New Music Worth Noting
Published on November 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about two local bands with new CDs worth checking out.

Click here to read it.

Watching "Charlie is My Darling"
Published on November 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

The Rolling Stones have got to be one of the better documented bands in cinema.

They perform in one of the greatest music documentaries ever, "Gimme Shelter," while great directors such as Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard have filmed the band. Somewhat amazingly, the Rolling Stones are also the subject of two intimate cinema verite documentaries that were never released theatrically. One of these documentaries, 1972's "Cocksucker Blues," depicts drug use, groupies and general, all-around debauchery, and can only be shown if the director, Robert Frank, is physically present. This weird arrangement is the result of a court order; the Stones felt that the documentary was embarrassing, while Frank wanted it released. The other documentary, "Charlie is My Darling," was shot during the band's two-day tour of Ireland in 1965, but made its world premiere at the Walter Reade Theater in New York City this fall.

The Rolling Stones celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, which has led to a surge of interest in all things Stones. Last week "Charlie is My Darling" played in Schenectady, and the film will be released on DVD earlier this month. I happened to catch screening in Schenectady, and am happy to report that "Charlie is My Darling" looks fantastic. Filmed in a gritty-yet-lustrous black-and-white, the film clocks in at a trim 50 minutes, and capture the Stones just after "(I Can Get No) Satisfaction" was released. The band is still playing relatively small clubs, and their personal safety often seems to be in peril, as screaming fans mob the stage and line the streets hoping for a glimpse of the bands. The Stones come across as thoughtful and relatively young lads, amazed by their growing fame and intrigued by their place in the cultural firmament. Mick, in particular, seems sharp, focused and unusually candid.


Super Glue For Life's Problems
Published on November 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my recent battle with super glue, my tendency to postpone solving problems, and my confidence that they can, in fact, be solved.

Here's an excerpt:

"I’ve had the same pair of glasses for about five years, and when I was on vacation in Colorado they broke.

I didn’t step on them or throw them off the hotel balcony or drop a pile of bricks on them.

I simply tugged on them while taking off my hat, something I’ve done a million times before. And they snapped, the piece of the frame that extends over my ears suddenly detaching from the lenses.

'My glasses broke,' I announced, since I was far from home and this seemed like a problem my friends would have to help me solve.

Just a few days earlier I’d been wondering whether my glasses would last forever. I hate to buy things and glasses are a total rip-off — they really shouldn’t cost as much as they do. The Internet tells me that glasses are sometimes made of titanium and steel alloy, but mine are made of cheap plastic, and although they were the least expensive glasses in the shop, they still cost $250.

I examined my broken glasses and discovered that I could snap them back together, which proved to be a good temporary solution, despite the fact that sometimes they came unsnapped and fell off my head, causing my friends to laugh at me. In an effort to put an end to the mockery, I went out and bought some super glue and this seemed to do the trick. It was so effective that I tricked myself into thinking I didn’t need a new pair of glasses at all. Until last week, when they fell apart again."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on November 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

The Four Feathers (1939) ***1/2

Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (2005) ***

Mother and Child (2009) **1/2

Seven Psychopaths (2012) **1/2

Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight (2009) ***

Charlie is My Darling (1966) ***1/2

Holy Rollers (2010) ***



Top Reads of the Week
Published on November 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Politics: Sara Foss on voting, and how Mitt Romney will never understand why he lost

Friendship: Sara Foss on reuniting with old friends

Parenting: R.B. Austen on the benefits of playgroups

Adventures in Work (and Parenting)
The Benefits of Playgroups
Published on November 15, 2012 by guest author: R.B. Austen

My husband, Tom, is a high school teacher, which meant we got the summer together to enjoy our baby daughter, Kenzie.

But all vacations come to an end, and I soon found myself home alone with Kenzie. I will admit the first week was a little hard as we adjusted to a new routine. Tom and I didn’t want to play the Pass the Baby game when he came home from work, so it was on me to become a little more independent and help Kenzie to do the same. One of the first things I did was become more comfortable cooking with her. I set her activity stations up in the kitchen so that she moved from the jumper to the bouncer to the high chair as I talked and made silly faces at her while chopping vegetables and rolling out pie dough. This was great, as I learned I could cook great tasting foods like chicken pot pie, curry soup and yummy bars while maintaining the good spirits of Kenzie. I had to admit, however, that this was not too challenging as Kenzie is a pretty happy, easy-going monster.

After a week or two of this, I knew we needed something else that took us outside of our apartment besides our daily runs and walks. We soon found ourselves at Little Pesaukees, a local playgroup. I was a skeptical, since Kenzie was still learning the fine art of sitting up unassisted and had a fountain of drool streaming from her mouth. We arrived baby-late and quickly settled onto the playmat. The babies gurgled and gnawed on toys while toddlers rambunctiously hopped around them. This was a laidback group where all parents seemed to welcome talking with other parents, and not just about baby “stuff.”


Things Mitt Romney Didn't Win
Published on November 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

So I see that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are blaming Obama's re-election on unprecedented turnout from urban voters, which is their not-very-secret code for black people. Their whining refrain has quickly grown tiresome, though it's generated some good laughs, what with Charlie Webster, the chair of the Maine Republican Party, complaining that dozens and dozens of black people cast ballots in rural Maine.

In any case, it's no secret the Romney/Ryan ticket fared poorly among urban voters. But here are some other places where it fared poorly:

1. Paul Ryan's home district, where Obama/Biden won

2. States where Mitt Romney owns houses, which includes California, Massachusetts and New Hampshire

3. Michigan, where Mitt Romney's father served as governor

4. The affluent suburbs of Virginia

5. Three of the whitest states in the country: Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine


NFL Picks, Week 11
Published on November 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 11 NFL football picks.

Click here to read them.

Mitt Romney Still Doesn't Get Why He Lost (And Never Will)
Published on November 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

There's no single reason why Mitt Romney lost the election - I suspect there were several factors.

But one reason, which I don't think has been highlighted, is how mean he and other members of G.O.P. have gotten. If you want people to vote for you, don't insult them! Find a way to outline your vision that doesn't involve insulting half the country! I mean, I don't recall Obama dismissively writing off old white men as a voting bloc in quite the same way the Republicans seem to dismiss blacks, Latinos, young voters, women, and gays. (Did I miss anybody?)

Anyway, here's a story about a still-bitter Mitt, lamenting all the people who voted for Obama because Obama will give them presents. I know that I am expecting a gift card any day now. Which is a joke, by the way. What I am expecting is for Obama to pursue some kind of grand bargain that will mean I get less social security and Medicare when I'm older, and that involves extending as many olive branches as he possibly can to a bunch of sore losers who won't stop crying about the decline of a traditional America.

Also, the New Yorker's Alex Koppelman weighs in on why Mitt Romney will never understand why he lost the election here.

From the archives: Rule of Thumb contributor Cabot Nunlist on the 47 percent controversy

That Feeling Should Have a Name
Published on November 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

On my recent trip to Denver, I managed to meet up with a friend I hadn't seen since I graduated from college 14 years ago. Which is a long time, but it didn't seem that long until I really thought about it. Until I thought, "When was the last time I saw Abby?" and realized it was over a decade ago.

Anyway, it was a nice little visit, involving me, my friends Dave and Melissa, who also know Abby from college, and Abby's husband. As always, I was struck by how easy it can be to reconnect with old friends, and returned home thinking that if Abby and her husband lived in Albany, we would probably hang out all the time. (There's no question that if Dave and Melissa lived in Albany, we would hang out all the time.)

Abby had a similar reaction to our reunion, and in any email later that week, she wrote, "It was like I had seen you all yesterday. I don't know if that feeling has a name, but it should." Abby's right: That feeling should have a name. Maybe it does, but I don't know it. If anyone has any suggestions, thoughts or answers, please let me know. Because it's a great feeling, and I wish I could experience it more often.

I've always believed that you do reconnect with the people you care about. Though I doubt there's research to back up this theory - I suspect it's something I tell myself to feel better, since my network of friends is rather farflung, even though it has no scientific basis. I've always drawn on this Richard Bach quote for hope: "Don't be dismayed by goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends."

Nate Silver Will Answer Your Questions
Published on November 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at Deadspin, American Hero Nate Silver responds to reader questions.

My favorite exchange:

Q.: Nate - Who gave the most ridiculous refutations of your work? Old school baseball guys, or GOP media a couple weeks ago?

A.: It's MUCH worse in politics, I think:

1) People in sports will make lots of silly refutations of your arguments. But they do tend to deal with your arguments, rather than attack your character or your integrity.

2) A lot of people in politics operate in a "post-truth" worldview, whether they realize it or not. Less of that in sports.

3) In sports, scouts actually contribute a lot of value, even though statistics are highly useful as well. In politics, the pundits are completely useless at best, and probably harm democracy in their own small way.

He also describes himself as part of the War on Bullshit.

Click here to read the whole thing.

My Christmas List
Published on November 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my Christmas list.

Click here to read it.

Watching "Seven Psychopaths"
Published on November 13, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "Seven Psychopaths."

Here's an excerpt:

Watching 'Seven Psychopaths' is a little bit like traveling back to the 1990s, when up-and-coming directors were eager to be crowned the next Quentin Tarantino, and 'Fight Club' was all the rage.

Like 'Pulp Fiction,' 'Seven Psychopaths' is a stylish dark comedy that attempts to wed laughs to shocking violence, while also exploring weighty philosophical and religious questions about heaven and hell and the nature of evil. It is the second film from Martin McDonagh, who directed the cult hit “In Bruges,” which focused on a gangster in the midst of an existential crisis. 'Seven Psychopaths' features villains and gangsters, but it tells the story of a screenwriter in crisis: Martin (Colin Farrell) is struggling to write a new screenplay. He wants to tell a non-violent gangster story that’s about peace and love, rather than men with guns; ideally, he tells his friends, the film will end not with a shoot-out, but with the characters driving off into the desert. Martin’s best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), tries to help him. Billy is a struggling actor who runs a dog kidnapping scam with his friend Hans (Christopher Walken): The men kidnap a dog, wait for the owner to post a reward, and then return the dog and collect the reward. One day Billy and Hans make the mistake of kidnapping the shih-tzu owned by gangster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), and Martin soon finds himself face to face with a scary real-life gangster who is not at all interested in ending things peacefully."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Petraeus Links
Published on November 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

I know it's a serious matter, but I find the story of General Petraeus' downfall pretty hilarious. Perhaps I am just a cruel person. One of things that makes this story so funny is how heartbroken his admirers in the media are. They seemed to think Petraeus was some kind of god, and that he could do no wrong. Thankfully, this little scandal will kill Petraeus' presidential ambitions, and we won't have to listen to starstruck reporters describe his genius and integrity ever again. 

Anyway, here are two of my favorite Petraues links.

This one, by Spencer Ackerman at Wired, describes how he and other reporters became enamored with Petraeus.

This one, by Michael Hastings, explains how Petraeus was always a fraud.

This one, by Jane Mayer at the New Yorker, ponders some of the story's unanswered questions.

Handmade Holidays
Published on November 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about her family tradition of making Christmas presents in her weekly column Greenpoint. 

Here's an excerpt:

"The day after Halloween, my niece posted on her crafty blog that she was making little crocheted snowmen out of yarn scraps as Christmas presents for some little kids she knows.

A couple of days later, I heard 'Feliz Navidad' on the radio on my way to work. The next day, I put my snow tires on the car. So I guess there’s no denying it: Election season is over, winter is here and it’s all holidays, all the time, from now until January.

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really mind. Like my niece, I love the holidays — the visiting, sharing meals, doing projects with the kids, doing projects for the kids. We make block prints for our cards, make cookies for everyone, gather pine boughs and pine cones to fill vases and the window boxes, and generally focus on the little things we can do to delight each other.

I can get sick of 'Feliz Navidad' pretty quick. But I can’t get enough of making mittens out of scraps of yarn.

Click here to read the whole thing.

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