Garden Update
Published on August 29, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write a little update on my garden, which has produced melons and tomatillos in the past few weeks.

To read it, click here.

Watching "Blue Jasmine"
Published on August 28, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Woody Allen movie "Blue Jasmine."

Here's an excerpt:

"The audience at the 'Blue Jasmine' screening that I attended really seemed to enjoy the film, Woody Allen’s latest. Some people broke into applause, and I could hear appreciative laughter.

I found these reactions baffling, because 'Blue Jasmine' triggered almost no emotional response in me. As films go, I thought it was diverting enough, but a failure at some basic level. Which is why I think it’s worth noting how everybody else seemed to feel about the film. If it sounds interesting to you, go see it. When it comes to 'Blue Jasmine,' my opinion is obviously not shared by the majority of moviegoers.

For the most part, I’ve liked Woody Allen’s more recent films; 'Midnight in Paris' was my favorite film of 2011. In general, I think critics have been too hard on Allen’s later films, and I was fully prepared to sing the praises of 'Blue Jasmine.' Trouble is, I just didn’t like it very much.

Click here to read the whole thing.

In Praise of Big Audio Dynamite
Published on August 27, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I sing the praises of Big Audio Dynamite II.

Click here to read the piece.

Yes, I Am Going to Run a 5K
Published on August 27, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my ambitious plan ... to run a 5K. It might not sound like much ... unless you never imagined doing such a thing.

Anyway, here's an excerpt:

"I started running a few months back, and it’s definitely having an impact.

For one thing, I feel stronger. I’m less winded when I hike and ride my bike, and I’m more relaxed — running seems to clear my mind of all the mental garbage it accumulates during the day.

That said, I’m still very much a novice runner. My longest run has been about 40 minutes, and I remain in awe of anyone who has ever competed in a marathon or a triathlon. But I am gaining confidence, which is why I’ve sometimes found myself thinking, 'You know, I could probably run a 5K,' as I run in circles around Lincoln Park or Empire State Plaza.
I dismiss such thoughts immediately, of course.

I remind myself that I’ve never liked running, and that running in an organized event has never appealed to me. Not long ago, my friend Kim suggested that I might enjoy running in the Boilermaker, a 15-kilometer (9.3 miles) road race in Utica. 'You like beer,' she said. 'And it ends at a brewery.' But I was unconvinced. “I’ll never do that,” I remember thinking.

And who knows?

Maybe I never will."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Yelp Help
Published on August 23, 2013 by Sara Foss

My friend Hanna Raskin has written a book about how to write better online restaurant reviews.

Click here to learn more about it.

Watching "Elysium"
Published on August 20, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new sci-fi film "Elysium."

Here's an excerpt:

"I really loved 'Elysium' for the first half hour or so.

'This is great!' I remember thinking. 'All those naysaying critics were wrong!'

But my enthusiasm had waned by the end of the film. Which isn’t to say that 'Elysium' isn’t a good movie, or that it isn’t worth seeing. It is! It just doesn’t live up to its early promise, or the high standards set by director Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 debut feature, 'District 9,' which I loved. Much like the summer’s other big tentpole movies, 'Elysium' has moments of brilliance, but not enough of them to qualify as a great film.

Like 'District 9,' 'Elyisum' is an allegory, set in a futuristic urban hellscape that’s not so very different from the world we live in today. But where 'District 9' offered a tightly focused take on apartheid, 'Elysium' is overflowing with issues: drones, extrajudicial killing, immigration, income inequality, lack of access to health care, and environmental degradation. The film’s surfeit of ideas is one of the things I liked about it, especially after watching 'Pacific Rim,' which suffers from a dearth of ideas. But 'Elysium' doesn’t necessarily flesh out any of its ideas, barreling towards its conclusion at a frenetic pace and devolving into a chaotic shoot-out and fist-fight toward the end. I think it’s the 25th film I’ve seen this summer in which the hero and archvillian duke it out on an elevated platform, punching each other in the face and hurling each other into railings and walls, despite having the most amazing technology at their disposal."

Click here to read more.

On Bullshit Jobs
Published on August 19, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at Strike Magazine there's a pretty good piece on how most professional work is a waste of time, and we should all be working about three days a week and taking it easy. I've long been an advocate of the three or four day work week, so of course this was music to my ears.

Anyway, click here to read the piece.

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Hyde
Published on August 19, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I offer my thoughts on the new (and very good) Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Hyde.

Click here to read more.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on August 19, 2013 by Sara Foss

Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) ***1/2

Pacific Rim (2013) **1/2

The Order of Myths (2008) ****

Buried (2010) **1/2

Rolling Thunder (1977) ***1/2

Interstella 5555 (2003) ***

Fruitvale Station (2013) ***1/2

Magic of Spell (1986) ***

Rosetta (1999) ***1/2

Gadjo Dilo (1997) ***1/2

Reprise (2006) ***

My GPS is Scrambling My Brain
Published on August 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about how my GPS can be helpful ... but also not helpful.

Here's an excerpt:

"When my parents got me a GPS for Christmas, I responded with skepticism.

I decried society’s increasing reliance on electronic gadgets to perform basic tasks, and bemoaned the fact that I would never get lost again. I forwarded them an article about a Belgian woman who accidentally drove 900 miles to Croatia thanks to a GPS error; though her destination was only about 90 miles away, she drove for two days, slept by the side of the road and got into a minor accident.

But when my irritation finally wore off, I found that my GPS was pretty useful. On my road trip in April, I used it to guide my journey from New York to Alabama, and whenever I travel to an unknown destination, I plug it in and wait for its soothing robotic voice to give me directions.

Because I am not an early adopter of new technology, many of my friends have responded to my use of the GPS as if praising a precocious child.

'Well, look at you!' my friend Monica exclaimed, when I plugged it in for our drive to Mass MoCA’s Solid Sound music festival back in June. She then recalled her harrowing late-night drive home from Solid Sound two years ago, which involved getting lost on the steep and windy back roads of western Massachusetts at 1 a.m. and taking an unorthodox route back to the Capital Region through towns such as Voorheesville and West Sand Lake.

'A GPS would have prevented that,' she noted."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Watching "Dark Shadows," the TV show
Published on August 15, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the TV show "Dark Shadows," a cult classic.

Here's an excerpt:

I haven’t seen the 2012 Tim Burton film 'Dark Shadows.'

But I’ve been watching the cult TV show that inspired it.

The original 'Dark Shadows' aired from 1966 to 1971, and was initially a fairly traditional soap opera. But about a year into its run, creator Dan Curtis introduced a vampire character, Barnabas Collins, and the show transformed into something far more interesting: a supernatural Gothic soap opera. I opted to skip the first season and watch the second, and it was a good decision: Whenever Barnabas Collins (wonderfully played by Jonathan Frid) is onscreen, the show is riveting.

'Dark Shadows' is set in the fictional coastal Maine town of Collinsport, and largely takes place in the mansion inhabited by the Collins family. The show is told from the point of view of Victoria Winters, a young woman employed as a governess by Collins family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, who has not left the mansion in 18 years. The household routine is disrupted when Barnabas arrives, having been released from his coffin and claiming to be a long-lost cousin, and takes up residence in an unused building on the estate.

'Dark Shadows' is very much a soap opera, and I quickly learned that it doesn’t lend itself to binge-watching the way more sophisticated and cinematic contemporary shows such as 'The Sopranos' and 'Mad Men' do. But when viewed one or two episodes at a time, it can be pretty entertaining. It’s atmospheric, unabashedly melodramatic, romantic and spooky. In season 2, which I’m watching right now, Barnabas has kidnapped local waitress Maggie Evans, bitten her and attempted to brainwash her into thinking she is his long-lost love, Josette. When Maggie briefly escapes and is glimpsed by her father as a fluttering, ghost-like presence outside the window, it’s a startling, beautiful and disturbing moment.

Click here to read the whole thing.


Do Drive-Ins Have a Future?
Published on August 15, 2013 by Sara Foss

Here's a good AP story looking at how the digital era threatens the survival of the country's 350 drive-in movie theaters.

Watching "Fruitvale Station"
Published on August 14, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the powerful new movie "Fruitvale Station."

Here's an excerpt:

"I was a little wary of 'Fruitvale Station.'

The buzz was very strong, but a lot of people seemed to be responding to the film not as a piece of cinema, but as a teachable moment. 'Fruitvale Station' tells the true story of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a transit cop in San Francisco in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009, and I wondered whether people were embracing the film because it was important, rather than good. But I shouldn’t have worried. 'Fruitvale Station' is one of the best films of the year.

What’s amazing is how enjoyable 'Fruitvale Station' is, considering its downbeat ending. The film opens with real cellphone footage of Grant’s shooting, which caused at least one moviegoer to gasp during the screening of the film that I attended, and then transitions to a domestic scene featuring Oscar (Michael B. Jordan), his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and their young daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal). The moment is fraught with tension — Sophina is angry because Oscar has cheated on her — but reaches a gentle resolution when Tatiana, unable to sleep, climbs in bed with her parents. Seemingly unimportant, this scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, which follows Oscar around during his final hours.

Over the next 85 minutes or so, we get to know Oscar. We learn that he recently got out of prison and is trying to go straight; however, he just lost his job at a grocery store as a result of chronic lateness and loses his cool when the store owner won’t rehire him. We watch him chat up a pretty woman at the deli counter, and wonder whether he meant what he said when he assured Sophina that he had stopped cheating on her, and we see how shaken up he is when a speeding driver kills a dog. Most of all, we see that he loves his daughter, his girlfriend and his mom (Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for 'The Help'), and that they love him. We understand that he is not a saint, but we like him, because he seems to have a good heart. The film is so observant, funny and full of life that we forget that Oscar is doomed.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Winslow Homer at the Clark
Published on August 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the Winslow Homer exhibit at the Clark Art Institute in the Berkshires.

Click here to read it.

Appreciating Where You Live
Published on August 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about appreciating where you live, and why that's a good thing.

Here's an excerpt:

A couple of months ago, I visited my sister in New Hampshire, not far from where I once spent my summers working at camp.

As always, I was struck by the natural beauty of my home state — a beauty I took for granted growing up. Rivers, mountains, hills, lakes, forests — none of this seemed particularly special or noteworthy to me back then.

Instead, I yearned for the day when I could live in a town with a movie theater, and other cool spots, like rock clubs and art galleries and museums. On my first trip to New York City, in seventh grade, I was dazzled by the scale of the place and the constant hum of activity; we saw cathedrals and rode the subway and gawked at the sheer number of people.

It took attending college in Ohio to gain some appreciation for northern New England. Ohio was just so flat — there was one hill on campus, and everything was laid out neatly, in straight and boring grids. During the especially bleak winter months, I often found myself wondering whether a more dynamic landscape would cheer me up.

Click here to read the whole thing.

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