Sunday, August 31, 2008

Facebook Follies

Let me say this right now: I am not one of those people who will add people to my Facebook friends list willy-nilly. I don't ask every person on my friends' friend lists, and I generally only accept friend invitations if I actually know you--that is, if we've worked together, or we've been friends at some point in the past or present, or if I've communicated with you regularly in some capacity. Since this includes a rather wide range of people, including my online and blogging friends, I have a decent-sized friends list.

However: even if we have something in common such as going to school together or having friends in common, I might not add a person on that basis alone. And I surely am not going to add someone whom I remember but didn't actually like.

This is what happened to me this past week. I get a friend request from somebody whose name seems vaguely familiar. We don't have any friends in common, but out of curiosity I click on their profile. It turns out, yes, the person went to my high school, as I was starting to suspect. Then, the more I thought about it, I realized that yes, I did recognize the person's name, and, what's more, I couldn't stand 'em.

In fact, the one extended conversation I even remember having with this person was a rather confrontational one about religious beliefs. As I recall, they were the ones to bring the topic up in the first place, in an argumentative fashion. Since I generally follow the attitude that religion and politics are no-nos in polite conversation--and did even in high school, though I was more willing to debate politics at that point--this was clearly not a situation I was happy to be in. From what I remember, this person started asking me about my religious beliefs. I told them, well, I'm kinda sorta Catholic (which was true at the time). The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Teenage Zealot: Oh. Catholics aren't really Christian. They don't even believe in the Bible.
Me: Yeah, they do--they just don't always take the Bible literally.
TZ: Well, they should take the Bible literally. Anyway, it doesn't matter, since you're all going to go to hell anyway.
Me (having entirely lost patience): Well, half my family is Muslim and Islam says that Christians are all going to hell, so I guess I'll see you there.

Oh snap. Admittedly that's a pretty weak retort, but it was all I could come up with on the spur of the moment at the age of, I think, fifteen. Witty comebacks have never been my specialty, despite reading all the Mad Magazine Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.

So, yeah. Needless to say, I did not accept this person's friend request. Getting the request in the first place was a sort of WTF moment, unless they just don't remember who I am and...are maybe adding people willy-nilly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's About Time, Eh?

Yep, I finally put up some new blog graphics. I don't quite want to say I "redesigned" the blog, since all I did was replace the preset template graphics with my own (taken from a segment of a painting I did a while ago, which I then fiddled with in Photoshop). But it has a new look, put it that way. Not new enough to have to change all the text colors--I didn't have THAT much time on my hands.

Wanna know why I didn't have that time? Because I signed up for Twitter. Hooray for yet another goofy time-wasting activity! Hooray for yet more bombardment of the interwebs with my daily trivialities! MY MANY YAWN-INDUCING MINUTIAE WILL BE THE DOWNFALL OF SOCIETY! BWAHAHAHAHA!!! PREPARE TO BE BORED! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

By the way, if you want to read any of the yawn-inducing minutiae, I put a widget in the sidebar. Why am I so unproductive today? One reason is I'm unmotivated and bummed because I lost a design client a few days ago--evidently it just wasn't working out and I wasn't giving Client X what they wanted, though I was a) doing exactly what they asked for and b) doing it for a much lower price than I normally charge. Oh well. So I decided I should spend time on non-work-related activity, though I did put up a few book reviews, which I guess is technically work-related.

Oh. I'm also bummed because I gained five pounds for no apparent reason, and they haven't gone away yet. I'm hoping it's five pounds of muscle, but in case it's not, I'm going to go hop on the exercise bike now. Okay. Now I'm considering worst-case scenarios and hoping I don't have a five-pound tapeworm.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

12 Movie Meme, Part II: The Final Meltdown

You've no doubt noticed from Part I of this movie meme that my taste tends toward the pedestrian rather than the intellectual, the mainstream more than the obscure; though I like to think I don't gravitate towards complete garbage. Anyway, a film buff I ain't. In fact, there are tons of great movies I haven't seen yet. The problem with a) not having a clearly defined day job and b) doing creative work is that it tends to suck up all of your time and attention, which doesn't leave a lot of room for stuff like movies. (Of course, somehow I find time to watch way too much TV, but that's because you can arguably--if not very effectively--work at the same time.)

Anyway, here's Part II--from the real to the surreal.

Day Seven: Blatantly Propagandistic but Inconveniently True Documentaries

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) This is really just one of those movies that everyone should see, whether you hate Michael Moore or not. I happen to enjoy his work, especially when taken with a grain of salt and a sense of ironic humor. It's always very revealing to see how various people react to him in his movies. We had a rather profound experience watching this one--it was one of the select few movies that we went to see in the theater, and we saw it on Independence Day. It was not a huge audience, but the people who were there were profoundly moved, sometimes to tears.
Super Size Me (2004) Disgusting, disturbing and hilarious. Watch Morgan Spurlock eat fast food, get fat, appall his doctors, alienate his girlfriend, and lose his sex drive, after 30 days of eating fast food. Truly epic.

Day Eight: Eccentric Historical Characters Day

Amadeus (1984) This one freaked me out a little when I was a kid--I'd never envisioned the time period of powdered wigs and frilly dresses as also containing rampant sexual innuendo and frequent farting. All that aside, it's a fairly striking movie about one of my favorite classical composers (though Immortal Beloved, with the fabulous Gary Oldman, is also great). AND it contains Jeffrey Jones, the evil principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Go figure.
Topsy-Turvy (1999) A strange fact about my childhood is that I really liked Gilbert and Sullivan. We're talking about when I was six or seven years old. I'd come back from school and stay at my grandfather's house until my mom got off work. My grandfather had this huge set of LPs with highlights from all of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas, and I would sit there listening to them, following along with the lyrics. To this day, I know a lot of the songs by heart from HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, my two favorites. The movie focuses on their production of The Mikado, which I actually saw in person once.

Day Nine: Alliterating Anglo-Indian Heritage Day

East Is East (1999) There aren't very many movies specifically about Pakistanis, and this one hit really close to home because of the theme of a Pakistani father who immigrated to London and married an English woman. When his children get to a certain age, he decides he's going to go all traditional and arrange some marriages...and is sorely disappointed to find that his children consider themselves British. This one made me laugh AND cry, sometimes at the same time. Om Puri puts on an incredible performance (a similar, but much more depressing, movie in which he plays a key role is My Son the Fanatic).
Bhaji on the Beach (1993) A touching movie about generational differences among the women of an Anglo-Indian family, by the director of Bend It Like Beckham--which is arguably my favorite of her movies, but is less...uh...educational, I suppose, and more fun. It really was a toss-up, but I would have felt like a dork putting Bend It Like Beckham on this list. Even though it made me cry. I almost never cry at movies, just on principle.

Day Ten: The Labyrinth of the Human Mind. WooOOOooo!

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) This is one of the most incredible movies I've seen lately, both emotionally and visually stunning. I'm a sucker for surreal and disturbing symbolism, apparently.
Being John Malkovich (1999) John Cusack and Catherine Keener are excellent in this movie. It's just such a bizarre, surreal idea - finding a portal that leads into John Malkovich's head, and then deciding to turn that into a moneymaking venture. Plus, after Pan's Labyrinth you really need a bit of an upper.

Day Eleven: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Est Magnifique!

Delicatessen (1991) I love just about everything Jeunet does, and this is one of his lesser-known movies but it's no less bizarre and hilarious. Again, it's got that dystopian fantasy feel that I like, and that surreal aesthetic that I also like, plus a liberal dose of humor and the best sex scene ever made.
Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001) I know everyone's seen this one by now, but it's one of my favorite movies. The music is fantastic, Audrey Tautou is adorable, and the story is good and quirky and very French. Dominique Pinon, who is in many of Jeunet's movies, has a funny minor role.

Day Twelve: Always End on a Laugh
Also known as "Unexpectedly Interesting Use of Musical Enhancements Day," since I have the soundtrack to both of these.

Office Space (1999) This Mike Judge movie is one of my favorite comedies, possibly because I spent a fair amount of time working in offices. It's got an all-star cast of not really huge but really funny comedic actors, like Diedrich Bader, Stephen Root, and John C. McGinley (of curret Scrubs fame)--the only really "famous" person in it is Jennifer Aniston, and she is not the focus of the movie. There's also the gangsta-style fax machine execution and the fact that this movie popularized the term "pieces of flair."
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Not everyone liked this Wes Anderson/Bill Murray movie--and yes, it was a bit bizarre. But I guess that's what I liked about it. I love Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett was amazing, and it's got possibly my favorite movie soundtrack ever - Seu Jorge doing acoustic-guitar, Brazilian-style covers of David Bowie songs (here's an example).

So yeah, I'm finally done. It's Meme-tacular!

I'm supposed to tag 5 people now. I really hate doing that. Please don't feel obligated to respond. But here you go: Gurrier, Neil, Seren, Writegrrrl, and Chloe, you're on.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

12 Movie Meme, Part I (aka How to Drive Sarah Nuts in Three Short Days)

I've officially been tagged by Ordovicius for the 12 Movies Meme. Aside from wondering what Lazy Eye Theatre has against Diablo Cody (I liked Juno! Although it didn't make my list, as you'll see...) I found this to be an intriguing, and soon afterward, aggravating, meme. Not unlike the "good mix tape" analogy offered at the original site, this is the sort of thing that will slowly drive me nuts as I change my mind, tweak the list, rack my brain, shuffle things around, etc.

So, bear in mind that this list is in no way definitive of my movie taste and in fact leaves out quite a few movies that I really, really like and/or consider to be important. Also, bear in mind that, like Taliesin meets the vampires, I totally cheated--if he gets to posit a vampire room and a non-vampire room, then I hereby present you with

TWELVE NIGHTS OF DOUBLE FEATURES!!!

That's right! Bow down before my cheatiness! ...Also my indecisiveness. Because this is so long, I'm breaking it up over two posts.

Day One: Inexplicable Childhood Obsessions Day
The Phantom Tollbooth (1970) There are two movies which I was obsessed with as a child--we're talking age 8 and below--and this is one of them. I drove my parents nuts asking them to rent this one and #2 below over and over and over. So I think they must have played some key formative role in my personality, no? Er...maybe? Anyway, The Phantom Tollbooth is a great satirical book, too, by Norton Juster.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) This was the other movie I was obsessed with as a kid. I still have a VHS copy. It features a very young Angela Lansbury, an absolutely hysterical scene with David Tomlinson playing soccer with cartoon animals, and suits of armor coming to life and fighting Nazis. What's there not to like? Okay, maybe this is why I'm so weird. Oh. Also, evidently it was directed by my husband.

Day Two: 1980s Dan-Ackroyd-Related Comedies Day

The Blues Brothers (1980) Do I really need to explain why this movie is on my list? Let's just say that every time Rob and I are driving around and we see a police car somebody has to say "We got rollers." I also like this one: "How much for your women? How much for the little girl?" More great quotes here. This movie also has an excellent Carrie Fisher appearance and some fantastic guest musicians.
Ghost Busters (1984) Cheesy theme song aside (though I did enjoy it at the time--gimme a break, I was seven), this is another hilarious movie. It may be worth your time just to see Sigourney Weaver floating in mid-demon-land intoning "I am the Gatekeeper. Are you the Keymaster?" Bill Murray and Rick Moranis also have great roles in this one.

Day Three: Gratuitous Inescapable Teenage Angst Extravaganza

Better Off Dead (1985) In my defense, this one isn't even a John Hughes movie. Although poor Savage Steve Holland seem to have since been relegated to directing inoffensive pubescent-children's programming...Anyway, this lesser-known John Cusack movie is funnier and somewhat less overtly derogatory of Asians than other 80s teen movies (remember Sixteen Candles and Long Duk Dong? I rest my case...). It also inspired an episode of South Park--the one with the ski montage.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) No, you really couldn't escape without a John Hughes movie. This one's always been my favorite, although I did enjoy The Breakfast Club, National Lampoon's Vacation, and Weird Science. Matthew Broderick is perfect, Alan Ruck as his buddy Cameron is genius, there just is no better evil principal, and then there's Ben Stein: "Bueller...Bueller..."

Day Four: Lesser-Known Hayao Miyazaki Movie Day

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind / Kaze no tani no Naushika (1984) Not only is this a really cool sci-fi story (adapted from Miyazaki's original manga series) but it's also got a strong female protagonist as the hero--something you see in most of Miyazaki's movies. The voice casting on the English dub is also quite good and features Uma Thurman and Patrick Stewart.
Porco Rosso / Kurenai no buta (1992) This is actually more of a love-during-wartime story--the only sci-fi/fantasy aspect is the fact that the guy has been cursed with a pig's head. A bit different for a Miyazaki movie.

Day Five: Bow Down Before Terry Gilliam and Acknowledge His Awesomeness!

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) I remember watching this one at my uncle's house not too long after it came out, and flipping out at how great and surreal and unlike anything else it was. I didn't see it again until many years later, but I enjoyed it just as much--if not more--than the first time. Excellent role for Eric Idle, a surprise visit from (or to) Robin Williams' giant head, and a very young and rather naked Uma Thurman.
Brazil (1985) - European Version Excuse me, but anything I was about to say has just been driven out by the blowing of my mind due to the fact that I just found out Tom Stoppard co-wrote this movie and I had no idea. In any case, it's really hard to describe this movie but it's a bizarre dystopian fantasy of a future ruled by bureaucracy. Fabulous Jonathan Pryce performance. The European cut makes a lot more sense than the American version.

Day Six: Futuristic Techno-Fantasy Day

Akira (1988) This is just a great anime action sci-fi thriller with some outstanding artwork, particularly in the scenery of Neo-Tokyo. Great creepy hi-tech atmosphere and particularly influential for cyberpunk fans. Also, the story is rather interesting philosophically.
Blade Runner - Director's Cut (1982) Too many things I like about this movie to list them all. Great casting, amazing artistic vision, the book it's based on is excellent (if significantly different from the movie)... I even still loved it after dissecting it to bits in a college Rhetoric class I particularly hated.

Part Two to come tomorrow, hopefully...