Sunday, November 07, 2010

Rhonda Watts Christmas Gift Guide: 2010 Edition

I love buying gifts for other people. At Christmas, I'm usually more excited about the gifts I'm giving than the ones I'm receiving. I love going to a store and finding the perfect present--something that I know that person will love, but that they probably wouldn't think to ask for. And then I love wrapping the gifts in paper and finding ribbon or a bow to coordinate, maybe with a gift tag that matches.

And I love watching people open their presents. I can always tell by someone's reaction whether he or she really likes what I got or not. And when I can see that they really love what I gave them, that is the best feeling for me, because it shows that I know them well enough and care about them enough to pick something out for them that they would have picked themselves.

I know that not everyone shares this feeling about gifts with me, and that's OK. But for anyone who's planning to get me a gift this Christmas and is at a loss on what to get, here are a few things that I really want this year, followed by a list of some other ideas. What's on your Christmas list?

This is what I want... watch:

Bright Star
The title comes from a poem John Keats wrote to Fanny Brawne, and it is their relationship that this movie follows. I guess you could call it a biopic, but it's actually Brawne, not Keats, who is the real protagonist. She starts out like an Austen heroine, in a good family that has fallen on hard times, but she has the misfortune of falling in love with a man of great poetic genius, but no fortune. Brawne was also a fashion designer, creating all her own clothing, and the film highlights that well in the costuming.

The Unusuals: The Complete Series
A tragically short-lived police drama that lives up to its title in every way, starring Amber "Joan of Arcadia" Tamblyn, or Ambie Tambie as I affectionately call her (or would if we were actually friends). Tamblyn plays a trust fund baby who dropped out of Harvard to go to the police academy and join the NYPD. Jeremy "Hurt Locker" Renner plays her slightly more seasoned partner, whose old partner met an untimely and violent death under mysterious circumstances. The show has great characters, snappy dialogue, and inventive storytelling. Why ABC canceled The Unusuals but kept Grey's Anatomy is one of the mysteries of the universe. read:

Half the Sky
(Kristof & WuDunn)
Former New York Times writers Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn subtitled their book "Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide." The phrase "half the sky" comes from a Chinese proverb: "Women hold up half the sky." Kristof and WuDunn's argument centers on the idea that the most effective way to improve life in the third world, and all over the world, is to value and educate young women and girls. The book lays out an agenda for the world's women and three major abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape; and maternal mortality, which needlessly claims one woman a minute. Half the Sky is both a strategic plan and a call to action that I can't wait to read.

Zombies vs. Unicorns (Black & Larbalestier)
This anthology contains 12 stories, each of which argues the case for either zombies or unicorns. I'm a little vague on which criteria zombies and unicorns are being judged on. Which is better? Which is more awesome? Which one would win in a fair fight? Which one would win in a prison fight? Maybe it's all of those things. That would be great, actually, because it might help me make up my mind. I mean, unicorns are awesome and they go great with rainbows and glitter, at least on Lisa Frank notebooks. But if you look at some of the old legends about unicorns, they're not always friendly, benevolent creatures. They're kind of shady and mysterious. At least you know where you stand with zombies. And as for who would win in a fight? I don't think we'll know until we see it. use:

Sephora Gift Card
Have you ever been to Sephora? I know it's been around for quite awhile but I've just discovered it. It's like a Wonderland of Makeup! It's quite intimidating when you first walk in, but after you pass the displays for Dior and Givenchy and get into the more affordable brands, it's pretty fun. You can give yourself a makeover or have a professional give you one. They have everything you could ever need in your makeup bag. And, their gift cards come in these cute little mirror compacts.

Old Navy Sweater-Knit boot slippers
These come in lots of cute patterns and colors, but my favorites are these Cat in the Hat/candy cane/elf stocking-inspired red-and-white stripes. You just tuck your jammie pants into the tops for warm and cozy feet all the way down! They make me want to curl up with some cocoa and watch A Christmas Story...

Amazon Kindle 2 skins from
Decal Girl makes great protective skins for any device you can think of. I had one on my old iPod, I have one on my laptop and one on my Kindle right now that's getting pretty scratched up. But the cool thing is you can peel them off and put another one on. I like the designs "Spring Flower," "Quest," "Library," "Crest" (pictured), and "Orange Flowers."

Here are some more ideas--



  • An Education (Barber)

  • Things That Make Us [Sic] (Brockenbrough)

  • The Age of Wonder (Holmes)

  • Where Men Win Glory (Krakauer)

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Skloot)

  • The Elements of Style (Strunk & White; any edition)

  • Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. (Wasson)

  • A Room of One's Own (Woolf; any edition)


  • Alice I Have Been (Benjamin)

  • Ragtime (Doctorow)

  • Shades of Grey (Fforde)

  • My Brilliant Career (Franklin)

  • The Summer We Read Gatsby (Ganek)

  • A Total Waste of Makeup (Gruenenfelder)

  • Never Let Me Go (Ishiguro)

  • The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate: Two Novels (Mitford)

  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Watson)


  • 30 Rock Seasons 3 & 4

  • Beauty & the Beast

  • Dollhouse: The Complete Second Season

  • Gattaca

  • Glee: The Complete First Season

  • In Bruges

  • Into the Wild

  • The IT Crowd: Seasons 1, 2 & 3

  • The Proposal

  • Sherlock Holmes (2009)

  • State of Play

  • The Sound of Music

  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

  • Where the Wild Things Are

  • Zombieland


  • Knit hats

  • Scarves

  • Gloves

Gift Cards/Certificates:


  • Barnes & Noble

  • Borders

  • Old Navy

  • Kohl's

  • The Body Shop

  • Kelly Latte's


I would also appreciate donations made in my name to the Somaly Mam Foundation, a nonprofit public charity committed to ending modern day slavery around the world. The foundation supports rescue, shelter and rehabilitation programs across Southeast Asia, where sex trafficking of women and girls, some as young as five, is a widespread practice.

We all like stuff. Stuff is fun. And I really do think there is some value and significance in the stuff that we choose to give each other, not in the things themselves, but in the thought and care behind the choosing of those things. I always hope that things I give to people will show how much I care. And of course, we can never forget the real reason that we give each other Christmas gifts in the first place: the Gift of Christ.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Upon Re-reading "Twilight"

Two years ago, I wrote this. If you don't want to follow the link, don't worry. I'll explain--no, wait, there's too much--I'll sum up. The link was to a previous post on this blog in which I expressed my thoughts on first reading Twilight, including a fun anecdote in which the moment I read the last word on the last page, I immediately sprang up, grabbed my car keys, and booked it to the nearest store to buy a copy of New Moon, the sequel to Twilight. In the post I also express a half-awareness of the book's "guilty pleasure" status, yet I remain shameless (mostly).

And now, two years later, I've had time to read the book a couple more times, to see the movie (could have been better, could have been worse), and to distance myself for awhile from the entire phenomenon (as long as I wasn't within 50 feet of a preteen girl, or the mother of a preteen girl). And I would have to say that my opinion of the novel has not altered fundamentally, though time has given it cultivation and nuance.

You know how there are some books that could be page-turners because they're such great stories, but you don't want to read them that fast? They're so good that you just want to take your time, to soak in the prose and study every detail of the characters. For me, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is such a novel (so far), but Twilight was not.

Stephenie Meyer has stated on several occasions something to the effect of, she does not consider herself a writer, but a storyteller. I wholeheartedly agree with her. Keeping in mind that Twilight was her first novel (and I would imagine speedily written, having rather famously appeared to her in a dream a la Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), her prose and her characterization do leave something to be desired. But where she is not lacking is in her ability to tell a compelling story--just try to not stay up far later than your intended bed time while reading this book--and to set a mood.

Twilight is probably one of the moodiest books I've ever read. I was entirely captivated by the setting, a gloomy, romantic, fairy-tale-enchanted-forest kind of setting. Every tree in the town of Forks is dripping with angst and mystery. (Forks is a real town, by the way, to which I've been, both before and after it became a mecca for Twilight fans--I live about four hours away by car. The real Forks isn't nearly as interesting as the fictional one.)

Meyer could not have picked a better location to set her tale, though. Forks is right in the middle of Washington state's Olympic National Forest, one of the only remaining old-growth forests in North America. It's the kind of forest where you would expect to find a cottage full of dwarves, or maybe a vampire.

There was an article in the March 2010 issue of Discover Magazine that was actually about Dutch scientist Frans Vera's concept called "rewilding," but there was a lot about old-growth forests in it: "Today thick, dense forests are considered synonymous with unspoiled nature," but old-growth is "a human artifact: an unnatural, unbalanced outcome created when people...corralled wild horses and cattle. Without free-roaming herds of grazing animals to hold them back, closed-canopy forests took over the land wherever humans did not intervene."

It's an intriguing concept, though one that takes away a little of the romance of all those Grimm tales, and maybe some of the enchanting mystery of Twilight. In the Grimms' tales and in Meyer's tale, the woods are dangerous, haunted by wolves or witches or other unknown terrors. But, if Vera's theory is to be believed, the dark and dangerous woods were created by human activity; we gave the monsters a place to hide.

What a poignant metaphor that is! Twilight doesn't spend a lot of time delving into any kind of psychological exploration, and it barely scratches the surface of the primordial roots of vampire tales throughout human history, but who wants that kind of boring stuff in a fantasy novel?

And Twilight is that: pure fantasy. It's the kind of novel that's a lot of fun if you don't think about it very much, and maybe even more fun if you do.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I once heard the author Mary Clearman Blew say something to the effect of, most people don't have the humility to write about their childhoods until they are at least middle-aged. I don't know that it requires humility, though. Blew's point was, I think, that until someone has lived a certain amount of time, she does not have the wisdom or clarity of sight to look at the experience of childhood, with all its joys and desperate heartbreaks so uneventful to the grown-up mind, as honest narrative, rather than the confusion of half-true facts and guarded memories we see in young adulthood. In other words, it takes time to take our childhoods seriously.

There is too slight a disparity between ten and twenty for a young adult to completely detach herself from the wildness, adventure, and wonder of being a child, and the danger that is no less real for being imaginary. And there is too great a disparity for her believe in that world still.

My childhood is full of stories. My earliest adventures were with the likes of Madeleine and little girls in lines, the Poky Little Puppy and Ferdinand the bull. I explored a split-level tree with the Berenstein Bears, and I sailed through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year with Max and the Wild Things, time and again. A few years later I made fast friends with Laura Ingalls and Sara Crewe and Anne Shirley. And I discovered Narnia rather by accident, just as Lucy did. These were the stories that mattered to me. These are the memories that are most vivid in my mind's eye.

I've lived my life through books. When I was child, the imaginary worlds of orphans and talking animals (for an orphan was to me as strange and mystical a creature as a talking animal), of gloom and brightness and magic, were far more exciting, and far more bearable, than the real world.

In the real world there was school, which had by turns its delights and its atrocities. There were trips to the lake, to the park, to the library, to any other number of interesting places. There were slumber parties and marathon games of make-believe (that wasn't what we called it, but that's what it was). But most of all, in the real world there was the seemingly endless drudgery of living. I was a child for a hundred years.

I couldn't wait to grow up.

When I imagined myself grown up, I pictured an impossibly beautiful and sophisticated woman. At five, I didn't know the word "sophisticated," but that didn't stop me from idolizing the concept. And, inevitably, I suppose, the adult me of my mind's eye often resembled some variation of a Disney princess, a heroine from a book, or a Hollywood actress.

(To be continued...)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Job, Old House

So as much of my innermost circle of readership knows, I received and accepted a job offer today. I'll be hanging out at the Kent Historical Museum, doing a little bit of several things. Needless to say, I am beyond excited. I mean, I finally have a reason besides caffeine withdrawal to leave the house every day! And I'll be able to put my blogging skills to more prestigious use, it seems.

I am so thankful, and God is so faithful. I was on the brink of giving up on finding a job that I could really get excited about, and that I could even use my degree in. But here it is, my first real, permanent job right out of college and it's doing something really cool. This is definitely a blessing!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Creepy was Will's Forte

Two weeks into the 36th season of Saturday Night Live, I'm sure many viewers are wondering, “Where's Forte?” At least, if you don't follow entertainment news very closely and you actually noticed that Will Forte's cache of creeper/weirdo characters were absent from those two episodes. He left the show after eight seasons to “pursue new opportunities,” according to a representative for Forte, as quoted in The New York Times about a month ago.

By opportunities, does he mean a MacGruber sequel, by chance? I hope not. There are only so many SNL sketches-turned-movies that the wonderful world of film can contain, and I think we reached the limit right after Wayne's World 2, or maybe somewhere in the middle of it.

But, if Forte is looking to reprise one of his former roles for the big screen, here's a look back at some of his best/creepiest SNL characters, any of which would be just as suitable as MacGruber for a movie franchise:

The Falconer Businessman Ken Mortimer left his career and his home to live in the wilderness with his best friend Donald the falcon, and so became... The Falconer! The most cringe-worthy edition was the Jason Lee episode's Indecent Proposal parody. Yes, Earl Hickey making out with a bird puppet. I had nightmares for weeks.

Tim Calhoun The awkward, camera-shy politician with little to no public speaking ability ran for president in 2008 as the Write-in Party candidate. He appeared on Weekend Update to talk about his stance on issues like the economy—“Put a bag over its face, shotgun a few beers, and then just get it over with”—and the oil crisis—“Drill, baby, drill? Not on my teeth! I hate baby dentists.”

Jon Bovi They are NOT a Bon Jovi cover band! Jon Bovi is the world's first Bon Jovi opposite band. All of their songs are exact opposites of Bon Jovi songs, like “Not Wanted, Alive and Dead,” “Dyin' on a Prayer” and “(Your Hatred is Like) Good Medicine.” For some reason, probably the economy, Jon Bovi hasn't yet been able to sign a gig.

Mr. Dillon (From the “Gilly” sketches) The “Gilly” sketches, starring Kristen Wiig as a school-aged, afro-ed troublemaker, seem like something from Mad TV. They're extremely weird, not actually funny unless you're really sleepy (or high), and yet you can't stop watching them. Forte played the creepy (of course) mustachioed teacher who failed to discipline Gilly for her destructive and violent behavior. Wow, this sounds more like a TV M-rated drama on HBO than a comedy sketch...

I, for one, would gladly pay full price to see a 90 minute version of one of these sketches. Of course, Entertainment Weekly reported back in June that Forte will guest-star on Amy Poehler's sitcom Parks and Recreation this upcoming season, starting in January. But there's still time for a full-length Tim Calhoun feature. Calhoun 2012!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What Second Novel Slump?

Lost in a Good Book
By Jasper Fforde, 2002
Preceded by The Eyre Affair

Something Blue
By Emily Giffin, 2005
Preceded by Something Borrowed

Speaker for the Dead
By Orson Scott Card, 1986
Preceded by Ender's Game

The Likeness
By Tana French, 2008
Preceded by In the Woods

Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen, 1813
Preceded by Sense and Sensibility

Hey, I just realized that all of these are at least semi-sequels except for P&P. Interesting...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Little Cross-Promotion Never Hurt Anyone

Exciting news: I started another blog!

Yes, it seems the supply is greater than the demand, but I don't care. I have been noticing how many of my posts on Watts Up With Rhonda are in some way related to Jane Austen, so I decided to start a separate blog for my Jane Austen stuff and keep this one for everything else. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to dig through all my posts here and transfer the Austen ones over to the new blog, or just start fresh.

Anyway, you should check it out. It's called Austentatious, and there's only one post right now, but plenty more material for discussion!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So Prejudiced it Becomes Prideful

A review of "First Impressions: A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice" by Alexa Adams

While I found this book entirely readable, let me just say right off the bat that the Kindle edition at least has major punctuation issues and even some spelling errors. At one point "Darcy" was spelled with an e between the c and the y! Are the shades of Pemberley to be so polluted? (Sorry, I couldn't resist!) I also found myself exclaiming out loud, a la Mrs. Elton, "There is a shocking lack of commas in this narrative!" It seriously drove me nuts.

Anyway, issues of grammar aside, as I said, the story is very readable. It also explores a question that I'm sure a lot of P&P lovers have asked themselves: What if Mr. Darcy had manned up and danced with Elizabeth when they first met at Meryton, instead of waiting until the Netherfield ball, when her prejudice had already been solidified by the evil manipulations of Mr. Wickham? Everyone's been wondering that, right?

Well, I actually have before. There are a lot of things in P&P that leave room for what ifs. Like, what if Bingley had gone against Darcy's initial advice and proposed to Jane anyway? Or what if Elizabeth and Lydia and Kitty and I can't remember exactly who else was there had not met Mr. Wickham in town that day? What if, when Lizzy and the Gardiners were in Lambton, Jane's letter had arrived a day later?

I love the idea of changing the course of an entire story by just adding or changing one element. I thought this was done rather well in "Lost in Austen", which had a modern 20-something woman change places with Elizabeth Bennet. This threw off the entire plot, and the main character's attempts to "fix" it only made things worse. In this case, the changed element made the story more complicated, added more conflict, thus making it more interesting.

But the opposite is true for "First Impressions." Its subtitle really tells it all: "A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice." But, you see, the pride and the prejudice are what make it "Pride and Prejudice." The Mr. Darcy in this version of the story does indeed have less pride. There is much less conflict, none at all, in fact, between Darcy and Elizabeth because they communicate perfectly with each other from the beginning. (I mean, what kind of person says exactly what they mean? What kind of game is that?) It's all very pleasant, but in fiction pleasant is boring.

I was pleased enough with the pleasantness to finish the book, because I love the characters, and for the most part, the author stays true to them. But I doubt I'll give it a second read. From now on I prefer to keep my what if speculations off the page (or Kindle screen). Except for, what if Caroline Bingley is a Terminator, a cyborg sent back in time to terminate Elizabeth Bennet, the future leader in the defense against zombie uprising...

Friday, August 20, 2010

The CIA is Still a Runway

“Covert Affairs” has never had pretensions of greatness. This rather frothy CIA drama from a girl's POV is usually good for a few laughs and some spy-lite fun. This week's episode, though, was a bit of a snooze. A side story line features CIA newbie Annie's suspicions of her brother-in-law's infidelity. This whole element of the show, with the sister and the nieces, doesn't really work for me, especially the nieces. It's like they're not even real kids.

Now that that's out of the way, I think there has to be a great drinking game somewhere in this show. Like, every time Annie is shocked when she learns a secret about her new mission? Shot! Or whenever she uses her exceptional language skills to befriend a foreign blue collar worker? Shot! Or how about every time Auggie uses his blindness to charm a woman? Shot! (Remember Jamie Foxx in “Ray”? Christopher Gorham does!)

Yes, the show is a bit rife with cliché, but it usually does a better job of hiding it than this episode did. This week Annie again went undercover as an employee of the Smithsonian, this time to gain access to a senator's office that's been leaking state secrets. To get in good with the senator's (young, female) chief of staff, Annie compliments her sweater and takes her out for margaritas and some girl talk. Turns out the way to a woman's trust is through her wardrobe. And margaritas.

It's becoming more and more clear to me that this is a chick show. Not just a show for a female audience, but a chick show. Comparisons to “Alias” are inevitable, I suppose, and the similarities are deeper than one might think. Yes, women loved “Alias” partly because it didn't talk down to them; it didn't water down the action with lots of extra heartwarming drama. Plus there were all those crazy clothes and fun wigs. The most exciting wardrobe choice Annie ever makes is her Leboutins. Fabulous, but predictable.

But both “Affairs” and “Alias” happen to feature complex women. There is a strange combination of strength and naivete, intelligence and vulnerability in the female characters, just like real women, I suppose. Is “Covert Affairs” a feminist manifesto? Gertrude Stein certainly wouldn't think so. But what woman doesn't love Leboutins?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hang the Jury

I had jury duty last week.

(I think I need something right in here.)

In a trial by jury, the jury is a representation of the general public. The prosecution must prove to the representatives of the population served by the court beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. That is the burden of truth. It's the closest we can get to democracy without polling an entire city, county or state for every court case.

In theory, the sovereignty of the government, and, by extension, the court, lies in the power of the people. By placing the burden of the discernment of truth on the sovereignty of the people, our judicial system attempts to imitate Divine justice, but our understanding of justice is flawed. This is a fatal flaw for those whom the law fails to judge justly.

I've heard it said that the law does not exist for the just, but for the unjust; the just carry the law in their hearts and do not need to call it from afar. "And we also know that the law is not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful" (1st Timothy 1:9). But in this impure world, no one is purely just; no one is righteous apart from the Law. The Law, therefore, is for us all.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rhonda in the City

There is a time-honored tradition, articulated through such vessels as Mary Tyler Moore, "Working Girl," and "The Devil Wears Prada," that young, single women who long for adventure, and perhaps a more glamorous life than their hometowns can give them, will set their sights on the big city. Restless college graduates from the suburbs or ambitious farm girls or women from low-income areas stuck in dead-end jobs will put on their new stylish, elegant, "professional" clothes, pack their new briefcases or handbags, and get downtown any way they can for that first, real-life, grown-up job. The possibilities seem endless, and the limitless sky is full of promise.

I have now joined the ranks of these girls. I've got a job in the big city. It may not be my dream job, and it may only be temporary, but in my continuing search for someone who will pay me to write, the adventure is worth it. The other day, I even wore a beret to work just so that I could stand in the middle of 2nd Avenue and throw my hat in the air. But, a seagull swooped in and grabbed it before it could fall back down. I really liked that hat... I'm thinking next I might try wearing running shoes until I get up to the office and then changing into high heels, except that I'm not sure it would have quite the desired effect, since the office I work in is so casual that running shoes would go without notice (hey, it's the Pacific Northwest).

To document my experience, I decided to create a photo journal, a step-by-step guide to my new glamorous (ha!) life. We begin, as always, at the beginning...

An artful rendering of the bus stop in my neighborhood, where I catch a ride on the snazziest Metro bus this side of the Mississippi.

My bus fare, two shiny dollar coins, featuring the visage of former U.S. President Franklin Pierce.

My current bus book, rather appropriately, "The Best of Everything" by Rona Jaffe. First printed in 1958, this novel follows the lives of four young women who move to New York City in search of work, love and adventure...

The view from 3rd Avenue
Look at the big buildings!

Seattle's Best Coffee on 2nd and Cherry
Half a block from where the bus drops me off and across the street from my office building. I buy coffee here every morning, then sit and read for a few minutes until it's time to go to work.

A grande white chocolate Americano
I order it with room and then add nonfat milk. So much cheaper than a mocha, but it tastes almost the same!

Worm's-eye view of the Dexter Horton Building from 3rd and Cherry
Built in 1922 and named after one of Seattle's first tycoons, this historic building is home to the office where I work!

The front entrance of the Dexter Horton Building, 710 2nd Avenue
Fancy, huh?

Elevator up! This one goes to 11!
(Seriously, the office is on the 11th floor.)

View from the top
The world looks different from 11 stories up.

All these things are great, but I think the best part about working in the city is the people I've met. Like my bus driver, Patti. Or the ladies who work at SBC who, for some reason, think my name is Monica. (I don't know why I haven't bothered to correct them. Does it really matter?) Or the homeless man who likes to hit garbage cans and newspaper dispensers with a giant stick. The city is a magical place, dear reader, a magical, magical place...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Covert Affairs": Full of Surprises

It's not a new premise, really, a brand new CIA field agent at the start of his or her career. I watched the pilot episode of "Covert Affairs" with a bit of reservation, but even though the idea isn't groundbreaking, I was pleasantly surprised by this spy action-drama that seems to be aimed a bit more at a female audience than previous incarnations of the genre.

The surprise started with the appearance of Christopher Gorham ("Ugly Betty," "Popular" and the incomparable "Jake 2.0," which was really kind of a "Chuck" 1.0) as blind CIA analyst Auggie Anderson. One of his opening lines hits the nail on the head: "A blind guy showing you around the CIA..."

Then another thick eyebrow-ed actor (Peter Gallagher; actually, he and Gorham look a bit alike. I wonder what that could mean for future developments...) appeared as Arthur Campbell, some kind of CIA supervisor whose wife Joan (Kari Matchett) has a similarly vague but important job.

Actually, Joan probably had the best line in the whole episode. When Piper Perabo's CIA newbie Annie Walker is preparing to go undercover as a call girl (why is it that whenever a woman in a movie or TV show has to be in disguise it's always as a hooker or a stripper or some other female-objectifying archetype?), she asks, "Do I need a costume or something?" and Joan deadpans, "Hookers in D.C. are pretty conservative. What you're wearing now is fine."

The rest of the surprises can best be expressed in the following manner:

1. Ooh! Leboutins!
Annie wears the iconic red-soled shoes, a pair of sleek and simple black pumps, for her undercover assignment, a transfer of information with a Russian contact. The contact is shot and killed by a sniper, and Annie loses her shoes in a mad-dash escape from the sniper fire. Don't worry, she gets them back, meeting a cute FBI agent in the process.

2. Ooh! Sexual Tension!
With the cute FBI agent, and maybe with the blind analyst? It's hard to tell at this point. Gorham is not what I would call "leading man handsome," but he has a certain appeal, and his character and Annie seem to get along famously. Of course, that could put them in the friend zone. After all, there are plenty of TV male-female duos that always stayed completely platonic: Mulder and Scully, Tony and Angela, Dr. Quinn and Sully...

3. Ooh! Witty Banter!
While bonding over a beer after a hard day of spyin', Annie tells Auggie her story in a self-reflective, insightful sound byte of a personal history. He then tells her that she fits the "profile" of the typical CIA recruit, in a very charming and witty way, of course.

4. Ooh! Car Chase!
'Nuff said.

5. Ooh! A Wise and Perceptive Older African American Character!
Annie goes to one of her former language professors at Georgetown for help with her case, but she can't tell him what she's really doing, of course. It turns out that something the "Russian" contact said to her during their brief meeting wasn't really in Russian; he was speaking Estonian. Hm, suspicious... So, of course the rookie agent knows more than her supervisor; I wouldn't expect any different. So, Annie has to strike out on her own with only the help of her trusty sidekick and her MacGyver-like wits to prove her theory.

6. Ooh! Intrigue!
And then, of course, it turns out that the cute Spanish guy she met at the very beginning is the real Russian agent (never waste a meet cute!) and he tries to kill her. She is saved, though, in the nick of time by her long-lost lover whom she met in Sri Lanka, though she can't be sure it was him because it happened so fast and then he disappeared again.

Back at the CIA, the all-knowing Joan and Arthur privately discuss young Annie's progress and potential, revealing that they have been watching her for far longer than we thought. And then, in a total "Say Anything" moment, except without the boom box, we see Annie's long-lost love sitting in his car and gazing longingly at her bedroom window. ("It IS him! It IS!")

All in all, a solid start. There were enough twists to keep me guessing and laughs to keep it light, but not frothy. Of course, my knowledge of "Alias" has me wondering if Annie is really working for the CIA, or if it's actually some shady assassins' operation. As long as there are no dead fiances in bathtubs of blood, I'm good.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Emmy Love for Conan

The ill-fated “Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien” received two Primetime Emmy nominations, for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy series, as announced Thursday by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Conan's run as host of the iconic “Tonight Show” lasted only seven months (before the time slot was reclaimed by former host Jay Leno), but it was enough to get the academy's attention.

The nominations also caused a bit of controversy, some questioning if they were only sympathy noms, or a statement of protest directed toward NBC. Many Hollywood insiders seem to think that the Emmys are taking sides in a Leno/O'Brien debate, the most heated rivalry I've seen since Team Edward/Team Jacob.

An exec from a rival network was quoted in The Hollywood Reporter as saying that the nomination “seems like a political statement rather than a vote about the quality of the program itself... I don't think even Conan would say that the show yet represented what he wanted it to be in terms of an Emmy-winning performance."

As a long-time fan of “Late Night with Conan O'Brien,” I was excited when O'Brien took over for Jay Leno, whose bland, run-of-the-mill humor never failed to put me to sleep. Sure, Conan's “Tonight Show” had a rocky start, but what new show doesn't? A couple more months and I'm sure the show would have found its stride.

Meanwhile, Leno's ill-conceived nightly primetime talk show was bombing (What? Early risers don't want to watch this guy for an hour before they go to sleep every night? Who would have thought?), but NBC wanted to keep him, for some reason. So I was grimly unsurprised when the network announced last winter that Leno would return to his old time slot, leaving Conan out in the cold.

So what if Conan's Emmy nominations are just the academy's way of sticking it to NBC? In my opinion, they deserve it. And while I'm watching the Emmys this year, and waiting for the premiere of Conan's new show on TBS in the fall, I'll be wearing my Team Conan t-shirt.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Love, Money and "Say Yes to the Dress"

Who can explain the appeal of watching spoiled, rich women try on gowns that cost more than my car, and complain about the height of the waist or the angle of the neckline, demanding that they be altered fractions of an inch? Or, even worse, bridezillas with mothers to match going into the red for dresses they clearly can't afford and will only wear once in their lives? I am at a loss.

Is it the human train wreck of emotion, fashion, over indulgence, and all the feminine wistfulness that comes with anything related to weddings that hooks me? Is it watching the bridal consultants' mysterious talent for finding each bride's proverbial perfect wedding dress? Or seeing the manager, Randy, with his pink silk ties and childishly mild voice, swoop in to save the day when that talent fails?

Maybe the appeal goes deeper than voyeurism and superficial drama. During one episode I actually teared up a bit when the salon gave a huge discount to a breast cancer survivor on her dream dress. And I never get tired of seeing a mom's reaction to the sight of her daughter in a wedding gown for the first time.

I've heard it said that girls and women fantasize about weddings because they are one of the few socio-cultural events that center on the individual female experience; a wedding, and especially the kind of weddings that women on “Say Yes to the Dress” have, allows a woman a socially accepted excuse to indulge every narcissistic whim that enters her head.

I don't know if this is true or not, but it seems a logical, if rather cynical, explanation for this cultural phenomenon of wedding obsession. With divorce rates skyrocketing faster than the cost of the average wedding, my practical side has to balk at the thought of breaking the bank on such a short-lived investment. It seems that people obsess over their weddings, but neglect their marriages.

But all of these real world reservations are pushed aside when watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” I am cordially resigned to the fact that when I plan my own wedding, I will be hitting the $99 dress sales and buying off the rack, but that doesn't mean a girl can't dream.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thoughts From the Coffee Shop

What is it about studying in a location other than your disheveled, paper-strewn bed that is so exciting?

As I type this, I have been sitting in a D&M coffee shop in downtown Ellensburg for over five hours. I wrote a poem and revised two papers for my senior portfolio. I played a game of chess. I updated my Facebook status, and checked it twice more to see if anyone had commented on my witty musing yet. (No one has.)

I've had a lot of food for thought today. I found out that I might have a mild case of synesthesia. It's a condition which causes people's brains to combine or associate two different senses, such as sound and sight. A lot of people with synesthesia hear a certain musical note or chord and it makes them visualize a color. For me, it's taste and, to some extent, smell that I associate with color. I also found that my habit of thinking of the calendar year and the number line as inhabiting space is actually related to that. The poem I wrote today is about synesthesia.

I also drank coffee.

Less than two months from now, I will finish college. I will put on an ugly maroon polyester gown that is not very flattering for my body type and a matching cap with a tassel and walk across a stage to receive my diploma. (I hope I don't trip.) Then the rest of my life will start. How's that for a deep coffee shop thought?

Key chains are weird. They're not chains.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Akun Bracelet

Note: this piece was originally written for my editing and publication class; the assignment was to write a short piece (no longer than 750 words), either an editorial or a review. I chose an editorial, and I'm sure all my readers will be glad to know I got an "A."

I often wear a bright green woven bracelet with purple beads on my left wrist. People who notice it usually ask if I made it, to which I answer, “No, a girl in Cambodia did.” I then explain that no, my bracelet was not made in a sweat shop. I don't know the identity of the girl who made my bracelet, but I do know that, whoever she is, she is a survivor of sexual slavery.

The girl who made my bracelet was, like millions of young women and children in Southeast Asia, kidnapped or sold into prostitution at a young age, perhaps as young as five. Unlike most of the victims of this modern slavery, though, the girl who made my bracelet was rescued from captivity and brought somewhere safe to recover and heal, thanks to the Somaly Mam Foundation.

This nonprofit organization was founded by Cambodian sexual slavery survivor Somaly Mam and American Air Force Academy graduates Jared Greenberg and Nicholas Lumpp in 2007. Since its inception, the foundation has raised awareness of this horrific issue all over the globe and rescued thousands of Cambodian girls and young women from sexual slavery, setting them on a path toward recovery and reintegration.

Somaly Mam is one of the few voices speaking out against this unspeakable practice. Her own story is heartbreakingly tragic, but she has risen above her tragedy and dedicated her life to saving victims and empowering survivors. Through donations and proceeds from the sale of items that the rescued girls make (like my bracelet), the foundation is providing them shelter, food and education, opportunities and hope for the future they would not have had otherwise. But the struggle is far from over.

According to the United Nations, over 2 million children around the world are either kidnapped or sold to the sex trafficking industry every year. This industry generates $12 billion a year globally and is protected by corrupt government and law enforcement officials.

It is unacceptable that five-year-old girls are being sold by their families and raped and beaten by their captors every day. It is unacceptable that the governments of Southeast Asia are allowing this to happen. It is unacceptable for anyone who knows of these atrocities to turn a blind eye, to ignore the tragedy, to do nothing.

In Cambodia, one girl in 20 will be sold into sexual slavery by the age of twelve. She will be captured and beaten and tortured and raped and demeaned and likely killed, her innocence, her freedom and her life all taken away; and she is powerless to stop it.

But we are not powerless. We can make a difference in the lives of these girls and young women whom life has treated so harshly. A donation of only $10 provides psychological counseling for one victim of sex trafficking, and $30 will provide shelter and security for one girl for a month. Visit to learn more about the Somaly Mam Foundation and contribute to this important cause.

I often think about the girl who made my bracelet. I wonder: what is her story? Would I cry if I heard it? (Probably.) What is her life like now? Will she ever be able to recover from the terrible things that have happened to her? Will she be safe and happy and loved? And I wonder if I will ever get to meet her; what would I say if I did? Somehow, “Thanks for the bracelet” doesn't seem like enough.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Good Lententide

The custom of Lent is at least as old as the Byzantine Empire, and possibly was in practice even before then. And of course, fasting and prayer have been around since before Christ was on Earth.

There is a hymn sung in Catholic masses that I love:
Glória in excélsis Deo
et in terra pax homínibus bonae voluntátis.
Laudámus te,
benedícimus te,
adorámus te,
glorificámus te,
grátias ágimus tibi propter magnam glóriam tuam,
Dómine Deus, Rex cæléstis,
Deus Pater omnípotens.
Dómine Fili Unigénite, Iesu Christe,
Dómine Deus, Agnus Dei, Fílius Patris,
qui tollis peccáta mundi, miserére nobis;
qui tollis peccáta mundi, súscipe deprecatiónem nostram.
Qui sedes ad déxteram Patris, miserére nobis.
Quóniam tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dóminus, tu solus Altíssimus,
Iesu Christe, cum Sancto Spíritu: in glória Dei Patris. Amen.
Here it is in English:
Glory be to God on high.
And in earth peace towards men of good will.
We praise thee.
We bless thee.
We worship thee.
We glorify thee.
We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.
O Lord God, heavenly King
God the Father almighty.
O Lord, the only-begotten Son Jesu Christ.
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right of the Father, have mercy upon us.
For thou only art Holy. Thou only art the Lord. Thou only art the Most High.
Thou only, O Jesu Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art Most High in the glory of God the Father. Amen
During Lent, Catholic congregations do not sing this hymn; it disappears on Ash Wednesday and isn't sung again until Easter Sunday, celebrating the resurrection of Christ.

Lent is commonly thought of as a time of sorrow and penance, of sacrifice for the purpose of reflection and purification; it sounds rather joyless. But reflection and purification should be joyful. Lent is also often thought to symbolize or commemorate Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the desert in preparation to begin His ministry on Earth, and our sacrifice is to honor His sacrifice on the cross.

There is sorrow for Jesus' suffering and repentance for our sin, but there is joy in the sacrifice. In this solemn season there is the anticipation of the celebration at the end. We are hopeful through the despair because we know how the story ends: though Christ was put to death, it could not hold Him; though we sacrifice coffee or sweets or TV (me) and have times of sorrow, we look forward to the end of the story, the joy that comes in the morning, the life and resurrection of Christ. And our sacrifice is no longer a burden.

Friday, January 29, 2010


For those of you who don't know, I'm taking an art class this quarter. I thought it would be fun to share some of my work so far. Now, I know I have a long way to go and I will probably never be a Van Gogh, but I like it. These are phone-tos, so sorry about the bad picture quality.

This was part of a four-piece assignment on emotions. The other emotions were "boredom," "excitement" and "hate," but this one was my favorite. Construction paper.


This was part of a three-piece study of symmetry. This piece represents bi-lateral symmetry. Construction paper.


This is also in the symmetry study, representing radial symmetry. Construction paper.

"Fleurs de Lis"

This assignment was to create a grid with a focal point. I like the pink and brown, but I think if I could do it over I would replace some of the brown with mint green so it would be Spumoni ice cream colors. Construction paper.


It's too bad this photo is so blurry. There is actually a lot of detail in this piece. Two-dimensional images are arranged in a 3-D space to create a scale landscape effect. (My prof wrote on the gradesheet that she thought it was "whimsical," which is exactly what I was going for!) Photograph, print images, poster board, foam core board.

"Starry Night"

Hey, how did this get in here?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Major Award

One of my four "official" followers (of which I am one--you do the math) gave me this lovely award. I had no idea my blog was so lovely. Thanks, Bookworm!

So the rules are that I am supposed to post this picture (right) and then award the same award (awarding an award, because what else would you do with it?) to my favorite blogs to read. So, I pick these ones:

Practical Princess
It started as a project for an online journalism class, but Erika, the Practical Princess herself, has turned this little blog into one of my favorite ways to spend five minutes. Full of money-saving tips, beautiful photographs and interesting fashion stories without being "fashion blog-y," Practical Princess hits the spot.

The Daily Nail
365 days, 365 nail designs. I don't know where this girl finds the time, but she paints her nails every day, and not just one color, either. They're actual designs, sometimes extremely intricate, sometimes beautiful, always interesting and amazing. My favorite was the bacon nails a couple months back. And catchy blog title, too, no?

ma vie à l'étranger
French for "my life abroad," this blog was posted by an American college student studying in France (duh). She's back in the states now (I know, because I've seen her on campus; we know each other), but her archives make some interesting reading.

Postcards From...
As of this second, the title of the blog is "Postcards from a Winter Wonderland," but it has been "Postcards from Morning," "Postcards from Spring," and a couple of others. The content of this one is similar to mine in that it doesn't have a real theme. It's thoughts and musings and likes of the moment, often including a video and a few pictures, and always fun.

Monday, January 04, 2010

My Seven Top 5 Favorite Movies of 2009 --finally finished!

Due to recent controversy, I would like to point out that the title of this post refers to my FAVORITE movies of the year, the ones I liked best, not necessarily those with the most merit.

It was a pretty good year for movies. Yes, there were the requisite explosions- and- special- effects- attempting- to- distract- the- audience- from- the- horrible- dialogue- and- complete- lack- of- original- story gems (I'm looking at you, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Avatar), but there were also some serious contenders for my ever-changing Top Favorite Movies of All Time list. The year's best, in my opinion (listed in order of release date):

State of Play
The moral of the story: newspapers
good, blogging bad. Oops. This is a smart, well-written thriller about politics, journalism and the tempestuous relationship between the two. The cast is perfect (except for Ben Affleck; I think he stumbled onto the wrong movie set) and the compelling story never gets predictable or generic.

The Proposal
A conventional romantic comedy: Girl hates Boy and Boy hates Girl; Girl and Boy must pretend to be a couple for one reason or another (the reason doesn't really matter); through a series of crazy adventures and misunderstandings, Girl and Boy Actually Fall In Love; and, after a final, even bigger misunderstanding, everything is cleared up and Girl and Boy live Happily Ever After. There's a reason these plot points became conventions in the first place: they make a good story. Of course by now we've seen them so many times that they're tediously predictable. What The Proposal manages to do, though, is give us a familiar story, but with characters we actually care about and some of the wittiest dialogue this side of Juno, so that what could have been a conventional, run-of-the-mill rom-com feels fresh and irrepressibly light.

(500) Days of Summer
And now a very un-conventional romantic comedy, so much so that many people, including some critics and even the makers of the film, don't consider it to be one at all. As the narrator says, "It is a story of Boy meets Girl, but it is not a love story." We are told at the beginning how it will end, yet we can't help rooting for this couple (or non-couple) to have their own Happily Ever After. The ending is perfect in that way because even though we know it's coming, there's still a bit of a surprise, and it's not entirely unsatisfying.

District 9
I recently watched the DVD with director Neill Blomkamp's commentary, and he seemed very occupied with the movie's constant juxtaposition of the mundane and the fantastic. Until he pointed this out, I hadn't really thought about it, which just goes to show how seamlessly the elements fit together. Blomkamp also is very aware of the setting. A Johannesburg native, he says that there was never a question of locating the story anywhere else. The city becomes a character in its own right, sometimes even more interesting than the aliens. A hallmark of science fiction has always been inventiveness, and in this respect District 9 is the most sci-fi sci-fi movie I've ever seen. It turns the genre on its head, making us question not only the traditional human traits of all good drama, but also the conventions of imagination.

After Shaun of the Dead's seemingly untouchable brilliance, who would dare to make a zom-com? The creators of The Joe Schmo Show, of course! The comparison is inevitable, but really the only thing the two movies have in common is that they're comedies with zombies (or maybe it's more accurate to say that they're zombie movies with lots of funny bits). Different stories, different characters, different accents. Zombieland is just fun from start to finish. I think it's mentioned somewhere that the "zombie infection" came from Mad Cow Disease, but does that really matter? No one cares how the zombies got there, we just want to see them get killed! And zombie killings there are aplenty, along with the aforementioned funny bits and an unforgettable cameo from one of the best comedic actors of our time. I won't tell you who it is, and in fact maybe I've already said too much. I listened to Creative Screenwriting Magazine's Q&A with the writers and found that they originally planned to have the movie be the first two episodes of a TV series. Maybe they'll still make the series? I'd watch!

Where the Wild Things Are
I remember reading the book when I was five or six, and looking at Sendak's incredible illustrations at even younger. The book contains only seven sentences, so it's no small feat that the movie is feature-length. Max and the Wild Things are flesh-and-blood characters. Kids younger than about nine or 10 probably wouldn't appreciate the introspective, emotion-driven almost slowness of the story, though there are enough laughs to keep older kids entertained. And people of all ages would have to be made of stone to not be touched by the heartfelt ending, Max's longing for and return home. And the soundtrack is really good.

Sherlock Holmes
I tried to read The Hound of the Baskervilles a few years ago and only got past about page five (although I liked the Wishbone version). I'm sure Doyle's reputation is well-deserved, but I just could not get through it without falling asleep. This Holmes is anything but boring, though, what with rock 'em-sock 'em action, witty banter and a supernatural (or is it?) mystery to solve. I (clearly) can't tell you how accurate this portrayal of the famous sleuth is, but I can you tell you that it made for a good time at the movies.

*Honorable mentions:
Star Trek

The Hangover

The Twilight Saga: New Moon
A campy 1960s sci-fi TV classic, a series of vampire romance novels beloved by tween and teen girls and middle-aged women alike and countless anonymous, too-wild-not-to-be-true stories of lost weekends in Sin City all provided inspiration for the year's best "guilty pleasures," in one case very guilty.