Monday, October 22, 2007

On Candidate Thompson

Fred Thompson's character, the Manhattan District Attorney, Law and Order, just said "You take the justice you get."

Sam Waterston: "We're letting justice get lost in the fog of war."

The case: A soldier in Iraq shoots another soldier to prove that the body armor that a contractor working on-the-cheep was selling was useless.... prosecution trying to convict the armor company.

The DA sides with the armor company.

This might be fiction, but even the character Thompson plays with such folksy authority is a colossal prick.

Listening to Fred Thompson, he sounds like he might be the kind of man to vote for the armor company. Big government contract. Low quality control. Lucky soldiers.

My Local Food Movement...

I have read about 75 percent of "The Omnivore's Dilemma", and I may never eat again.

I'm utterly disheartened at the idea that "organic" food just means that chemical ferterlizer wasn't used, and that "organic" chickens still grew up in really shitty homes. As did "organic" pigs, and lordy "organic" milk makes me want to throw up in my mouth. I'm so torn.

Michael Pollen discusses the implications of organic v. industrial v. organic industrial v. local food production, and it really seems that the most conscionable food choice is local - farmers market or community sponsored agriculture (CSA). Industrial organic uses the same overblown, oil-driven system to produce food on a massive scale as does regular industrial food, but it does have the perk of keeping fertilizer runoff from damaging our water supply and our oceans. (See my earlier post giving the LA Times a shout-out for its brilliant work on pollution of the oceans which won the Pulitzer this year.)

In addition to finding the organic food market disappointing, I was more disgusted by the industrial food chain than I thought I'd be when I set out. The prolific movement of corn in our food chain - from overproduced commodity pillaging what could be productive farmland that feeds teh nation - to cattle fed with corn and pumped with antibiotics because COWS CAN'T EAT CORN. God what are we doing to ourselves and the animals we depend on for food?

It's almost too much to think about.

So, this is going to be a project you hear about frequently: Jen's Food Movement. I will try to eat as locally as I can. When I can't, I will buy the most environmentally and animal-friendly food I can. I will try to buy organic produce, because at least it wasn't grown in a chemical bath becasue the land had no nutrients left after over-farming.

One thing that gives me hope, aside from the brilliance of Joel Salatin's complex Polyface Farm, where chickens get to be chickens and pigs get to be pigs, is that even CNN and the Senator from Iowa realize that corn is doing us in.

If we are what we eat, Americans are corn and soy.

The USDA recommends we get 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day.

If this country were to suddenly give up its Coke and McDonalds for fruits and vegetables WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH.

Chew on that.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Dancin' in the Dark

Wednesday night I saw my first Bruce Springsteen concert. It was about 2 hours and 15 minutes long, and some serious, serious rock was played. While I only knew four of the songs he played (I spent a lot of money on this) the band was beyond brilliant. Max Weinberg (drummer) was like a drum machine, man. That guy can keep some rhythm.

I knew: The Rising, Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark...

So I actually only knew three now that I'm listing them.

But hearing Bruce play Dancing in the Dark live was like reliving a moment from my childhood.

I don't remember where we were, but I remember coming home. I remember hearing the music shaking the entire house in our neighborhood from well down the block. There was bass in the 'hood, and it was coming from the dining room.

We walked in to find my father, dancing to Dancing in the Dark played as loud as the new stereo with its 3-foot tall speakers would play it. It as so loud the ear-ringing started almost immediately, but it was impossible not to start dancing too. I think that might be the loudest music I've ever heard ouside of a concert...

But how pricesless is that? Every time I hear that song, all I can think of is one afternoon, maybe 20 years ago, where we found my dad dancing to Bruce in the dining room. Awesome.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vegas, baby!

I am in bed in my room in Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas. A room bigger than my apartment back in Brooklyn and oddly decorated like something out of the pages of "Domino" magazine, and this bed is wicked comfortable.

Earlier this evening, after dinner and drinks with some folks I'd attended a conference with, I was walking back to Ceasar's alone. A few nights here following a sleepless night of puppy-sitting (bad Leo) had me wiped out at 11, which makes me feel old and lame. But my flight is at 7:15 a.m. and damnit, if I miss it I won't make it back to see Springsteen tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden, and a Jersey Girl has to have her priorities.

We hadn't gotten far, my compatriots and I. Ceasars is next to the Bellagio, and I had never actually been inside the Bellagio, so we wandered that way - me, another reporter, a CEO, a marketing manager, and a couple celebrating their third anniversary. We decided to stop in a cafe on the water outside the Bellagio that had a prime view of the water show, delicious sauvignon blanc, and was prone to a gentle misting as each short performance by the water spouts wound down.

It was lovely and my company was superb. After a walk through the Bellagio's casino to the lobby where I got a glimpse of the ceiling - covered with giant glass flowers - I decided to turn in for the evening.

On the way back, I walked outside rather than back through the casino. While I was passing, a new water show began in the giant artificial desert pond, this time to the tune of Elton John's "Your Song," a song for which I have a particular weakness. The pond was surrounded on all sides by people, and as the song went on, I found myself drawn to join them at its edge. I leaned forward on my elbows on the railing, watching the water sprouts dance in time to the tune.

It's someone's job to make that water match up with the songs. To pick the songs. To choose the lighting. And rather than my usual New Yorker cynical reaction to all things, I let myself enjoy it for a moment. I was so taken with the moment that after it ended, as I was walking back, I passed two women who were taking turns taking pictures of each other. I asked if they wanted me to take one of the two of them together and they were delighted. I photographed them standing in front of the Bellagio and the pond, and even though the flash had drowned out the background, they loved it.

I walked off smiling.

It reminded me of something I'd read earlier in the day in "Water for Elephants" where the narrator, Jacob, talks about putting on his "good shirt." The idea almost brought tears to my eyes. In the story he is 90-something, and is heading to see the circus with his family, interspersed with the tale of his circus life during the Depression, caring for the exotic animals in a traveling circus. What struck me was the mention of his "good shirt" and the ways in which we all so tenderly prepare for special occasions. We all have our everyday things. Our everyday shirts. But sometimes, we decide that something is worth donning our Sunday Best.

That reminded me of an article I once read about how even the poorest of the poor, back when photography was in its infancy, would try to get photos taken of themselves, and the lengths to which people - from gentry to factor workers - would go to in order to have their best face photographed. They'd put on their nicest clothes. Whether those be with fine lace or simple cotton shirts without stains or tears, being photographed was something special that people thought was special.

Like the woman who I photographed tonight in front of the Bellagio. They might not have gone out of their way to wear their nicest clothes, but they were using photography to mark a special time. Their trip to Las Vegas together. And I was happy to get to play a small part in that.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eat, Pray, Love Me!

Last night I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir of loss and re-birth, "Eat, Pray, Love", and while I found it was one of those books that I just couldn't put down, something about it seriously irritated me.

My necessity, a memoir writer is a bit of a narcissist. They're writing about their experiences hoping against hope that you'll read them and take an interest. Bloggers, shamefully I must admit, share a bit of the same tendency, but at least we don't commit anything to paper, publisher and the N.Y. Times Bestseller list. (Yes, if you're wondering, I'm just jealous. Very, very jealous.)

The book follows the recently-divorced and utterly heartbroken Liz Gilbert as she eats her way through Italy, prays her way around a single Ashram in India, and then well, gets her Brazilian dude on in Indonesia, while also hanging out with a tiny, ancient Indonesian medicine man, who I find to be the best character in the book. In the meantime, Gilbert is seeking balance and divine redemption following a messy divorce, something I cannot associate with, so perhaps I find it hard to connect with her character at times.

In memoir, even your heroine is still a character, portrayed as they see themselves, not as they are to others. That's the perk of memoir over biography. But I digress.

In what must be a hidden streak of self-loathing, I found her putting asides in parenthesis to be utterly annoying. (I know, I know. Hypocrisy!) There were such heavy-handed adjectives.

Maybe it was reading it right after Ian McEwan's terse and compact "On Chesil Beach" that made me think she was a bit over-the-top. McEwan is able to convey the disconnect, tension and beauty of a situation without having to call it "unbearable tense," "painfully remote" or "strikingly beautiful."

She also was "that girl" who was always dating someone, always attached, to a man from the time she was 15. Heck, she had a boyfriend she was "desperately" in love with before she was even divorced. And she has an entire chapter about how she can make friends with anyone, which also just made her seem insincere. Perhaps I'm projecting my own feelings here, but they grated on me and made me dislike her just a bit.

Yet, I couldn't stop reading. I had to find out what she did next, and even though her language lacked the grace she so often sought, she managed to tell a darned good story.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Late in the game...

This past weekend I finally finished watching the first season of Lost. It's highly addictive but due to some misfires in the good old Netflix queue, I got the last disk before the second to last, and had to watch 4 episodes online.

Watching them on my 12-inch Mac laptop was not as awesome as watching them on the TV. So, I stalled, thinking that maybe I could just skip over them. Good thing I didn't or I'd have found the last episodes even more confusing and traumatic than they were!

Lost is what you get if you put The X-Files and Gilligan's Island into a blender, and you decide you're going to end the show before it gets crappy. The X-Files, unfortunately, didn't realize that it had gone off track about three years before it stopped. Around the time David Duchovney realized that he didn't want to be on it anymore. When one of your two leads decides the show is done, the show should be done. I'm just sayin'.

So now I have a new addiction to add to my love of all things Battlestar Galactica. Which I recommend as highly as I recommend things like Salman Rushdie novels and Stag's Leap S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, the best red wine I've ever tasted. Watch it! Now!

I can't remember where I was going with this post... I started it like 3 interviews ago. Busy day here at work. Anyway, Lost. Awesome. Although how likely is it that 90% of the survivors of a plane crash would be that hot? Have you ever been on a trans-oceanic flight? Not full of hotties.