singing voice is about an octave higher than the standard for the role. (Brian Stokes Mitchell also had a short run as Sweeney Todd, and he was fantastic.) But after I got over that, I was immersed in Tim Burton's vision of London of the mid 1800's. Helena Bonham Carter did well, Alan Rickman was positively creepy, and Sacha Baron Cohen proved that he's far better than Borat. The kid who played Toby (Edward Sanders) had a strong, powerful voice - I liked his version better than the original. And Tim Burton was definitely the best person to bring this production to the big screen. The reflections in the razors and the cracked mirror were chilling.

I didn't actually sing along out loud (...much), but I mouthed the words to most of the songs. :) They did cut a couple of songs, including the opening song (* above), but the rest were well done and creatively staged. I particularly liked the way they did "A Little Priest", with Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett spying the different "pie flavors" out the windows of the pie shop.

In the "Behind the Scenes" and "making of..." specials that I've seen, Depp and Rickman had said that the blood should get its own line in the credits, because there was so much of it. They weren't kidding! Plus, I'm so used to hearing that violin screech when a throat is cut on the stage, it was weird to see the blood so close-up every time. By the end of the movie, the audience was even giggling when the blood started spurting out of Todd's victims.

Overall, I'd give it 3-1/2 out of 4 stars. Go see it, but don't blame me if you have nightmares!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year!

Sorry I'm a day late, but it wasn't officially a Happy New Year until the Rose Bowl game ended. :) And boy, it couldn't end soon enough for the Illini. Final score, 49-17. (The Trojans could have gone over 50 pts if Pete had called a time out with 10 seconds to go so we could set up, but that would have been adding insult to injury, so the game just ended.)

It did sort of irk me that the cameras kept showing closeups of the Illinois fans, making it look like they had taken over far more than the 1/4 of the stadium that they actually got. And there was a bit of taunting, sure -- the Trojan players didn't really need to be dancing on the sidelines when the game started, and Desmond Reed didn't need to do a front flip into the end zone on a TD (which resulted in a penalty), but to have unsportsmanlike conduct called at the end of every other play in the fourth quarter... that was a bit much. Of course, by that point, it was just as often called on the Illini as it was on the Trojans -- big games will do that to you.

If Booty hadn't broken a finger... if we'd beaten Stanford (and/or Oregon), would we be playing OSU (or LSU) in the national championship next week? Yes, probably. But as the Rose Bowl is about to be our home field for a year, it was nice to start there, and for Booty and the other seniors, it was nice to end there. Of course, even Pete says they'd keep playing if they could. (Don't we love Coach?!)
The No. 7 Trojans are better than both No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 LSU, which will play for the BCS championship Monday night in the Louisiana Superdome. The Buckeyes couldn't even beat No. 13 Illinois, which was so clearly overmatched by USC. It's a shame the Trojans can't play the winner of the BCS title game in two weeks. (Mark Schlabach, ESPN)
Ah well. We'll just have to be content with the knowledge that we'll kick everybody's asses again next year! :)

Happy New Year, y'all!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy Birthday Gigi!

After much fun and debauchery at Dani's birthday, I had another birthday party to attend the following night. Here's the story: Dani and Giselle are two of my best friends in the world, and yet I have never been able to get them in the same room! I have plenty of friends that have met both of them... but they've never met each other! It's weird. And, their birthdays are a day apart!

So, on Friday, Dani turned 36, and on Saturday, Gigi turned 40! She invited people from near and far to a soiree at her apartment. She made West Indian meat pies, spanakopita, ham and egg cups (muffin-sized), brownies, chocolate cake, cranberry chutney, apple crumble... and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Oh! and Grand Marnier-Pomegranate-Champagne punch. YUM! It was all SO tasty. (I think she started cooking a month ago!) We watched the Giants-Patriots game, as Gigi is herself a New Yorker, and had invited some other NYers and a few Bostonians. The perfect season, indeed.

The party was fun! Gigi loved the Clapotis shawl, and I got to catch up with a bunch of people I hadn't seen in over a year. Jane even adopted the (empty) bottle of Cristal, and carried it around as if it were her baby for the rest of the night (*after* Gigi drank the last few drops straight from the bottle!). Here we are, the party girls! (yes, I wore the same shirt to both parties... shush.)

I did the brave, big city thing, and walked to and from the party across Adams Morgan. I have to say, I felt perfectly safe walking home at midnight. That part of town has changed so much since I was a kid. They're even putting a Harris Teeter in the 'hood! (Gigi is very excited about that.)

Phew! Too many parties! I'm exhausted!