Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Garden State

Natalie Portman and Zach Braff in Garden State. Posted by Hello

I went to see Zach Braff's Garden State this evening at the Boulder Theatre (same place I saw the Warren Miller ski movie just a couple of weeks ago). I got there late, but just in time for the start of the film, which was only $6. And I was welcomed with veggie chili or chicken gumbo and an open bar. What could be better in a movie theatre! And even though I've heard nothing but great things about the movie, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Braff's much-heralded indie film reminded me of Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation. Both are talky, slow and intimate. Garden State is hilarious, random and moving; Lost in Translation is quiet, lonely and subtly romantic. Both movies are intimate portraits of just a few characters. They both admit that life is random, but full of fate and mystery -- the "infinite abyss" as Braff calls it. They both recognize the shallowness of glamour and fame, and how much more valuable it is to find real love and a sense of place, no matter where one may actually be.

As human beings (or maybe just as Americans) we are all self-involved enough to believe that our one, single life is important. These small movies make the most of that belief. Our lives, our loves and our choices matter, according to these filmmakers. When we leave the theatre, no matter how boring and routine our day was, we believe in our innate greatness and beauty. We believe that magic might lurk around the next corner: we might go to a doctor's appointment or take an anonymous business trip to Tokyo and find the love of our life. We might suddenly decide to let go of lives that weren't going in desired directions and bravely pursue our real dreams. And we might find that we were wearing our real dreams all along like Dorothy's ruby slippers; we need only click our heels to realize that we were always standing in them in the first place.

The wonder of "small" movies such as Garden State and Lost in Translation is their ability to distill simple truths into broad statements about humanity. Natalie Portman's Sam in Garden State chatters like a valley girl; but she buries her umpteenth dead hamster with wisdom beyond her years. She's able to shed tears for Zach Braff's Large with ease, something Large wishes he could do. He falls in love with her open heart and spontaneous nature; she falls in love with his vulnerability and honesty. They are strangers who instantly know each other, not unlike Scarlett Johanssen and Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. Neither movie uses sex to make its point, and that's what makes them both so romantic and delicate.

Both movies explore the notion that there is someone for everyone. And after you watch them, you remember that some people immediately feel like home, while others never do. It's that feeling that makes you believe in fate and destiny, in soul mates and karma. That some people should get married one week after meeting and others should finally break up already. And it's that feeling, rare as it is, that gives life depth and light and hope.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The wonders of travel

Boulder, Colo., behind my parents' house, around 10 am on Monday, Nov. 29 Posted by Hello

Keahou Bay, Kona, Hawaii, at sunset Posted by Hello

Just a few days ago, I was standing on this dock, watching the sun fall into the turquoise ocean. Today, I am watching snow fall on a town blanketed in white. While I do love 80-degree weather, snow has its own charms. And I've flown a ton in my life, but it still amazes me that you can be in one place and then in another practically in the blink of an eye.

All I know is that the skiing is gonna be good this year ...

Bush Taps Gutierrez for Commerce

Bush has made another cabinet choice, and it is another minority with a very interesting background. Kellogg CEO Carlos Gutierrez, who will become Commerce Secretary, succeeding Don Evans, was born in Cuba. His family fled the country when he was only six years old, and he began his career with Kellogg's in Mexico City.

One person commented that regardless of Condoleeza Rice's background, she supports an untenable war and therefore she should not be supported. I agree that the war in Iraq (but not in Afghanistan, which I wish had happened as soon as the Taliban showed up) is untenable and unwinnable and I completely understand not supporting Rice as a result. (and I'm so happy anyone is willing to comment!) Still, I have to say that I really appreciate Bush's picks for these top positions. If he puts a gay person in a cabinet role, then we'll really be getting somewhere, but that seems unlikely considering the administration's ridiculous position on gay marriage.

Following is the Wall Street Journal's early posting on Gutierrez. Also, watch this space because postings and pics from our trip to Kona, Hawaii are coming soon ...

Bush Taps Kellogg CEO
As Commerce Secretary

November 29, 2004 11:26 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Monday nominated Cuban native Carlos Gutierrez, who has been chief executive officer of Kellogg Co., to head the Commerce Department.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Gutierrez would succeed Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, a Texas confidant of Mr. Bush's, who announced his resignation shortly after the Nov. 2 election.

The president announced his selection at the White House, calling Mr. Gutierrez "a visionary executive" and "one of America's most respected business leaders."

"We never imagined that this country would give me this great opportunity," Mr. Gutierrez told Bush. "I believe passionately in your leadership and the direction you've set."

Mr. Gutierrez was born in Cuba and his family fled the country in 1960 when he was 6 years old.

He is known as a charismatic and approachable executive, widely admired in business circles for reviving a flagging company.

Mr. Gutierrez joined Kellogg in 1975, beginning his career in Mexico City as a sales and marketing trainee for the Battle Creek, Mich., cereal giant.

Mr. Gutierrez subsequently held a number of jobs at headquarters and ran Kellogg's Canadian and Asian Pacific operations before being named president and then chairman and CEO.

He took over four years ago when Kellogg's cereal sales were sagging and soon acquired Keebler Foods to diversify and boost profits. He also put together an international top management team, which includes an Indonesian, an Italian and two Australians, as well as Americans.

Mr. Gutierrez is the first new member of Mr. Bush's economics team for his second term. Mr. Bush's chief economics adviser, Stephen Friedman, announced last week that he is leaving. Other changes also are anticipated.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Condoleeza Rice Posted by Hello

I’m not necessarily a big fan of Condoleeza Rice, mainly because she seems like a robot that has been programmed to do the Bush Administration’s wishes. I wonder about her personal life, which I assume she does not have, and I’m concerned that she doesn’t actually appear to have any emotions whatsoever.

That said, I’m suprisingly pleased about her nomination to the position of Secretary of State. With Colin Powell paving the way for African-Americans, it’s a further indication that race and gender barriers are falling at the highest levels. Granted, Condie is really a white Republican man trapped in a black woman’s body, but that’s okay. In fact, that’s probably how it should be. Judge a person by his or her values, work, accomplishments, skills and talents. By his or her words and actions and how he or she spends her time. It’s by those measures, and her clear loyalty, that Bush is giving Condie this promotion. Her race and her gender haven’t even come into question.

I don’t agree with her politics, but I admire her ambition, drive, loyalty and unbelievable work ethic. And I salute her for breaking all sorts of barriers, and doing it with grace and style.

Even though I was highly disappointed that Powell ended up agreeing to be the administration’s salesman on Iraq, delivering a false bill of goods to the U.N., and damaging his credibility in the process, I’m a bit sad to see him go. I saw him speak publicly before he became Secretary of State and he was amazing. Frank and funny, off-the-cuff and relaxed – he was born to speak before people. He’s a natural pitchman, and at his best, he could probably convince anyone to do anything (except perhaps delegates at the U.N.). Powell has been a role model for many, and I think in his post-Administration role he can rebuild hs image. Before he joined the Administration, Powell was doing a lot of valuable foundation and charitable work. To that he should return, and the world will benefit from it.

In the meantime, the Bush Administration has to be commended. It’s first two appointments are very high-profile minorities. And that’s definitely a good thing.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Our Hero

Posted by Hello CU WR Ron Monteilh runs in a 64-yard pass to win the game in the last five seconds

Posted by Hello Fans storm the field to congratulate him

All right, I'm not really a big football fan, but I enjoy a good game as much as anyone. By chance today I ended up at the CU game, and it turned out to be one of the team's biggest games in years.

"I don't remember being part of a team that won one like this," said embattled Buffs coach Gary Barnett, according to the AP, who ranked the victory up there with Colorado's 62-36 thrashing of Nebraska three years ago.

This fall, I've had a knack of ending up in the right place during some major sports happenings. Specifically, I was in New York City when the Yankees lost to the Boston Red Sox. Then I was in New England during the entire week that the Sox finally won the World Series.

Even though I'm not really a Sox fan or part of that community (really I'm more of a Cards fan by genetic and geographic disposition), it was cool to experience Sox fandom at the best time in modern history. Sports teams bring communities together and there's something about being a part of that energy that feels comforting, fulfilling.

Boulder is a relatively smallish town, and what I love about it is that most people who live here do so by choice. They are usually passionate about this place. They love -- and I mean really love -- the mountains, the lifestyle and all the activities that come along with living nestled up to the Rockies. On Friday night I went to Warren Miller's 1001th extreme ski movie, Impact. The Boulder Theatre--an old, funky place right off the Pearl Street mall--was packed with fans.

Honestly, Warren Miller has been making these ski films since 1949. I saw several of them way back in high school. They don't consist of much more than some seriously whacked-out skiing set to music. On Friday, I greeted almost every new scene with a "holy s&%t," and I felt a little nauseous watching people stand at the tops of mountains, peering down steep cliffs, preparing to shush on down.

Sitting next to me were a group of nine-year-olds. Not too far away were their parents. Everyone from college kids to yuppies to ski bums (OK, these are all sort of the same people) filled the hall, cheering wildly. They all just wanted to see some good skiing and get psyched to hit the hill themselves. That crazy love of skiing, just strapping on boards and going downhill in the snow, is surprisingly addictive.

Hometown football is the same. Saturday's game was an epic football battle, with the score going back and forth and back and forth until CU finally wrapped it up in the last five seconds with a perfectly thrown pass. Thousands of people came together to cheer their warriors on. I didn't even know what CU's record was going into the game, but I was on my feet with everyone else in the fourth quarter. The marching band played, and the cheerleaders danced. Students stood shirtless in freezing weather and screamed wildly for their team. Those same students stormed the field to congratulate the young players, taking down the goalposts in the process.

On most levels, it was just a stupid football game. But on a larger level, a football game is a unifying event. And feeling connected is important, more important than I think people realize. It's one big reason I came back to Boulder, my home town. I wanted to feel, once again, that I was part of a community united by passion and love. Growing up here, I felt that people were involved in their lives -- their entire lives -- and they lived them with balance. I didn't know anyone consumed by work. What's more, I didn't know anyone who was consumed by fear of losing that work, and therefore working all the more, chasing their tails in an endless cycle. I don't remember being surrounded by people who lived in fear; I remember being surrounded by people who were engaged. And I felt like a solid part of it all.

It's not the event that connects us that's important--whether it be football or skiing, an election or a wedding--but the reminder that we are all connected.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

That didn't take long

White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Bush's nominee for Attorney General Posted by Hello

The White House announced this afternoon that Alberto Gonzales will be Bush's nominee to the post of Attorney General. The move elevates Gonzales, already the highest-placed Hispanic in the administration, to a much more public job.

Illustrating how much Senate Democrats disliked Ashcroft, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said : "We will have to review his record very carefully, but I can tell you already he's a better candidate than John Ashcroft," according to the Associated Press.

The good news is that Bush is continuing to acknowledge that running a multicultural country requires nominating multicultural officials. But Gonzales is a close Bush confidant, having worked side-by-side with him in the White House (think Josh and Toby in The West Wing) so it's unlikely he's going to operate independently.

Gonzales' job will be to push through judicial nominations, work to renew expiring portions of the Patriot Act, and to fight terror and protect our borders (a tricky task for a Latino from Texas) here at home. In many ways, Gonzales will have a much easier job than did Ashcroft: with 54 Republicans in the Senate, he has the majority on his side. But the trick with the Senate is that any one member can put an indefinite and anonymous hold on any thing he or she wants, including nominations. A 60-member supermajority can overturn that hold, but it's rarely invoked.

Gonzales has an interesting background - he was one of eight children and his parents were poor immigrants. He's been working for George Bush for more than ten years, and was one of Bush's key counsels way back in the Texas Governor's Mansion. So cronyism prevails once more in the Bush White House (OK, in all White Houses really. OK, in all places of business).

Let's see what happens next ...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Ding Dong, the witch is dead

Ashcroft testifies before Congress in 2003 Posted by Hello

Well, he's not really a witch, but Attorney General John Ashcroft has resigned. That's either wonderful news, because it means someone more reasonable and less crazily conservative will get that job (probably shouldn't count on that from the Bush administration). Or it's terrible news because someone even more conservative and worse, more competent, will get the job.

Ashcroft was at least partly responsible for the gem known as The Patriot Act, which gives the government permission to electronically snoop wherever it wants to. He was a big proponent of sweeping everyone who looked Arabic into prison and keeping them there for months with very little indication of wrongdoing. He also was personally offended by the bare breast of a statue that stood behind him during Justice Department briefings, spending thousands on a drape to cover her appalling Greek nudity.

The fact that Ashcroft even won the post was surprising, considering that he wasn't a popular member of the Senate and he wasn't even that well-liked in his home state, Missouri. He lost his bid for reelection to a dead man, Gov. Mel Carnahan, who died tragically in a small plane crash with other members of his family just weeks before the 2000 election.

According to CNN and the New York Times, possible candidates to replace him are Rudy Giuliani, former New York Mayor, Marc Racicot, former Bush campaign manager, and Alberto Gonzales, White House counsel. The most-favored candidate is former assistant AG Larry Thompson. Thompson just took a lucrative post at Pepsi, so why would he come back unless a) he really believes he owes the country his public service or, more likely, b) his ego likes the idea of being on the news every other day. And who would blame him? Ego makes the world go round. Or at least places like Washington, New York and Los Angeles.

President Bush recently joked with Thompson during a celebration of the anniversary of the Patriot Act in Buffalo: "We miss you over there. Don't get too comfortable up here."

The administration is supposed to announce a successor fairly soon, indicating that he (or she) has been lined up for a while. It was well-known that Ashcroft was going to resign, since neither he nor Bush apparently was happy with Ashcroft in the job. Ashcroft was too controversial and polarizing for even Bush.

Thompson wouldn't arrive with a squeaky clean record. According to the Times: "Mr. Thompson, who has been a visiting professor at the University of Georgia law school and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, came under scrutiny in 2002 when a conservative public interest group, Judicial Watch, filed a lawsuit that accused Mr. Thompson of helping artificially inflate the stock of the Providian Financial Corporation when he was a director there. Mr. Thompson, who made at least $1 million from the sale of his stock, denied any wrongdoing. "

If Martha Stewart does it, she goes to jail. If administration officials do it, they get promoted.

In any case, this is an opportunity for the Bush Administration to install an AG that understands both the need to fight terrorism and the need to preserve the American people's constitutionally-given rights to make their own decisions about how they exercise their civil liberties. I wish I had more faith that this is an opportunity that will be taken.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Boulder: Lovely views, hideous shoes

multi-colored Crocs Posted by Hello

Whenever I tell people I’m from Boulder, the following questions are asked immediately: Who killed Jon Benet? (like I, or the Boulder Police Department, knows the answer to this) Was Mork and Mindy’s house really located in Boulder? (yes, on Pine Street. We used to take tourists by there) Do you ski? (duh)

What no one asks is why people in Boulder insist on wearing such horrible footwear.

A common phenomenon here is the destruction of a perfectly good outfit by the selection of absolutely horrid shoes. For example, a woman will be wearing a black skirt, black tights, cute purple or pink jacket and then these hideous chunky black shoes from 1970. Birkenstocks are still worn with everything, Tevas are the shoe of choice for all outfits from workaday wear to Sunday best and heels almost never happen. No self-respecting Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo would be caught dead here.

Other trends have made their way to Boulder. Many a woman can be seen sitting in a bar, sipping her Cosmopolitan or Mojito and sporting her low-rise flare jeans with her thong showing and half her ass hanging out. This isn’t really a good thing, but at least it shows some fashion consciousness. Those off-the-shoulder Britney Spears shirts are still popular as are the reborn ponchos from the 70s. (There has been much debate among my friends and me as to whether these ponchos are cute. I say yes, although with my bust line, I’m smart enough to steer clear because I would look like I was wearing a tent. But I have other friends who are completely opposed. Any thoughts on the poncho trend out there?)

Somehow all these trends and more are supported in ultra-liberal Boulder, but the designer shoe, the pointy toe, the stiletto heel – absolutely not. Nowhere to be found.

The latest shoe craze in Boulder can be seen above. Known as the Croc, these shoes go for about $30 a pair and are worn with all outfits in all places. They are sort of the “emperor wears no clothes” of shoes. Meaning that no one has told the hordes of people sporting Crocs that they are the most hideous piece of attire to greet footwear since the Birkenstock arrived. (Don’t get me wrong, I wore Birks too, but I eventually had to admit that big, suede-ish, foot-flappy shoes aren’t the most attractive or feminine. Still, they were great when I was seeing Dead shows and wearing jean shorts with long underwear, another look happily buried in the early 90s.)

Here’s a blurb about Crocs from the summithut.com web site:

"The popular Beach ™ model was the first shoe introduced under the Crocs brand Footwear label and has been a major part of the footwear industry's evolution towards comfort. It's made from a patented closed-cell resin, not hot and uncomfortable plastic or rubber. It features an orthotic foot bed, multiple ventilation ports, a slip-resistant sole, and weighs only ounces! Stand on your feet all day without pain! The functionality and price make it a great choice for people who love comfortable shoes. They come in six sizes and twelve colors that make them a fun fashion statement for young and old alike, with or without socks. You'll need a couple of pairs to match every outfit! Try a pair in any color and we bet you'll be hooked!"

OK, let me interpret some of the key phrases there: “People who love comfortable shoes” means those who don’t mind that they are the ugliest things ever to enter your closet; and “you’ll need a couple of pairs to match every outfit” or really just one pair that doesn’t match any outfit because these shoes do not match anything that should be worn by a reasonable human being.

You know, what’s going to happen now is there is going to be a blog-generated run on these stupid shoes and soon the entire country will be wearing Crocs. Women in Manhattan will trade in their Choos for Crocs. Chic bars will be filled with women sporting sea green rubber clogs. Visiting French diplomats will take home red and yellow mini-versions for their kids, and that’s who should really be wearing these shows, the French. They would look great paired with pink and green satin jackets with non-sensical English phrases printed all over them.

While the shoes are ineluctably bad, don’t even get me started on the hairstyles here in Boulder … let’s just say the longer and rattier the dreadlocks the better for much of the population. I am certain entire small-animal populations are residing in people’s hair. And if the rats and squirrels lose their way, there’s plenty of room leftover for them in the Crocs.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Oprah for President

Oprah in Africa Posted by Hello

When the Boston Red Sox won the pennant for the first time since 1918, I was sure it indicated that a new world order was upon us. Fascism is dead! I declared. For surely, the Yankees and their endless winning streak are the closest thing to fascism besides the Bush Administration that anyone has seen lately.

And when the exit polls started coming back with the positive news—Kerry is trending ahead!—Democrats spirits were palpably lifted, the liberal media started sounding a little giddy, and Hollywood rejoiced.

Alas, alack, it was not to be.

Those swing-state voters—whether by paper, by touch screen, or by hanging chad—let us down once again. And so it is to be four more years of Bush, four more years in which the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld political operation runs our country like their own personal multi-national corporation, four more years in which we send our sons and daughters to die for lies, to search for weapons that aren’t there, to make the world safe so Bush’s Saudi allies and Cheney’s domestic interests can plunder Iraq for their own economic ends.

To that I say: Hilary in 08. Or Obama. Or, God willing, Oprah. (At least she would give us cars, but she is far too smart to bother with all that.) Or someone we’ve yet to get to know. But give us a leader who cares about the welfare of the people, who guides us with light and not with self-interest, who truly wants to make the entire country a better place to live, not just the neighborhoods where he and his father’s cronies reside.

Does such a leader exist in this world? Does the society we’ve created allow such a person to rise to the top of our political system? Or are we the victim or our own skewed values? People driven by bottomless greed and an insatiable need for power end up running the country and its powerful corporations because no one else has the energy to do it. People who are fueled by love and the need to help others are teaching school, running non-profits and foundations, going abroad to help the world’s neediest. The people who should be running the country, the people filled with true inner wisdom and spiritual guidance are doing other things because they couldn’t or wouldn’t survive the process we’ve installed.

So we have no one to blame but ourselves for the situation we find ourselves in today. We let fear guide us all the way to Iraq, and fear direct our hands in the voting booths. We let fear choose our paths in life, pick who we marry, keep us in jobs laden with drudgery and disrespect. Perhaps if we let our lives be guided by love and faith, our leaders can be guided in those ways as well. Until then, we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got, somehow hope that women, gays, and minorities (basically anyone non-male, non-white and non-straight) will have any rights by the end of this term, and we’ll have to cross our fingers that the entire Supreme Court doesn’t keel over between now and 2008.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Improvements coming soon

My wonderful friends--and they shall be named: Kate Amaral, Joyce Dillon Reinecke and Tina Haskell Summers--got me a digital camera for my birthday so look here for actual pictures of personal activities sometime in the very near future. (Read: when I figure out how the hell to use the camera) I only wish I had it with me during all my recent travels because there were so many great moments and so few photos taken. But I am going to Hawaii for Thanksgiving so at least I'll have it for that.

Exiled in Newport

I just got back from a two and a half week tour of the East Coast and I’m sure there’s one million things I could write about that whole journey if I really put my mind to it.

However, the first thing that stands out is this: when you turn 35 and go to weddings, you are exiled to the single-person outback table. As one of perhaps three single women at a beautiful wedding in Newport, R.I., I was a bit distressed to learn that I had been placed at the “single and cool couples who are friends of the groom” table. Moreover, upon hearing of this slight, I was informed not to worry because my table would be adjacent to the people I really wanted to sit with, people who heretofore should be referred to as “people I know.” But my table was clear on the other side of the room, nowhere near to the so-called people I know. So I was forced to strike up a lovely conversation with the charming, single man sitting next to me. See how those married people scheme?

Still, I did feel a bit like I had been sold a bill of goods, like I had been placed at the leftover table (“Where should we put these people? No one will go anywhere with them, who on earth would want to sit next to them”) and then spun like the situation was actually great because I would be able to meet this plethora of available men, ignoring the implications when it became clear that one of the two of them was a self-proclaimed cheerleader living in San Francisco.

That is fine, I suppose, but I place it up there with other discriminations that occur when you are single. For example, when you and another couple visit your married friends, you always get the couch because you are the only person who fits there. Nevermind that there are no blinds and no heat, the couch is yours because well, there’s really no place else for you to sleep. So, if you want to visit friends with dignity, find a partner because otherwise it’s the couch or the blow-up mattress from Target for you.

At weddings, you might as well stamp a big S on your forward and approach single men by saying “hello, you are probably gay, but I am single and I was wondering if you wanted to hook up and then possibly get married and have children. I’m crossing the threshhold of available fertility, you see.” I’m sure that would drive any potential single man away screaming, but at least it would put out there what everyone thinks already. Plus I wonder why women, as soon as they have the slightest notion that marriage is anywhere in their future, immediately banish from their mind forever what it was like to be single. Nevermind the horrible indignities they suffered attending weddings as a single woman themselves; no, now they are all grown up and married and isn’t every single woman just dying to catch a bouquet? When my 25-year-old sister got married first of the three of us (something I always knew would happen because she had the boy thing handled from a very early age) I of course caught the bouquet. My cohort and fellow garter belt catcher: Jackson, my 7-year-old cousin. So that’s how that goes.

On second thought, if I ever get married – an opportunity that my uncle and my grandmother already clearly closed for me several years ago, because they both got married as teenagers and were grandparents in their mid-thirties – I too will banish from my mind all the horrors of singledom and I will gleefully hand over the couch to anyone left who may still be single. Ha ha! I will think, sucker! You still have your freedom and independence, but you have to sleep on the g.d. couch.

On third thought, maybe these single-person indignities are really married people’s way of getting a moment of revenge on people who were smart enough to stay single and forego all this couplehood silliness. Hmmm, that’s a whole other way of looking at the situation I hadn’t really thought of.The one salvation of the Newport wedding: no throwing of the bouquet. Thank god me and the two other single women did not have to stand with the six-year-olds and fight for the bouquet. Especially because I’m the shortest of the three and I didn’t have a shot in hell.