MamaSox Rox My Sox!

Girl, you don’t need to “put your guitar down.” It’s all about you and your guitar. Keep being true to yourself. Your voice is powerful enough, and you have enough emotion, that you can’t lose. I feel like you have still not unleashed yourself. Like they said, “People love you — take it in!” GO MAMASOX! We love you! You are a superstar and you’ve earned the right to enjoy the accolades. When they talk about how you act like you think you’ve got it in the bag, they’re wrong because you’re humble even though you are the best hands down. YOU ROCK! GO, GO, GO!!!!!

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Film Fest Friday: Cinema, Aspirins, and Vultures

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This is maybe the only Brazilian movie I’ve ever seen, and it’s one of the coolest movies I’ve seen in a long time. I watch so many movies, and I get so fed up with the lack of interest in film as art. That sounds pretty snobby, and I’m not saying I want to see all art films, all the time. It’s just that as a medium, there’s so much that can be done with film that most filmmakers don’t do. This movie has little dialogue — it’s more about the quietness, the light (and the dark), the landscape, the angles, the people in the background. I just loved it. (I’m not the only one — it’s won 28 awards in the last three years since it came out.)

Loved how the country has a starring role, alongside the main characters. I know it’s special to me having spent time in Brazil, but it’s just a really beautiful movie. This was the most Brazilian Portuguese (different from European Portuguese like British vs. American English) that I’d heard spoken in one sitting in years, and it reminded me how much I like the sound of it. What a unique, pleasing language. I’m inspired to get out the Rosetta Stone again.

Here is a synopsis from IMDB, although you just have to watch it to really appreciate it:

“In 1942, the lonely German Johann travels through the arid roads in the country of the Northeast of Brazil in his truck selling aspirins in small villages, using advertisement movies to promote the medicine. He meets the drifter Ranulpho, who intends to go to Rio de Janeiro seeking a better life, and gives a ride to the man. While traveling together, they develop a close friendship, but on 31 August 1942, Brazil declares war to Germany and Johann has to decide if he should return to his home country and fight in the war, or stay in Brazil in a concentration camp; but the option of moving to Amazonas with the migrants of the drought seems to be feasible.”

And here is a really good NY Times article on the film.

Tasty Tuesday: Bleu Restaurant & Bar

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If you know me, you probably know I really abhor chain stores and restaurants. The reasons are many, including their effects on local, independent businesses, but probably number one is just the character factor. I like character. In people, in food, in shopping experiences. In everything, really. I guess some people like the familiarity of chains, but I find them utterly boring in their predictability. I think it is horrible that you can go to any number of cities in the United States and have the exact same experience in every single one of them, if you so choose. This is also why I hate urban sprawl, because it makes this type of thing possible and probable. I’d have to say the only chain I like is Goodwill, and that’s only because they all have a different selection.

So I’m happy to say that Bleu is a unique dining experience in Winston-Salem. There is nothing chain-ish or predictable about it. The architecture of the building, the decor, and the menu are all a little different. Down to the table bread and dipping sauce. My company uses Bleu sometimes for a variety of functions, so I have eaten there a handful of times. Right now they have a 3-course prix fixe menu for $28 — not too shabby for the quality you’ll receive there. That would be a great reason to try it out. The Greensboro News & Record called it the Triad’s only 5-star restaurant, and while I disagree with that pretty seriously, it is worth putting on your short list.

Things I’ve had there that I would recommend are below.

Appetizers:

Vegetable pad Thai spring rolls with citrus-chili sauce, Sriracha peanuts, and herb salad.

Shrimp tempura with Chinese hot mustard, sweet Thai basil sauce, and kimchi.

Seared sea scallops with mushroom-lemon risotto and Norwegian goat cheese sauce. (This was awesome!!!)

Salads:

Mixed green salad with poached apples, walnuts, bleu cheese, and red wine vinaigrette. (Unfortunately I couldn’t eat the walnuts — allergic. The rest was great.)

Entrees:

Grilled salmon with lemon wine butter sauce and mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. (This was excellent. I normally won’t eat salmon unless I cook it myself, but the temperature was perfect, and it was still just barely crisped on the edges and mouth-wateringly moist inside.)

What I would not recommend: the BLT, the Club sandwich, or the Prime Rib. This is not the best place in town to get a steak, and the lunch sandwiches are not as good as they sound on the menu.

On a happier note, they have some of the best service in town, hands down. I have only had better at one other place in this city. They are really good at being almost invisible and doing their work magically, quickly, quietly. You won’t have to ask for anything before they anticipate it. Five stars in that category. If any of you decide to check it out, let me know what you think!

Film Fest Friday: Grey Gardens

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I’ve never seen the documentary about the Edies, but the movie version was awesome. I just love period pieces. And the story is so interesting. My only complaint was Jeanne Tripplehorn as Jackie — I loathe her! Drew Barrymore (there she is again!) really stole the show. I am usually pretty apathetic as to her acting skills (even though I think she is a bright shining light of good vibes), but I thought she was fabulous in this.

Thoughtful Thursday: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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My friend Swamp and I are currently reading each other’s “Top 5” books. Actually, I’m having a hard time narrowing it down to just five. I’ve given him my first one, which he is reading now: 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. As for my other four…right now it’s more like the other twenty. Our lists are not in any particular order according to rank, but the second of his that I read was Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. You may remember his story being in the news a few years ago — he was hiking in Utah when a boulder fell and pinned his right arm. He survived for six days, but he ended up having to amputate his own arm with a pocket knife.

The story appeals to Swamp because he is also the survivor of a near-death wilderness experience, being lost for six days in the Amazon. (That story is one for another post.) I think on the surface he and Ralston have a lot in common — the outdoorsman personality, the near obsession with all things nature related and the very experience of nature. They even have the same favorite bands. But when you go deeper, Aron Ralston’s got nothing on Swamp in terms of spiritual evolution and enlightenment.

Ralston’s personality really comes through in his writing, and at times I was just as fascinated with learning about his psychological make-up as I was the smallest details of his ordeal. From my reading, I thought he came across as motivated by “inferior” qualities, as the I-Ching would say. I thought it was pretty admirable that he quit his high-paying job at Intel to move to Aspen, work in an outdoor equipment shop, and pursue his passion of mountain climbing. At the same time, though, Coocatchoo and I knew plenty of people back in Asheville and Boone like that, and we would call them “Trustafarians” or “Gear Heads.” I guess if I didn’t have to worry about money, I’d probably live a similar existence, hanging around in cool hippie towns and seeing great music and playing outdoors. But it’s hard not to be bitter when you know you’ll never get the opportunity. And you already had to abandon that life once because you couldn’t afford it.

The theme of every damn story he tells about his outdoor experiences is something to the effect of, “I could have died! And I almost did!” It seems that his pursuit of these extreme experiences came more from an intense need to “have a great story to tell his friends,” or impress people with his daring and bravery, than a true desire to nurture his consciousness.

To be fair, he actually admits as much a little farther into the book. He does admit that he spent a lot of time in situations where it was highly likely something terrible might occur, because he wanted it to deep down. I think it has to do with the larger concept of males in the modern, Western world having no real, accepted “rite of passage” into adulthood, and as a result many of them seek out one on their own. Add into that mix a natural proclivity towards thrill-seeking behavior, and you’ve got a great recipe for disaster.

He talks about a good friends’ response to one of his crazy tales: “Aron, it’s not what you do. It’s who you are.” He didn’t understand what the friend meant by that at all. He claims to have realized the true meaning of that statement while trapped in the canyon, fearing death was imminent, but I have my doubts as to whether he ever really got it, especially taking into account what he has done in the last six years since the accident — he’s become a motivational speaker and now makes his living by telling the story of his ultimate near-death experience, to a wider audience. He still doesn’t get it. It’s not about what you do or what you survived, Aron. It’s about who you are. I’m not sure about the extent of his spiritual development as a result of the accident. But we do know that he is still telling his stories — you just have to pay to hear them now.

I’ll end on a positive note with things I actually like about Aron. He loves Phish and got to meet Trey after his accident. He helped a prosthetics company design mountaineering attachments for amputees, and while that was undoubtedly for personal gain primarily, others are also benefitting from it. And he’s got a smoking body from the neck down.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Another Planet

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I have a habit of making lists, and some lists I’ve had going since I was in about 7th grade are “Books I Want to Read” and “Books I Have Read.” My 7th grade English teacher started them for me on a jumbo index card, in her enviably pretty and small cursive handwriting with her signature blue rollerball pen. The advent of websites like Goodreads and Shelfari have made this task so much easier and more enjoyable for me. I started out at Goodreads, but I’ve since migrated over to Shelfari, just because I find it more visually appealing with the graphic display of books (with actual covers) on shelves, which is one great thing about going to bookstores in the first place. I’m sure plenty of people prefer the streamlined minimalism of Goodreads. But I like bright colors and pretty pictures. It does not take much to please me.

These sites make me happy because I can’t tell you how many times throughout my checkered techno-past I ended up with multiple Notepad documents strung out across so many floppy disks, and scraps of heat-sensitive receipt paper from my years working retail in college and reading book reviews while waiting for customers. Eventually, a nicely consolidated list in Microsoft Word vanished along with my hard drive’s pulse one summer. So, my lists at this point are patched together from memory, but now when I add to them, I am comforted to know they probably aren’t going anywhere this time. I really like it when technology brings to my life a tiny shred of stability.

I bring this up because a book I finished recently had been on the “To Read” list for 8 years, and I just got to it. That’s how backed up I am. This is partly because I don’t like chronological anything, usually. My photo albums jump from “The Last Day of 5th Grade” to “College Road Trip to Chicago” to “High School Graduation,” and so on. And I tend to read books as I am able to find them for free or cheap instead of deliberately tackling each successive title in perfect order.

 Another Planet: A Year in the Life of a Suburban High School by Elinor Burkett was published in 2001, and I believe I read about it in the Fanfair section of Vanity Fair magazine at work while the seconds shimmied towards midnight. I remember strange things sometimes. Other things that I actually need to remember? Not so much.

The author actually spends a year at a Minnesota high school, talking to teachers, administrators, and students. The book focuses on the graduating class of 2000 (I think, don’t quote me), which was only four years after I graduated. I was struck by how much less these Minnesotan kids seemed to be learning than I did. And not because of a lack of effort on (most of) the teachers’ parts. Words that came to mind about these students: lazy, sense of entitlement, unprepared, lacking big picture thinking skills, eogtistical in a way that was beyond that of normal teenage self-indulgence. The author argues that the Self Esteem Movement of the 1970’s in education is what produced generations of kids who all think they are special and individually important — the exception to all the rules. And that makes a lot of sense until I think about my own generation, and how if that had been such a successful “movement,” then we should all have a lot fewer problems and a lot more self-confidence than we ended up with. I don’t recall being taught “good self esteem” in elementary school, like the kids in this book. Maybe they didn’t do that in the South, thinking it was a bunch of bullshit. Sure, there are a few people I know my age who feel good about themselves without too much effort or struggle. However, I don’t think that came as a result of being taught that as schoolchildren. Depending on the person, I think it came from other sources entirely.

When I was in school, I don’t know if I just didn’t realize how bad things were in so many areas, or if things really weren’t as bad then. Then again, I was always in the honors/advanced program, where we actually learned stuff, and we didn’t have behavioral problems. My graduating class, as well as the one just ahead of me and the one just behind me, was extremely competitive. I graduated 14th in my class with a 4.987 GPA.

There are things I recognize as huge problems with the system now that I’m older and have two teacher parents nearing retirement and a teacher boy-person who only started teaching a couple years ago. Some of it sounded really familiar, like the social dynamics and castes. But so much of it I was a little stunned by. Maybe a big point I’m leaving out is that I graduated before anyone had ever heard the word “Columbine,” and these kids graduated the year after it happened. Maybe that makes all the difference.

There were parts of this book I sort of skimmed through (teachers unions bitching about new contracts, for one) but only because I felt like I’d heard it all before. Analyzing the educational system is something I was raised doing at the dinner table with my parents over green beans and sweet tea. Some of it did not require a recap. In any case, finishing was sort of a let down only because I didn’t have anyone to discuss it with. But I’ve passed it on to Swamp, so hopefully he’ll give his new-teacher insight sometime soon.