No Guns For Me
Published on December 30, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about guns, and how I've never owned one, and don't want to own one.

Here's an excerpt:

"I am not a gun owner, but I’ve long accepted that people have the right to own guns.

And I do have friends who own guns.

They own them for hunting, or protection or simply because they like guns.

My friend Keith, who grew up in northern New Hampshire, was given his first gun at the age of 7. He learned to hunt, and by the time he was 18 owned about a half dozen guns. But since moving to Key West, those guns have been in storage.

'I can’t seem to find myself able to get rid of these objects,' Keith wrote, in an essay about his relationship with guns. 'At some point I guess I will have them shipped down to Key West. I will lock them in cases and hide them away. Maybe go to the range once or twice with the rifles. Maybe teach my daughter to shoot. Or I could sell them, buy diving equipment and a spear gun and teach her to fish. Either way, it is my choice.'

Just as it’s my choice not to own a gun.

The Second Amendment is not a mandate. People might have the right to bear arms, but they also have the right not to bear arms. I exercise my right not to bear arms every day, and unless America descends into the sort of post-apocalyptic barbarism depicted in Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” I plan to exercise it for the rest of my life. And I think I should be able to walk into a mall or a school or a movie theater without taking my life into my hands."

Click here to read the whole thing.

NFL Picks, Week 16
Published on December 20, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 16 football picks.

Click here to read them.

Bests of 2012
Published on December 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list some of my favorite things of 2012.

Click here to read it.

Mommy Making It Work
Want A Safe School? Ask For It
Published on December 18, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

Because I’m in the news business, I found out about the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting pretty early on – and the fact that it was likely first graders killed.

I have a kindergartner who was at that time sitting innocently in a classroom similar to the one in Connecticut. My first reaction was to get my husband, who works way closer to the school than me, to drive over there and get William. Just have someone in the family lay eyes on him.

Then I realized that would be a knee-jerk reaction and may upset the child (and hubby), so I settled for watching the clock until his school day was done and I knew he’d be with home safely with grandparents.

Of course, William’s day was very ordinary, with exception of him finally getting the girl he likes in class to agree to be his girlfriend (which, folks, does happen this early for my ladies man. This is his third one since 3K).

I wondered the entire 30-minute commute home how I was going to talk about it with William. He’s 6. Same age as most of the kids killed. Being with grandparents, though, there was a good chance he’s seen nothing but Disney or PBS and won’t know a thing about the shootings.

So I got home and threw myself at him for hugs and kisses – which he definitely thought was strange, considering I usually walk in the door from my gnarly drive complaining about dumb drivers and poor growth planning by highway muckety mucks.


Watching "Life of Pi"
Published on December 18, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "Life of Pi."

Here's an excerpt:

"Movies are made for the big screen, but you can’t watch as many movies as I do and see them all in the theater. It just isn’t feasible. And, to be honest, most movies play perfectly well on the small screen, at home. But there are films that really should be viewed in a darkened theater, on the largest screen you can possibly fine, and 'Life of Pi' is such a film. If I could go back and see it at an IMAX theater, I would. That said, the film’s story and themes don’t always live up to its incredible imagery. And yet I’d like to watch it again, despite my mixed feelings.

Adapted from a highly acclaimed book that many people regarded as essentially unfilmable, 'Life of Pi' tells the story of an Indian named Pi. We meet him at three stages of his life: As a middle-aged man, telling his incredible story to a visiting writer, as a boy who embraces Christianity, Islam and Hinduism and as a teenager, moving from India to Canada. Because Pi’s father owns a zoo, the family travels to North America by boat, with the goal of selling their managerie once they get there. One night, there is a terrible storm, and Pi (Suraj Sharma) ventures above deck to watch it. But the storm is big and dangerous, the boat capsizes and Pi eventually finds himself on a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan and Bengal tiger. Of these four animals, only the tiger, named Richard Parker (google the name to learn its significance), survives, and Pi must figure out how to keep himself alive. He also commits to keeping Richard Parker alive, despite the threat the beautiful yet fearsome animal poses.

As a survival story, 'Life of Pi' works really well. The storm is one of the best ever filmed, scary and fanciful and filled with unforgettable images, such as the orangutan appearing atop a wave like a lost surfer. The scenes on the rescue boat, which take up the bulk of the film, are also pretty amazing. The tiger is an incredibly lifelike creation, despite being completely computer generated, while the ocean is depicted as a place teeming with life — fish, whales, sharks, etc. One particularly stunning sequence is set on a beautiful island filled with meerkats; Pi is able to eat and rest and seems perfectly happy there, until he discovers that the island is carnivorous and will devour human inhabitants. So he returns to sea.

Click here to read more.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on December 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Walking and Talking (1996) ***

A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) ***

The Sessions (2012) ***

What Would Jesus Buy? (2007) **1/2

The Red Chapel (2009) ***

Just Say Yes
Published on December 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about why I usually agree to do things ... even things I don't necessarily want to do. 

Here's an excerpt:

"This might come as news to my immediate family, but I’m usually pretty agreeable.

When my friends ask me to do stuff, I’m generally inclined to say yes, even if it’s not something I’m super interested in. I’ve always believed that when you extend an invitation to a friend, what you’re really saying is: 'Let’s hang out and spend time together.' The activity itself is often inconsequential, because what matters is seeing your friend.

However, not everyone thinks this way.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve invited people to do stuff, only to get a reply denouncing the proposed activity. 'I don’t really want to see that movie,' such people will write. Or: 'I don’t like that band.' On a bad day, such replies really get on my nerves, and I have to restrain myself from writing something akin to: 'I invited you to the movies because I want to hang out! We can do something else! Just offer a counter-proposal!'

Although you have to draw the line somewhere.

For instance, I’ve rejected proposals to do karaoke, play dungeons and dragons and see Morrissey in concert.

And I’d do it again.

Click here to read the whole thing.

NFL Picks, Week 15
Published on December 14, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 15 NFL Picks.

Click here to read them.

Watching "The Sessions"
Published on December 12, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "The Sessions."

Here's an excerpt:

"Sex, disability and religion are three subjects mainstream movies tend to be skittish about, and the new film 'The Sessions' juggles all three with seeming ease. This doesn’t mean that 'The Sessions' is a great film — it’s not — but it is unusually candid and direct. It’s also funny, smart, interesting and extremely well acted, even during its weaker moments.

'The Sessions' tells the true story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a Bay Area poet and reporter who is paralyzed from the neck down as a result of childhood polio, and uses an iron lung to breathe. While researching an article about sex and the disabled, he decides that he wants to experience sex himself, and is eventually referred to a professional sex surrogate, Cheryl (Helen Hunt). Sex surrogates are basically sex therapists, but in addition to discussing sexual problems with their patients, they are willing to engage in intimate contact with them to help them achieve their therapeutic goals.

O’Brien does not make his decision lightly: He consults his priest (William H. Macy), with whom he meets regularly, and when his priest gives him the go-ahead, he arranges his first appointment with Cheryl. Most of the film details O’Brien’s relationship with Cheryl, who is married and has a son and strives to keep her private life separate from her work, but director Ben Lewin (who happens to be a polio survivor) spends a fair amount of time with secondary characters, such as O’Brien’s attendants, Vera and Rod (Moon Bloodgood and W. Earl Brown), who get him to his appointments, encourage him, and speak openly about their own sexual experiences. Unsurprisingly, O’Brien finds himself growing attached to Cheryl.

Avoiding mawkishness is one of 'The Sessions’' biggest accomplishments. They film isn’t overly sentimental or rosy, and it depicts O’Brien’s journey and daily life as one filled with joy, but also pain. O’Brien is depicted as a good man, but his disability is not portrayed as ennobling, or a blessing in disguise, which is refreshing. Cheryl is also an interesting character. She believes in her work, and her ability to help people with unusual sexual hang-ups or difficulties, but still finds herself challenged and occasionally overwhelmed by O’Brien’s need and condition. 'The Sessions' is also populated with interesting secondary characters, such as the priest and Vera. We learn a great deal about the seriousness with which O’Brien takes his Catholic faith, and grow to appreciate the decency of his attendants.

Click here to read more.

The Essay That Inspired "The Sessions"
Published on December 11, 2012 by Sara Foss

I just saw "The Sessions," which I'll probably review tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's the essay that partially inspired the film, in which disabled poet Mark O'Brien writes about losing his virginty with a sex surrogate.

Pelicans Are Awesome
Published on December 11, 2012 by Sara Foss

I wholeheartedly support changing the name of the New Orleans Hornets to the New Orleans Pelicans, and I can't believe that people are criticizing the decision. The pelican is a cool bird, and it's also the state bird of Louisiana. Some people are whining about how it's not menacing enough, as if Yankees and Lakers and Magic are menacing team names.

For more on why pelicans are an awesome mascot, visit this Deadspin post.

Also, Grantland.

Trying to Read "Zeitoun"
Published on December 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about reading the Dave Eggers nonfiction book "Zeitoun" in light of disturbing allegations against the protagonist of his story. 

Here's an excerpt:

"When it comes to reading, a friend of mine adheres to a 50-page rule: If the book fails to engage her within the first 50 pages, she puts it down and moves on to something else. This is a good philosophy, but I take pretty much the opposite tact: I finish every book I start, even books I hate. For me, reading is a real commitment. However, I am now faced with the difficult choice of whether to quit reading a book. And it’s not because the book is poorly written, or lacks a compelling story. It’s because the writer, Dave Eggers, appears to have gotten the story wrong, and I feel bamboozled.

Here’s the scenario: A few weeks ago, I picked up Eggers’ acclaimed 2009 book 'Zeitoun,' a non-fiction account of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a New Orleans resident who helped rescue flooded neighbors during Hurricane Katrina, and was then wrongly accused of terrorism and jailed for 23 days. (The Syrian-born Zeitoun is an American citizen; his wife, Kathy, is a Louisiana native and Muslim convert.)

I’m not that far into the book, but here’s what I’ve learned so far: Zeitoun is a devoted husband, father and small business owner, a calm and thoughtful man who treats his workers well and is loved and admired by all who know him. However, recent reports suggest that Zeitoun is a much more sinister character. On Nov. 8, a grand jury indicted Zeitoun for allegedly trying to kill his ex-wife — the couple is now divorced — and ordering a hit on her from behind bars. During the summer, Zeitoun was charged with beating his wife and striking her with a tire iron.

Zeitoun’s troubles were reported earlier this year, but I missed those reports. Instead, I learned of them over the weekend, when I stumbled across an LA Review of Books essay (click here) by Victoria Patterson that asks, 'Did Dave Eggers Get ‘Zeitoun’ Wrong?'"

Click here to read the whole thing.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on December 10, 2012 by Sara Foss

The Docks of New York (1928) ****

The Model Couple (1977) ***

Lincoln (2012) ***1/2

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (2012) ***1/2

The Maid (2009) ***1/2

The Railway Children (1970) ***

Life Without Irony? Why?
Published on December 9, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about why I could never live a life without irony.

Here's an excerpt:

"The New York Times recently printed an opinion piece titled 'How to Live Without Irony,' and my immediate reaction was 'Why would I want to do that?'

But the topic interested me, and I soon found myself absorbed by the piece.
The author, an assistant professor of French at Princeton University, suggests that ironic living is running amok and that the consequences are grave: People — especially younger people — are too cynical and mocking to actually care about stuff. Much of Christy Wampole’s attack is aimed at hipsters, whom she lambastes for their weird hobbies, offbeat fashion sensibilities and attachment to unusual gadgets. At times, the piece takes the form of a confessional:

'I, too, exhibit ironic tendencies,' Wampole writes. 'For example, I find it difficult to give sincere gifts. Instead, I often give what in the past would have been accepted only at a White Elephant gift exchange: a kitschy painting from a thrift store, a coffee mug with flashy images of ‘Texas, the Lone Star State,’ plastic Mexican wrestler figures. Good for a chuckle in the moment, but worth little in the long term. Something about the responsibility of choosing a personal, meaningful gift for a friend feels too intimate, too momentous. I somehow cannot bear the thought of a friend disliking a gift I’d chosen with sincerity. . . . If life has become merely a clutter of kitsch objects, an endless series of sarcastic jokes and pop references, a competition to see who can care the least [or, at minimum, a performance of such a competition], it seems we’ve made a collective misstep.'

Wampole isn’t the first person who’s tried to make me feel guilty about my self-aware mocking ways, and I doubt she’ll be the last. And though her essay is easy to make fun of, I don’t completely disagree with her. For instance, she thinks it’s good to care about stuff, and so do I. Where I disagree with Wampole is in her diagnosis of the problem. I don’t think irony, or hipsters, are to blame for apathy. You can actually be sarcastic and wear vintage clothing and buy vinyl records and still care about stuff."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Top Reads of the Week
Published on December 7, 2012 by Sara Foss

Music: Tony Are on why he hates local music

Generosity: Sara Foss on whether you can have too much giving

Film: Sara Foss on "Lincoln" and her favorite Christmas films

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