Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Saturday

Saturdays are the days that bring me and my sister together for a day of shopping, dining and anything else we can't do during weekdays. This Saturday was no exception, and we went to the mall-- not so much to actually shop and buy things, but more to look at what's out there and get inspired with the latest trends and whatever else one can find at the mall.

A new Borders store has opened at the mall we frequent and we decided to go in and check it out. This store has an amazing design that makes it look absolutely HUGE! Anyway, I ended up buying Edgar Allan Poe's collection in a cute little hardback edition, and as I was walking around checking out stuff, someone called my name. My friend Karla was at Borders watching her salsa dance classmates perform in the cafe area. I am not much of a dancer, but I couldn't get over how stiff the performers were. Perhaps they were nervous, but it was just not enjoyable to watch stiff dancers that were moving their lips with each step, counting to stay in step!

As I said, my sister and I usually dine out on Saturdays. This Saturday we chose to have dinner at Panda Express. As we were sitting there eating, we noticed a group of teenage girls giggling and behaving like the teeny boppers they are. Now, I remember when my friends and I used to act like this when we were in high school, but for some reason, there was one thing that made the events I'm going to describe just a tad bit over the top and disturbing even.

One of the girls was interested in one of the employees, who is also a teenager. He appears to be a tad more mature than most teenagers, as he engages adults in very good conversation and I know he's been at his job for quite some time. He's a good kid, basically. He was on his break and sitting at one of the tables talking with other coworkers, not paying attention to the table with the giggling girls at all. This girl had her phone number written on a piece of paper and was waving that piece of paper for him to see, saying out loud "I want him to see me" for EVERYONE to hear and look at her. The guy was the only one not looking at her, or giving her the time of day. The girl was making a fool out of herself.

Now again, I remember when I used to be sitting at a table with giggling girls, and I'd be giggling too as we ogled a cute guy and one of us would have the guts to express interest by asking one of us to be the middle man, if you will. It's just how teenagers do things, so I have no problem with the girl being interested, nor do I have a problem with her sending someone over as the middle man. It's how teenagers express interest in each other. What I do have a problem with is the attitude. This girl was devoid of any innocence that a girl her age should possess, and looking at her all I could think was, "She's really something," and a not a good thing, at that.

Call me old-fashioned, but I can't help but look at teenagers nowadays and wonder what happened to the world that girls have air-filled egos rather than confidence and self-respect, and guys don't have to do anything to have a girl melt infront of them. I'm not saying the guy should be doing ALL the work, but what I saw from the guy with all the attention directed at him, was an indifference to a girl with that big of what essentially is a lack of self respect, making ALL the moves. There should be a balance in who does what in a relationship. Girls who respect themselves of any age don't wave their phone numbers infront of a crowd to get the attention of a guy obviously not interested. They discreetly and from afar let the guy know they're interested, and based on their age either use a middle man to break the ice, or take the step of just breaking the ice themselves if the guy doesn't make the first move.

Feelings. Nothing more than feelings.

So, my naturalization oath ceremony is now history. I still have difficulty expressing my feelings about it. I feel there's a lot of emotional baggage attached to this subject, and in turn don't feel too comfortable blogging about all of my true feelings, or even writing a publishable piece about it. It is a great subject, however, that I think will be interesting to many.

The general belief by everyone is that naturalization is a dream for those obtaining it. All I can bring myself to say without too much difficulty is that it was not a dream for me to become a naturalized American citizen, as much as it was a logical step I felt I should take to open doors and opportunities for myself since I've spent 20 years of my life here. I appreciate what this step offers me for my future, so I'm not unappreciative of what I've received, which is truly the most any country can offer an outsider. I feel truly welcomed and I thank all those who congratulated me and went so far as to attend the 5-hour ceremony, and give me flowers to celebrate the day.

I'm looking forward to the chance to vote in this upcoming election, and I look forward to having an actual say in issues affecting me as a resident of Colorado and the United States of America. But truth be told, I don't feel any more American than I did before Wednesday, May 28 of 2008.

I am still me, an Iraqi living in the United States of America, keeping my heritage, language and culture alive no matter what a piece of paper says. But I am also someone who's lived over half of her life in Denver, Colorado, USA. I ended my elementary school career and moved onto middle and high school right here. I went to the prom, I went to college and made great friends who shared these moments in my life and still do today.

In a sense, I suppose I have been an American citizen these last 20 years. But having it on paper makes it a responsibility, rather than just something I naturally adapted into. They told us this at the ceremony after all 1800 of us were naturalized and sworn-in... they told us to never forget where we came from, or our heritage. They told us that our different backgrounds are the fabric of what this country is made of. I didn't need to be reminded of that, but it was good to hear it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A big day at the Colorado Convention Center

For those of you unaware of, or not up to date on my immigration status, today has been a very emotional day for me. I became an American citizen in a very special naturalization oath ceremony. I make it a point to say it was special, because it was apparently the first and perhaps the only time the state of Colorado will host such a large naturalization ceremony, involving some 1,800 persons from 120 countries at the Colorado Convention Center.

This day has been a long time coming.

I originally applied for citizenship back in August of 2004, just three months before my green card was set to expire. I submitted fingerprints, completed an interview with immigration, and even passed the citizenship test with flying colors by November of that same year, only to be shuffled to the bottom of an endless pile of citizenship requests. I spent four years in limbo, way outside of the processing time frame stipulated by USCIS (the new and improved name for INS). Just an FYI, the time frame is 180 days, total.

Anyway, during the four years in limbo, I'd call every six months or so and get the same answer... that my case is pending FBI background checks. Meanwhile I'm hearing about people getting their citizenship finalized within the 180-day time frame, while people in the same boat as me were making waves by taking their cases to lawyers who demanded that the USCIS get moving on the incredibly delayed FBI background checks. Several newspapers were reporting on the subject, and I read most of them. I was beginning to not feel too bad, and let my patience take care of my frustration. I used writing as an outlet, and gained great feedback and relief.

During all of this, of course, I had to keep going back ever so often to renew my green card extension, which was stamped into my Iraqi passport. I was able to travel with this extension, so though my green card had expired back in 2004, I was still using it to its full capacity in 2008, thanks to the extension.

Even though I had passed my citizenship test and done everything required, I was beginning to lose hope, and all but gave up on getting an answer at all. I was happy enough just renewing my green card extension with a simple stamp. I was happy, and USCIS was happy. It worked.

Then one day, things got a big push forward. I don't know what triggered it, but the FBI must've dug my case out from under the pile and thought: "She's waited long enough. Let's have mercy on her and conduct that pesky little background check." I got a letter requesting I go in for a second session of fingerprinting. I went in to get that done back in April. By mid-May, I got a letter stating that my citizenship request had been approved, and to wait for an oath ceremony notice in the 30-90 days. I was happy just with that, and expected the longest possible wait of 90 days to hear about my oath ceremony. And finally, the oath ceremony notice arrived. It hadn't even been 30 days since I got the approval letter... I was ecstatic. I told my family and closest friends about the big day.

Now the big day has come and gone, and I have no idea how I'm supposed to feel. Writing is an outlet of feelings and thoughts for me, but I still can't express the mix of emotions inside of me right now. Maybe it's because I'm tired, or maybe because I'm still a little in shock from how fast everything happened... it was like bam bam bam!

I'm now an American citizen.

Am I happy? Yeah. Am I sad? Yeah. How did I expect to feel? I don't know.

That's about all I can say about my feelings at this time. I wanted to blog about it to let everyone know about my news, but a more formal piece describing the experience in more detail will have to wait until I get my feelings sorted out. Right now I'm running on almost no sleep, and "What just happened?" mode.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Controversies+cryptic drawings+added bonuses = 300

I blogged about the movie Iron Man a post or two ago and I talked about how I'm not into the comic book world.

Last night I finally watched the movie 300, which is based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I lump graphic novels with comics. I can't say I hate these things, because I've never actually sat down and tried to read a comic book, or a graphic novel back to back, but suffice it to say that I generally like to read things in paragraphs rather than in dialogue bubbles.

I'd been wanting to see 300 for quite some time. Then a controversy or two sparked, and my interest increased. Iran actually banned it for its less than attractive portrayal of the Persian empire, and Iranians wrote up storms about how the movie was an attack on Iran and its history. 300 also sparked a controversy for its indirect commentary on the Iraq war, by portraying the Spartans in a way making their situation similar to that of the Iraqis who fought against the much bigger and powerful Americans.

I originally wanted to see it for the whole Spartan, Greek and Persian deal. I loved studying about these guys, and I love to see portrayals of them, however inaccurate they are so I can feel the umph visually, rather than just by reading about it. And I got plenty of umph with this flick.

Also, I've been seeing bumper stickers and t-shirts and other things that were cryptic to me before seeing the movie.

I finally know what this drawing is referring to:

All in all, I liked 300. Pieces of actual history were cut up and rearranged to make quite a tour de force of historically recorded (but reworked in setting) one-liners, and an interesting vision of what an ancient world filled with struggle and war might have been like. The 300+ incredibly chiseled, half-naked men also sweetened the pot for me, and that was a definite bonus. It made me actually want it to be Sparta around here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This is worthy of Intrepid Media, but I've already written about this topic twice there...

Facebook has been very much a part of my life since September of last year. For the last nine months, I've made it a point to visit Facebook each day and check out everything from my friends' new pictures and status changes, to the last moves my opponents have made on Scrabulous and Chess. Every once in a while someone will acknowledge my existence on Facebook and leave me a comment they more than likely sent to their 90 other Facebook friends. Sometimes I feel really special because I got a personalized note on one of my various walls, usually after I wrote a personalized note meriting a reply.

For the most part, I behave much the same way everyone on Facebook does... I horde friends, feeling proud each time the number of friends increases, but do very little to actually socialize.

These friends, or a large majority of them are not really my friends. In fact, one of my "friends" is a stranger who poked me continuously until I added him to my list. I know very little about the guy, but he just really wanted to be my friend, apparently. I appreciate his strong liking of me, so I made it a point to write "Happy Birthday" on his wall when the day came.

You could argue that you can make actual friends on Facebook, but that would have to be something achievable by someone who makes friends with ease in real life, too. I make friends, and I keep them for years. I'd say a lifetime, but I'm a little too young to make such bold statements about the future of each of my long-term friendships. Life and circumstances change a little too much to be so sure of such a volatile part of life. But I digress... I have very few mere acquaintances. It has been this way all my life, and I don't think Facebook is gonna change this part of my DNA.

Now, I've joined Facebook out of my own accord, initiated a number of Facebook friendships, also of my own accord, and gotten in touch with people from my childhood I'm glad I got in touch with after all these years. Facebook got me in touch with a couple people from elementary school, a few from high school who I felt were real friends back then, and have proven to me today that my adolescent instincts were correct. I'm thankful to Facebook for that.

I'm also thankful to Facebook for the extension of friendship from other websites less personal. I've added several people who are acquaintances through the internet, but I'm sure if distances were shortened we'd be buddies, no question about it. I love having Facebook to bring me a little closer to these new additions in my life.

With all the good that Facebook has provided, it has also provided annoyances. I've gotten in touch with people I didn't like when I was a kid, forced to play with them, and I still don't like them now. I've had people leave dumb comments on my pictures... just look at the picture, I'm not interested in your input, or your photography expertise. I've had people completely ignore my birthday, making it more hurtful because of how easy it is to know when my birthday is. I've seen people I thought were above such behavior, behave in less than becoming ways by receiving and responding to some pretty raunchy comments and other things Facebook allows its users to distribute. I've seen the trashiness of several people surface and put me in shock, because I never would've guessed I could befriend or be acquainted with someone of that caliber.

Also, people in general just annoy me on Facebook, because again, I get annoyed with people in real life, too. On Facebook, however, it's a bit more concentrated for some reason.

There is no phenomenon of Facebook for me. Facebook is simply my real social life, translated into digital code, and much like life in general: Facebook is what you make of it, with a few more games and fun quizzes.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

An evening at the movies for 'Iron Man'

I haven't gone to the movies in a long time. What with my Netflix membership on top of the amazing selection of movies I can get through my library, I don't feel the need to spend $9 or more on a movie that is more than likely gonna be not worth it.

But sometimes, I fall into the trap of wanting to see a movie only because of who's in it, and simply can't wait for it to come out on DVD. When I saw that Robert Downey Jr. was in Iron Man, I instantly wanted to see it. I am not into the world of comic books or super heroes, but when you put Robert Downey Jr. in the mix, I am interested and must satisfy my curiosity as soon as possible.

I went and saw Iron Man on Saturday night. First of all, I haven't been to the movies in so long, that I had forgotten just how insane it is to go to a movie on a Saturday night... at seven o'clock. Moreover, I had forgotten just how important it is to allow yourself time to be able to find a seat when the lights are on and there are more empty seats next to each other available. When my sister and I walked into the theater, it was already 7:05, and there were hardly any seats that would allow us to sit next to each other. We ended up sitting in different rows.

A preview for the new Batman movie (another one I wanna see for who's in it) came on, and it made up for the annoying reminders I'd had shoved in my face after months of not going to the movies in the first two minutes of entering the theater.

Then the movie started. Robert Downey Jr. is in Afghanistan being transported by a Humvee with military personnel. I think to myself, "Oh God. I'm not in the mood for this." Then a roadside bomb goes off, and a flashback tells us how Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., ended up in this pickle of a situation in the Afghani desert. In this flashback we are familiarized with Stark's background as a child genius who graduated from MIT incredibly young, and inherited his father's fortune and business of manufacturing weapons. Stark is a ladies man with a down-to-earth attitude and Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, for his personal secretary.

The story begins the way most super hero stories begin... some oblivious guy with everything material and nothing of actual substance. Stark is set up perfectly to be drastically affected by the incident the movie began with, and it is this effect that is the foundation for the story that soon begins to blow the viewer away. A very potent message is present in Iron Man about a very real issue or two; just how far the hunger for power can go, and how that very hunger can blind its possessor to the point of his/her own detriment.

Though Stark sports a gadget in his chest to keep him alive after the incident in Afghanistan, we never forget that he is just an ordinary human being without any special powers other than his powerful brain. It is with this powerful brain that Stark builds the armor that makes him Ironman. Without this high tech armor, Stark cannot do much other than math and building complex, high tech machines, i.e., weapons.

For the sake of not spoiling anything for those wanting to see the movie, which I recommend you do, I am simply going to say that Stark is faced with quite the obstacle in the final battle, where he is smaller and less advanced than his opponent. We are convinced he is going to die and it will all be over until Stark utilizes his most powerful feature... his brain. With his genius, Stark overcomes the giant obstacle thrown in his way, and comes out on top, though a little haggard from the battle.

Iron Man has many messages one can get out of it, but none as powerful as the message that it is up to us as humans with thinking and working brains to make the world a better place. That is my take on this super hero flick with Robert Downey Jr. as its star and selling point.

For the first time in a long time, I went to the movies and came out feeling good about it. I just need to work on my timing.

I took them out to the ball game.

Ever since the Colorado Rockies became the 2007 National League champions, my sister has been wanting to go see them play. I've rolled my eyes the entire time she's expressed this wish, because I don't give a hoot about baseball, and certainly not about the Rockies.

I'd only been to one baseball game, and it was in 2006 on the Rockies' opening day. The only reason I went was because I had access to a free ticket and was invited to go with a friend. The atmosphere was nice, but I thought the game rather dull and boring. I left Coors Field convinced that baseball was even less eventful than golf. Yawn.

Back to my sister... she had been asking me to try for tix to the Rockies because the friend who took me to my first game is still capable of hooking me up with tix. In the meantime, my sister's friend who has over the past few months also become my friend stated that she has never even been to a baseball game, and that she would love to go and take her husband along. With all these people wishing to go see a Rockies game, I went ahead and tried my luck to get four tix.

Well, I got lucky and ended up taking my sister, her friend and her friend's husband to the ball game on Friday night. Rockies vs. the Mets. We had great club seats where the entire game was visible and clear to us.

We got kosher hot dogs and enjoyed the game with quite a turnout.

My first time at a Rockies game was pretty lame, because there didn't seem to be that many people in the stands. There was hardly any excitement, and hence, my conclusion that baseball is worse than golf with the boredom factor.

Not so last night. Perhaps because it was a Friday night, or perhaps it was because of it being the start of Memorial Day weekend, or the fact that we were playing against the Mets... whatever the reason, last night's game had a huge turnout and a lot of excitement. I'm not too educated in what everything means in baseball, but I know a homerun when I see one. And even if I don't, the crowds cheering last night with gusto let the most clueless game goer know when to join in the excitement. I was especially excited to do the infamous wave.

I had a blast last night. I was glad to make my sister's wish come true, and introduce two newbies to the tradition of going to at least one baseball game. The Rockies won after 13 long innings, and I not only got to sing the song, but did what it requested: I took them out to the ball game.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Doing Time

I found something out recently.

I found out that if I ever wanted to commit a crime only big enough to send me away to prison for a few years (which I don't), perhaps I should make sure Japan has jurisdiction.

Doing Time, a Japanese film depicting the mundane details of everyday life in a Japanese prison informed me of this odd FYI-worthy and possible fact. This film is based on a manga comic book of the same name, but is also the true story of the life of Kazuichi Hanawa, the comic book's author, who spent three years in prison himself.

In Doing Time we are introduced to Hanawa, a 60-plus-year-old man in a Hokkaido prison for three years on an illegal firearm possession charge. In prison, Hanawa lives in a room, which he describes as a pen holding him and four other prisoners. He dubs his living situation as: "Five animals in the pen". The prisoners sleep on cots with sheets and comforters. There is a dining table in the middle of the room along with a TV and a big enough window that the bars don't seem so oppressive. The five prisoners go about their days waking up and using their electric razors to get ready for their jobs at the prison factory.

At this prison, there are highly anticipated bath days, movie days and bread days. There is one particular scene in the film where Hanawa, the main character and narrator talks about bread day. He says the bread served in prison is "thousands of times better" than the sweet cream bread from his childhood, without knowing why the bread on bread day tastes so good to him.

Hanawa's fellow inmates have committed crimes that range from robberies to murder. They all look forward to when they will get out and start afresh with what little money they had saved from before prison, and while in prison. They all have longings for things they will be able to do once they are free men... one man looks forward to holding his kid again.

Hanawa narrates mundane details in the tradition of the Manga comic book. The viewer becomes so engrossed in this world he describes, that it is anything but boring to watch simple actions take place in this Japanese prison. There is comedy, drama and very touching moments when you're glad that prison isn't too harsh a place where these guys have been sent away. When the film ended I was sorry to leave the characters I was introduced to and came to like, particularly Hanawa who throughout the course of the movie does undergo an arc of some sort... as simple as the realization that soy sauce on rice is delicious.

This 2002 foreign award-winning flick is a lot of things, but boring it is not. See it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Love in the time of Cholera

I tried to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera a few years ago. Tried being a keyword, I was unable to finish the book that moved slower than the boats the characters traveled on.

The premise and what have you were beautiful, however. The idea of a man, Florentino Ariza, suffering the rejection of his childhood sweetheart, Fermina Daza, loving her for over 50 years while numbing his pain with sexual endeavors with hundreds of women was intriguing and got me very interested in picking up the book and reading it. I expected nothing less than a book so engrossing, that despite its 348 pages, would be finished in less than three days.

Maybe it was my high expectation, or maybe it's because I like action rather than description in a story... whatever the reason was at the time, I found Love in the Time of Cholera to be excrutiatingly long and boring for its rather promising title and subject matter. I put the book away and forgot all about it and voiced my opinion of it to anyone who would listen. It was simply the most boring piece of work one could possibly imagine.

Now there is a movie depicting this lush story, and I watched it. What I found was an adaptation that surpasses the book in focusing on what draws a reader or audience to such a beautiful love story.

As with all movies, much of the useless details are omitted, and we are immersed in the important details one must wait an excruciatingly long time to experience in the book. The actors are all excellent. I felt casting John Leguizamo as Lorenzo, Fermina's father was interesting, seeing as how he didn't look much older than his daughter. Nonetheless, Leguizamo's performance was excellent as was Hector Elizondo's. Elizondo was virtually unrecognizable, thanks to the amazing makeup jobs for this movie that spans over half a century with the same characters going through life and its hardships. Some of the best aging makeup, I believe, was showcased in this gem of a movie that required aging of the actors' bodies for a scene of nudity.

Benjamin Bratt's role as Dr. Juvenal Urbino, Fermina's husband, was perhaps my favorite character. Bratt was able to present a cocky and at times self-absorbed man in a way that made the character of Dr. Urbino, the main obstacle in Florentino's way to be with Fermina, a likable character one doesn't route for, but rather enjoys watching and observing in his mannerisms and handsome air.

Another aspect of the movie that is worth mentioning is the soundtrack. Shakira sings a few haunting songs that are as lush as the visuals and as sultry as the storyline.

Perhaps I should try reading the book again. Perhaps my reading preference is more lenient now that I'm a few years older, and my mind a bit more mature than when I tried to read this book a few years back... who knows? I will pick it up and give it another try.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Of sickness and kids

With spring finally in the air, I've been suffering from my usual allergies that include runny nose, itchy dry eyes and itchy throat. The effects are mild, but annoying all the same. When my throat felt hoarse just a couple days ago, I thought it was just an allergy deal and dismissed it as something to remedy with even a piece of Ricola cough drops.

Today, I am stuffy, sneezy, tired and just plain sick. Add to that a pain in my neck that throbs each time I move my neck a certain way! Truthfully, I feel well enough to go about my day, but I think that doing too much might make what I think is a mild cold into something more. Also, the pain in my neck is what's making me lean more toward the idea of staying home this Friday night. Fridays I usually go out to dinner with my sister and some friends, and though I look forward to each Friday night, I think this Friday will be one I have to pass up.

Looking in the paper this morning, I was made aware that the Impressionist Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum is close to ending; May 25th is the last day. I've know about this for quite some time, but never made it possible for myself to go, so I think this weekend will be a good opportunity with the weather being nice, and time being of the essence.

Right before the end of last year, our neighbors down the street moved. They're a nice family, who were renting the house they were in, and had to leave, because the owner decided to sell the house. In the time they were living on our street, we got to know them a little bit. The family consists of a man, no younger than 60-something, his wife who is only a little younger, and their three kids. At first, I thought they were grandparents whose grandkids visit them a lot, and though I still can't be sure, the kids have proven to be, in fact, their kids. Their ages range from an 18-year-old boy, to a 4 or 5-year-old little girl. The reason I'm talking about this, is because the 18-year-old boy, Vincent, is graduating on Saturday May 24th from Lakewood High School, where I went for my Freshman and Sophomore years. Though we don't keep in touch with this family, every now and then they come out to our neighborhood to say hello to us and the other neighbors they befriended while living here. We have been invited to Vincent's graduation, and I thought it was awfully sweet that even though we're not that close to these people, and probably won't be going to the event in Boulder, the boy was cavalier enough to drop off his graduation announcement, and write on the envelope "My Dad is Marcel," in case we weren't sure who he was. I really wish Vincent and his family had been able to stay in the house down the street, because they were a family of very nice and extremely sociable people. All three kids are incredibly polite and helped not only their Dad with outdoor chores (what I could see), but were always looking out for each other as well. Many times, I'd see the middle boy on his skateboard, acting cool, but not too cool to look out for his little sister tagging along, and reminding her to "be careful, or you'll fall" as she runs behind him. I get warm fuzzies just remembering such sights outside my window... such a difference from the other kids on our street who don't display such behavior toward each other.

The rest of the kids on our street are quite colorful. They ride their scooters, bicycles, or what have you and play every kind of game imaginable outside. Since they're outside so much on nice days, I get to hear some of what they say and though at times it's quite mundane, sometimes it's quite funny. Just the other day, I was sitting outside on the porch, and one boy was riding his bike with his friend tagging along behind him. I have no idea what would merit such a comment in a conversation between two pre-pubescent boys.

First boy says as a matter-of-factly: "I've got ancestors that are 500 years old."

The other boy replies: "Really?" with genuine curiousity and interest.

The first boy then continues: "Yeah. But they're dead now."

It made me laugh a lot. It's interesting to hear just what kids talk about right before they hit that age where their brain begins to think of things you don't want them to think or know about.

There's not much else for me to write about. I am in the process of watching the movie, Love in the Time of Cholera. I say I'm in the process, because I started it, but still haven't finished it. So far, so good. I plan on writing a blurb about when I'm done, because I tried to read the book a few years ago.

For now, I will focus on getting better, and getting rid of this annoying cold.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yum yum bubble gum!

For quite some time, and maybe even a year or two, my family has refrained from purchasing mainstream gum.

The reason?

Because gum contains BHT, a substance that is used to maintain freshness in almost all gums sold in the States, and one that is a pork byproduct. *I was able to confirm this a couple years ago, but for some reason, there is nothing that says BHT is a pork byproduct anywhere. But whether it's BHT or some other thing; if it's pork, we won't eat it.*

So how did me and my family handle life without Wrigley's, Extra, Trident or Orbitz? Simple. We bought gum at the International Market where we buy everything else we need to make authentic Middle Eastern food. The gum is much like Chiclets, and it got us by, except it only comes in two flavors: mint and peppermint.

I've been searching for fruit flavored (or any other flavored) gum to no avail. I was doomed to chew the same, minty gum for the rest of my life.

That was what I thought until I visited a local Asian mart right here in Denver, where different kinds of gums are sold, and voila! I found fruit flavored gum-- bubble gum, no less-- that did not contain BHT! Woohoo!

Marukawa brand gum comes in a seven-pack, containing orange, melon, strawberry, grape, green apple and bubble gum flavors. It is delicious gum imported from Japan (where BHT is banned altogether), made with actual sugar, and each flavor really tastes like the real thing. Although it is artificially flavored, it doesn't taste anything like the chemically stuff I'm used to with gum here.

Silly of me to write about gum, but it has been such a long time since I've been able to enjoy a delicious, fruit flavored piece of gum! I'm chewing and popping as I write, and I feel like I'm chewing and popping an actual orange. I'm stocking up on Murakawa gum next time I am near the Asian Mart!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mental diarrhea

It happens every now and then, where although life keeps on going and moving forward, I still feel I have nothing to report. Nothing worth writing about anyway. That's the point I'm at right now. There is so little going on that is of actual substance it makes it difficult to justify hitting that Publish Post button and subjecting readers to the mundane details of my everyday life. But there also comes a time when I'm itching to write and in turn updating my slow-moving blog. I'm at that point also, so here goes what one of my professors described as mental diarrhea.

I'm still watching foreign movies-- still mostly Asian, but not at the same rate as I was just a little while ago. It's a combination of being busy with life and other interests and/or hobbies that take a big bite out of my movie watching and analyzing time. It actually takes much time for me to watch, analyze and form an opinion about a movie. There have been a few movies I've watched that I ended up not writing about, because I couldn't organize my thoughts about them, or plain didn't feel I understood enough to write intelligently about them. I think I'm gonna start a more official system of writing about every movie I see, even if I don't particularly "get it". That way I challenge myself to write something that doesn't flow easily out of me (which happens more than I'd like to admit) and I don't have such huge gaps between blog posts.

And this brings me to another interesting enough point to write about; a cluttered mind. I have a cluttered mind. I have so much going on in my head at any given moment, what with trying to keep track of the things that are mundane but necessary, and trying to keep track of things taking place in the near future, and things I'd like to accomplish, and thoughts and dreams and and and... there is so much stuff going on in there. And it doesn't stop there, because something you know you wanna do and plan to do, has little sub-things you have to do in order to make them happen. I'm making myself crazy just writing about it like this, but it's true. It's hard to have a clear mind without that awful clutter that obscures the light at the end of that long and winding tunnel that is your mind. It delays, if not stops me from accomplishing many things, and I'm in the process of trying to figure out little ways and things I can do in order to unclutter for long enough to write, or do other things to better myself in all facets of life. Writing is my outlet, and with clutter it becomes so muddled, I end up not writing for days and weeks. Clutter is bad all around, mental or physical!

I've also started knitting again. I've been trying to knit since I was a kid, and my mom would have to cast on stitches for me each time. Back then, I'd knit something as big as a pocket-sized swatch, and then bicycles and Barbies would be calling to me, and I'd go running, leaving the unfinished stitches behind. I stopped knitting for quite some time, and started again in my early 20s. At that point, I learned how to not only cast on stitches all by my super-awesome self, but I also learned how to knit in Stockinette stitch. Up until then, the only way I knew was the way that made my project look like the back of a sweater... my newly acquired skill was making me giddy. During my knitting revival, I made several scarves and a few hats out of some very yummy and expensive yarns, but not much else. It was fun to make functional pieces I could wear and boast about making, but after a while knitting in what is essentially a constant straight line became incredibly boring and not so satisfying. Hats were a little more challenging, but in the end, how many hats can one make before becoming the crazy hat lady? I started going through phases, where I would knit for a spell, and then put it away. I think that my life will be filled with these phases of knitting and not knitting, but right now I am in a knitting phase. I've knit a purse that still needs to have lining sewn in, and bamboo handles to be attached. The sewing is what I'm having trouble with, and that is really the only reason why I have not finished that project just yet. I'm also working on a spring/summer short-sleeved sweater that seems like it will be a cinch all the way through, but I still haven't gotten to the actual shaping part, so I don't know if I will get tripped up by that as well. Though I don't think it will be as difficult as just time-consuming. I'm fine with time-consuming, as long as I have a functioning piece in the end. I spent a lot of money on that yarn, which is a bamboo blend.

Another hobby I've been nurturing with difficulty is my hobby of reading. I started reading a book a few weeks ago and haven't finished it. In fact, I haven't even picked it up for at least two weeks. The book in question is F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and Damned. Sounds like a good old American soap opera title, but it's not. It's nothing of the sort. It is said that this work of Fitzgerald's eerily predicted the path of his life as a doomed 1920s socialite. I decided to pick this up at the bookstore instead of just getting it at the library like I usually do, because I feel that there are certain authors you can't go wrong with. For Fitzgerald I'm willing to spend the money and make the room on the bookshelf. I still feel like it's money well-spent, because Fitzgerald is a genius with words, prose, and everything required to describe the human condition on printed paper. I am even gonna say that I like what I've read of The Beautiful and Damned, but I suppose I need something a little less intense at this time. I've written about my feeling on ditching a book halfway, and how even if it's a bad book, I hate to do that. When the book is good though, and you're just not prepared for the intensity it has to offer I feel it's OK to stop reading it, because you will eventually pick it up again and know what to expect. For the time being, I feel I must let this book sit on the shelf for a little while until I am ready to absorb what it has to say. I have no idea what to read next, of course, but having declared to myself and everyone else that I am no longer reading The Beautiful and Damned makes moving onto something else so much easier... now I can pull that bookmark out and completely lose my place.

Finally, I'd like to talk about my attempt(s) to acquire shoes for the coming warm season. Each year I tend to get a little crazy in the shoe department, particularly when the shoes are of the summer caliber. I love shoes and feel that shoes can truly make or break an outfit, so the first thing I update when a new season abounds is my shoe collection. This year is no exception, and I've been carefully picking out practical, yet cute and feminine shoes. I don't know what happened to my judgement the other day, but I bought a pair that looking at right now, I feel is perhaps the ugliest pair of shoes I've bought in a very long time. I remember being in the store, and trying them on and thinking, "Super cute!" After having brought them home and heard feedback from my mom and sister and best friend, I'm truly at a loss for words to explain why I thought this particular pair was something I wanted to have on the floor of my closet. Thankfully, I can return them and forget this ever happened, but it still doesn't solve the mystery of why I fell in love with them in the store. I'm almost embarrassed for having committed such a taste-related crime, because I bought the shoes with my friend, who agreed with my mom and sister that the shoes are just plain ugly. She said she told me they were ugly in the store, but I guess whatever possessed me and made me buy the hideous pair with gusto was the same thing that rendered me deaf!*Sigh* I guess we all make mistakes, and I'm glad I can fix this one, but gosh, I'm pretty embarrassed!

Well, I feel a lot better now that I've been able to utilize my outlet. I am working on making it a habit to write anything without holding back, but it's hard, because I'm anal about what I let people read of my writing. I need to stop being anal and just write write write and write some more!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another column

As the title of this post suggests... I've got another column featured on Intrepid Media. Check out A One-Sided Struggle. The one-sided struggle refers to the struggle between East and West, but focusing on China vs. Hollywood.

I took Pearl S. Buck's Pavilion of Women and compared the book to the 2001 movie version. My aim was to make a commentary about how the West refuses to accept the East, and how the East must struggle to let its voice be heard.

I am a bit late in making the announcement of this column being a feature, but even though it is not the main feature come Friday, you can always read it in the old features.

As always, thanks for reading!