Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wicked Green Things

...My New Skates!

Yes. Yes, they are ridiculously bright. However, they are mine! Yay! Got these on Thursday. Due to my schedule, I've been able to try them a whopping one time since I got them.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"What Is Patriotism?"

I usually try not to include quotes as the majority of my posts, but I came across Emma Goldman's speech titled "What is Patriotism?" some time ago and was greatly impressed by what I read. The core values of my America are ones I wish the whole world could embrace (including those of my nation). Freedoms of speech, of religion, of independent thought.

In this speech, given in 1908, Ms. Goldman expresses what I've been trying to put into words for a number of years and always come up short on.


What is patriotism? Is it love of one's birthplace, the place of childhood's recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the place where, in childlike naiveté, we would watch the passing clouds, and wonder why we, too, could not float so swiftly? The place where we would count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one "an eye should be," piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place where we would listen to the music of the birds and long to have wings to fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or is it the place where we would sit on Mother's knee, enraptured by tales of great deeds and conquests? In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and precious recollections of a happy, joyous and playful childhood?

If that were patriotism, few American men of today would be called upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory, mill, and mine, while deepening sounds of machinery have replaced the music of the birds. No longer can we hear the tales of great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of sorrow, tears and grief.

What, then, is patriotism? "Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels," said Dr. Samuel Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our time, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment in the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the honest workingman.

Indeed, conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that from early infancy the mind of the child is provided with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition.

An army and navy represent the people's toys. To make them more attractive and acceptable, hundreds and thousands of dollars are being spent for the display of toys. That was the purpose of the American government in equipping a fleet and sending it along the Pacific coast, that every American citizen should be made to feel the pride and glory of the United States.

The city of San Francisco spent one hundred thousand dollars for the entertainment of the fleet; Los Angeles, sixty thousand; Seattle and Tacoma, about one hundred thousand. Yes, two hundred and sixty thousand dollars were spent on fireworks, theater parties, and revelries, at a time when men, women, and children through the breadth and length of the country were starving in the streets; when thousands of unemployed were ready to sell their labor at any price.

What could not have been accomplished with such an enormous sum? But instead of bread and shelter, the children of those cities were taken to see the fleet, that it may remain, as one newspaper said, "a lasting memory for the child." A wonderful thing to remember, is it not? The implements of civilized slaughter. If the mind of the child is poisoned with such memories, what hope is there for a true realization of human brotherhood?

We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that she will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.

Such is the logic of patriotism.

Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time. The centralization of power has brought into being an international feeling of solidarity among the oppressed nations of the world; a solidarity which represents a greater harmony of interests between the workingman of America and his brothers abroad than between the American miner and his exploiting compatriot; a solidarity which fears not foreign invasion, because it is bringing all the workers to the point when they will say to their masters, "Go and do your own killing. We have done it long enough for you."

The proletariat of Europe has realized the great force of that solidarity and has, as a result, inaugurated a war against patriotism and its bloody specter, militarism. Thousands of men fill the prisons of France, Germany, Russia and the Scandinavian countries because they dared to defy the ancient superstition.

America will have to follow suit. The spirit of militarism has already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that militarism is a greater danger here than anywhere else, because of the many bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it wishes to destroy.

The beginning has already been made in the schools. Children are trained in military tactics, the glory of military achievements extolled in the curriculum, and the youthful mind perverted to suit the government. Further, the youth of the country is appealed to in glaring posters to join the Army and the Navy. "A fine chance to see the world!" cries the governmental huckster. Thus innocent boys are morally shanghaied into patriotism, and the military Moloch strides conquering through the nation.

When we have undermined the patriotic lie, we shall have cleared the path for the great structure where all shall be united into a universal brotherhood -- a truly free society.

Monday, July 25, 2011

RIP Amy Winehouse

I just have to say it. I don't care who you are, what your opinion is of Amy Winehouse, her music or her lifestyle, it's still sad and upsetting that a great musician, and (more importantly) a human being is gone.  She was troubled, yes, but she deserves the same dignity that any other individual does.

Someone told me today that they didn't think it was sad because it was her choice. Wait. So if someone dies a certain way or lives their life in a manner you don't agree with, you think her death is 'justified' or less sad than another person's? I've said it before and I will say it again: Death is just mindless, thoughtless pain.

I, for one, loved her music. I still love it. (Listening to "Back to Black" while on my lunch break). I found her distinctive voice, in-your-face lyrics and neo-soul sound a breath of fresh air.  I loved her style, her audacity, and her honesty.

I am extremely saddened, not only by the loss of this incredible, if haunted, woman, but also by the things people say with flippancy or ignorance.

For a great quasi-eulogy, visit Russell Brand's website and read his entry titled "For Amy".

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Skating on Saturday

First time back on skates in about four months. I was forbidden to skate by my podiatrist because of a genetic foot problem. Well, she forbade me to skate until a) my foot healed, and b) I got new skates (she said that the reason my foot problems were aggravated was because my skates were too small).  I knew that my skates were small, but kept hoping that they would stretch out and fit like a glove. Well, more like they fit like a vice.

So, my new skates are on order... Yay! If all goes as planned and they fit well, I should be getting them this coming Thursday. See below for a picture of the awesomeness.

Yes, these babies are green. Lime green. But I am super excited to see them and give them a try.

Skated yesterday for the first time ever on concrete. A different experience, to be sure.  After skating on a rink for so long, the rough surface of the concrete felt like it was filing my teeth down. After a brief adjustment period, it seemed to get all right and I even managed to get up the courage to adventure outside of the 'safe zone' my mind had designated as the roundabout at the park.  Anyway, the skating on concrete is a step I've been needing to take for a while. Going to the rink four times a week was just too expensive. Paying the price of gas for four hour and a half round trips each week, plus at least $5 entrance to the rink every time was getting insane and my wallet was feeling the pressure.  So, finding a decent place to skate (for free!) is a welcome addition. 

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

Watching Joe Cross' documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead". It mainly follows the filmmaker and his journey toward good health. His actions may seem extreme to some. Cross goes on a "Juice Fast" (Pure, fresh mostly-veggie, some-fruit juice) for 60-days to get his life back on track. At the beginning of the documentary, Cross is overweight and extremely ill and he decides some serious lifestyle changes are in order.  The juice fast requires a) one juicer, b) lots and lots of fresh veggies (according to Cross' calculations, the average juice fast costs about $420 a month), and c) a shitload of will power.  For two months, Cross doesn't eat anything; only drinks fresh juice, no matter where he goes and what he does.

It does sound extreme, but it definitely works. The transformation is incredible, both superficially and from a health standpoint. He ends up eliminating an illness that plagued him for years with the new lifestyle changes.

An inspiration toward healthy living to be sure, but a little unrealistic for those of use that can't afford the price.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

When In Rome

Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel

I didn't want to like "When In Rome". I am a notorious anti-fan of the Romantic Comedy genre. I find that for the majority it's overrated, overdone, and creates all sorts of false expectations about things like the ideal partner, how life in general is supposed to happen, what it takes to be happy, and (most importantly) how life is never complete without that 'special someone'.

The film opens with Kristen Bell portrayed as a talented, but unfulfilled, lonely and jaded art curator. It attempts to be unique. Through a series of events, Bell's character finds herself in Rome, drunkenly picking coins out of the Fontana di Amore (which, ironically enough, doesn't even exist, but is supposedly based on the Fontana di Trevi). "We wait our whole lives for some perfect guy to come in and sweep us off our feet. Well, guess what? He's not coming! Each one of you [the coins] is a desperate wish for love that is never going to come true."   Needless to say, through a lot of shenanigans and hijinks, Bell and Duhamel end up falling into each other's arms and it's all hunky dory at the end of the movie.

What I liked about it: The comedy. This is actually what got "When In Rome" some of its worst reviews. Rotten Tomatoes says "A pair of young, attractive leads can't overcome When in Rome's reliance on unfunny gags and threadbare rom-com clichés." On that same site, it has an overall rating of 3.4/10. For some reason, what they hated the most is exactly what I liked. Maybe it's because I am so regularly against the rom-com genre that I enjoyed the cheesy slapstick that much more.

What I didn't like: Exactly what you'd expect. The schmaltz. I don't do sappy and I don't condone the overabundance of films ending with the happy couple metaphorically or literally riding off into the sunset to a happily-ever-after. It's overdone. It's cheesy. And it's causing hell for a lot of women who don't have the self-reliance to realize that reality is not a Nora Ephron movie.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Ingredients" vs. "Food, Inc."

Don't get me wrong, I actually love both of these films. I feel like they both do a great job of highlighting different sides of our food industry. However, I feel like they would be most appreciated if watched together.

Food, Inc. does a great job of highlighting or exposing the growing processes of plants and living conditions of animals. I feel like every time I watch it, it reinforces my opinion of the mainstream food industry. Food, Inc. strikes me as a cry of outrage. Good and called for, but outraged just the same.

Ingredients, on the other hand, is a great look at the brighter side of food. It showcases all the good things that are happening in food. Whether it's the changing opinions of the public, moving away from mass-produced and -transported and locally grown produce or the great programs being set up to get fresh, healthy foods to people in food deserts.

I don't want to say much more as I'd much rather have you watch them and form your opinions, so I'll leave it there.

Best Eats

So, lately I've been thinking about all the great (and mostly undiscovered) great restaurants in the area. I love discovering new places with great food, sharing them with other people, and exploring different part of the city

Big Al's -- Big Al's is a small, unassuming diner in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Again, it doesn't look like much, but their food is fantastic. They've been featured on the Food Network, as has their corned beef hash, which is amazing.  Fresh peppers, onions, and potatoes with a light, surprisingly-non-greasy corned beef, topped with light fluffy eggs. Mmmm.

Corned Beef Hash, anyone?

Aladdin's Bakery -- Often mistaken for the well-known Aladdin's Eateries, Aladdin's Bakery is a gem. I love their chicken shwarma wrap and their spinach pita pie is delicious.

B Spot --  Admittedly, this isn't exactly a hole-in-the-wall. Michael Symon's burger joint The B Spot has great burgers, drinks, and atmosphere.  He's got a burger for every taste. There's even a vegetarian burger and -in Symon's typical pork-loving way- it's called the "Why???" and they will add bacon to it free of charge.  Things to try: The Lola Burger (burger, fried egg, pickled red onion, bacon, cheddar and mayo), Lola Fries (shoestring fries with rosemary and sea salt), and the Stadium Style Brat (bratwurst, carmelized onions, stadium mustard).

Lola Burgers and Lola Fries

Presti's -- Opened in 1903 in Little Italy, this place is a Cleveland classic. I love coming down to Little Italy for a late weekend breakfast. Muffin and mochas anyone? They've got incredible pastries, delicious gelato, and a fantastic lunch counter. The artichoke pizza is to die for.

Mocha and Mocha Muffin. Photo Credit goes to my sister, Gina
North Union Farmers' Market at Shaker Square -- One of my favorite Saturday morning traditions is heading over to the farmers' market, picking up some fresh, local veggies and getting a crepe. Crepes are only $4 and the proceeds go to support the farmers' market.  You get your choice of fruit (usually bananas or some seasonal fruit) and spread (jam or Nutella) and all cooked to perfection.

Blueberries and raspberry jam. Photo credit goes to my sister, Ellie.
Last, but not least: The Happy Dog.  Talk about a niche market. They serve only hot dogs and tater tots. For $5 you get your choice of a quarter pound hot dog or a vegan italian sausage and you can add an unlimited amount of toppings. I highly suggest the combo of chipotle ketchup, brazilian chimichurri, a fried egg, fresh tomatoes, carmelized onions, a pickle spear, and a slice of brie.

Bon apetit!


...and stepping into the 21st Century. The blog's got a bit of a facelift and there's even a new Twitter account that updates automatically through an RSS Feed thanks to Twitterfeed.

Also looking to get a new name for the blog, but really not sure which way to go. All of my previous titles (as well as the current one) have been pretty snooty, aloof, or self-righteous. I'm in the market for a new name.

Anyway, let me know what you think of the newish look!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lost: Human Connection

A few months ago, I made the leap and got a 'grown-up phone' with a data plan. It may have been the worst decision I have ever made. The reasons that follow are why I've become so convinced:

1) Bills -- It's ridiculously expensive. $79.99 a month for unlimited data, unlimited texting, and minimum minutes (450). Granted, I do get a 10% discount which helps a little, but really? $80??? Not counting fees and taxes?

2) Facebook -- As you may remember, I took a Facebook Fast a while back. This new phone and plan has completely negated and positive outcome of that effort. Yes, I realize that if I had a little more self-control this would not be an issue. However, a part of self control is knowing your limits. Apparently, my limit is a data plan. I have wasted so much time on Facebook and YouTube.

3) Losing the Human Connection? Heck, I've lost it. I find myself playing on the phone (Angry Birds, anyone?) instead of engaging with the people around me. After a long day at work, it is too easy to fall into the pattern of Facebook check, "wordswithfriends", Angry Birds, YouTube, and then to bed. At least with an unlimited texting plan I was forced to actually interact with people for entertainment.

4) Bills -- This really needs to be said again. $80/month? Pffft.

5) Is it really necessary? -- The only things this new phone and plan have done is make me poorer and more reliant on GPS.

So, after much ado, I think I am going to buy a refurbished non-smart phone and switch back to my old plan. It was half the price and half the trouble, too.  Maybe I'll actually be able to make it between paychecks after the switch.

What do you think? Is the data plan worth it for you? Do you find yourself wasting more time because of fingertip-access to Facebook, YouTube, etc?