Better Late Than Never...

Back in May, when I was writing to commemorate the passing of my Nana, I also wrote posts for the other two grandparents I have lost. Unfortunately, that was so long ago that when the proper time came to post what I had written, January 8th, the occasion slipped my mind. I don't want the month to go by without publishing my tribute to Paw Paw, so here it is, better late than never...

Remembering Paw Paw...

Five years. It has been five years since we lost Paw Paw, and yet, I still have trouble believing it. They say that time heals all wounds, but for me, the unexpected loss of my grandpa still feels like a fresh gash across my heart. It hurts as much today as it did that day five years ago, and I still have trouble believing that there is a world without him in it.

Arguably, I should have seen it coming. When I saw Paw Paw at Christmas, he did not look well. He was slumped over in his favorite chair, and when we left, he felt strangely frail when I hugged him goodbye. In fact, I was so unnerved by that hug that I had a terrifying premonition that he might not be with us much longer. I was so upset by it that I had a silent cry in the backseat of the car, while my parents chatted in the front, unaware. I’ve never told anyone that.

A little over a week later, we got the call that he was being rushed to the hospital. Mom started frantically getting her things in order to leave and be with him, but before she could make it out the door we got another call. He was already gone.

The following week was a blur, marked by shock and overriding grief. What stands out to me was the disbelief in Grandma’s voice, as she told the story of his death over and over, to everyone who had not yet heard it, as if the act of repetition would somehow make it easier to wrap her head around the loss. It never got easier to hear.

Paw Paw was the first person I have lost in my life, with whom I was close. My uncle, Doug, passed away when I was very young, and did not understand the nature of death. My great-grandmother, Big Nana, and two of my great-uncles had passed away when I was in high school, but I did not feel their loss as acutely as I did with Paw Paw. My bond with him was much stronger.

What I remember most about Paw Paw, was how loved he made me feel. With so many other grandchildren, it would have been easy to get lost in the fray, but Paw Paw always made me feel special. Whether it was the little songs he would sing to me; the trips we would take to Dairy Queen, just the two of us; the little projects he would create for me out in his woodshop in the garage; or the way he would call me on my birthday and sing me “Happy Birthday,” and I would sing “Happy Half-Birthday” to him and vice-versa, he always made me feel like he was making a special effort, just for me. They were all simple things, but they were so important.

Maybe five years is not enough.

I know that much of my family is out there reading this, so now I’m turning things over to you. What is your favorite memory of Paw Paw?

My cousins Trista, Danielle, me, and Aimee with Paw Paw visiting New Salem.


Too Far...

I am a Chicagoan, born and raised, and I am very attached to our civic traditions. It was bad enough when the city scaled down the municipal Christmas tree in Daley Plaza to save money this year, but when I was checking the local headlines today, an article from the Sun Times stopped me dead in my tracks: the next victim of the city's cost-cutting measures will be the annual 3rd of July fireworks display. In hopes of saving nearly a half million dollars, the city will no longer host one massive pyrotechnic detonation, but rather, will host three substantially smaller events on the 4th of July, spread throughout the city.

The Mayor's Office of Special Events claims that the new schedule will alleviate demands on the city's transportation and safety resources, by eliminating the stream of 1.2 million visitors into downtown for a single display. By hosting three events, one on the North Side at Montrose Harbor, one downtown at Navy Pier, and one on the South Side at the 63rd Street Beach, Daley claims that the fireworks will become more accessible to the citizenry by allowing them to stay closer to their own neighborhoods. The argument is that the only people to suffer in the new arrangement will be suburbanites who sought to have their cake and eat it too, by attending the Chicago fireworks on the 3rd and their own local shows on the 4th.

I disagree. Besides driving home the point that nothing is sacred in a down economy, the Mayor's Office is destroying one of the few events for which the people of Chicago come together. It is a good thing for people to leave their neighborhoods and come together. The mass solidarity at the 3rd of July fireworks display is a reminder of the diversity that defines our nation, and is all the more important to remember on the occasion of our national birthday. For a city as geographically divided by lines of class and race as Chicago, to tell the people that we are better off to stay in our own neighborhoods is a refutation of the ideals towards which we should be striving. To Mayor Daley and his staff, I say, "Poorly done." In these tough times we should be uniting, not rending asunder. Today, I am not proud to be a Chicagoan.



Perhaps it has something to do with the resurgence of winter weather we are experiencing here in Chicago, but I have been feeling rather rife with ennui of late. Not that I am complaining, to the contrary, I am rather enjoying this quiet downtime. On the whole, life is good -- Natasha was finally released from the hospital over the weekend after more than two full weeks, and I've been getting back into the kitchen.

I haven't prepared anything that was photogenic enough to share with you, but just yesterday I made my first attempt at homemade risotto. It wasn't as challenging as I thought it would be, although if I had it to do over, I might have followed a recipe instead of improvising my non-rice components to create a more harmonious flavor profile. Inspired by my visits to Natasha in the hospital, I also whipped up a batch of
my favorite popsicles recently (it's one of the few desserts she can eat on her new restricted diet), using the last of the peaches I had frozen over the summer. Frozen desserts might not be the first thing to come to mind in January, but for whatever reason, they really hit the spot. I've got a few more kitchen projects to get to before the end of the month, but overall, I'm content to close out the month on a quiet note, even if it doesn't provide many opportunities for compelling journalism...


A Single Man...

In addition to visiting the French Market over the weekend, I also managed to stick to my cinematic regimen for January by meeting Lauren on Sunday to see A Single Man. Ironically, I felt that A Single Man was more European in its sensibilities and aesthetic than the French Market. Like many foreign films, this one focuses more on its characters emotional and psychological journey than external events.

As expected, Colin Firth's nuanced performance lived up to the Oscar Buzz that has been swirling around him lately. I'm reluctant to predict a win for him for Best Actor, however, since Jeff Bridges seems to have built up unstoppable momentum with his wins at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards for his turn in Crazy Heart. Still, in my mind, Firth remains the undisputed master of portraying repressed characters, in whom a storm of emotions rage beneath a carefully constructed facade. In A Single Man, Firth plays a gay man who has lost his partner in a car accident. Due to the conventions of his time (the 1960s), he is forced to publicly deny the depth of his loss and his despair. In one particularly devastating scene, his partner's family calls with news of the funeral arrangements, only to coldly inform Firth's character that the service will be "family only." In another, even his best friend suggests that his love for his partner might have just been misguided in the absence of an appropriate woman. Firth handles both scenes with finesse; indeed, his performance is the highlight of the film as a whole.

Interestingly, first-time director Tom Ford (former creative director of Gucci and Yves St. Laurent) brings a fashion designer's attention to detail to the film, lingering over images of crisply folded shirts and luxuriously soft-looking sweaters. Also, as a gay man directing a story about a gay man, Ford presents a fascinating reversal of the typical directorial "male gaze." According to feminist film theorists, in traditional filmmaking in which the director is a heterosexual male, the audience is forced to assume the gaze of a heterosexual man when the camera is turned upon a woman. The prototypical example of this occurs when the camera literally looks a woman up and down, focusing on her gender-specific features. The woman is thereby reduced to a sex object, present only for the enjoyment of the male audience. In A Single Man, the opposite is true. Long, lingering shots of the male anatomy are commonplace throughout the film. The effect is simultaneously refreshing and unnerving. As an audience, we are not taught by society to appreciate the male form in such a manner, but I enjoyed the role reversal. Perhaps this is common in films by gay directors -- I haven't seen enough of them to make a judgement on the subject.

As a result, I wouldn't recommend A Single Man to everyone. I think it takes an open-mind to fully appreciate its asthetic. Still, if you are a Colin Firth fan, (which I most definitely am) I think you owe it to yourself to check out his performance -- after Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, I think it's one of his best roles.


To Market, To Market...

I'm not sure why I've had so little motivation to write of late. It's not that I haven't been busy; to the contrary, there was not a single blank day in my calendar last week. Granted, most of those days were occupied with visits to Natasha, who is now anticipating a minimum of two full weeks at the hospital, although she seems generally better than she did a week ago. I did manage to get out this weekend for some more uplifting activities, such as investigating the Metramarket development that has recently opened next to Chicago's Ogilvie Transporation Center. At the heart of the new complex is the French Market, which is more or less just what it sounds like -- a food hall modeled along the same lines as the indoor and outdoor food markets that can be found all over Europe. Chicago's version boasts a collection of produce vendors, bakeries, butchers, patisseries, florists, and cheese and wine vendors, all of which are offshoots of mom-and-pop establishments from across the Chicagoland area, along with a few stalls peddling prepared foods.

Having just eaten, I focused my visit on getting the lay of the land, and on food items that could be taken home and eaten at a later point in time. To that end, I sampled chocolate croissants from Vanille Patisserie, a Lincoln Park establishment focusing on haute French-style confections. It was appropriately flaky and buttery, and I could have easily mistaken it for its authentic brethren had it not been for the slightly off-tasting chocolate filling. I enjoy dark chocolate, but this had a somewhat off-putting flavor going on in the background that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

I was more pleased with my selection from Sweet Miss Giving's, a Goose Island bakery that donates half of its proceeds to combat homelessness and to those afflicted with HIV, in addition to providing job training to the underprivileged. Although I've consumed baked goods from numerous charity-driven job training bakeries in the past, this was honestly the first time I have ever done so and enjoyed it. The maple pecan scone I purchased from Sweet Miss Giving's was flavorful and moist, and actually beat out the ones I have made at home. As an avid home baker, I am infinitely disappointed when I spend money on bakery goods, only to receive something inferior to what I could produce on my own. On that basis alone, Sweet Miss Giving's is a winner in my book!

My final purchase at the French Market came from Fumare Meats, which, as far as I can tell, does not have another location in the Chicago metropolitan area, but I could be mistaken. They featured an impressive selection of cured meats, including roughly ten different varieties of slab bacon, sliced to order. I made a mental note of the impressive-looking andouille sausage for a planned attempt to make red beans and rice in the future, but since I was not looking to prepare any meat dishes this week, I resisted most of their tempting offerings and instead chose a sampler package of sausage products. I appreciated that they offered that option, as I find it difficult to commit to new things if there is a chance I'll be wasting my money on something I won't care for. Thankfully, my packet of sausage bites from Fumare was tasty enough that I will definitely be returning for my future charcuterie needs.

I also look forward to returning and sampling the products of some of the prepared foods vendors. While I could easily skip the curry cart, and the stall selling raw food meals, I was attracted to the cart offering Vietnamese banh mi, a sandwich featuring a baguette stuffed with picked vegetables and an eclectic combination of French and Vietnamese ingredients that has recently gained tremendous popularity in foodie circles. I would also gladly check out a stall offering Belgian-style frites paired with various dipping sauces and Belgian beers. Overall, I would say that the French Market offers promising noshing opportunities.

My only problem with the French Market was the somewhat depressing ambiance. Despite the name, the facility was wholly lacking in European ambiance. The ceiling boasted a labyrinth of electrical, HVAC and plumbing pipes and conduits, harsh fluorescent lighting cast a supermarket-like pall over the interior, and the linoleum floor, while undoubtedly practical, was doing nothing to contribute an upscale sensibility to the space. The French Market provided an interesting brief diversion, one which I would be willing to revisit, but it could most definitely benefit from some cosmetic changes to turn it into a charming, European-style destination where I would want to spend an afternoon lingering.



By far, the most common visual I have been subjected to the past few weeks at work has been that of my dismantled computer, its guts spewing forth across my desk, whilst the IT guy rummages around inside it with a flashlight. To remedy a problem I've been having with my oft-crashing video editing software, we have installed two new hard drives, tried three separate means of connecting them to the computer, one of which had to have its own port installed in the computer. Yet still, my computer persisted in crashing as often as a dozen times a day. He finally uploaded a patch to the software this week (that took nearly two hours to download!) and things seem to have improved, but I'm not prepared to proclaim victory just yet. It's been frustrating, to say the least.

Ever wondered what the inside of your computer looks like?

Still, much as I have not been in love with my job this week, there has been something very special going on at the museum that almost makes up for all my trials and tribulations. Perhaps the greatest perk of working behind-the-scenes at a cultural institution is the ability to preview upcoming exhibitions before they open to the general public. Although the exhibit is not scheduled to open until May, this week the gowns for the upcoming "I Do" exhibit have been photographed for the exhibition catalog. "I Do" will tell the story of weddings in the Windy City, and while most of the photography has been occurring behind closed doors, from time to time I have been lucky to catch a glimpse of the dresses as I have passed by the studio. I can tell you right now, this exhibit is going to be spectacular!

Like many women, I am a sucker for weddings (although I don't actually like attending them very much, which probably has something to do with the forced public dancing), but I do love to watch television shows about them, i.e. A Wedding Story when I was growing up, or Say Yes To The Dress nowadays, and whenever one of my Facebook friends goes to a wedding and gets tagged in a photo, I always eagerly check out the other pictures of the gown and the decor, even if I don't know the couple in question. I think they appeal to my party-planning ways. Any exhibit that fuses my wedding voyeurism with my appreciation for vintage fashion is a winner in my book.

1927 Wedding gown by Lanvin.

Naturally, I don't have any photos from this week's photo shoot, but there are a smattering of pictures from the exhibit on Flickr. These dresses are serving as inspiration pieces for the museum's annual design contest, Fashion Next, which pits local fashion designers against one another to create a modern garment inspired by a selection from the museum's collection. Among the inspiration pieces, I think this one is my favorite. I love the beaded details, although the unusual placement of them here, coupled with the drape of the fabric almost gives the impression that the dress might be concealing a baby bump. My favorite part, however, is the heavily embellished train, which cascades from the shoulders.

Given the pieces on Flickr, and the preview I acquired throughout the past week, I definitely have high hopes for the "I Do" exhibit, and I'm sure this is not the last you'll be hearing from me on the topic...


Let's Go Out To The Movies...

Sorry for the lack of posts of late; I keep sitting down to write and my heart just doesn't seem to be in it. My mind has been largely occupied with thoughts of my friend Natasha, whose planned overnight stay in the hospital has escalated into five nights so far, with no readily apparent end in sight. I have been visiting her every day after work, trying to give her an ear to bend about her concerns. Although I have never been in her situation, I hear that the hospital is a lonely, boring place, so I've been doing the best I can to help her morale. But, in an effort to force myself to think about something else, I thought I would share with you my thoughts on my weekend activities, when I treated myself and saw two films that had been languishing on my cinematic wish-list: Up In The Air and Nine.

I had high expectations for Up In The Air, and the film did not disappoint. I loved both of director/writer Jason Reitman's two previous films, Juno and Thank You For Smoking, and his latest venture was equally impressive. Basically, the film provided everything that Avatar did not -- the writing was snappy, the plot developments were unexpected, and the film managed to feature its social commentary up front and center without seeming as preachy or obvious as Avatar. This was accomplished largely in the casting of real Americans who had recently been laid-off to play the victims of George Clooney's "career transition" consultant. They brought an authenticity of emotion and experience to the story that was deeply touching. George Clooney's performance was nuanced and subtle, revealing ever-deepening layers to his character's personality as the film unfolded. Overall, the film provided a timely portrait of American life during the Great Recession while maintaining an engagingly moving emotional core. I was late in getting around to seeing it (Up In The Air was released in early December), but if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

On Sunday, I took the opportunity to check out the new Showplace ICON Theater recently opened in my neighborhood and to see Nine with my friend Mireya, who shares my appreciation for movie musicals. It took a considerable amount of time to find someone else who was undeterred by the film's largely negative reviews to go see it with me, but somehow I managed to squeak in under the wire before the film leaves theaters. Mireya, her sister (who came along) and I all left the theater feeling somewhat confused about the film. We agreed that we had neither disliked it or liked it particularly. I remained entertained throughout the entirety of the film without checking my watch (unlike Avatar) and I liked the costumes and the overall glamour of 1960s Italy captured in the film.

However, director Rob Marshall seems to have been overly influenced by his own work in his hugely successful screen adaptation of Chicago -- to counter the alledged bias of contemporary audiences against characters spontaneously bursting into song, Marshall uses imagination sequences and diagetic performance opportunites to incorporate the musical numbers. While this worked in Chicago, due to the stories implicit connection to the world of vaudeville, the formula did not work in Nine. Furthermore, because the songs are stemming from the main character's imagination in response to the story unfolding around him, the songs fail to acheive their intended story-telling purpose. Instead of driving the action of the film, the songs are reduced to a mere embellishment. Also working against the film is a weaker overall score than that of Chicago. Nine had two memorable musical numbers, "Be Italian," performed by Fergie, and "Cinema Italiano," performed by Kate Hudson. It is worth noting that "Cinema Italiano" doesn't even hail from the original musical, but rather is an original addition to the film (presumably to make it eligible for a "Best Original Song" Academy Award.) I thought the film was well cast -- at no point was I cringing during a musical number as I often found myself doing during Pierce Brosnan's performance in Mamma Mia. I'm glad I went to see it, given my allegiance to the musical genre in filmmaking, but I can't say I would recommend it to people with a more casual interest.

Hopefully, if everything goes to plan, you should be reading several more film reviews in the weeks to come: January and February are usually when I make a consolidated effort to see as many of the Academy Award-nominated films as possible (the ones that picque my interest anyway.) For those of you who were bored by my cookie-mania in December, perhaps the cinema will be more to your liking...


Simple Gifts...

"'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free."

When I was in elementary school, we learned the song "Simple Gifts" in music class under the tutelage of Mrs. Schnell, not only to perform vocally, but also on the recorders we were taught to play. I hadn't thought about that memory for quite some time, but it came to me today as I was contemplating some rather disconcerting news that I received from my friend Natasha.

Natasha, you see, has lupus, an auto-immune disease that goes through periods of remissions and periods of "flares" in which the disease's symptoms return and intensify. Natasha had been feeling under the weather since the holidays, with an escalating set of symptoms that grew to include full-body swelling over the weekend. On Monday, she was not at work, but she sent me a message that she might be going into the hospital. While she avoided hospitalization earlier in the week, she still had to undergo a battery of out-patient tests, resulting in a diagnosis of vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels), with kidney involvement. Tomorrow, Natasha is being admitted to the hospital to undergo chemotherapy with Cytoxan. Contrary to popular belief, chemotherapy is not just for cancer patients -- its immune-suppressing effects can also be used to treat lupus.

On the phone, while she was delivering her news, I was struck by how calm she was. After all, Natasha is used to being sick. She underwent chemo for her lupus when she was 17, has suffered multiple heart attacks due to the disease, and has even had a stem cell transplant that she credits with saving her life, all before the age of 30. So for Natasha to go to the hospital to begin chemotherapy, it is not as terrifying to her as it would be for say, somebody like me. If I were in her situation, I would be coming apart at the seams.

I would like to ask that any of you reading this keep Natasha in your thoughts, or, if you are so inclined, say a prayer for her. At the very least, take a moment to reflect upon the gift of good health that some of us are fortunate enough to enjoy. Being healthy gives us simple lives, in which we don't have to ponder outcomes like chemotherapy. We have the freedom to live without worrying about "flares" or recurrences of chronic illness. There are many people out there who aren't as fortunate. Nobody should have to get used to being sick. Hospitalizations shouldn't be routine for anyone. Those of us who are so lucky should be thankful for the gift of good health, and remember to be supportive to those who have not been blessed in the same way.


Bring In The New...

Collectively, we have entered a new decade this week, but personally, I have entered a new era of my own. Over the weekend, while I was visiting my parents, I took the opportunity to cash in on the last of my Christmas presents -- an iPhone.

Despite being a dedicated Mac enthusiast, I had resisted the iPhone for quite some time. For one thing, I was concerned that I would get one just in time for Apple to release a new version, which was what happened when I became an early adopter of the iPod. I had the second generation iPod, only to have the click-wheel generation be released a month or so later. Mostly, however, I was resistant to the additional $30 charge on my monthly AT&T bill for the iPhone data plan.With my salary, it was not an expense I could easily justify, especially considering the paltry volume of email I receive. I'm just not somebody who needs to be constantly in touch.

Still, the iPhone was undoubtedly appealing. It would be a godsend to have internet access on the go, and be able to stand at the bus stop and check the CTA's Bus Tracker system to find out how much longer I would have to wait. It would also be great to be able to check a map when I have a moment of panic en route to somewhere I've never been before (I have a huge irrational fear of getting lost). Plus, I would be able to consolidate my iPod and my phone, and carry just one device, which would help lighten the burden that I carry around on my shoulder all day. There would definitely be perks to having an iPhone.

So, after hemming and hawing for the past three years (I also pondered getting one when they first became available), and with my cellular plan up for renewal, my parents decided to intercede and give me an iPhone for Christmas, along with a one-time lump-sum payment to cover the additional expense of the data plan. Well, that is to say that they told me that they would go with me to the store and buy me one (they didn't actually go out and buy it, wrap it, and give it to me as a gift, since they didn't know which one I wanted.)

Since I was home over the weekend, we headed to Best Buy to seal the deal. I ended up with a swank 16GB iPhone 3GS (I couldn't foresee myself needing the 32GB version, considering the minute fraction of my iPod's storage capacity I actually utilize.) I came home, fitted it with an Invisible Shield screen protector (which was much more difficult to install than I had originally anticipated, but at least I managed to get it on without any air bubbles) and an Incase rubber skin, and was good to go.

I must say, the smartphone experience is pretty addicting. Having Bus Tracker at my fingertips is pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to my daily commute, short of getting rides to and from the office from family and friends. I downloaded a couple of fun games -- DoodleJump and Tetris, which have quickened the pace of the solitary lunches I have been eating this week while my friend Natasha is out sick. I'm sure that I'll find more apps to download when the need arises, but for now, I'm pretty pleased with my new device. Thanks Mom and Dad!



Sometimes you have to humor the ones you love, even if it involves a sacrifice of your time and energy that you would rather not make. Such dedication is an integral component of what it means to be family (or even true friends). So when Dad started mentioning several weeks ago that he wanted to see Avatar, I knew that eventually, I would have to humor him. The film did not seem like my cup of tea in any way: my interest in science fiction does not extend much beyond the Star Trek franchise, I dislike fantasy in general as a genre, I tend to avoid blockbuster action films in favor of well-acted dramas or escapist romantic comedies, and I actually somewhat dislike the contemporary over-reliance on special effects and computer generated material in general. But, because Dad wanted so much to see for himself what James Cameron managed to spend a reported 500 million dollars on, I sucked it up and went with him.

I wish I could say that I was pleasantly surprised, but I was not. Yes, the movie was visually stunning. The special effects are revolutionary. But if the entire appeal of the film is visual, I could have stood to be visually absorbed in the world of Pandora for about an hour less. If the plot, the characters, and the dialogue had been stronger, I might have better withstood the nearly three hour run time, but I found myself distracted by their ridiculousness instead, and was checking my watch after about the first hour.

Other than the technology used to create the film, Avatar offers nothing new. At no point, was I in doubt over what was going to happen next. It felt like somewhat of a pastiche of earlier films. For example, the helicopters raining down destruction from the sky on less technologically advanced natives felt very much like a Vietnam-era film to me, a perception that was heightened by the film's principle villain, who could have been the twin of Apocalypse Now's Lt. Col. Kilgore. I was almost waiting for him to make an utterance somewhere along the line of Kilgore's famous quote, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning... it smells like victory." Plus, Avatar's villain seemed almost entirely lacking in clearly-articulated motivation. Why was he so intent on slaughtering the Na'vi? Why the wholesale rejection of diplomacy? Just because he's a career military man? That seems a little too obvious. Clearly, that $500 million investment did not include decent scriptwriting. The controversial "shock-and-awe" campaign included in the film could very well be a metaphor for Avatar itself: the movie seeks to awe you and overload your senses with special effects so that you remain blind to the predictability and generic quality of the plot.

Furthermore, I found the movie entirely too preachy. If I wanted to spend three hours being beat over the head with a environmentalist, anti-capitalist, anti-corporate, anti-imperialist message, I would rather go see a Michael Moore documentary. At least he's unapologetic about his beliefs. It's somewhat difficult to buy the same message coming from Avatar, a major studio picture with a litany of corporate investors brought in to defray the film's massive production costs.

As we were leaving the theater, I couldn't help but draw a comparison between seeing Avatar for the first time, and re-watching Titanic (Cameron's last blockbuster) last year. When I first saw Titanic in middle school, my tastes were less sophisticated than they are now. I was taken with the glamor of the world that Cameron recreated in the film, and impressed with the special effects used to recreate the sinking of the ship. As an adult, I found myself laughing at the stilted dialogue and resultant poor acting, especially now that the technology that created Titanic's special effects is over a decade out of date. I hypothesize that if I had seen Avatar at an earlier time in my life, I might have enjoyed it more.

Such is my problem with movies that depend on computer-generated special effects -- they do not age well. Look at the "classic" films that have stood the test of time, like Casablanca or even The Godfather. Those films have very little in the way of special effects, but their engaging stories and superb acting are timeless. Will people reflect on Avatar in quite the same way 30, or 70 years from now? I think not.


Happy New Year...

Somehow, I have managed to reach adulthood without establishing any concrete New Year's Eve traditions. This could have something to do with the fact that I very seldom drink -- huge hotel bashes and raucous house parties have absolutely no appeal for me. As a child, New Year's Eves were spent quietly at home, watching the ball drop in New York on television, followed by the Chicago fireworks, while my parents imbibed the one alcoholic beverage a year that I ever saw them consume. As I got older, New Year's became a holiday that I typically spent with my friend Claudia, although our ideas of how the holiday should be celebrated became increasingly divergent as the years passed, and we eventually found new, separate ways to celebrate.

This year, my attempt to host a modest New Year's Eve gathering eventually morphed to attending a small party at the apartment of Lauren and her husband Clarence, which was blessedly nearby, considering the evening's sub-artic temperatures. We rang in 2010 with a formidable amount of food (for my part, I contributed chocolate meringue sandwich cookies (yes, more cookies, I surprised even myself) and homemade cheese crackers (baked in an effort to expand the utility of my new cookie press beyond just Christmas)), conversation, and a game of Taboo so distracting, we actually missed the clock turning past midnight. It was a very pleasant, low-key sort of night.

Which is, honestly, quite fine with me. I don't need the confetti, the noisemakers, and the champagne, just some friendly faces with whom to pass the time. If how you celebrate the start of the new year is in any way reflective of the year to come, I think one could do a lot worse than to be surrounded by friends.