Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fires in Trash Cans

One of the images I have in my head about the Great Depression are those small groups of desolate men, surrounding a fire that they've lit up in a garbage can. They're homeless, and huddling around the fire and each other for some warmth. I don't even know if this is a real image, but I can't help but think about that now, in the wake of all the jobs lost over the last few months.

Thanks to electronic social networks, I can see the electronic version of these garbage can fires. On Facebook, punching in "laid off" produces over 200 groups, with group titles like "I just got laid off due to this craptastical economy", "I Got Laid Off from Dell", and "I got laid off from IndyMac Bank and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt." On Twitter, I see a layoffs hashtag, but searching for "laid off" produces tweets that are only minutes old.

It's in the air, the demise of steady work. The jobless among us are gathered around their families, and around these electronic garbage cans, talking about their firings. Misery loves company, and those garbage can fires are online now. Good luck, all of you. I'm hoping that the economic stimulus plan works, so we can all be in a better place tomorrow.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Cold is All Relative

Today the temperature descended back to winter. It was quite chilly in the mid-20s (Fahrenheit), but it felt even colder because it "warmed up" to about the high-30s on Friday. I was beginning to think about March. Instead, January reminded me today that it's still the first month of 2009 here in New England.

Seasons get us prepared because of how slowly they turn. It's sudden change that gets us, I think. Indian Summer. Snow in April. New Englanders usually have a brisk Fall which puts us in "warmer" jackets, and the lighter sweaters and fleeces, before Winter comes in, forcing us into heavy jackets and boots. We get acclimated. I think this is natural.

So it's back to the cold weather. I'm not worried about it. We're all hunkered down anyway, so it's not too bad. Like I said, it's all relative.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Best Movies Watched in 2008

(This is my eighth such list. I have done this for my movie viewing in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007.)

I watched 19 movies in 2008. My favorite movie from this list was WALL-E, the Pixar animated movie starring a wistful lovestruck robot. It's wondrous! It's a classic "boy meets girl" story, but the settings and the back-story and all the gritty then gleaming images were dazzling.

My second favorite was The Contender, a political thriller that harks the feel of "All the President's Men". This is an adult movie, in every sense of the word, full of super performances starting with Joan Allen, a strong senator fighting for her nomination for the vice presidency.
  • Best DVD Commentary: Panic Room (out of the three, the one with the special guest screenwriter)
  • Favorite Male Acting: Sam Elliott (The Contender)
  • Favorite Female Acting: Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
  • Finally Glad I Watched: Brokeback Mountain, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Best Books Read in 2008

My Previous Best Books: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007.

I read 18 books last year, with one I finished on the very last day of the year: Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. I like the list. A nice mix of fiction and non-fiction.

My favorite non-fiction was The Outlaw Sea, by William Langewiesche. This book explores the open sea, and its inhospitable nature. There are pirates, storms, and descriptions of ships as they're being disassembled for parts. I felt it blended in well with Uncommon Carriers, by John McPhee, which I read later in the year (and which was my second favorite).

Honorable mentions: Ball Four (Jim Bouton), Hammer of the Gods (Stephen Davis).

My favorite fiction was Then We Came to the End. This is a novel set in a modern workplace, and it concerns itself with petty rumors, office politics, and layoffs. In other words, it's a fiction of the lives led by many people in the white-collar world. It has a lot of spot-on observations, and a tricky literary point of view (it's told from the first person plural ("We saw him come out of the elevator"), with a brief interlude to take on another character's point of view). This was Joshua Ferris' first novel, and it's a winner.

Honorable mentions: Tree of Smoke (Denis Johnson), American Pastoral (Philip Roth), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Resolution 2009: More Posts

There were plenty of weeks in 2008 when I didn't write a BLOG post. This year, my resolution is to write at least one post a week. How hard can this be? Happy New Year again. Coming up soon: my favorite books and movies from 2008.