A list of things, making life possible

It has been a totally crazy week/month. I am now only 6 days out from a huge fundraiser gala, that I have been working on for all of the last year. The only way I’m keeping my sanity:

  • having a really kick ass assistant, who pushes back when I’m not being practical.
  • Giants winning NLDS. I wore an orange ribbon in my hair, while I ran errands all around the City yesterday. I could hear the cheers from various bars and homes all over.
  • Going to see Jordan Jesse Go! Live tonight, as part of the new SF Comedy and Burrito Festival.
  • Also! Getting to introduce new friends to JJGO & MaxFun tonight.
  • Adorable photos of my friends’ adorable tiny, new baby
  • Actually going to the gym/personal training, when normally I would let my work take over completely. (Sticking to my goals!)

  • This sky in San Bruno on Tuesday night
  • All of the great music that has come out in the last few weeks: Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Auto, the new Avett Brothers, the new Mountain Goats, the new Mumford & Sons.
  • Especially the Want it Back song and video by Amanda Palmer & GTO. (I still can’t get youtube to embed in a post… help?)
  • Going to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival this weekend

  • Dinner at Two Sisters Bar & Books, followed by Smitten ice cream
  • Gone Girl – goodness, what a book.
  • John Scalzi novels in audio book form
  • Slate Political Gabfest
  • Weekly round up emails with two good friends about all the Slate podcasts
  • New Fall TV – Have you seen Go On or the Neighbors? If not, you should, ASAP.
  • Knowing the season premiere of The League is on my DVR as soon as I can get to it.
  • jamming in a quick latte with Lysandra in the midst of the insanity, and having a serious Disneyland squee moment.
  • Bittersweet – drinks at the excellent Churchill bar, to say good-bye to Kate & Alex as the go on to their next adventures
  • All the Joe Biden gifs from last night’s debate.
  • And finally, that after next week, I get to go to Seattle. Very excited about that!

SPORTS! Yay! – Thoughts on the Olympics

Getty Images – Synchronized Male Platform Diving

Ok, so, I think a key component to enjoying the Olympics is having television.

That may be super obvious, but for the last eight years, I didn’t have television (we owned a TV in Davis, but had nothing coming to it). In 2004 and 2006, I watched a little bit and started a Very-Important-Tradition of watching the Opening Ceremonies with my friend Drew, but what I caught was always at other people’s homes.

In 2008 and 2010, I had no TV and no cable, I tried watching parts of the Bejing games on my computer while living in Ithaca, but it was basically a bust. The screen was tiny, the advertisements were huge, and the internet was slow.

Now, we come to the last two weeks, where I have seriously main-lined some Olympics coverage. (At least main-lined for me – watching anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours of coverage a day). This has been steadily helped by our excellent and large TVs, the wonders of the DVR, and my super-fan sister (who has possibly watched everything. I left for work one morning, and she had the TV showing one thing, the computer another, and was checking other updates on her phone).

I started out the two weeks at a lovely Opening Ceremonies party at Syche and Drew’s. (As I said, a Very-Important-Tradition). We ate foods of the world (including lumpia, which may have made my month) and alternatively enjoyed and were snarky about the spectacle. (I really enjoyed it up to the dance/technology montage, which I didn’t understand and was so very long).

After that, I would just watch whatever my sister was watching. Sometimes briefly, and sometimes being sucked in for the whole prime time segment. (This first Wednesday, I came home from the gym, sat down for a moment and got majorly sucked into swimming & men’s gymnastics). My favorites have been: synchronized male platform diving, track in general and the women’s 4×100 relay in specific (which the Americans kicked ass in), all the swimming relays, BMX (though, Jesus Christ that is brutal), and then, today, the women’s Modern Pentathlon.

Donna Vakalis in the equestrian portion of the Modern Pentathlon

I watched the women’s Modern Pentathlon because one of the Canadian athletes, Donna Vakalis, is a Jordan Jesse Go! listener. This show, my favorite podcast, has a segment called “Momentous Occasions” where listeners leave messages about the exciting things in their lives – people call about weddings and babies and craft projects and more. Donna called to say she would be competing in the London games, and Jordan and Jesse followed up that call the next week with a phone call to learn more about Donna’s story.

It was super interesting and kind of insane. The Modern Pentathlon was created to be a collection of sports a modern (at that time early 1900) solider would need to know. It is four events: fencing, swimming, riding an unknown horse, and a running/shooting combination. And it all happens in one day! The NY Times article about it is entitled In Modern Pentathlon, a Day of Madness. We watched the second half of the women’s competition today, and I was super impressed.

So, thanks to my sister and the MaxFun community, I watched and was invested in much of the Olympics. I almost can’t wait for the next summer games. As Andy Zaltzman said “How am I going to last four years without being able to remember to care about rowing?”

(That leads me to a side recommendation: Andy Zaltsman and the Bugle have done daily recaps of the games. They are hilarious, relatively short, and I think would hold up way beyond the games ending. Go! Listen!)

Oceans, wolves and cults – life in California

So, all-in-all, the transition back to California has been great. I like my job, my family’s pretty great, and the weather!  The weather is awesome. I will always be happiest when it is between 65 and 75 degrees, wearing a light sweater, with an ocean five minutes away.

Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands (a little farther than 5 minutes, but way worth it)

One of the constants in the last (almost) three months, has been TV and movie consumption with Syche and Drew.

Though…we’ve tended to pick semi (or very) depressing or disturbing material…

This started with the addicting Game of Thrones, which we plowed through in about 2 weeks. (S&D had both seen it before, and wanted me to. I’m going to return the favor and introduce them to the amazing BBC Sherlock very soon).

I liked Game of Thrones a lot, way more than I expected, despite insane amounts of violence and unnecessary amount of breasts – I guess the adorable Dryer Wolves* made up for the latter. But the violence was what stuck with me.

On Thanksgiving we saw The Descendents with George Clooney- which I cried through 2/3 of. (But it did make me excited for my January trip to Hawaii!)

So violence and tears were the standard operating procedure when we gathered last night.

But boy, did it take the cake.  We watched the excellent Martha Marcy May Marlene** directed by Sean Dirken and starring Elizabeth Olson. I liked it a lot, but will probably never watch it again.  Olson plays Martha who has recently returned to her sister Laura’s life after a two-year abscene. During that time, she joined a cult group somewhere in upstate New York, where she was renamed Marcy May.  Dirken tells the two stories simultaneously as Martha aka Marcy May tries to create a life in both worlds.

God, I started this whole blog post to talk about this movie and I don’t even know how to say what I want to say…. I liked the acting – everyone did a great, understated job of portraying their generally fucked-up characters. I thought it was beautifully shot, if a bit dark at times. I was compelled…

But… fundamentally, the movie was terrifying. That’s what I took away from watching it.

Scenes themselves were creepy, I spent the whole thing being worried of who was lurking in windows and down long corridors. (I like this type of scary much more than gross-out torture porn of recent horror flicks).  The film’s ominous feeling was amplified by the very smooth transitions from present day to flashbacks – as a viewer I never knew where I would be taken next. But even more terrifying was the emotional turmoil Martha underwent as a cult member – her insecurities were masterly manipulated, and as an audience member we went along that journey with her to a stressful degree.

I think the New Yorker review described the tone best, when talking about Patrick (John Hawks), the cult’s leader:

The source of Patrick’s power, in short, is not just violation but the rite of violation—the same pain being inflicted again and again, until it acquires the patina of the mock sacred. (Full Review)

Friend Alex, a film devotee, talks better than I can about this movie and a few other recent flicks that deal with madness here.
I would recommend seeing the movie, but as we continue to venture into Award season, my next few picks may have to be on the happier side of life. Who can recommend a good comedy?
*Actually called Direwolves, but I mistakenly called them this in the beginning and it stuck.
** In the lead up to seeing this movie, I think I substituted every M name out there – yes, Melinda Mary Michelle Matilda, was very good, wasn’t it!

27 hours in California

My “Favorite Things from Four Years in NYC” series will continue, but for now, a quick reflection on the first 27 hours back in California:

– My luggage was impressive, I should have taken a picture.

– ROOM by Emma Donohue is amazing, and was excellent plane reading.
(X-Men First Class was an ok plane movie)

– My family rocks, as per usual.

-“Sleeping in” ended up meaning 7AM, BUT I got to drive Morgan to school, so it was worth it.

– I love having TV and DVR! I know from the majority of the last 7 years, I absolutely don’t need it, but dear god I love it! (Top Model and Free Agents were my companions today)

– California is so beautiful!

– I still love lettuce wraps from PF Chang (available on both coasts) but they are better while chatting with my Mom in person.  And, Mom and I still have the best convos while driving in the car.

– I bought tickets for Lys, Joe & I to see “An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer” at the beginning of November and am way excited.

– Sigmund Stern is a brilliant dog park with lovely people.

– I don’t miss New York yet, but I think it still feels like vacation and not a permanent change.

– Sometimes walking around a mall with two of your favorite people in the world can be the best way to spend an evening.

– I really love listening to KNBR for Giants radio. Those guys are great. (And the Panda got a cycle, woo!)

– I still like cities more than the suburbs, but I think the next 4-6 months here will be restful and restorative.

– New job tomorrow… excited and terrified, but mostly excited.