Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I have been enjoying the realm of high speed internet, now that I'm visiting America. Just amazing what a person can waste her time looking at!

Latest discovery is Tiki! Now I have my two tiki mugs and a Filipino wood carving that could pass for tiki, and I spent some of my 21st birthday at the now defunct Tiki bar, Tahitian Hut. I have my copy of Taboo: the Art of Tiki. I have about three vintage Aloha shirts and a couple of awesome Hawaiian dresses from about 1964. You could say that I have a mild interest in the realm. But finding the Tiki Room has upped my interest. Uh oh. Like I need another hobby.

Ramba Zamba has some pretty good photos of Tiki culture from his trip to Bali. He really did a good job finding decor, artifacts, and art depicting or at least reminiscent of Tiki.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bond Updated

Daniel Craig is the new James Bond, and the fact that the Broccoli family launches the new star in a remake of the very first 007 movie, might mean that they plan to remake every last one of the series.

Craig will never win the "sexiest man alive" title (Connery being the definitive Bond), but he does show an endearing human side to a role that has been played too cold (Timothy Dalton), too self conscious (Roger Moore), too simple (George Lazenby), too pretty (Pierce Brosnan), and too mean (Connery). His ears stick out, his haircut looks like something I'd give him in the dark with Kindergarten scissors, and his profile is downright thuggish. That said, I concede that he has an amazing pair of shoulders, a nicely muscular butt, and piercing iceberg eyes.

What really sets apart this Bond is his depth as a person. He's not just a character in a film. He's a complex dude with a past and an inner life, pegged beautifully by breathtakingly intelligent and refreshingly minimally chested Bond girl Vesper Lind (Eva Green). Their conversations go far beyond screenplays that had Moore spouting cheesy double entendres and Connery mutely rearranging shoulder straps like a horny high school kid.

Good supporting characters round out the new movie. Even Chester Gould could not have invented the creepy villain Le Chiffre, with asthma and scarred eye that weeps blood. He steals every scene in a way that Blofeld and Goldfinger cannot. Gamblers at the Casino Royale table are utterly intriguing, Judi Dench is an amazing M, and the actor who played the Swiss banker puts in a performance as memorable as Alan Cumming's in Eyes Wide Shut.

Really, though, this was a Baby Boomer's perfect Bond. We all grew up with 007. Men wanted to BE him, women wanted to meet him. We Boomers may be greying, but we're at the peak of our careers and many of us can afford leisure activities once reserved for the jetset. Thanks to the early Bond movies, we pursued recreational sex, got SCUBA certified, learned how to ski, and drove a cool sports car at some point in life. We are no longer impressed by movie scenes of these activities, because we know how to do all that shit. But the French art of free jumping? I'd love to meet a baby boomer who can do THAT. Now free jumping is impressive! And this Bond film begins with a dynamite sequence of matching that nimble art with braun, guns, and third world grit. So the effects and stunts guys really are hip to what's left in the realm of slick, sophisticated, and dangerous.

Um, wait! Did I say 'sophisticated?' That's the one place where they got it wrong. The product placement, branding, and many sets were under par for 2006. Bond asks for a Beefeater martini, but don't we REALLY think he'd specify Bombay Sapphire Gin if not Grey Goose Vodka? He says he wears an 'O-mee-ga' wristwatch, not a more classic Rolex. He convalesces at Lake Como (full of German boors nowadays) and vacations in horrifically tourist-crowded Venice. Production designers recoup points for the sailboat Bond takes past the Grand Canal, which would have been too slow and wimpy for Roger Moore vehicles.

And, speaking of vehicles, Bond pulls up to a Bahamian resort hotel in a light blue Ford. No, sorry, James Bond would never be caught dead in a Ford. That was just the worst product placement EVER, nearly offsetting the trademark Bond affliction of stocking the film with more luxury brands than any random chapter of American Psycho.

That's a category where this Bond severs with tradition. The guy has no class. Driving sexy chick Catarina Murino around in circles in the cool Astin Martin he just won off her husband is a perfect example of one kind of class (the casino, the car) mitigated by cheap behavior (seeking to impress a girl by driving like a maniac). It's every bit as bad as Lazenby's 007 making off with a Playboy centerfold (the clipping, not the model). Lazenby was just about everyone's least favorite Bond.

But back to the blond secret agent. Cute ass, well-fitting dinner jacket, and an awesome pair of cufflinks do not actually show class. Working out at the gym, a trip to Chinatown, and a sale at Macy's will put a fellow in touch with those items. Class doesn't come into play there. The film's sailboat bit and penchant for married women MAY put him in a higher class than the likes of me, as well as his I'm-not-asking-permission pursuit of Armenian bad guy Simon Abkarian and Bond's deferential posture to boss lady M after she catches him in her apartment. That's class. But there's just not a lot of it.

Ah, and the fact that this Bond is new to killing, & clearly can't do it without a few pangs of emotion, makes me nominate this screenplay for the best of the lot. Really, it's an up-to-date Bond, someone we boomers can still admire.

In all, sure, I recommend this Bond film as the one with the best treatment of women, the most realistic dialogue, and hippest stunts. Go see it.

Photos copyright (with thanks)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at Villa Aurelia

Okay, sorry to stalk and drool over movie stars' private lives, but guess where Tom and Katie had their "rehearsal dinner?"

At the American Academy in Rome's Villa Aurelia, yet no less!

Seems it was hosted by the bride's parents, as is traditional.

And, good for them, because there's no way the paparazzi can get even CLOSE to the beautiful villa.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pre Thanksgiving Racists: Kramer & US Airways

This foggy morning, I am greeted with news of Islamic clerics humiliatingly taken from their US Airways flight. It's all very disgusting, beginning with the ignorance of some passenger who mistook the men's evening prayers for some kind of pre-terrorist action. Said passenger passed a note to a flight attendant, apparently containing the phrase "Arabic men." US Airways chose to remove the men from the flight, handcuffed by police.

This chain of events full of intolerance and (at the very least) ignorance, comes on the heels of Michael Richards' bizarre racist retorts to a heckler at a comedy club.

Where to start? People, this is the day before Thanksgiving. Three hundred odd years ago, Native Americans took pity on a small group of struggling Anglo pilgrims who'd finally been able to clear a little farmland, and introduced them to their own harvest festival of giving thanks. The pilgrims were so fed up with English persecution of their religious practices, they took a dangerous sea journey to arrive in the New World just as winter was setting in. In the end, more settlers from the continent would bring disease and slaughter to the Natives, in general thinking of these established tribes as little more than inconveniences to their manifest destiny.

That's the thanks they get for giving us every American's favorite family weekend, the day we reflect on our blessings, on our good fortune, and, sometimes, on those less fortunate. Perhaps it's also time to think about that aspect of the holiday in which generosity, being a good host, and the tenets of equality in our country's constitution. Not tolerance. Equality.

What can we do?
1. Boycott US Airways
2. Learn about the Muslim faith, its pillars and practices, its leaders, communicators and families
3. Invite someone new to your Thanksgiving table
4. Make a contribution to a charity that promotes racial and religious respect
5. Do something that brings a little harmony between yourself and someone of another race or religion.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Berkeley High, class of 1976

Okay, this weekend I attended the 30 year reunion of BHS graduates in the year 1976. Technically, I am in the class of 1977, because I was born in 1959 and started Kindergarten in 1964, but I decided to graduate early in '76.

That last year of school was a toughie, because, due to a long teachers' strike, I did not begin fall semester until well into October. I struggled with Algebra 3, quit attending the classroom sessions, but neglected to drop the course formally. Thus, I earned a "D" and pushed out my chances of getting into the University of California.

I WAS more timely in those matters such as getting my graduating picture into the yearbook, though. So, there sits my image in the 1976 tome, as if I'd always belonged to the cool class of Tom Schaaf, Timothy Hutton, Tom Levinson, Sabrina Stemley, Oriane Stender, Mordecai Duckler, and Liz MacDonough. Fooled everyone as usual and showed up at the clubhouse at Golden Gate Fields in time for no-host bar, caloric buffet, and a roomfull of people who needed reading glasses to peruse each others' name tags.

First contact was Margaret Leventhal, who looks the same but appears a good bit less butch than she used to, there in Mr. Panesanko's Advanced Biology class. She's a mom, now, too (got started twenty years later than I did), and she has a nice husband. Next, I ran into Bonnie Sand (that's Doctor Sand to you and me) and she linked me over to her ever-best-friend, Leslie Ross. Holy cow, Leslie went to Cooper Union! And she's working at Gulassa & Co in Seattle! Small world! Avram Siegal was there, too (the guy with the banjo), and he's managed to do the amazing: make money as a musician! Thanks for the glass of wine, Avram.

Utterly incredible to see John Stenmark, who seemed merely tall (not gigantic, as he appeared in high school). He's been living 20 years in Barcelona, of all places.

Renata Dowdakin said hello, but just to tell me that her brother wound up at the American Academy in Rome, at the time under my dad's directorship. She was one of at least a dozen women there who were remarkably well-preserved, fit, and beautiful. Winning the handsomest guy award was Don Teeter, trumpeter with the venerable BHS jazz band. Kind of fun to see one stoner guy who will go unnamed; he's a total "suit" now, strutting in with young eye candy on his arm. High tech jobs topped the career tally, including the principal's uber jock son, Eric Parker. I guess he lived in Singapore for a while, around the time I was in Honkers.

I missed the raucous display of dances, but I couldn't miss hearing "Don't Rock the Boat" and other disco disasters being broadcast at 100 dB. I think everyone was hoarse the next day, for we all had to shout to be heard. Finished up at midnight, chuckled all the way home. Sorry that quite a number of cool kids did not show up, but I can see that the $80 ticket price was an automatic filter.

In all, a fun reunion. Thanks especially to Bonnie and Leslie for showing up.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stuff One Forgets, Stuff One Remembers...

How did I forget this oddity from the night of October 12, last month?

I took a taxi from the Protestant Church in Legian after the terrorist bomb memorial there. The taxi driver was from Sumatra, interestingly. His English was not great, but certainly passable for a driver's work. Soon after we struck up a conversation, he passed back to me several sheets of paper for my perusal. He wanted to know what I thought of his new t-shirt design.

Now, for the life of me, I cannot remember the exact text that was printed on each of about fifty t-shirt mockups. All I can be sure of is that there were two words, and one of them was Sex. The other word was English, all right, but it made no grammatical sense to be paired with Sex. It was something like Sex Above or Sex Catching or Sex Frame or even Up Sex or Fever Sex or Very Sex or something incredibly stupid like that.

Friends, I was speechless. Yes, this motormouth had almost nothing to say. This was jaw-drop time. I leafed through his computer printouts of camo shirts, assymmetrical neckline shirts, babydoll shirts, tank tops, and any t-shirt you can possibly imagine, all with this inane and actually rather offensive message emblazoned in myriad fonts.

Here it was, the day that shook Bali to its very core. The day that a total of 202 partygoers and their drivers, waiters, bartenders, and entertainers were killed by a terrorist's bomb. The day we reflect on the tragedy, on intolerance and hatred, on war, and on the upheaval in the lives of victims' families.

I have always been one to say, "don't let the bad guys win by moping and pulling back inside yourselves. Get out there and flourish and prosper." Right after the bomb went off, or at least two weeks later, we went ahead with our open house, welcoming friends into our new Bali home. My reasoning was that life MUST go on. Living is the greatest revenge. BUT I also had the thought, right away, when Cakra told me about the bomb, that it was the work of Jamaiah Islamiah. (spelling). I thought that if someone wanted to make a statement against decadent infidel living, they'd hit a nightclub. It turned out to be true, sadly enough.

Now, I don't go in for the clubbing scene, but it's perfectly fine with me that we have a nightclub district (or two) for this sort of fun. There is nothing wrong with footballers going to a bar to celebrate sportsmanship, with girls going out dancing wearing skimpy outfits, or with people relaxing with a drink in hand. But some people find this so objectionable, so intolerable, that they feel compelled to kill them for doing this. That's disgusting.

I am not saying that we should listen to terrorists. But I am saying that for the divide to have become this great, for the hatred to have developed this perversely, it may be time to really reflect on what it is to get along with others. The boys growing up in Baashir's school are being taught that getting along with others is not as important as imposing a strict code of behavior on the world. There may, conversely, be something to think about vis-a-vis public drunkenness and carousing. The partyers at the Sari Club were certainly within the confines of an establishment purpose-built for drinking and dancing and maybe even picking up chicks. They did not "deserve" to suffer for this behavior. But it does make us think, "what are westerners capable of doing, or changing, to make this world a more harmonious place?" If we were better friends to other nations, other peoples, perhaps they would not mind so much that we like to drink and wear shorts and have premarital sex.

Anyway, back to the t-shirts. I told the driver, after some thought, after trying to compose a diplomatic response, after mourning dead night clubbers, the following... "There is only one kind of girl who would wear this shirt. Not everyone will want to have this message on their shirt." I think he got it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Somebody Else Did All the Talking

So here's Buddha. Like me, he spent a little time in India.

Well, I just got back a couple of weeks ago. Buddha didn't have jet travel and a house waiting for him in Bali.

Great teacher, I see this image of you, and it makes me think about the problems of being misunderstood.

I know that you were a person of great accomplishments. You tried a number of ways to get out of the cursed cycle of Samsara. You found a workable method. You taught it to as many people as you could. This art tells me that you were in the Deer Park at Sarnath, and your hand mudra tells me that you were teaching. The muscular depiction of your body tells me of the aesthetics of the cultures that succeeded the era of your physical life. They liked the wrestler's body. Even Jain saints and Hindu gods have that body. A pleasing rendition of the human form.

I see that somewhere along the timeline, a thief came and hacked off the head that was meant to portray your great mind, your calm mood, and your very important image. People love pictures. People are compelled to illustrate. They like to have mementos and images. You left the earth asking that no one idolize or iconographize you, but it was only a matter of a hundred years before your followers couldn't resist making images of you.

Even today, people bow down to your image. I keep a number of artifacts of your image, nothing really valuable, but I like them. They make me think of you and your lessons. The image is instantly recognizable to people of many nations. In many ways, the image is more important to people nowadays, than your lessons.

You had something to say, it got reinterpreted and diluted, and maybe there's a little less of you around because of that.

I know what it's like to have something to say, but to have it sit silently tucked away somewhere. No one asked me, no one wanted to know. There was a lot of talk all around me, but I didn't say anything. My head may as well have been hacked off. I just sat there. I was misinterpreted.