Saturday, November 14, 2009

Movie Review: Lars and the Real Girl

Tonight my friends Dave and Jenn came over. It was great to host people at my house, which is something I don't get to do often enough since I came to LA, but which I love doing. I made an appetizer with figs and gorgonzola (recipe coming to you soon, Candice!) and apple pecan pinwheels for dessert (outstanding). They brought the salad, pop, and ice cream and we ordered pizza. OK, yes, that sounds like a lot of food and it was!

Anyway, this post is really less about the food than it is about the movie we watched "Lars and the Real Girl."

When this movie came out in 2007, I wasn't really sure about the premise and if I wanted to see it. When my friend Laura visited in September she mentioned it to me and told me how it was a little bit odd, but that she loved it and thought I would too. At her recommendation, I cued it up in my Netflix and waited anxiously for it to arrive. Unfortunately, it arrived the afternoon I left for the conference in Vancouver, and so I didn't get a chance to watch it until tonight!
* special note... I just spoke with Laura today and she said it was NOT her who recommended that movie to me... so if you recommended it, and you read this blog, then speak up...otherwise, we'll pretend it was Laura for now.
* reference Sarah's comment below - it was totally Sarah that recommended it. Thanks for the rec, Sarah!

Its hard for me to know how much to share with you about the plot, so I'll try to give you a little bit without giving too much away. Essentially, Lars is lonely. He ends up buying a life-sized "Love Doll" over the internet and treats her as though she is his girlfriend. Bianca, his "girlfriend," becomes a part of the community and helps Lars make connections with his family and friends. Its a touching movie about love and loss.

So much about this movie really connected with me. Its no secret that since coming to LA, I have been exceedingly lonely and that the loneliness is sometimes intensified as I celebrate the marriages and pregancies of my friends. I long for connection with people that I don't really have here, and that's been hard. So as I watched Lars interact with Bianca as though she was real, I kind of understood. I could relate to wanting to have someone who listened and who you listened to. I could relate to wanting to have someone to do things with. And I could relate to how much better it is to have a date to take with you places like parties, than to go alone. I don't think I'm at a place of mental illness that I would actually take a mannequin or sex doll with me places, pretending he was real, but it made sense to me. Bianca becomes, for Lars, a gateway into all these other places of life - a way to help him gain courage and weirdly, acceptance.

This movie might end up being like "Stranger Than Fiction" in my movie collection - a slightly odd movie that speaks to bigger issues and touches my heart. I love movies that have glimpses of truth, and "Lars and the Real Girl" is one. Check it out if you get the chance!

Five "love dolls" out of five.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

October Visits!

About 2 weeks after I got back from my mom's birthday weekend, I welcomed Bethany and Ryan back to the beautiful city of LA! Bethany is a good friend from my Greenville days. I love having her around and so it was great to see her, even if only for half a day! Ryan is a budding filmmaker and had a film showing at the LA Children's Film Festival. (His film was terrific - it was a documentary about a program at the Tacoma Museum of Glass called: Kids Design Glass) I am hoping that Ryan and Bethany end up here in LA for Film School - because it would be great for Ryan and because it would mean that I would get to have Bethany in my life more often!

After watching a few short films, we headed down the street to get some dinner together.

Before they dropped me off we shared a Diddy Reise experience!

The week after Bethany and Ryan were in town, my parents came over for a long anticipated visit. Because my dad is in school this year, it is difficult to find times for them to come over to LA - and because I'm in school its difficult for me to get there very often. This means that although I had just seen my mom a few weeks earlier, I had not seen my dad since before his semester started in August. We had been looking forward to this visit, even though we knew that it was going to be short - as in 24 hours. My parents arrived Saturday around noon (having left early that morning from Phoenix) and we had a fantastic time together until they left on Sunday mid-day.

Once a month there is a "Public Star Party" at the Griffith Observatory. It's this really cool thing where the LA Astronomical Society comes out to the observatory lawn and puts up all their telescopes and anyone gets to look through them. It just so happened that the weekend my parents were in town coincided with the star party. It also happens that my dad loves astronomy and space (as do my mom and I... but my dad especially).

So when my parents arrived, we got them checked into their hotel and then headed off to the Olive Garden for a late lunch. I had requested a meal at OG, because I never get to go there and we had a GREAT time. Good food, good wine, and a really nice time to get caught up. Afterward we headed up to the observatory. It was so crazy and busy up there! But we got settled and then mom relaxed in the chairs we had brought, reading and watching the sunset, while dad and I explored the observatory. It was really terrific. The observatory is incredible, the view is beautiful and the sunset was spectacular. We went to the Planetarium show, which was entertaining and really well-done (and only $5). Then afterward came out and looked in some telescopes! I got to see Jupiter and 4 of its moons. That was pretty sweet. We had breakfast the next morning at Denny's (which is just down the block, about 40 yards, from their hotel) and then said goodbye as I headed to church. They ended up going to the beach for a couple hours before heading out of town.

It was a great visit. Too short, but we all needed a little time together get us through to Thanksgiving, so I was really grateful that they drove all the way out to LA for a one day visit with moi.

Dad outside the observatory. I think this should be his facebook profile pic if he decides to set up a FB account. :) I love the sunset light on his face and the observatory in the twilight.
The observatory at twilight with the moon on the rise behind it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Book Review: For God and Stephen Mansfield

“The Search for God and Guinness” by Stephen Mansfield is the story of the Guinness family and how the family and those associated with the organization used their wealth and influence to advance the cause of social justice in Ireland. Mansfield is a well-known biographer who has tackled Presidents Bush and Obama as well as Winston Churchill and Booker T. Washington (among others). In this text, he meanders through the story of Arthur Guinness (the founder of the Guinness company) and his offspring, sharing anecdotes and historical facts about the storied family – all while extolling the benefits of a good glass of Guinness stout.

I expected to really enjoy this book and the beginning didn’t disappoint. Though its organization is a little confusing (it starts with a sort of history of beer and Guinness in particular, then talks about history, then gets to Arthur after 30+ pages), I did enjoy the stories. I didn’t know that beer was often brewed as an alternative to hard liquor, and that everyone was drinking either liquor or beer because the water was contaminated. Fascinating stuff. However, about mid-way through the story seemed to grow weaker and I found less real information to support the idea that the Guinnesses throughout time were great God-fearing people, and learned that there were a lot of people in the early years of Guinness who did great things for God, and some of them were Guinnesses, and some just worked there. I’m a biography lover, but ultimately, this book didn’t hold my interest after about 150 pages. It was hard work getting through the rest.

If you like biographies and beer, you might enjoy it. I’ll still loan it to my beer loving friends, but I can only rate it 2 ½ pints out of 5.

Mom Turns 60!

My dad has 6 sisters as some of you know. As the siblings have turned 60, they have tried to get together and do something special for them. You might recall my post from early April when I flew to Phoenix as a surprise for my dad's 60th - 3 of my aunts and one uncle flew in, too, and we had a great fun-filled birthday weekend.

My aunts wanted to do something for my mom that was equally as special. After a lot of planning, they flew my mom up to Seattle for a girl's weekend of her favorite things. I flew up, too, and was blessed to be able to spend her birthday with her and my aunts. AND my aunt Becky (my mom's sister) was able to come, too. All in all, it was a great time. You'll see a few pics below.

I got a ton of homework done in the airport on Friday before meeting my mom at her gate at Seatac. Gloria and Donna picked us up and surprised us by booking us a hotel room for Friday night. We met up with my aunt Anita, uncle Brian and my cousin Monica at a mall near the hotel and had one of our favorite Seattle treats: Taco Time! We then went to the movie: Couples Retreat, which was pretty good (3.5/5).

That night mom and I stayed at the hotel and I gave mom her birthday gift from me and Ben: an Ipod Shuffle! It is hot pink and adorable, and on the back it was engraved with "Happy 60th! Love B & T." We also gave her a set of headphones (so she doesn't have to use earbuds) and they are hot pink, too! I had loaded it with some of her favorite music, and charged it up so it was ready to use. It was the perfect gift for her!

The next day was a whirlwind. We met up with the girls for breakfast at Denny's and had a rollicking good time. We headed to my aunt Anita's house to relax and spend more time chatting. Then after lunch, we went up to Redmond to a little wine shop and enjoyed a wine tasting with appetizers. Really delightful. Then, while the gals were getting stuff together for the rest of the evening, I took mom and aunt Becky to a nail place in Kirkland and we all got pedicures!! It was my mom's first pedicure and she loved it! That night we had a great dinner together and created a scrapbook for my mom of memories from throughout her life. We titled it: "Recipes for Life", and it was neat that we all contributed pages and memories to it!

On Sunday morning, we headed to the Snoqualmie Casino for a terrific (and I mean TERRIFIC) brunch and a little gambling. Afterward, we headed to the airport via the Longhorn Barbecue shop in Kent (this is one of our other favorite Northwest spots). Mom picked up some sandwiches to take to the boys back home, and after a quick stop in Renton at my aunt Linda's apartment, we dropped her off at the airport. I left early the next morning. It was a super birthday weekend and I think my mom felt loved!

Breakfast on Saturday

Wine Tasting at Redmond Ridge


Some gag gifts got everyone laughing.

All the girls at Sunday Brunch!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Time sure flies...

Clearly school has started. My sheer lack of real posts (the book review doesn't count) since my aunts' visit the week before school is evidence enough of the life I have been living for the past few months. It has been crazy! Gloria and Donna left town the Monday after the Emmy's (see earlier posts) and school started that week. This quarter has been my most intense by far, since starting at UCLA. The quarter seems to be flying along and I am just barely keeping up. But tonight I'm committed to taking a few minutes to giving you a run down of the highlights of the last 5 weeks.

School started up with a bang. I am taking a "cognate" this quarter, which is any class that is outside of the school of education. The cognate requirement (I must take 3 before I can take my doctoral qualifying exams) is designed to be an individualized component to each student's educational program. In theory, these courses should inform the student's dissertation (or at least the refining of a dissertation topic). In reality, there are very few courses being offered at times that I can take them (when they don't conflict with a required course) that speak to the issues of: religion and spirituality, moral or ethical formation, history of religion or ethics, etc.

All of this to say that I'm taking this great (but exhausting) Psychology course: Psychology of Intimate Relationships. We read a LOT, and write a 2-3 pg paper every week related to the reading. Because the material is completely new to me, it has been a really challenging addition to my schedule. And though I don't know that its particularly related to my dissertation thoughts at this point, but I'm learning a lot in general.

I'm also taking a research methods course in qualitative methods, and a research practicum course - for both of these I will have a research proposal completed by the end of the semester or before. Finally, I'm taking a "research apprenticeship course" - we only meet 5 times per quarter, but this is a great opportunity for me and the other 5 peeps in my class to make progress on our own research projects.

So these projects are mostly cumulative - for the research proposals we work on a little bit of it each week - which is nice, but they all require research and writing and rewriting, etc. Which means that I have felt swamped since the start of school.

My final addition to that was wrapping up my summer job. When the summer ended and the quarter began, I still had a little bit of work left for my final evaluation of the summer program. It was hard to get the time set aside to get that work finished - though now I FINALLY have done it. I'm proud to have turned in what I hope is a helpful report to the CENS office and I am glad to have had the experience of program evaluation. To go along with the finalization of the project, my co-evaluator and I (she did the high school program and I did the undergraduate program) presented a poster with some key findings at a recent reearch conference on campus.

So there you have it friends. My school-life in a nutshell. If I lived life in a vacuum, then that would be all there is to tell you, but in reality, there has been so much more going on, as well. I'll elaborate in a few other posts, but I traveled to Seattle in the beginning of October to celebrate my Mom's 60th birthday, my friends Bethany and Ryan were down for a day a few weeks later, and my parents came into town for 24 hours to visit their daughter. And finally, this week I head to Vancouver for the ASHE conference - where I am (praise God) not presenting anything, but will enjoy hearing about current higher ed research, and making connections with other higher ed peeps.

Visit recaps in other posts. Stay tuned!