Monday, August 23, 2010

One of the Many Reasons I Love John Stewart

Just in case you haven't had a chance to see this...  and then I think I'm off this subject.  I promise.

Wish You Weren't Here.

I actually saw this around the time it aired, but I'd forgotten about it.  Now it's hit my sensibilities all over again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Us versus Them

I got an e-mail from Democracy For America yesterday asking me to sign this pledge.

I signed it immediately and responded by posting it to my status on Facebook.

Another woman I know who does not share my views on politics or theology, quickly posted this link. The personal status she wrote to accompany it was "Because it's a slap in the face and not a question of freedom of religion."

I'm really tired of the "us versus them" mentality in this country.  I'm tired of those who feel that the Second Amendment is more important than the First.

I'm tired of those who feel that freedom of religion only applies to their own narrow views or beliefs.  Like it or not, the right to worship or the right NOT to worship as we see fit is one of our fundamental rights as U.S. citizens. 

Our Constitution is a very, very old lady.  It's the oldest constitution in the world, currently. While there are mechanisms in place to make amendments, in this current political climate the idea that any amendment can actually pass is slim to none.  Because currently, our legislation is not about making change of any sort.  It's about us versus them.

This country was made strong by our working together, but it's always been divisive.  To say that there were "good old days" ignores the most vicious war in our history (The Civil War, or the War Between the States, depending on which "us" you're part of), ignores the European settlers' abominable treatment of both Africans and Native Americans, ignores the early laws of Boston, which shunned any Christian who didn't follow the narrow tenets of Puritanism, ignores the treatment of Italians, Irish, Jews, Chinese and more recently Koreans and Iraqis as they made their way to our shores for a better life.  When we have worked together, we've accomplished some extraordinary things (albeit groups were still harassed and denigrated throughout many of  these projects): holding together and making it through the Great Depression and World War II; building our extraordinary, original railroad and telegraph systems; setting foot on the Moon; creating the largest early network of air travel; and providing free public education and libraries for all.

We've always been a cobbled-together country: pieces of states, regional beliefs and laws, prejudices, and, yes, us versus them.

We can't continue to afford this mentality, though.  We can't pay the low (yes, low) taxes that we do and expect free public education, good highways, police protection and the world's most expensive military.  We can't demand Medicare and also say that a government-run healthcare system will necessarily be a disaster.  We can't expect the freedom to worship and not let everyone worship where and when they want to (or harass them for choosing not to worship).  We can't call the Constitution card about carrying arms and knock it out because those who've chosen the right to peacefully assemble say something that we don't want to hear.  We can't pass laws that give only some of our citizens rights (because, you know, we did manage to amend this creaky document and the 14th time we did it, it became the law of the land that every citizen is blessed - or cursed, depending on how you look at it - with the same rights and responsibilities).

Buck up, Folks.  You either support our Constitution or you don't.  If you want to make amendments, elect Congressmen and Congresswomen who will have the courage to take a stand and truly fight for their constituents, as opposed to simply fighting the other party.  Who support your beliefs.  Who will cross party lines if necessary.  Who will think beyond "us versus them".

I work in an environment where almost all of the other people there think differently than I do theologically and politically.  I've learned a lot from them over the years.  Lately, however, many of my earlier prejudices have been reinforced, rather than shattered.  The more I become a "them" in this environment, the less likely I can find common ground to join them in an "us".  The fact that they all supposedly ascribe to a religion where one of the basic tenets is to "turn the other cheek" seems particularly ironic.

We live in a very big world.  The citizens of our country and our planet are going to have to learn to work together in order to solve the extremely complex environmental and economic challenges of today.  We can no longer afford to be isolationist and selfish, whether in our neighborhood, our place of work or school, our state, our nation or beyond our borders.  It's time to include everyone in the conversation.

Whether we like it or not.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I love rock 'n roll, so put another dime in the jukebox, baby!

I am a music whore - I love all types, but rock particularly gets me and grabs parts of me that the rest of the genres leave untouched.

I love U2, Led Zeppelin, George Thorogood, the Allman Brothers, Yes, Springsteen, Santana, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, the Ramones, Iggy Pop, The White Stripes, Daughtry, the GooGoo Dolls, Nickelback (okay, so some of my taste is questionable - I admit it).

I played rock 'n roll in high school. 


I owned a 1959 pre-CBS Fender Stratocaster that literally rocked my world. I was part of three bands.  Something I envy about this generation was that I wasn't part of an all-girl band.  (I'm not sure there WERE all-girl bands back then).  In fact, I was usually the only girl in the band.  And yes, I was the "girl" back then.

I was also a geek with a capital "G". (Still am).

And I read comics.

And I fell for the nerdy guys - you know, the sweet, awkward types with no social skills.

So there was everything for me to love about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

One of my favorite books is War for the Oaks by Emma Bull.  The setting is the Minneapolis indie rock scene and I think Bull really captures the fun, energy and heartbreak of up and coming rockers (albeit set against a war between Fae and other factions, which made it even groovier), and that's one of the many reasons I've read this book three times so far.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has that same energy, and this time, instead of incorporating fantasy (well, traditional fantasy elements, in any case), geekdom, romance and graphic novel craziness is incorporated.

The Ecstatic Ones (my family) rarely see movies on the big screen anymore.  It's just too costly.  If we do see movies, we tend to see art-type films at the Michigan Theater, mostly because we like to support the Michigan Theater.  We divide all movies into "must see on the big screen", "must see, but who cares where" and "must not see" (see the last post).  Scott Pilgrim definitely looked like big screen criteria: dreamy animation, special effects galore, searing punk rock and all kinds of cool florescent hair (trust me, florescent hair is just so much cooler when it's 10 feet high on the screen).
My son and I were totally pumped to see this.  My husband, less so, but wanted to join.  My son and I weren't sure about that, because usually when we see something like this, my husband comes, doesn't enjoy it very much and then puts it down while my son and I excitedly try to rehash.  Nevertheless, the three of us set out during Sunday's blistering hot afternoon and felt this would be a fun activity even if it wasn't up to expectations.

It was TOTALLY up to expectations.

What may have worked best here is that the hero is not really heroic.  He is whiny, wimpy and there is no explanation (other than cool hair) why he falls in love with the mysterious woman with seven evil exes.

The object of his desire, Ramona, is fickle, strange and disconnected.  She's pretty, but other than being mysterious, and actually liking the geeky hero (and yes, she's out of his league), she really doesn't have that much going for her.

His gay roommate steals his sister's boyfriends (and the show - Keirnan Culkin is just wonderful in this role).  His band, The Sex Bo-Bombs, kind of... sucks, when they're not pissed.  When they are pissed, they're actually pretty darned good.

Despite Scott's anti-hero status, concave physique and nothing of interest to talk about other than the origins of the naming of "Pac Man", our hero seems to attract legions of cool women.  He can shred muscle-bound evil exes.  He's man enough to share his bed with his roommate and several of his roommate's lovers simultaneously (as long as they listen to his whiny rehashing of increasingly bizarre dreams).

What makes this work?  Hell if I know, but if you have ever loved playing in a band, ever loved someone else who plays in a band, ever loved comics, ever loved a geek, then this is just a triumphant, soaring, giddily-fun breath of fresh air and a great "summer finale" movie. 

So tell me, what great movies have you seen this summer?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why I'm not going to see "Eat, Pray, Love"

I have a truly great circle of friends.  They are loyal, loving and we share many of the same interests, including similar tastes in books.

When Eat, Pray, Love was all the rage a couple of years ago, it flew through my circle of friends (most of us 40- or 50-somethings) in the way that the Twilight series caught like wildfire with some of my high school students.

Two of my very closest friends adored it, and they were both excited to find out what I thought.

By the end of the first chapter, I was untouched.  By the time Liz Gilbert had left her perfectly kind, loving husband, taken up with a man who was clearly a jerk and decided to spend her year traipsing around the world looking for "fulfillment", my skin was crawling.  I got through Italy and the first couple of chapters that took place in the ashram, in part because my sister, brother-in-law were followers of Gurumayi and I was curious.  I finally reached the point, though, where I couldn't stomach Gilbert's self-indulgence anymore, and I ended up returning the book to the library early.

I'm at the age where life is too short; I don't finish books that I don't like.

My friends were circumspect about this - there are areas where we agree to disagree and that's one of the many reasons why I love my friends.

I might still have seen this film just for the eye candy, and I'm not talking about Javier Bardem (who is fine eye candy indeed).  I love travel reels, food blogs, great, hedonistic photography, and Italy is one of my favorite places on earth.  I've seen A Room with a View more times than I can count.  Italy, alone, might have pulled me in.

But there was also Julia Roberts.

I think the casting is perfect - the self-indulgent author chooses the uber-self-indulgent actress to play, well, "her".  Julia Roberts of the mega-watt smile (does anyone else see the resemblance to a cartoon horse, or is it just me?), the husband-stealing, the perfect children and the "Hindu" lifestyle.  Hindu? 


Do you think she follows domestic worship and purification rites, which are an integral practice for many followers of the various branches of the Hindu religion, does she revere Ganga Maiya, or is she really referring to something much more Western-palatable such as the Siddha Yoga that her author doppelganger followed in India?*

I can see this movie as a guilty pleasure for many of my age-something friends who might fantasize about a year of eating, praying and falling in love with their "soul mate", especially since their realities don't reflect Gilbert's lifestyle at all. Stealing a peaceful bath occasionally might be all the self-indulgence they have time for. 

As far as I'm concerned, I just don't have patience for Gilbert's ramblings, either on paper or on the big screen.

I'd rather spend my free time enjoying and being grateful for my not-perfect husband, my not-perfect son and my not-perfect life.

It seems apropos to start this blog by discussing a very different spiritual journey from my own.  Everyone has a right to his or her own journey, and I shouldn't put down Elizabeth Gilbert or Julia Roberts for seeking theirs.

Mine is just more of a mix of pragmatism.  I think there are still beautiful sights, spiritual teachers and delicious, fresh foods where I live in the Midwest of the U.S.  I love travel, but I love home, too.  

"Let the life that you lead be all that you need" - Ryan Star "Breathe"

So tell me - where are you in all of this media frenzy?  Does Eat, Pray, Love float your boat or make you want to run screaming in the other direction? 

*Note: This is not in any way, shape or form a put-down of Hinduism.  I'm just surprised that Roberts has embraced this religion, which is very much a product of its culture and region.  I'll probably be covering my feelings about religion, and cultural perspectives on religion, quite extensively in future posts.