Tuesday, July 31, 2007

People named Nicki rule

I completely forgot to mention that I went and saw “The Designated Mourner” on Friday night, which was put on by the Right Brain Project, the same company I did “The Castle” with. This play was written by Wallace Shawn (if I say “Vizzini from Princess Bride,” you know who he is) and I was not expecting it to be as dark as it was. Basically it was a discussion about what is more appropriate—to like “highbrow” entertainments like art and poetry, or “lowbrow” arts like adult magazines and crappy food. The whole play was structured in this sort of futuristic world where the people who enjoyed the highbrow arts—and, by extension thinking—were slowly being jailed or killed by the government. It was a very intense piece, and I enjoyed it a lot. This is the first theatre I’ve seen in awhile, and it was refreshing to go see a piece that was engaging, but also made you think. A lot. Although I could also sympathise with the character who was defending his choices to watch television and read glossy magazines. I’ve been debating about buying a TV, but I don’t know if I’m ready to make that kind of a commitment.

Then on Sunday afternoon I went to the Chicago Botanical Gardens to see an exhibit of Niki de Saint Phalle’s sculptures. Niki is a French/American sculptures who makes this large artforms out of fiberglass and then paints them or covers them in semi-precious jewels, mirrors, pieces of shiny materials and beads, so the result is a sort of three-dimensional mosaic. I loved them. They were so bright and so colourful and so damn JOYOUS that it made me happy just to see them. Most of the pieces you could touch and climb on as well, which is always exciting—in addition to the visual stimuli you could feel the roughness, the heat, tactile senses we don’t always get in an art gallery. (as much as I love Turner I have yet to pet one of his paintings) Add to the fact that most of her women are large and curvy, and I felt like here was an artist that I could really get into. The location added a lot as well—the Chicago Botanical Gardens were a civic-minded project from the 1920s, and the sculptures were scattered all over the grounds, leading you on a sort of treasure hunt, the foliage and artwork complementing each other totally. Whoever curated this exhibition deserves a medal—because this is one of the best art shows I’ve ever been to. And only $5?! And—you are welcome to bring a picnic lunch and eat on their lawns. Heaven.

Then last night I went to see the movie “Hairspray” which is fantastic. I will make one sweeping statement though: I don’t know why movie directors feel the need to chop up musicals to fit into some kind of artificial movie style. Musicals have two acts, they end on a big number, and they come back with a big number, they’re balanced. Movie directors! Don’t be afraid of the intermission! Embrace it!

Okay, having said that. “Hairspray” the new movie-musical is a lot of fun to go and see. I think the director made a lot of interesting choices, especially the big choice to tone everything down a notch. All the sets and costumes is pretty realistic—well, as realistic as you’re going to get in a movie where people spontaneously burst into song. The hair, of course, is still mile high. What really impressed me the most was the woman who played Tracy Turnblad, Nikki Blonsky. Smoother heads than mine have said how amazing she was, but I was skeptical until I saw the movie and was absolutely blown away. I mean, I want to write a musical just so I can hear her sing some more. She was incredible! And the man who played her love interest, Zac Effron, was great too. He’s going to get overlooked because they took away his one big song, but he had his character down, with all the little self-confident asides that make his transformation from snarky asshole into the genuine nice person we know he is more believeable.

That was a really long sentence. I’m sorry.

The character I had the most problem with was Edna Turnblad, played by John Travolta. Partly because the entire time he was acting I was distracted by his accent, which was part Ed Sullivan, part “that one time John Travolta made a cameo on the second Austin Powers Movie.” (tell me I’m wrong! It’s so true!) But the other reason I had a problem with it was the aforementioned hacking up the script. Now, the musical’s first act ends with Tracy going to a dance party in the black part of town, hosted by Motormouth Mama Mabel, and being discovered by her parents. The party has decided to march on the TV studios to forcibly integrate the Corny Collins dance show, and they are trying to convince Edna to go along with it. Edna does not want to because she is still self-conscious about her weight—so Mabel sings this ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT SONG about being “big, blond and beautiful” which not only convinces Edna that she’s got it in all the right places, but she shouldn’t apologise for who she is—and that she shouldn’t hide herself under a bushel. Needless to say, Edna marches.

What the movie does is take this song and turn it into an introduction to Mabel—silly, since we’ve met her earlier. Now she is singing it while the kids dance, but it makes no sense! Who is she explaining her empowerment to? All these skinny little teenagers? I don’t think so. The worst part is Edna is about to take Tracy away when Mabel says “Don’t you want to stay and…have something to eat?” sweeping her arm back and revealing a table full of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and collard greens. (Stereotypical, perhaps, but this is pretty damn tongue-in-cheek) So Edna, instead of being swayed by Mabel’s argument, is instead coaxed along with FOOD. Because all fat people go weak-kneed at the sight of a plate of fried chicken. Sigh. I was just really appalled at how they gutted this song—and made Mabel’s character much less of a presence. Not only that, but Edna continues to have self-esteem issues because she’s never been properly talked to about her appearance.

“So bring on that pecan pie!
Pour some sugar on it, sugar, don’t be shy
Keep it in my oven ‘til it’s good and hot—
Keep on stirring ‘til it hits the spot!

Because I’m big, blond—and beautiful
There is nothing ‘bout me that’s unsuitable,
Why settle for something that only offers the least,
When girl we’re servin’ up the whole damn feast.”

When I listened to the song this morning I thought maybe they cut it a bit because it is pretty naughty, and the movie is rated PG, but I’m still mad that they chose to focus so much on the integration issue and push the other issues to the side.

I feel like I’ve been really negative about this movie—but I really did enjoy it! Even the analyzing it part! I was applauding after the final scene and singing the songs all the way home, and I’m looking forward to buying the album. If you go see the movie, keep your eyes peeled for John Waters’ cameo as a flasher in the first song—he was the director of the original film—and also Alison Janney’s performance as the repressive mother of Tracy’s best friend. Apparently having her daughter start dating an African-American affected her so much she later became the press secretary to a Democratic president.

“Like a week that’s only Mondays
Only ice-cream, never sundaes,
Like a circle with no center,
Like a door marked ‘Do Not Enter!’

I’ll be yours forever, ‘cause I never wanna be
Without love, so darlin’ throw away the key.”

Sunday, July 29, 2007

something old, something new....

When I went home for the wedding last week, I brought back a stack of Queen CDs, intending to put them on my iPod--imagine my distress then when I opened the (empty) cases, and remembered years ago that I had put all the Cds into my "Star Wars" CD sleeve for easy carrying. Durr. The only CD that actually made it down was Freddie Mercury's "Mr. Bad Guy" which is apparently dedicated to my roommate. ("This album is dedicated to cat lovers everywhere. SCREW EVERYONE ELSE." Aw, Freddie.) The only reason I wanted this CD is for the last song that is for breakup artists everywhere:

"So tonight just love me like there's no tomorrow
Hold me in your arms/tell me you mean it.
This is our last good-bye,
And very soon it will be over.
So today just love me like there's no tomorrow."


I also brought my bike down (thanks, Dad!) and yesterday I biked up to Evanston which is probably about ten ass-numbing miles north of here. I love Evanston. It's so pretty with the old houses and the private beaches. I'm still nervous about left-turns in the city, but I'm getting the hang of it--now if I can just increase my speed enough to keep up with the fancy racers that keep passing me, I'll be happy.

And then, after I got back yesterday, my roommate and I went shopping at the Brown Elephant, which is the bst thriftstore ever. It's this huge old dancehall full of clothes and furniture and home furnishings--when hipsters clean house, this is where they send stuff, which is why I own clothes from Old Navy and mugs from Crate & Barrel. I was looking for something I could keep my (rapidly dwindling) supply of 1886 tea in, and I ended up buying a cruet in the shape of the Eiffel Tower and a desk. Whoo! I was so excited when I saw this desk--it is exactly the style I want my future home to be decorated in. Of course, it matches absolutely NOTHING else in my life right now (did they even have Aerobeds in the Late Empire period?) but it's wide enough I can put my books along the back and get them off the ground, and finally my statue of "the David" doesn't look ridiculous because he's standing demurely on a piece of real furniture. Whoo. Now all that remains is to sit down and WRITE SOMETHING.

Friday, July 27, 2007


I finished book 7 last night! Now I'm very emotional! But I won't say anymore than that! Squee! Finish it, someone, so we can chat! Squee!

This is interesting...apparently a new study finds that if you are friends with people who are fat, you are more likely to be fat. I guess this could be true: after all I gained a bunch of weight my senior year in college, while living with my friends, but that could have more to do with the fact our plans usually included Ben & Jerry's...speaking of which, I need to try this Americone Dream pretty soon.

It's also a good week to be me, culturally-speaking. Book 7 is out (and now having read it, I can read all the interviews with JKR), and Hairspray the movie has been released. I want to see Hairspray so badly I can taste it. Mmm. Hairspray. You know what musical I'd like to see made into a movie? Sunset Boulevard. Think about it. If there was one movie that would benefit from some lavish sets and sun-drenched locations, it's Sunset Boulevard. We'll get the guy who was Raoul in the Phantom movie to sing it--but Joel Schumacher, you are BARRED FROM THE SET! I also realised today that I never "found out" who was going to play Motormouth Mabel in the movie...I always assumed it would be Queen Latifah. Well. Yeah. Who ELSE are you going to get to do it? Please. I am however, on the fence about John Travolta as Edna Turnblad. I don't care if he's a draw (not drawing me though--uh uh, firmly on the fence!) who made the decision to not pursue Harvey Fierstein on bended knee? Seriously. I would have thought it was obvious. Oh well--hopefully I'll have a review soon.

Meanwhile, I've noticed lately that people seem unable to genuinely enjoy anything anymore. All the reviews I've read have had this disaffected ironic hipster tone like "eh, I GUESS I'll deign to see this movie," and some (like the Onion's "Hate Mail" column) start out openly hostile and work their way up from there. Or they are quick to put movies in their place: "If you're a Transformers fan..." "If you're a Simpsons fan..." So, apparently these movie studios are paying billions of dollars for a devoted knot of fanboys? I don't think so. Maybe the problem is there is too much entertainment that's being recycled (see: Hairspray), and not enough new stories. But what happened to just enjoying something for the hell of it? Even the recent hype over Harry Potter was disappointing. All these columnists looking on fondly while the rest of the world went nuts. Granted, as a fan, I might not have been able to write the most cohesive column ("OMG, teh book--?! And then the-house elves?!?!?!?!! TONKS??? waaaahrrr?11@!")but surely there must be people out there who ENJOY the things they're reviewing and are brave enough to say "Screw you cool hipster ironic people with your skinny jeans and your eyeliner, I am going to Harry Potter, I am going to wear a costume and when the Warner Bros. logo shows up I am going to APPLAUD, damnit!"

And then I'm going to bark about how mediocre it was. Ah well--so it goes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I thought I should update, since people are going to stop reading this pretty soon otherwise. I wanted to write about Harry Potter, but I know not everyone has read it yet. I’m about a hundred pages from the end—which will probably be reached tonight. I can’t wait to find out what happens.

I will just say this though—J.K. Rowling isn’t kidding around when she says they’re growing up. One of the characters says, “this effing book…” at one point, and I nearly hit the roof thinking “omygosh, they’re SWEARING!” since “effing” is sort of the British equivalent of “frickin’” and we all know what that means.

So that got me thinking about the Harry Potter Phenomena in general, and, more specifically, my place in it. And I thought I would share with all of you, loyal readers, how I came to know and love the Boy Who Lived.

I started reading the books back around Christmas in 1998. The first three books had just been released in hardcover by Scholastic, and they were flying off the shelves at the bookstore where I was working. Literally. Could not keep them in stock. You weren’t reading about them in the papers yet, but frazzled parents were calling at all hours, asking for the “Harry Potter books” –and not just the first one either. They would come in and drop seventy five dollars for three books without blinking. After Christmas things slowed down a bit, and I was stationed in the calendar kiosk out in the mall. Who buys a calendar after the New Year? No one, apparently, so the store let me read at night, when things were slow. I decided to find out what all the fuss was about. I remember being about halfway through “Chamber of Secrets” (that’s #2) when I was interrupted by a mom returning her calendar. The little kid with her stopped in his tracks when he saw the book I was holding, and said, eyes as wide as Dobby’s: “You’re reading Harry Potter?” That was when I began to suspect I had joined a secret club.

The books were good, but not amazing. They were entertaining, but I felt no real kinship with them. Two years later, in 2000, I was working up in Door County, alongside some girls from Russia, who wanted to go shopping. Naturally, the only place I could think of was the mall in Ashwaybenon. Being Russian, they were a great deal smaller than me, so I spent a lot of time forlornly perched on a bench, waiting for them to exhaust Old Navy. I had seen a sign in a bookstore in DC warning “Muggles Beware!” so I was sort of vaguely aware that the fourth book had arrived, but it never occurred to me to buy it ($28 is a lot of money for a book!) until I wandered into Waldenbooks and started reading the first chapter. I was hooked. Something had happened in the intervening years, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Harry. I bought the book and finished it off that night after one marathon seven-hour reading session.

Then came the Long Dry Spell that all HP fans will know and shudder at in remembrance. JK Rowling had been churning out a book a year and now, with the book’s popularity ensured, she had demanded a break from her publisher. Three years. THREE YEARS went by before we even got a whiff of a title. Three years of waiting, wondering what was going on. I discovered mugglenet.com for the first time—I discovered that other people my age read these books. Conversations began about the motivations and analysis of characters. Meanwhile, the rest of the world caught on the Harry Potter, so when “Phoenix” finally was released, the hoorah was unbelieveable. I was a little put off by all the fair-weather fans, but, eh, the more the merrier. Barnes and Nobles had finally opened a store in Ashwaubs, and they were hosting a midnight party. I didn’t go—I was working at the mill that summer, and had to get up at 4:00AM—but I did get up for a couple hours so I could buy the book soon after it went on sale. That’s the only time I ever dressed up, and the only time I went to a midnight party.

The sixth book came out the summer before I left for London. I bought it the day it came out—sensibly, walking into the store the next morning—and devoured it in a couple days. “Half-Blood Prince” is the book I feel the least connected to: I was separated from it for a long time, and have only read it once. The best part about this book’s release was that I had *finally* managed to convince most of my friends that HP was a series worth reading, and could finally call up a large group of educated, well-read adults and go “squee! Didja finish it yet?!”

And now book 7 is here. I feel a little sad that it’s all over—well, almost over, I haven’t finished it yet—but the waiting, the watching, all the anticipation is done with. I walked into the bookstore here and picked up a copy as natural as anything, and was sad that I would never get the thrill of counting down the days yet. Harry has been like a little fictional brother that I’ve gotten to watch growing up, and now he’s an adult. (Much like watching Daniel Radcliffe grow up…meow!) I haven’t been a fan from the very earliest days, but I have been there since the beginning of the story in the US, and I still feel a little proprietary when I see the giggling teenagers in their lame store-bought Gryffindor scarves. (Hufflepuff House rulz!) These books (1 American paperback, three American hardcovers, 6 Britsh paperbacks, 1 British hardcover and 1 Latin hardcover—and yes, that adds up to more than 7 books in a series) will have a place of pride on my bookshelf for years, next to the Little House books that have been battered about for so long, or my collection of plays or even my collection of books on Nelson (wait—when did I start collecting books about Nelson?). The stories, the books have been intertwined with my own life, so that it will be hard to describe them without including where I was in my life as well at that time.

Here’s to you, Harry, for being such a prominent fixture. Cheers.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

best. wedding. evar.

News at six. xx Nicki

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Big Event (no, it's not Harry Potter Eve Day)

The foolish Chicago Tribune said that while the buildup to the movie has been huge, there hasn't been much of an uproar over new book.

Oh, foolish, foolish Chicago Tribune. It is obvious whoever wrote this that they have not been slavishly checking Mugglenet every five minutes, or whispering conspiratorially with their fellow Hufflepuffs. I haven't read a thing all week, because I don't want to hear ANYTHING that might constitute a spoiler (like the item you mentioned so carelessly, CHICAGO TRIBUNE!!!). I can't think about it, I don't want it to be the end--I'm afraid I might burst into flames with anticipation. One of the people I work with is married to a librarian, and he casually mentioned today that his wife's library has received their copies, so she's actually held one in her hands and (I quote) "petted it a little." I don't think he was expecting me to hit the ceiling out of excitement. Nor did he think I was serious when I asked him if she could possibly scan the first page and email it to me. Just the first page. The first sentence. Just the picture on the first page. Just the dedication. That's when he started edging away slowly, without making eye contact.

That's actually not what I'm writing about today. I'm also leaving at 4:30 so I can catch a train and head up north because the major event of the weekend is my brother's wedding. I can't actually believe that they're getting married, not yet, but I'm sure it will start to sink in once we get up north. I'm so happy for Peter and Brenda, and I'm sure they're doing the right thing. After all, they bought the puppy. Oh, and they love one another. :) The ceremony is going to take place on the lakeshore of beautiful Lake Michigan, and I have a new dress for the occasion. I'll be back on Sunday, with pictures.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Review You've All Been Waiting For

I want to write a review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix that isn’t the fawning, supercilious reviews I’ve been reading lately. Most of the reviewers aren’t fans, they haven’t read the books, and they are more interested in how much money the movie has made, or how old Daniel Radcliffe looks. YES, they're getting older. Moving on. When I saw HP5 this weekend, I was excited about the film because I thought the trailers looked exciting, and I really thought this movie would capture the darkness and teen angst of the book. Because I am a Harry Potter fan. And I have the tattoo to prove it. When the fifth book came out, it had been three years since Book 4, and we were dying to find out what happened. We were shocked at how angry Harry had become, at how easily he could get upset, and how headstrong he was. It made sense, however--Harry was growing up, after all, and he would need all he could get for the fight against Voldemort. I was excited to see how the book would handle all that angst and drama, if it would live up to shock of the fifth book.

So here’s my review—beware of spoilers, if you haven’t seen the film. If you’ve read the books, nothing should really be news, if you haven’t read them, tsk tsk.

First off, I agree with what I read in the Chicago Tribune that people are starting to notice, as the actors grow older, that they can’t really act. I don’t think this is the problem so much as they are given too little to work with. The primary problem with the film is there is very little dialogue, very little background, and a lot of Harry making declarative statements ("We will fight him!") with Hermione and Ron in the background nodding solemnly in agreement. It is hard to act without lines, and the inexperience of these actors shows because they don’t have much material to work with. The story of the book—not the arc of the series but the story of the book has been positively gutted. I was mad when they left out the Quidditch World Cup in the fourth movie, but for this movie they have cut and removed so much that the story in the film flat-out doesn’t make sense at points. I had a hard time following it—and not just because I was expecting certain scenes, but because the action was jerky, and the continuity seemed to have its focus in the wrong place. The story is already pulled in several directions--Voldemort, family, Harry's hormones-but how can anyone be expected to be convincing if each of these themes isn't dealt with thoroughly?

Judi Dench won an Oscar for her role in “Shakespeare in Love” even though she was in the film for less than five minutes. By that reckoning, HP5 should be up for about six Oscars, since most of the characters make hit and run appearances that add up to perhaps three minutes of screen time. I was appalled that David Thewlis, who carefully constructed his Professor Lupin character in the third film, was only on hand to prevent Harry from running after Sirius in the climax of the movie. We do not hear about Lupin and Sirius’s close friendship with Harry’s father, therefore the bond between Sirius and Harry makes less sense—and the flashback into Snape’s memory is downright confusing. Who are these people? What are they doing in Harry’s life? Why should we care about them? It is clear that the actors have done their homework—Lupin’s ten-second reaction to Sirius’s disappearance nearly made me bawl—but at times I felt like shouting at the screenwriter “would you mind sharing with us, please?!”

Other moments from the book that were included seemed completely superfluous. The appearance of Kreacher lovingly polishing his mistress’s portrait seemed promising—until he never appeared again. (For that matter, Mrs. Black never appeared either, remaining behind her curtain muttering incoherently) Percy Weasley was there, cozying up to the Prime Minister, but you would only know that if you were looking for him, and if you knew the backstory, since he was never explained and he had no lines. Not so much as a "Weasley! Fetch me a cup of tea!" Nada. Since one of the themes of this story was “family is important” why not include a brief explanation about how the reappearance of the Dark Lord is tearing the Weasleys apart? Or how about including some of the action in St. Mungos? I for one was dying to see the reappearance of Lockhart. Sadly, Kenneth Brannagh fans, he is absent.

I could go on. My point is—I know Warner Bros. has a cash cow on their hand. As Mugglenet.com pointed out when the second movie was released, they could make these movies out of Legos and we would still flock in our millions to see them. But it now seems like they’re killing the owl that laid the golden egg—yeah, it’s fun to see Hogwarts, but after five movies, we also want to see good films. Alfonso Cuaron showed us what a good HP movie could be: he streamlined the book, sure, but also included imagery and themes, as well as juicy scenes for character development and backstory. Harry and Lupin talking on the bridge about Harry’s mom, anyone? My point is—this isn’t a good film. Full stop. It’s got a jerky storyline, characters we don’t care about putting way too much emotional investment in objects we don’t understand, and a backstory that isn’t adequately explained. If this were any other children’s movie, it would be panned by critics and be in the bargain DVD bin within a month.

Now, having said all that, I want to go see the movie again. Part of my confusion probably arises from the fact that I am so familiar with this story, and I need to watch the movie again so I can follow the movie’s story, and not the book’s story. The movie does get it right in several places—Dudley’s appearance as a sullen, chavvy teenager is absolutely spot-on, as is the final appearance of Jason Issacs as Luscious—I mean, Lucius Malfoy threatening to kill Harry is believeably thrilling. (all I’m going to say is—it was worth the $15 IMAX just to see Jason Isaacs in all his bewigged glory twenty feet tall). The Dementors were a hell of a lot scarier in this movie, prompting one terrified two year old to be taken away five minutes into the film. I’m glad to see that Neville Longbottom, while still awkward, is no longer a comic relief character—and the actress who plays Luna Lovegood has it down. Keep an eye on her.

And the final battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort was a thing to behold. As Cathy said—“Now I know how all the Star Wars geeks felt when they saw Yoda fight for the first time.” Not only that, but that scene is an example of how good actors grow and mature: a scene with no dialogue, where two people are pointing their wands at each other in front of a blue screen. And it was amazing. This is what Daniel Radcliffe should aspire to--but for now, please give him some more lines and less angsty staring off into space.

These are just moments, however, and in the end, HP5 is comprised almost totally of moments. With no arc, no forward movement, it was hard to get emotionally invested, and hard to follow. This is not a good movie. It’s not an adequate adaptation of the books, and it’s not a good piece of cinema. Enjoyable? Possibly—there are several quoteable lines (“I’m so angry!”) to make jokes about and enough moments to get upset about, but as a sustained, refreshing piece of film, it gets old in a hurry.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's a dilemma

I can listen to the BBC at work again--I used to listen to it when I was working for the insurance company, and now I'm happy because it's the same announcer and same format I was used to. Squee. Today's news was about a lawmaker in India proposing that all pregnant women register themselves--and having to seek approval if they want an abortion. The reasoning behind this is that many women who discover they are carrying girls will have abortions, even though this is illegal. A few years ago, a reporter from the Beeb was interviewing a woman who had just given birth to her third daughter--and the woman offered to give the journalist her baby, she was so disappointed.

I don't think this idea is going to fly, for several reasons: One, if you rely on women to register themselves for a program that is going to take away their rights, they aren't going to do it. Two, the birthrate in parts of the country already has an almost two to one ration of boys to girls: if this trend continues, girls are going to become a hot commodity (who's going to marry all these boys when they grow up, after all?) and the "price" of having a daughter will fall. I meditate on this, as someone who is pro-life, and wonder if it is legitimate to regulate women's bodies by judging the rightness of their reason to terminate pregnancy. Here in America, the court system is slowly chipping away at a woman's right to choose, and our focus is primarily on women who have "made bad choices:" the image you mostly see is women who are underage, or who haven't used birth control. (Not having access to birth control is a topic for another time...) There is a fainter image of women who are victims or rape or who have to terminate their pregnancies for medical reasons. Nowhere do you see happily married women who chose not to have children, or who have enough kids already. Now, I have not done any research into this last group, but I suspect it's out there. The picture of women who have abortions in India, however, are women who are desperate to have a son--married women who are terminating pregnancies, hoping next time will bring the desired XY chromosome.

My question is just this: is it possible for a country to make one reason for abortion illegal and keep the rest? Is it possible to say to women "You are allowed to have an abortion, but only if you can prove you're not terminating your pregnancy because you're carrying a girl." Should this be a part of the discussion? Or should we limit ourselves to term lengths and concern for the welfare of the mother? It's not a pretty picture. Now the medical discussion includes a woman's reason behind her decision, and gives the doctors and clinics involved the ability to pass judgement on it, effectively deciding what reasons are "good enough." As an educated, employed woman who is far removed from the reality of my sisters in India, I do find it upsetting that you would chose to kill your children--for any reason--but I find it far more upsetting that lawmakers and legislators are trying to take away our right to make that final decision of yes or no. If this idea does become a law, it's not going to make abortions illegal, it is simply going to drive them underground, where for enough money, no one will question why.

What needs to change is the attitude of the people who are perpetuating this myth that male children are more desirable than female children. They need to understand that a woman's worth is not measured in how much her dowry is anymore--that she can be an asset to the family in other ways, and that she can make her parents proud through achievements other than marriage. In short, India needs to realise that it's women are not a commodity to be handed over to a husband, but people who are equal in the eyes of the law. Free to be educated, free to be single, free to make their own decisions--and yes, free to have abortions. The place where lawmakers should be focusing is on the women who are choosing to abort their baby girls, to teach them that their daughters will be a welcome addition to the family--and have them, in turn, teach their daughters the same.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

One slightly cool thing...

I enjoy riding the L when you can sit in the first car, because then you can look through the window and pretend you're driving the train. That's pretty cool. So. On the list of good things about Chicago, we have about, oh, five. Not a bad start, Chicago, but you're going to have to do better if you want to catch up to London, which has about five THOUSAND. hahaha. Speaking of the best city in the world, I have decided to go to London for Christmas. The firm where I'm working has the week off between Christmas and New Year's, so I am going to flee the country...temporarily. Unless plane tickets go sky-high (it's a joke, haha), I'll be flying out December 21st. Happy Birthday, me. I should be more concerned about my carbon footprint, but just thinking about being back in Trafalgar Square makes me happy. Am already planning on stocking up on tea, squash and Gola shoes. woo.

I handed in two proposals today, so my shoulders spent most of the day up around my ears. This working for a living is stressful--luckily I get to leave at five. Did laundry tonight so I will have my whole weekend free to Harry Potter it up with friends. I love friends. It's so nice to have people who need people. We're very lucky.

**update** This just in: Apparently the House of Representatives has passed a bill that says the troops should come home from Iraq. You go, House of Representatives. I'm so happy to hear you FINALLY GOT YOUR ACT TOGETHER...geez, took you long enough. Stop playing politics and dO THIS THING!!!

PS: Damn, Samn, I posted like three seconds ago...why don't you come to London with me?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I am feeling really good about myself...today I went grocery shopping and bought organic milk. I've tried soy milk and rice milk, but they just don't add up to real milk from a cow milk. So today I decided that if I'm going to keep cows in eternal servitude and demand they produce milk for me, the least I can do is let them frolic in the grass a little bit. The only downside is that there is no skim milk and it was $4 for a gallon. Okay, two downsides. Maybe I should grow my own cow.

Also when did dill weed get so expensive? Damn.

I'm trying to eat healthier, which involves me actually buying food and cooking, instead of pretending to eat healthy by warming up a Lean Cuisine or covering lettuce in an inch of ranch dressing. So today I also bought lentils, chickpeas, Smart-Dog brand not-turkey protein soy thing, Newman's Own Lo-Fat Sundried Tomato Dressing and some spring onions. Also grapefruit juice, because I read a study about people drinking a cup a day losing more weight. The only downside is that all this healthy food is BLOODY EXPENSIVE--now that I've discovered the bliss of real cracked-wheat bread it's so hard to go back to the generic kind--mom would be so proud, I saved over $10 today! Also, grapefruit juice, kinda tastes like battery acid.

BUT! There are more exciting things afoot. I bought tikkies for HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX last night AT THE IMAX THEATRE which will be featuring TWENTY GLORIOUS MINUTES of Harry and Co brooming down the Thames. Oh bliss. I've tried to avoid reviews, but I did see one that said that Harry was suddenly becoming a grumpy, sullen teenager--which is exactly the same thing they said about the book when it came out. It would be interesting to compare and contrast reviews, but first I have to see it. T-minus two days...my kingdom for a Time Turner!!!

Monday, July 09, 2007

There was a time...

I just read an article in a magazine about a group of moviemakers who are going to be traveling across the country, “doing 100 things they have always wanted to do” and encouraging other people to do the same. Have you always wanted to travel? Get a tattoo? Go skydiving? Here’s your chance to do it! This sounded like an exciting project, until I realized—hang on, I’ve already traveled, and I’ve got the tattoo, and I’ve never had an urge to skydive. Although I did go swimming in Florida when the red flags were out. Perhaps this is part of my problem—that I’ve done so much and I’m still quite young. I know, I know—raise your hand if you’ve pointed this out to me recently—but it was the first time that I realized that what I take for being normal most people haven’t even considered. This includes living abroad, but also radical things such as reading the New York Times. Also thinking.

"There are people out there
Unafraid to feel sorrow,
Unafraid of tomorrow,
Unafraid to be weak...unafraid to be strong!"

And this is what I teach myself. I don’t normally talk about romantic entanglements on my blog, because I like to respect people’s privacy, but I will say that recently I had an Encounter that ended with “it’s not you, it’s me” and (I inferred) “I am afraid.” Well. If there’s one thing my life has taught me it’s that you have to constantly throw yourself off that cliff, you have to constantly pick yourself up off the jaggedy rocks below, because otherwise there really is no point. Even if your happiness melts away after a week and you find yourself, like Icarus, falling, at least you will know you tried. There is nothing more terrifying, apparently, than seeing me being willing to try it again, even though I’ve been repeatedly bruised, battered and broken in the past. Am I afraid? You bet. But this time I might just learn how to fly.

I bring this up because I recently received the invitation to my brother’s wedding in the mail. Cried a little at the thought of the domestic bliss being perpetuated. Then I had to laugh at the hopeful little question on the envelope – “Ms. Nicole Lemery & Guest” which I almost felt was like “Guest?” Perhaps? Probably not. No, I’ll probably make the third wheel with Mom and Dad again or sit in a corner sighing joyfully and making notes for a future play. So it goes. (unfortunately this time there will be no hot best man to promenade with, teehee) To love, to be loved is the greatest mystery I have ever encountered. I’ve seen it, read about it, written about it, felt it—but never been the objet d’affection. It’s a curious thing, and the great adventure I have yet to experience.

Currently I am planning a return trip to London and designing my new tattoo. I spent most of the weekend curled up in front of the AC. I discovered there is a four part BBC documentary called “I Remember Nelson” which is now at the top of my wish list. And I cannot freaking wait for the next Harry Potter movie. Life is moving forward. Slowly. But there it is.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Visiting Mr. Lincoln

When the going gets tough, the tough get the hell out of Dodge. I decided to go to Springfield yesterday, because it was a (relatively) short train ride away, and I didn't have anything else going on. I've wanted to see the Abraham Lincoln Museum since it opened two years ago, so that was the first stop on my list.

The trains here in America are huge! The windows are bigger, and the seats are wider--which is a good thing because I ended up sleeping most of th eway there. My first impression of Springfield is that it is very cute. No. Seriously. It's adorable. The train dropped me off on a sidewalk outside the depot that looked like it hadn't been updated since the fifties, and took off, leaving me and a handful of other people to pick our way through the empty streets toward the Museum. I quickly found out that visiting such a small town on a national holiday might not have been the best idea--most of the stores were closed, including the restaurants. Finally I found one that was open, and served the best damn peach iced tea I've ever had. The owners couldn't figure out how they were so busy--uh, 'cause you're the only place in town?

The Lincoln museum was--basically--teh awesome. The only complaint I would have was it needs to be laid out a little better, because I think I started at the end and worked my way backwards. Most of the museum is made up of wax tableaus of various parts of Lincoln's life, which was great. I especially liked the one of him sitting in front of the fire reading. Not that I know anything about reading in front of insufficient light...much. Just goes to show how anyone can become President..oh, wait, who am I kidding. Most of the time I like my museums with little cabinets protecting the historical artefacts, where I can press my face against it, fog it up slightly and raise the blood pressure of the security guards. But I appreciated the little multimedia movies they showed as well--Ghosts in the Lbirary was amazing, not only for the three-dee holovision that let the library interact with Lincoln, but because at the end it turned into the battle of Vicksburg. I know technology is cool, but there's something to be said for good old fashioned scrim.

Then I went to see Lincoln’s house. Now, I have been to Lincoln’s house before—seventeen years before, as a matter of fact, because one of he things I remember is the buzzing of those damn cicadas, which, as every paper told me this year, only come around every seventeen years. As I walked down the street (or rather, oozed—90 degrees and rising), I could also remember trying to park a van and camper in the crowded streets. Yesterday this would not have been a problem. Funny what I remember, isn’t it? Lincoln’s House (featuring air conditioning that I suspect was not period) was better than I remembered it, although the tour guide seemed a little unenthusiastic. He probably didn’t appreciate my proddings either: “Is it true that Lincoln used to lay on the floor and read?!”

Going to the museum and the house again, I really started to appreciate Lincoln for just being who he was—a man in a very difficult situation. The museum strove to point out how all his policies that we take for granted were very dividing in his life time, and I could really appreciate that. In a way, he was his own radical. And reading the Gettysburg Address, surrounded by little kids and parents in their red white and blue, I finally realized what he was trying to say about this country: that it is worth laying down your life for, politics aside. Little tear. And I loved Mr. Lincoln a little more for loving this country so much.

Afterward, I walked to a sports bar and had cheese curds and a buffalo chicken sandwich, and two bottles of cold, cold, cold Sam Adams. God Bless America. A hit and run thunderstorm had dropped the temperature about twenty degrees, but it was still humid. As I was walking toward the train station, a weedy guy in a moustache and wire-rim glasses felt the need to say, “hey, good-lookin’!” causing me to giggle, which only encouraged him to say “You’re beautiful!” I almost said “I know, I’ve heard!” Keep walking, pal. The train ride home was less fun, but there were fireworks to greet me when I got into the Windy City.

Overall, a very successful trip. I’m looking forward to going back sometime and seeing the Illinois Museum and perhaps visiting one or two of those intriguing shops that were closed up when I passed through. My only souvenier was a small plastic figurine of Lincoln—well, and postcards of course.

Mr. Lincoln and I share the iPod on the way home.

I’m getting quite a collection of small plastic figurines. When I introduced Mr. Lincoln to Nelson and Napoleon, they eyed him suspiciously, and then Nelson said “Who’s the giant?” and I said “This is Mr. Lincoln, he did more than the two of you put together.” “Oh, yeah? Did he conquer half of Europe and crown himself Emperor?” (that was Napoleon) “No, he was better than that, he freed the slaves.” “We did that in 1832.” “Yes, I know, Admiral. You better get along.” “Or what, he’ll beat me up? I don’t think so.” “He beat up his political opponents in Springfield.” “’ow is he with ze sword?” “Just don’t try anything—he’s almost a foot taller than you two.” “FIVE SIX IS TOTALLY AVERAGE!!!” “Okay, guys, just keep telling yourselves that.”

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Being brave

"When I look at all this
How can I call this
Home?" -Parade

Of course, the downside of listening to showtunes all day is that your emotions go for a rollercoaster ride. I’m panicking slightly today, because the name tag for my cubicle arrived, and I’m feeling a bit trapped. With the job, and this city is so small. Tomorrow I have a day off, and I don’t really want to not work. Everyone is very friendly here. Yesterday a man on the train talked about the breakup of the Soviet Union and how Mikhail Gorbachev was a very misunderstood politician. But how do you make friends? How do you meet people when you work in an office all day—when you don’t have a new show opening in three weeks? How do you run into new faces and mix up your circle of acquaintances? It’s so much easier to sequester myself in museums and coffeeshops. Now I’m missing friends, missing London, and I don’t want to stay home tomorrow.