Sunday, February 21, 2010

Am I there yet?

Yes, I'm watching the Olympics. It's awesome, as always. No figure skating though -- yuck. Give me hockey, bob sled, speed skating, curling, skiing, anything else!

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Mamaw, my paternal grandmother is in her 90s, and last year, my siblings and their spouses convinced her she would be much happier in an apartment complex "in town" (Henderson) especially for seniors, rather than in her house in Spottsville, where she was becoming increasingly isolated. It's been a fantastic decision -- Mamaw is back in her element, with lots and lots of interaction with other people all day. Her apartment is filled with all of her own furniture and other favorite things. And she gets to see her family even more, since she's so much closer to them all.

I was on the phone with her recently and she was going on and on about how busy she is, how much she's enjoying her days. But when I asked her if she was singing loud at the church services, she whispered into the phone, "Oh, no, I don't want anyone to know that I sing. Then I'll have to lead the singing. I keep that secret." Mamaw was a preacher's wife, and lead the singing for years and years at various churches and Vacation Bible Schools. She wants to stay retired. So, whatever you do, don't tell anyone at Pleasant Pointe in Henderson, Kentucky that Mamaw can sing!

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My friend Erica fosters cats for a nonprofit organization. She posts videos of the cats she's fostering, usually interacting with her own cat, an orange Tom cat named Sparky. Here's one of my favorites. My theory: Sparky thinks he's running a kitten Bed & Breakfast. I've never had a cat that would be so generous with guest cats.

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This is how I feel about both versions of "We are the world."

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The inventor of the Easy Bake Oven died. I wanted an Easy Bake Oven so badly when I was a little girl. I thought it brought complete happiness and fulfillment. Because, you know, I was 7 or so. That's how kids think.

When I finally got one, I beside myself. For probably a full day. I probably only got to use it twice -- it requires adult supervision, and it wasn't always easy to schedule that.

Ofcourse, all I really needed was to have an adult help me use our regular stove to bake cakes and cookies -- it would have had the same effect. In fact, it would have lasted a lot longer.
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I took my first truly solo motorcycle ride! (no Stefan escort - he was in L.A.). It was an entirely sunny day and very warm for February, so I felt like it was time. So, I rode more than 70 miles, from Canby to Silver Falls State Park and back, and met these biker dudes at the halfway mark. It was a gorgeous ride. My hands were exhausted, because I had gripped the handle bars so tightly. I was terrified! An Africa Twin rider nearby was my emergency number, in case anything went wrong. At last, I feel like I can ride my motorcycle to run errands, maybe even to go to Portland. But I have a lot to work on...

Once again, I longed to live in Silverton. It's the only place in Oregon that feels like it could be "home." It's a charming city with beautiful houses and landscape that isn't flat and brown. It feels like a real community (unlike Canby). Sadly, it's too far from Stefan's job (and that job in Portland that I'll be getting any day now, right?) to be a feasible choice.

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Stefan is enjoying his first ever Girl Scout cookies.

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Albi is doing great. Fully recovered from surgery, it seems to me. I recently found out her name means "my heart" in Arabic. I believe that's where her name comes from, not the village in France.

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I'm on a discussion group for agencies that work to create education and job opportunities for people with disabilities. A lot of people on the group are people with disabilities themselves. Back in 2005, when The Ringer starring Johnny Knoxville came out, I was surprised to find that most people on the group said the movie wasn't offensive, that it treated people with mental disabilities as, well, people, not super heros or teddy bears. They all pretty much said the same thing: we thought this movie was going to be offensive until we saw it.

Five years later, I finally got around to seeing it myself. I was delighted! People with mental disabilities as people?!?!? Fantastic! And the ongoing commentary on how people without disabilities treat people in Special Olympics -- awesome. The actors with Down's Syndrome were awesome in particularly -- they got "the moments" better than anyone. And how cool are "The Kids of Widney High"?!?

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Since moving back to the USA almost a year ago, I'm taken aback at what percentage of TV commercials here are fear-based.

Buy this home alarm system because scary men are always looking for ways to break into your house.

Buy Life Alert because you might fall down in your house and die alone.

The IRS is going to take everything you own, so hire us to keep the evil government away from you.

If you worked before 1970 you are going to die of asbestos poisoning, so sue before you die.

And on and on. It's so depressing. I had no idea the USA was so terrified of absolutely everything. No wonder our neighbors don't talk to us.

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Please cross your fingers or pray to the deity of your choice that the Census Bureau hires me. Or that my interview at a nonprofit-that-shall-remain-nameless goes well. In more than 12 months of looking, I've had five interviews. I really need a break!

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The receptionist at the organization where I worked in Afghanistan was diligently trying to learn English when I was there, and would come to me almost every day to grade her English homework. She told me once in very broken English that she loved to travel outside of Afghanistan because then she didn't have to cover her head. She was so FIESTY. I adored her. She's my friend on FaceBook, though she rarely posts in English. Yesterday, she posted a video from YouTube on her status update, of people signing the song "Imagine", with the lyrics in her status as well. And I wept... If that song can strike a chord in Afghanistan, then there's hope for the country.

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Keep up with those efforts to debunk those silly email and Facebook myths! Before you forward an email or repost a status message that is warning about some awful thing or that sounds too good to be true, be a good Netizen and do the neighborly thing - make sure it isn't a myth. No excuses not to!

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Yes, I still miss Europe. Hugely. But I try not to think about it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

So, how was YOUR January?

I recently got an email with this in the subject line:

Kyle Macy confirmed you as a friend on Facebook

Life, for me, is now complete.

You don't have to be my friend on Facebook. But won't you at least be my fan?

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I voted YES on measures 66 & 67. In Oregon, all voting is done by mailed ballot, which you can then return by mail or at certain drop off points.

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The big news is that the Africa Twin has a temporary title, with the real title to set arrive in two weeks. Stefan's life has improved in the USA by 50% as a result, no kidding. I cried with joy -- literally. Tears flowed. This is SUCH a game changer for us. I won't publish the story here of how it finally happened, but if you want it via email, write me. I will say here that, in the end, we got it because of LUCK. Total dumb luck we could never have planned for.

My advice if you ever want to get a foreign motorcycle or gray market bike titled in the USA: state laws have changed A LOT in the last few years, so advice you get from most people who live here and have a properly titled foreign bike -- say, an Africa Twin -- is probably no longer accurate, because it was much easier when they did it, and it is MUCH harder now (and in some states absolutely impossible), as we've learned all too well in the last eight months. Your only absolutely guaranteed way to get a new title for such a motorcycle is to move to a state that does bonded titles, to get your driver's license and residency in that state, and to live in that state for the period it will take to get a free and clear title. For instance, in Colorado, that's three years.

Further advice: don't even try to get such a bike titled for the first time in Oregon, California or Kentucky -- it's not going to happen. Also, most states don't issue bonded titles, and most states will not accept bonded titles from other states without a great deal of further documentation that you probably won't have for your foreign bike or gray market bike. To find out what states require to issue a title for a motorcycle, you will have to visit the individual DMV web sites for each state.

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Recently discovered that Billboard's number one song on the day I was born was "We Can Work It Out" by The Beatles. A surprisingly diplomatic song to mark the birth of an oh-so-undiplomatic person... I think it was the first song I ever figured out on my own on the guitar! The number one song on my first birthday was "I'm a Believer", sung by The Monkees -- and it is, indeed, one of my favorite songs ever (was almost my wedding dance song).

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Logo is showing Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and The Sarah Silverman Show?! Wow, I had no idea being gay was sooooo cool!

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It took a while, but we finally got to celebrate my birthday (two weeks late), with a tasty Mediterranean meal in Oregon City, followed by a visit to an Irish pub that is, unfortunately, not within walking distance, and my first game of darts ever (I won my first game! Woot!). Actually, we made the whole weekend a celebration: the night before, we mixed the Glühwein Stefan's parents sent us from Europe with the Glühwein I found on sale at Thriftway (which was made in Koblenz) and embarked on our gifth watching of Long Way 'Round.

On the following Sunday, we would have loved to have celebrated our civil marriage ceremony two-year anniversary with a motorcycle ride, but decided to take Albi on a celebratory outing instead. She deserved it, after all she's been through. We went to the Hazelia Field Dog Parks in the oh-so-swank town of Lake Oswego. Albi was quite standoffish with the other dogs, and tentative all day. I think she is still scared we're going to put her through something painful again. Two days before, she went on her first regular, long walk since attempting to become a transgender dog and having surgery -- and had a LOT of p-mail to read and respond to, so the walk took a very long time. The doctor's comment at her followup appointment: "She is so YOUNG." Yes, she knows full well Albi is 13.

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I recently discovered, while two herding dogs were barking fiercely at Albi through a fence, that yelling Enough in Arabic or Off in German sends most dogs scurrying.

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Until just after the start of 2010, Stefan was pleased with some of the beer he tried here in the USA. Not our fraking-close-to-water stuff, ofcourse. And not most of the micro-brewed beers offered on tap in most brewery restaurants (really strong aftertaste). He liked Pyramid Haywire Hefeweizen (definitely my favorite in the states as well) and Henry Weinhard Private Reserve best. And then... and then he went back to Europe for business and a short vacation, his first visit since moving from there in May 2009. And had lots and lots of German beer. And when he got back to Portland, he no longer liked American beer. Sigh.

The key is that he drink a lot of bad American beer right after he's been to Europe, and after a few days, then you give him the Pyramid Haywire Hefeweizen and Henry Weinhard Private Reserve, so that he thinks both are really great.

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I love old movies - anything made before 1960. I love them even when they aren't that good. At the very least, they always have something to say about how the artists -- the author, the actors, the director -- or the general public saw a particular group of people, a place or a time. And that's always fascinating, even when it's painful.

All this came to mind when I watched Saratoga Trunk for the first time recently. If you read the discussion associated with the film, you will read a lot of outrage about English actress Flora Robson's portrayal of a mixed race servant in the film. And... I think the outrage is actually misplaced. Is her makeup ridiculous, leaving you thinking, "Gee, what ethnic group is it she's supposed to be portraying?!" Oh yeah. Were there plenty of talented black actors who could have played this role instead of Flora Robson? Oh yeah, totally. Are both of these facts weird and or uncomfortable to watch in our day and age? Oh yeah. But I don't think Flora Robson's portrayal was over-the-top or offensive at all. I didn't find it nearly as stereotypical as Gary Cooper's cowboy role -- some of his lines, and his delivery of such ("Look, ya got me roped, tied and branded!"), are ridiculous (and I say this as someone who adores the man usually) -- cowboys should be offended!

Flora Robson was a great actress, and set the standard for portrayals of Queen Elizabeth in Fire Over England and The Sea Hawk. I saw no broad statements about any racial group in Robson's portrayal of Angelique in Saratoga Trunk or the script, for that matter -- just one woman's portrayal of one woman. I found her portrayal quite layered, actually. What a shame that the makeup was so ridiculous and distracting.

What erupted on the discussion boards is the usual assertions that only-actors-of-this-group-should-play-roles-about-that-group. I find this dogma disturbing. So only Muslims of African descent should play Othello? Was it wrong for Daniel Day Lewis to play the lead in My Left Foot? Does the portrayal of a character by any actor who is not of the racial and ethnic group the character is supposed to represent automatically racist? I don't get that. The theater has always been about people taking on roles far different from who they really are -- it's called "acting."

Consider this: Most movies -- MOST MOVIES -- made in this period are sexist in their portrayal of women, with every female character presenting cringe-worthy characteristics. CRINGE-WORTHY. Yet, I still watch these movies, I still delight in them, even as I cringe, because I know the movies represent a particular time and place, and I can usually look past the stereotypes of the time for the deeper, more universal or just-fun story. Plus, it's fascinating to see just how limited most men and women thought about women in that era.

I find it interesting that so many people lose their minds over Flora Robson as Angelique, but few bring up Jerry Austin as Cupidon, a role offered only as comic relief. Think about the roles "Little People" have been limited to, not just in the movies, but in reality. THAT should give you pause as you watch the movie a heck of a lot more than Flora Robson.

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I'm also a history nut. I don't care what region, I don't care what time period, I love to know the history of something or somewhere. I'm equally entranced in a huge history museum and a tiny village's history museum. Combine this with my love of movies, and I'm in heaven.

I watched The Battle of Britain for the first time recently, and I loved it! What it lacks as a great movie (very little character development and silly side stories) it makes up for in being an accurate portrayal of both the British and the German forces leading up to and during the Battle of Britain, the air campaign waged by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) against the UK during the summer and autumn of 1940. You can have all the CGI you want -- there's just no substitute for having real planes flying and real explosions in a film; only the German attack on London doesn't look real by today's standards.

As I understand it, the British public loved the film, and had no problem with both the British soldiers and the German soldiers being portrayed as made up of sometimes very heroic, and, at times, very flawed, men. Just men.

By contrast, as I understand it, the American public hated Tora Tora Tora when it was released and stayed away in droves. I tried to talk to my grandfather about the film once -- he served in the Aleutian islands -- and he almost trembled in his anger about the film, saying it was inaccurate and made the Japanese look like "good guys" and that the film "twisted the facts just to make the (Japanese) happy." But everything I've read online says the film is quite accurate. I've seen the film -- as a movie, I found it really boring. But I would really like to know why it flopped in the USA on release if my grandfather's feelings were widely held in the day, by the public or by veterans, and how the film is perceived today by historians and the military.

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So.... anyone have any freelance writing or editing jobs?