Friday, September 28, 2007

Questions for you?

I've been bombarding people with questions all day. I think people are finding me annoying... so I thought I'd inflict the questions on you:

Do you like bubblegum?
Do you want to go to Paris with me?
Do you like the rain?
What is your favorite season?
Are you in love?
What is a word you use too much?
What is a word you wish you used more?
What keeps you from losing it?
Do you like hamsters?
What is your favorite color?
What are you doing tomorrow?
When was the last time you saw me?
What is your favorite day of the year?
Do you like carrot cake?
When are we gonna hang out next?

Oh, and if you're feeling shy, make up a name and leave a comment anyway. Like: Lil Bo Bleep or Grand Master Slash or maybe even Princess Carolinia of the Boxwood Forest

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mini-Reviews or My Life with my new Laptop.

I narrowly escaped a life of boredom by the arrival of my new laptop. While I still can't get the wireless speed to a level that will allow me to watch TV online, I have been enjoying many a DVD. So here are my mini-reviews of the most recent ones.

M: Filmed in 1931 and used by the Nazi's as a propaganda film against sexual deviancy, this film is extraordinarily sophisticated in subject and execution (pun intended). I wish I were back in college so I could watch this film for class and then have a discussion group about capital punishment. Maybe if I'm ever a college professor, I will. At some point I'll tell you the other things this movie brought up for me... remind me, would you?

The Bicycle Thief: Yes, I got on a historical film kick... this one is post WWII, Italian, and it also is beautiful, thoughtful, and nuanced for this time in film. A young family tries to navigate their economic desperation during the depression that followed the war. Tragic and beautiful.

My Beautiful Laundrette: This is a mid-80's classic. Cheesy, boring, and confusing. Daniel Day Lewis is in it. Netflix told me I would like it. They were wrong. I recommend alot of alcohol and an 80's party theme if you are dying to check this out. I feel really bad about the hour and a half that my friend spent watching this with me. She'll never get that time back.

The Lives of Others: At Oscars time I couldn't believe there was a movie that beat Pan's Labyrinth out for Best Foreign Language Film, but now I understand. Ulrich Muhe, who plays the secret police officer, is brilliant - He could convey so much expression with a nearly expressionless face. Sex, intrigue, writing, and personal integrity are the main themes. The last line of the movie is touching in its double entendre.

I've got Finding Neverland and Central Station at home. I can't wait for both of them!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Stalker City.

I really hesitate to talk about this online, because I think it might open me up to more unwanted attention, but maybe some other people have some helpful advice... so here it goes...

I have a long history of stalkers. Starting back in 1994, there was a homeless man in Baltimore that would follow me around, sometimes waiting outside my building on campus. He would never talk to me, but he would follow me wherever I was going: grocery store, bagel store, Wawa, etc., and then he would follow me back to the dorms. One day he followed me almost a mile to a shopping center and into Woolworth's and I asked the manager of the store to call the police. That was the end of him following me.

Fast forward to Washington in 1999, when a bus driver became fixated on me in a weird way. Every time he saw me he would stop. If he was driving, he would stop his car, if he was driving the bus, he would stop the bus (even with passengers on it) to say hello. I didn't encourage him, but it kept escalating. Finally, I moved.

Now there is another homeless man who I think is schizophrenic that I think is becoming a problem. At first he would just follow me while I walked to lunch and try to chat. (Although he always starts with "I've seen you around." which makes me nervous that he's really watching me.)

Well in the last few weeks he's started sitting at the table just outside my office. Today he was there before I got to work and as I walked by him the President of the college happened to say hello, and he very excitedly said "Hi Kathryn!" after she did. So now he knows my name.

I told my boss about it. Went to run an errand and had her close the blinds. By the time I got back he was gone. It's got me nervous though. I like living in the city, but I worry about exactly this kind of thing - since the bus driver was the one that prompted my flight to the suburbs the last time.

Maybe this time it won't be a problem. Maybe he's harmless. Maybe I'm over-reacting. But that's alot of maybes.

Hey!!! I just realized that my last post was about me being a stalker to Chiwetel Ejiofor!! Funny. Maybe this is actually all some kind of karmic payback.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Kinky Boots

It all started in 2002. I was living in Washington, DC, and one Saturday afternoon I escaped my life through the help of the Georgetown cinema and a little movie called Dirty Pretty Things.

Two hours of a brilliance. Life of the immigrant as a ballet of color. I left the theater and asked the ticket office if they had a poster. The poster, following on the massive acclaim of Amelie, was a picture of Audrey Tatou - annoying as an ad campaign since she's only a minor character in this fabulous film. My eyes scanned quickly looking for the actor, my new love, the man with the eyes that can convey so much. His name: Chiwetel Ojiofor. (

Since that moment, I have watched every movie I can find that features him. Sometimes that leads me to some good ones, like Serenity and Inside Man, sometimes I get disappointed... like when that good-for-nothing trollop had him and didn't want him in Love Actually.

Last night, I watched Kinky Boots.

These ad people know their audiences, that's for sure. In the movie poster and on the cover, Chiwetel Ojiofor is in a suit... a wonderfully fitted, handsome suit.

The only problem is that in the movie, he plays a drag queen.

He was a gorgeous drag queen too. And he has an amazing voice. I guarantee he patterned his performance after Naomi Campbell - and it was spot on.

But where does that leave me? I'm open enough to be able to love a drag queen, especially a beautiful one, but do I have to give up my obsession? We'll just have to see about that.

Do I need to amend my stalking ways and settle for mere admiration? I'm up to the challenge. Go ahead, Chiwetel, keep choosing these wonderful roles. Keep testing your range. Give me some time, I may end up loving you even MORE.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Are you serious?

I began to emerge from several days of migraine pain this afternoon, so I cleaned a bit around the apartment and set off to mail a bill.

Such a beautiful Saturday... clear, cool, and bright. People were out in force: shopping, playing drums on street corners, chatting with one another, and spending time with their loved ones. I had several interesting interactions: one with a man at the bookstore who is studing micro-biology and one with a woman who does spoken word poetry.

But after I dropped my letter, I spotted out of the corner of my eye a woman with a blind person's cane. She was crossing against the light and having trouble navigating some construction.

She was already under the construction walkway when I caught up to her to ask if she needed any help. Another woman came up behind me and very rudely said "Excuse me, EXCUSE me." I moved aside and she saw the woman's cane.

She stopped, looked at me and said "oh, were you asking her if she needed help?"

"Yes." I said...
(with my don't-you-feel-like-an-idiot-now-and-if-you-don't-you-should look in full effect.)

"Oh, that was so nice of you"

Then she turned around and said "Besides, who knows if she's even blind?"

The blind woman was black. The rude woman was white.

I shot her a dirty look and the woman tried to explain... I shook my head at her and quickened my pace. She kept looking over at me as if she wanted to say more.

No, ma'am... no need to explain. I understand perfectly. You are racist. You are so racist that you see a black person and immediately they are under suspicion. You think that woman was pretending to be blind so she can take your stuff.

Well ma'am... you can have your stuff. You can have all the stuff you want... take mine too. I don't want it, if it means that someday I'll act and think like you. I'm ashamed that you and I are alike in any way. I'm ashamed that you felt you could spew your hatred and that you thought I would agree.

I wish I would have said that to you - you racist bitch.

In a perfect world, a blind woman would have no concept of race. But I bet she does. I bet she is fully aware that she is black - you remind her of it often enough. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to be blind, especially in a city like Philadelphia, but I especially cannot imagine how difficult is is to be blind and black, and to have to deal with women like you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

If you can't beat them, Join them.

I'm back on the wagon. That's right... for those of you that don't know, I am struggling with a serious Starbuck's addiction. I can't help myself - no control, none what-so-ever.

Let me paint a picture of yesterday - the day I hit rock bottom.

I had an event at lunch, so I headed out a bit late to grab some sustenance. I got a taco salad, sitting to enjoy it properly at the lunch place. It was inexpensive, so I was feeling good that I had eaten well and not surpassed my lunch budget.

When it was time to go back to work, I walked out of the restaurant.

There in front of me (duunn, duunn, dunnn) was a Starbucks.

"What harm would a little cookie do?" said the voice in my head.

No. I won't do it. I don't need it. I don't even want it.

"Just a little cookie?"

My legs begin to move mechanically towards the door.

"A cookie... it's not too expensive, you don't have to get anything to drink."

Oh, this is a bad idea. I shouldn't go in. And yet here I am, hand on the door.

"Oh, they don't have any cookies. Darn! Well then, maybe a little bit of cake."

Cake is not a cookie... I don't like where this is going. Don't order a drink. You hear me, don't order a drink!

"No, drinks... just a piece of cake."...

It came time for me to order, and I asked for the cake. Even though my mind was screaming "NOOOOOOO, don't order a drink".... those four little words escaped my lips: "Iced venti soy-chai."

That was the moment that I realized, I do NOT have control of this. This IS a problem.

So, I've got a plan. If I cannot go ONE short little week without Starbucks, then I'm going to work there. I will get a job there and let the corporate machine feed my addiction from the inside, so I can save my pennies for things I really want, like a trip to see my aunt in Maine this December, or Microsoft Office for my new computer, or even *gasp!* money in my savings account!

I made it to work today by repeating in my head "Starbucks uses spoiled milk." There's nothing grosser to me than spoiled food, so I'm hoping that will work for awhile.

If not, then I'm just gonna get a job there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bad News.

It's raining here in Philadelphia, the sky is dark and my mood matches it exactly.

I often refrain from reading the news - Whole months pass where I am certain I'll be unable to handle the onslaught of information, needless violence, and atrocities of our modern world. I broke from my usual avoidance today - big mistake.

The first article I read was of an 18 year old college student whose car flipped off the road and who survived 8 days upside down, trapped in his car by drinking water from the stream out of his size 13 high-top sneaker. His disappearance was reported very quickly - he failed to show up at his girlfriend's apartment. He was trapped just off the Baltimore Washington Parkway, less than a mile from his home, and yet he was not found until he managed to climb up an impossibly steep, 30 feet long embankment. A good Samaritan saw him lying on the road trying to signal for help and stopped.

The second article was about an African-American woman who was held and tortured by six adults in a West Virginia home. Six white people assaulted her for over a week. An anonymous tip lead police to investigate and the woman happened to be visible when they stopped by. The list of abuse and torture that the woman endured was awful, hard to read and impossible to understand.

Both articles have me wondering how these things happen. How does a young man go missing, just a few feet off a busy highway, for over a week? How does a woman end up being tortured by six adults - male and female, some members of the same family, some not? At what point does one of them say "This is not right"?

I argued with my friend last weekend about giving of one's self without fear. I was operating under the assumption that goodwill will be returned. Certainly not by everyone, but by most. I still believe that, but reading of these events makes it more difficult.

I'm left to wonder if I should spend more time worrying for my own safety. My friends and loved ones would probably say yes - that I am too cavalier with sharing my energy - that I am not allowed to love and cherish complete strangers.

I say no. I will love strangers. I will be angry for these two people that were forgotten and mistreated. I will give my time and energy to those that need it. More of us need to serve as models - or where will we be?

I know I should be doing even more than I do. I should give more, I should volunteer more, and I should speak up more. I'm going to seriously try to spend more of my time and energy on good works, and less time and money on frivolousness.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Name Change.

Occasionally I get included on "name change" emails. I don't keep that much information on behalf of alums, but some, so I get included.

Recently, I got one that read like this:
Rose Smith, remarried from Jones, originally in system as Johnson, maiden name: Carter.

I'm not judging people for multiple marriages - but at what point do you say "enough is enough" with the name changes?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle has passed.

Before I could read well enough to enjoy her books, I knew of Madeleine L'Engle. As my sister's favorite, our sweet new puppy was named Charles Wallace. I knew that the name suited him: our smart little puppy with the big personality.

When I was much older, I finally read A Wrinkle in Time and I was blown away. Never a fan of children's books that pandered to the reader, nor a fan of super-fantastical science fiction, I felt that Madeleine L'Engle had created a story abstract enough to relate to anyone. I felt loss, I felt uncertain, I felt fear, and thusly I could relate to Meg.

I read some of the others, never a fully dedicated fan like my sister. But my admiration never faltered. Having read several books for young adults recently, I have new appreciation for her complexity. It is a challenge to engage the reader without oversimplifying - she navigated through swift moving plots with loving and honest attention to character development.

I have yet to read her autobiographical works. I must do so, as her life sounds fascinating! You can read more about her in the NYTimes... or any number of papers that will likely have lengthy obituaries for her.

I just wanted to acknowledge her. Many happy moments of my life have been spent in her literary care... and many sweet memories with the namesake of one of her most intriguing characters.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Six Degrees of Flickr

I play a game with myself when I need a break from work. I call it Six Degrees of Flickr. The premise is simple: I visit the Flickr pages of people I know, visit photos with alot of comments and click through six degrees of separation (sometimes more, sometimes less).

The result is that I see all kinds of amazing photography. Some is saccharine sweet, some is simply breathtaking, and some is just downright weird. Along the way you see funny, interesting, and odd. It's really fun and I'm sure it's not unique to me.

Yesterday, while playing Six Degrees of Flickr, I came across a photo from the Sunday Herald in Australia that contains several "letters to the future." I won't link to it here, since I don't know the person and don't know if they want a bunch of extra traffic to their Flickr page, but believe me when I say, they are adorable. They are projections to 2032.

So, here is my letter to the Future:

Hi Sweetheart:
If you're reading this, then it's 2032 and I cannot- simply cannot- believe you are already 24. Congratulations on all you have achieved. I'm sure you've graduated with honors from college by now (stay in school.) I hope I'm still around and that I can still remember back 25 years ago when your mom first told me she was pregnant. She was so excited! Of course as usual, I was worried for her, but excited for her too. And look at you now... all grown up! (I bet you're tall, even though your parents are a touch on the vertically-challenged side!)

I'm hoping that everything I have planned has come true and that we're still working hard at bringing peace and prosperity to the world. I hope you have lots of cousins by now and that they are doing well (Hello, my sweet babies)- hopefully, the last one starts college this Fall. You can expect they'll be calling you for advice. There are simply some things that your children would rather hear from their older cousin, not their parents.

I hope that we're a close family... I hope you visit me and my family in Africa often - staying many months with us for a break. I hope that you have an easy life and that you are comfortable. I hope that all the hard work your parents have done to be well means that you are happy and secure. I hope that I can be your Auntie Mame- and that the issues of the world are more interesting to you when you visit us.

Most of all, I hope you are a leader. I hope that you and your cousins can help forge a new reality for us all. I hope your legacy is one of peace, one of truth, and one of hope. I hope that the world you inhabit is safe and has shifted it's priorities away from the accumulation of material wealth and that there is less damage, less violence, and less poverty.

Never forget that I love you. Thank you for all the joy you have brought to us.
Auntie Kathryn

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

No map, but lots of fruit...

This weekend I finally got my long awaited produce fix. It wasn't as easy as a neighborly co-worker or well-intentioned contact dropping a basket of stuff on my desk, but perhaps I valued it more for the work it entailed.

After a hectic day of college politics and a long week of interpersonal drama, I hopped the train to NYC. From there, after some cat feeding, a bumpy cab ride, and a confusing moment at Grand Central, I hopped another train to White Plains. The next installment was a white knuckled train ride with only a minute, literally ONE minute, to spare before the car rental place closed, and we were loaded into our enormous SUV. A slightly harrowing and panic-stricken hour and a half of driving later, we were safely to the B&B.

We finally relaxed a bit after breakfast on Saturday, and found a wonderful farm stand by an orchard. Crisp Macintosh apples were the obvious choice, but the fresh roasted sweet corn turned out to be the glowingly unexpected treat. A few tastes of cider, a few moments in the sun and we were refreshed. And I was feeling like my waiting was over.

We took a hike in the local reserve and rejecting planning and reason proceeded sans aide up a steep trail that supposedly lead to a lake. I feel like the hike up to the picturesque, mountainous lake peeled off some of the tension that has been building in the last six months, maybe even touching some from the last decade. I hadn't realized how much I needed an emotional release. But I'm quite glad that I had one, lovingly guided by my dear friend.

On the way home, we found another farm stand. More expensive, but with a wider range of offerings, this time we got peaches, blackberries and pie. The peach was not-quite-ripe, but still offered "drip-down-the-chin" goodness and the next day was truly made better by the blackberries and the pie.

It wasn't necessarily idyllic, but it was what we both needed: a like-minded soul, a kind ear, a little nudging, a few emotional outbursts, and alot of fruit. I hope we can both push through with our big goals in the next few months, aided by the memories of the calm lake, the unfaltering friendship, and the sweetness of the unexpected.