Watching "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey"
Published on March 17, 2013 by Sara Foss

I'm not going to lie: I don't not consider myself a Journey fan.

But there are some Journey songs I like, such as "Faithfully," and the band has one song that ranks among the best: their 1981 monster hit "Don't Stop Believin,'" which has undergone something of a resurgence in recent years, due to "The Sopranos" and "Glee." And the fact that the song is awesome.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I watched the last episode of "The Sopranos," which uses "Don't Stop Believin'" to great effect in its final scene. I couldn't get the song out of my head, and when I heard that the documentary "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey" was showing for one night in Albany, I was intrigued. I knew very little about the film, but I was in the mood to learn more about Journey, and so off I went.

"Don't Stop Believin'" tells a great story - a story I'm glad to have been told. It introduces us to Arnel Pineda, a Filipino singer-songwriter who became Journey's lead singer in 2008. How did the band find him? Journey guitarist Neal Schon contacted him after stumbling across YouTube videos of Pineda and his band performing Journey covers. Pineda traveled to the United States from the Phillipines to audition, and the rest is history.


Photographic Memories
Published on March 17, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write how photographs help keep my memory of people and places sharp.

Here's an excerpt:

'Last weekend I visited friends from college in Burlington, Vt., and eventually we got to reminiscing about our undergraduate days.

We recalled the good times we had eating together in the dining hall, at the round table over by the window, and working at the school newspaper. Each year, my friend Zach and I stayed on campus following the end of exams to put out the commencement issue of the newspaper, and when I mentioned the week we spent together at the conclusion of my sophomore year, Zach nodded.

'That was one of the most fun weeks I had in college,' he said.

Me too,' I said.

Zach and I are obviously different people, with different memories, but our memories of that special week were very similar. They involved working hard and listening to music (mainly Prince), filling up the office water coolor with beer (which is not something I’d recommend) and going out at night to parties. Of course, pictures help: One of the photographs I took that week features an upside-down Zach hanging from the exposed pipes in the newspaper office. Would I remember that moment without the photograph? Or would it have disappeared into the ether, like so many other moments from the past?"

Click here to read the whole thing.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on March 17, 2013 by Sara Foss

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) ***

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) *** For "Twin Peaks" fans * For everyone else

Warm Bodies (2012) ***

Night Catches Us (2010) ***1/2

Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey (2011) ***

Good-Bye, Wes Welker
Published on March 14, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I share my thoughts on the departure of Wes Welker.

Click here to read them.

What is Up With Bob Woodward?
Published on March 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

I really enjoyed this Slate piece about all the problems with Bob Woodward's book "Wired."

Not Yet Spring
Published on March 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about how it's not quite spring in her weekly column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"Up in the still-white north where I live, we are watching seedlings spring up, impossibly green, on the window sill. We are sorting our seed packets, admiring the bright drawings and photographs of vegetables that come in colors we have forgotten over the long winter. In black and gray we draw out our own garden plans, as if we can’t really believe in kale green or tomato red. It’s hard enough to remember what a warming ray of sunshine feels like.

At dinner time, it’s down to the ice box to dig around for something green from last year’s garden — string beans, broccoli, a bag of curried cabbage. The best is finding a mix of early season vegetables, with baby summer squashes, wild and cultivated greens, tender herbs and tiny peas. It tastes like spring, and I think we’ve eaten the last one.

So we are waiting. My husband is designing improved hot frames in his sketch book, talking about using the stored window frames and getting early broccoli. My son interrupts, complaining that the whole world looks gray, then laces on his new red sneakers for a run. He comes home complaining some more, this time about wet feet and icy roads.

'When will it be spring?' he whines. Some early broccoli might help that boy."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Watching "Warm Bodies"
Published on March 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new zombie romantic comedy "Warm Bodies."

Here's an excerpt:

"Just yesterday, I found myself explaining why vampires are more interesting than zombies to my colleagues. 'Vampires often have a tragic backstory,' I said. 'They have personalities and motivations. Zombies don’t have any of those things. They just shuffle around and eat people.'

However, there are exceptions: The new zombie romantic comedy 'Warm Bodies' suggests that zombies can think and feel — that they can, in fact, be interesting. Which is actually a pretty radical twist on the zombie genre, and one that I initially had a hard time accepting. But 'Warm Bodies' is cute and likable, and I found my objections melting away. It doesn’t hurt that our protagonist, a teen zombie named R, is played by Nicholas Hoult, a cute and likable actor.

Directed by Jonathan Levine, 'Warm Bodies' is the only movie I can think of that tells its story from the point of view of the zombie. R tells us his story as he shuffles around the abandoned airport that he and hundreds of other zombies call home. We learn that he cannot remember who he was before he was killed by a zombie, or his name, or much of anything about himself, but that he enjoys listening to vinyl records and looking at old photographs. He is, in other words, a hipster zombie.

When it comes time to feed, R joins up with a pack of zombies and heads out into the city, searching for humans. The humans live in a walled-off compound, but teams of zombie hunters occasionally set forth with the goal of killing as many zombies as possible. And when R encounters the zombie-hunting Julie (Teresa Palmer), it’s love at first sight. Of course, this being a zombie movie, R kills Julie’s boyfriend (Dave Franco) and eats his brain, which allows him to access and experience the boyfriend’s memories."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Quiet, Please! Part II
Published on March 11, 2013 by Sara Foss

I loved this Ta-Nehisi Coates post about the jerks who talk and act rowdy on the Amtrak quiet car - it reminded me of my recent column about people who go to the movies and gab and play on their phones.

Why do people act this way? 

Probably, Coates suggests, because they're assholes.

It is not unlike what I've noticed here when commenters arrive and complain about the prohibition against threadjacking, the deleting, or moderation as a whole. The Internet is filled with comment spaces, most of them only barely regulated. But that is not enough. One must have the right to talk however one wants, here, specifically.
I think what we have here is a working definition of an asshole -- a person who demands that all social interaction happen on their terms. Assholes fill our various worlds. But the banhammer only works in one of them.
Yup, sounds about right.

Better Late Than Never: Favorite Albums of 2012
Published on March 11, 2013 by guest author: Eric Perkins

Though we're well into 2013 at this point, I listened to enough great (or at least really good) albums in 2012 that I would be remiss if I didn't try to convince some people to give them a listen. In general, I thought there were a lot of good songs in 2012, but albums ... not so much. In fact, three of the albums I listened to most in 2012 technically came out in 2011:

- Bombadil: All That The Rain Promises
With the exception of the opening track, which I didn't feel fit particularly well with the rest of the album, I liked every song here. I couldn't possibly classify their genre, though folk would be in there somewhere. I ordered this album as a CD directly from  the band and it was by far the best package I have ever had delivered, complete with a personally written note from one of the band members. This band makes me wish I was back down in North Carolina so I actually had a chance to see them live. The song that first hooked me was "Laundromat," which you can stream here.

- Veronica Falls: Veronica Falls

This album came out so long ago (though still 2011) that Veronica Falls already came out with their next album a few weeks ago. There self-titled debut became my go-to summer album and I played it in the car with the windows down a ridiculous number of times. Though hailing from London, the band channels an American west coast vibe and their sound scratched a surf guitar itch that I feel every year when the weather starts to get warm. Stand-out tracks include "Bad Feeling" and "Come On Over." 

- YACHT: Shangri-La 

I would normally hesitate to recommend YACHT to the general populous. They're a bit weird and often profane. But this album reaches for a broader audience. There's still some weirdness here, but the title track (and album closer) is a ridiculously catchy pop wonder that will have you singing along by the second time the chorus rolls around. Plus, I'm always a sucker for any song that drops some "la la las."

And as for the albums that actually came out in 2012:


Finishing "The Sopranos"
Published on March 11, 2013 by Sara Foss

I finally watched the final episode of "The Sopranos."

Click here for my thoughts.

Tightwad or Spendthrift?
Published on March 10, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how sometimes paying more money for stuff is worth it.

Here's an excerpt:

"When I was a kid, a candy bar was something special, often enjoyed on a long drive.

My dad would purchase a Snickers or a Milky Way, cut it into thirds, and distribute the pieces to me and my sisters.

At the time, this was a wonderful treat.

But now, as adults, we make fun of my father’s frugality. When he asks whether we need anything from the store, we often reply, 'Could you buy us a candy bar and cut it into three pieces?' Then we laugh uproariously. Sometimes we follow it up by requesting a single can of soda, which we can all share.

Anyway, I think this little story illustrates where my reluctance to spend money on basic necessities might come from.

My parents were always looking for good deals on groceries, clothing, cars and toys, and tended to be slow to adopt new technology. I still remember the magical day my father brought home a VCR, and my glee when we finally got a Nintendo. Though it’s probably worth noting that a family friend gave us the Nintendo and that without this act of generosity it’s unlikely video games ever would have entered our home.

For the most part, I didn’t care about having the best.

Fashion was of little interest. I was fine with clothes purchased on sale and hand-me-downs. I wasn’t into shoes — I wore my sneakers until they wore out, then got another pair. I was happy with the inexpensive CD player I purchased with earnings from my first job — I saw little need to spend a bundle on a state-of-the-art stereo system. And I was perfectly content to drive around in my parents’ old Ford Escort. I didn’t care that it wasn’t mine, or that it wasn’t a newer, more attractive vehicle — I was grateful that I had access to a vehicle and that I was allowed to drive my friends around in it.

Over the years, my attitude toward money has evolved."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on March 10, 2013 by Sara Foss

Stay Hungry (1976) ***1/2

How to Survive a Plague (2012) ***1/2

Duck, You Sucker (1971) ***1/2

Side Effects (2013) ***

House of Wax (1953) ***1/3

Literary Notes
Published on March 7, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer some thoughts on Richard Russo, inaugural poet Richard Blanco and memoirist Christa Parravani.

Click here to read them.

Adventures in Work (and Parenting)
Baby Swim Time
Published on March 6, 2013 by guest author: R.B. Austen

I bought my eight-month-old daughter Kenzie a bathing suit for the summer. I naively thought that we would be taking our then three-month-old swimming in the ocean. The closest we got was dipping Kenzie’s toes in the waves in August. She did not seem too impressed. Luckily for her, my husband and mother had stricter rules about sun exposure. And luckily for us, the suit still fit when we stuffed it into her Christmas stocking because we had gifted her with Waterbabies swim lessons at the local athletic club.

At the first lesson, we stood poolside introducing ourselves and Kenzie to the four other parents and their babies. I have to admit that I wondered how Kenzie would react to something that was like bath time, but a bit chillier and a little deeper. She did not cry, which was a relief. From our perspective - and we were probably reading a little too much into the situation - she seemed like she was enjoying it. Who wouldn’t enjoy their first taste of chlorine?


Angst at My Alma Mater
Published on March 6, 2013 by Sara Foss

My alma mater, Oberlin College, made national news this week.

After a series of racist incidents, the college canceled classes and held a day of solidarity. I surveyed a small circle of fellow alums. We agreed that classes should not have been canceled. We felt that doing so would empower whoever was behind the racist incidents - make them believe they could bring the school to its knees. I pretty much agree with this take on the whole thing by The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf.

But my friends and I also feel that it's extremely unlikely that some underground network of racists was behind the incidents. My immediate sense was that the incidents were likely some kind of hoax, or a students' misguided attempt to make a statement about political correctness, or free speech or something, although I thought there was a slight possibility an angry nutjob was behind it. In any case, I'm not surprised by reports suggesting that the KKK robe that was sighted on campus was probably just a student wandering around in a blanket.

Of course, there's also the question of why this is a national story. Frankly, it shouldn't be - the New York Times should have better things to write about. The blogger Bob Somerby believes the Times covered it because they love stories about race and racism. I don't disagree. But I also think the Times pays way too much attention to the troubles of students at elite liberal arts school. My guess is that a lot of Times reporters and editors attended such schools, and think they're really interesting. Unfortunately, most Americans attend state schools and community colleges, if they go to college at all. Most people have never heard of Oberlin, and will wonder why it merited so much coverage from the nation's paper of record.

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