Thursday, June 30, 2005

Before the movie started

“So, are you seeing this movie for the completely hopeless terror and the belief that we’re all doomed and there’s no escape?” I asked the young, beach-shorts-wearing man sitting next to me in the theater.
“No.”
“Oh. I am.”
Then I gave my theory, “I think the reason people want to see another version of War of the Worlds now is that it’s all about giving into total, raw fear. I think we’re so tired of trying to restrain our panic and stay reasonable and not let fear take over that it’s appealing to just let the terror go and just be like, ‘Everybody, it’s time to panic! Run! They’re after us! Yes, it IS that bad! Ru-u-un!’. It’s just a total giving in to our worst fears and we're ready for it. I know I am.”

War of the Worlds movie review

(I'm sorry, I don't know why these links aren't working and it's too late for me to figure it out. I'll work on it tomorrow.)

Okay, sure, I mostly agree with Dominic Corry’s (of www.tvnz.co.nz ) review of War of the Worlds . He writes that the movie is, for Spielberg “a smashing (or should that be globally destructing) return to form” and that “[t]here is arguably no working director better attuned to manipulating an audience with populist cinema, and he puts those skills to extremely effective use here.” And I’d go along with the Variety (you must register) review as well which calls the film, “a gritty, intense and supremely accomplished sci-fier .” The Village Voice has an interesting take on the parallels between Tom Cruise’s Scientology and the characteristics of H.G. Wells’ alien invaders. But Spielberg’s movie is mainly being praised as an action film, “a heck of a good time” while I saw a huge, two-hour allegory of what it’s like to be invaded, occupied and hunted.

My body had a nausea reaction not just to the camera angles and action shots, but the relentless fear and bloodbath horror that doesn’t stop for two solid hours as Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin run from these things they have no way to comprehend or defend against. At moments the film’s fleeing civilians even reminded me of our own beseiged troops in the Middle East. In Cruise’s desperate run from his first encounter with the aliens, I saw the terror of our soldiers in Iraq, hopelessly surrounded by enemy fire and slaughtered American bodies.
But for me, the film’s screaming masses of people being surrounded and systematically picked off mainly represent the people of any number of countries where people are being hunted and destroyed by invaders, a domestic enemy force, their own government or us, the American military.

Spielberg makes me care about this small family determined to survive an increasingly hopeless (and I mean, HOPELESS) situation. Spielberg expertly draws our attention to the tragedy of watching this little girl slowly go crazy with fear, while we never lose sight of the global scale on which this extermination is taking place. Yes, the film succeeds at all of that emotional plotline stuff, but my horror in watching an entire people being wiped out was framed by the knowledge that entire peoples are being wiped out every day, all around the world.

In one scene, Cruise emerges from a basement to a stunning landscape of houses laid to waste. One moment it was another suburban neighborhood and in the next it was a expanse of fragmented buildings, twisted pipes and decimated lives. In Cruise’s stumbling disbelief I saw the stunned horror of families as they survey what used to be their homes after a Coalition attack. In the agonizingly prolonged “hide-and-seek” scene in which Cruise and family quiveringly dodge an alien-explorer-camera-thing, I was reminded of the horror of Iraqi civilian families whose homes are invaded in the night as American troops seek out the husband or son or brother they believe has links to insurgents. Spielberg's War of the Worlds conveyed more effectively than any news article or documentary the incomprehensible horror of sadistic regimes and invaders that are bent on extermination and control. It made me as physically ill as we should all be as we realize the tactics our own government uses on “enemies” and our own citizens alike.

Apparently, Spielberg’s movie invoked only a few such associations for Corry. He writes, “There are several allusions made to the 1953 film, and a surprising number of allegorical moments relating to 9/11. But War of the Worlds succeeds primarily as a 'ride' film." Why does Corry only touch on possible political subtexts? Are those really the only links to the state of the world that he saw in this film? The whole $*^@-ing world is either destroying, being destroyed or doing nothing while other countries are being destroyed, and Corry and way too many other reviewers see this 2005 Iraq wartime version of War of the Worlds as primarily a fun "ride?"

Garth Franklin of www.darkhorizons.com gives a very well-written and thoughtful review of War of the Worlds as a film that is “Better directed than 'Sith', more of a punch to the gut than ‘Sin City,’ and [has] a better grip on its core material than Batman’ - it's the Spielberg of old, simple but smart entertainment.” But Franklin also insists “[t]here's no attempts at humour, patriotic speeches, pontificating or politics.” I’m surprised at how disappointed I am that the discussion of Spielberg’s movie is, so far, so confined to its genre. Spielberg himself said in a Newsweek interview, “[H.G.] Wells’s book was a political statement about the invasion of British colonialism. Orson Welles did his radio show several years before America was drawn into World War II. The Pal [original War of the Worlds] movie came out during the cold war, when we were afraid of being annihilated by nuclear weapons. And this movie, my version, comes out in the shadow of 9/11.” It’s true that that’s all Spielberg says, and he has one character initially cry out, “Is it the terrorists?” but come on, people, have we no ability to use a slightly wider scope and see how this movie could be about us?

I just stepped out of the theater two and a half hours ago and I think the nausea is finally gone. Note to “Highly Sensitive Persons” like myself: this film is an emotionally rough ride. It’s basically one long action hold-your-breath sequence with few breaks. See it with someone whose hand you can hold and who won’t mind waiting for you to snap out of it after the credits roll. I left the 118-minute movie in a daze and had to sit and sip water for several minutes before I was ready to walk out of the theater.

I’m left wondering if anyone saw the same things I saw in the movie and I’m hoping to find such discussions of Spielberg’s film as more see it. Please send me any links to other reviews that weren’t afraid to see our- (American) -selves in this mirror.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Turn off AC, lose weight?

I have a friend who might not want me to mention her name (Ceece) with whom I was discussing weight gain and loss. She was talking about our tendency to eat less when it's very hot. I've noticed I tend to crave more salads and fresh fruit when the temp is up in the summer and I can get away with eating less without my body responding with hunger. She has noticed the same thing. We considered the possible evolutionary advantage that this might indicate: maybe the human body more willingly loses weight in hot weather because it needs less fat in order to stay cool. My friend (Ceece) further speculated that maybe we could use this to advantage by turning off our air conditioners and seeing if our bodies indeed shed extra fat more easily in a natural effort to slim down and stay cool.

I'm in. We decided that working in an air conditioned environment is okay, as is being in air conditioning when we don't have much choice (at the supermarket, on the train, etc.), but at home we would do our best to get along with fans and open windows. Will consistent heat diminish our hunger and release pounds? We'll see.

Comments? Are we deluded? Are we full of it? Even if our theory is true, will we gain it all back as soon as the Chicago temperatures plummet in winter?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Yes, It Is a Big Fat Deal

I just have to draw some more attention to this blog, Big Fat Deal. I think I first linked it to mine about a year ago and it's just one of the best uses of a blog that I've seen. It's creator, Mopie ("more pie"), draws our attention to:

- ignorant, rude and often sexist remarks about weightgain/weightloss and people who are overweight (particularly irritating when such comments come from nuritionists, health experts and others who should know better).

- ignorant and rude comments made by celebrities who are fat-paranoid.

- positive, EVERYbody-empowering views and actions that celebrate big bodies.

- information on weightloss (both encouraging and discouraging).

- an ongoing discussion of weight, fitness and body-image issues.

And Big Fat Deal generally serves as a place I can go to feel better about my body and fitness problems because the comments people make remind me of that many women struggle with the same body-issues I do. In fact, I believe almost all American women struggle with the same body issues, whether we're fat OR thin.

So yay, Mopie! If you've already seen this website, see it again. And tell her I sent you.

P.S. I will be at the Uncommon Ground open mic night tonight at 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Guitarist Wanted

I might as well run it here, too:

Seeking guitarist for collaboration/performance. I sing, write songs, play electric bass. Acoustic, lyric-driven, alt pop. Let’s be unique and melodically irresistable. Listen to my sound at http://www.purevolume.com/reginarodriguez.

Open Mic Tonight (really)

I will be at the Red Line Tap open mic tonight which starts at about 10:00 p.m. I've got to start singing again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I think terribly about myself

One friend read my previous post and the responses to it and pointed out to me the folllowing: if I HAD gotten married and divorced, I would now be beating myself up because I'd FAILED at marriage and it wouldn't matter if the entire dating world saw me as a step above never-marrieds (because as a divorced person I'd have demonstrated committment), I'D still know that I was a failure. And I'd be seeing never-marrieds as the longed-for category because I'd be convinced that my divorced brethren were failures just like me, only they didn't realize it.

It all comes down to how terribly I think about myself. No matter what happens or doesn't happen in my life, I'm convinced that I'm a failure because I have a deep, inherent, flaw that can never be changed and that's why things have happened (or not happened) as they have (or haven't). And THAT'S the real flaw.

I am always with "We're doomed," and "We're all screwed," and "Why hasn't the human race died out yet?" I'm the worst of Eyore and Mr. Smith and Harry Burns. I'm the half-mad spinster in the attic, a wailing barren Llorona, a wistful corpse, painfully gazing from the wrong end of way too long a life. Jesus on a stick.

It's the way I think, the way I think, the way I think, the way I think, the way I think that's the problem. I'M my own problem and that's the problem, too. Recognizing what the problem is does NOT get you halfway to fixing it. It just gets you to recognizing what the problem is. I know it's possible to recognize what the problem is for years, for decades. You can rot your life from the inside out recognizing what the problem is, just as surely as you can die waiting for the Clark Street bus (it runs about twice a week, $*!&-ing Clark Street bus).

I'm the wrong flavor and thinking THAT is the problem. Writing it is the problem. Revelling in being my own problem is the problem. I can ring it like a bad Edgar Allen Poe rhyme or I can sugar it o'er like the worst of Gerard Manly Hopkins, but this train of thought is the problem. I can't let go I can't let go I can't let go I can't let go I can't let go I won't let go I won't let go I won't let go I won't let go.

I hate this thing, this hatred that lives inside me that hates myself and what I came from. My mother beat it and screamed it into place but it was planted even before her father first raised his fist to his wife, my grandmother who was a battered wife. This hatred was in place before that wife-batterer first took a stick to his first kid, my aunt. Nine children he beat, for years and years so badly that my aunt once told my grandmother that she should call the police but this was in Texas in the 1950's when Mexicans didn't call the police for anything so my grandmother never called.

Mental illness doesn't run in everyone's family, physical abuse doesn't run in everyone's family, rank barnacled-on unhappiness so that any movement towards sunlight is killed before it's considered doesn't run in everyone's family. I learned not to expect anything really good to happen to my family, to me. I saw my mother's unhappiness and she saw her mother's unhappiness and that unhappiness has been my inheritance.

I hate the hatred and that's the surest way to hold on to it. I believe in my own disease. I don't know how to get out from under it. I don't know I don't know I don't know I don't know I don't know I don't know.

The only man I'm dating right now is the only person I know who has no computer at all and little interest in reading this blog even though I've tried to show it to him and I don't know if that's good or bad. But I've told him all of this and more and still he doesn't believe I'm a bad horse to bet on. His world is so much better than mine but I don't know how to step into it.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Commitment

A friend recently pointed out that people who date, even for years and years, never really get to know each other until after they get married. That is, there's a level of intimacy and information people won't discover about each other unless they are actually legally married. He also said that people who live together, even for years and years, also never get to know each other at a certain level of intimacy unless they marry.

The second point intrigued me because I thought living together very closely approximated being married. Keep in mind that I never lose sight of my complete ignorance when it come to marriage/living together/being in a committed relationship because I have NO experience with any of it and my stance to any of it is strictly as an outsider trying to figure out the code to a lock that's inside a building that's in another state. But still, I thought you'd find out whether he squeezes the toothpaste from the end or the middle whether you were married or just living together.

It turns out, there's an entire behavior shift that happens when you are married, shackled, chained to another human being, presumably for the rest of your life. Apparently, this behavior shift causes changes in viewpoint, emotional reaction, purchasing decisions, maybe even nutritional choices. When you are married it all changes in a way that it doesn't change when you're not married, even if you live together for the rest of your lives.

Another friend then reminded me that to get married is to make a huge commitment, a bigger commitment than any other imaginable (except, I guess, for parenthood). This friend reminded me of the huge capacity for commitment and responsibility that is required in order to get married. And this reminded me of the way divorced people are seen as better than never-married people like me.

I'll be 39 in a month and I have never been capable of making the huge commitment of getting married. Millions of people much younger than I am make this commitment all the time and my only sibling, my sister, was married by the age of 22. I am almost 40 and have never been capable of it. I apparently lack the commitment, the responsibility, the maturity, etc. No wonder I'm considered a bad dating risk.

I once spoke to a guy on the phone who had contacted me through the Reader Matches website. He was a 43-year-old Latino who had never been married, but he cut our conversation short when he discovered that I'd never been married or lived with anyone. You see, he had lived with a woman for about five years and that demonstrated his ability to open up his life enough to include another person. I had not demonstrated this ability. He said people my age (our age, I guess) who had never lived with someone else tended to have trouble opening up our lives in that way. So we hung up. Yeah.

I'm a bad dating risk, a bad horse to bet on. For whatever reason(s), I have remained stunted in my development towards becoming a mature and responsible adult who is capable of making the commitment to marriage. Why are most people capable of this early in life, while others of us age and bend without ever getting anywhere near it?

By the way, I've all but abandonded my plan to follow Steve's plan for how to get yourself married. Following those rules will land me a guy who wants to marry me, but it won't necessarily get me a guy I like. Also I've realized - with relief AND self-disgust - that I don't have a lot of interest in being married these days. But here's the one way I am still following Steve's advice: I've been dating one guy for weeks, but am delaying the could-he-be-my-boyfriend decision until the end of the summer while I continue to date others. No point in rushing into anything that will just end in another crash and burn.

Slowing Down

I don't know what the situation is with other bloggers, but I've discovered what it is that motivates me to maintain this blog: unhappiness. Mostly pain, confusion and discontentment have driven my postings as I've used this website as a vehicle for my questions about life and why I do it so badly. I can now discern this because I've posted just three times all month and that dearth of writing is the result of me having other things to do that make me feel happy.

It's not just that I've been too busy to blog. I have been busy, but I've also had free time, but each time I've considered blogging, I've felt a lack of that old need, that emptiness that causes my desire to connect with another human being. Is it gone for good? (I'm sure it's not.) Will it come back? (It's certain.) Can I find other motivations to blog? (Probably.) I hope so because I do enjoy it.

Right now I envy bloggers who are driven by discontent with our country's political situation, desire to bring truth to light or plain old monetary need/greed. Their motivators are undoubtedly steadier than mine, although I would have bet that my unhappiness was as certain as gravity. And it was for 23 years.

Monday, June 13, 2005

10 Things I Have Never Done

Okay, apparently there's this interblog game going of tag. When you're tagged you have to write a list of 10 things you've never done (as far as I can figure). I've been tagged by Barb. Okay, I'll play.

10 Things I Have NEVER Done

1. Been married. Sorry, just had to get that one out of the way.
2. Been pregnant, even for a trimester.
3. Been convicted of a felony.
4. Had a bank balance of more than $3,000.
5. Since I've been an adult, stayed dry-eyed through the end of the original, animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
6. Stayed at a job for more than three and a half years.
7. Used my international passport.
8. Regretted leaving the PhD program at Cornell in 1992 when I was "ABD" (completed all work except the dissertation).
9. Answered the question "Do you speak Spanish?" with a "Yes."
10. Been piss-drunk.

Oh, and uh, I tag Jackie.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Judy Rodríguez on San Diego

If you or anyone you know is thinking of moving to San Diego, California here's my advice: don't do it. Why? My sister, Judy, has lived there for 15 years and here's what she has to say:

Lots of San Diegans are looking for less costly places to live. It's gotten more and more ridiculous here each year, prices for everything are so much higher than the rest of the country. When my doctor friend told me that HER doctor friend is moving to Utah so she can pay less of her earnings to her California mortgage, you know it's gotten bad.

Unfortunately, salaries have not kept up with the housing prices by a long shot and the only jobs available in San Diego are for biochemical folks, computer folks, doctors and attorneys. This year, for those who do not yet own homes, they need to show a six-digit income in order to even QUALIFY for a loan at current home prices. The median home is currently over $500,000 and you should see the ridiculous state of those half-million-dollar homes. Nothing at all like the beautiful, new homes I toured in Katy, Texas last summer for a fraction of that cost. Californians do not have the reputation of being "nuts" for nothing. The properties out here are certainly not worth the inflated prices. The weather is NOT worth that much of a person's earnings.

And have you heard that our city was told to file for bankruptcy? That is the biggest irony of all: that we pay so much for housing yet San Diego is in the red by billions. Our mayor resigned, finally, over the fraudulent happenings at city hall. There are lots of investigations and litigations going on. He was in an issue of TIME magazine as one of the nation's worst mayors.

And our newscasts keep anesthetizing us with the latest baby animals born at the San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park in "America's finest city." My good friend Robert (who recently relocated to Arizona) and I joke about San Diego's "stepford-like" newscasts -- mostly fluff news trying to pump us up with the beaches, weather, zoo, how cold it is in OTHER states, while sidestepping the elephant in the middle of the room regarding the fiscal state and housing emergency in our "finest city." It's so transparent, but people here are so busy working 50-hour weeks, they don't have time to dissect the state of affairs here. Robert and I, both being underemployed for a so long, have had lots of time for such intellectual, reality-based discussions. Anyway, I am trying to be patient with the sale of my home.


So there it is: a clear critique of one city I hear traveling Chicagoans praise quite regularly. My sister is in the process of getting out of San Diego and should be moving to Texas within the year. Yes, San Diego might be nice to visit, but it doesn't need any more residents.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Arthur Andersen: Not like a black fly in your chardonnay

Alanis Morissette's song "Ironic" has been criticized for lyrics that don't describe irony so much as situations that just suck. True irony is a situation that isn't necessarily bad and could even be good, but that does have an unexpected, bizarre kind of twist. The overturning of the Arthur Andersen conviction is a better example of irony, but I'm not going to write that song.

As I've blogged before, I was at Arthur Andersen when it went under. My 14-month job there seems increasingly Gump-like as I get farther from it, but working as a secretary in the audit department was actually one of the best jobs I've ever had. I loved my job and -- get this -- I looked forward to Monday mornings. Have I ever felt that way about another job? No. It's damn rare and it's another of the great suckinesses of my life that I had planned to stay at Andersen for a good long time when it went under. Just went out of business. Poof.

Here's what happened:

Once upon a time, an established, “gold standard” accounting firm took on a very impressive and growing company called Enron. In order to keep its stock price high, Enron lied to its shareholders and Arthur Andersen, the auditor of Enron's financial books, never spoke up about it. When the Enron shit hit the fan in December, 2001, Andersen knew it was going to have to account (yes) for its role. So it started shredding documents related to its audit of Enron. Shredding, shredding, shredding, day and night until the U.S. government asked Andersen for documents related to its audit of Enron. That's when the shredding stopped. Eventually the U.S. government found out about the shredding and indicted (which means "accused") Andersen of obstructing justice. The U.S. Department of Justice handed down that indictment on Thursday, March 11, 2002. By mid-April most of Andersen's clients had fled and Andersen had begun laying off thousands of employees, including me. In about a month, Arthur Andersen went from being one of the Big Five accounting firms, employing 85,000 employees globally, to being effectively dead in the water. At the end of the summer it ceased to function as an accounting firm. Their once impressive and extensive website, is now reduced to this: www.arthurandersen.com. Tumbleweeds now blow in the deserted halls and conference rooms.

You know what? I DON'T NEED TO HEAR THIS, PEOPLE. As a former Andersen employee who was heartbroken to lose my favorite job at the same time that I learned my company had acted like unethical (but still legal) slimeballs, I don't need to hear that the Supreme Court has now thrown out the 2002 conviction (that followed the death of the company); we are now free to resume business as usual. First of all, Andersen was far from innocent of unethical behaviors that should have been illegal. Secondly, it gives me no joy, no satisfaction and no comfort to know that pesky accusation of obstruction of justice that sank our livelihoods has now been swept clear from the record. We employees needed that to happen during that one critical week of March 11, 2002 when the indictment was first handed down. Maybe Andersen could have survived even if it had happened during that second critical week, but by the end of the month our story was written and the ending sealed so thanks a lot, Wheels of Justice.

That's enough memory lane for me. Between remembering how sad it was to leave my desk for the last time and the lesson that corporate America really can't be trusted, I don't need the details of how the Supreme Court vindicated Arthur Andersen. Hanging's too good for most of the top players in the Enron mess (including David Duncan, the Andersen auditor in charge of the Enron account), and I'll never have that job again. Morissette wrote her song a decade too soon.