Saturday, February 26, 2005

Matchstick Men


I have HBO on Demand, which is about the greatest invention ever. I never, ever rent movies. In fact, I don't even have any kind of video store membership. But once in a while, it's great to sit down to watch something that starts when you want to watch it. Enter HBO on Demand.

I picked Matchstick Men out of the list on HBO and was pleasantly surprised. It was a little slow for me at first, and I'm not the biggest Nick Cage fan, but the story became more interesting, and Cage was very good in this movie. He plays a neurotic con man who finds out that he has a fourteen-year-old daughter. She impacts his life dramatically . . . but not in a sappy way. And watch out for the twist at the end. I love it when movies surprise me.

Definitely worth watching.

Angels and Demons

When I started hearing hype about The Da Vinci Code I figured I should read it, but the women who rode my train said that Angels and Demons was first (and some said it was better), so I decided to read the books in order. It took me about two days to drag myself through the pages of Angels and Demons, one miserable weekend when I was stuck in bed with a bum knee. And to make it worse, I actually purchased this book--though I'm hoping I got it at the O and that it was inexpensive.

If you love Dan Brown and his books, you might want to stop reading now.

I HATED Angels and Demons. I thought the main story, the secret cult stealing secrets from CERN, was okay--hey, I like spy stories as much as the next girl. I thought the subplots (the Vatican intrigue, the romance between . . . I can't even remember the characters' names) were weak and completely predictable. And I thought the writing was at about a sixth grade level. Not at a sixth grader's reading level, though it was probably that too, but like something that would be written by a sixth grader. And not a sixth grader in an advanced creative writing class.

But even worse than all those things, I absolutely HATE when authors of fiction falsely claim that their stories are based on fact. And now that I've heard more and more about The Da Vinci Code, more than I could ever want to hear, I'm very glad I didn't read it. Even hearing about it makes my blood boil. It's not real!

I admit that I'm not an expert or even an enthusiast, but there are plenty of people who have looked into the topic, and the credible ones all agree that The Da Vinci Code is fiction. There's an article on Salon that examines the issue clearly .

Of course, there's nothing wrong with making up a conspiracy theory and adding to the intrigue by tying it to reality. I think that's what's known as FICTION.

All I'm saying is this: if you're writing fiction, call it fiction. Lots of people like to read fiction. And try to write well.

And if you think that the fact there's no proof of the secret society makes it all the more real . . . just please don't try to convince me.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I guess it wasn't the straw after all.

Congratulate me. I ordered windshield wipers for my car.

Okay, maybe that doesn't sound that important to you, but here's why it's important.

I remember buying the wrong kind of wipers once, long ago, in another lifetime, when I was married (and my dumb-ass ex-husband obviously didn't know jack about wipers either, or we wouldn't have brought the wrong ones). So I have a vague notion that there are "right" and "wrong" wipers for my car. But I've never actually had to change them myself. Once in a while when I get my oil changed, or my belts checked, or some other routine work on my car, the guy in the shop says that I need new wipers, and that he would be happy to change them for me. I don't even have to bat my eyelashes.

Well the last time they changed my wipers, when I got my car inspected in December, they gave me the CRAPPIEST wipers I have ever seen in my life! They're already worn down. So obviously, I need to take care of this, and I can't always trust the guy in the shop to give me the best wiper bang for my buck. Which means I need to know at least a tiny bit about what I'm trying to do.

Unfortunately, though I have needed new wipers for several weeks at least, I have had a mental block to going and figuring this out for myself. I do everything for myself. I pay my own rent. I get myself up in the morning. I make my own meals. I plan my own trips to Brazil. I know this all sounds just dandy, and mostly it is, because I'm pretty self-sufficient and in general I prefer the way I do things to the way anyone else would do them for me. But every once and a while I'll encounter something I just DON'T want to do for myself. Windshield wipers were on that list, until today. Until I remembered that I'm an independent sort of girl and fending for myself when it comes to windshield wipers is not a big deal.

So I realized there were several ways I could take care of my wipers. I could go to a car part store and ask the salesperson for help and buy the right blades and figure out how to put them on in the parking lot. I could go bat my eyelashes at the corner gas station and make sure they give me the good blades. But I live in New York City and I work in Connecticut. While I'm sure I pass hundreds of purveyors of fine wiper blades on my way to and from work (fifty miles each way), I don't have time to go browsing for wiper blades.

So I did what any red-blooded, independent woman would do: I shopped online.

And there you have it. I found out that my driver's side wiper is 20 inches long and my passenger side wiper is 18 inches long (or is it the other way around? Well I'll worry about that when it comes time to put them on). I ordered silicone wipers guarenteed for five years (which means I won't have to do this again for a while!). And I found a brand that makes colored wipers . . . although I got grey to match my silver car instead of red or yellow or green. If they had pink, make no mistake, I would have gotten pink.

I'm hoping that I will see things a little more clearly.

And I learned that I probably CAN take care of everything I need. Even if I don't want to.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Shoe and Tell

I went shoe shopping this weekend. Actually, you could say I went on a shoe binge. But I NEEDED every single one of the eight pairs. Seriously.

I've realized that the my problem with shoes has deep roots in my childhood. I always thought it was "Shoe and Tell." Of course, I wondered why nobody else talked about their shoes.

My new shoes:

  • Brown leather pointy-toed, skinny-silver-heeled knee-high boots. I have been looking for these boots for over a year, and at last I have found them!

  • Black leather pointy-toed, skinny-heeled knee-high boots with a kind of fold over flap at the top. Okay, so yes, I do already have a pair of black pointy-toed, skinny-heeled knee-high boots, but these are TOTALLY different. (The heel is much lower! And did I mention they have a kind of fold over flap at the top?)

  • Pink tweedy pointy-toed slingbacks with silver buttons. Very cute, springy, girly, but the tweedy texture makes them okay for the cold, which is good since I wore them yesterday.

  • Camel pointy-toed slingbacks with black trim. Very nice with camel trousers. A cute update for work shoes.

  • Ballet-pink leather moccasins. They're very preppy, which I'm not, in general. But I love them. They seem very North Shore. And comfy.

  • Black mesh sequined slides. Preparing for summer. This is actually the first pair of these shoes I have owned.

  • Black high-heeled open-toed pumps with lace overlay. They're not regular open-toe, the whole front of the shoes are open.

  • Black strappy sandals with rhinestones. One of these black pairs are to go with the dress I'm wearing to my brother's wedding. The rejects may get returned, unless I can justify their existence in my shoe closet.

Judging by the size of my shoe closet, I don't have that much trouble justifying the existence of many pairs of shoes.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Freud's Structural Model of Personality

I've been wondering if Freud got it right. I do remember the id, ego and superego from my Psych classes. But I definitely needed to brush up.

Structural Model (id, ego, superego)

According to Freud, we are born with our Id.  The id is an important part of our personality because as newborns, it allows us to get our basic needs met.  Freud believed that the id is based on our pleasure principle.  In other words, the id wants whatever feels good at the time, with no consideration for the reality of the situation.  When a child is hungry, the id wants food, and therefore the child cries.  When the child needs to be changed, the id cries.  When the child is uncomfortable, in pain, too hot, too cold, or just wants attention, the id speaks up until his or her needs are met.
The id doesn't care about reality, about the needs of anyone else, only its own satisfaction.  If you think about it, babies are not real considerate of their parents' wishes.  They have no care for time, whether their parents are sleeping, relaxing, eating dinner, or bathing.  When the id wants something, nothing else is important.

Within the next three years, as the child interacts more and more with the world, the second part of the personality begins to develop.  Freud called this part the Ego.  The ego is based on the reality principle.  The ego understands that other people have needs and desires and that sometimes being impulsive or selfish can hurt us in the long run.  Its the ego's job to meet the needs of the id, while taking into consideration the reality of the situation.  

By the age of five, or the end of the phallic stage of development, the Superego develops.  The Superego is the moral part of us and develops due to the moral and ethical restraints placed on us by our caregivers.  Many equate the superego with the conscience as it dictates our belief of right and wrong.
In a healthy person, according to Freud, the ego is the strongest so that it can satisfy the needs of the id, not upset the superego, and still take into consideration the reality of every situation.  Not an easy job by any means, but if the id gets too strong, impulses and self gratification take over the person's life.  If the superego becomes to strong, the person would be driven by rigid morals, would be judgmental and unbending in his or her interactions with the world. 

So where am I?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Gates

Originally uploaded by organdie jay.
I got the chance to go see the Christo installation The Gates in Central Park on its opening day. It was really very beautiful to look through the bare trees and see the park glowing with these orange (technically "saffron") structures. One gate on its own isn't that impressive, but when they are ranged as far as they eye can see, it's really something to look at. The gates are as wide as the paths they cover, so they're narrower on foot paths and wider on trails, which is something that I wasn't expecting.

I'm so lucky to live in New York.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Eyes of the Dragon

I got The Eyes of the Dragon for Christmas when I was 11. It was one of ten or twelve books that I got that year; books were always my favorite present.

This book was actually written by Stephen King, which surprised me once I was old enough to read his other books. I remember hearing that he wrote it for his daughter Naomi when she was about 13. It's one of the most exciting books I read as a kid.

I have probably read The Eyes of the Dragon thirty times in my life. The first time I finished reading it, I turned it over and read it again from the beginning. It's a story about a king and his two sons, the eldest of which is to be king when the father dies. And it's a story about the evil magician who plots against the king and the kindgom for no other reason than the wicked joy of bringing despair to the world. This magician, Flagg, poisons the king, frames the older boy for the crime, and sets the befuddled younger son on the throne and through him begins to wreak havoc on the land.

I'm not sure what it is about this book that I love so much. The characters, the story, the words themselves--of course all are compelling. But there's something more in a book that can be re-read thirty times. Now when I read it, I notice the little turns of phrase that are Stephen King's specialty; I'm sure that's part of what draws me back to it again and again.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia

I'm listening to the Chronicles of Narnia one by one as I drive to work. When I was a kid, these were my favorite books, and I read them over and over again. They still hold their magic for me. The other worlds, the challenges of good versus evil, the struggle to do the right thing, the adventures that don't always go the way you planned. Hmm, kind of sounds like a typical day in New York.

This morning I was trying to remember the names of all seven books. Here's what I came up with (I promise I'm not cheating):

  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

  • The Magician's Nephew

  • Prince Caspian

  • The Silver Chair

  • The Horse and his Boy

  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I'm missing one (I'm cheating to get this one):
  • The Last Battle

Of course.

I think my favorite is The Horse and His Boy. I haven't read it for years, but I remember loving it. If I remember correctly, the main characters (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy) from the other books aren't featured in it. Also, there's a princess and an escape and . . . I don't remember everything. I guess it's time to read it again. Or listen to it.

Thought for the Day

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

--Margaret Mead

Saturday, February 5, 2005

The Poisonwood Bible

This book by Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorites of all time.

I first read it in 1998 after I heard the author read from it at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. One of the amazing things about the book is that she writes from the point of view of five distinct characters, the wife and daughters of a Baptist missionary preacher. For me, everything about the book is amazing. I love the story. I love the way the story is told. And I always find myself moved to tears by the last section of the book--I've read it three or four times now.

I recently listened to this book on my iPod, and listening was a very different experience than reading. I was forced to listen to the backwards pronounciation of Adah's palindromes . . . when reading, I would always cheat and read them the right way around. Listening is definitely a different kind of experience than reading. I think I prefer reading a book, feeling the paper, seeing the words. Listening seems easier to tune out.

A Very Long Engagement


House of Flying Daggers




Mean Girls


Bad Education


Movies I've Seen or Want to See

I don't really watch that many movies, but I really enjoy them when I do. I am 100% against wasting two hours on a bad movie, though; I prefer to be blown away.

I've started this blog to collect a list of movies I want to see so that when I do get the chance to watch a movie, I make sure it's something I've decided is going to be worth my time.

Any suggestions for additions to this list are welcome.

World on Fire

I just saw Sarah McLachlan's new video called "World on Fire."

View it in iTunes here.

I am speechless.

I am so grateful for the life I have.

What I read and what I think about it.

When I was nine or ten, I had the brilliant idea to start a notebook with a list of every book I'd read, and the dates that I read it. I read a lot as a kid, and it was (and still is) one of my greatest joys. And I'm a natural pack rat, so it appeals to me to hold on to those books after I've finished them by keeping track of their titles. Somehow, I never got around to starting the list, and every time I've thought about it since, I've cringed at the thought of how many books I've read and not listed, and then I can't bear to start it. Well, I'm starting it now.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Pen and Paper

It's hard to give my grandparents presents these days. They say they don't need or want anything in particular. I don't know what kind of books they read. I hardly see them, and I probably talk to them on the phone once or twice a year. It's not that I don't want to talk to them, it's just that the forms of communication that fit into my lifestyle, the ones I use to keep in touch with friends all over the world (IM, e-mail, late phone calls after evening minutes kick in on both our cell phones) don't really fit into their lifestyle. They don't have a computer, and although they do have a cell phone (on the same network as me, so we could talk free), they never turn it on. So we don't have that much contact, which is too bad, because they're getting up there, and who knows how much longer they'll be around for me to talk to.

These are my grandparents, Bob and Jean.

They're the only grandparents I have. They're actually my step-mom's parents, but they've been around since I was eight, so they count. My dad's parents both passed away by 2001. My biological mom's family ... well, I don't know much about them at all.

So this Christmas I gave my grandparents a Circle Journey Journal. I started it with a little note and a specific question for each of them. To be honest, when they called to thank me for it, they didn't seem too excited.

"I haven't written a letter in years," my grandmother said. "And your grandfather, he hardly ever did! But I guess we'll have to get to work on it."

All my grandfather said was, "What an unusal gift."

I didn't think they liked it, but at least they seemed to appreciate the spirit of the gift.

Well, they actually did sit down and write answers to my questions, and I finally got the book in the mail a couple days ago. It was so exciting to get real mail! It wasn't a bill, or something I ordered online, or junk mail, or a magazine. It was real mail! And their letters were great. I was even excited to write back to them and answer the questions they asked me.

And even better than getting real mail, I actually learned something about my two wonderful grandparents. Something that you wouldn't just know about them by looking at them. Something about how they think, how they thought when they were younger, what the experiences in their lives have been.
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