Monday, January 29, 2007

Oh yeah, like you blend!!

With the new immigration reform law, I thought I would link to this old post.

If you had to guess the location and heritage and profession of the man above, you might get it right...but then again, you might not.  If I told you he was a Japanese movie director, would you believe me?  Maybe a gangster out of Tokyo waiting for his limo or perhaps an urban designer from New York?  It is hard to judge a book by its cover. 

He was a fisherman from one of the tuna boats on an island in Japan. I was busy taking photos of the tuna being loaded and unloaded and the sorting of the fish for auction. He came up and in sign language asked me to take his picture. If you recognize him, I would love to send him this photo which came out very well.

The title of this blog was taken from a movie called "My Cousin Vinny" which came out in 1992 starring Joe Pesci, Ralph Maccio and Marisa Tomei. It is a silly black comedy about a murder trial and the class of regional cultures in America. Due to a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings, two young New Yorkers are charged with murder in a small Alabama town. Joe Pesci, a personal injury lawyer, flies down from New York to save his cousin. He brings along his girlfriend Marisa Tomei and the clash of cultures begins. The line above results from a discussion between the boyfriend (Pesci) and the girlfriend (Tomei) who accuse each other of not fitting adequately into the rural southern town setting. The movie did not get great reviews, but it obviously has struck a chord with me if I remember it after more than a decade. I loved the clash of the culture of New York 'gansta' and Alabama 'good-old-boy'.

I am drawn to those stories where characters from totally different backgrounds have to interact, adjust and begin to understand and respect each other. Vinnie is totally regarded as a loser at the beginning of the movie because of his thick accent and strange black suit. He wins the case with the help of his 'smart' girlfriend in leather and boots and raw outspoken bravada.
While it had a predictable ending, I enjoyed the cultural dance and surrprise.

I was intrigued by, if not quite understanding the allure, the recent news that the Japanese woman are drawn to the cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants thing and that all of his iconic wares are selling like hotcakes or should I say okonomyaki?

I was reassured (not threatened) by a featured news story about a a very popular New Jersey theater that shows only Bollywood movies and serves Indian food. The Asian Indian Americans can relax in a theater and pretend they are back home.

I am pleased to see the salsa dance clubs that are filling our cities due to the influx of Latino immigrants-- even though I think I have forgotten my salsa steps totally and could never match a real latino woman who loves her rhythm.

While waiting in line at the maternity store this weekend (for my daughter, of course) I watched and listened to the ebullient discussion between a woman from the Philippines who was interviewing a woman from Gabon for a job in the store. Each with their own thick accents talking in English.

I have a friend who years ago had car trouble in her hometown of Miami and had to pull into a gas station in a part of town where no one spoke English. She spoke no Spanish. It was a very difficult night for her. I don't feel so good about that incident as she related it, and while I respect other cultures, I think English does have to be the official language. Communication is everything. English has to be the language we can depend on in our schools and our businesses allowing other languages to be used for supplement and assistance only.

(Although I will admit the media has allowed American English to fall into the realm of disaster!)

(As a 2013 addendum to this post, I watch refugees take shelters in every ruined corner of the world and on every open dust swept dessert this year and want to find them mixing their accents in my neighborhood.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Frivellous Friday (Why does that word look so weird?)

I saw this statement somewhere a few weeks ago: "If the world didn't suck we'd all fall off."

If you just think about that (rude) statement it is more than funny, more than cynical, more than fatalistic and yet all of the above. What would the Dali Lama say?

".. .Be gentle with the earth." Is that because he knows it will quit sucking if we aren't gentle?

1. Today the office received a FedEx package that had been sent from our own agency in an office only two doors away!! The strangest thing was that 50% of the people who were told about this were not surprised. As long as we continue to hire people based on their politics and not their skills....

2. I was told to pick up a new access pass for my apartment today and to turn in the old access pass. The lady who gave me the new pass said that it should be operational, but she also handed me back my old pass and smiled, "just in case." Lucky for me I had the old pass when I tried to enter my apartment building on this very cold afternoon.

3. My husband called from the house to ask about pulling a wine from my little chiller so that he could bring a gift to his Carolina friends when he drives down this evening. I cannot tell you how funny it was trying to understand what he was saying as he read each wine bottle! I finally told him to just go the wine store and tell them he wanted a nice Cabernet in the $25 range.

4. My co-worker told me that his father-in-law, who lives in Las Vegas, thinks that the whole recycling program is a Communist plot and he refuses to participate when he comes to visit. Guess which party ticket he votes?

After perusing my latest order from Netflix and watching my choices for TV shows, my husband has suggested that I may have a bit of a personality disorder. I like to watch Monk and Gilmore Girls, both TV shows that reflect very neurotic people al la Woody Allen with much second guessing, over-talking and lack of self esteem. I also seem lately to order movies from Netflix that are dramas about the racial problems and wars in third world countries. What is up with that? (In defense I think Ugly Betty is one of the best TV shows to come along in a long time and watch it regularly.)

6. I love Star Trek--the TV shows-- and think Rosenberry was a wonderful writer but the Star Trek actors are given terrible lines. Great plot yet such soap opera dialogue and over the top acting. Just turn off the sound and watch the TV show and see if you can keep from laughing.

7. I am moving from an area where I am in walking distance of a 20 screen movie theater and also another 5 screen venue for art films. In the future I am moving to a place that has an old movie theater with just one or two screens and an audience that talks back to the screen.

8. After much searching on the Internet I found the location of the showing of the movie,"The Painted Veil." If you like a rich and realistic love story set in an exotic location with lots of good drama and great acting, than this is worth a long drive to see. This movie will rapidly disappear from the listings, so catch it now.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Get Your Whirligig On Straight

The world is a whirling place. It stops for no man and as everyone's lives around you also whirl you most certainly will wake up and find yourself in a strange or different place before your whirling is over. Last night I had drafted a blog on how miserable I am at my job and realized before posting, but after the cathartic writing, that people who have truly difficult jobs or even more challenging, no job at all, would not really be interested or sympathetic in my painful office politics or how useless I feel in my waning career these days. (I make good money, I can pretty much do what I want each day...get over yourself, Tabor.) And while I blog primarily for myself and posterity, I also have grown to love and admire co-bloggers and therefore feel some responsibilty in wasting their time. So I deleted the post.

Then, as if this realization was not enough, I was standing in my boss's office talking this morning when one of our guest speakers was brought in for an introduction. This man had had a good career in the environmental sciences in the military and retired in his mid-50's and was currently working on a PhD in another area. One chapter from his thesis was what he was going to talk about to our group.

He was small in stature and not exceptional physically in any way. You would not notice him passing on the street. But his personality was noticable. He was energetic and effusive and charming. There are people in this world that just love life and love what they do and when they stop doing what they do, they find something else to love and you can feel the magnetic pull of that enthusiasm. They always seems to land on their feet and see the glass as half full. In talking about his life and family he revealed that he had two children. One of them was a daughter who had
drug problems and also had a two-year-old out-of-wedlock child. He said that she was going to lose custody of this child and after many meetings with lawyers and social workers, he and his wife realized that if they ever expected to see this grandchild again, they would have to adopt her. He clearly was still working through this big decision. The fact that he shared it with complete strangers without compunction puts him in that category of people who have total trust in the world. (Not a category where I have ever had the luxury of being a member.)

He mind was filled with questions about how his physical stamina would be so that he could still be a parent in ten years when this girl was 12. His whole concern was about his energy levels waning...not at all about the expense and scheduling adjustments and personal sacrifices involved in raising a small child.

I have a grandchild that is about the same age, and while I would throw myself at the foot of any judge without a second's thought to beg for custody, I also could not fail to realize all the work that is entailed in raising another human being. All the sacrifices, the compromises, the intellectual effort in trying to find out what is happening in a young person's culture. Trying to understand MySpace, YouTube, Wii and still sharpen the tools to protect that person from all the bad stuff while ALSO defending your gray hair and cane in this youth obsessed culture is not a challenge I would be eager to face.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


This creative project was motivated by Colleen's comment on the business card left by one of the many geese on the river in my earlier post. I couldn't resist and since I don't have anything to write about right now due to some stresses at work, I have decided that I need to continue to focus on such humor in my down time.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder

Dali in the Church

Blue Sunday Worship

Two different interpretations of a cathedral photo I took in Sicily this past fall. The first is pretty abstract and reminds me of melting candles in cathedrals. The second is more traditional. Both were done on the computer without the smell of turpentine or the chance of spilled tempura. Which do you like more?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Out of Place Life Story #7

In every person's life, most likely when they are crossing that uneven bridge between childhood and adulthood, but many times happening even later, there are times when you go to a social gathering or you are among strangers and you know immediately you do not fit. You are suddenly and coldly an alien on the side of the planet where you have just landed. This has happened quite a few times in my life, maybe due to my insecurities or maybe due to my conservative (don't laugh) nature or maybe my plain impatience with society and unwillingness to "fit in."

In graduate school in Hawaii, as a very poor student only months away from obtaining a teaching certificate, I and a date from Nicaragua (another life story) went to a party at one of the houses near campus. Neither of us knew the party givers very well, but we sensed almost immediately upon entering the dark living area that we were out of our place. The group of young men and women were very casually sitting around the floor draped around furniture and each other and talking in quiet tones as if they had known each other for many years. The sweet smell of marijuana took its laid-back time reaching us as we both sat on the floor with our backs to the wall.
It may come as a surprise to readers, but I never tried the stuff. I knew it was against the law and while I may have gotten three sheets to the wind on good beer in my college days at the dance hall near campus, I was not going to risk losing my teaching certificate (my ticket out of poverty) just to try some illegal buzz.

Everyone was facing a screen at the end of the room with a slide projector set up at the opposite end. There was some food on a table behind the furniture, but no one seemed to be interested. In a short time familiar psychedelic 60's music started and the projector was turned on. The slides seemed to be about some camping vacation that several of the people in the room had taken, although it was too dark for me to really tell who in the room matched with the slide photo. Pictures of the camp set-up, food cooking and people sitting around a fire were the first part of the show. No one in the room did any talking, everyone just watched. The following slides of the next day's camping were a little different. Everyone had seemed to misplace their clothes and the weather in Hawaii was warm enough that no one on the camping trip seemed to notice that they were all naked. Looking back on this show, I realize it was not as shocking as I thought at the time. I wasn't all that innocent in life, but my date (a good Latin Catholic) turned to me and suggested we may want to leave and go get some coffee somewhere. I found myself very uncomfortable seeing people I didn't even know in their birthday suits and agreed to leave. We made a 'graceful exit.' Perhaps if I had really known these folks, I would not have felt quite so odd and out of place. Maybe if it had been more than the second date with my Nicaraguan friend, I would have felt more comfortable. Who knows. I just know I was Out of Place.

It has been a long time since I felt uncomfortable in any social or other situation.

On Monday morning my husband and I were on our way back to the city from our house on the river. Since we were goofing around and failed to eat breakfast, I proclaimed that we deserved Dunkin Donuts and coffee. This is a rare treat as we tend to eat healthier in our old age. After loading the car we headed to the nearby shopping center.

It was about 9:00 A.M. and several early workers were already taking their mid-morning coffee break. We seemed to be noticed by several of them as we exited our car, which would not have surprised me so much when I was a young and, if I do say so myself, attractive woman. But since this was certainly no longer true, I was wondering what was up. Then my husband passed ahead of me in his eager stride toward the pastry palace. Aha! Mystery solved. He had on a very nice suit and tie for a luncheon meeting that he had planned in the city. He looked so out of place and I quietly mentioned it to him when I caught up. He threw back his head and laughed, which caused an elderly man in front of us to turn and look, not once but several times. My husband said under his breath "Make way for the Senator." Something only a man raised in the South would say and I had to smile.

Upon entering Dunkin's my husband actually turned to the two men behind us and smiled and gesturing to his suit said apologetically, "I have a meeting today."

I grinned thinking they probably thought he was appearing before a judge. Weddings and court hearings would be the only time one would see someone in a suit in that part of the county...unless they were a Senator, of course.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Good Side

While global warming is going to bring very bad news in the coming years, we have had a wonderful three day weekend in the high 60's where we set aside the curtain ironing and hanging and the bill paying and put the canoe in the river for a rare January paddle.

The river was full of a convention of noisy geese who rushed to lift high into the air everytime a motorboat went up or down the river. A lot of energy was expended by them to live on the river next to man who uses the river as a freeway.

By the time we caught up to where they were resting there was only a floating "calling card."

Remember my bald friend?

Note the photos have not been downsized so be prepared for slowness of loading if you click for a larger view.

I don't know if this was the same fellow/fellowess who ate lunch in our backyard a while back. It was too hard to get close in the canoe for a better look. I am not sure that my powers of observation would have been up to the challenge anyway. The faster and yet quieter we paddled the more careful he became. He would let us get up only so close as we headed toward the channel and I still don't have that telephoto lense. He/she is breathtaking regardless of the distance!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Second Glass is a Rose

There are phrases reserved for people who blog when they are less inhibited due to consumption of alcohol. I think one of these is call "beerblogging". Well, I am on my second glass of a blush wine that was actually made by a friend of mine and so I am "blushblogging."

This rose is very good and reminds me of the Portugese rose that was all the rage among the young college set in the 60s and 70s. To a college student the wine seemed so exotic and came in an interesting and unsually shaped red clay-colored bottle. It had gentle little bubbles and was as close to a champagne as we could afford. I cannot for the life of me put my finger on the label...but I am sure my peer bloggers will help me out, please! I think it was introduced via the soldiers who traveled to Europe and then came back to let us know how sophisticated they were because I remember that I discovered it from a soldier or two that I dated.

Anyway, enough about my youthful love life, because this blog entry is about something else. Two glasses of wine now have made me admit after all these years, that birthdays are sort of important. In case anyone is interested, I turned the big 60 on the 21st of December. My sister remembered and sent me a lovely cashmere shawl (?), my daughter and her husband got me an espresso coffee maker (? kitchen appliances at 60?) which I returned for a food processor which is a little more practical, and my hubby and son bought me a lovely drusy necklace with a garnet that they got at a Colorado gem store. And that was it! I turned 60 and I actually thought something really monumental would happen even though I am always ready to poo-poo birthdays as just numbers. I thought I would get the first payment on an African safari (which is something I have been dreaming of for years) or maybe a trip to a New York broadway play.

I mean 6 decades should be worth something a little special! On my husbands 60th we went to a salsa club and danced the night away with about a dozen friends and our kids and their dates.

No luck. Daughter was sick and the putanesca pasta dish that I asked for, in spite of the fact the I am the only one who likes anchovies, was inadvertantly mixed with the jar of vodka red sauce my daughter also bought at the Italian store as a second choice for the small group of guests for dinner. My daughter was sick and passed the recipe on to my hubby who mixed the two sauces, either subconsciously and on purpose to overcome any teeny tiny flavor of anchovy which he hates, or accidentally, because he was trying to impress our company, mixed the two recipes...thereby totally negating the meal.

At work I got absolutely no notice (although the two guys who turned 50 and 60 earlier in the year got cards, well wishes and small gifts.). I mean I don't really care...REALLY. It is just a little irritating as I think this is a BIG birthday.

Oh well enough whining into my wine. Happy Birthday to me!!

P.S. YES, Peruby, it was Lancer's. Wouldn't you know it would have a name like that. For those of you who find the number 60 important...go here for a nice walk down memory lane.

Monday, January 08, 2007

If it is not one end, it is the other! Life Story #6

Years, alright, decades ago when I lived on a very small island in the South Pacific with water that ran or not and lights that lit or not and cars that started or not, I had a very bad case of the flu. I swear to this day that it was Dengue fever but I am usually poo-pooed by medical intelligentsia when I say this. I guess one should not live through Dengue? Dengue fever makes you feel as if you have been run over by a large train and every joint aches.

I had a two year-old daughter at the time and was confined to a small apartment with no real help...including my hubby whose life revolved around his job and who never took any of my illnesses very seriously anyway.

I clearly remember being up part of one night helping my daughter through her share of the illness only to have her reach the top of this roller coaster ride to health and end up the next day as the energizer bunny. Something that happens to small children with amazing and unexplainable speed. Their eyes become bright and they run everywhere and their chatter can hurt the ears when only hours before they were panting with weakness on your chest.

I was lying on the sofa in real pain when my little two-year-old found the two-inch-thick tabloid-size fairy tale book she had received for Christmas. She lifted the book (almost as big as her) with surprising ease and hurried across the room. She lost her grip just as she reached the sofa and dropped the book like a slab of concrete across my abdomen. I almost blacked out from the pain and barely heard her sweet voice asking me to read her a story. Trying to care for a tiny someone when you are sick is a real challenge!

Now to the present. This weekend we babysat for Xman who had the flu. He hadn't eaten much in days and had intestinal flu and all that that entails. His dad also had a long night rendezvous with the porcelain throne the night before. Mom, who is now pregnant, is sick from the pregnancy and may be fighting a lighter version of the flu. They were a trio of sad sacks. Fortunately they have us and we took Xman for a long drive and a brief visit to the park so that they could recoup and re-focus. Family is so important and I sure could have used a grandparent when my husband and I were being adventurers in our youth.

Another Movie Review

It seems to be a week of movie going for Tabor. Months go by and we don't go near a theater and then we spend two weekends in a row taking in movies. I saw The Good Shepherd this weekend. It was a last minute decision and I was not expecting much. Although the story line has a few more twists and turns than expected, it is still a bit plodding and could certainly use some humor—even if it was black humor.

The movie is a fictionalized account of the start-up of the CIA and is directed by Robert DeNiro who also plays a small role as a retired General. Matt Damon plays the lead as one of the new spies selected from a carefully vetted group of young men from families of wealth. These men selected seem to all belong to the 'formerly secret' Yale "Skull and Cross Bones" fraternity. Angelina Jolie who plays his long-suffering wife is totally miscast in the part. Her personality doesn’t match her actions and her interest in Damon (who plays an unbelievably stiff conservative patriot) doesn’t make sense. The movie is dark and slow. The primary theme seems to be that you cannot trust anyone. People will betray you either by design or accident.

Some of the spy techniques such as the tedious way that photographs were analyzed before our new digital technology were interesting.

There is one scene in the movie which left a very chilling impression on me. Damon goes to visit Joe Pesci who plays a cameo scene as an Italian (Mafia man?) who is being asked to assist the CIA with the Bay of Pigs operation. Pesci ,who clearly has no respect for the CIA guys and says the CIA creates the “big wars,” then asks Damon to tell him what he has. Pesci says (and I paraphrase) “We Italians have got our family and our food, the Jews have got their tradition. Even the Ni**ers have got their music. But what have you guys got?”

Damon replies expressionlessly, “We have the United States of America and we let you live here.” Whew. (Does this bring to mind anyone---maybe someone who retired from a Cabinet position a few years ago?)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The View on the Other Side of the Castle Wall

I renewed my prior free subscription to "Food and Wine" this year because I found the recipes and wine news interesting, even if a little luxurious and expensive. I had received this subscription free last year when I bought my daughter a gift certificate to Williams Sonoma ---a very expensive 'kitchen' store.

I am sitting on the sofa perusing the February 2007 issue and decided to share some of this with bloggers who might never pick up such a magazine.

On the cover is a lovely photo of a red bowl of butternut squash soup with apple slices and smoked cheddar. (Already I am hungry.)

The ads show luxury gourmet kitchens, luxury vacations and products that only lottery winners could afford. The editors page talks about how unexciting Februaries are following the holidays and discusses a feature story about how two famous chefs in Colorado arrange a meal in a "gorgeous old barn...surrounded by huge snowdrifts...prepared a delicious grilled meal of capon with salsa verde, meatballs and butter coal-roasted potatoes. Winter grilling..." Being the age I am and having grown up in Colorado, I am thinking how cold it must be to eat a meal in "gorgeous old barn." The beauty of a Colorado winter is in the warm sunshine...not the shade of a windy old barn. I picture myself trying to cut through the capon with woolen gloves.

The "news and notes" page does talk about products that are good for the environment...a floor cleaning solution ($25) and reclaimed hardwood from Seattle made into lovely tables ($1,200). It appears to cost money to do good. (To give them some credit they do talk about an Oregon nonprofit that sends bikes to Rwanda so that the coffee farmers can transport their coffee beans to market.)

They also praise a velvety jam that is a dollar an ounce and only 100 jars are made each year. Among the rich it is all about getting the rare.

There is a really neat ad for a Breville blender that they claim transforms ice into snowflakes via a patented "hemisphere bowl/blade system". The design eliminates all 'dead' zones and makes smoothies with no lumps. It seems the rich never have to take their lumps.

So why am I on this luxury rant? I think it has something to do with the movie I saw last night--Blood Diamonds. As a side comment, this movie is well done (just a little derivative) and it has made me a big fan of DiCaprio. I saw him in the violent bloody Departed a few months ago and he is much like Meryl Streep in being able to fold gently in the subtle differences of each character.
There is a reasonable love story and a heart-wrenching father son theme and the great scenes of that beautiful continent that contrast with the blood that runs so freely.

Blood Diamonds
tells the well known story of how we rape Africa to support our luxurious life style in the rich nations of the world. It makes you watch the news with impatience at the stupid stories and with cynicism at the others stories. It makes you look at diamonds in a whole new glint. But, for me, I now feel, once again, that my retirement hours must be spent more usefully as payment for all my good luck at being born in the right place at the right time.