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Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolution

"What you think of me is none of my business."

Leslee said this to us kids in a letter after dad died. I thought it was ridiculous at the time (of course, I thought everything she said was ridiculous at the time), but I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Wayne Dyer didn't coin the phrse, but this is what he said to elaborate:

Going through life constantly perturbed about what others think of you is a very painful and anxious way to live. Dr Wayne Dyer says "Needing approval is tantamount to saying, your view of me is more important than my own opinion of myself."

I try so hard to do The Right Thing. It's THE guiding principle of my life. And it so often just doesn't work. People don't see this or they misinterpret it. And it is very painful for me. Very painful. Very very painful. But I MUST accept that I can't control how others "take" me. I need to let go. I need to LET GO.

I find myself observing people, especially the women I see at the kids' school and at meetings I attend. So many of them are so harsh, so opinionated, so intolerant, so uncompromising. I know this is how many people see me. But I see so many women acting like this. And I think, they don't care. Their families love them. They manage. They don't seem tortured by the perceptions of others.

This year I am going to concentrate on this. On being true to myself and STOP WORRYING about what others think.

Here is more on the quote, from Bishop M Christopher Wilson:

"You can live without the approval of others! You will never truly love what you do if your need for approval from others becomes more important than enjoying what you're doing. I preach because I love it! I write because I love it! Do what you do to be great in the eyes of God not people. This is when God can trust you with the desires of your heart."

I think of this Teddy Roosevelt quote all the time and it helps me when petty people are knocking me down, or trying to:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goodbye 2009

Just got off the phone with my sister. She visited Niagra Falls with her secret boyfriend, Greg, last week. A couple of hours from where I live, but apparently never considered contacting me. She spent the holiday at Ramcat too, something no one bothered to mention to me. I feel like that women in Gaslight, where the man tries to drive his wife crazy by telling her everything she is seeing and hearing is just in her head. I feel like banging my head against the wall, just to disrupt some of the craziness in there.

This on top of a weird and rather difficult holiday - I'm so fucking sad this year. I've been thinking constantly about Noah. About the huge hole in the universe that used to be occupied by him. About how completely wrong it is that he is gone. His death doesn't feel any more real now than it did 6 months ago. I'm glad 2009 is over. Not my favorite year ever.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Retribution v. forgiveness

Larry, Matt and I saw Invictus right before the holidays. Very moving. A story I did not know, and very well made. Ironically, yet another compassionate presentation by Clint Eastwood, once the king of revenge dramas like Dirty Harry. Mandela's perspective of course got me thinking about Sylvia's monologue in The Interpreter (as so many things do):

Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge on someone, on God if they can't find anyone else. But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku, believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the Drowning Man Trial. There's an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He's taken out on the water and he's dropped. He's bound so that he can't swim. The family of the dead then has to make a choice. They can let him drown or they can swim out and save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they'll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn't always just, that very act can take away their sorrow.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Weekend movies

More movies and videos from the holiday weekend:

The Princess and the Frog - I really enjoyed this and so did the kids.

Sherlock Holmes - The parts were definitely better than the whole; Larry and I agreed that the movie needed some editing. Great cast and some fun moments, but ultimately sort of disappointing; should have been better.

The Young Victoria - Of course the sets and costumes were gorgeous and the performances were first rate. But I thought the story lacked drama and I was a little confused because I'm not familiar with all the history and the court intrigue and all that. Worth seeing, as long as you keep your expectations low. Emily Blunt is terrific and so is the guy who plays Albert (Rupert Friend), and they make a sweet couple. It's not a bad movie, but it's not a really great one either.

Changeling - intriguing at first, but it went on way too long. Not a bad movie, but not really special either.

Premonition - like Knowing - the first half was quite intriguing, but in the end I thought "that's it???" They needed a much more significant ending to make the movie worthwhile.

Falling Angels - dysfunctional family drama from Canada, based on a novel of the same name. Excellent evocation of the time period - 1969 - and suburban life, but ultimately not nearly as compelling as it could have been.

A Simple Curve - charming little movie about a young man in Canada and the events that motivate him to make a change (clearly autobiographical, once you read about the writer/director). Great dialog and terrific performances. Not a perfect movie, but worth watching.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Miranda Richardson

So weird to see her in three movies this past week - as the uptight Provost in Spinning into Butter, then as the Duchess of Kent in The Young Victoria, and finally as an alcoholic housewife in an indie Canadian film from 2003, Falling Angels. Rather coincidental!

Another funny thing - both the Film Movement movies that I watched featured actors from Battlestar Galactica - Falling Angels had Callum Keith Rennie (Leoben) and A Simple Curve had Michael Hogan (Colonel Tigh). I didn't recognize either immediately, but I knew that I knew them from somewhere and had to laugh once I looked them up. [True Confession - I thought Mike Hogan was Ryan Cutrona who played Gene in Mad Men.]

Final weird casting note - Kett Turton had a small part in both these Film Movement movies. Extremely coincidental!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Airport security

This foiled terrorist plot is so aggravating - all the inconvenience with airport security all these years and it turns out the system doesn't work at all. And the indiginities that people have suffered - women forced to drink their breast milk and such - and some complete moron waltzes through with a bomb in his underwear. A moron that was known to be an extremist and shouldn't have been allowed on any flight. The only reason he was unsuccessful is because he was an idiot. What have all the ridiculous measures been for all these years??? And now terrorists KNOW what a joke the security system is. If they just send some smarter people, we're all in trouble. And the TSA response - a new rule that people have to stay in their seats for the last hour of the flight. Like that's going to help. More stupid interventions that create difficulties for legitimate passengers, but solve nothing. I am QUITE disgusted!

And England needs to address this issue! This young man was radicalized at school in England. There is a great deal of Muslim extremism in that country. It is time to ensure that these people are not enjoying the freedom of a democratic country to simply hate everyone on earth. Not sure *how* this happens, but something needs to be done to reduce their opportunities.


Friday, December 25, 2009

The Jews are ruining Christmas

My friend Janet sent me a newspaper column with this Garrison Keillor excerpt:

"Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong [for them] to rewrite 'Silent Night'. If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn 'Silent Night' and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write 'Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah'? No, we didn't. Christmas is a Christian holiday – if you're not in the club, then buzz off ... don't mess with the Messiah."

I can't believe Garrison Keillor said that stuff! Most of those songs were written for movies and Broadway shows - the writers had no idea the songs would become standards played endlessly throughout the season. More importantly, to imply that Jews are deliberately trying to denigrate Christmas is so unexpected coming from him.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Latest movies

Watching lots of movies, in the theater and on video:

Spinning into Butter - better than I expected. Sarah Jessica Parker plays the Dean of Students at a liberal arts college in Vermont when someone starts to hassle a black student, bringing racial tensions to the surface. I thought she was terrific, and I thought they did a nice job of addressing the issues. Great cast too, including Miranda Richardson and Beau Bridges. Not a perfect movie, but worth watching.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno - ranchy, but very funny and ultimately quite sweet.

Tiptoes - weird movie about a regular size man (Matthew McConneghy) who belongs to a family of dwarfs, a secret he has been keeping from his fiance, until she becomes pregnant and he must tell her the truth. It started out really promising, but by the end it was a total Movie of the Week. Not sure what they were thinking - the movie seemed nicely offbeat during the first half, but then it got bogged down in melodrama. I learned a lot about dwarfism, of course, which seems like the point. But I didn't really enjoy the movie and that's a shame. Kate Beckinsale, especially, is a terrific actress who can move effortlessly among genres, but she is ultimately wasted here in a part that a much less talented woman could have played. It was fun to see so many well-known Little People, and they were all excellent, but not enough to save the movie.

Fakers - fun little British caper movie with Matthew Rhys from Brothers and Sisters. Just a puff pastry, but worth the time.

Brothers - Not a perfect movie, but very affecting. It's gets a bit lost in the last 1/3, but that certainly doesn't ruin it. Fine performances and a worthwhile topic.

Invictus - very good movie; terrific performances, moving and meaningful.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A real face

I just saw a preview for Jeff Bridges' new film, Crazy Heart, which basically looks like The Wrestler with music (though perhaps with a more hopeful ending). Definitely worth seeing, especially with Maggie Gyllenhaal on board as well. What I loved most in the preview is that Jeff Bridges actually looks his age. And he's totally hot too. It's so refreshing to see a real human being on the screen instead of a lifeless mask!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Movie doldrums

When I was at the multiplex this week, I saw SIX previews, and they were all for crap that I wouldn't bother seeing. Is it just me or is the Oscar bait pretty thin this year? Where is the end of the year hoopla? Seems pretty quiet. The big Christmas Day movies here are Sherlock Holmes and It's Complicated. That's it? Where are all the prestige pictures??? What the heck is Miramax doing this year?


Monday, December 21, 2009

Obama and the "left"

I stumbled on a great blog, Sadly No!, while reading something else. I thought this post was terrific and captured my current feelings perfectly:

I honestly don’t know why a lot of folks ever really believed that Obama was the second coming of FDR when all he really ever aspired to be was the second coming of Bill Clinton. The guy always presented himself as a middle-of-the-road establishment Democrat who eschewed populism in favor of “post-partisanship” (whatever the hell that means). And c’mon, people: how much change could you really expect from a guy who chose Joe Biden to be his veep?

Now, I knew this perfectly well going into the 2008 election. And I was still incredibly enthusiastic about supporting the guy. Why? Because this country had been run for the previous eight years by sociopathic wingnuts and I didn’t want another sociopathic wingnut running the country for another four years. I didn’t want to go to war with Iran and I didn’t want to go to war with Syria. Also, I didn’t want to have a certifiable moron as vice president. These sorts of things are important to me.

And yes, I realize how sad it is that my standards have fallen so low, but that’s how things are. As long as my government is not actively trying to destroy the entire world, I feel OK about things. Others’ mileage may vary, but that’s sorta where I’m at.

I think the larger problem is that a lot of folks on the left seemed to think that electing a black dude with the middle name “Hussein” (and don’t get me wrong, that is pretty awesome) would magically overturn decades’ worth of propaganda aimed at getting Americans to believe that corporate America’s Big Money Boyz are our bestest friends in the world and that they’re being oppressed by a wicked government that doesn’t think it’s “politically correct” to sell toxic waste to school children. That’s something that’s going to require long-term siege warfare. And it also means that we need more folks like Taibbi who have the balls to stand up to people in power and fewer folks talking about Obama as a brilliant eleven-dimensional tactician.

Obama for all his faults is a welcome relief from having sociopaths run the government. But that doesn’t mean that anyone on the left should count on him to do anything they want done.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brittany Murphy, R.I.P.

Only 32 years old. So sad. She was very talented and had a long career in front of her.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It sucks, but pass it anyway

This is pretty much describes where I'm at with the healthcare bill:

I think of it this way: once the principle of universality is established — and for all its faults, the Senate bill would establish universality for American citizens — then it’s going to be very hard to take away. Once it’s passed the GOP will never be able to pass legislation that will take away health insurance from 30 million people. Really, if they tried they wouldn’t leave office alive.

So I’m leaning right now toward, “pass the piece of shit and add to the subsidies through reconciliation with the goal of adding a public option through reconciliation further down the road.”


Friday, December 18, 2009

Current healthcare bill

My uncle sent me this summary; I can live with this. Even Howard Dean is dialing down his rhetoric.

Who wins, who loses in Senate health bill

Associated Press/AP Online

WASHINGTON - The little town of Libby, Mont., isn't mentioned by name in the Senate's mammoth health care bill, but its 2,900 citizens are big winners in the legislation, thanks to the influence of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.

After pushing for years for help for residents, many of whom suffer from asbestos-related illnesses from a now-closed mineral mining operation, Baucus inserted language in a package of last-minute amendments that grants them access to Medicare benefits.

He didn't advertise the change, and it takes a close read of the bill to find it. It's just one example of how the sweeping legislation designed to remake the U.S. health care system and extend coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans also helps and hurts more narrow interests, often thanks to one lawmaker with influence or bargaining power.

Here's a look at some other winners and losers in the latest version of the legislation, which was expected to survive an initial test vote in the Senate around 1 a.m. Monday.

-Cosmetic surgeons, who fended off a 5 percent tax on their procedures.

-Nebraska, Louisiana, Vermont and Massachusetts. These states are getting more federal help with Medicaid than other states. In the case of Nebraska - represented by Sen. Ben Nelson, who's providing the critical 60th vote for the legislation to pass - the federal government is picking up 100 percent of the tab of a planned expansion of the program, in perpetuity. Vermont and Massachusetts get temporary increases in the federal share of their Medicaid tabs. In Louisiana, moderate Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu negotiated $100 million for 2011 before announcing her support for the legislation.

-Beneficiaries of Medicare Advantage plans - the private managed-care plans within Medicare - in Florida. Hundreds of thousands of them will have their benefits grandfathered in thanks to a provision tailored by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., that also affects a much smaller number of seniors in a few other states.

-Longshoremen. They were added to the list of workers in high-risk professions who are shielded from the full impact of a proposed new tax on high-value insurance plans. (Electrical linemen were already included, along with policemen, firefighters, emergency first responders and workers in construction, mining, forestry, fishing and certain agriculture jobs.)

-Community health centers. They got $10 billion more in the revised bill, thanks to advocacy by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

-A handful of physician-owned hospitals being built around the country - including one in Bellevue, Neb. - which would be permitted to get referrals from the doctors who own them, avoiding a new ban in the Senate bill that will apply to hospitals built in the future. Without mentioning Nebraska or other states by name, the Senate bill pushes back some legal deadlines by several months, in effect making a few hospitals that are near completion eligible to continue receiving referrals from the doctors who own them. The provision was described by a pair of health industry lobbyists who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely. Chalk up another win for Nelson.

-AARP, the lobby for elderly people. The new Democratic bill has about $1 billion in extra Medicaid payments to states that provide visiting nurses and other in-home or community services to prevent low-income people from needing to be admitted to hospitals. In House-Senate bargaining, AARP also is expected to win one of their top priorities: a full closing of the so-called "doughnut hole," the gap in Medicare's coverage of prescription drugs.

-Doctors and hospitals in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, who will get paid more than providers elsewhere under formulas in the bill.

-Tanning salons, which are getting hit with a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services, replacing the cosmetic surgery tax.

-Progressives. They had to give up on their long-held dream of a new government-run insurance plan so that Democratic leaders could lock down the necessary votes from moderates.

-People making over $200,000 a year. A proposed 0.5 percent increase in the Medicare payroll tax was bumped up to 0.9 percent in the latest version, putting the tax at 2.35 percent on income over $200,000 a year for individuals, $250,000 for couples.

-Generic drug makers. They fought unsuccessfully to block 12 years of protection that makers of brand-name biotech drugs - expensive pharmaceuticals made from living cells - will get against generic would-be competitors.

Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I heart Howard Dean

I know that any health care bill is better than no bill, but this one has turned into an abomination. I'm thrilled that Howard is speaking out about what the bill doesn't have. Of course, we should all get behind "our" president, but I think liberals should object to a bill that is this objectionable. It's going to be what it's going to be, but there's no reason why we should go quietly into that goodnight.

This Huffington Post piece does a nice job of presenting both (liberal) sides - something is better than nothing, but this something is a lot less than what we wanted.

Here are excerpts from Howard Dean's WaPo op-ed, which says what's in there and what's not:

Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.

Real health-care reform is supposed to eliminate discrimination based on preexisting conditions. But the legislation allows insurance companies to charge older Americans up to three times as much as younger Americans, pricing them out of coverage. The bill was supposed to give Americans choices about what kind of system they wanted to enroll in. Instead, it fines Americans if they do not sign up with an insurance company, which may take up to 30 percent of your premium dollars and spend it on CEO salaries -- in the range of $20 million a year -- and on return on equity for the company's shareholders. Few Americans will see any benefit until 2014, by which time premiums are likely to have doubled. In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG.

The legislation does have some good points, such as expanding Medicaid and permanently increasing the federal government's contribution to it. It invests critical dollars in public health, wellness and prevention programs; extends the life of the Medicare trust fund; and allows young Americans to stay on their parents' health-care plans until they turn 27. Small businesses struggling with rising health-care costs will receive a tax credit, and primary-care physicians will see increases in their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

H1N1 & autoimmune disorders

I found this scary - my interleukin 17 level is probably elevated due to celiac disease. I'm so glad I already got the vaccine!

Immunological clue to why some H1N1 patients get very ill or die while others get only a mild case and quickly recover:

"Researchers from the Hospital Clinico Universitario de Valladolid in Spain and the University Health Network found high levels of a molecule called interleukin 17 in the blood of severe H1N1 patients, and low levels in patients with the mild form of the disease. Interleukin 17 is produced by the body and is important in the normal regulation of white blood cells which fight infection and disease. In certain circumstances, the molecule becomes "out of control," leading to inflammation and autoimmune diseases."


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Latest videos

Recently, I watched several movies on video from the library and Netflix:

Bottle Shock. Cute, but somewhat disappointing. The preview made the movie, based on a true story about the rise of the wine industry in the Napa Valley, seem breezy and whimsical, but the movie is slower and darker than promised. Great cast and performances, gorgeous photography, plus quite a terrific story, but the unmet expectations certainly reduced my enjoyment. Plus, you know how it ends. I would also complain that some of the side stories, especially the dopey romance between the vintner's son and the summer intern, are more of a distraction than a bonus. Worth seeing, but not going on my Best Ever list.

The Brothers Bloom, which was also good, but not great. Excellent performances, of course, especially by Adrien Brody, whose unmoored character is the key to the movie (although Rinko Kikuchi as Bang Bang is, in some ways, the best thing in the movie). It's very literary and intelligent, and there's some wonderful humor. But they had a hard time finding a tone - it bounced between breezy and maudlin. It could have been much better.

Gospel Hill, which was packed with great performances from Julia Stiles, Danny Glover, Samuel L Jackson and Angela Bassett, among others. Giancarlo Esposito's directorial debut, and a fine performance by him as well. It was so worthwhile - addressing racial issues in a small town. But the ending was so tidy, and everyone makes the ethical choice - admirable, but so fake - I think it diminished the dramatic impact. Yet another movie that was good, but not great.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tea Parties

I was seriously peeved this afternoon listening to an NPR report on Tea Party groups - they talked to several organizers and one said "Obama just doesn't love America the way I do." How outrageous . . . because she thinks the same thing about me: if I disagree with her about what is the best way to approach problems, then I don't love America. Apparently, her solutions are an indication of her patriotism. The whole argument is ridiculous and offensive.

ADDENDUM 12-17-09

This morning I saw a recent poll showing that Tea Party groups have a higher approval rating than either the Democratic of Republican parties. Sad, sad day.

Here is the woman's full comments from NPR's website:

Stay-at-home-mom Lorie Medina, 43, another emerging party leader, says she is focused on the narrower issue of fiscal conservatism. She says it appeals to many people who disagree on other matters.

The lifelong conservative voted for Ronald Reagan and was an early subscriber to The Weekly Standard. Her children attend Christian schools. She is the daughter of a Baptist preacher from Missouri and thoroughly anti-abortion.

"Some people were scared — they're scared about where the country is going," says Medina. "I think it was a lot of emotions that erupted this last summer — and I think if the politicians think that was the end of it, I think they've got another thing coming."

Medina says Obama is the lightning rod who infuriates the Tea Party movement.

"It's like I wake up every morning, and there's something new on the news that's upsetting that I read about that he does," she says. "If you look at the way he speaks, the way he talks about our country, if you look at the programs and the things he tries to put into place, it really appears that he does not love our country like most Americans do — and like past presidents do."


Monday, December 07, 2009

Tiger and his many mistresses

Not that I give a damn, but that Tiger Woods is starting to look like a sex addict - how many on-the-sides does one person need? I guess his years in the spotlight have taken a bigger toll than we realized.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

More movies

Watched with the kids recently:

Camp Rock was cute but very contrived and saccharine. Alana really liked the music and was dancing around the living room. We'll have to watch the 2 sequels when we get a chance.

How to Eat Fried Worms was funny and of course a terrific story of empowerment. But it was rather exaggerated, with lots of shots of kids making "Ewww" faces and such. Not super entertaining for an adult, but the kids liked it. Surprisingly, the high point for me was Hallie Eisenberg, who does a great job in the token girl role, being smart and dignified.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Executions for gays in Uganda

I heard this on Rachel Maddow tonight. ICK!! And what makes it worse is that American political figures like Senator Sam Brownback (R, Kansas) are involved. Maybe they're test marketing this approach to the issue. Appalling.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Gay marriage bill goes down in flames

A weak joke, but if you don't laugh, you cry. Despite a push by Paterson, this bill died in the NY legislature. It's especially sad in the state that includes New York City. And it's also very discouraging to hand the opposition their 31st straight victory (pun intended). The issue will come around again, but its failure is a big disappointment.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Maurice Clemmons

Last night I said this guy would never get to a trial, and I was right - he was shot trying to escape, just as I predicted. Too bad we never get to hear what the fuck he was thinking.

The silver lining: this may be the end of Mike Huckabee's political career.