Thursday, January 31, 2008

HC: Cloverfield (ALL spoilers!)

Yesterday my almost-16-year-old son called me from school to ask if we could go see Cloverfield, which he already saw and wanted me to see. You know, when your almost-16-year-old son calls and asks you to spend time with him, you go!

Well, I loved it. It's a 1950s monster movie updated with 2008 doodads, and done beautifully. It's Godzilla plus War of the Worlds (the new versions of each) combined with the Blair Witch Project. It's visceral, exciting, quick-paced, short, and clever. It's the most "you are there" monster film I've ever seen. Yes, the second 15-minutes are eerily, disturbingly reminiscent of 9/11, but the film’s creators quickly reassure the audience that this isn’t a terrorist movie, it’s a monster movie. But I’m getting a head of myself.

The movie spends the first 15 minutes attempting to give you a reason to care about the people who will one-by-one be killed off during the rest of the movie. The good-looking cast was unknown to me. All yuppie white people with not very huge problems. Boy A slept with Girl B, but he’s moving to Japan to take a vice president job of some company blah blah blah. The film is all hand-held camera work done by a likable and not too bright guy named Hud (short for Hudson). He’s told at the going away party for Boy A (I think his name was Robert) that it’s his job to document the whole thing. He takes this job seriously, and continues to do so—unrealistically, ridiculously, but conveniently for us—throughout the whole film. Hey, what do I know? Perhaps if the head of the Statue of Liberty landed on my street and I had a camera in my hand, perhaps I’d never let go of that camera, even while I was running through the streets of Manhattan, being chased by a…a…what the heck is that thing? Maybe the camera was Hud’s security blanket. Maybe he felt safer confronting the horror from behind an eyepiece.

So…what the heck is that thing? We see teensy glimpses of it through the smoke, jumpy camera work, from far away. What is it? If you’re a big monster fan, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I loved it. I’ll say no more.

The monster in Cloverfield is the wave in the Poseidon Adventure; the earthquake in Earthquake; Godzilla in Godzilla. I think I’ll add Jaws to the Godzilla plus War of the Worlds plus Blair Witch equation above. And perhaps the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. Okay, so maybe the Cloverfield premise isn’t terribly original, but the way it’s presented is. I’m the kind of person who gets dizzy if I turn around too fast, and motion sickness is an unpleasant part of my life; however, I didn’t get nauseated by the camera work in Cloverfield. It got a little bit annoying here and there, but not much. And it was used really well, like, “Did I just see what I think I saw?” The whole “what was that?” aspect is what the film did best. The little bits and pieces of the monster that you get to see are very exciting, and I frequently had a smile on my face during the movie. (I may be a little sick though: I had a smile on my face during the razor scenes in Sweeney Todd. Fake movie violence can be in its own way beautiful…although I can’t bring myself to see Saving Private Ryan. That’s too real.)

Unbelievable things happen in Cloverfield. The whole “let’s save Beth who’s pinned in her apartment uptown, in a building that’s falling down,” etc, was iffy at best, but in a way it was lovely that the yuppies cared about someone so much that they were willing to risk their lives to save her, and to stay together as a group of friends. The two women in the group headed north to Columbus Circle were wearing 3-inch heels. Walking from the party downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge then through the subway tunnel system to 57th street…wow, good thing it wasn’t me. And how ‘bout the life of that battery in the camera! I guess some good person charged the heck out of it before the party.

When I left this movie, my legs were shaking and I felt like I’d had four espressos when I normally drink decaf. Cloverfield was a rollercoaster ride of a disaster movie, told really well. I loved it and I want to see it again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

RS: Words of Wisdom

"Whining is just anger pushed through a really tiny hole."

Little things like this make all the traveling for work worth it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

DW: Oops

I totally spaced yesterday and forgot to post something. I also didn't leave work until 9:00 pm so I was pretty fried. This insomnia thing is getting old. I'm officially "de-menstruated" and I am now discovering the joys of kicking the covers off in the middle of the night and five minutes later shivering and pulling them back on.

My business partner left for Hong Kong today and I miss him already. I don't know if its my hormones (or lack thereof) but I've been very emotional lately, and crying at the drop of a hat. I felt terribly sad when reading about Britney's latest escapade. She apparently had a fight with her manager/companion, "Osama" and was photographed sitting on the curb outside of her house, barefoot, in shorts and a trenchcoat, clutching her toy Yorkshire Terrier, looking frightened and desperate. I can't imagine how helpless her family must feel right now.

I've got to get back to work now, but I'll try to post something later in the week.

Monday, January 28, 2008

RS: What's In A Name?

Ok, I really don't give a hoot in hell what people want to call themselves. I'll play along with just about anything. I don't proactively call anyone African American. I have no frickin clue whether someone is actually African--or American for that matter. I say black. I don't know if it is right or wrong, but that's what I do. And if someone tells me they prefer to be referred to as African American, I'm all for it. That assumes I can remember that someone made the request. Fortunately, not a single person in my life has ever asked, so this is all pretty much theoretical.

The one word I refuse to use is queer. I don't care how many times someone asks, I ain't using that word, you can't make me. It offends me. It is an ugly word. It has mean-spirited origins. And I don't buy that whole empowerment bullshit. But if you want to call yourself queer, knock yourself out.

Now comes word that there is a movement afoot to replace the word lesbian. I had no idea the word needed replacing or that there was some lesbianic identity crisis brewign; but I'm not a lesbian so what the fuck do I know? I am aware that many lesbians use the word gay as a reference identity. I assumed it was an effort to find a shared identity for all gay people that does not require compartmentalization, an inclusive word to demonstrate inclusion in the community. For those who want clear lines drawn, they always had lesbian. Whatever, not my issue. I usually just refer to myself as Rodney and move on--my identity is right there on my driver's license, and I'm just fine with that.

Anyway, it seems that "gayelle" is the identity du jour. The gayelle website ( reads:

"By choosing gayelle, the feminine factors in 'the equation of who is gay and who is not' can reassert their interest in the word gay, as well as, assert a displeasure for the word lesbian. More importantly, however, to choose gayelle over lesbian, would demonstrate a form of action that, most assuredly, would be helpful in restoring the rightful dignity that belongs to the mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends, who have been victims of hatemongering and or a poorly-conceived joke, and or, a lack of sensitivity.

Gayelle is the logical and reasonable alternative, in that, it contains the words gay and elle (the French pronoun for 'she'). Gayelle is a word that has relevance to our time, and it's easy to say, as in the gay-gayelle community. Unlike the capitalized form of Lesbian, which is defined 'a native or inhabitant of Lesbos,' and 'of or pertaining to Lesbos;' gayelle and the capitalized form Gayelle, in essence, have the same meaning.

The choice is yours. Be hip and sapphic-chic with your preference for gayelle. Define this decade of the 21st-century with a new word and a new outlook. Go gayelle!"

Some man (possibly a friend of mine, possibly the author of the article, I doesn't matter) said, "I'm not flunet in Gayelle yet, so I have no idea what the hell that says. Lesbo is like an ancient word taken from the Island of Lesbos in Ancient Greece. That's where the first chicks did each other or something. The Island of Lesbos is now known as the Rosie Family Cruises. Gayelle is the gayest thing I ever heard of in my life. Hey, but if that's what you want to be called, more power to you. I will gladly call you Gayelle to your face and then turn around and call you a 'stupid dyke' behind your back. I won't say it too loud, because I'm scared of Gayelles. They can beat me up." Now, I know that is offensive. Funny, but offensive.

I'll be honest, I hope no one asks me to call them gayelle or Gayelle. I'm not sure I could get it out with a straight face.

Friday, January 25, 2008

AV: Stereotactic

I think this would be a totally great name for a band, don't you? Or anything having to do with recording. Maybe I'll dibs it for a podcast. Yeah, that's what I'll do ... Dibs!

But all that aside, this word -- "stereotactic" is the first part of the phrase "stereotactic radiosurgery," which is what Aida will be having tomorrow, Saturday Jan 26 at 12:00 noon San Diego time.

She's being treated to remove (in rather Star-Trek fashion, if you ask me ...) a new tumor discovered during her most recent MRI of early January. It's about 1/2 inch and, as they have told us, it's the right size, right shape (round), and right location (not obscured by something else or close to something that could cause Big Trouble) to benefit from this procedure.

Just so you know what we're talking about (info from

Radiosurgery is a medical procedure which allows non-invasive brain surgery, i.e., without actually opening the skull, by means of directed beams of
ionizing radiation.

Stereotactic surgery is a minimally-invasive form of surgical intervention which makes use of a three-dimensional coordinates system to locate small targets inside the body and to perform on them some action such as radiosurgery.

What this means in Real Life
After the MRI results, we had a consultation with two of the Medical Trifecta (the Radiation Oncologist and the Neurosurgeon) who spent a lot of time with us asking and answering questions. I am pleased that they asked different questions than we did; doubly pleased that they seemed to have answers to our questions while we were under no particular pressure to answer everything they asked with near as much precision.

Then came the "fitting."

This is where the patient (Aida) lies on a CT scan bed and is fit for what ends up looking like a hockey mask. The material they use is amazing and, honestly, would be so much more cool to me if I had only heard about it second-hand. Then a bite guard and then, affixed to that, a "frame" about 7" x 4" with little 1/2" diameter grey balls at the junctures. This is the sort of technology they use to film athletes in body suits against a green screen for video games; it allows the camera to track motion in teensy tiny increments. (see below for examples of masks; the first one is shows the bite block and the attached frame; she wore a more full-face one of these for her treatments in July/Aug 2006)

When Aida is having the procedure, there are a couple cameras focusing on the little grey balls, which are attached to the bite guard which, in turn, is guided by her jaw which, as it turns out, is the apex of any motion made by the head. If the balls move outside of a set parameter, the xray machine stops and they reposition her.

The machine (pictured above) can rotate in many different dimensions (forward, back, around, up, down) independently of the table; this allows for very precise aim of the x-rays to the correct spot.

All of this was exhausting, the fitting.

But after all that, the procedure itself will take about 20 minutes. That's it. C'mon in, lie down, wait for it ... wait for it ... okay, done. See ya.

What to think about it all? I don't know, except for 1) I thank the gods that she is getting the kind of care she's getting, 2) her oncologist is fabulous and caring, 3) she's incredible ... courageous and scared and forthright and anxious and totally in love with our grandson, and ... finally 4) what the fuck?!?!?!

Like I said ... I don't know.

DW: My Response to Holly's Porn Parents Blog

Holly asked me what I would do if she were my daughter. Here's my response:

1. Speak to my therapist about how my child's parenting might have impacted her decision
2. Accept responsibility for whatever I may have contributed
3. Find a porn parents support group
4. Tell my daughter that it breaks my heart to see her involved in something that feels so
5. Admit that I am powerless to impact her choices
6. Tell her that I don't support her career choice, have no interest in seeing her films, photos, or eBay auction items, but will always be her parent and help her out if she's ever in trouble or simply needs to talk
7. Make sure my wine cellar was fully stocked at all times
8. Pray for detachment and focus on my own life
9. Try not to hate myself (which would naturally be the most difficult)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

RS: A New York Tale

On my way to church on Sunday, I walked through semi-quiet streets E 8th Street. Discarded Christmas trees littered the sidewalk. On one puny, lifeless, brittle tree, someone had added something that looked like a toe tag from a morgue. On it they had written, "I died for Christ's sins". Seemed a fitting ending to a too-long holiday season.

HC: Porno Parents

I have to write an article about family values, and in doing research came across the following story. Are these parents insane, or are they looking out for their daughter? When should a parent say, "No, I just can't support you doing this?" What do you think?

ABC News
XXX Family Values
Sunny Lane's Parents Say She's 'the Girl Next Door, Turned Hard Core'

March 13, 2007 —

As a girl, Sunny Lane wanted to be a professional ice skater.

Her mother, Shelby, decorated her glittery competition costumes, and her dad, Mike, cheered for his only child from the sidelines.

Years later, they're still at it -- only now they're helping their daughter chase her dreams of becoming a porn star.

"I like to be in front of the camera," Sunny said. "I like to show my talent. I have many, many talents in a lot of different areas, and I want to show them."

But it's more than just showing off the physical assets and the innocent pouts that have earned her the nickname the "Shirley Temple of Porn," because she looks much younger than she is. Sunny will only say that she's in her 20s.

"It would totally mess the fantasy up for my fans," she said about her reluctance to reveal her age. "I look very young, which I'm very grateful [for]."

Sunny sees more than the opportunity to show off her talents; she also sees dollar signs in an industry that made almost $13 billion last year, and she demands hands-on control of her career.

"I'm a businesswoman," she said. "I have an empire, and I have a massive team backing me."

Lawyers, a publicist and image consultants are on call for Sunny, but the foundation for her team is still in the Lane apartment, where Sunny lives with her parents.

Sunny Lane is her stage name, and her parents also go by the same last name. For the last year and a half, life in the apartment has revolved around the business of selling Sunny, whom they market as "The Girl Next Door Turned Hard Core."

On a recent afternoon, Shelby answered the phone while Mike sat nearby in the living room. Upstairs, Sunny packed a suitcase for an evening full of appearances and outfit changes. Shelby helped, filling small plastic bags with costumes, makeup and music.

Once Sunny has worn an outfit, Shelby puts it -- unwashed, of course -- back in a small plastic bags to one day auction off on their Web site. Sunny's underwear can bring in a lot of cash.

"They'll pay $50 to $100 for panties," her mother said.

'Dreams Do Come True'

"We're not kinky parents," Mike said.

Married for 29 years, he and Shelby say that their own secret to staying monogamous was watching porn movies. For them, Sunny's co-stars are her "dates," and they say they'd rather her have sex on a porn set than with a "civilian" who might eventually break her heart.

"She does her thing, safely, in a good environment, and I don't worry about that. When she comes back home, I just ask her how her date was," Mike said.

Mike and Shelby are proud of Sunny's success. Mike said that when he first saw Sunny on the Playboy channel, his reaction was, "Well, dreams do come true, I guess."

"To me, it's all entertainment. I see it all as entertainment," said Shelby.

Mike and Shelby say they fast-forward through the sex scenes in their daughter's movies, despite having made a cameo appearance in one of her early films. If she has a good scene, Mike relies on her fans to let him know whether it was good or bad.

"And if it's good, that means the movie's going to be good, her scene's going to be good, and everybody's going to make a lot of money hopefully," he said.

To keep making all that money, Sunny promotes herself relentlessly -- giggling, bouncing and blowing kisses at red carpet events and private parties.

"I'm a product," she said, "And I know that, and I'm a dang good product."

Promoting the Product

At the adult video convention in Las Vegas in January, Sunny was there to market herself, and her parents were right there beside her. But Shelby and Mike seem to have taken their support to a whole new level. While at the conference, they looked into getting life-size, anatomically correct sex dolls molded of their daughter.

"I do want to have a doll that looks exactly like me," said Sunny. "[My parents] support anything that I have to do with my business, and it's my decision. And if I want a doll, I want a doll."

But what does the industry think of her parents? Mike says he and Shelby are involved in Sunny's career to look after those people who want to use her. He sees himself as the porn equivalent of Jessica and Ashlee Simpson's father, Joe.

"Some of the industry has accepted us very, very well, and some of the industry don't understand any of it," Mike said.

But Sunny is adamant that her parents are only there for support.

"They do not make money off of me. If anything, I pay them. I pay them in return for everything that they have loved and supported me after all these years."

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

DW: Yes!

"We all tend to project onto other people the unattractive aspects of ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge. We're also drawn to anyone who expresses the fully activated versions of our own sleeping potentials. Everywhere we go, then, our vision is clouded by the disowned psychic material that is floating around our unconscious minds. That's the bad news, Leo. The good news is that in the next eight weeks you will have an enhanced ability to get access to the liabilities and powers that are buried beneath the surface of your awareness. As a result, your ability to see the objective truth about the world around you should grow dramatically."

I love Rob Breszney!! (

Monday, January 21, 2008

DW: Vile Blueberries

I blew off my writer's group meeting tonight, which I think was tonight, but maybe wasn't because I didn't get any emails, and someone usually sends an email reminding everyone of the meeting. I'm bummed that I didn't make it to a yoga class on Saturday, and tonight I was cold and exhausted from writing new business proposals all day, and the thought of going home and making chicken cutlets was ever so more appealing. 

This morning I was working out listening to Patti Smith at 6:30 am, and I was inspired to write the following poem which I wanted to send to a friend who alas, is no longer a friend, but who would have enjoyed it none the less.

Abraxas NYC

Vile blueberries
sleep beside mustard covered glass
withering with despair over the detritus of lost dreams
splayed across splintered bridges with seams torn asunder by fear, accusation, projection
and the knowing that it is often too easy to be alone in a city
where polite vomit is a clue to ATM receipts
where taxis sail to Harlem--the last stop before Heaven
where you can't use your Metro card after dark.

All this she said, as she crumpled her dirty tissue
into her pocket but not before
wiping it clean with the Truth
of her own withholding.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

AV: Recycling Christmas

Well, it's finally over. Christmas, I mean. I suppose you all had that clue by now, but at our house, that great icon of the season -- the Christmas tree -- was still up. I mean, really, what was the worst that could happen? Dropping newsprint? Twine dust? It was already dry, being made out of newspaper and all.

So why do I bother telling the (admittedly small circle of the) world about it? Because!

I'm terribly proud of the fact that the only thing we threw away out of the whole thing were three big dried sycamore leaves that I'd spray painted red.

"But Andrea," you ask, "whatever happened to the rest of it?!?"

I'm so glad you asked.

The ornaments went into their well worn little boxes wrapped in tissue and bits of paper for next year. The shims were saved for an art project Aida has in mind. The lights have been boxed as well for next year (except we're trying to decide where to put up the little paper lantern lights).

The newspaper was recycled. The twine and yarn went into the birdcage for Aida's little caged finches to use for their little basket house nests (they just love this stuff!). And the sycamore and eucalyptus leaves, pine fronds, and twigs, berries, etc were stirred with gusto into the compost bin.

The tripod and wreath wrings are safely stored in the garage waiting for next year's creation.

I can't wait.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

SS: Signs, Signifiers and the Signified

Today I logged into my Facebook profile to confirm a “new friend” request, and I noticed one of the ads on the site. It depicts a cute, wide-eyed baby peeking out from under a blanket. It was not an ad for baby powder, diapers, adoption, or anything else directly related to human reproduction. It was an ad for a dating service.

What an interesting message this ad is sending, especially in these supposedly liberated times. It’s quite direct in its equation: “Go on this site + find your soul mate = baby!”

As a side note, in the subhead below the ad’s title, which is “Tired of Dating,” it says “Find Your Own Happily Ever After.” The use of the term “own” suggests you can create some customized version of a happily ever after, but the true message seems to be “First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes [Insert Name] in The Baby Carriage.”

Just an observation.

Copyright January 19, 2007, Sarah Stanfield

Friday, January 18, 2008

HC: My Cat Alfie

I'm working too hard to write a blog today, but it's not so bad because Alfie the Cat is sitting on my desk keeping me company. Here's a picture of him lounging on the couch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

RS: Excerpts From an Inner Voice

A single bead of sweat released its hold on his forehead, sliming its way to the tip of his nose. It held, swelling, straining into pulse, unhinging into splatters against the gloved hand around his neck. Ray’s throat began to tighten, vomit churning upward, burning, crashing waves deposing breath. He could feel himself slowly losing consciousness but refused to unlock his stare into this man’s eyes. There was no face, just cold, blinking fissures, holding him in their grip, grasping as firmly as the clinched, gloved fingers around his neck. Finally, achingly, willingly, Ray closed his eyes and opened his mouth slightly to receive this stranger’s kiss.

Ray’s eyes snapped open and he clutched at his own throat as he rolled himself quickly, unsteadily from his bed and shuffled his feet toward the bathroom, weaving to navigate uncertain walls. He reached out for the light switch as he stepped onto the cold tile but missed. No time to reach again. Don’t dare turn for a better look. He dropped to his knees and hurled his face into the toilet. Heaved, purplish, chunky, acidy juice—splatters on rusty bowl, splashes on murky water. Some droplets ricocheted onto his right cheek as his Adam’s apple lurched and scooped up dribbles of old urine from the rim of the bowl. The rancid smell, wafting into his smoky haired nostrils, sent him into another thrusting retch.

He spit out what he hoped was the last of the puke and leaned over, licking his shirt sleeve, all smoke and sweat and bitter crust. Sitting back, his ass uneasily resting on his heels, he flushed and queasily watched as the former tenants of his stomach swirled away.

“Fuck.” His mouth framed the words but he could force nothing, no shout, no plea.

His stomach twitched then spasmed, discharging a tablespoon of bile into the back of his throat that he swallowed before he could think to spit it out.

Moonlight slammed onto the dust covered porcelain, reflecting off yellow-brown speckles around the toilet rim and gritty tiles. The blackened grout monochromatic against the darkness. Foot tingling as the blood strained into circulation.

An inner voice screaming, “How the fuck can you live in this filth?”

He strained to stand, reaching toward the sink for balance, pulling himself upright. The splash of cold water, gravel bouncing off his face, sobering him a bit, enough to remind him to scrub the vomit off his face and loosen the residual white powder from the inside of his nose, dislodged reflexively from a broken finger nail into the sink. Ray looked up into the mirror, a shadowed ghost of a face staring back, vaguely his father, only younger and with deader eyes.

He began to mutter, “Who was? That? Goddammit. That man choking me? What the fuck?”

Grabbing a towel, he raced to his room, this time slowing down to find the light switch. Razors of light sliced his eyes, convulsing lids, tentative slits opening onto the scene. An empty bed, barren but for a tangle of sheets.

“What a fucked up dream?” Ray thrashed the words, beating himself with every syllable and sending his brain into a panicked throb. He poured a full glass of water and three extra-strength something into his craving throat. Burn and bitterness diluting. He stumbled back into the bathroom and flicked on the light.

He jolted back from the mirror, raspberry pin pricks of blood forming a faint outline of fingers and thumb. He slowly wrapped his fingers around his neck, overlaying the outline. Not a perfect fit but close.

Out of control. Life a distant gyre and in a second he could picture it: a bloody, swirling outline of foreshadowed death. He coughed, part air, part laugh. Too cowardly to kill himself, too drunk to succeed. He dragged his open hand against the door frame and caught the light switch with his middle finger then achingly, defeatedly, glacially moved toward his room.

The smell of sweat and alcohol leached from his thousand thread count sheets. Flailing—labored breath and heavy limbs—to shake loose the twisted olive branch of sheet, Ray gave it an angry snap and lost his footing, sending him face first onto the bottom sheet, slamming and rebounding only inches from a moist black glove and near black stain of blood.

AV: And now for something truly L-ust Worthy

Howdy Kids!
This link is time sensitive, so just go on and do it now, okay?

oh, and do play the ad. you know you want to.

Monday, January 14, 2008

DW: The L-Word Revisited

I’ve been a fan of “The L Word” since its debut on Showtime. The first few seasons were fun and I wish that The Planet was in my Montclair neighborhood. Their new season debuted last week and was rather disappointing. After watching last night’s episode, I’m beginning to wonder if they’ve hired two straight men with too much time on their hands to come up with story ideas.

Here’s what they served up:

Shane makes an emergency house call to do hair and make-up for a bridal party, and ends up fucking two bridesmaids, the mother of the bride, and restrains herself from diddling with the bride (who invited the diddling). The bridal party is so besotted with her that she has to run half-naked from the wedding reception (after being busted with the mother of the bride) with the girls in frilly dresses running in their Manolo’s screaming, “Shaaaaaaaaannnne…wait, don’t leave!”

Helena is in jail and they have the requisite shower scene where—yup, she drops the soap, and incurs the wrath of a knife wielding inmate. Her macho cell mate Dusty comes to her rescue, and they later proceed to have rip-roaring sex in their jail cell, which gets even hotter when Helena learns that Dusty is in jail for tax fraud, not 1st degree murder as Helena had earlier assumed.

I still have affection for the ladies, but mainly for Alice, who seems authentic and interesting and like a real person you’d want to hang out with. Marlee Matlin has been a good addition, and the Cybill Sheppherd character has provided some laughs.

If all of this weren’t enough, Jenny is now a best-selling author who will not only write, but will also direct the movie version of her novel. She has just hired one of her chick-lit fans to be her new assistant, who has “abuse me” in an 18 point font written across her forehead.

If there is any justice, in 12 weeks Jenny will be kidnapped by terrorists and made to assume a Scherezhade-like role to a chubby Saudi prince in order to stay alive.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

WC: Best Movies 2007

A little late, here are my favorite movies that I saw in 2007. (They didn’t all come out in 2007.)

Best movies I saw for the first time in 2007 (alphabetical order):

  • Across the Universe: I saw this twice and loved it both times. I always enjoy Julie Taymor’s unique vision and creativity, and I even “enjoyed” Titus (it was too violent to enjoy without the quote marks). The cast of Across the Universe was lovely, the songs were wonderful (duh), the cameos were very effective (particularly Bono's), and there was even a lesbian character, which always gets extra points in my book.
  • Breach: Fascinating, involving, with an excellent performance by Chris Cooper (another duh).
  • (small spoilers in this next one) Children of Men: I know a lot of people didn’t like this, but I thought it presented a chilling vision of a dystopic future. It had genuine surprises in it, and I thought the scene of the woman walking through the soldiers holding her baby was beautiful. And that the scene ended with the soldiers going right back to killing was heart-breaking.
  • Hairspray: fun, fun, fun. And I even enjoyed John Travolta’s performance (I know, I’m the only one).
  • Jindabyne: fascinating version of Raymond Carver’s famous short story where some men discover a dead body while fishing and choose to finish their fishing trip before reporting the discovery. With an excellent performance by Laura Linney (duh #3).
  • Little Children: very effective take on suburbia and the long distance between who people wish they were and who they really are. It had two of the most effectively devastating scenes I’ve ever seen.
  • The Lives of Others: This story of an East German Stasi bureaucrat is a beautiful, quiet depiction of grace in a time of horror.
  • Simpsons Movie: fabulous fun. My favorite moment of any movie all year was when Bart sees a “wanted” poster for his family; scribbles all over it to disguise them; and immediately a family comes in who looks exactly like the family and gets arrested. I think Salvadore Dali would have enjoyed that scene.
  • Stardust: a lovely fantasy film that didn’tget the attention it deserved. Michele Pfeiffer had a great turn in it as a witch, and Claire Danes was lovely.
  • Sweeney Todd: wonderful, beautiful, horrible, funny, sad, disgusting, involving, exhausting―all the things a good Sweeney should be.
  • Talk to Me: Despite its overdone moments, this true story of an ex-con DJ and his influence in the Civil Rights era is a must-see. Don Cheadle is superb in it (duh #4).
  • Waitress: This story of a waitress and her loves and dreams is a delight to watch but sad to think about as its writer/director was murdered before it was released (and not far from where I live).

Films I saw again in 2007 and loved all over again.

  • Galaxy Quest: funny and sweet tale of a Star Trek-like cast mistaken for actual heros.
  • LA Story: funny and sweet story of Steve Martin’s love for L.A. and for the gorgeous Victoria Tennant.
  • The Mother: this English film is one of those movies that makes me very depressed about American film-making. Where The Mother deals with the weirdnesses of family and sex in a compassionate, adult manner, Hollywood would probably make it prurient and embarrassing.
  • Out of Sight: My favorite caper film of the past many years. George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez have wonderful chemistry, and it’s funny. I think it’s the last Steven Soderburgh film I actually liked.
  • You Can Count on Me: One of my all-time favorite movies, this story of a single mom and her relationship with her brother is a gentle look at how we mess up and love each other anyway. Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney are wonderful (duh #5).

For all a list of all the movies I saw in 2007, see comments.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

WC: Maybe I Could Vote for Clinton?

I still have a lot of problems with Hillary Clinton, but for the first time I'm thinking that maybe I could vote for her. Maybe.

It was that "tearing up" episode that changed my mind. I don't care that she got tears in her eyes. I think the media's attention to it has been ridiculous, just as I think the media's attention to the Iowa caucuses is ridiculous (come on, folks, there are more people in the U.S. who believe that the government is sending death rays through their fillings than vote in the Iowa caucuses). But, unfortunately, the media to a large extent shapes the debate, and so the tears in Hillary's eyes are/were an issue.

And what does Edwards say in response to TearGate? "I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve." Boy, did he go down in my estimation.

A while ago, the marvelous Nation columnist Katha Pollitt wrote, "If people keep making sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton, I may just have to vote for her."

I don't actually think all of the attacks have been sexist. However, it has been shown all over the blogosphere that getting tears in one's eyes is seen as a sign of sensitivity in men (although actual crying or wiping away the tears is seen as wussy). And the focus on her clothing, her wrinkles, and her laugh certainly ring the sexist bell.

As of this writing, it seems like Edwards is out of the running, and he lost my vote anyway with that dumb anti-tears comment. (I think the equation of no-tears with strength has been the root of an incredible amount of domestic abuse in this world as repressed men have to do something with their emotions.)

So it's Obama or Clinton. Both would be a nice step forward for this country. I could get behind a Clinton/Obama ticket, though an Obama/Clinton ticket feels wrong (he'd be smarter to get a good ole white boy Southerner for his VP).

At least it's an interesting race, and at least they all want more health care and less war.

A young friend of mine, who will be voting for the first time, complained that all our options stink. I laughed and told her how lucky she was to think that this year's crop looks so bad. Based on the realities of the past decades in the U.S., I think we're doing pretty well.

HC: That's Torture-Tainment!

If you’ve spent any time at your local DVD rental store, you’ve no doubt seen the covers for the Saw trilogy (and coming out soon: Saw IV!), the Hostel movies, Captivity, The Hills Have Eyes, etc. Just the DVD covers make me feel queasy. If you haven’t seen them, I’ll try to describe them: “your worst nightmare!” A cover picture or drawing or logo promising 90+ minutes of torture and horror and pain and violence, not only for the character in the movie, but for you, too. And done realistically, much more so than the old days of horror films. I mean, your chances of being thrown in a lake by the Frankenstein monster are slim. How many vampires do you encounter in your daily life? Seen any 200-story-high Japanese lizards roaming around your neighborhood? In this new batch of horror movies—most of which, full disclosure here, I haven’t seen—the evil-doers are sick people, cruel people, and unfortunately, scarily, people that you or I could actually encounter.

I do like being scared during a film. When the Wicked Witch pops up in Oz, I’m still scared, even though I’ve seen the film 20 times. I remember sitting excitedly in a theater watching Aliens, with my heart beating so fast I felt like I was on a roller coaster. Even more realistically scary films like Jaws, or Hitchcock’s Psycho or The Birds I really love. The recent 28 Days Later was great. But there’s a real difference between a random killer shark and this new breed of torturetainment.

My first encounter with something that should have been rated “Too Scary and Realistic for Holly” (or 2S/R4H) was an X-Files episode. I was a big fan of this well-written television show. I watched and enjoyed many year’s worth of episodes, and loved “Eugene Tooms, Mutant Cannibal” and the flukeman and the aliens, etc. Then one episode came along that was so horribly violent I gave up watching the show. You X-Filers will no doubt remember the inbred family episode. I sure remember the scene where the kindly sheriff (who had investigated the inbred family) and his lovely wife are in bed and one of the inbreds breaks into their house and storms up the stairs to confront the sheriff. The sheriff hurries his wife under their bed to hide while he deals with the intruder. We see the rest of the scene from her point of view, terrified under the bed, as the Inbred beats the sheriff to death with a bat, and the blood from his body slowly crawls towards his widow’s shaking, petrified, heartbroken body as she tries not to scream. She, too, ends up getting beaten to death.

It was so visceral (and unfortunately very well done) that I was a wreck for a few days after it, and I still vividly remember it…again unfortunately.

I don’t think entertainment should be all Pollyanna and light and sweetness, but I also try to weigh the amount of upset versus the amount of enjoyment. Here’s an example:

Thanks to my beloved Netflix, my husband and I recently watched Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. She was great, I enjoyed the show and admired the writing and the acting, but the level of grisly and gruesome was very high and deeply upsetting. The first series was about a serial torturer/rapist/murderer, complete with close-ups of either the dead women or police crime scene pictures of the dead women. The show was worth seeing, but, being a very visual person, I’ll never get those images of the tortured women out of my head. I may not be able to remember the fact that a member of your family died, or I may forget your name, but I’ll always have those pictures in my head. Perhaps I should rent and watch all the movies I'm knocking before I knock them...but then they'd be in my head FOREVER.

We’ve all seen real-life horror pictures—concentration camp victims first come to mind—that are necessary to see for historic purposes. I’m not sure how necessary it is to see realistic violence wrapped up in an entertainment package. Everyone’s threshold is different, too. I couldn’t/wouldn’t ever see a Saw movie, but I loved the Dr. Phibe’s films from the 1970s with Vincent Price, in which he tortured/killed the operating room doctors who couldn’t save his wife. The new musical Sweeney Todd, about the demon barber of Fleet Street has, big surprise here, lots of blood in it! But I really enjoyed the blood because it seemed appropriate and not overdone.

There are all kinds of realistic horror films. Psycho is one of my favorites, and I’ve seen it numerous times, but I always have to make sure I’m psychologically ready to see it, and I wouldn’t watch it alone, ever. Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is a perfect film (and one of the rare occurrences where I actually agreed with a film winning a Best Picture Oscar!), and it’s also deeply disturbing. With both of these films, even though they are powerful and distressing, there’s also a sense of restraint about them. Hitchcock shows very litte; Demme shows a lot, but only what is necessary to tell the story. Lambs is gruesome, but not exploitive. The new DVD covers (and possibly the films, too) seem to be all about exploitation, and frequently the promise of rape.

Maybe we’re just used to what we’re used to, in terms of the amount of sex, violence, horror, cursing, whatever we’ve seen in movies. My son, who is a very gentle soul, loved the Saw movies, and insisted on telling me the plots. He thinks they’re very imaginative and well-done…which makes me want to see them even less—if they’re well-done they will bother me even more!

So this all comes down to…is it the films, or is it me? As I’ve gotten older I’ve definitely gotten more squeamish and sensitive about what I see or read. When you’re 15 and seeing Psycho for the first time, it doesn’t occur to you that this could happen to you. When you’re a 45-year-old mother of two and you go to the local DVD store to find a few hours of entertainment, and every other DVD cover makes you want to run home and hide under the blankets, the entertainment world hardly seems escapist.

Films can be educational, inspiring, etc, but they are basically an entertainment unit. Sitting in a theater being scared can be enjoyable. When does it turn creepy and weird to enjoy watching people being tortured. Is it all on a sliding scale? I loved Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, but my sister found it too gory. My son loves Saw, but I can’t even imagine seeing it. Is it all opinion? When do “entertaining” movies get to be a little too close to a snuff film?

If you grow up with this level of horror movies, does it affect you adversely? If horror movies are like this now, what’s next on the horizon? I shudder to think.

When real life and news reports and dire climate change reports get to be too much, it’s time to put away the serial killers and rapists, horrific torture scenes and the like, and it’s time to take out the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy operettas from the 1930s and 40s. But that’s for another blog entry…

Am I just a big wimp? Yes, I’d rather see Little Miss Sunshine than The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So sue me. Just don’t make me go to the DVD store alone. It's too scary.

© Holly Caster, January, 9, 2008

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

DW: Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing

"As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows."

RS: To Be or Not to Be

I can't decide whether or not to feel sorry for Brittany Spears. I see myself reflected. No, I have never shaved my head. It isn't a good look for me, even if I were misguidedly trying to stay a step ahead of a follicle drug test. No, I have never beaten a car with an umbrella although I did get drunk at brunch once, exited the restaurant, saw the most beautiful BMW I had ever seen and promptly licked it. I don't know why. I have no memory of the incident but certain friends won't let me forget. How grateful am I that I am a nobody and that no cameras are snapping eight by tens of my every move? Plenty. I've said, "Oops I did it again" again and again and have called way too many drug dealers to "hit me baby one more time". I hope none of that makes it onto the final cut of the life movie that flashes before my eyes when I die, let alone on a 24-hour loop on every infotainment outlet in existence. And, no, I've never put a small child in danger by driving with it on my lap, almost dropping it, or turning its car seat the wrong way. I was, however, once swinging my 2 year old nephew gleefully in the air and swung his still too soft skull into a spinning ceiling fan. He survived and so will Brittany's kids. And, no, I have never married someone in Vegas and had the marriage annulled, but I have sobered up and looked foggily across the Posturepedic and regretted it so much that I wished it could all be undone by simply slipping the Pope a few bucks. What we do have in common are the following: I married a loser who sponged off me for all he could get, I was escorted to a mental health care facility on an ambulance gurney, and I've gone out on the town before without wearing underwear. Fortunately, I wasn't also wearing a dress and my nethers never made it onto the internet--to my knowledge. I've made a fool of myself, squandered too much money on drugs, and refused to listen to those around me who tried to help me help myself—though there is no evidence that Brittany has anyone in her life trying to help her. She is slowly committing suicide. I attempted the same thing both slowly and expeditiously. I got lucky. She may not. I know I am not supposed to care. I pretend not to. But my ears prick up when new news comes on the television. So, mustn't I? Oh, I sneer and make fun and scoff about her getting what's coming to her. But I have learned that inertia does not apply to a life spinning out of control, eventually you crash into something. The best you can hope for is that your brains don't end up splattered on the windshield. I got lucky. I wonder if she will. Do I care? I honestly don't know. Should I care? Life seems to indicate not. Sometimes I get caught in traffic because idiot drivers in front of me can't stop staring at an accident alongside the road. They can't seem to look away until they can't see anything anymore and then they speed off without a second thought. Am I one of those people I hate so much? Yes. Truth is, it is just Brittany. Some white trash, semi-talented, gum chewing, roots showing, ass-wiggling scum bag who fucked up her life because she got too much too fast and is spoiled and stupid. But those accidents we can't look away from are not just fascinating spectacles or even simple reminders of "better you than me". Human beings bled that blood on the roadside. And heartbroken families don't get to speed away from the wreckage without a second thought. And Brittany, for all her ridiculousness, is just a human being in trouble—trying to speed away from wreckage of her own creation. And I can't look away. Here's hoping that whenever inertia loosens it grip that she crashes into something safe and soft. Not that I care.

Monday, January 7, 2008

SS: “La Vie en Rose”: The Brilliant, Brief Life of Edith Piaf

There is a shocking scene about two thirds of the way into “La Vie en Rose,” a film I saw last week about the life and death of Edith Piaf, the French singer who rose to international acclaim during the 40s and 50s. It shows Piaf (in a marvelous performance by Marion Cotillard) at the end of her life, when she was dying of liver cancer. She looks old, terribly so, with her disheveled hair dyed a garish shade of red, a stooped, unsteady gait and a face that belongs on a 70-year-old. In this scene she is 47, the age she died.

It is likely that the cancer was brought about by Piaf’s years of morphine and alcohol abuse. The morphine habit began in 1951, when she was involved in a car crash, and doctors gave her shots of the drug to alleviate her pain. The brilliance of “La Vie en Rose” is primarily due to Cotillard’s ability to channel the unique emotional amalgam that likely made the singer fall prey to such a deadly addiction, as well as director/writer Olivier Dahan’s clever use of flashback to set the stage, so to speak, for Piaf’s life.

It seems there was some sort of void in Edith Piaf’s life. Despite her amazing talent, which brought her fame, fortune and love, she was missing something fundamental, always looking to fill a hole with no bottom. No doubt she ultimately turned to drugs and booze as part of this fruitless mission.

What was the exact nature of Piaf’s void? We’ll probably never know, but the film gives us some clues by offering glimpses of the singer’s life in the form of memories she recounts in her last days. Dahan pulls this off by feeding the audience these scenes in a jumbled, non-chronological fashion, realistically mimicking the way a dying person likely reviews key moments in the past. It never feels like a gimmick.

We learn about Piaf’s abandonment as a child by her mother and father, the brief time she found a semblance of parental acceptance in the arms of an emotionally fragile, loving prostitute she meets while living with her aloof grandmother, who runs a brothel in Normandy. We see Piaf torn from this relationship when her father comes back for her, along with the constant verbal abuse from him that further chips away at her spirit.

It seems this childhood left Piaf a bit of a child herself. Even as she reaches the pinnacle of fame, there is always a glimmer of a very childlike need for love and acceptance, which Cotillard conveys brilliantly through her facial expressions – especially with her eyes. This “eyework” starkly illustrates the contradiction between Piaf’s outward actions and her true feelings, such as in the scene where Piaf has her first date with the man who would become the love of her life, the boxer Marcel Cerdan. During the scene, Cotillard displays Piaf at her most bombastic – making loud, somewhat off-color remarks in a high-end restaurant – always the showgirl. But when Cerdan lovingly comments that she looks like a fairy, her eyes widen in innocent wonder and hope, showing that terrified little girl within, a little girl who still can’t quite believe she can be loved.

Cotillard is equally stunning in her depictions of Piaf’s distinctive physical mannerisms. She captures the Piaf gait – a bizarre sort of movement of her legs and feet in a wishbone pattern away from her torso, giving the impression of a small-footed circus performer trying to walk in clown shoes – perfectly. Even in Cotillard’s walk, you can see how Piaf was never quite comfortable in her skin.

In one of the most devastating scenes in the film, when Piaf learns Cerdan has perished in a plane crash, Cotillard uses her entire body to manifest the disbelief and sorrow she feels, taking the audience along on Piaf’s emotional trajectory so effectively that one cannot help but feel that same sense of sorrow, loss and rage.

Perhaps the film’s only weakness is its late revelation of Piaf’s young daughter, Marcelle, who died of meningitis when Piaf was a teenager. If Dahan is attempting to convey that this tragedy “explains” the emotional upheaval of Piaf’s life, it doesn’t work. It is too much of an easy, Hollywood-esque denouement to such a complex subject. Luckily, Cotillard’s performance make up for this in spades.

© Sarah Stanfield, January 7, 2008

Friday, January 4, 2008

AV: The Immaculate Grandmother

Silas Parker Doyle

The "Silas" and the "Parker" are good jazz musician names. The "Doyle" part is Eamonn's surname (from Aida's first marriage).

Turns out, after a brief Google, that the names are more apt than anyone knew:

Silas: "Man of the forest"
Parker: "Park Keeper" or "Gamekeeper of the park"

This is the child Aida has been calling "Little Acorn" since its conception.

BTW, the title of this post? That would be me, having come to this enviable place without giving birth myself. Cool how that works, huh? I'm thrilled.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

HC: Dr. Seuss's Cat Detective in the Wrong Part of Town

HC to AV: Please tell us your grandson's name!

HC: The party---and the holiday---is over...

How do you view a calendar year? I've always seen the months as calendar pages, one on top of the other vertically, with January at the top. So it was a climb to get to January I guess, because December is a busy, hectic month.

I've really enjoyed reading my fellow bloggers views on holidays and resolutions. Although New Year's Eve partying means nothing to me, the start of a new year does feel exactly like that: a start...a new start (as opposed to an old start?).

First of all I get a new calendar. Instead of looking at last year's MC Escher prints or Dr. Seuss drawings (my two favorite artists), I'm looking at a black and white photo of an orange kitten (he's so orange that I can see it even in black and white) standing next to a flower in a glass vase. My daughter gave me this calendar for Christmas, because we both love cats. The day boxes are clean and fresh and inviting. In my head I know I'm seeing The 39 Steps tomorrow night, having brunch with the Aronow/Grange family on Sunday, having lunch with Debra on Tuesday, etc, but I leave this calendar, in my office, empty and clean. The family calendar in the kitchen is so full of stuff already that it's a little claustrophobic. Let my own personal calendar, that I look at everyday, be open and ready for anything. Let me be open and ready for anything!

Yes, I do have a resolution for 2008: to use my treadmill at least 4 times a week. I don't want diabetes. I don't want more flab. I've embraced my current flab, but it's enough. I don't fool myself that I can suddenly drop 10 pounds, but I'm determined not to gain another ounce. No other resolutions for me. I like my work. I treasure my free time. I look forward to watching another episode of Jericho on DVD with my kids; I look forward to my evening DVD (thank you NetFlix!) with my husband. Life is truly, miraculously kind, gentle, warm, satisfying.

Thank you, Mira, for teaching me how to crochet granny square blankets. I love it. Simply love it. I love the feel of the yarn, the colors, seeing something made from nothing. I guess if I have to be addicted to something, crocheting is better than heroin.

What will 2008 bring? How's about peace for everyone? Wouldn't that be nice? My sister once said the world would be a much better place simply if no one was rude. Isn't it rude to steal? Rude to murder? Rude to bomb another country because they don't believe what you believe? Rude to rape the planet for profit? Rude to distrust someone because their skin is a different color, or they speak a different language? HEY, let's all play nice in 2008!

Rodney talked about slogans, etc. I have some for this rhyming year:

Life is great in '08!
Don't take the bait in '08!
Make a peace date for '08!
Be master of your own fate in '08!

Here's a very simple one: Don't hate in '08.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

RS: My New Year's Resolution

This year I resolve not to make any resolutions. I am tired of having my 10 year plan revised annually. I am tired of being rushed into making plans purely because the calendar changes. And I am tired of feeling like a failure come MLK Jr's birthday because I cannot sustain a course plotted two weeks earlier.

So, I will not resolve to lose weight this year. I lost a fair amount last year and every ounce was worked off not wished off.

I will not resolve to try something new--like the time I planned to try a threeway and ended up in a six month dysfunctional relationship with Ben and Jerry. All I ended up with is the biggest bottom in the free world.

I will not resolve to stop looking for love and learning to love myself. I've tried both and loving someone else is just more fun. In the words of Stephen Sondheim, "Alone is alone, not alive" and in the words of Don Black and Charles Hart (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber) "Love changes everything" and in the words of Barbara Mandrell "If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be right" and in the words of those 70s bumper stickers "Honk if you're horny." Yes, I am fine living my year in sound bites. I know that someone said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Truth is, I can't remember who said that and I am clearly too lazy to do any research.

I will not resolve to be a better person. I am shallow, selfish, and solipsistic. I have made my peace with it. Sorry world, but if I have to choose between sponsoring a child in a third world country and buying a new Prada jacket (possibly made by a child in a third world country), I will pick the new wardrobe. I am not proud of that, but I ain't gonna lie about it--to myself or anyone else.

I will not resolve to go to the gym, eat better or drink less. I will not resolve to get more involved. I will not resolve to give more to charity. The planet has enough toxic air. I need not pollute it with well-intentioned but empty promises.

I will not resolve to keep in touch better. I am bad at it. I get caught up in the dailiness of life and new tricks just get harder and harder as this old dog gets creekier and creekier. I will keep friends, old and new, close to heart and close in mind--that I've mastered.

I will not resolve to work less. I need to stay fed, both stomach and ego. I will get worn down, too tired, crabby, overextended, and frustrated. And I'll do it again.

Last year was a good year. And I don't remember a single resolution I made last January. So, I will focus on looking back on what I accomplish this year (whatever that ends up being) instead of obsessing about promises unfulfilled.

Perhaps, then, I won't live with looming failure--and 2008 may just turn out to be a happy new year indeed.

DW: Almost, Continued

We were glad we went to visit my family on Christmas Day. As it turned out, the traffic wasn't as terrible as usual, the food was great, and it was nice seeing my family. 

I must admit that I am looking forward to getting back to my desk tomorrow. I've been out of the office long enough, eaten way too many carbs, and it will be nice to feel productive again. The close of one year and the beginning of a new one is always a poignant moment for me. Things are changing in my family, my business, and in my own personal life. I guess that's something to be grateful for even if some of the changes make me feel anxious.  

I've been thinking about Colette and something she said, ie, "two habits keep me from crying: concealing my thoughts and applying mascara." My own current version of this would be "two habits keep me from entering into open conflict with friends and family: deciding that my thoughts and opinions are not that important or relevant, and subsequently discussing their importance and relevance at length with my therapist."

Happy new year.