Sunday, September 23, 2012

To Sir with Cats

We watched To Sir with Love last night on PBS, starring Sidney Poitier, a movie released in 1967, maybe the first of the "bad student. good teacher" film trope developed over the years with movies like Dead Poet's Society and that one with Michelle Pfeiffer where a gorgeous white teacher wins the respect of hardened street toughs (Dangerous Minds). I forget how she does this--through dancing or Kung Fu or something like that.

It was interesting that race didn't play a huge, huge role in the film--maybe because it was set in London and so race relations were perhaps better there--some scenes of bias, but mostly, Sir was just this very proper man who got through to the class by treating them with dignity (except in this one scene where he punched a kid in the stomach, but he totally deserved it). As is the way now, I was able to watch the film while simultaneously looking up Poiteir's full biography on my iPhone to see that he was the first African American to win an Academy Award and the President Obama gave him some other honor in 2009. He also directed Stir Crazy, starring Richard Prior, but I think it's best of focus on his earlier acting work.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lost in the Subway

I blame the iPhone for my morning delay and detour. I downloaded the newest update last night, and so was messing with my phone this AM and missed the Walnut Street stop (note: I haven't noticed anything different with my phone except now I have this thing called a Passbook?) . When I looked up, we were arriving at City Hall. I promised myself I would walk in halfway today, so I got out and tried to find my way out of the belly of the subway.

I wish I could find a map of the place, because it makes no sense to me.Here's what I imagine the map must look:

If you happen to go up the wrong stairwell, you end up in an entirely different part of the subway, going West instead of East, for example, and the only way to get back is to walk through the West part or totally backtrack and start over with a different stairwell. There are no signs to point you in the right direction, so you have to guess where you might be going. Consequently, when I finally emerged into the light, I was on Juniper and some other street and it took me at least 5 minutes to get off the island that is the City Hall stop and headed in the right direction.

Prior to that, I took a picture of this cat I see every day. The owner heard me talking to the cat and she came to the window. There were actually two cats and I learned their names from her, Mickey and Alistair (?I forget the second name but I think it began with the letter "a." Alvie Singer from Annie Hall?).

And this is my hair today. I've become obsessed with taking pictures of myself with Instagram and am so thrilled when you can't see the part where my hair is white and terrible. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

That's a line from the fake yet terrifying diary, Go Ask Alice; a book I read when I was about 13 that kept me away from drugs for pretty much the rest of my life (notice the conditional). The diary is about a young innocent girl who falls in with the wrong crowd, becomes a drug addict pretty much overnight, and then ODs on something dumb like pot. The first time she takes acid, it's accidental--someone puts it in her Coca Cola bottle during a game called Button Button Who's Got the Button (as in, which bottles of Coke have drugs in them)? 

Buttons are on my mind in general because I just got one last weekend in Princeton for a mere $4 in support of Obama (actually, it says, "Canine-Americans for Obama" and has a beagle and a German Shepherd mix on it). I pinned it to my bag and the instantly became aware of it as I was walking around the city. I didn't realize that having a political button would do that, but I honestly feel like people are noticing it and making assumptions about me (good and bad) based on my having my political affiliation visible.

But I also realized that I'm making assumptions about how people are reacting to it based on my own bias. Like, standing next to a couple of black kids on the subway (who probably didn't even notice thee button), I'm thinking that they must like me more b/c I'm wearing the button (assumption: all black people like Obama). And then I'm also aware of this kind of undercurrent of a darker stereotype that goes something like, Maybe they won't bother me/mug me/try to take my phone because I'm wearing this button (assumption: all young black kids are thugs). But my prejudices extend generously to white people too--white men in particular, the ones who wear suits and look as though they're on their way to a $50,000 a plate luncheon perhaps and I worry that one of them will stop me and say something obnoxious like, Do you support that socialist? And then I would say something like, "Yes, he's the only president I've ever know who actually changed my life" and I would launch into a description of how the Obama incentive to buy houses allowed me to get a house without very much money down and a really low fixed interest rate and then how I got a check in the mail for $8,000--more money than I've ever received at one time in my life, and how that money allowed me to feel safer because I have more than $53 in my savings account, and how I used some of that money to renovate the kitchen and how that will increase the value of my house, etc. , etc. But it's not likely that anyone is going to stop me or say anything, although the manager at Hummus did look at the button and ask me, "Oh, are you on his campaign team?" And I said, "Not really, I just love him." He didn't say anything else.

Can you even see the button amid all of these patterns and the giant chipmunk in the background?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday Late Nights

I'm taking a Tuesday night grad class this semester at Penn, and we get out at around 8 PM. Last night, the teacher ended a little early and I raced from the room---I'm always racing from the room after these classes--and did a fast walk down 34th Street toward the Market/Frankford subway; just made it down the stairs as the train was pulling in and felt good about that, but then just missed the connecting subway at City Hall. Such is life. One thing I wish wasn't part of the subway experience is that moment when you're waiting on the platform, reading your library book (in this case, The Picture of Dorian Gray for said class), and you hear the guy behind you hock a giant snot ball into his throat. Then, there is the pause before he spits it onto the train tracks. This same guy did that about three times in as many minutes. Should he maybe be hospitalized for an upper respiratory condition? What it made me want to do is to bring forth my own loogie and spit it out in a similar fashion. Because most women don't do this, unless possibly they're playing sports. But I hear it from men all the time. Someone please explain.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Henri, Jean Paul Satre's version

Leigh Ann sent me a link to "30 Renowned Authors Inspired by Cats." I found this video under Jean Paul Satre. The cat featured has the same name and spelling as my dearly departed Henri. And sort of the same attitude about the world.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Niagara Falls + A Faux Pas

We went to Niagara Falls last weekend with Dan's mom and Luke. It was a long long drive, and we stayed at a Quality Inn that wasn't. Ever since I heard some 20/20 expose on what goes on in hotel rooms, I find it difficult to sit on any available surface in a hotel room, imagining that it's teeming with feces and bodily fluids of dozens of strangers.

Clearly, Dan does not share my fears. Also, this is totally staged. Luke posed like this on purpose.
We did a few of the touristy things, such as going to the Caves of the Winds (on the way down in the elevator, a young tour guide got on at the last second and turned toward the rest of us to say in a monotone voice, We are now descending 475 feet to the basin of the mountain...The elevator was so crowded that his nose was almost touching Dan's. I laughed out loud and Dan closed his eyes and I knew he was controlling himself to keep from laughing too).

They give you a little poncho and these free suctiony sandals, but I will tell you that death does not see that far away when you're standing on the rickety platform inches from the falls. I learned later that Niagara Falls is the second most common public space for people to kill themselves, with the Golden Gate Bridge winning first place. I also read about how a recent suicide that was called a copycat suicide b/c it happened just after another guy jumped (and lived). That made me feel kind of bad for the one who succeeded--even in death he was considered less than original.

Pamphlets like these were on hand in case you were considering jumping.
We also waited in line for 1,500 hours to get soaked on the Maids of the Mist boat tour where we learned that a lady had gone over in a barrel and survived.

Next, we went to the aquarium and saw some penguins stuffed into a smnall, man made terrarium. Later, we went to a 50th Wedding Anniversary where the husband sang, "I Did it My Way"on karaoke. Then home again. I'm glad I saw the falls--I am--but I think both of us would've been happier at a B&B somewhere, though there's still the problem of the bedspreads.

Some more random photos from the trip:

We stayed at Dan's mom's house on the way out. This is Sheeva. I bowed her.
Lillian and Dan.
Luke and giant pancake. Best meal ever at the Red Roof Inn.


The other thing that happened recently was that I signed up for a graduate class at Penn called something like, Madness in Italian Cinema. I imagined we would sit around and eat Italian ice and watch Fellini films. It was cross-listed in cinema studies and the Italian department. So, on Wed., I found the classroom and sat down. The teacher hadn't started class yet, but she was talking to one of the other students. They were speaking in Italian. I said to the friendly-looking redhead next to me, "Oh, they're speaking in Italian." She blinked back at me and said, "The whole class is in Italian."
 I said, "Okay, it was nice to meet you," and left. Don't worry, I found another class to take and I'm pretty sure it's in English.

Here is your moment of cat: