Saturday, January 31, 2009

Watched WALL-E last night. I loved it! Definitely the most creative movie I've seen in a long time. It's a little like Idiocracy but way more optimistic. Optimism is good sometimes...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Headline seen in my New York Times "Today's Headlines" e-mail: "Senators Passes Health Bill for Children." Ha, so even the New York Times makes mistakes sometimes. When I actually clicked on the article, I saw it had been changed to "Senate Approves Children’s Health Bill."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So this was the type of week that required the consumption of large double fudge brownies and fat slices of homemade carrot cake. I think you call this the January blahs.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The fence

A friend and I went to see one of the last remaining spots where construction of the new border fence is going on in the El Paso area. About 80 percent of the fence that's going up in the area is already completed. Kind of a strange feeling, being out there in the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, the surroundings so peaceful and natural with flocks of birds everywhere, looking at the object of so much controversy.

I still haven't made up my mind about the fence. It's definitely an eyesore, and obviously it's going to have some impact on the wetlands environment. I also don't agree with the expedited way it went up.

On the other hand, shouldn't the U.S. patrol its borders for safety reasons? I don't think the fence will end illegal crossings, but at least it's one tool for Border Patrol to do its job more effectively.

It's a complicated issue. I'm all for welcoming immigrants to work in this country, but I don't think that welcoming necessarily means turning a blind eye as they cross illegally through an insecure border. Immigration reform, people, it needs to happen soon.

Pretty cool -- the pope is on now on YouTube. According to AP, "Under John Paul, the Vatican also jumped on the text-messaging bandwagon, sending out daily texts with the pope's prayer of the day." Whoa, that's awesome.

Friday, January 23, 2009

It has been an interesting week. I put in more hours at my job this week than ever before, which had to do with the inauguration and a certain home makeover show being filmed in town.

Last week two people in different social settings came up to me and told me they had read something I wrote. Wow. People actually read what I write. That's hard to get used to.

The difference between the real world and academia: something I spend roughly 15 minutes writing gets read by a few hundred people, while something I spent a whole six months writing and researching gets put on a shelf, to be read by three people and quite possibly no one else.

There are things I'm happy about in my job and things I'm not happy with, but the most noteworthy thing that has come with the job is a feeling of power that I've never had before. And I like it. I suppose that was exactly why I took the job: I wanted a job writing about things that matter to people's lives. I thrived in the world of academia, but for all its ideals about inclusiveness, it's still a little too stuck in its ivory tower for me, still fairly irrelevant to what really goes on in the lives of average people.

I feel like I'm learning so much more about this community's heart and soul, its blood and guts, and I'm liking that, too. What makes El Paso/Juarez/Las Cruces tick? Crime and infrastructure and politics and personalities, there's a certain beauty in all of it. I'm done writing reports, but I'm still learning, just through different means.

I was always so afraid I wouldn't be able to succeed at a real job, and by "real" I mean a corporate, white-collar, fairly high-pressure office job. But it hasn't turned out to be true. It was rocky at first and I've made a ton of mistakes, but I finally see myself getting better at it and enjoying it, and that is fuel to keep me going forward.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Movie worth checking out: Alambrista!

I'm still here

I don't know what's with me and blogging lately. I guess I'm at a bit of a loss right now. Maybe it's just that I'm trying to change certain things about my life, too much of which I think is spent online. The other day I realized I spend more time checking my e-mail than reading books. My God, do I need to check my e-mail three times a day only to realize each time that NO ONE e-mailed me? Is it doing me any good?

Likewise with Facebook. I can't think of much good Facebook has done for me, except made me wonder what's really going on in my "friend"s' lives that I'm getting a glance at but not really knowing about. It has been a mistake to think that I'm still friends with people just because I'm friends with them on Facebook. I'm wondering if I'll offend anyone if I just delete my Facebook altogether.

And following along with that I question the value of blogging. Why do I do it? I confess sometimes (OK, often) it has been an emotional payoff. I wonder if I'm exhausted my limit for free blog therapy, venting my problems online, which feels good temporarily but never seems to solve anything.

Too often online life subsitutes for real and that's the source of my dissatisfaction. Not that the Internet isn't amazing and miraculous, yada, yada, but somehow I imagine myself as this vibrant person, always up and about doing exciting and not boring things, and lately I realize that is exactly the person I am NOT, and I think my computer time has something to do with that. More often than not, weekends are spent communing with a screen. I go days without leaving the house at all. Why don't I get off my butt and actually DO something, something that involves moving around and seeing new places and looking at people in the eye when I'm talking to them? I think that's what I need to be doing, now more than ever.

But I'm not ready to leave blogging behind, because, well, writing is what I do. I just read this by Andrew Sullivan, which has generated some fresh enthusiasm in me for blogging. We'll see how long that lasts. I suppose what I got out of the article is not to take blogging too seriously. I keep starting posts and not ever publishing them, trying to get the words right, quick to delete anything that could possibly offend anyone who reads this, wringing my hands and then deciding better of publishing anything because it's "too personal," but that's just ridiculous. I think I've already said enough to hang myself, the real me has already been unleashed, no use in censoring her now.

So I'm back, albeit with the resolution to live less online. I can't promise anything about posting more frequently. But I have enjoyed writing for the blog and I'm not throwing in the towel just yet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Interesting commentary on Twilight by Caitlin Flanagan:

Twilight centers on a boy who loves a girl so much that he refuses to defile her, and on a girl who loves him so dearly that she is desperate for him to do just that, even if the wages of the act are expulsion from her family and from everything she has ever known. We haven’t seen that tale in a girls’ book in a very long time. And it’s selling through the roof.
Like the Harry Potter series, the Twilight books are ostensibly set in the present, but—in terms of the mores, attitudes, and even the central elements of daily life portrayed within them—clearly evoke the culture of the author’s adolescence...Stephenie Meyer has re-created the sort of middle-class American youth in which it was unheard-of for a nice girl to be a sexual aggressor, and when the only coin of the realm for a boy who wanted to get lucky was romance and a carefully waged campaign intended to convince the girl that he was consumed by love for her.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I finished reading Breaking Dawn! I am finished with the Twilight series. I think the last book was the strongest of the four. Really imaginative, enough odd and creepy elements to keep things interesting but also sweet and funny. This is supposed to be the last book in the series, but I think Stephenie Meyer leaves a little wiggle room for sequels. Which I would probably read.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Review: The Fog of War

My Saturday night movie: "The Fog of War," a documentary about the life of Robert McNamara, who was the U.S. Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War from 1961-68.

I'm not a huge fan of movies about war, but I recommend this one. The film is divided into 11 "lessons", with McNamara expounding on each one during interviews with director Errol Morris.

It was fascinating and heartbreaking to watch. Here's an amazingly intelligent man who was in a position of great power, a man who seems to be sensitive to humanity, who clearly wanted to do the right thing in a horrible situation, but even he wasn't able to stop the escalation of the war. Why? Well, it's complicated, and it involves issues of strategy and reasoning and morality and politics and human nature. At times, tears come to the now 85-year-old McNamara's eyes because he clearly regrets some of the decisions that he made.

Near the end of the film, McNamara says that "war is so complex it's beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend all the variables." If a man like McNamara can't see through the fog of war, who can?

It's not something I've ever contemplated before. I suppose I always thought when bad decisions were made in a war, it was because people in power clearly knew what the right decisions were but chose to go against them. But what if they didn't know the wisest course of action, simply because it was beyond them? Maybe there is no "right" decision in a war.

For me, the most heartbreaking aspect of "The Fog of War" was that at certain times when McNamara was talking about the Vietnam War, I thought he could just as easily have been talking about the war in Iraq. Have we learned nothing? Yeah, war is complex, but there's no excuse for not learning from past mistakes.