Monday, December 29, 2008

I feel the power growing in my hair

This is a cliche quote from a Cat Stevens song, but I like it:

Life is like a maze of doors
and they all open from the side you're on.

I like January. I like light, and I like new starts.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

proposal (upon seeing the preview of the new james bond meets schindler's list movie)

How about this, a collective decision among film makers: no more Holocost, no more hidden Jews, no more saving Jews, no more concentration camps, no more German soldiers. No more World War II. Deal?

What happened was horrific, in every way. But I've had enough. I think we've turned those years into heroic images one too many times already.

There are other moments in history. There are other 'finest hours'. There are other acts of defiance. (Yep, that's the title of the new movie.)

Why is it that we, as a society, are programmed to turn to the 1940s when we want to portray bravery, humanity, and selflessness, in the face of evil? I mean there is plenty new evil...

In media theory there is something called the agenda setting function of mass media. That means that media has the ability not to tell us what to think, but tell us what to think about.

Same thing here. Just think of all the movies never made because of all these WW2 films.

And, we run the risk of having people never learning the real Holocost actually happened, for all the saccharine versions that are told. We sure know the fiction that we like to repeat, but does that mean we understand what happened?

Maybe that's it. The repeating of the stories is an attempt at rewriting history.

And in the edited version of reality the bravery gets to overshadow the death and the suffering. Which is, sadly, not what happened.

Friday, December 26, 2008

who were first, the mexicans or the vikings?

The Latin American (and Spanish, obviously) Arroz con Leche and the Swedish risgrynsgröt are pretty much the same dish. You make it with rice, water, salt, cinnamon, butter, and milk. Sometimes there is lemon peel and sometimes evaporated milk.

But, who owned it first?

In a Christmas Day showdown Dan pitted his mother and three of her sisters against me, and then stepped back to see what would happen. His mom was ready to take it outside.

All I can say is that you do not want four culturally possessive Mexican women ganging up on you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

re: gay marriage again

I was listening to a Swedish documentary on my ipod today when I was on my hike/extremely slow jog. For some reason a woman started talking about an autobiography she had read, by a German journalist who remembered Germany in the 1930s.

This German journalist had said that society did not change due to politics or political decisions. Germany had changed, he said, because people started treating each other differently. When people started hating each other, that's when things turned ugly, was his conclusion.

And that what scares me about Prop 8, and the fact that the civil rights of one group was put to a general vote. There is something very wrong about that.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

4 candles, 3 bottles of glögg

it's all mean as far as I am concerned

I just watched the end of Brokeback Mountain on HBO. That's the story of the two gay cowboys who spend one glorious summer together, and then spend the rest of their lives dreaming about that summer. Unable to break free of society's expectations, they never have a life together. Instead they marry women, lead unhappy lives, and sneak off together on short trips.

Up until one of them die.

It's heartbreaking.

What I was thinking about is this: As much as I love the fact that Barack Obama is the President-elect, I don't understand what's wrong with him when it comes to gay marriage. He's awfully vague whenever he talks about it. Can't get out of there fast enough.

I understand there may be a religious argument somewhere, but I don't know enough about the Bible to be sure. And, if so, the Bible says many things we choose to disregard nowadays.

Gay people can't procreate. But there are other ways to get pregnant, for those who want kids. And gay people are more than able to raise children who have already been created by less responsible straight people. Right? So why would we, as a society, deny those who see marriage as a way to form a stable family the right to get married?

And then there is the issue of the Pastor Rick Warren, who Obama has chosen to give the invocation at his inauguration. As an evangelical Christian, Warren is opposed to abortion, and to gay marriage. Many are surprised he has been picked to play such a central role in the Obama inaugural ceremony.

Here he is, and Rachel Maddow too:

Friday, December 19, 2008

makes your insides warm and happy

I just made a kick ass glögg. I've borrowed the technique of steeping spices in alcohol from somewhere online, but other than that it's my own invention.

I took (roughly, I didn't really measure):
2 long cinnamon sticks (the real stuff, from Ceylon), broken into pieces
5 cardamom pods, inside content only
15 whole cloves
2 pieces of fresh ginger, 1 inch/2.5cm by a quarter inch each
1 vanilla pod, sliced open
7 whole allspice
3 pieces of lemon peel, about 2 inches each, yellow part only

I put all of that in a jar and I covered it with rum. I've read recipes that call for brandy, but I had rum so I used that. I let it sit for two days.

Then I opened a bottle of Spanish wine, and poured it into a pot. I added the rum and spices, and warmed it gently. I added a deciliter (0.4 cup) of light brown sugar, and a splash of port, and heated it some more. Then I let it cool, strained it, and poured it into bottles.

Yeah I tasted it too.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

cancer update

Give or take a couple of months, I spent pretty much all of this past year being treated for breast cancer. I had surgery, many months of chemo, and 33 days of radiation.

As it was going on, I didn't find it particularly hard.

When I was first diagnosed with invasive cancer I thought, like anyone in that situation will think, "why me?". Then I remembered others I've known, or others I've known of, like the moms of my students. And I thought, "why them?".

No one deserves it, or earns it. Cancer is not payback for anything that you did or did not do. It just happens. And when it happens, you deal with it.

I realized that I kept waking up every morning, feeling pretty good. It sounds cliche, but cancer does teach you to appreciate life better. I was happy, happy to be alive.

Now it's been about a month since I finished treatments. I am exercising again. Chemo is rough on the body, and in some ways I know I will never be the same. But I can do a lot, and I enjoy being able to do it.

Something else is also happening. Some of those feelings that I fought off during the months of chemo are coming to the surface.

My way of dealing with the rough treatments, and the endless hospital visits, was trying to have as much of a normal life as possible, and trying to enjoy the time as much as I could.

One doctor I met in late March wrote in his notes that I was in 'no distress'. True. I wasn't.

I was teaching classes spring and fall quarters, and I taught summer school in July. Just as I normally would.

I joked with the hospital workers. I made a point of being a really easy going patient.

One time in the summer when my friend Babs came with me to the chemo center we got a talking to from one of the nurses for being too loud. Babs has some good stories. It's true we were the only ones laughing, but laughing seemed perfectly normal to me.

Now, though. I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I am tired in some weird way I've never been tired before. Not sleepy tired, and not exhausted tired.

Tired as in needing a break from being tough, maybe.

Monday, December 15, 2008

when hell freezes over

There was a 4.5 earthquake in Sweden this morning. I've facebook-talked with one rattled friend already.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

huh? (now with fresh linx update)

This week's episode of This American Life, about an evangelical pastor who stopped believing in hell.

This point of view deeply upsets other evangelical Christians, since the implication is that everybody will go to heaven, not only the born again. The pastor forms a new church: New Dimensions.
. . .
Update: I just randomly managed to see this episode of Dateline on MSNBC. It too tells the story of Carlton Pearson and his gospel of inclusion.

And through google, and the idea of a gospel of inclusion, I made this find: Bad questions: Questions never to ask a transsexual person, with Calpernia Addams, whose life was turned into this really good movie. Her list of bad questions is funny, and sad, and some of them can easily be applied to all sorts of situations where people try to understand someone who they perceive as 'different'.

"one wife is not enough"

Spam received by my friend the Catholic priest.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


As far as I am concerned, Milk is this year's best movie. Sean Penn is extraordinary. Wonderful. Floating on air.

The film is named for Harvey Milk, who was a gay activist in San Francisco in the 1970s. He was the first openly gay elected city official in the United States. But his career was short. He, and the then Mayor, were shot by a colleague in 1978.

To me, this film is about conviction, passion, leadership, and social justice.

It's also about the fact that progress is not automatic. In some ways things are better now, compared to 30 years ago. In some other ways things are clearly not better: Prop 8 just passed in California.

One message that Sean Penn's character keeps repeating in the movie is that gay people need to come out, they need be open about their sexuality. "They [straight people] will vote for us if they know one of us", he says.

But, straight people will only know gay people if the gay people are out of the closet.

I didn't hear that argument in any of the discussions around prop 8. On the contrary: the TV spots made a point of not showing gay people. Instead they focused on everyday straight people, probably because someone figured that giving voters someone to identify with (=another straight person) was the most important thing.

Maybe that was unfortunate.

Labels mean less when we know someone who can break the stereotype for us. That person, who helps us learn, can be a friend, a relative, a co worker, or a classmate.

Or, it can be a nationally known political leader. Look at Barack Obama. Where are the gay leaders of today?

what frost/nixon and milk have in common? david bowie. nothing says the 70s like david bowie.

I went to see Milk today (more about that in a minute). It was in the middle of the day, and the theater was almost empty. Mostly old people go to the movies in the afternoons. Some go by themselves, some with a friend.

One of the previews was for Ron Howard's upcoming Frost/Nixon, the story of David Frost's interviews with Richard Nixon in 1977.

And that's when I heard it, behind me: Two of the old women were having an animated discussion about who was the worse president, Nixon, or George W. Bush. They had a lot to say, and they spoke with the certainty of those who have seen something with their own eyes.


Loved it. LOVED it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'tis the season

cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom

Places to put gingerbread spices:

1. plain yogurt
2. tea (quickie homemade masala chai)
3. butternut squash soup
4. carrot soup
5. gingerbread sweet loaf with lingonberries
6. oven roasted butternut squash
7. I've let some steep in oil with orange peel... this is an experiment.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

happy advent

Today when I was on my hike I managed a half hour - ultra slow, but still - jog. Yay for me.

if you want to know

I hated this movie. I also disliked Lost in Translation. (I think it's relevant.)

yes there will be pictures

I am doing a restoration light of my classic car. This means getting new tires, and polish to make the interior shiny. If it wasn't for other people on the road I'd be driving it all the time.

Speaking of 1971 releases:

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

how about, "I like it better when there is more chocolate"?

Weirdest thing said on Top Chef: Every s'more I've eaten have had a higher ratio warm chocolate component.

I don't know who said it, but it was in last week's episode.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

just look at these two photos. they are from the same movie. and that's the point.

Australia may not be the best film ever, but it's interesting. It's entertaining as a movie (albeit way too long), but to me it's really worth while for this reason: In between being a frontier love story with an unexpected amount of WW2 drama thrown in, it actually takes on the issue of Australia's stolen generation.
If you pay attention you learn a lot about the life of the narrator, a young boy of mixed blood. You get to see something of how life for someone like him was framed, and you learn a few things about the sometimes not so pretty history of Australia.

I think it's brave. The only way to achieve change is to see clearly what came before us, right?

holy night