Sunday, November 22, 2009

Top Ten Orphans

Lately, I've been thinking an awful lot about orphans. Perhaps because it's the time of year for folks to be thinking about things like hunger and charity, family and community, Dickensian imagery, and the feelings of alienation that can come from familial separation around the holiday season--a kind of adult orphanhood.
At any rate, I've always loved stories of orphans and the orphan aesthetic. And in film and literature, orphans are always masters of their own fates; slaves to none. So here are my top ten classic orphans:

10. That one kid from Slumdog Millionaire: He just made slummin' it look so badass, whatwith ripping off tourists, and jumping from train car to train car with M.I.A. singing in the background. That was rad.
9. Superman: I really don' t need to justify this choice. Although not particularly pleasing to the eye by way of orphan chic, Superman still provides a badass story of pullling yourself up from your bootstraps and being super.
8. Harry Potter: I don't know if I really can consider a character whose parents died and left him alone, rather than decisively parting ways, an orphan. I guess I just had to include him to appease any geeks who may be offended by his exclusion.
7. Tom Sawyer: Great style, sass, mucho brio. Artful in manipulating the adult world; however, not quite as artful as...
6. Artful Dodger: Makes greasy hair and dirt on the face super hot. Grade A for style, B for sophistication. A cockney accent is the ultimate orphan accoutrement.

5. Punky Brewster: I'll admit it, I totally wore a bandana around the leg for a few days in the first grade, such was the influence of this fashion maven. Also, I claimed to want to be an astronaut when I grew up for approximately three years, simply because that's what Punky Brewster wanted to be on her television show.
4. Annie: Aw man, I wish I could give Annie the #1 spot, I mean, the style, the sass, the songs that really spoke to orphans and orphan-wannabees such as myself. She really paved the way for orphan chic. And how supremely fantastic is the choreography in this video?

3. Peter Pan: His force was so powerful that he was able to command an entire army of orphans to outsmart pirates. Pirates! And you can't knock an orphan whose name has been used for the title of a syndrome to describe the ultimate man-child.
2. Oliver Twist: The Audrey Hepburn-in-Breakfast-at-Tiffany's of orphans. So chic; so beautiful, my inner eight year-old girl still yearns for him. He was so very captivating as a child orphan that it is actually rumored that Michael Jackson used the actor who played Oliver in the classic film adaptation, Mark Lester, as the sperm donor for his child, Paris.
1. Eleanor Roosevelt--because, really, no shit, she was an orphan. And how many orphans grow up to be first ladies? The ultimate orphan in terms of style, Protestant work ethic, and prowess.

That's it--I'm buying up all this orphan garb. I'm bringin' orphan back.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dear Men:

I've said it once (well, actually way too many times), and I'll say it again: you people never really grow up, do you?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Letter to the Editor at the San Francisco Examiner, which won't be read by anyone but you, dear blog visitors

This morning I read this Examiner editorial about the Fort Hood massacre, specifically targeting the Muslim Army psychiatrist for his creed and unproven ties to terrorist operations--not his obvious mental instability. The fact that this paper is distributed in San Francisco is the only relationship to my dear city that it enjoys: it does not speak for us, and it is not locally-owned. I thought that the conservative titans of industry who spoke through this asinine rag went a bit too far when they endorsed John McCain. But this, this is just disgusting.

What I wrote will not be read by them, as both emails to send your letters to are now defunct ( and Instead I was left to leave a comment under the article, which curiously disappeared immediately after I submitted it--twice.

I guess my only option is to publish it here, or post it as a facebook status update, but I don't think anyone would be into that, so here goes:

I am deeply disappointed in your article regarding Nadal Malik Hasan, the former Major and Army psychiatrist who opened fire at Fort Hood and killed 13 U.S. soldiers just one week ago. On the day after Veterans’ Day, your paper chose to criticize the viewpoint that our dear, brave soldiers are in dire need of more care when it comes to TBI and PTSD. Instead of acknowledging what we all know—that PTSD rates are on the rise, while funding is scarce for veteran care (please see: “PTSD Rates Rising” Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine, June 23, 2009, or “Nidal Malik Hasan case: Are Army psychiatrists overwhelmed?” Christian Science Monitor, November 6, 2009)--your paper chose to side with the Right Wing echo chamber that is having a xenophobia fest with the massacre, using it as an excuse to further discriminate against Muslims in this country. Question: was the devout Christian who slayed abortion doctor George Tillman mentally ill, or just a zealot with an agenda? If these two characteristics are not mutually exclusive, should we then target the religious group that inspired this mental illness? Should American Christians be scrutinized and discriminated against?

It’s true, “we all know” that Hasan yelled “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) before opening fire. And we also know that he associated with his local imam who had ties to al Qaeda. But we also know that there were signs of Hasan’s mental illness under George W. Bush’s watch, outbursts and disorderly conduct, that were sloppily investigated years ago—this is old news. What should be news, however, are the grave consequences of pushing these selfless young men and women to the brink of mental sanity. This man sat and listened to gruesome tales from soldiers who, one can venture to guess, suffered deep mental and emotional scars. He sat and listened day by day, waiting for his turn to be deployed into that same world.

Need your editorial board be reminded of the U.S. soldier who opened fire and killed five soldiers in a Baghdad stress clinic just this past May? U.S. Army figures claim an estimated five soldiers stationed in Iraq attempt to kill themselves every day. And the Department of Veterans’ Affairs states that nearly 45% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who sought care have been diagnosed with possible psychological disorders.

Your editorial cited a DOL study that Vietnam vets are just as competent and mentally stable as their civilian counterparts. Need I remind your editorial board: this isn’t Vietnam. I am ashamed for the bigoted writer of this article, on the day after this country honors our dear veterans—veterans that desperately need public support for mental health care.

Amity B

San Francisco

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

So I was all like, "That totally looks like Keanu Reeves," and she was like, "Yeah, I guess," and I was totally all like, "Whoa."
Let me back up. I spent Veteran's Day afternoon at the Legion of Honor, which as it turns out, is not so much about honor or legions thereof, but more about classical European oil paintings, primarily from the 16th century up until the middle bits of the 20th, with a dash of mummies thrown into the mix. Radical!
So there was a room full of various French oil paintings, and a man was sketching a painting of one of the portraits in front of him. I kind of snickered, mockingly telling my friend Yelli that it looked like the actor Keanu Reeves. But then I instantly felt embarrassed, and thought to myself, Geez Amity, you need to get over your childhood crushes and stop seeing them everywhere. Turns out it was a portrait of Frenchman Paul Mounet (1847-1922) who, oddly enough, was also an actor by trade!
But just moments ago, my friends, something totally mind-blowing this way blew. I happened upon this very video, I totally forget how (it wasn't by thoroughly investigating ever obsessive fan site I swear!):

The likeness is just too awesome. Obviously, I thought, Keanu Reeves must indeed be immortal.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let's talk about Celine Dion
I've been reading Pitchfork reviewer Carl Wilson's masterpiece from the 33 and 1/3 series, "Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste" on and off, and find myself constantly fascinated and enthralled with all the little factoids about her music and her fans. I learned a lot about taste--good and bad--and think that this book has really instilled a sense of compassion and patience towards those whose tastes I find repulsive.
I used to be far more outspoken and intolerant when it came to others' taste in pop music and culture. As a teenager, I ruined a friendly group outing by lambasting my blind date, a guy who made us listen to Christina Aguilera in the car ride home, thereby creating an awkward silence in his souped-up Honda Civic for nearly an hour. I had recently learned the term "melismatic" and found it necessary to lecture on how showy and trite I found this vocal choice to be in popular music. Years later, I made a good friend's little sister cry. She was about 11 years old at the time, and I was horrified to discover that she idolized The Spice Girls. But there's a happy ending that particular tirade: I caught up with her recently, and she thanked me for turning her off the girl group at a young age, freeing her up for better things. But at any rate, I realized I had become very judgmental--as I think many people my own age are, brimming with pride about our under-the-radar indie rock findings; easily smug when others haven't heard of our new favorite bands.
But this book really made me understand the justifications for Celine Dion love. Here are just a few of the curious fun facts I discovered from Carl Wilson:
--A February 2007 USA Today article credits Celine, Bryan Adams and Lionel Richie with helping popularize Valentine's Day in Ghana, where public displays of affection among unmarried couples are traditionally taboo.
--From Observer Music Magazine, Dec. 2003, a 21 year-old Iraqi girl claims: "There is a lot of pain and separation in Iraqi songs. Generally the Western music we like is slow: Michael Bolton, Celine Dion."
--Jamaican-American music critic Garnette Codogan reminisced on a recent trip to Jamaica: "I remember always hearing Celine Dion blasting at high volume whenever I passed through volatile and dangerous neighborhoods, so much that it became a cue for me to walk, run or drive faster if I was ever in a neighborhood I didn't know and heard Celine Dion. The unofficial rule seemed to be, "If you hear Celine Dion, you're in the wrong place."
--26 year-old Iranian-Canadian activist Neda Hassani immolated herself outside the French embassy in London in 2003, trying to force French prisons to release several leaders of the leftist People's Mujahedeen of Iran: "Amid a glorious pile of wilting flowers laid days before at Ms. Hassani's funeral, a child sang Celine Dion's 'My Heart Will Go On' through a makeshigt public-address system, and the tears flowed."
--The Chicago Tribune (in 2003) reports that the most visible cultural influence in Afghanistan was Titanic. Most residents saw illegal videos when the Taliban was still in power: "In [Kabul's] central market, vendors now sell Titanic Mosquito Killer, Havoc on Titanic Perfume Body Spray, Titanic Making Love Ecstasy Perfume Body Spray...Whatever big is "Titanic." And Celine tapes played from boomboxes in many stalls.
--From Wilson's research: around 45 percent of Celine listeners were over fifty, compared to only 20 percent of music buyers overall. Add to that the fact that 68 percent of her listeners were female. Celine fans were about three-and-a-half times more likely to be widowed than the average music listener.

All of this mind-blowing information led me to learn one very important lesson: for every artist or piece of music that I believe to be pure and utter crap, there is a damn good reason why people love it, and it's not due to lack of intelligence or cultural sophistication.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Quote of the week:

Recently, I was struck by a most startling and drunken telephone call by an old high school friend in Los Angeles, who had decided to confess a love for me from outside of a sports bar after a Lakers game. This was confusing as, last time I checked, we were platonic friends of over ten years.

My friend Paul, who is also his best friend and last year gave a most memorable quote of the week, assessed the situation:

"Amity, ____ was drunk. Very drunk. And alcohol changes everything, Amity, everything. Like the other day, my friend Allison drove us to the Carl's Jr drive-thru, and I was about to order my usual, a double cheeseburger with bacon. But since I had been drinking, I yelled over her, "NO! FREEZE! Stop what you're doing in the kitchen! I WANT A CHICKEN SANDWICH." Alcohol changes everything Amity, everything."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I'd rather be...

Taking a nap under the hot Tunisian sun with my body double from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, in my sparkly Princess Leia slave girl getup. Oh to be Carrie Fisher circa 1983.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sino-U.S. Relations

I had a great "conversation" via the facebooks about a week ago, from a Chinese friend who works for Aljazeera English in Beijing. She wanted to know what concerns Americans may have about China and Sino-U.S. relations, as Obama makes a visit to China later this month.

I told her my concerns about real estate tourism, and what it means that China, by way of owning nearly all of our debt, owns us. I also told her about how controversial the Olympic torch event was here in San Francisco, since a lot of Americans were angry about China's human rights abuses, namely those involving Tibet. I wanted to post her response, firstly, since I have the first amendment right to do so; and second, because I think it's fascinating to hear from someone that must live in a country so overwhelmingly brainwashed by its own government:

You have touched on a lot of issues that's very interesting and complicated. The economic aspect is definitely something we want to reflect in our stories, how China is getting the upper-hand in the whole economic downturn and like you, many Americans are worried that because of this, no one would really press China on human rights issues.

It's very interesting to see that human rights issues in China seem to be a very big concern for you(and a lot of Americans). China is hugely nationalistic, you'll be very surprised how Tibet issue has been down-played in China, and that if you discuss the issue with any Chinese, 9 out of 10 people will be offended, and believe you're one of those narrow-minded Americans who judges China from a western perspective. And this is how successful China's brain wash has been. Nearly all of my friends think Dalai Lama is a lying wolf dressing in a monk's robe(the government line) though none of them read anything written by him or even heard him talking. The blindness is shocking. This is something i think very difficult to reflect on TV---the scale of things. And it's the same with Taiwan. You'll be shocked to see how easily government lie and its people comply. It's not to say that Chinese people are so stupid they believe everything government says. But it's very difficult for people who are brought up being taught one value and see reality operates in another. I do think that free countries like America should press China on human rights issues, but i don't think it will ever work. Chinese love Americans, but Chinese also firmly believe that American values are so different that it can never work for China. In the end, like Iran, only when Chinese people realize the suppression can there be a solution. But this is very unlikely in the coming years as the economy is growing and the riches, the middle class are benefiting.

But, it is disappointing to see the country advocates human rights and freedom of speech is getting less and less vocal about China’s issues, when Nancy Pelosi( though a political opportunist, have displayed strong emotions against China many times) came to Beijing, her overly positive schedules in China have amazed me, and I, for once, shared my countryman’s view that America doesn’t care about human rights as long as there’s business to be done. It’s always about business and interest.