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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito Confirmed

(Scroll below for more Tuesday posts. There are four already, and there will be two more by night's end)

FINAL TALLY

Aye 58
No 42

CNN and Fox reporting that it could be 58 Ayes, so we'll see. It was Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming, who cast the decisive 51st vote.

Justice Clarence Thomas got 52 votes, you might recall, after a much more partisan and vicious hearings.

Two white, conservative American males have now been confirmed to the SCOTUS in President Bush's term, which is almost unbelievable.

If this President gets one more SCOTUS nomination (which surely will be a woman like Janice Rogers Brown), that will be his greatest legacy.

More later.

Mrs. King Dies

As if Super Tuesday wasn't already jam-packed...

Comes abrupt, and unexpected news that the widow of the esteemed Civil Rights hero, Martin Luther King, Jr., has died in her sleep, after having suffered a massive stroke last year.

Coretta Scott King was 78 years-old, and she will no doubt, be buried alongside her husband, in that water-island memorial in the King Centre in Atlanta.

January will now have an extra-special significance for many people, since Dr. King was born on 15th January, of course, and now, his widow dies on the very last day of the month.

In passing, here's a quirky observation:

You know, it's always struck me as incongruous that Black History Month, has been officially celebrated in February here in the United States.

February. Shortest month of the year...what gives?

Black Americans can't even win when they're being honoured.

IN THE COMMENTS: Commenter XWL brings up WEB DuBois in passing, noting the oft-virulent feelings some have in either the pro-Booker T. Washington, pro-DuBois camps.

This reminded me of an anecdote about Mr. Washington, that I thought you might like, if you hadn't heard it yet.

As you know, Booker T. Washington was the iconic black figure of his time, not only for his groundbreaking work in the Tuskegee Institute, but for having written his inspiring memoirs, Up from Slavery.

If you haven't read it, I HIGHLY recommend you do. It should be required reading in all high schools around the world.

But his presence on the world scene preceeded his actual autobiography.

And one of his best fans was none other than Queen Victoria.

Not too many people are aware that Booker T. Washington was invited to Windsor Castle, to have tea with the old, legendary Queen who gave her name to a whole era.

Now this fact is fantastic alone, but it becomes more poignant, because Mr. Washington was also invited to meet with then-President TheodoreRoosevelt, 3 years after having been received by the Queen.

Because Booker T. Washington had to enter through the tradesman entrance when he visited his own country's Presidential home, being a black man and all.

But the old Queen had him greeted by her Court Chamberlain personally...and he entered by the ceremonial front door.

Why not indeed.

She was famous for being one of the most unracist people of her time and background.

Many, many years later, I was at Windsor Castle, and I asked one of the few guides where I could find that entrance.

She said, you're standing in front of it.

And chills went down my spine, because I knew that maybe, my foot rested down on the same cobblestone, which Booker T. Washington had possibly stepped on, those many years before.

History is but a moment away from you, wherever you go.

Oscar Nominations 2006

After last night's SAG Awards, you'd think Hollywood would stop right there, right?

Wrong!

It's time for the Academy Award Nominations for 2006.

Academy President Sid Ganis, alongside no doubt an as yet unannounced Hollywood starlet, will be declaring the lucky few at 8:45 AM.

Here's your "so what" fact of the day:

Brokeback Mountain just broke the $50 million dollar threshold this week, after a month of being out in theatres.

Big Momma's House 2 has made $28 million, in its opening WEEKEND.

More later.

UPDATE: It's Mira Sorvino, as the requisite Hollywood B-lister reading from the cue-cards.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS


Amy Adams for Junebug (2005)
Catherine Keener for Capote (2005)
Frances McDormand for North Country (2005)
Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener (2005)
Michelle Williams for Brokeback Mountain (2005)

THOUGHTS: Very much as anticipated, and although I really liked Amy Adams in Junebug, I think it's Rachel Weisz' (who just won it in the SAG Awards last night) for the asking.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR


George Clooney for Syriana (2005)
Matt Dillon for Crash (2004)
Paul Giamatti for Cinderella Man (2005)
Jake Gyllenhaal for Brokeback Mountain (2005)
William Hurt for A History of Violence (2005)

THOUGHTS: I am an absolute sucker for character actors and actresses, having cut my teeth on Paul Muni's biopics, so the "Best Supporting" nods always capture my attention. And I'd like to state here and now that there is no better character actor on film, in the US today, than Paul Giamatti. He was brilliant in American Splendour, and woefully ignored last year, in Sideways. Here's hoping his sweet portrayal as that crazed Aussie's sidekick, and manager in Cinderalla Man will get him the gold trinket.


BEST ACTRESS


Judi Dench for Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)
Felicity Huffman for Transamerica (2005)
Keira Knightley for Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Charlize Theron for North Country (2005)
Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line (2005)

THOUGHTS: Come on, Judy Dench again? Is this a sop to the UK audiences who may be staying up to watch this ever-increasing boring farce? I've been told Mrs. Henderson Presents is absolute cack, as well, but not having seen it yet, I will hold my tongue (hah). One great surprise is Keira Knightley for Pride & Prejudice. The camera lingered lovingly on her the whole film, but her acting was a wonderful throwback to the films Hollywood used to herald, with Laurence Olivier and Gene Tierney never far behind. However, and I say this completely ecstaticly, but it's Reese Witherspoon or bupkus here. She was that engaging and fun, and deserves it. Witherspoon has been quite my favourite actress, going on 5 years now.


BEST ACTOR


Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote (2005)
Terrence Howard for Hustle & Flow (2005)
Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Joaquin Phoenix for Walk the Line (2005)
David Strathairn for Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

THOUGHTS: Too bad for Joaquin Phoenix, as I don't think the Academy will award two musical biopic stars two years in a row (he was fantastic, though, and unlike the otherwise charming Jamie Foxx, he sang his own songs). So let's go with David Strathairn in an upset over Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's due.


BEST DIRECTOR


George Clooney for Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Paul Haggis for Crash (2004)
Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Bennett Miller for Capote (2005)
Steven Spielberg for Munich (2005)

THOUGHTS: Ang Lee. Nuff said. Oh, and it's interesting to see that the Academy recognised the ine work of Steven Spielberg, who made a devastatingly engrossing period piece, with a kind of Cold War thriller-John Le Carré pacing that was great to watch again.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY


Crash (2004) - Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) - George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Match Point (2005) - Woody Allen
The Squid and the Whale (2005) - Noah Baumbach
Syriana (2005) - Stephen Gaghan

THOUGHTS: The Squid and the Whale would be my choice by far, but I am going with Paul Haggis in Crash. It just has that kind of buzz which is difficult to ignore.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Brokeback Mountain (2005) - Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
Capote (2005) - Dan Futterman
The Constant Gardener (2005) - Jeffrey Caine
A History of Violence (2005) - Josh Olson
Munich (2005) - Tony Kushner, Eric Roth

THOUGHTS: There's only one film of the ones listed above, which I haven't seen, and that's what I have heard is the superlative, History of Violence. If I were a betting woman, I'd say go with Brokeback Mountain (a big freaking 'duh' here, please), but keep your eye on History of Violence.


BEST FOREIGN FILM


Joyeux Noël (2005) (France)
Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage (2005) (Germany)
Paradise Now (2005) (Palestine)
Tsotsi (2005) (South Africa)
Don't Tell (2005) (Italy)

THOUGHTS: There has to be some kind of ironic God smiling up there, to have posited Sophie Scholl, a heretofore unknown German university student, who played a heroic role in fighting Nazis amongst the White Rose crowd in Munich, against Paradise Now, a film about Palestinian suicide bombers -- whose brief, violent life purpose is killing Jews. I'm going with Tsotsi.


BEST PICTURE


Brokeback Mountain (2005) - Diana Ossana, James Schamus
Capote (2005) - Caroline Baron, William Vince, Michael Ohoven
Crash (2004) - Paul Haggis, Cathy Schulman
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) - Grant Heslov
Munich (2005) - Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Barry Mendel

THOUGHTS: Brokeback. Of course. It might've dragged in its second hour, but the first hour was brilliant.


Those of you who are scoring at home, you lucky dogs, it's Brokeback with 8 Nominations.

Academy Awards will take place on March 5th, 2006.


OPINION:

This past year was very rewarding for people like me: those of us who like serious dramatic films aimed entirely for adults.

In fact, I would say, after the disastrous past 2 years, 2005 broke (get used to seeing that word again) in like a ray of light, and any weighty film would have made an impact for us.

But 2005 did more than that: good directing, good writing, and good cinematography, alongside good acting is surely more than just a coincidence.

It could mean a resurgence for Hollywood, whose box office carcass is on life support even as I type.

But here is the impertinence of reality upsetting this new state-of-affairs.

The films we see above have not been watched by mainstream America, by and large.

Hollywood used to pat itself on its back for substantive, yet enjoyable films which just happened to have been good enough to warrant a nod from the Academy.

And Brokeback Mountain, TransAmerica, Junebug, Capote, Good Night & Good Luck, et. al. just won't cut it.

It's tricky.

Almost all these films above, which I have seen, are singularly excellent films. Some are groundbreaking films, which is fine.

But few capture the imagination of the American people.

It is very sad to see this, for those of us who love the medium of film, to see this ever-growing disconnect by Hollywood to their target audience, the greater public.

Because when the provider doesn't provide you with what you need, you either become frustrated, and turn elsewhere, or become resentful at the lack of perceived respect for your needs.

Oh, there will always be an Oscars Ceremony. No doubt, I'll live blog that, as I did last year.

But it's not I who Hollywood has to worry about.

It's about Mr. & Mrs. America, with their 2.4 children, SUV, holding down two jobs, and 1 and a half mortgages, who just wants an intriguing, decent yarn to watch at the weekend -- who they can then recognise, and have some kind of vested interest in supporting, come Oscar Time.

And the Brokeback Mountains of this world, just won't cut it. Sorry.

This will, without a doubt, be one of the lowest watched Oscars Ceremonies in memory.

And that's saying something.

Super Tuesday

Tuesday, 31 January is going to be a very eventful day.

For starters, I'll be live-blogging the Oscar Nominations.

Secondly, I'll be covering the Alito Confirmation Vote during the day.

Thirdly, I'll be commenting live on the President's State of the Union Address.

Not only is it a big day around the US, and therefore on Sundries, but it's also commenter Ron's birthday.

For many things go into making an lively blog, but its foundation is having good people like Ron around.

Happy Birthday, my dear chum!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cinematheque

The words "movie palace" brings to mind Americana at its most lavish, self-indulgent, and utterly beguiling.

Instantly, one is transported back to the 1920's and 1930's, when going to the pictures was the only game in many towns.

Thankfully, the spirit of the wonder of entertainment lives on.

This is my second blogpost devoted to showing you interesting or unique cinemahouses here in Florida.

You've already travelled up the Nile with me, to visit the Muvico Paradise 24, that splendiforous Egyptian-themed chain moviehouse in Davie.

Now follow me as we enter the brand-spanking new Muvico Parisian 20, in toney West Palm Beach!

Immediately you see, whether or not you've heard of the Garnier Opera House in Paris, that its décor is supposed to be grand, imposing, not the least bit humourous, unlike the Paradise pharaohs and mummies.

But don't let its lack of humour fool you. It doesn't take itself that seriously as an edifice.

Instead, allow it to show you its silly side, with its fake marble columns, and stunningly faded pastel etchings on the ceiling.

Suspend your disbelief for a moment, and imagine just how much cinemagoing meant to people 80 years ago:

When people came in their finest, whether in Paris, Edinburgh, or Cleveland, to watch the latest flick on offer, surrounded by velour curtains, and olde worlde magic.

After all, life is all about the spells we cast on ourselves, with eyes wide open.


NIGHT AT THE MOVIES -- PART TWO




First, a history lesson.

The Muvico Parisian is indeed inspired by the Garnier in Paris, home of the opera house which has seen almost two centuries of musical history, such as Bizet's Carmen, and almost everything written by Offenbach.

The real Garnier is awash in the deep burnt umbers, and subtle beiges of genuine elegance.

It has inspired opera houses the world over, like Rio de Janeiro's Teatro Municipal, which like the Garnier, I've also been to -- I even got to sit in the Presidential Box for my gringa troubles.





You see, however, that the semi-tropical Brazilians decided to dazzle the eyes with strong colours, like gold leaf, and the most crimson of red carpets.

We in South Florida, have almost the same temperature, but neither the willingness nor the eye necessary to get away with such over-the-top statements.

Everywhere you turn down here, it is soft focus palettes which greet the eye.

Not for nothing, did Miami Vice make infamous the baby pistachios, pinks and blues of South Florida.

But enough talk. On to the show!





West Palm Beach has always suffered in comparison to its sister-city just over the bridge, Palm Beach.

And believe me, they are as chalk and cheese.

One, the absolute country club jewel of the South, home to the Kennedys, the Harrimans, the Vanderbilts, but also now to the upstart Trumps.

The other, aspiring to have some of that glamour rub off it, but like all nouveaux riches, never knowing just when to stop trying to impress.

CityPlace, the new walk-through mall in West Palm, is a case in point. It cradles Fendi shops, alongside Crate & Barrels.





One has to traipse across a lot of shops to get to the Muvico Parisian. But at least the palm trees keep you company.





Just outside the theatre, is this lovely Spanish-colonial building, the Harriet Himmel Perfoming Arts Centre, which is desperately trying to look older than its less than a decade-old age.

My mother crossed herself as she passed by, as she thought it was a church.

People probably took her for an actress on the eve of opening night.





We're at the Box Office, where the floral-vested attendants keep careful watch over drunken preppies in Topsiders, collars turned up -- the traditional mating dress of the oversexed Trust Fund Baby.

See how he is mugging to my camera? Later, he approached me asking me if I know a good place to eat out.

The way he leered when saying "eat out" made me turn and run like Bambi.





And speaking of dress habits, the French cinema-audience is just so much more formal than the American one.

Americans do black-tie occasions as well as anybody, but why ya'll don't put on a nice coat and tie, or iron that dress, to go the pictures is beyond me.

Show off your duds, people!





The first thing that hits you are the pillars. Plasticky, yes.

They're not like the Muvico Paradise ones, which looked solid, and massive outside.

But they tried, bless them.





Ah. Now that's more like it.

The next sight you see as you enter, are the gas lamps all around, with dimmed lights taking away some of the brandspanking newness of the place.






Looking up at the ceiling, you see portrayed a Raphaelo aquatint, showcasing Diana the Huntress frolicking with Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress.

Actually, I just made that up. I have no clue who those chubbettes are.





And as you can see, no expense was spared to make these pillars as Corinthianly dazzling as possible.

Unfortunately, Louis Sez You never figured there would be such things as security cameras, as one peeps voyeuristically at us from on high.





Despite that Big Brother Is Watching You moment, I was thinking that Muvico had hit a homerun with this cinema, since everything looked charming.

Then I saw this alcove below the tasteful red carpeted staircase, which sadly, I don't have a photo for you, as my hand shook when I took the piccie.

I didn't know WHAT it reminded me of, until I got to another scene below. You'll see.





Quick! Hurry! We'll miss the previews!

Salons 16-20 have the so-called "sofa seating" in them, where you can stretch out even more than just putting up those foldable armrests some chains now manditorily have.

Very comfy to spoon with your loved one, just like at home.





But don't forget my hot buttered popcorn, medium Coke, and croque monsieur or else, Fifi!





I loved these bulbous chandeliers, which really do remind me of the gaslamps in the Garnier, that I include two vistas for you.





This one is the close-up, and located just to the side of the up-down escalator. Maybe you think it spoils the carefully crafted faux-ancientness to have two escalators on either side, but I don't.

Paris may not be kind to the aged and handicapped, but Florida sure is.





And finally, this is the photo which reminded me of that place I mentioned above.

Have you ever been to the Magic Kingdom, and attended the animatronics showing at the Hall of Presidents?

You know, the one where Lincoln narrates a stirring account of American history in Panavision, and the other 42 wax dummies of the Presidents move around, like Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge waving to the audience?

It's the spitting image!





Yes, it is true.

Modern America is Disneyfied, even if it's not aware of it sometimes.

But that's perfectly all right in my book.

Walt Disney tried to bring the world to Americans, by reconstructing everything anew.

In doing so, he took away the history, but also the grime, pettiness, and rudeness of reality.

Maybe some may look at this Parisian Muvico and say, "eh", but for what it represents, that little fantasy that you're in Paris even if it's 85F in the palm treed shade outside, is fine by me.

Besides, any evening where you don't see a mime, is a success.

$1,028,578,781

That's over one BILLION dollars, people.

What is it for, you may ask?

It's the current fund-raising sum declared by the University of Miami, as part of their Momentum programme, which set the goal of raising a billion dollars by 2008.

They're obviously one year ahead of schedule, so they've tacked on a target of $250 million more to the total.

Let me tell you that when Donna Shalala, President Clinton's old Secretary of Health and Human Services, became U of M president, a lot of us bit our lips.

How this extremely liberal lady, formerly of U of Wisconsin, would cope with our very unpolitical university, which prides itself on its corporate-like atmosphere, would fit in, and make the institution grow, we didn't know.

There were other sniggers as well, including details of her unmarried state, and her diminutive person (she's maybe, maybe 5'0", and I'm being very generous), which invited more doubt about her, than trust, in that superficial human way.

But she's done a gangbusters job for the University, and that's what counts.

DETAILS:

The total of $1,028,578,781 raised to date is from a record 104,364 donors, of which 167 have given $1 million or more. The campaign has generated unprecedented levels of giving from University alumni and trustees, with total contributions from alumni at $314 million, and trustees at $278 million. A total of 17 endowed chairs and 116 endowed scholarships have been established, which will have a significant and enduring impact on the recruitment of outstanding faculty.

Doubtlessly

The funniest anecdote I read from the book I mentioned I was reading, Fraternity by Bob Greene, is that the author asked President Gerald R. Ford, what was his favourite film of all time.

His reply?

Mrs. Doubtfire.

The ex-president said he laughed from start to finish.

There's something so hilarious about that mental image, of Jerry Ford guffawing in a darkened movie theatre at a cross-dressing Robin Williams somewhere near Grand Rapids, which evokes Chevy Chase at his finest.

Greene's book is a study in cringing moments like that, because he asks questions at once so intimate, but that many of us would like to know anyway, that it forces you to continue reading it.

Like...

He asked President Nixon if anyone called him "Dick".

Answer: No. Not even Cuban-American Key Biscayne celeb, Bebe Rebozo, probably his closest friend in the world, who called him "Mr President" even when no one was around.

And Nixon volunteered that he never took his jacket off in the Oval Office. Ever. He just had too much respect for the place.

You know, that's so contradictorily human, I believe it.

The man who might well have ordered a burglary to find out what his political opponents were scheming, and who recorded himself using F-bombs galore -- or in other words, someone without any moral compunctions in that regard, is so respectful of the actual office of the President, that he wouldn't defile its sanctity by taking off his suit jacket when he was at work.

...He asked President Carter what time he sleeps, generally.

Answer: 10:30, or at the latest, 11:00 (just like George W. Bush, it should be noted).

President Carter also gets up very early, at 5:30 AM or 6:00, since he is most productive early in the morning.

You think people get to be President if they're not personally regimented? Not.

...He asked Gerald Ford the most personal questions, because Ford was the most down-to-earth of the 5 men portrayed.

Apart from the Mrs. Doubtfire revelation, he asked Ford if he buys his own clothes.

Answer: No, Mrs. Ford does. And she chooses his clothes to wear, oftentimes, but not in a controlling manner. Just normally, as many wives do with their husbands.

It may be a complete coincidence, too, but of the 5 men in the book, all 5 were very close to their wivs.

Richard and Pat Nixon -- he couldn't stop referring to her in his conversation.

Gerald and Betty Ford -- Gerald Ford's eyes would light up when she came into the room, like he were seeing her for the first time, each time. He also called her his "best friend".

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter -- tied at the hip as a couple. Very loving, and supportive of each other.

George HW and Babara Bush -- although not much in evidence personally in his chapter (Jeb Bush makes a very affectionate appearance, though), Bush sweetly refers to his wife often.

And of course, we all know about Ronald and Nancy Reagan, perhaps the greatest love story in Presidential terms, of all time.

Unlike all the other presidents, Greene didn't actually interview President Reagan, but he got to attend a Beverly Hills Hilton do, honouring then Israeli PM, Yitzhak Rabin.

(He mentions that Merv Griffin who, of course, owns the toney hotel, emceed the event, after having been introduced to the audience by the theme of "Jeopardy!"....which, of course, he also owns. That man must be richer than God or at least, God's brother, Larry)

It's a shame really, because I once remember watching a 1991 Larry King Live interview with President Reagan, where he no doubt surprised many (alas) with his intelligence.

Regimented. Smart. And very close to their wife.

I'm sure those are not the only common denominators that makes a man attain the US Presidency, but they obviously don't hurt.

P.S.: If you wonder what I think of the others:

President Clinton is popularily believed to be smart, but not regimented, and certainly, not close to his wife.

But I'm not so sure on that last account.

Just because he hasn't slept with Mrs. Clinton since Captain and Tenille went platinum, doesn't mean they're not close.

They may have a very Franklin-and-Eleanor pragmatic bedroom arrangement, where they are helpmeets more than love of their lives, but it could be argued that they've stayed together for a purpose, which no matter how important, many other couples didn't have the werewithal to tough out.

Of course, President Bush 43 is popularily believed to be regimented, and close to his wife, but not smart.

Maybe he's not an intellect, but there are all kinds of smarts.

He is, certainly, an amazing politician.

And in that regard, very similar to the 6 gentleman who preceeded him, by definition.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Farris The Republican

Farris Hassan Update

Those of you who have your attentions elsewhere (perhaps on that sad, but intriguing murder mystery in Massachusetts, involving a British national whose wife and child were recently killed), may have forgotten about young Farris Hassan.

You remember, the Iraqi-American 16-year-old who showed up in Baghdad one fine day, having played a mean game of hooky from school.

After he arrived back home in Florida, safe and sound, it seemed the story would die a welcome death.

But as commenter Darrell relates, there might be more to this story, than met the eye.

The linked piece above drops the bombshell that young Farris was never enrolled, or had been taking the so-called "immersion journalism" class, which he and his family had stated, was the impetus for this extremely dangerous journey.

Since many details about Farris' father, Dr. Rehda Hassan, have been leaked now, you might be aware that the good doctor had been arrested for attempted passport and ID forgery, but the charges were dropped.

This article makes sinister allusions, which should be read cautiously, however.

One, that Dr. Hassan was involved in this forgery operation with a pro-Khomeini activist.

Two:

Obligingly, Farris spent ten days in Beirut, and while there, met with a media relations officer of the terrorist group Hezbollah at their Central Press Office. This meeting was arranged through the assistance of his hosts – the family’s friends.


Three, the post ends with this damning question hanging over Farris' adventure to Iraq:

Could it be that Hassan was going to Iraq to join Hezbollah to fight against the "American occupation?"


Obviously, this story has more hooks and ladders than a fire station, but I have to say, even with the little that we know about Farris; his sometimes contradictory story; and his well-to-do but shady family...

...I don't think he's a John Walker Lindh type.

In fact, I think it's a bit ludicrous to even suggest that.

Unlike Lindh, he seems an eminently well-adjusted boy, despite also having divorced parents.

But his surroundings are not of the ultra-liberal Califronia enclave which Lindh grew up in, but a conservative Florida one which includes private schooling, a 4-million dollar home, and no sense of shame about his background, which Lindh exhibited by claiming at one point, amongst other lies, that he was a black man.

Nor is there any kind of religious angle to the story, or to his family, which seems to be the impetus for many of these "jihads" (the other being money, which also doesn't compute here).

His relationship with his parents is also much closer than many normal teenage kids to theirs.

It might be remembered that John Walker Lindh had allegedly turned to Islam, in part because he found his father's newfound homosexuality distressing (perhaps turning psychologically to the most overtly punishing anti-homosexual monotheistic religion around).

If anything, the one thing that has come out of this event, was that Farris had an enabler-dad, who followed his son every step of the way, including getting in touch with relatives in Lebanon, to help guide his son to Iraq.

And, of course, there his published essay which states categorically that he was going to Iraq because he felt that life wasn't about the superficial, but about combating "evil forces".

He said plainly:

“There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction. You are aware of the heinous acts of the terrorists: Women and children massacred, innocent aid workers decapitated, indiscriminate murder. You are also aware of the heroic aspirations of the Iraqi people: liberty, democracy, security, normality. Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice’s call for help … So I will.

A bit later, he also states he was going to volunteer with the Red Cross, and that he would give his body and mind to helping Iraqis with their quest for freedom.

These responses, however, leave open-ended questions.

- If the family, or at least the father, knew of Farris' trip to Iraq, why did they advertise it to the media, as allegedly desperate parents in the dark about their son's whereabouts?

- If the family had made the essay public soon after the disappearance, which makes no mention of immersion journalism being the impetus, why did MSM give such emphasis to this fallacious motive?

- If, as the article infers, Farris went there as a possible recruit for the insurgency, how can they reconcile that with the fact that it was known Farris Hassan was a member of his school's Republican Party club?

Let's get one thing clear:

Being a Republican, does not automatically make you pro-the-Iraq-War.

But it would suggest that perhaps this boy would not be as likely to be anti-the-Iraq-War either.

To me, this saga looks all the world like wealthy parents who wanted to make a media splash in the worst way, via their charismatic and intelligent son (who was more than willing to oblige them), but they failed to get their stories straight beforehand.

Once the story was out, they improvised, and perhaps the mother was not as privy to the facts as the father was.

With Dr. Hassan's connexions, and previous activities in the region (some which may not be readily understandable to Americans used to black-and-white allegiances), it might be that he wanted to draw attention to the Iraq War, by putting a human face on the story:

The way Cindy Sheehan has done...for the other side.

And what better way, than to show what Americans can do no matter how young, when their ideals are engaged, and their minds and bodies willing to face a challenge?

Perhaps, who knows, the father and mother also wanted to make an impact on Iraqis in Iraq, who might see what America has done for the Hassan family.

Made them wealthy.

Made them intrepid.

Made them free.

That's a 16-year-old soundbite even Al-Jezeera cannot ignore.


ADDENDUM: Ever since I saw photos of Farris arriving home in Florida, who he reminded me of, has been gnawing at me.

Today, I got it!

Call me crazy (not that you don't already), but you know who Farris Hassan is the spitting image of, especially about the nose?




Prince William.




Stop laughing.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Dude, You're Getting a Dell

Friends, I have to apologise for not posting as regularly as I have, but this week has been nutty.

And now that my pops has returned from his holidays in England, he and I have to share our library-cum-computer room again.

What with his avowed distaste for the clack-clack of the keyboard, as I racingly type my 80 wpm posts, it's going to take a bit of fine tuning, to get the scheduling right again.

I'm also considering getting a new computer, as this 128MB RAM old clunker lags, hangs, and spits out pages at times, despite my broadband connectivity.

Any suggestions about computer brands, models?

And remember, I'm part-Scots.

The cheaper, the better, ye fat bastards!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Humanity

Are you this kind of person?

The one to whom it doesn't really matter what political party an ex-President of the United States belonged to; you are respectful of the person, just BECAUSE.

Well, I am.

It's part and parcel of my personality, this traditionalist attitude, I figured out longgg ago.

Instead of fighting against it, and trying to be sophisticatedly critical like you're supposed to be, I accepted it and have never been unhappy with myself, since.

Alongside this ease, is also a certain sadness, as you can imagine.

For not everyone shares my attitude, although despite what people would have you think, I believe the overwhelming majority of people do -- because the overwhelming amount of people in our world, is decent at heart.

Hatred. Fanaticism. Vitriol.

These are emotions very difficult to sustain without ending up hurting you much more than they hurt your targets of dissaffection.

This then, sets the scene when I tell you about my having met President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter once -- to date, the only POTUS I've ever met, and that includes having waved at Ronald Reagan at the US Embassy in London, once. Oh happy day.

In fact, for almost 3 days, I laboured alongside them in the pounding Florida summertime sun. Well, me and almost 50 other volunteers.

You've guessed why, I'm sure. Yes, for Habitat for Humanity.

And it's not like the Carters and I had heart-to-hearts, either, but I felt I got to know them and yet...so very not.

Let me explain.

The date is sometime in spring 1993. It's the year after Hurricane Andrew, which devastated so much of our area.

It had been decided that I would attend 11th grade here in the States, since the storm brought my parents and I much closer to each other, even for our affectionate standards.

Both my schools and my parents demanded community service when I was growing up, so apart from being a CYO counsellor, which I loved by the way, they put me down for Habitat work in Homestead, which Andrew just levelled.

Everything needed re-doing. It took years, in fact. Just like Katrina will.

We all feel shamelessly innocent just thinking of the 1990's, because in those pre-2001 days, you didn't even present an ID to work alongside an ex-Prez.

You had an official letter you presented at the check-in desk, and that's it. You signed for your tool belt, got a Habitat hat and other goodies, and went to your assigned section.

No security details. No wands. No cavity checks...alas.

Now, what I know from building, could still today, be written on the inside of a Coke cap.

But I was energetic, eager, young, and did whatever they told me to do.

At the end of the day, they had pizza from a restaurant called Capri, and we chowed down, red faces and arms all.

Obviously, when you have such famous people around you, you try to look discretely in their direction, and slink ever so quietly towards them, hoping no one is looking, especially not the Secret Service agents (at least 2, dressed like all of us, to my slight surprise. What did I expect -- black suits and earpieces in 85F heat? Man, I WAS young.).

Now, to me President Carter was a figure from history, and not much else.

Yes, even then I was a budding historian, but I confess, I am allergic to the 1970's.

Nixon, Vietnam, Ford, Carter, Jefferson Airplane mean NOTHING to me. Nothing.

I refuse to listen to its music, and avoid watching film of the period. To this day, I have never seen Taxi Driver or Chinatown. Me, the obsessed cinephile.

(Refrain from emailing me with "What, no way!?!", I know, I know).

I hate every last day of the 1970's, except that day I was born during it, and even then, I question its obvious bad timing.

(My parents could've waited until the second after Reagan was inaugurated, to pup me into this world, don't you think. If it's good enough for the Ayatollah, dammit...)

The only thing I knew about him personally was that he was considered a very ineffectual US President, but a very upstanding kind of guy.

The proof of that, was right before me.

The man didn't let up. He was all business. And so was his missus.

He didn't just do the light work, like I did (painting, etc.). He did the power saw work, and seemed to like it a lot.

Maybe it's something about power saws that bring out the Iron John beast in Presidents, because, of course, famously both Reagan and Bush 43 loved nothing better than to cut wood to pulp.

-- Churchill liked bricklaying, which is practically effete by comparison. And we will glide over Ted Heath's piano playing in eyebrow-raising sniggers. --

But if you want those personalised details which make a reminiscence more like a gossipy kaffeeklatsch, I'll give them to you.

President Carter ("Mr. President", "Sir", never just Mr. Carter, or God forbid, Jimmy -- although others were not as formal as I was, sigh) wore tennis shoes, or what we in Britain call plimsolls.

You know the kind: the ones Mr. Rogers changed into when he got home from his "neighbourhood". Before he put on the even nerdier cardy.

I only mention this because even then, those kinds of tennis shoes were considered old-fashioned, and I distinctly remember my having those Air Bacons Michael Jordan made so popular, which even had that stupid button you pumped "air" into the sole to give you...I don't know what, oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide? Whatever.

I've seen more recent photographs of the President at Habitat events, and now he's wearing himself some phat Timberlands. Mrs. C too, come to that.

But back then, it was a ratty pair of tennis shoes, looking very circa Camp David 1977.

That, and his paunchy Levi's, Habitat red bandana, and a very goofy ballcap, gave him the look of a rather natty hobo, and I do believe that's the first time I've ever had occasion to write the word "hobo".



But this is the clincher.

The most personalised detail I can give you, is about their manner.

Frosty, would not do it justice.

In fact, they were glacial.

That I didn't expect, to be perfectly honest.

When you see an ex-President getting mucky with just folks in a building project, somehow you picture that person as a huggy, emotional type of man President Clinton seems to exude to be.

Not President Carter.

I remember thinking he had the coldest blue-eyes I've ever seen, and my father has eagle blue eyes which would scare Bram Stoker himself.

It was Mrs. Carter that blew me away, because she was literally inapproachable. Watchful. Not arrogant, mind you. Just very very cold.

What they were doing was not perfuctory, or to get publicity for their good works.

That was plainly visible.

They were doing it because they were compassionate about their fellow man, but also didn't mind putting action alongside thought.

But they didn't look to be enjoying themselves, but not one whit.

I kept thinking, what makes these two tick?

This ex-Naval nuclear engineer turned peanut farmer, and his vigilant hausfrau?

If someone had described Richard and Pat Nixon in such uncomfortable terms, I think most people would think, sure. Distant, watchful. I mean, look at their lives' end. No. Look at their lives.

But it's commonly accepted that both the Carters were fantastic and loving people, warm to a degree almost unknown in the Presidency.

Since that time at Habitat, I have read several accounts of the Carter Presidency, and the one thing which many people relate, is that Mrs. Carter is tougher than she seems, and is very protective of her husband, whilst he is a control-freak.

And yet, because of their good works, very few people seem to want to penetrate deeper into their personalities, usually giving them huge thumbs up as being warm individuals.

How does this disconnect from perception to reality happen?

I don't pretend to imagine that 3 days in semi-proximity to the Carters make me an authority on their persons.

Certainly, restraint, coldness, distance, standoffishness are no crimes, and they could be the reactions of two very private people in a very public moment.

Or maybe, they're just very WASPy.

But I know for sure, other Presidents have not had the same fuzzy halo of warmth given them, for doing equally caring things in their off-time.

And this is when this memory of President Carter was sparked by currently reading a book about 5 ex-Presidents: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush 41.

It's called Fraternity:

Stories of these once all-powerful men, compiled by journalist Bob Greene, over a period of a decade interviewing each of them.

I'm just at the very beginning, when Greene is interviewing President Nixon, who Greene hated as a young University student...and he told him so, to his face.

But something in Nixon's manner also provoked, oh, who knows, a certain nostalgia.

Greene even admits an unexpected sentiment about the previously reviled Tricky Dick, like talking to a father you were long on the outs with, but suddenly you find youself relating to at long last -- the fires of hatred long since damped by the grace of age.

His and yours.

But it's not long before they start to talk about Nixon's prickly dealings with the press, so evocative of what President Reagan dealt with, and certainly now, President Bush 43.

President Nixon had a very clear sense of himself, even if he was self-tortured and often, deluded.

Even so, it came as a surprise when I heard him saying something all of us think, especially in relation to the distaste many of us feel, about Mainstream Media.

He said:

"I could have had all sorts of chatty dinners, and the rest, and you might get a nice warm piece the next day.

But deep down, the problems I had with the press [...], the problems had to do with what I believed in.

I believed in different things than what they did."


And that's it in a nutshell.

Now, Nixon's failings as a man were very real, but even so, he never stood a chance. No one like him does.

Whether or not the Carters are fantastic, tactile, effusive folk, or standoffish hard as nails folk, doesn't matter.

What matters for those who cover them, is that they believe in the same things that they do.

And if that President should happen not to, their press clippings are that much less forgiving.

In fact, I would go so far to say, that they are much less interested in finding, much less propagandising, your very real humanity.

Ah well...

President Carter still has, and will always have, my respect.

Just because.

Hail To The Grip

Since I'm in a Presidential mood, here's your Prezzie chuckle of the day.

This is President Bush in front of that hanging cam-thingie.



During Thursday's press conference, a camera almost fell on the poor Washington Press Corps. My heart bleeds.

Not too sure why the President looks like he's wearing a veil, though, but no doubt, he's preparing for his upcoming tour of Bahrain.

Speaking of Homestead

Those of you around the US, who have been nonplussed by two surging prices:

- Petrol
- Tomatoes


Have at least, some good news coming to a supermarket near you.

Homestead, Florida, which is about 20 miles from Miami city centre, is virtually the hub of tomato-growing during the winter, for the WHOLE of the United States.

That's right:

The State of Florida supplies 100% of tomatoes consumed in this country, during wintertime.

And if you were like me, you've been completely blindsided by having to fork out upwards of $2.99 per lb for these blessed veggies (yes, they're fruits, I know, sheesh).

One pound of pommes d'amour equals to just 2 smallish tomatoes.

This is why when I heard on my local NPR radio that the late harvest of tomatoes, interrupted by the many hurricanes we had in 2005, was to be picked this past Monday, I was ecstatic.

I love me some tomatoes!

People thank Mexicans for many things, like tacos and what-not, but I thank them for discovering tomatoes ("tomatl" in their indigenous tongue of Nahuatl) and their exceedingly cute dogs.

It is only right and fitting that the majority of migrant workers who will be picking the tomatoes you'll be eating throughout February, are Mexican hands.

(But whoever thought to house them in a neighbourhood called "Naranja" -- orange --, had a very evil sense of humour)

There, now.

Aren't you happy about your soon-to-be-cheaper, red tomaters?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Fool And Her Money

Since Pastor_Jeff requested an update on the now infamous Dog Watergate, I decided to finally unseal the bowl of pooch H20.

And let me say here and now that wild horses wouldn't make me taste that, not even for my dear, but overly inquiring readers.

Not for a million dollars, circa 1903.

Not for all the Prada hobobags you could bribe me with.

No sir! Or indeed, madam!

I have done much for Sundries. MUCH. I will retain my pride.

P.S.: God, it was awful. It tasted like chlorinated swimming pool water. Yech! So Schmoopsie asked for, and got, a wedge of lemon.



Mmmmm.

Judging Justice Blackmun

I have just started reading a very Althousian book called, "Becoming Justice Blackmun", by Linda Greenhouse (Radcliffe, Yale Law).

Now, having cut my teeth on Ann's blog to consider Con Law the ne plus ultra of SCOTUS considerations -- RIP Harriet Miers --, I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to read Justice Harry Blackmun's Harvard Law transcripts, reproduced for you below.

Check this out:

Law School of Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass

October 14, 1942

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

This is to Certify that, Harry Andrew Blackmun, A.B. Harvard 1929, was in attendance at the Harvard Law School during the academic years:

September 23, 1929 to June 12, 1930
September 22, 1930 to June 18, 1931
September 28, 1931 to June 23, 1932


His record is:

First-Year

Civil Procedure B
Contracts C
Criminal Law C
Property I D
Torts C

Average 67


Second-Year

Bills & Notes C
Equity II D
Evidence C
Property II A
Sales C
Trusts D

Average 66


Third-Year

Conflict of Laws C
Constitutional Law C
Corporations B
Property III A
Public Utilities B
Suretyship & Mortgage B

Average 70

Gen. Average 67; Rank #121, Class 451


(A) First thing that peeps out at you are all those Ds. I mean, Ds?? Come on.

Now I understand that it's Harvard Law, and by Justice Blackmun's own admission, he says he was blind-sided by the intensity of the studies involved, and I know I only have Medical School to go on, but if say, I had gotten a D in general anatomy, how confident would you be in my hands as a physician? Please.

(B) He obviously had a sweet spot for real estate law, since he aced most of his Property classes. So of course, he became a tax lawyer...

(C) Neither here, nor there, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was Chief Justice Warren Burger's best-man, being both of them, from the same home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

(D) Ole Harriet probably got straight Fs, save in Suretyship & Cronyism.

(E) Roe v. Wade never stood a chance...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Fumes, The Fumes

Sorry I have been away, my dear friends, but since my father is soon to return from England, my mother and I have turned our home upside down, in order to have the home spiffy.

The painters have been here since Monday, to do the living room, computer room, and bedrooms.

Today, we are having our rugs steam cleaned.

They're still here, so I've been going to the university computer labs whenever possible -- only it's not been possible of late.

I have a backlog of posts in mind, half-composed for you, in my noggin already:

  • The Spy Who Rocked Me (about that 007 rock found in Moscow by Russian Intelligence)


  • The Harper win in Canada (yay)


  • The Cuban-American professors, a husband-and-wife team from Florida International University, who were picked up by Homeland Security as alleged spies (bet you didn't hear that on MSM did you? Hmm, wonder why)


  • More cinemahouse magic (Parisian Muvico in Palm Beach, ooh-lala)


  • A Trip to the Biltmore Hotel (best pool in Miami, pace Venetian Pool)


  • And so many more!

    Please hang in there, me dears -- that includes email.

    I shall return by Friday at the very latest.

    Until then, I'll check back for replies, in case you want to suggest post-ideas!

    UPDATE: Take note for your own blogs, that Blogger will be down at 4:00 PM PST.

    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    Favourite 80's Nostalgia Item

    Mine is Tab...



    ...the drink which single-handedly sustained my mother from 9 AM to 12 midnight every day of her 80's existence.

    You know, I don't know what Gigi Anders, whose book I have mentioned in my "Cuban American" post, was on about.

    She says she travels for miles in Washington, D.C. where she lives, just to buy cases of Tab, which alongside cigarettes, says every Jubana worth her Harry Winston's, treasures.

    Bah, she should come down to South Florida. Publix is stocked to the gills with Tab.

    P.S.: Although Atari is a very close second.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

    Two Very Different Points Of View

    A while back, I shot these two photos of bumperstickers, so that you could get a peak into what people around South Florida, were saying.

    Bumper stickers reached their peak in the 1970's in the US.

    Consider their popularity:

    Bumperstickers are mass-produced, but which ones you put on your car, are individual to each person.

    There are many bumperstickers, but that's because there are many cars in the US, much more than any other nation on earth.

    So as you can see, each of these factors go into making bumperstickers the quintessential American medium of personal expression, combining the spoken, and unspoken elements of American society.

    I consider them a gauge of public opinion, at their rawest.

    Forget polls, which if any one of them has a greater than +- 2% margin of error, they are faulty by definition.

    Bumperstickers is where American opinions are at!

    Below are two examples.

    I like them because, as can be plainly seen, neither car is that of a rich person (in fact, the first car is so grubby, that the retouch took a while) -- so they take out the McChimpy Halliburton or Champagne Socialist factor entirely.

    These are just two people, hard-working folk, who have two very different points of view.

    And bully for them!

    FIRST BUMPERSTICKER




    State: Older Florida tags
    Location: Carpark, Coral Gables campus, University of Miami
    Bumperstickers: 3
    Messages Conveyed:

    "This Soldier is Anti-Bush"
    "Worst President EVER!"
    (Non-verbal patriotic rendition of Rocky Mountains and US Flag side-by-side)


    SECOND BUMPERSTICKER





    State: Newer Florida tags
    Location: Carpark, Ermita de La Caridad, Coconut Grove
    Bumperstickers: 5
    Messages Conveyed:

    "Paz Radio 830 AM WACC" (x2)
    "Bush/Cheney '04"
    "La Voz Catolica" (trans. The Catholic Voice)
    "Jesus is the Reason For the Season" (sports message)


    To me, they are indicative of the culture each of them belongs to:

    The first, part of that much vaunted liberal atmosphere of college campuses the world over, is that of an ex-soldier, who may be attending the pricey private University, via the GI Bill.

    He or she, however, has personalised their viewpoints by narrowing the focus of their ire to one person -- the current US president.

    The second, on the other hand, is at the shrine of Our Lady of Charity, the national symbol of Cuba, in a gorgeous little church at the very edge of the beautiful Bay of Biscayne.

    Their political message is almost secondary to the greater message of their Catholic faith, although it is no less personalised by stating who they would vote for and support in 2004.

    You might think that I took a long time to find these perfectly antithetical bumperstickers, but actually, they were the only ones I found that day.

    They are almost too good to be true. But that's just it -- they're not.

    Like all honest opinions, they're very real.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    King of Miami Bloggers

    Val Prieto of Babalublog...

    ...is a big birthday boy today!

    You know, there are few things which make me respect a person more than:

    1) Knowing who you are
    2) Walking the walk
    3) Helping others out


    Which is different from being "proud" of your background. Which is different from talking a good game, but doing nothing about it. Which is different from just blogging, but taking time off from your busy life to give moral support, money and attention to your life's purpose.

    And in all three categories, Val excels. Happy ManCamp II, buddy.

    UPDATE: Val relates that his birthday "do" went like a house en fuego. Unfortunately, today, he has a massive hangover.

    Here then, with my compliments is a hangover cure from the valet of the King of Spain, himself!

    Note, not the present King of Spain, no -- but his grandfather, Alfonso XIII, who knew a thing or two about partying.

    Cura Para Resacas

    Mix in a Highball glass:

    Three RAW egg-yolks
    Two shucked oysters
    One large tablespoon of Worcester sauce (Lea & Perrins preferred)
    Salt
    Pepper

    Drink in one "go", else you'll regurgitate.

    Hope that helped, Val!

    She Stopped Traffic

    Years ago, when legendary Mexican beauty, the iconic actress Maria Felix died, I recall a person telling me:

    "She was so beautiful, that she literally stopped traffic in Paris once. She would walk down the street, and people would be rooted in their tracks, staring at her ethereal face."



    I smiled, and politely agreed, although of course, being too young to remember her at her dazzling height in the 40's, and 50's, I could only think of that unbelievably bizarre old woman, with the face which launched a thousand plastic surgeries.



    If had she stopped traffic, Paris must've been bumper-to-bumper that day.

    But today, I believe.

    Today, my mother and I went to the Palm Beach grand dame of hotels, The Breakers.

    We had a leisurely light supper, enjoying the atmosphere of the exquisitely decorated ceilings, the shopping arcade, the vistas of the beach outside, which she and I both adore, because it reminds us of when I was a little girl, when my parents lived there in the 1980's.

    (Every Sunday, when I was home from my school abroad, we would traipse to the Breakers for tea. Then my mother and I would deposit my agnostic father at home to watch his NFL game, so that we could attend mass at St. Edwards. As always, the women pray, and the men play)

    The Breakers has a stately circular driveway, which you lounge around in, as you await the valet to bring your car to you.



    It arrived, and I got in, looking out at my mother depositing her shopping purchases in the boot (trunk).

    Just then, a group of typical Palm Beach biddies, you know the kind, with their ultra-thin bodies, covered in black puccis from top to bottom, hair so white, it is gorgeously platinum, and dripping in diamonds on every finger (but ever so discreetly, in that paradoxical fashion, which only the very rich can get away with) ...stood stock still.

    And literally gaped at my mother.

    It was no quick peripheral peak, the kind we all have done in our lives, when you are spying someone you really want a look at, but dare not look at them full on because you'll seem like a hick.

    Nono.

    They stood. They stopped. They stared. Straight at her.

    When my mother got into the car (I, of course, was driving -- I only cede the wheel to men, since I'm sexist that way), I was still a little shocked at the scene, that I half-whispered,

    "Did you see those two women, staring at you?"

    "Yes."

    Not an arrogant "yes". Not a startled "yes". Or even a pleased "yes".

    Just a matter-of-fact yes, the kind of yes a woman used to be stared at, would say.

    I looked at her. She was absolutely normal.

    No lipstick smudges out of place. No toilet paper stuck to her Manolos. Not the slightest oddity, which could account for this curiously female reaction.

    In that instant, I was transported to Parent's Day at school. I am 8 or 9.

    My mother arrives, and the whole back row stops talking when she enters Assembly Hall. Whispered conversations, frissons of gossip go in waves around her.

    She's oblivious.

    But from the front of the Hall, seated in the row of schoolgirls wearing their crispest but drab unis, I look back and swell with a pride at my mother which is so acute, my blood pressure rises just writing about it today.

    There were mothers in that school which have much more money than we have, much more gentrified connexions than we have, are even actresses whose faces are MUCH better-known to all.

    But my mother was, by far, the most stunningly beautiful woman in the room.

    It's not just her face, either.

    My mother has a star presence about her, which is difficult to describe.

    You can't copy it, because if you do, you'll look a clown, or worst of all, a Tom Ripley poseur.

    It's just something one has, or not.

    But it's funny, you know, because until today at the Breakers, waiting for my mother to get into the car, I didn't connect that childhood memory to the reality which must have happened so many times, which I was completely oblivious until that moment.

    My mother stopped traffic.

    Just like Maria Felix in Paris all those years ago.

    For Paul

    I'm going with the Pittsburgh Steelers over the heavily-favoured Bronks, later Sunday.

    Since I don't have a dog in this fight, the Fins being what they are (although things look mighty rosy in the future), and since I have no established link to Colorado, I decided to plant my cheering affections squarely on the young shoulders of Big Ben Roethlisberger.

    In fact, and with all due respect to my Colorado-centric readers, I haven't been able to stand your bloody guts since the odious (odious!) Avalanche beat my (my!) Florida Panthers for the Stanley Cup in 1996.

    So take your Mike Shannahan plug-and-play running back system, and your scraggly bearded Jake the Snake, and kiss my Floridian salon-tanned hiney.

    You are SO losing Sunday. Go Steelers!

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Hialeah Marlins?

    Say it ain't so.

    Considering that North Carolina, Vegas, and Portland are all vigourously trying to get the Florida Marlins to jump ship, over there, at least, if this proposal to turn the Hialeah Race Track into the Marlins' home (temporarily) goes through, it would keep them here.

    Even if I defy anyone to find their way around Hialeah. With a compass.

    Embarrasment

    Have you ever locked yourself out of your home?

    Well guess what happened to me on Friday!!

    Now you know why my blog was so very late in being updated -- apart from the fact that, due to a very particular and fussy lock we have, which necessitated careful and muy expensivo locksmithing, I waited outside my home for 3 hours until it was ready...

    ...I also felt so embarrassed, I actually felt a little low after all was said and done.

    You see, I'm perfect. I'm sure you've noticed.

    So this little brainfart, the most absent-minded of things which can happen to one, save walking out of your home without clothes on, was a bucket of cold water to my ego.

    Other people lose their keys, or lock themselves out of their homes and cars -- but not me!

    No sirree bob.

    Old Vic is not like her too vague parents who not only misplace the TV clicker at least once a day, but they also are always losing their wallets, their purses, their glasses, and on one rare festive occasion, my father misplaced my mother on their honeymoon.

    It's okay, he found her on another train, else I wouldn't be here to tell the sordid tale.

    But the thing is, I am always ALWAYS making fun of my parents for their typical absent-minded professorship, which as scientists, they are both prone to.

    Not I, though!

    I am so regimented and neat, I am one of those weirdoes you've heard about, that can go inside a completely darkened room, and can lay her hand on any item, because I'm so organised.

    So obviously, not wanting to alert my mother (who was an hour away from home anyway), and having WAAAY too much pride to confide in the porters downstairs, I had to bite the bullet, and call for a locksmith.

    No Norberto this time.

    It was an old American gentleman, who arrived fairly promptly, but charged me the proverbial arm and two kidneys.

    I paid $257, with $75 as the "emergency" fee.

    One of the not-so-secret rules of calling in a plumber, a carpet guy, or any kind of handyman, is that they adjust their prices according to what kind of home you have, what neighbourhood its in, and how much they think they can screw you over for (especially if you are a woman).

    Treble that, when you are in desperate need of their services, like, now.

    And patience, you know, has never been one of my attributes.

    So I paid thru' the nose, three hours later, after he had searched for the specially fitted doorknob we had put in.

    Anything, just anything to get back into my home.

    When he left, I just closed my door and read books on the balcony, ever so slightly depressed at my stupidity.

    That's when I realised -- the balcony is about 1 foot away from my neighbour's.

    I don't even suffer from vertigo, either, so I could've negotiated the ledge.

    As Renato queried, when I told him the incident later at night:

    "Why didn't you just climb over the balcony? Your neighbour wouldn't have minded."

    *slaps forehead*

    Someone just shoot me now.

    Suddenly Wonkette

    ...is everywhere.

    It's funny watching her transformation from erstwhile gossip-blogger, and liberal sex harpie, into some kind of "expert" on a range of topics from dating (CNN), to commenting on Google's privacy tussle with the Feds (MSNBC).

    I notice that no one asks Michelle Malkin over to CNN to comment on the latest Queen Latifah movie, or having Chris Matthews flirt with her about the hushed-up Air America scandale.

    Just goes to show, it helps to have a short pithy title to your book, like Dog Days, than this mouthful, "Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild" -- since I'm sure content had NOTHING to do with it.

    Friday, January 20, 2006

    When Did Bush Become...



    His mother?

    Lord, that presidential slide into wizened, grey-haired looks which transforms relatively vigourous-looking men, at the start of their first term, into old crones when they leave the White House...

    ...is well under way with George W. Bush, isn't it?

    The grannie glasses don't help.

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    This Side Of Paradise

    My travellogues of South Florida have given me tremendous pleasure to show you.

    Previous entries have included:

  • Wish You Could Be Here


  • On the Town


  • Tale of Two Cities

  • But I have long wanted to start a new kind of travellogue; namely, incorporating my love of film into our travels.

    For you see, I am in love with movies.

    Cinema-going, to me, is THE ultimate communal experience.

    Inside a cinemahouse, you are not alone, even though watching films is an introspective activity, 99% of which is internalised, ruminated upon, and mulled over for future review, just by you.

    Unlike sporting events, silence is the norm, and yet laughter, chatting, and eavesdropping are all equally acknowledged as part of the experience.

    I love that feeling of shared excitement, which our modern world, with its computers, video games, cable TV -- all that down time which leaves you trapped inside your home, has virtually shorn away from our lives.

    Now you know why this old pollworker veteran doesn't encourage people to vote absentee ballot.

    Get out there! Show your face, be part of the whole whacky, messy, time-filled democratic process!

    Good Lord.

    Why live if you can't enjoy yourself in the company of others?

    My excitement about cinema-going has been a constant throughout my life, which includes having worked with my local MP in England, to save some derelict cinemahouses from destruction.

    We were only partly successful, but every time one saves a bit of the past, one is paying hommage to those whose ideas came before you, whose laughs filled the air, and who stood for something greater than the here and now.

    Cinemas are part of history. They are living monuments to human enjoyment. And one day, we will be that history too.

    Thus was my frame of mind when I went to the MUVICO PARADISE 24, in Ft. Lauderdale, recently.

    See, it's a themed-cinemahouse:

    Its theme: Egyptian kitsch.

    Though it's starting to show the wear and tear which multiplexes seem unusually prone to, must be all those thousands, maybe millions of feet tramping up and down the carpet for years, it still jumps out at you, since it's so very different from your run-of-the-mill mall moviehouse.

    Sure, some people may scrunch their noses at the hokey premise of "Luxor in South Florida", but I love it.

    So won't you come with me, as I show you around this gloriously stylised joint?

    NIGHT AT THE MOVIES - PART ONE






    First that you notice is its massiveness. That's one huge multiplex, framed by those enormous pillars in front of the box office.

    The Muvico Paradise is part of the Ft. Lauderdale chain of theatres, which are expanding their themed locales to a city near you -- including a new one in Secaucus, New Jersey, which will also walk like an Egyptian.

    Shut up. You knew it was coming.





    As you enter, you look up at these columns which must be 20-25 feet at least.

    Don't let the cracks fool you -- it's not the product of shoddy workmanship which the Pharaohs would've killed you for, or the rough hand of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma, no.

    The fault lines are on purpose, the better to evoke the ancientness. That the multiplex is only 6 years old is beside the point. Like your grandmother's fireplace, it's been "antiqued".





    Automated ticket service in Ancient Egypt? Why not! You think we invented impatience?





    Now I've been to the true pyramids in Egypt and I swear to you, this is exactly like the real Sphinx!!

    Okay, so I lie, but what do you expect for 9 bucks?





    This is the Sphinx' twin, on the other side of the box office.

    Speaking of which, both box offices are huge, but then, on a Saturday, the queues stretch for miles, filled with grubby-fingered youngsters dropped off by their harried, reckless parents, who are one-phone call away from being told their kiddies were kidnapped.





    Once you're actually in, the first thing you notice is this funky carpet on the floor.

    I bet you'll NEVER guess what that little Wizard of Oz-like road is?

    That's right. The River Nile! Ain't that a pip?





    Even the movie posters are framed as if they were announcing a megaspectacular fight between Spartacus and Moses -- and please don't tell me they were not contemporaries. I know.

    Sheesh, you try to show people a good time, and they get all Trivial Pursuit on you.





    The Lobby.

    Breathe in deep. Crane your neck. Take it all in.

    Well-done, isn't it?





    I bet this column detail with the scarabs, horus, and the pharaohs took the Jews years to chisel.





    Art may give you sustenance, but let's face it, nothing beats popcorn.

    This concessions stand is very fancy, and remarkably well-stocked. First time I had pizza at a movie theatre, since that time I shoved a Big Cheese slice down my brassiere.

    Shame I didn't this time, since the overcooked, cardboardy "mini" pizza was over 6 bucks...





    Once you're actually inside, and the lights have already dimmed, because as usual, you arrived ten minutes into the previews, this is the stunning visual which awaits you as you close the door.

    Even that wayward roll of paper towel somehow looks artistic (though I should've moved it for this shot -- drat).





    You can see that the architects spared no lack of attention to Ancient Egyptian detail even in the loos.

    Shame the janitor didn't get the memo.





    As you leave, you encounter one of the many Muvico employees, who you must admit, would've looked so much better dressed like King Tut or Cleo.






    Though I make fun of the drop-and-drive parents who think the malls are a cheap babysitter for their kiddies, being a parent isn't easy.

    So Muvico has made it easier for families, by having a little playroom with supervised, licensed professionals manning the romper-room, as mum and dad take in the latest flick next door.

    That's really a good idea. Better than that Thai sushi bar, that's for sure.

    So, did you like the theatre? Pretty neat, huh? Do you have a themed or special theatre around you, too?

    But, now I know what you're thinking, as you finish this blogpost -- so, Vic, what movie did you see?

    Come on, now. Sundries is a year-old, and you've had a chance to see just what kind of a girl I am, and where my interests lie.

    Scan the "now showing" pages of your nearest theatres, and pick out the name of the film.

    That's right. It was...





    And I enjoyed it too.


    UPDATE:

    Kendall, a sprawling neighbourhood in the southern suburbs of Miami, will be getting a new Muvico themed-theatre too! It's been in the works since 2003, but only in early January 2006, did the city fathers give the Muvico company the go-ahead to start building near the Hammocks.

    Muvico Empire 20 Theater

    Developer: The Rouse Company
    Project: Kendall Town Center
    20 screens; 4,250 seats
    Kendall, Florida
    Ancient World theme

    Ooh goody. Ancient World Theme. Rome, Greece, and erm, Egypt?

    Either way, I'm so there! And thanks to Sundries, so will you.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    One Friend

    When I first emigrated to the US, I knew I was going to take a hit socially, since I was leaving all my friends and family behind in Britain.

    My parents had lived down here for a while, so I knew I wouldn't be without my invites to social occasions.

    But I confess, they have a much older set of friends, even though they're not terribly old.

    It's just that in their milieu and time, a fun night out was partying the night at Jimmyz, Regine's international disco franchise, or a supper club, and watching a floorshow or a play.

    And I'm sorry...

    ...I've just never understood the attraction of the Folies Bergeres.



    Especially for us women (my woman crushes notwithstanding).

    If I want to look at semi-naked women on stage, I prance around my bathroom mirror singing Jacques Brel songs for an hour.

    My generation's equivalent is a night out at a hot club featuring DJ Tiesto, afterwards piling into someone's Hummer for a skinny dip in the jacuzzi.



    Same concept, less plastic boobs.

    So carefully, I built up my coterie of international friends here in South Florida.

    I had Cuban friends, I had French friends, Chilean friends, Brazilian friends, Swedish friends, Colombian friends, Kenyan friends, Trinidadian friends, Japanese friends, friends from almost every region in the US.

    I even dated a young Haitian lad once, and he introduced me to some of his friends too.

    On and on, a little United Nations of my own, but with more backbone and less corruption.

    Everywhere I have gone in life, I have gathered my own circle of friends, happy to spend much time in their company, and hopefully, they in mine.

    My mother used called me The Pied Piper, because I've always had this ability to meet many different people from all walks of life, and have them around me.

    But you'll notice that most of the people I mentioned above, come FROM somewhere other than Florida. Like me.

    It's an important point.

    You see, because this is the ultimate transient State, oftentimes, people move as quickly out, as they did in.

    For a few years, my circle of friends just kept getting bigger. I partied hard. I needed to get it out of my system, I told my perplexed parents.

    Lovingly, they understood, and since I was born a good girl, they even encouraged me.

    (Let that be a lesson to you would-be bad boys and girls out there -- you'd die if you knew what parents let good kids get away with, just because they like to see you enjoy yourself for a change)

    Then, I decided to enter Medical School, and Kaplan courses, tutors, volunteerism, all got in the way of more frivolous pursuits -- though I'd never describe my friends as merely that.

    2001 arrived, and I discovered the internet. Big time.

    This medium has introduced to me to SO many wonderful and diverse people, which I'd have to live a dozen lifetimes, and travel much wider than even I have to date, to reunite the same group of wonderful people I speak to daily, with just a click of a mouse.

    Slowly, unbearably, inch by inch, my social circle started dwindling.

    I didn't return calls.

    Invitations to diners prives went unresponded to.

    Club dates went undanced with.

    In short, I disappeared.

    But something else was happening, beyond my control.

    My friends just started leaving South Florida, at first in trickles, then in droves. I was heartsick, since I couldn't control people's destinies, even if I had wanted to.

    They came from somewhere else, just like I did, but when their grants, their scholarships, their daddy's money ran out, I was left minus yet more one good pal.

    This past 15th January, I lost another great chum -- my last female friend, and neighbour.

    She accepted a job in central Florida, and off she went, with my best wishes, but also leaving me with the grand total of:

    One friend left.

    My Chilean friend, Patricio.

    The thing of it is, I've become so accustomed to saying "no thanks" to invites now, more content to spend my nights eating an apple, nose firmly in a book, or laughing with my parents, or here with you, that even poor Patricio gets the bum's rush whenever he dares suggest a night out.

    All my life, I've had a close group of loving friends around me, and today, I find myself unwilling, in the nicest way possible, to gather more chums around me any more.

    Why?

    Just so I can mope when they leave for pastures greener? Meh.

    It seems The Pied Piper has finally lain down her real-life reed.


     




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