Top Reads of the Week
Published on November 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

Health: Kristina Ingvarsson on her struggle with depression

Movies: Sara Foss on "Skyfall"

Politics: Sara Foss on what the Republicans aren't learning

Tradition: Sara Foss on Thanksgiving

Nope, Not Gonna Learn
Published on November 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Mitt Romney lost for myriad reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was the unrelenting meanness of his party. At least, that's my theory. When you basically insult half the country, and suggest they're a bunch of leeches, a lot of people are not going to want to vote for you. Throw in some insulting remarks about gays, women and minorities, and your candidacy will only appeal to a narrow slice of the electorate.

I don't know what I expected the Republicans to do after losing an election they were confident they were going to win, but I think I thought they would stop saying stuff that made them look like a bunch of hateful jerks. Because it's not a very good strategy, you know?  But I was wrong. The insulting comments have continued unabated! First, there was Romney's conversation with donors, where he suggested Obama won because of all the gifts he was going to hand out.

Then this week Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens claimed that Obama only won the votes of Americans who earn less than $50,000. “The Republican Party has problems, but as we go forward, let’s remember that any party that captures the majority of the middle class must be doing something right," said Stuart, who seems oblivious to the fact that median household income is about $50,000. In any case, what is Stuart suggesting here? That the people who matter voted for Romney, and everybody else sucks?

Stuart's feelings were echoed by former GOP Congressman Tom Davis, who said that Romney lost because of Obama's ability to turn out "underclass minorities" who "orient toward the city" and "were pulled out of apartments." As someone who lives in an apartment, I always bristle when people characterize apartment-dwellers as shiftless losers. And I'm sure all the people who voted for Obama, love being described as the underclass.

My expectation is that the GOP will attempt to rebrand as the party of "compassionate conservatives." But every time they open their mouths, they make it harder to do so.

NFL Picks, Week 13
Published on November 29, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 13 NFL picks.

Click here to read them.

My Struggle With Depression, and How Exercise Helped Me Get Better
Published on November 28, 2012 by guest author: Kristina Ingvarsson

Depression is a word that carries a big stigma and feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. I have suffered from depression all my life, but didn't know I was battling a medical illness until I let it go too far and got really sick in 2005. It took me two years to get well and seven years to recover. During this recovery period I learned a lot about the illness, myself, and how to prevent it.

An "onset" of depression would be like a dark cloud rolling in and sweeping me into a fog, making me feel heavy, tired and  uninterested. In my mind all I wanted to do was go out to the woods, dig a deep hole, and lie down in it looking up at the tree crowns. That was my depression vision. Every onset prior to 2005 had only lasted two to three days, and then things would go back to normal. Every time "the cloud" dissipated it was a great relief, like a sigh coming out of me, and I would think, "What just happened? What is wrong with me?"

Life went on until July 2005, when the world slowly crashed over a couple weeks time, and I fell deep all the way to the bottom of the barrel with no way of getting out. Something sensible in the back of my mind whispered that I needed help so I picked up the phone early one morning at work while crying uncontrollably and called the employee help line. That was the start of the turning point, and learning that I had a medical condition where the chemical balance in my body would get out of balance, and cause these onsets of depression.


CeeLo and The Muppets
Published on November 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

What could be better than CeeLo Green and the Muppets singing "All I Need Is Love"?

Enter the Crazy Season
Published on November 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about how to celebrate the holiday season in simpler ways - ways that don't involve waste and over-consumption - in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"Thanksgiving, the homiest of holidays, has passed and the craziest time of year has begun.

My family loves Thanksgiving, so much that we celebrate it at least twice. Friends know that if they miss one of our two major Thanksgivings, we will be happy to host a spare feast when they arrive. We have our own traditions — making all the food ourselves, with as much of the meal as possible coming from our home gardens and, at least for the traditional Thanksgiving, making paper blimps to hang around the house.

That’s my husband’s contribution to the holiday — since he grew up near the Thanksgiving college football games in Miami, blimps were as much a symbol of the holiday as the northern-grown food that filled the table.

Part of the reason we love Thanksgiving so much is that it is home-centered, a reason for family to gather and share a meal, to be together without any other expectations. We work off the extra pie with long walks and stay at the table long into the evening talking and playing games.

And we try to hold onto that feeling for the rest of the year, when all our activities have been usurped by voices urging us to buy, buy, buy."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Watching "Skyfall"
Published on November 27, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new James Bond film, "Skyfall."

Here's an excerpt:

"I’m not a hardcore Bond fan, but I have enjoyed the occasional Bond film.

They provide good escapist fun, especially if you like cars, gadgets, colorful villains, shootings, exotic locales, sexual repartee and attractive men and women in tuxedos and evening gowns, respectively.

I’m not sure how profound the average Bond film is, and I’m not sure it matters — these films are entertainments of the first order, and I doubt most of the people who go to see a Bond film leave the theater clamoring for more psychological depth. The great thing about Bond is that you know what he’s all about as soon as the credits roll, and you can just lean back and take it all in. What’s interesting about the new Bond movie, 'Skyfall,' is how much it wants to provide the same old escapist thrills Bond films always have, while also exploring Bond’s back story, dark side and motivations. And for the most part, director Sam Mendes strikes a pretty good balance between the almost campy surface pleasures of a Bond film, and the 21st century’s apparent desire for brooding, angsty heroes. This Bond movie is a lot of fun, but it hits some unexpected grim notes."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Homer at Home
Published on November 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Winslow Homer exhibit "Weatherbeaten" at the Portland Museum of Art.

Here's an excerpt:

"I usually travel to my parents’ house in Maine for Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception.

And though my parents have only lived in this house for about eight years, it’s a place I know well: My grandfather grew up there, and we spent one or two weeks there each summer when I was a kid. On Friday we did one of my favorite activities: The Cliff Walk on Prouts Neck. Prouts Neck is a rocky peninsula just down the road from my parents’ house, and the cliff walk winds around the peninsula, over sandy beaches and rocks, offering an expansive view of the sea. The area is best known as the home of the great American artist Winslow Homer, whose studio on Prouts Neck was recently refurbished by the Portland Museum of Art and opened to tour groups. Many of Homer’s most famous paintings depict the rugged coastline of Prouts Neck and the pounding surf; his studio features a deck from which he could observe the ocean in all seasons and types of weather.

The first Homer painting I ever saw, the foreboding 1885 oil painting 'The Fog Warning,' belonged to my grandfather, whose parents knew Homer, and hung in his living room. My great-grandparents ran a hotel on Prouts Neck called the Checkley House and Homer stayed there before moving into his studio. I’m not sure how close my great-grandparents were to Homer, but the Checkley House did feed him; according to my father, Homer would lower a flag when he wanted food. This personal history probably helps explain why I’m such a big fan of Homer, but his work continues to touch and resonate with many people, as I discovered when I went to the Portland Museum of Art’s 'Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine' exhibit on Saturday.

Click here to read the whole thing.


Peanuts and Race
Published on November 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

In honor of Charles Schultz's birthday, SEK over at Lawyers, Guns and Money has posted a nice series of comics examining race in "Peanuts."

"Peanuts" was not overtly political, but in 1968 Schultz took the bold step of introducing his readers to a black boy named Franklin. In the strip, the existence of Franklin wasn't a big deal - he retrieved Charlie Brown's beach ball and helped him build a sand castle. This might not sound revolutionary, but it did generate controversy, with one letter writing telling Schultz, "I don’t mind you having a black character, but please don’t show them in school together." The post includes a horribly racist Dennis the Menace comic from 1970, which helps provide a sense of how forward-thinking Schultz was.

Anyway, it's a pretty interesting piece, especially if you like comics. Click here to read it.

What Could Disappear
Published on November 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

This New York Times graphic show the coastal and low-lying areas that would be flooded if sea levels rise due to climate change.

Not that we should worry about climate change, or acknowledge that it exists, or anything.

New Adventures, Old Traditions
Published on November 26, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my boredom with routine and also the value of traditions.

Here's an excerpt:

"Some people can listen to the same CD over and over again.

I’m not one of those people.

Even my most recently purchased CDs seldom get played more than once in a row, and I usually buy several CDs at the same time to ensure that I have a variety of new music to keep me entertained.

I have a similar attitude toward almost everything I do.

I rarely rewatch movies, though there are exceptions: I picked up a copy of the 2008 Coen Brothers comedy 'Burn After Reading' after reading an essay on how the film resembles the Petraeus scandal, and I’ve been keeping my eye on the film schedule at Proctors, because I’d like to see 'The Wild Bunch' on the big screen.

Proctors is screening the American Film Institute’s top 100 films, which is a great idea and something I wholeheartedly support. But I have yet to attend a single screening, for a simple reason: I’ve seen all of those movies. And if I’m going to repeat myself, rather than expose myself to something different and new, there should be a good reason.

As a result, I hardly ever reread books, preferring to tackle works (and usually authors) that are new to me. I like to check out new venues for art and music, and read essays and articles that can introduce me to things I’ve never heard of or thought about before. I like to try different foods, and visit new restaurants and bars."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on November 25, 2012 by Sara Foss

Fireworks Wednesday (2006) ***1/2

Flight (2012) ***

The Atomic Cafe (1982) ***1/2

Skyfall (2012) ***1/2

NFL Picks, Week 12
Published on November 21, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 12 NFL picks.

Click here to read them.

The Wreckage of Staten Island
Published on November 20, 2012 by Sara Foss

In case you've forgotten about the monstrous hurricane that devastated New York City and New Jersey, check out these photos.

Watching "Flight"
Published on November 20, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Denzel Washington movie, "Flight."

Here's an excerpt:

"The new movie 'Flight' is many things — an adult drama about addiction, a star vehicle for Denzel Washington, a character study disguised as a thriller — but about two-thirds of the way through I began thinking of it as a horror movie. Except instead of wanting to scream 'No! Don’t go in there!' at the screen, I wanted to yell, 'No! Don’t open the mini-bar!' But of course the mini-bar is opened. Characters in these types of movies have a choice: to open the mini-bar or not open it. When they stop opening it, the movie stops.

In 'Flight,' Denzel Washington gives one of his best performances as Whip Whitaker, a hot-shot pilot who also happens to be an alcoholic and drug addict. The previews for 'Flight' made the film look like the story of a good and innocent man, wrongly accused of something he did not do, but the opening scenes make it clear that Whip is no innocent: He spends the night drinking with his flight attendant girlfriend, snorts some cocaine to wake himself up, puts on his captain uniform, and heads to the airport for a commuter flight. He steers the plane through some rough weather, drinks some vodka, takes a nap at the controls and is jolted awake when a mechanical failure causes the plane to nosedive toward Atlanta.

As everybody on board freaks out, Whip calmly instructs his colleagues and guides the plane to a rough landing in a field. His actions are amazing and heroic (the film makes it clear that if Whip hadn’t been at the controls, every passenger on board would have died), but the National Transportation Safety Board still has questions. Such as: Why did Whip’s blood test, taken while he was in the hospital, reveal that his blood alcohol level was beyond the legal limit? And if drink service was suspended due to turbulence, why were empty bottles of vodka recovered from the wreck? Fortuantely, Whip has the backing of his union rep, Charlie (Bruce Greenwood), and a shrewd attorney, Hugh (Don Cheadle). Neither of these men are fooled by Whip’s stories and excuses, and they make it clear he must stop drinking, at least until he’s cleared of wrongdoing. 'We can get you help,' Hugh tells Whip. But Whip declines help, which is basically the story of his life."

Click here to read the whole thing.

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