Sunday, December 31, 2006

Films We Saw + Liked in 2006

It's amazing I even have a list, considering I haven't seen more than a handful of films in the theater this year. The list would have been very slim if Netflix wasn't in my life. I do have standards, I won't put everything on the list. I saw The Queen recently and although I enjoyed it and Helen Mirren inhabited the role admirably, the story didn't transcend TV movie status. I liked Little Miss Sunshine and Thank You for Smoking, but I couldn't put them on my list either, they were problematic and didn't stay with me.

I'm looking forward to seeing: Duck Season, Inland Empire, Half Nelson, Heart of Gold, The Painted Veil, Marie Antoinette, Iraq in Fragments, A Prairie Home Companion, An Inconvenient Truth, Jonestown... Everyone seems to be crazy about Pan's Labyrinth which looks like a high brow horror movie.

My Top 4 Films of 2006

1. The Science of Sleep
I love underdogs, the genius and beauty of this film was unappreciated by the critics and misunderstood by all, but Danny and I found it to be the most original, emotionally complex stories this year.

2. Borat
Brutal satire that hits it right on the nose and made me howl with laughter.

3. Little Children
I expected LC to be a smug / campy parable about hypocrisy and self indulgence, but it really surprised me with its sharp look at adults who are in various stages of arrested development. Each character was stuck in some corner of childhood, morally complex, no judgment, well unified.

4. Scanner Darkly
Still vivid since I saw it last summer, I was pulled in to this universe and saturated for hours after the film ended.

Other Top 10 Lists Best Movies of 2006 List 2006 Film Critic Top Ten Lists

Thursday, December 28, 2006


We were lucky enough to get free tickets to Disneyland this year (Thanks Chris!) so we thought it was about time for Asher to experience the Magic Kingdom. Michael, Britta and Grandma joined the crew and we had a surprisingly smooth trip, sans major breakdowns and tears.

Asher loved It's a Small World and all musical aspects of the park. Elliot was tall enough to go on all rides (how did that happen?) but we kept it mellow. He wasn't sure about Pirates of the Caribbean so we skipped it. We met another 5 year old boy at Tom Sawyer's Island (which is going to close soon) and they became fast friends running around the island caves and toured the rest of the park with us.

I made everyone eat in the French Quarter right next to some singing pirates so Elliot got a taste of the pirates experience. We saw Captain Jack Sparrow, Elliot's latest obsession. The menu at the cafe was disturbing, deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and deep fried grueyere cheese sandwhiches are just as bad as they sound. It took us forever to be served but the kids were entertained.

I think we left a minimal impact on the park, Grandma bought the boys pirates shirts and Elliot had to have a huge set of iron jailer's keys.

Here are my tips for visiting Disneyland:

1. Bring extra snacks and water
2. Eating at the theme restaurants is tolerable only if there is live entertainment
3. Don't go on ToonTown with a 3 year old (it's too scary)
4. Keep sugar consumption low (we had churros and salt water taffy - that was more than enough)

Los Angeles in December

As we exited the plane at Burbank, Elliot felt the mild air and shouted, "It's not cold at all! I'm free! I'm free!" It was actually fairly cold, but he was ready for a break from the Seattle chill.
Palm trees, birds of paradise, brown hills, traffic jams, deep afternoon shadows and thunder storms, our Los Angeles.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's a Hanukkah Miracle!

Thursday night at 10pm we lost power. From my bed we could see pink sparks flying from the blown transformers down the street. The wind rattled our windows, whipped anything loose into the air and snapped pine trees in half. It was hard to sleep with such drama going on around us, it sounded like pieces of metal were falling on our house.

Friday morning we found out school was closed and we had no power. Our house was 55 degrees. We showered in candlelight and got breakfast at a cafe that had power. As luck would have it my work had power, business as usual. Danny and the kids went to see Charlotte's Web and stayed out of the house.

The power was restored by 2. We were very lucky. Many of my coworkers still didn't have power by nightfall and it was projected that it might take anywhere from 2 to 10 days until power was fully restored. We celebrated the first night of Hanukkah on schedule. We used birthday candles in the menorah, but it did the trick. Happy Hanukkah!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Vegetarians Get the Last Laugh

I've been a vegetarian for 20 years (for health / environmental / ethical reasons) and I don't miss meat at all (my diet isn't all that veg and fruit rich however). I really don't like the taste of meat or poultry. I'm not a true vegetarian, I started eating fish while pregnant with Elliot because I was worried about getting enough iron and protein. Now I eat fish a few times a year in high end restaurants.

I made the decision to not raise the boys vegetarian because it's hard enough to feed kids. I say nothing about the fact that I don't eat meat because I don't want them to turn off from the whole food group. However it does seem strange that my 5 year old doesn't know anything about it. Danny gave up vegetarianism a few years ago and says he feels healthier, he's tried to get me to change my veg diet several times. Fish was my compromise, but I can take it or leave it. It seems like I'm always running into ex-vegetarians and ex-vegans (I can't see how anyone could stay vegan for long). I know only a handful of vegetarians. Well this British study gives us vegetarians vindication for any ridicule we may have endured over the years. Ha!

Study Finds Vegetarians Smarter
A study of thousands of men and women revealed that those who stick to a vegetarian diet have IQs that are around five points higher than those who regularly eat meat. Writing in the British Medical Journal, the researchers say it isn't clear why veggies are brainier - but admit the fruit and veg-rich vegetarian diet could somehow boost brain power.

The researchers, from the University of Southampton, tracked the fortunes of more than 8,000 volunteers for 20 years. At the age of ten, the boys and girls sat a series of tests designed to determine their IQ. When they reached the age of 30, they were asked whether they were vegetarian and their answers compared to their childhood IQ score.
Around four and a half per cent of the adults were vegetarian - a figure that is broadly in line with that found in the general population.

However, further analysis of the results showed those who were brainiest as children were more likely to have become vegetarian as adults, shunning both meat and fish. The typical adult veggie had a childhood IQ of around 105 - around five points higher than those who continued to eat meat as they grew up. The vegetarians were also more likely to have gained degrees and hold down high-powered jobs.

There was no difference in IQ between strict vegetarians and those who classed themselves as veggie but still ate fish or chicken. However, vegans - vegetarians who also avoid dairy products - scored significantly lower, averaging an IQ score of 95 at the age of 10.

Researcher Dr Catharine Gale said there could be several explanations for the findings, including intelligent people being more likely to consider both animal welfare issues and the possible health benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Previous work has shown that vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, cutting their risk of heart attacks. They are also less likely to be obese. Alternatively, a diet which is rich in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains may somehow boost brain power.

Dr Gale said: 'Although our results suggest that children who are more intelligent may be more likely to become vegetarian as adolescents or young adults, it does not rule out the possibility that such a diet might have some beneficial effect on subsequent cognitive performance.

'Might the nature of the vegetarians' diet have enhanced their apparently superior brain power? Was this the mechanism that helped them achieve the disproportionate nature of degrees?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The mountain

Yesterday "the mountain" was out. The clouds left and revealed Mt Rainier completely covered in snow, white and brilliant in the light, it looked as if it were in our backyard. Everyone stopped to gawk. It's strange to realize that we have this huge volcano sitting a few feet away from us (ok several hundred miles away).

Asher's teacher told us at school he pointed out the window and said, "Dad is in the mountain. He's coming after afternoon snack. Hi Dad! I can see mom and dad and elliot, they're all on the mountain." Then he waved to us. Ashee, so sweet. It's amazing how much his verbal skills have improved in just this last month.

family stranded in snow

I've been following the story of the kim family stranded in the oregon mountains since Thanksgiving. They seemed so similar to my young family: tech industry, west coast connections -- sf, portland, seattle -- two kids under age 5, we're both 35 years old. It could have happened to us. When we were in sf this summer we evn visited the apothecary store they owned. I can't imagine what I would do or feel after being stranded for 9 or 10 days. Having 2 kids relying on you for support and sanity makes it easier to ground yourself, but it must take a resilient spirit to survive that ordeal. Kati nursed both kids throughout, providing comfort and nutrition. Snow water and baby food. I immediately thought he shouldn't have left them when he was found dead. But he had spent a whole week, waiting. Burned tires. No way out. A family is now grieving for their young father and husband.

Monday, December 04, 2006

So Long 2006 - The Time is Now

Ok, so I'm a little early (4 weeks until the new year). I just bought my annual 2007 Nikki McClure Calendar which is lovely and inspring as always. (I should note that the title is "The Time is Now." Be Present.) Each mesmerizing scene has a call to action that I can get behind: build, repair, congregate, breathe, attempt, transmit, respond, return, wake up... The site has tons of other cool stuff by indie artists and crafty people.

I'm anxious to say goodbye to our year of earaches, housing limbo, construction upheaval. 2006 was a slow year. Good stuff happened too: Asher started talking fluently, Elliot learned to swim and is beginning to read. We have a fantastic bathroom. Arrivederci, we're moving into our easy year, thank you very much. I'll do my top 10 films of the year list as soon as I see 10 films (maybe I can squeeze a few in later this month).

I saw a meme recently about the top 100 songs (mention the songs you loved, tolerated and hated) of the year you graduated high school (I was class of 1989). I was shocked that not even a single song from 1989 was tolerable. I forgot how bad top 40 music was pre-nirvana (today's top 40 is still bad, just not as bad, or maybe I'm just blissfully ignorant). 1989 was a particularly bad year for music. 1989 was the year of milli vanilli (girl you know it's true), new kids on the block, warrant, poison, bette midler, paula abdul, bobby brown, debbie gibson, madonna (like a prayer)... could it get any worse? seems more like 1985.

On another note, I'm a big palace / will oldham / bonnie "prince" billy fan so I subjected myself to viewing half of his hour long anti-social comic interview / "poolside chat with neil hamburger" on featuring a guest appearence by andy dick. Neil said, If you have a question about the past or the future, don't bother to call.

Right, it's all about the now.