Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dinner in Greektown

As usual, click to enlarge 'em. (They're ginormous because I uploaded the wrong files, but whatever. Enjoy the microscopic detail!) They were taken in and around Pegasus on Monroe Street in Detroit's Greektown.

The author of No One Cares What You Had for Lunch would hate me for posting these.

Fun with Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

My mom's dog, Juliet, joined her daughter, Miranda, and another relative, six-month-old Wilbur, for a bit of social time in the kitchen. Behold the cute overload that resulted!

Weekend update

I had a great time at the Class of '98 reunion, and tomorrow I'm going to shul because my mom is co-leading services and I want to interview the rabbi for my upcoming article about Jewish views of the afterlife. Then a former teacher, Barry Lepler, is coming over for tea, and after that I might get to see my college friend Lauren before my mom and I go to Greektown for dinner. (Happy-Go-Lucky didn't work out today after all -- the projector broke, and we got our money back. I'll have to catch it back in Seattle.) Sunday morning I'll drive to Ann Arbor to have brunch with my friend Rebecca, who recently bought a condo, and I'll spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening with my mom before heading to the airport. It's been a great trip so far, though I do miss the Kibbutz and look forward to returning to its welcoming embrace.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I'm thankful for

Many, many aspects of the Ravenna Kibbutz, including my amazing housemates, excellent food on a remarkably regular basis, and the Kibbutz community -- the first community I've really felt a part of in Seattle.

Small but encouraging breakthroughs in the search for a job.

My mom.

Greek food in Detroit.

The good movies that get released between now and Dec. 31.

Glimmers of hope that emerge from places both expected and unexpected.

All the good things about Seattle, including beautiful water (and the city lights reflected in it), first-rate Thai and Vietnamese food, ahead-of-the-curve environmental awareness, and sunny days that revive your mood after a series of rainy ones.

Obama's victory.

How funny and cute small dogs are.

All my wonderful friends.

Having spent almost 30 years on this planet.

A hunch that 2009 won't be quite as hard as 2008, or at least hard in more manageable ways.

Thanksgiving dinner in pictures

Click on 'em to make 'em bigger.

I might upload more (including some of actual people) when Blogger stops taking forever to do it. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Tomorrow my mom and I are off to Greektown for lunch, and then to Happy-Go-Lucky, our annual holiday movie excursion. She's likely to enjoy it a lot more than I'm Not There, which was last year's. Oh, and tomorrow night I'm off to my second high school reunion in as many years -- I just can't get enough! I know a decent number of the Class of '98, so it ought to be fun (and a bit less anxiety-producing than my own). I wonder how many people throughout the night will say: "Weren't you in the Class of '97?"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Farewell to Dubya

I wrote a goodbye letter to President Bush for a group blog that collects them. You should, too!

No idea how I missed this during the campaign

Late is definitely better than never, though. (You'll probably want to stop the video after you've watched the whole sequence a couple of times; it's on loop.)

I made it to Motown!

The married military man and the elderly lady in the seats behind me on the plane talked for three and a half straight hours, preventing me from sleeping (though admittedly I spent at least an hour of that time reading The New Yorker, and another half-hour listening to the Avenue Q soundtrack on my iPod), but I'm here! And my mother's dog is as cute as ever, and my mother herself is mildly obsessed with Trader Joe's (the fridge is filled with TJ's stuff, and it's almost frighteningly well organized), and I'm making stuffed mushroom caps for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, and all is right with the world. Oh, and Calvin Trillin's piece on barbecue in the New Yorker food issue is every bit as good as Michael claimed it was. Mimi Sheraton's ode to brodetto is great, too -- makes me want to go back to Italy. (I still remember meeting Ms. Sheraton at Salumi, with Roger Downey providing the introduction. Those were the days...)

Where I am going, for sure, is the Inauguration! I'm very excited. I'll probably spend about ten days on the East Coast in total -- several days in New York before Jan. 20, and several days after. I can't wait!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Okay, so I'm a few days early. I'll be leaving for Detroit around 10 p.m. Tuesday night, and I'm not sure how much I'll be blogging from Motown this year -- though last year I posted on Turkey Day, so who knows? In any case, I figured I'd better wish you all a happy holiday in advance. May your meal be filling and delicious, may your dinner conversation be sparkling and witty, and may you spend enough time with every family member and friend you've been dying to see. (Expect a photo-packed post upon my return.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hold the mustard

Thanks to Monica for sending this my way.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On horror movies

When I was a kid, even the trailers for horror movies kept me from sleeping.

At the age of 10, I was scared absolutely silly by a preview for Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. (Why this was showing before something I would see, I don't know.) Until The Fisher King, which came out when I was 12, I didn't see R-rated movies. It wasn't because my parents forbade it -- it was because I associated the R rating with scares. (In 1992 and 1993, I saw The Crying Game, The Piano, and Schindler's List in the theater, so I clearly had an easier time with frank sexual material and violence in the context of historical drama.)

Over the years, I developed a natural curiosity about scary movies, and by seeing Scream in a dorm lounge during freshman year of college, I became Someone Who Watched Horror Movies, even though Scream's intended effect -- it's a playful but violent spoof of slasher movies -- was lost on me. I was petrified and upset, especially by the opening sequence, during which poor Drew Barrymore suffers a horrible death, along with her unfortunate boyfriend. During college vacations, and especially after graduation, I peeked at horror movies on my parents' deluxe cable -- HBO! Showtime! -- until they scared me beyond a reasonable measure. Eventually, after sufficient training, I started watching them whole. This M.O. hit a snag in 2003, when I rented The Ring -- yes, the American remake -- and frightened myself so badly that it took me a couple weeks to recover.

Which brings me to a night not too long ago. I was having a hard time sleeping, so I went online and came across the Canadian werewolf movie Ginger Snaps, which I'd heard about -- it won a fair amount of critical acclaim for a horror film -- and was curious to watch a little of. You know, just a little, to see what it was like.

An hour and a half later, I'd seen virtually the entire movie -- I skipped a few minutes here and there, not because of violence or gore but because I was tired and impatient -- and had actually liked it. And though I was a bit creeped out (at the time, I lived in a mother-in-law cabin, and cabins become exponentially creepier after you watch a horror movie), I wasn't going to lose weeks of sleep -- anyway, I was already kind of doing that, so nothing much to lose. The next day, I watched the sequel to Ginger Snaps, which is considerably grimmer and less funny, to its detriment. I flinched a bit here and there, but not too much.

In the last few days, I've been watching zombie movies on YouTube -- quite a few have been uploaded mostly or entirely, including the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, which is pretty fun, the amusing spoof Shaun of the Dead, and plenty of inferior genre entries (like Diary of the Dead, which is hokey and not especially scary, and the 2008 direct-to-DVD Day of the Dead, which is less hokey than just plain dull). (28 Days Later, easily my favorite zombie movie, isn't online in one piece, as far as I can tell.) Watching horror on YouTube is kind of ideal -- you have to keep asking for the next portion of the movie, which prevents you from getting sucked into the film's reality too much, and you can pause it whenever you want in order to take a breather. Also, the small screen is less intimidating than a big one, or even a TV screen.

Tonight, however, I decided to take my life in my hands and watch a bona fide horror film at the theater: the new Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In. (The last horror movie I saw in the theater may have been Trouble Every Day, whose scenes of violence were so agonizing that I closed my eyes and my ears during them.) As critics have been saying, Let the Right One In is a sweet coming-of-age love story that just happens to include vampirism, and it strikes an excellent balance between originality and age-old vampire lore. The players are good (especially Lina Leandersson, the young actress who plays Eli, the vampire), but it's the mood of the film -- unforced melancholy that seems to emanate from both the characters and the snowy Stockholm setting -- that makes it haunting.

As the credits rolled, I turned to Reed and said: "I must be getting desensitized to horror movies, because that wasn't so bad." The truth is, Let the Right One In doesn't traffic in gratuitous violence, which is part of why it's successful (and, I'd argue, part of why any good horror movie works). When the mayhem does get graphic, it has a purpose, and that purpose isn't always to shock you -- sometimes it's to make you sad, or to make you laugh and gasp at the same time. So while there's plenty out there that can still frighten or upset me -- I have particular disdain for Cabin Fever and Hostel director Eli Roth, who is partly responsible for the rise of the "torture porn" genre -- I feel as though I've turned a corner. I can see a horror movie on the big screen, without a pause button at my disposal, and not end up strongly suspecting that at some point during the night my blood will be rapidly drained from my neck by a small but insistent vampire.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama's personal transition

I've been sick for almost a week, so I haven't been posting much. But here's an interesting New York Times article, brought to my attention by Jill, about the president-elect's personal transition process since the election. It's a reassuring account, I think. Especially this:
“He seems to be very, very focused on the transition,” said his friend, John W. Rogers Jr. chairman of Ariel Investments, who lent office space to Mr. Obama until the federal space was available. “It doesn’t seem to have changed him at all. He’s the same relaxed, in-control, engaging Barack that he’s always been. I’ve been struck by that, that it hasn’t shifted him.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes we did!

Last night on Capitol Hill, at the intersection of Broadway and Pike, there was a rally the likes of which I'd never seen. People of all races and ages held Obama signs and American flags. Complete strangers hugged and high-fived each other. Some people sprayed the crowd with champagne, while others lit fireworks that shot high above us and exploded beautifully against the night sky. Chants of "Yes we can!" alternated with "Yes we did!" and, as several of my friends pointed out, hipsters shouted "U! S! A!" and sang the national anthem -- the national anthem! -- without a trace of irony. As Kim noted, eight years of pent-up frustration transformed last night into a wild, unstructured expression of pure joy. Whatever the Obama administration achieves or does not, there's no question that he has galvanized and energized a great many people who had little or no interest in politics before. I should know, because I'm one of them. An older man in the crowd said he hadn't seen anything like last night's rally since 1968, and one older woman, her large Obama pin attached crookedly to her coat, was on the verge of tears as she hugged us all. The kind of love people showed for their country and for each other last night was remarkable, and no development in the coming four years can take anything away from that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm not a praying man...

...but tonight, I'm about as close as I get.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'm SO seeing this

Yep, it's NaNoWriMo time again

Heaven help us all. I've got 1,719 words so far. Let's see if I can win my third consecutive year!