Saturday, February 28, 2009

on a playground near you

I just remembered a story one of my students told the class a little while ago. He had been watching kids playing, and when one of the kids said something funny, another kid, instead of laughing, said out loud the letters making up an online acronym:


Sunday, February 22, 2009

the oscars (liking hugh jackman a little bit less) (because I like billy chrystal)

I love Sean Penn, but I really don't love Slumdog Millionaire. What's with everybody?

Something else:

"If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all those gay and lesbian kids out there tonight - who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government, or by their families - that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures that are valued."

Winning original screenplay writer Dustin Lance Black on Harvey Milk.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

don't use a blow torch to thaw out frozen pipes

I just finished watching Frozen River. It really got to me so I didn't get through it last night, I had to continue this morning.

The movie is sad, and unsettling. In some ways it's a deep frozen down to the wire version of Crash.

Melissa Leo is fantastic. She's the most under appreciated actress out there, I think. She's been nominated for an Academy Award for this film and I hope she gets it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

a little bit of media research

I asked one of my classes to write on the board their main sources of information an ordinary day, and one girl put:

Anderson Cooper

Funniest thing this week, I think.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

and look, isn't that the secret terrorist fist-bump?

Thinking some more about La Misma Luna, here are two things I came up with:

1. The reason movies like Slumdog Millionaire and La Misma Luna irritate me is that I think they give privileged people a get-out-of-jail-card. Both movies show poverty and adversity, and they focus on individuals who break out of their circumstances. But most people never break free of circumstance, and poverty prevails. So, leaving the theaters feeling warm and fuzzy really doesn't help anyone. Even worse: maybe leaving the theaters feeling warm and fuzzy keeps us from doing something.

2. The one character in La Misma Luna that has stayed with me is Enrique. He is the immigrant who reluctantly helps little Carlito get to Los Angeles, and to find his mom. In a key scene he gives Carlito, and the audience, a speech. He talks about how no one would choose the life of an undocumented immigrant, how people who live like that do it because they have to. Everybody has a reason, he says.

We never learn Enrique's reason. In fact, we never learn anything at all about him. At the end of the movie he remains the anonymous immigrant. And that's why I remember him. He is the guy at the corner, the gardener, the bus boy, the dish washer. Ready to work, and with a deep personal reason that we will never know.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

little heros

I finally saw La Misma Luna/Under The Same Moon last night, and I cried at the end. (Dan only lasted half-way through.)

It's a cute and sad story about a little Mexican boy who decides to reunite with his mother in Los Angeles. He gets himself across the border, and all the way from Arizona to California. On the way we get to see him connect with the lives of undocumented immigrants, and Mexican Americans: picking tomatoes, washing dishes, singing sad songs in Spanish about immigrant life (when he is given a ride by Los Tigres Del Norte, the Grammy winning group).

The movie reminded me a lot of The Italian, in which a young Russian boy runs away from an orphanage and sets out to find his mother.

In spirit both films remind me of Astrid Lindgren stories, where resilient kids take matters into their own hands, outsmart grown-ups, face challenges, and finally reunite with idealised parents or siblings. Stories like that are heart warming, but La Misma Luna is sad in that it reminds us of all the real-life kids who never get to go. Or who die in the desert and never make it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

when you think of it

I have lived in the US for almost 14 years. During the same time my friend Hans has lived and worked in Croatia and Bosnia, Pakistan, India, and Indonesia. Right now he is in Côte d'Ivoire. He has spent a year or more in each place, and he has traveled a lot.

One time he was in Dubai, I think, on a lay over or a short vacation. The TV in his hotel room had many channels, but he said only one thing was on: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, in lots of different languages.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is at the center if Slumdog Millionaire. I saw the film yesterday. I guess it's a feel-good story, but for me the feel-bad took over. Systematic child abuse, poverty, violence, police brutality, and violence against women. The differences between the haves and the have-nots in the world are unbearable.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I am not going to lie

I like Facebook and Myspace and the internet in general because it makes it easy to reconnect with friends. If you have moved and lost touch with people, finding them again is a really cool thing.

This has happened a couple of times now: I get a message from someone after a long while of us not being in touch. In their message they give a quick update about their life, and then they ask me how I am doing.

Because it's the truth, when I respond I tell them that I had breast cancer last year, but that I am doing great now.

Then I don't hear from them again.

When I was diagnosed with invasive cancer I made two decisions: 1. not to waste any precious hours, or minutes, of my life, while I have it, on worrying, and 2. not to hold it against anybody how they react when I tell them I have cancer.

So I don't hold it against anybody. But it does make me sad that they don't write back.

Friday, February 06, 2009

yep, this is why I know how to open oysters, and champagne bottles

My waitressing career was short. It lasted for about a month the summer I was 22 or 23. I worked in a restaurant attached to a hotel, and there were few guests. The chef spent most of his time trying out new recipes, and giving me cooking lessons.

Neither of us had any real bartendering skills, even though we probably served more drinks than dinners.

One time I made a Bloody Mary for Bo Holmström, a Swedish TV journalist. He liked his drink. I pretended it was good because I was a good drink-mixer, but really, it was good because I liked Bloody Marys myself and just made for him what I would have made at home.

The clip shows Mr. Holmström in 1975. He is standing in front of the West German embassy in Stockholm, where terrorists held hostages. What you hear is the bomb that killed 4 people, and injured 25.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I was talking to one of my students today, and she told me that her grandmother had lived through the Holocaust. She spent two years in Auschwitz as a teenager.

- Does she talk about it?, I asked.

- She does now, my student said.

Apparently the grandmother has started talking about her experiences after her husband died. My student told me that she says that his death is the greatest tragedy of her life. Somehow living through that tragedy makes it possible for her to talk about what is now the second most difficult thing she has been through, the concentration camp.

This reminds me of Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of presidential candidate John Edwards. She has said that breast cancer isn't hard for her, because she has already lived through the worst day of her life - the day her teenage son died.

What we learn? We learn that people who has faced death think that life, in any form, is better.

Monday, February 02, 2009

life and death

I have a friend who's teenage nephew was in a serious accident over the weekend. His body is fine, but his brain is not. The family has decided to shut off the machine that is keeping him alive, and to donate his organs.

Before any of this can happen, the organ recipients need to be lined up. Therefore the boy is being kept alive for a couple of more days until everything has been arranged.

While his family sit in the hospital room waiting for the inevitable, other families are looking forward to surgeries that will save someone's life.

Here is info on how to register as an organ donor.

Sunday, February 01, 2009