House of Z, a movie

May 12, 2018 Leave a comment

For those of you who don’t know who Zac Posen is, I don’t blame you. I only knew about him through watching Project Runway. I know. You might think less of me for watching that show, but I’ve always been interested in fashion (yes, I took modeling classes as a youngster but never did anything with it).

On Project Runway, Zac is one of the regular judges and is introduced as being associated with Brooks Brothers. I never really thought much about him until recently when I started following him on Instagram (@zaposen). It was random. He posts frequently and his photos are usually very beautiful, of flowers, dresses, etc. Often, they include pictures from his work, which I found intriguing. And then, in the last few days he mentioned something about a film…so I found it on Netflix and here I am, on a Saturday night at 11pm writing about it!

The film is in the spirit of a documentary. It’s about his rise and fall and resurrection as a fashion designer. He started off very young and rose to fame quickly based on the effort that he and his family made in putting a business together. It’s a predictable story. Too much success too young, etc., but what caught me off-guard was the emotion in Zac’s explanation of what happened. How his family relationships fell apart and how devastating that was for him and his family and, at the end, how they are only now rebuilding those relationships. But they are rebuilding them.

We’ve all been there. Had family relationships that have fallen apart. I, personally, don’t know how to put them back together. Yes, there are several in my life that are broken out there, and I don’t know how to begin to rebuild them. So I was impressed by Zac’s tenacity and the love and loyalty that is evident among his family. Despite their disrepair, they are trying to make it work (ha!) and that is impressive.

Also, I had no idea how hard Zac worked. It was wonderful watching him describe his creative process. I recommend this film to anyone who is interested in the fashion industry.

Categories: Art, Documentary, Family, Fashion, USA

13th, a movie

February 12, 2017 Leave a comment

I don’t know what took me so long to watch this film. Perhaps, well I can only make excuses now and none of them seem legitimate. I think it’s a fear of what I will feel if I watch movies that stir me as to the injustice of the country I live in, or the world I live, which seems stupid and weak since the people who are the subject of these films don’t have a choice.

Anyway, last night I decided that one of the things I can do while Trump is President is to watch films and TV shows that are either about or made by minorities. I can educate myself so that I can be better informed.

There are probably many reviews out there on this film. I’ve been upset about the prison system for several years, mostly because I don’t think drug offenders should go to prison. I see it as a health issue rather than a crime issue. I don’t like the way prisons have been glorified in new TV shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and “Wentworth” because I think it normalizes the experience for those of us who have no direct experience. And, I’m guessing that it doesn’t factually represent certain elements, such as the ratio of white to black inmates, etc.

But back to 13th. One of the lines that is stuck in my brain is Gingrich’s statement that “if you are white you cannot understand what it means to be black”. I’ve heard this before from people in my life and I believe it to be true. It just seems strange to hear it from Newt. To me, he represents part of the massive problem – an old white man – part of the system. I find it hard to give any credibility to a guy who cheated. He’s the stereotype, right. As the child of a father who cheated repeatedly on different wives, I can say that it’s hard to respect someone who would do that. But, I think Newt is right on this point. There is no way for me to understand what it is like for a black person, a brown person, gay, or any other “type” of person. I can only see the world through my eyes. That doesn’t, however, give me a pass for not trying to understand, and so I must do my best and I must be humble in that. I can’t go around proclaiming that I “understand” or speak as though I am an expert. I must (and when I say “I” here, I mean white people) be a student and I must do my best to even out that advantages that I have been afforded because of my whiteness and the whiteness of my ancestors.

I am 13th generation American on my father’s side, so I cannot claim that I did not benefit, somehow, even if my family were not slave owners, my family still benefited economically, so I must take some responsibility. Anyway, enough about me and more about the movie.

So incarceration and money. Can’t get away from the fact that these two are tied together and that a collateral benefit is that it helps to destroy or to keep black and brown people oppressed and it keeps a large part of those populations from voting because they legally can’t once they have a criminal conviction (e.g.: 30% of the black population in Alabama). What we fail to acknowledge as a society is that oft quoted statement that when one of us is oppressed, none of us are free. Still, the system carries on and what I abhor is that at the root seems to be this profit-driven motive that we cannot escape in this country.

Things that might shock you if you haven’t seen this film or are just ignorant on these issues, like me:

  1. ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is behind much of legislation that drives the bills that make it easy to put people in prison. If you look at ALEC, you can see which companies are big supporters of it and I found out that my insurance company, State Farm, supports ALEC so I am going to change my insurance company. My cell phone provider also supports ALEC so I have to figure that out as well.
  2. The money-making doesn’t stop with the act of incarceration, everyone is in on it,      goods are produced by inmates  for poverty wages (JCPenney and Victoria’s Secret recently pulled out based on social pressure), food companies like Aramark that provide sub-standard food to the inmates…the list goes on.
  3. 97% of people in prison haven’t had a trial. They plead themselves into prison because they are fearful that longer sentences will be imposed if they go to trial. These fears are instilled in them by the system – namely the prosecution.

Then there’s Trump, a throwback, and the things that he said/says reminiscent of the civil rights era, when black people were openly tormented at a time when we should have known better. This movie does an excellent job of comparing modern day treatment to historic treatment – visually, which is so powerful.

Categories: Documentary, Politics, Racism

A Pint of Plain, by Bill Barich

July 4, 2016 1 comment

I picked this book up while I was in Dublin in May this year with my husband. It was in a used bookshop that was going out of business so I thought I had to get something. What would be more apropos then to read a book about pubs while visiting Ireland. Actually, it was something I seriously hadn’t thought about prior to purchasing the book, visiting pubs, that is.

I’ve never been much of a drinker, except maybe by accident when I come across something really tasty and then take too much. But normally, drink is not first on my list. I’m very deliberate in that way.

In fact, our only purpose for visiting a pub when we were in Dublin was in search of some real Irish music. Ironically, this is one of the purposes that the author has when he first begins his research into what has happened to the Irish pubs and their reputation. He’s looking for authenticity and part of that approach is for him to locate somewhere that plays authentic music.

Barich certainly visits many pubs, both within Dublin and without. He does a decent job of describing the interiors, the food, the beer, the staff, etc. He also has a poetic style of writing. I suppose what I found lacking was any real organization in the book.

After reading the whole book, and it took time. I realized that we actually did a decent job of visiting the one pub that probably had as authentic an atmosphere as lucky tourists my get on their first try – and that was O’Donohues at 15 Merrion Row. Here’s a link to someone else’s youtube video of the live music.

Along the theme of music, Barich describes a collection of more than 1800 melodies that went into The Music of Ireland in 1903 and which is still commonly referred to as “The Book” for still being a definitive resource for musicians. Barich repeats a quote that describes traditional music:

Traditional music…connects the past to the present and closes a circle, and that’s the source of its powerful hold on an audience.

This is the best music link I could find on YouTube. Prepare for 40 luscious minutes of Irish music.

This must be true to some extent, because I have often felt myself held by traditional music, even when it is not my own, but I must say, having descended from four Irish relatives, the pull of Irish music holds me in a way that most other traditional music doesn’t. Is there some type of genetic memory that clings to us from generation?

My only regret, after reading the book, is that we didn’t visit the Brazen Head Pub, even though we walked right past it and it definitely looked inviting. We just didn’t take the leap!

Barich spends a few moments, in spatters throughout the book, referring to Oldenburg’s theory of third places (“great good places…that are at the heart of a community’s social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy”) and how pubs fit into the definition of “third places” – not home, the first place, nor work, the second place. A third place provides neutral ground that erases the distinction between a host and a guest… Anyway, there is a ton to read on that subject.

While in Ireland, I discovered that many Australians originated from Irish convict status, and I was able to confirm that none of my stock began in Australia this way – not that it would have meant anything if they had.

My Irish ancestors: My maternal grandfather descended from pure Irish stock on his mother’s side. Her father’s parents were Hugh Carolin 1808-1964 (Dublin) married Margaret Gilchrist 1805-1857. Her mother was Elizabeth Spillane 1808-1896 (Holycross, Tipperary). I don’t have information on whom she married. Based on the period that these people were alive, I am assuming that they fled Ireland during the potato famine.

Heading to Ireland, at a time, when Syrian refugees were and continue to pour out into the rest of the world, and rediscovering part of my family’s past had a certain serendipity to it. All of us have come from somewhere and many of us have immigrated at some point in our lives or our ancestors have. Would I be here, in the United States today, prospering, if my Irish relatives had not been able to escape Ireland’s potato famine…looking for food and life?

Categories: Books, Family, Ireland, Personal, Travel

Day 8 diet

May 30, 2016 Leave a comment

Och, it’s been a rough one. I’ve noticed that if I start the day with too many carbs, it’s a bellwether for the rest of the day-not that it will be a total carb day but calories in general will be a real nightmare. That’s what happened today. 

And, I even backslid on my commitment not to consume dairy by double-dipping not just with cheese but also sour cream and now my stomach is sounding off its displeasure. Lactose intolerance exists. 

Tomorrow is a new day and another chance to right this ship. Fingers crossed. 

Categories: Uncategorized

Day 2 diet

May 24, 2016 Leave a comment

What a way to start the day-business meeting that included bagels, danishes, fruit, etc. Normally, I would get at least half a bagel and some cream cheese, so today I skipped that and allowed myself a bit of coffee with creamer. Did I mention that I’m still allowing myself a bit of creamer in my tea/coffee? 

I had one small bite of a scone. It tasted like betrayal. Seriously. The very sweetness of it reminded me of my promise to try hard to stick to my diet. So I stopped after that bite. Yay. Small victory. 

Categories: Uncategorized

Day 1 diet

May 23, 2016 Leave a comment

It’s the year of the diet for me. A few years ago I lost about 20lbs, most of which I’ve kept off. But at the time, I knew I had about another 20 to go. And so, this year, because it’s a milestone birthday year, I decided I have to do it. 

I admit that I’ve been struggling. Or should I say, resisting, what I know it takes for me to lose weight. It’s definitely about regular exercise, but it’s also about cutting back on calorie intake and improving the quality of my food. I started gearing up last week by trying to cut down on dairy. This week is about no extra sugar and green smoothies. I have to break my addiction to sugar. 

Perhaps next week I’ll attempt the caffeine reduction. 

Anyhow, it’s early and I’m in bed. That’s normal. I made it through day 1. I figure I have another 89 days to go to do this right. We’ll see. 

Categories: Uncategorized

50 Must Read Australian Novels (The Popular Vote)

August 24, 2015 Leave a comment

I’ve read quite a few of these-or seen the movies. Obviously I have some reading to do…

Categories: Uncategorized