Sunday, February 26, 2006

Movie Review: Midnight Cowboy

Last night we watched Midnight Cowboy (released in 1969, rated X) with John Voight as Joe Buck and Dustin Hoffman as Rico Rizzo. I had remembered watching this as part of an American Film Classics class back in my community college days, but only bits and pieces stayed with me. I'm somewhat surprised about the "X" rating because of the times, but it was given the rating due to the opinion that parents would not want their children seeing the content in this film. Maybe the rating system was a bit more subjective back then.

The premise: Joe Buck, a Texas cowboy wannabe, moves to New York to make money as a hustler, figuring that New York women have money and are surrounded by "tutti-frutties". He meets up with Rico "Ratso" Rizzo, who is a disabled scam artist living in a condemned apartment building. Joe starts out wide eyed and naive, until he has one too many degrading experiences ranging from not being paid for his "services" to being propositioned on 42nd street by a gay man. Throughout these experiences, Buck gets tougher and wiser to the pitfalls of being a gigolo in New York. Out of desperation, he moves in with Rizzo and Rizzo becomes his "manager". In the midst of the bitter cold, Rizzo decides that the duo would be more profitable in Miami and Buck's job is to earn enough money to get them there. When they do finally hop a bus to Miami, Rizzo dies as they are entering Miami due presumably to pneumonia or something similar.

Memorable lines: "I'm not a real cowboy, but I'm a stud!" Buck answers a woman's query about whether or not he's a real cowboy. "You just took a little rest stop that wasn't on the schedule" Buck says to Rizzo (to lighten the depressing mood) when he wets himself on the bus ride to Miami.

I had to read some reviews after watching this show because some of the flashbacks about the main character were confusing to me, especially the religious references. I think anything religious bothered Buck because of the contrast between actions and words - like his grandmother sexually abusing him, but admonishing him to "listen to Jesus" or some such nonsense. Or the part where he's first introduced to the pimp, who starts examining Buck's potential as a stud and then instructs him to get on his knees and whips out his plastic light-up Jesus to pray to. It was also difficult to tell if Joe really had a girlfriend in his old town or if it was all just delusions of grandeur, especially after seeing the flashbacks about the police coming to find the pair in the car half dressed. Also, some reviews hinted at a homosexual relationship between Rizzo and Buck, but I never viewed it that way - they were just two guys trying to make it in the cold city.

I would give this flick 8 out of 10 dancing feet, but it's not for everyone. If you are sensitive to sexual themes and drug references or have young impressionable children, this film isn't for you.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I've Succumbed to the Craze

I have no idea why, but I have succumbed to the Su Doku craze, thanks to my brother and his girlfriend (who are visiting this weekend). When I walk into a bookstore, that's usually the first thing I see - a rack of Su Doku books. Until this weekend, I have been able to resist. However, once I was shown how to play the game and what the objective was, I haven't been able to quit playing. It reminds me of when I first discovered Text Twist on the Yahoo game page - I played it until my eyes crossed. For some reason, it felt really good to use my mind in a different way than I normally do. This is part of the same attraction that Su Doku holds - that I have think in a way that's not natural for me. I think it's because of this that I can justify wasting my time that could be spent on other pursuits. What those pursuits would be and their usefulness, I can't say. We'll see how long this latest craze of mine lasts....

Sunday, February 19, 2006

In Bloom

"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. " Anne Frank

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Chinese New Year Parade

We made the trek to San Francisco yesterday to see the Chinese New Year Parade. It was nice just to get outside on such a gorgeous day. It still feels odd that I don't have to wear a coat in February. All the pictures I was able to get that actually turned out were before the parade even started.
H and I found a good spot towards the beginning of the parade route, but when the parade started, the policemen let the crowd move forward to the island, which totally ruined whatever view we actually had. A few minutes later, the policemen changed their minds and moved everyone back to the sidewalk, but by that time, we had already lost a decent place.

This shot is the best one I was able to get of the dragons since we did not get to stay for that part. Instead, we walked back to the Caltrain station to head home, stopping for dinner along the way. The best part of the day was when we were riding home and I put my head on H's shoulder and we just talked.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Death and Taxes

Those are the two things that one can count on in life, right? Well, at least I can take some comfort in the fact that I'm not dying (not that I know of anyway) - it's only tax season. This season usually gives me a nice hefty return, since I'm pretty cautious in what gets taken out of my paychecks. For reasons that I won't bore you with, I get to pay this year. This is the major part of my woes since I have been battling the IRS over an underpayment for someone else's mistake. However, when a person is married, the IRS does not care which one made the mistake - both are responsible for paying (unless the other person stiffs you and you get stuck). Chalk that mistake up to "lesson learned" - at least I will be rid of this headache by March 10th of this year.

My question is (the other part of my tax woes), why do I invariably make the yearly taxes more difficult than they already are? This year, I chose to go to H & R Block so that someone besides myself would be held accountable should I get audited. Call me paranoid. I get the benefit of having a very nice, but very aged and slow tax preparer. I'm very nervous about this year's forms because, in the course of filling out my forms, there were several typewritten errors, which I had to point out (otherwise they'd have gone unnoticed). This made me extra vigilant in double checking the numbers she input, which I'm sure she did not appreciate. This whole process made filing taxes take at least twice as much time as it should have. I've never had such an excruciating experience with H & R Block and I've used them several times in the past 10 years. This trip, however, made me seriously reconsider my decision. No, the little "scratch and win" card did not help my mood, either, especially since I didn't win anything. Next year, I will take my chances and file my own taxes - another one to add to my list of "lessons learned".

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Movie Review: Annie Hall

So, since I've been sick on my birthday weekend, I've had nothing else to do but plant myself on the couch with water, Extra Strength Tylenol, and a box of Kleenex and watch movies. One of the movies we were sent from Netflix was Annie Hall. I've never seen a Woody Allen movie until this one and, from what I've seen of him in public and knowing about the whole "leave-wife-to-take-up-with-your-stepdaughter" thing, I was hesitant. The thing is, this movie was pretty good! He was very charming and, even though he's not my type, I can see why Diane Keaton's character was attracted to him. The thing I liked best about this film was all the quick one-liners. Sort of like when Annie was driving him home (she's a horrid driver) and she attempts to parallel park and he opens the door and looks down and says "that's okay, at least we can walk to the curb". There were some cameos also, like at the party in LA where a young Jeff Goldblum asks his agent "What's my mantra again? I forgot...". I love the parts where they split the screen and do a "he said, she said" type thing. Many of the things that couples struggled with way back then (in the '70s) are the same things couples struggle with today. This movie did a great job of chronicling the main characters' relationship in a humorous and sweet way. I would give this movie 9 out of 10 dancing feet.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Positive Spinning

The last two weeks have come straight from hell, workwise. It's not even the kids - it's all the other stuff. The other stuff being demanding parents and uncooperative co-workers. In addition, the people I've come in contact with have been pretty negative, but then again, maybe they're reacting to me. I've had to sit in meetings lately (which in January and February I have at least one or two a day on top of my normal responsibilities) and listen to a parent call her son lazy, listen to a parent dictate goals to me (because, God knows, I don't know how to write appropriate goals), listen to a teacher tell a parent "your child can't do ______" with the blank representing a laundry list of skills the kid doesn't have, listen to teachers backstab other teachers, and see my colleague who is also a speech therapist shed tears over being backstabbed (I prefer to show my stress by having bad hair and attempting to conceal all the pimples that have broken out on my chin).

Where does the "positive spin" come in, you ask? Well, during my weeks in hell, I have vented to H, who has been a very good sport and listened to all my rantings and ravings. In expressing frustration about the first situation - a parent calling her son lazy (with him sitting right there to hear it), he suggested putting a positive spin on her complaint that he "watches too much tv". Instead, wouldn't it be nicer to say "he makes valuable contributions to the Nielsen ratings"? I know he was trying to lighten the mood, but he wasn't far off the mark. Learning to put a positive spin on things was something I remember learning as a grad student in my program. I'm sure it's part of teachers' education also, but sometimes I can't tell. It seems to be one of those lost arts. I know plenty of people who get fed up with being "PC", but jeez, there's a time and a place. There's also a difference between being "PC" and stating the truth, but in a nice way.

Positive spins don't just relate to what I see happening around me, but it also has to do with what I need to do in order to stay sane. For example, instead of viewing the demanding parent as a "pain in my ass", I could view her as a learning experience. I remember living with my mom when I was finishing school. When I came home to complain about this one particular professor, she basically told me to "shut up about it" (which is our favorite line from "A League Of Their Own") and realize that I will always have difficult people to work with throughout life. My professor was just breaking me in as part of my education. At the time, that's not what I wanted to hear, but it was (and still is) the truth. So now, why is it so hard to stop myself in the middle of my little pity parties? A little bit of positive spinning could make my life (and everyone's lives around me) a little better.