Hey, you. Yeah, you, the one holding that bright yellow Nextel walkie talkie phone. Oh, I'm sorry, can you not hear me over the ear-splitting beeps of your walkie talkie that ring through the coffee shop approximately every 0.13 seconds? Or is it because you can't hear me over the snorts of laughter your friend sends you over the walkie talkie over and over as you stand in line for your coffee at Starbucks? Yes, you, the person who feels the need to scream into a walkie talkie phone - BIDDLE BEEP - so the entire coffee shop - BIDDLE BEEP - can enjoy the sordid details - BIDDLE BEEP - of the party you two went to last night where that guy was just so oh my GOD can you believe it - BIDDLE BEEP - you know?
Close your goddamn phone. Yes, that's it. Ah ah ah - close it. I mean it. Put it in your pocket, your purse, the garbage, I don't care. Just close it. Because it's bad enough hearing one side of a conversation when someone is rude enough to carry one on in a public setting. It's infinitely worse that we're all now forced to endure both sides of a conversation - BIDDLE BEEP - pockmarked with that stupid - BIDDLE BEEP - goddamn - BIDDLE BEEP - beep. Because I think that, really, someone, somewhere will live and can endure that extra 0.2 seconds it takes for "so did he really say that? Oh my GOD!" to get to their cell phone and will not die if it doesn't get there 0.2 seconds sooner through the magic of walkie talkie Nextel-tacular technology. Really, they will live. And so will we, and we will in fact live a better life having not been forced to listen to, "she totally did that! I'm telling you, she did!" BIDDLE BEEP.
That's right. Close your phone and have a non-ADD-addled moment of silence and clarity so that the rest of us can enjoy a moment like that, too.
And now that you've closed your phone, give it to me. Because I'm going to need it when I schedule a meeting with the yahoo at Nextel that came up with the idea of marketing the walkie talkie function to the general public and I'm going to - BIDDLE BEEP - beat him with it until - BIDDLE BEEP - the yellow from that phone - BIDDLE BEEP - is a nice bright red.
Next month it'll be just about a year ago that I started doing yoga. I don't remember what prompted me to start it; I only remember that it was like a switch had turned on in my head. "Yoga! Yes, I must do yoga now." It was a topic I'd never had any interest in before, and still can't explain why I suddenly felt the need to start doing yoga.
But it was one of the best decisions of my life. I do it nearly every day — there's usually a couple of days a week where my schedule will keep me from doing it, but on those days when I know I'm going to be swamped, I get up an extra hour earlier to make sure I get time to do it.
Originally I thought I was just doing yoga for the physical benefits. In fact, I never had any idea, really, that yoga was actually an entire philosophical system similar to Buddhism, which I'd always felt drawn to. Only after I started learning about it did I learn this, and suddenly it all clicked into place. The asanas and the 8-limbed holistic path just make sense for me.
I'm certainly not as toned and muscular as some of the yogis and yoginis I've seen, but it's definitely toned things up for me. Friends have noticed that I look trimmer. I've gone down a size or two when I shop now, even though I weigh the same.
Probably the best benefit, though, is the completely involuntary change in my eating habits. I'm not on a diet anymore, but I eat so much better than I did before I started yoga, and it's had a profound effect on how I feel, probably moreso than how I actually look. A year ago you had to make me eat a salad by pouring ranch dressing and cheese all over it so I couldn't taste the vegetables; now, I actually crave bowls of salad made up of spinach leaves, mandarin orange slices, some pine nuts, and a light red wine vinegar dressing. As a carryover from my low-carb days, I still don't eat pasta, white rice, or bread except maybe a serving every couple of weeks (usually if we go out to dinner, for example). When I crave something with a bit more substance to it, I eat brown rice. And all my meals have become lighter and healthier naturally. I don't feel like I'm dieting...I just feel like my body has finally gotten into line on its own nutritionally. This doesn't mean I don't indulge in the occasional "oops, did I really just eat a half a pint of Ben & Jerry's?!" But those indulgences are far more rare than they used to be. And hoo boy, they weren't very rare before. And when they do happen, I get a far greater sense of having been satiated for a particular craving and a much smaller sense of the need to repeat it for a long while.
There is one thing I wish for. I wish that yoga classes weren't so damn expensive. I practice at home but have been looking at studios in the area. There are schools-a-plenty around SoCal and there are three within a few miles of my place. But they're prohibitively expensive, which is sad because I really would like to have a place I could go, say, once a week, just often enough to get the benefits of having an instructor check my alignment and my progress, feel the group dynamic of a yoga class, but continue practicing at home for the quiet, solitary, introspective benefits that I really enjoy. There's a hot yoga studio just down the street that has a drop-in class for $16. I'd really love to try hot yoga — I've stepped up my routine to an ashtanga vinyasa sequence that is a bit more physically challenging than what I'd been doing, though I'm still a beginner at it, and hot yoga uses those sequences in a really hot room to get you sweating. I may give the class a try.
And what I'd really like to do is find a place that has some kind of day-long intensive. There are many yoga retreats that take you off for a week or so to some exotic location to practice yoga against the backdrop of a rainforest or something. I don't want that. What I want is to take my mat, strap, and blocks somewhere for, say, 7am, and spend an entire day doing yoga, doing meditation, studying the Yoga Sutras, learning how to do inversions, getting good instruction on backbends, and things like that, and come home that night. Like a yoga retreat in single-day-form. Why is there nothing like that in this area? I'd pay decent money to spend a whole Saturday for one of those.
The closest I'll get is the Yoga Journal San Francisco Conference, which I'm not certain I can go to since it's nearly $300 to attend, not including airfare and hotel. Which is unfortunate, because they have a Beginner's Conference this year that has everything I listed above.
I need to find some $300+ extra writing work, that's what I need to do...
I've been a fan of the TV show Scrubs since it came out because it is such a tight show in every respect: the acting, the writing, the direction. So when I went to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind what feels like ages ago and saw a preview for Zach Braff's Garden State (Braff being the star of Scrubs), I knew I'd want to see it.
It took forever, it seems, to finally get around to being shown around here. I was surprised that here in Orange County, California, the only place it was being shown was the indy theater over by UC Irvine. When we showed up, there was a huge line extending around the building just for Garden State, and the theater ended up being packed.
Garden State is the story of Andrew Largeman, an only slightly successful actor in L.A. who comes home to New Jersey when his mother dies. "Large" has been psychologically medicated in some form or another since he was a child, and the movie is about his decision to use his mother's death as a spring board to break away from that and feel everything, both good and bad, and really experience life for possibly the first time.
The movie was beautifully directed, and while I already felt that Braff has exceptional comedic timing as an actor, I now know that translates into his directing, too. The trailers don't convey at all, really, how funny this movie actually is. But even while it's very funny, there is this overarching sadness to it that the movie slowly erodes as you watch. The only criticism I'd have here is that sometimes the audience was laughing at jokes that were right up against important dialogue, and so the timing sometimes was a little too tight, it seemed.
Like Lost in Translation, the movie felt very real to me, as if Braff really had gone home and just had a cameraman tag along, assuming Braff's 20-something life is like most other people's. There always seems to be a signature 20-something movie for every generation, and I think Garden State is the current one. You've got the 20-something struggling actor trying to survive on his own in L.A.; you've got the 20-something guy who's singular invention allowed him to buy a mansion with no furniture (and this could easily be an internet millionaire as well); you've got the 20-something high school friends who are still living with their parents and smoking pot all day. And then you've got that interesting and awkward transition, where you've moved out, but you meet someone who's still living at home, sort of in limbo between high school and finally becoming an adult.
All of this felt very real on screen. And the actors were terrific. Natalie Portman's talent really shined in this film -- I'd gotten so used to seeing her in Star Wars that I'd forgotten she can really, really act. She was so natural, and she managed to be such a cutie and so sweet without being overpowering at all. It was a balance that's hard to imagine other actresses pulling off successfully.
The best part of the movie is something I don't want to go into too heavily because it will spoil surprise moments in the plot. I think it's this part that really hit home with me. It can be summed up with one of Large's lines: "So, you still want to compare fucked up families?"
I've done this. I've had moments sitting around with my friends, just like Large does around the fire at the mansion, talking about life stories with people I've known for years, but to whom I've never told the really ugly parts to. Until that moment -- that one moment where suddenly you are a whole different person in their eyes, where all they can manage to say is, "God, I had no idea," because they're too embarassed or awed to say anything else. The look on Large's face and the slightly hyper tone in his voice when he says, "I know, it's amazing how much of my life has been determined by a quarter-inch piece of plastic," was a moment where I could identify with the entire film in only ten seconds of dialogue and a brief facial and vocal expression. Anyone who can identify with this knows that this is exactly how your voice sounds when you're telling your story, and they know that that embarrassed smile and the little laugh you give is all you can think to do to break the ice when people are looking at you with a weird mix of pity and embarrassment. It was amazing, for me. Watching this key moment on screen was like watching parts of my own life transposed onto other characters.
The only other criticism I have of the film is that it seemed to ramble in parts, but I get the feeling that was intentional. When you're back in your home town for a few days, that's how life is. You keep running into people you haven't seen in years, and they insist on taking you out, so you go out, and then you end up going somewhere else...it's pretty true to life. But even through the rambling, there's a very strong constant, and that's Large slowly, but evenly, coming out of his medicated psychological coma. Braff pulls off this transition very well.
It's odd, but three tiny scenes in the movie really stuck with me, and they all have to do with touching. In the first, Large is on the couch during a drugged-out spin the bottle game. When the anonymous girl sits on his lap to kiss him, the camera flashes briefly to his hand, which squeezes her thigh a bit, but very nervously. There was something very real about that and I liked that there was a focus on it. You can see how nervous Large is about the idea of even touching another person, nevermind kissing them (anonymously). The second was the hug that Large gives Sam's mother. He just sinks in, and for a brief second you see him almost ready to cry, as if he'd never been hugged before and is just now realizing how good it feels. The final scene is where he reaches out to put his hand on his father's chest. It's a very confident movement but his father flinches just a bit. It's as if each of these three moments is a progression that shows him coming out of his emotional shell. It's nitpicky, but I really liked that.
I recommend trying to catch the movie if it's playing somewhere near you. It might be hard to find, but it's well worth it.
This past week, I got to do one of those business trips that never sounds like work and go down to The CPL Summer Championships. It was a chance for me to work with the audience and the community that makes up the bulk of my job. It was pretty fun, although I have to admit that I'm a little pro-gamered out this week. When you look at the gaming audience, shooter gamers are a hardcore subset of gamers, and pro gamers are a subset of the hardcore. So they're the hardcore of the hardcore, and it had been a long time since I'd spent that much time immersed in that niche. I'd forgotten how much of a lifestyle it is for these guys, who are all trying to win prizes like $50,000 for playing games. So for three days I was completely immersed in an environment where the only conversations you had with people were about clipping exploits, PPSh strats on mp_carantan, whether or not getting carbined is a noble death, and which teams were getting which sponsors and making money. Pro gaming is a pretty neat phenomena, but even I'm a little glad to get back to less hardcore conversations.
I did have, however, what turned out to be possibly the weirdest experience of my life as a female gamer.
There was a radio station broadcasting live from the event floor. They decided to give away a really nice gaming PC, and the hosts - who were not gamers themselves - gathered a crowd around them. I happened to be hovering near the back, listening to what they had to say because it was interesting and watching the games on the Intel screen.
One of the hosts said, "you know, there aren't any girls around here. But gamers are geeks, right? I mean, do they even have girlfriends? Tell you what: we'll give this gaming rig away to the first guy who can come up with a girlfriend, or at least someone who's willing to pose as his girlfriend. But she's got to prove she's his girlfriend. Like, make out with him or something!"
Suddenly, the crowd in front of me turned, and I was the only female standing there.
Within seconds, hands were reaching out to me, arms were motioning for me to come up front, and guys were shambling toward me like a pack of zombies. I shook my head and still saw some hands motioning. I actually had to back away, holding up my wedding ring like some kind of holy cross to ward off the evil.
As if I would go up front and make out with some strange guy so that HE can win a gaming rig! I'm sorry, but I think if I had to do that, I need to be the one to win it.
It was such a weird and creepy moment. Fortunately it didn't set the tone for the weekend; while there were maybe five women at that event that day, I did notice a lot more the next day. Whether they were dating the gamers who were attending or gamers themselves I couldn't tell, but I did overhear one girl in the shuttle behind me to the hotel talking about one of the leading clan's map strategies with her boyfriend. I wonder if she could beat her boyfriend in a game?