Monday, February 20, 2006

Three Obsessions

Work is mad busy, so now is really not a great time for me to have three obsessions going at once, but I have no control over these things.

Obsession #1: Knitting.
Ta da!!!!

Finished Sweater

I finished the sweater yesterday, and I can hardly believe how well it came out. It looks sort of wide and boxy in the photo, and it is meant to be a bulky sweater, but it fits quite nicely and is really cozy and warm. I can hardly restrain myself from abandoning work, heading to my favorite yarn shop, and starting another one right away—to lock in the skills I learned doing this one and to expand my wardrobe. I’m thinking of maybe doing this one next. Same top-down technique (which rocks!) but less bulky/chunky.

Obsession #2: The Winter Olympics
I must watch as much luge, skeleton, alpine skiing, nordic skiing, and speed skating as possible. B has been dutifully taping it, and we’ve been staying up late watching all of the above. I really cannot explain why I'm such a Winter Olympics enthusiast. In general, I am not a sports fan at all. I couldn't care less about the Summer Olympics. I never watch baseball, soccer, basketball, or Australian Rules football. And it’s not like I’ve ever done any of the Winter Olympics sports (with the exception of dinking around on X-C skis). Nevertheless, I am sacrificing precious sleep to watch biathlon (so exciting and so weird, with such punitive rules!), and yesterday I hijacked a good half hour of our book group's discussion to blather on about the Winter Olympics.

In fact, I think all of these Winter Olympics sports are dangerous, terrifying, and insane. For example, I would never do anything that would put me at risk of high-speed collisions or put my knees in such jeopardy. Having dislocated my right knee two times, I am very, very protective of them now. I want to still be able to walk when I’m 50. Hobbling is not for me. It makes me wince when I hear the commentators mentioning how these young 20-somethings have “blown out” out their ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments) and had all these surgeries and so forth. They are going to be in a lot of pain by the time they hit middle age. But, still, I must admit I get a vicarious rush watching them carve turns in the Super G or fly down the luge run at 80 mph.

I love the commentators, too. Qualification. I love the nonpartisan commentators—the ones who are themselves former athletes and recognize and admire greatness even if the athlete isn't American. Some of them just get so excited (e.g., the luge guy and the alpine guy) and they start talking in high-pitched cartoon voices when someone does something incredible. Their enthusiasm is contagious! I feel like I’m learning a lot, too. I don’t know what I’ll do with my increased fund of knowledge about short-track speed skating strategies and technique. Wait. Yes, I do. I’ll forget it immediately as soon as the Olympics are over.

Obsession #3: The Portland International Film Festival
I’ve seen four films so far, and they were all outstanding. Three more to go, including one (Requiem of Snow [Iraq]) tonight.

What I’ve seen so far:
My Nikifor (Poland) [three stars] Low-key, leisurely paced tale of Polish outsider artist who called himself Nikifor. The film was set in the 1960s, so it was interesting to see what Soviet-era Poland was like. Not as desperate or bread queue-ish as one might think. Major props to the actress who played the artist. Her portrayal of an old man with advanced tuberculosis was so amazing that I found myself worried I was going to somehow contract TB from the character’s germ-saturated hacking. I am not making this up!

Paheli (India) [three and a half stars] I already gave my impressions on this one, but I forgot to mention the rather creative subtitle translations. At one point a guy who drank too much got called a “boozard”—you’d better believe that word is now a permanent part of my vocabulary.

To the Other Side (Mexico) [three and a half stars] Three countries for the price of one. This movie looked at what happens to a kid in Mexico, a kid in Cuba, and a kid in Morocco, when their dads leave home to work in another country. My favorite story of the three was the one set in Morocco in which a little girl (about 10 years old) thinks she'll make her distraught mother happy if she gets her father (who is working in Malaga, Spain) to return. She hops a village bus by herself and (I don’t want to give anything away) embarks on a harrowing odyssey. The young actress who plays the little girl has wonderful presence.

Cowboy del Amor (United States) [four stars] A fascinating documentary about an old-school cowboy from New Mexico who calls himself the "Cowboy Cupid" and tries to find American men Mexican brides. He got the idea to go into the woman business ("the woh-man bidness") after he himself married a Mexican woman. Interestingly enough, the marriage failed. According to him, his wife “got too Americanized,” and before he knew it she was the boss of the house, the boss of the horses, the boss of the dogs, the boss of everything, and the only things left for him to boss were “the piss ants and the tumble bugs.” According to her, he tried to prevent her from learning English or having any social life. But they remain friends, and it seems he views her kids, his stepchildren, as his own and still helps support them financially.

I mentioned before that I thought the movie might piss me off. And it’s true that I was irked by some of the Cowboy Cupid’s male clients’ attitudes toward women. By and large, they were interested in Mexican women because they believed that a Mexican woman wouldn’t be as “hard to please” as American women. Read: They were basically just looking for a servant they could have sex with who would be young and thin and wouldn’t care that they themselves were old and smelly and chauvinistic.

But none of the Mexican women fit that stereotype. They were focused, together, realistic, honest, witty, and likeable. In addition, I found myself not really being able to despise the men either. Although I couldn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with the Cowboy Cupid, I think he really believes that he is providing a useful service that benefits both parties equally and respectfully. Bonus: He was quite an entertaining character, speaking Spanish with the most atrocious accent imaginable and saying things like “that went over like horse poop in a punch bowl.”

OK. Need to stop obsessing and get back to work.


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