Taking Up Running
Published on June 30, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how I've been running lately.

Here's an excerpt:

"About a month ago, I decided it was finally time to try jogging.

At the time, I hadn’t gone for a run in about 15 years.

During my senior year of college, I vaguely remember walking out to the athletic fields and going for quiet jogs in the afternoon. But I’m not sure I did this very often, because I hate running. I probably did it a few times, remembered how much I hate running, and quit.

I had always assumed I would never run again.

Even now, I’m a little baffled as to what brought about my change of heart and whether it will last. I know a lot of runners. Is it possible that hearing about their triathlons and marathons and 5Ks and Iron Mans was starting to make me feel inadequate? Or that I sensed running would be a good thing to add to my repertoire of physical activities? After all, I go for a lot of long walks. Would I be in better shape if I spent some of that time running?

I didn’t want to be that person who goes running for the first time in more than a decade and immediately gets a cramp and pulls a muscle, and so I decided to start slowly and cautiously.

The first thing I did was stretch.

I’d never really understood the point of stretching when I played sports, but I am no longer as young and limber as I once was, and stretching seemed like an essential step. Then I walked down to Lincoln Park, and willed myself to start running."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Washing My Hands Of Aaron Hernandez
Published on June 27, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about Aaron Hernandez.

Here's an excerpt:

"On Monday the New England Sports Fan Friend and I watched game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs together, and our conversation inevitably turned to what we euphemistically referred to as the New England Patriots’ 'tight-end problem.'

'These guys were supposed to be the future of the team,' I said. 'But Gronkowski keeps having surgery, and it looks like Aaron Hernandez is headed to jail.' Hernandez had yet to be arrested, but it was quite clear that an arrest was imminent, and on Thursday he was led away from his North Attleboro mansion in handcuffs. Almost immediately, the Patriots cut Hernandez, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but I’ve read the indictment, and the reports about the February incident in which Hernandez is accused of shooting a man, and today’s shocking new report that police are investigating whether Hernandez is connected to a 2012 double homicide, and I don’t want the team I root for to have anything to do with Hernandez anymore. Because right now he looks like a guy who is on the fast track to life in prison."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Watching "Before Midnight"
Published on June 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Richard Linklater movie "Before Midnight."

Here's an excerpt:

"The first two films in director Richard Linklater’s acclaimed 'Before' series were joyous affairs, showing two people connecting and reconnecting and falling in love. The third film, “Before Midnight” is more like a splash of cold water in the face, detailing the fissures in their relationship and exploring the possibility of falling out of love.

Jesse and Celine might be fictional characters, but their concerns, fights and communication breakdowns are all too common among once-idealistic young adults now mired in the self-doubt and anxieties of middle age. In the new film 'Before Midnight,' their talks are reminiscent of some of the conversations I’ve had with friends in recent years. 'Marriage is a funny thing,' one of my friends told me a few months ago. I’m sure Jesse and Celine would agree.

We first encountered Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in 1995 in 'Before Sunrise,' when they met on a train and spent the day and night wandering the streets of Vienna and talking. Jesse is American and Celine is French; they decide not to exchange contact information but to meet at the train station in six months time. In the 2004 sequel 'Before Sunset,' Jesse and Celine reunite after about a decade; Jesse is now a successful writer, and Celine seeks him out at a book signing in Paris. They talk about their lives, and the film closes with Jesse sitting in a chair in Celine’s apartment, and Celine telling him, 'Baby, you are going to miss that plane.' In 'Before Midnight,' we learn that Jesse did miss his plane, divorced his wife and now lives in France with Celine and their twin daughters."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Shocking News!
Published on June 24, 2013 by Sara Foss

Apparently most Americans hate their jobs, according to a recent Gallup poll. 

This shouldn't come as a surprise, really, but Timothy Egan delves into the reasons why over at the New York Times. These reasons include increased productivity and stagnating wages, but also cretinous bosses. If you can believe it, people don't like working for people who are dumber/more venal than they are. The Egan piece does include this terrific Homer Simpson quote: "Lisa, if you don't like your job, you don't strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That's the American way."

Here's another good piece on the Gallup poll over at Gin and Tacos. This writer correctly notes that mentally checking out of a job where your work isn't valued and you never get a raise is actually a fairly rational thing to do.

"Business schools have spent 30 years churning out people who believe in motivation by intimidation – work hard or else we will fire you, replace you, move to Mexico, and so on. And yes, an employer certainly has a right to expect employees to fulfill their obligations. This is where we see the large gap between fulfilling the requirements of a job – i.e., doing the bare minimum – and doing a good job. 'Work hard and you will get promoted / get a raise' is the natural response, but in many of our workplaces I think we discover fairly quickly that the raises aren't coming no matter how hard we work (or they come, but with a truckload of additional burdens that vastly outweigh them).

That's the end result about all of this 'Woe is us' from the owner and manager classes – we're constantly told that we can't be paid more ('We just can't afford it! We're barely breaking even!') but we're not expected to react strategically. The rational thing to do, if you know you can't profit from working harder, is to figure out the minimum amount of work you can do under the terms of your employment." 


Saturday at Solid Sound
Published on June 24, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Solid Sound music festival, and bands such as Lucius, Yo La Tengo, Low and, of course, Wilco.

Here's an excerpt:

The Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA is the sort of event that just keeps topping itself. 2011’s festival was very good; this was even better. Granted, I only attended day two of the three-day festival. But day two featured an incredible line-up of up-and-coming bands and singer-songwriters, groups and musicians currently in their primes and alternative rock legends and cult favorites. If you like music, Solid Sound will not let you down.

I attended Solid Sound with my friend Monica, and we got there fairly early to see the band Lucius, a five-piece, female-fronted folk/rock/pop band. I’d never heard of Lucius before, but I trust Monica’s judgment, and I think it’s safe to say that Lucius was the discovery of the festival, at least for me. From the pure and vibrant vocal stylings of lead singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, to the unusual rhythms and crisp musicianship, this is a young band with a rich, full sound that makes you sit up and pay attention. Lucius’ songs run the emotional gamut, from light to dark and back again, and the band’s stage presence is both mysterious and welcoming, while their sound swings seamlessly from complex and catchy to spare and simple. They were so good that Monica and I decided to catch their acoustic set inside Mass MoCA’s large Building 5 gallery, where two enormous phoenixes constructed by Chinese artist Xu Bing currently hang.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Simple Satisfaction
Published on June 23, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about some of my simple satisfactions.

Here's an excerpt:

Occasionally I’m accused of being a person who is never satisfied with anything.

And it’s hard to argue otherwise.

There are, in my mind, numerous things to be dissatisfied with. All I have to do is step outside, or read the newspapers, to start feeling dissatisfied. The numerous vacant buildings that I drive or walk past on a daily basis are a source of dissatisfaction. So are the potholes I frequently drive over, and the people who honk their horns on my street early in the morning, and the trash I see on the side of the road and hanging from trees.

The trash is always a particular source of discontent. Years ago, one of my old colleagues frequently called the city of Albany to alert them to a plastic bag that had been trapped in the branches of the tree outside her office window for months on end. 'This bag has been there for a really long time,' she would say. 'Can’t someone remove it?'

Of course no one could remove it. That goes without saying. For all I know, that unsightly plastic bag is still ensnared in that downtown tree, bringing a little bit of ugliness to someone else’s daily view.

A single bag in a single tree isn’t such a big deal. But it’s certainly indicative of a world that’s far from perfect. And I don’t know why I should be satisfied with a world that’s far from perfect. Every day, I find myself asking why the world can’t be better than it is now. It’s hard to read reports of war and joblessness and corruption and crime and just shrug my shoulders and accept it.

That said, there are plenty of things that I find satisfying. Here are some of them:

* Mountains, particularly when I am standing on top of them.

* Seafood, especially lobster, but also shrimp and clams."

Click here to read the whole thing.

James Gandolfini, RIP
Published on June 20, 2013 by Sara Foss

This essay by Matt Zoller Seitz is pretty good.

Who Will Win Game 7?
Published on June 20, 2013 by Sara Foss

Who will win this basketball game that is going on right now?

Click here to find out.

A Very Pleasant Saturday
Published on June 19, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my very pleasant Saturday morning, which I spent eating and looking at waterfalls.

Click here to learn more.

Watching "Star Trek Into Darkness"
Published on June 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Here's an excerpt:

"I love Spock.

These new 'Star Trek' films have their flaws, but my love of Spock makes it easier for me to ignore them. Sure, I like the rest of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s crew members, but Spock is my favorite. Whenever he wasn’t on the screen, I was like, 'Where is Spock?' And then I would start noticing the flaws of 'Star Trek Into Darkness.'

'Star Trek Into Darkness' has a slam-bang opening that finds the Enterprise on a primitive planet set to be a destroyed by a volcano; Spock (Zachary Quinto) manages to save the planet by detonating some sort of cold fusion device, but in the rescue mission that ensues, Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) chooses to violate the Prime Directive, which forbids interfering with developing cultures, and save Spock’s life. As a result, he loses command of his ship. However, he regains it after a rogue Starfleet agent named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) bombs an agency building and nearly kills the entire Starfleet leadership team when the group meets to discuss how to respond to the attack. Kirk initially vows to hunt down Harrison and kill him, but is eventually convinced to arrest him and bring him in alive so that he can stand trial. Naturally, things do not go according to plan."

Click here to read the whole thing.


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

The Great Gatsby (2013) ***

Crazy People (1990) ***

The Devil, Probably (1977) ***

The Ballad of Narayama (1958) ***1/2

Frances Ha (2013) ***1/2

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (1999) ***1/2

Dinner for Schmucks (2010) ***

The Big Blue (1988) **1/2

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism
Published on June 17, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer some thoughts on the NSA and whether we should trust people in charge of a vast surveillance network.

Here's an excerpt:

"At a wedding years ago, I met a young man who worked at the National Security Agency. He was a groomsman and I was a bridesmaid, and we were spending a lot of time together at various events.

'I hear you work at the NSA,' I said, in an effort to make small talk.
The young man frowned.

'I really wish you hadn’t heard that,' he said. 'I’m afraid I can’t talk about it.'

I learned two things from this conversation: People who work for the NSA are highly secretive, and they do not regard 'So what do you do?' as a benign question. Of course, the young man’s evasiveness only made me more curious about the NSA. He was a nice guy, and I enjoyed hanging out with him. But I wondered about his job. What did it entail? Would I disapprove of it?

A few years ago, a mutual friend jokingly suggested I marry the young man, since we’re both single. I wrinkled my nose. 'I’m not sure I approve of his line of work,' I said. 'Whatever it is.'

The NSA has been in the news a lot lately."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Reading "House of Holes"
Published on June 13, 2013 by Sara Foss

I decided to read the 2011 Nicholson Baker novel "House of Holes" out of curiosity.

Baker is a well-regarded writer, which is why "House of Holes" was widely reviewed and discussed, despite being an explicitly sexual, pornographic work. People who wouldn't be caught dead reading "50 Shades of Grey" felt comfortable reading "House of Holes," because it is a work of literature. How do I know this? Because I'm one of those people.

Anyway, I've never read anything like "House of Holes." It's surreal and fanciful and very, very dirty. The plot concerns the House of Holes, a sort of sexual spa where guests can indulge their every fantasy and desire, as long as they abide by arbitrary rules that are enforced by the woman who runs the place, Lila. The book is more of a series of vignettes than a cohesive story, which might explain with the book is enjoyable, but never quite seems to build into a meaningful whole. When I started reading "House of Holes," I thought it was hilarious and brilliant, but even at a trim 260-plus pages it felt long: Perhaps my appetite for sexual explicit, loosely connected vignettes just isn't that vast. "House of Holes" is never boring, but the novelty does wear off.


Am I Supposed To Root For Tim Tebow?
Published on June 13, 2013 by Sara Foss

I'm not a big fan of Tim Tebow.

But the football team I root for, the New England Patriots, just signed him.

Can I still make fun of him, or do I have to stop?

Over at the DG, I ponder this questions.

Click here to read more.

The Replacements are Reuniting!
Published on June 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Well, they're reuniting for three shows far away from me.

But since Tommy Stinson lives in Hudson, maybe one day they'll play a show near me. I can dream, can't I?

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