Saturday, April 23, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

After I read WSJ article based on this book, I couldn't wait to read it.

But I had to wait since I was like 300-and-something on the Wake County library wait list. I finally got it last week and dumped the book I was struggling to get through.

I loved loved loved this book. It certainly isn't what some of you may think...but it also is what you think. It is a book about a different philosophy of upbringing that most of America (maybe other countries too) will find beyond imaginable: a harsh, strict raising of children with rote instructions for education, behavior, and arts. While my parents were not as hardcore as Ms. Chua, there are certainly a lot of elements that I can relate to, not only from my parents but from my family in the Philippines.

There is no questioning authority. There is no play before work. There is only "do as I say, not as I do" when it comes to your elders.

While I had a mix of a western way: I didn't have to cook for the family (as my mom and her family did at a young age), I didn't have to do hard labor, or practice organ lessons (yes, I played the organ and stop with the Beavis and Butthead jokes) for four hours every day, I did, however, have responsibilities (compared to my other friends) and very strict curfews, including days that I could go out, or how long I could be out.

I was very bitter about that as a kid but I did not question my parents much. That much I learned. If I did, a major fight would break out and in the end, I almost always lost. It's very strange, the dichotomy of my life: my traditional, Pacific Island rearing, where you respect your elders, work in the house, and go to college and excel while still taking care of the family. The idea of dating is a no-no (how people get married, I have no clue).

Compare that to my friends and the other half of my family (from the states), who could wear make-up, go out freely, cruise the streets and meet up with friends, and call their uncles and aunts by their first name (sometimes even their own parents!). I found it all very unfair growing up and now, as a mom, I use this as ammunition: "You are lucky you can speak to me this way. I would NEVER DARE to say that to my mom or dad!"

Amy Chua is a little bit more intense but to me, not unusual to some of my other friends who had parents that were more traditional than my own. I remember an old BFF from 3rd grade (Philippines), where we reconnected as seniors in a different country (Gosnell, Arkansas) - which is the way of a military life. I was so excited to see her and I went to her home (base housing) and caught up with her over the last nine years. I then asked: hey, you wanna go for a ride around town? And she had a look of horror and hope: she wanted to go but she thought her family wouldn't let her. In the end, they did not and I remember walking away from her house (for the last time) and thinking: wow. that is me. I know how she feels yet I am the one who has more freedom...

Amy Chua writes about this harsh philosophy with her upbringing of her two daughters, Lulu and Sophia. Sophia is the piano player; Lulu the violin. They practice every day, for at LEAST four hours. Chua studies the music they are to play vigorously by listening to the music and then instructing, line-by-line, note-by-note sometimes, how they should play it when they practice.

It's not enough for her children to place second in anything. They must ace everything. And most of their competition? Other foreign-based children. Very rarely are there "Westerners" who are close to being able to compete in the magnitude that her daughters, and their "peers", succeed in.

But it's not without sacrifice and the book documents it well. She makes no apologies for what she does and she also ridicules herself. It is amazingly funny to read and I have become a big fan of Chua, although I probably will bypass her first two books Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance - And Why They Fall and World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability (she is a Professor of Law at Yale Law School).

Most of the book documents the piano and violin work that Sophia and Lulu, respectively, played. A sample of what would take place, when Sophia was five and beginning her Suzuki piano lessons.

According to Sophia, hear are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her practicing:
1. Oh my God, you're just getting worse and worse.
2. I'm going to count to three, then I want musicality.
3. If the next time's not PERFECT, I'm going to TAKE ALL YOUR STUFFED ANIMALS AND BURN THEM.
In retrospect, these coaching suggestions seem a bit extreme.

Shortly after this, she writes
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.

Sophia, for the most part, was the "easier" one. Not really but compared to the next born, Lulu, she was an angel. Lulu reminds me so much of MiMi. One great story that Chua relates is when she is trying to get Lulu into a very good public school in Manhattan for preschool. In order to get in, she had to take a series of tests:
...the admissions director came back out with Lulu after just five minutes, wanting to confirm that Lulu could not count - not that there was anything wrong with that, but she just wanted to confirm.

"Oh my goodness, of course she can count!" I exclaimed, horrified. "Give me just one second with her."

I pulled my daughter aside. "Lulu!" I hissed. "What are you doing? This is not a joke."

Lulu frowned. "I only count in my head."

"You can't just count in your head 0 you have count out loud to show the lady you can count! She is testing you. They won't let you into this school if you don't show them."

"I don't want to go to this school."

As already mentioned, I don't believe in bribing children. Both the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and development have ratified international conventions against bribery; also, if anything, children should pay their parents. But I was desperate. "Lulu," I whispered, "if you do this, I'll give you a lollipop and take you to the bookstore."

...

[The admissions director] put four blocks on the table and asked Lulu to count them.

Lulu glanced at the blocks, then said, "Eleven, six, ten, four."

My blood ran cold...the director calmly added four more blocks.

Lulu stared at the blocks "Six, four, one, three, zero, twelve, two, eight."

And this is what Lulu is throughout the book. It's fascinating: both girls end up playing for Carnegie Hall, Julliard, and the Old Liszt Academy in Budapest based on their prodigy-like playing skills.

Something works though, despite the outrage (not from me) that Chua has received about her parenting style: Sophia has two offers for college admissions: one from Yale, the other Harvard. And she has her own blog, New Tiger in Townwhere she gives her side of the story and she isn't bitter. At least not a whole lot.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Break 2011 Day Three

We decided that our "overnight" 'day' trip would be a trip to Ocracoke. In all the years that Tim and I have lived in NC (since 1989), we have never been to Ocracoke, although it's always on my "go-to" list.

We were originally going to take the ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke, which is roughly a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride (~3 hour drive to CI) but decided that we would go the _other_ way via Cape Hatteras, another place we have never been to in NC. Our usual Outer Banks trip is to hit Kill Devil Hills; we have also taken the route up to Corolla, to see the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

This was all BK (before kids).

The trip to Hatteras was long but delightful. We stopped at a place to eat in Columbia, NC. I love local places and this was selected based on my philosophy. We sat and I noticed the menu mentioned a buffet so I got up to look for this buffet. It was simply a small heated area with burnt looking spaghetti sauce, I saw mac-n-cheese, and something that once was either fish fillets or pork chops.

Needless to say, the buffet was out of the question. But when the waitress said "we still have our buffet going on", I knew that this is what they would have wanted us to order...lest they have to cook anything else.

But we are stubborn. I ordered fried oysters; Tim a fish sandwich; the girls decided on cheese sticks and loaded fries. We asked for the sour cream on the side.

About five minutes later, the waitress came out and said they were out of fried oysters. How did she not know this when I placed the order? This troubled me so I decided to skip food and eat fries and stix with the girls.

The fries came out with about a cup of sour cream dumped on top. The waitress, I kid you not, said she could just scoop it off and put it to the side for us. "That's OK" we said politely. And on top? DRIED CHIVES. Not fresh green tasty ones but the ones bottled for herbs for whatever purpose...a nice gray tone.

The food sucked. And I didn't hear the end of it and probably never will. The name of the restaurant was simply "Restaurant" and CJ made sure to let me know that under no circumstances, will we ever eat at a place simply named "Restaurant".

The drive to Hatteras was nice. We stopped in Rodanthe - never been there nor did I really think about where it was, despite hearing a lot about it. The outer banks are simply laid back and beautiful. While some folks can't get enough of the eight bedroom, three level homes, the small cottages leftover from a less decadent period found its way to my heart. And the people left are certainly NOT the type to live in those overdone homes. There is little glitz and glam (think the destruction of Myrtle Beach), which makes the area even more appealing to me.

We decided around 5ish that we would settle for Cape Hatteras for our final destination of the trip and hit Ocracoke in the morning. We drove to the end, to see where the ferry station would be, and found an Inn right there. It looked too nice for us but I thought I'd find out what the rates were. After the lady started explaining the amenities, before giving me the price, I decided it was going to be too much: these are suites with kitchenettes, separate bedroom, blah blah blah..."hurry up with the sales pitch so I can leave and find a cheaper place..." But when she gave me the rate, I was like "hmmm..." and then a quick check with the family gave the SOLD sign.

The room was a great highlight. It was indeed a suite - like a freaking apartment! A nice sized living room, a kitchen with granite countertops (if only I could write this as people say it on House Hunters...the whole house could be the Taj Mahal but if it doesn't have "granite countertops", it needs updating),
and a bathroom with marble tiling. The girls were in heaven "let's just live here". BTW, they are pretty easy. We could stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Cary and they would be like "let's live here".

Best of all was the SEPARATE BEDROOM. This was especially nice as that meant NO KIDS. At least not in my room. They had the sofa bed in the living space and, as they liked to point out, a flat screen TV. I was like "every room in our house has a flat screen, what is so great about this one?" "YOUR room doesn't have one" and I realized, the one in our room was those old big thick ones that I once had (several) in the 20th century. On top of that, there was no remote so Tim and I were stuck watching a rerun of CSI since neither one of us wanted to go through the trouble (again) of changing the channels on the box.

I took the girls down to the shops that were right next to the Inn, near the pool. We browsed through every shop, touching every single thing that we could touch. At the Life is Good shop, we were agog over a young girl, about 6?, who was throwing the most amazing fit I have ever bore witness to, even with my own. She was screaming, I WANT THIS TOY NOW! And the mom was very calm, in a 'i-need-to-look-like-a-good-mommy-in-public' way, and explaining to her that they would not be getting that toy. She would stomp her feet and scream I WANT THIS NOW AND I WILL NOT STOP CRYING UNTIL YOU BUY THIS FOR ME.

Me and the girls giggled and moved on. About 10 minutes later, when we circled the store, I could still hear that girl screaming. I WILL NOT STOP UNTIL YOU BUY ME SOMETHING!!!!! Finally, the mom was trying to do something a little more physical, like REMOVING her from the shop, and I tried to get up and record it with my camera: have it in my pocket and record the audio. Of course, in my excitement I screwed it all up but I just knew it would have been a shocking revelation for you all to hear such behavior.

Coincidentally, I was reading The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom and I thought about the stereotype of Western families and how this little girl epitomized that stereotype...and her mother too.

It was time for dinner and we hit the first thing we saw around us, which was Teach's Bar and Grill. We got a great seat in the house. Tim wanted something from the bar and when we asked the waitress about the bar, she said "oh, we just serve beer and wine".
Well then, you shouldn't actually have "bar" in the name of the restaurant, should you? I said internally...I had asked for recommendations on twitter (and FB) the day before but for _Ocracoke_, not Hatteras, so we were left on our own to figure it out.

Despite the fact that the menu was very limited (no freaking oysters????) and the false statement of a bar, the food was really good, the view was amazing, and the staff were pretty darn cool.

We made it back to the room just in time for MiMi to pull out a - suddenly - loose tooth
and the parents retired for the evening. Apparently, the girls were up late up to no good. The next morning, there was a bathing suit lying in the bathroom, and my camera was nearly out of juice. I can't wait to see what kind of videos are on this thing.

Spring Break 2011 Day Two

Day two was a different adventure. And adventure is too strong of a word.

MiMi received a new bedroom suite from Grandpa Bill last week for her birthday. Wednesday (day two) was delivery day. MiMi got up and sat by the window for a little bit, waiting to see the first glimpse of the Rooms to Go truck.

Before that, however, Tim and I were cleaning out the stuff in her bedroom. Her perfectly fine bunk beds (long story) were taken apart, along with all the other junk she has in her room.

This is where the Tiger Mom philosophy would have come in handy: have the kids do the work vs. mom and dad.

Since we were home bound, I had pre-planned to go back to my place of employment to do my biathlon training. Some of you think that is crazy but the rest of you would do the same thing.

However, what usually happens to me when I am on vacation is that I get lazy. So while I was weeding the yard, Tim asked "when are you going in?" and I was like "It's at 1 but I am thinking about ditching it..." "Oh no you're not. You're going." was his reply and went I did.

I met up with $Bill and Jenian early to do our boot camp homework: pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups. I managed to pull myself up by a millimeter with no help, which is HUGE since I couldn't move one iota before. I then did five with assistance from Coach $Bill.

We got our sit-ups and pull-ups in right before we had to climb on the cycles and warm-up for our mock biathlon race. We started with the run, which was a relief for me even though it was hot and hard. I knew that once I finished the run I wouldn't be running anymore and that was enough of a carrot to push me through.

The bike was not easy, of course, but at least we were indoors. I was drenched by the end and I have to say, that was one of the best workouts I have had since Monday, so well worth my drive back into work (BTW, I live 10 miles from work, so it's not that big of a deal anyway.)

Before I left for my grueling workout, the Rooms to Go folks made it to the house. I knew before I saw the van by the squeals and stampede that only two girls could make in my house. MiMi had her receipt and every time a piece of the furniture came up, she would cross it off the receipt. I'm sure the Rooms to Go workers appreciated her discriminating eye...

By the time I got back, all was put in place. What was missing was NEW sheets and NEW blankets so off they went to Tarjay to purchase, while I ate my late late lunch and showered and chilaxed. What a life.

The end result? A very cool bedroom for a now very grown-up 8 year old:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sudan

Back in February, MiMi created the flag of the Sudan. We got poster board from the dollar store, markers from OfficeMax (only because the dollar store ran out) and once we got home, she was off doing her own thing. The finished product was very nice and at some point, she posted this on Facebook: "Working on sudan...TOO MANY BIG WORDS!!!!!"

I didn't really pay much attention to the literal meaning of this status update until a couple weeks ago, when we heard - and saw a summary - of MiMi's report on the Sudan.

Apparently, her class had to pick an African country, write a report on it and present it via PowerPoint. MiMi made the flag and then created the ppt for her report. She told us that her teacher said that hers was one of the most descriptive, in-depth report of the class. We were like "wow. you had to do a report?" We had no idea. I thought it was just the flag. But MiMi did the entire thing on her own, including accessing PowerPoint and learning it her own way.

Here are the slides that she presented. BTW, I asked her about the graphs: 'these are pictures that you copied from the net?' 'No. I made them by myself.'



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring Break 2011 Day One

Finally, after a long time since all my time off for the Winter Holiday, I'm finally on holiday. Spring Break started for my girls yesterday but I decided to go to work (for a variety of reasons that a select few know) and start my break, with them, today.

Yesterday, while following tweets on the #coopertrial, I got the idea that _we_ should all go see the trial! After all, it's a national (albeit sleeper) spotlight murder trial and it's happening right in our front yard.

Unfortunately, wakegov.com, nccourts.org SUCK at providing relevant information to someone who wants to find out what trials are currently going on...even more so, the COOPER MURDER TRIAL that's been on the news every fucking day. I found out the court room (3c) from twitter. I called the main number and of course, it is totally recorded and if you want any general information? Forget it. I actually got to a point where the recording gave me numbers to call: if you need blah, hang up and dial this number. Are you kidding me? You can't even connect me?

No matter. None of those numbers helped. I decided to call a number at the courthouse and I kid you not, whoever answered was incomprehensible. It's like driving through a fucked up drive-in Mickey D's. I ignored whatever she said and asked if I could get information on the Brad Cooper trial. This is the professional response I got "Ummmmm...hang on..." then click. After about 30 seconds, I got to voicemail for someone else.

Fuck it. I decided we would just go to the courthouse and if we could just walk right in (as a friend of mine said), then we would.

First, we must eat breakfast. So I said we would hit Cafe Helios, a local coffee house (NOT STARBUCKS) off Glenwood (downtown Raleigh). We hit high tide since the place was pretty full and we waited a bit for our food but nonetheless, it has a great atmosphere and service and folks were great. We were sitting at the bar and when the waitress brought our food, I was pointing out who had what. When I mentioned that Tim's item was for "the man at the end of the bar" she laughed and said "the one I love". It was cute. Maybe you had to be there.

We made it to the courthouse and after looping around to find parking, we made it to the "back" of the building. We made it through security without a hitch (whew). Thanks to twitter, I knew to go to the third floor and found 3C. What timing as they were just coming in from a break. On the stand was James Ward, an "expert" for the defense who analyzed Brad Cooper's hard drive for any tampering. We soon noticed that the jury was not sitting and the prosecution was just drilling Ward's credentials. We stuck around for only about 30 minutes since the kids were getting bored. I think I could have stayed all day...

After Raleigh, we headed to Fearrington Village, which is a common Spring Break destination. Tim has never been to the little "center" of the village, so we got to be his tour guide.


We were still to full from Cafe Helios so we skipped eating but we hit the shops

and McIntyre's Books


And of course, you just can't leave without visiting the cows

It was still early afternoon so we hit Franklin Street in Chapel Hill where we hit a couple of shops and then ate at Spanky's. We ended the day with a trip to the movies, where CJ joined me to watch a movie she and Tim watched last weekend, Insidious. Plot line starts great, gets weak but it still scared the shit out of me. Tim and MiMi ended up watching Rio and when I got in the car, after our movie finished, MiMi was like "we have so much to talk about!". She proceeded to tell CJ and I about the mom who decided to play Angry Bird during the movie (it wasn't me) and how her son was telling her to stop.

Then Tim, CJ and I couldn't stop talking about parts of Insidious that were so scary, to which MiMi exclaimed "I feel so left out! I am the only one who hasn't seen it!" Maybe one day...she didn't even see it and CJ managed to get her (and herself) scared on the drive home.

All in all, a very nice day one. I love seeing the sights and sounds of what's around me and sharing that with my kids. I love that my kids love doing this stuff too.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This is a partial review.

I stopped reading it at page 144 of 328 (the afterword).

It is _interesting_ but certainly bored me after I understood the story. I know I will be missing the aftermath: the ethics behind this and how the family wound up with nothing...or maybe there was a happier ending that I will miss *but* can catch up on, on wikipedia.

Nonetheless, the book was hard for me to pick up and I dreaded thinking about trying to get through it. I dreaded it for days before I finally decided to put it down and give up.

Before it got tedious to read, however, it was soooo good. The first few chapters had me hooked. I was close to declaring my love for it on twitter but decided it was too early and the "what if i end up not liking it?" crossed my mind.

Essentially, the story, which is actually a work of non-fiction based on interviews, medical records and letters, is about a woman named Henrietta Lacks. We learn about her life in Virginia, starting the year she was born in 1920. She grew up with her dad's family, who dropped her and her eight siblings off and went his own way.

Eventually, she would have children, and marry, her cousin Day because, apparently, that's what went on back in the day.

In 1951, Henrietta would go to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, a place she and Day and their children lived after leaving Virginia. There, she would be diagnosed with cervical cancer. The treatment? Sewing tubes of radium into the tumor and wrapping it with gauze to keep the radium in place. Wow.

Before the radium procedure, two dime sized samples would be taken: one from the tumor, the other from her cervical tissue. The sample from the tumor would be a significant, magnificent turn in medical history: it would be the first human tissue cells ever to divide.

And they divided, and divided, and divided. These cells are what the medical world deem "immortal": they never die. As Skloot states in the Prologue:
There's no way of knowing exactly how many of Henrietta's cells are alive today. One scientist estimates that if you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons - an inconceivable number, given than an individual cell weighs almost nothing. Another scientist calculated that if you could lay all HeLa cells ever grown end-to-end, they'd wrap around the Earth at least three times, spanning more than 350 million feet. In her prime, Henrietta herself stood only a bit over five feet tall.
They were named HeLa cells, for the first two letters of her first and last name and forever became enshrined as these cells without attachment (until this book) to the woman herself.

Henrietta would die of her cancer very soon after the diagnosis in 1951. The book continues down the path of Skloot going to Clover, Virginia, where Day and Henrietta grew up together, interviewing her relatives.

It also explains how much Henrietta's cells have helped with medical advances including helping to find a cure for polio. While medical professionals made money, and earned high praise and recognition, through her cells, the family received nothing.

It is a great book, full of fascinating information, that had me glued for the first many pages. But the drone of scientific research on the cells was doing me in; and the trip to Clover and talking to relatives was going to slow for my taste.

Fortunately, the rest of the world. As of today, it is #2 on the New York Times bestseller's list and I am pretty sure it hit the list sometime last year, when the novel came out. It's definitely worth your while to read, if not for the fascination of how this came to be.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Word Game

Mi-Mi continues to just impress me with her antics.

When I got up this morning, I saw a this sheet of paper on the counter.


MiMi created it for Tim to fill out and his answers are the ones in within the underline pieces. I love her clues. And I heard her explain to Tim this morning how some of his answers were right...and that he did really well, but a few were wrong.

The puzzle starts from the bottom, where she wrote "mart". Each word going up, after "mart", has one letter that needs to be changed.

So the next clue is "you use it when you go shopping" and the answer is "cart.
Then, "It's a gas"; answer is "fart".
Next, "You put animals in it". Tim was incorrect; he wrote "cage" but the answer is "farm".
"Cats play with it"; Tim wrote "mice" but the answer is "yarn".
"Pain"; the answer is "harm".
"body part"; "arm".
"you use paint"; "art".
"a name of a store"; "kmart".

Isn't that too cool? Okay, so some of the words have two letter changes but no matter, I love that she put that together on her own.

Monday, April 04, 2011

How They Met and Other Stories by David Levithan

I heard about this book from ElfArmyWrites so I decided to give it a try.

David Levithan is apparently very popular with the younger generation. He is responsible for the book, and subsequent movie, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. This particular novel, How They Met..., is a compilation of short stories; love stories. What makes this even more interesting is that each story covers a different kind of love: unrequited, rewarded, lesbian, straight and gay.

I enjoyed reading about love outside of what I am used to reading about: man and woman fall in love. The first story was particularly "corny" (in a good way), where a bit of enchantment is involved in the wooing of one man to another. It's sweet and it made me have butterflies in my stomach.

Not all of them end up so sticky sweet. In fact, many don't and that is probably the one thing that made this difficult for me to finish. First, I am not big on short stories. I thought love stories could be different for me, seeing that I can't help but love a good Harlequin romance now and again (FWIW, I haven't read one of those since I was in my early 20s but I love what they did for me; I think of Twilight as a bigger, one step up from a Harlequin romance which is probably why I loved it so much). Second, I don't like poetry much. I like Dr. Seuss. But beyond that, it doesn't do much for me. Maybe one day it will but as of now, the idea of sitting and attempting to read a book of poetry would make me scream.

To me, many of these short stories are more along the line of poetry. In fact, one of the stories What A Song Can Do is entirely formatted to signify poetry (or a song; sometimes the same?). I read it hoping to "get into it" or find some good quotes to tweet. Nothing stood out for me.

The story, after Starbucks Boy, that I definitely enjoyed because it made me LOL and smile the entire time at it's ingenuity is A Romantic Inclination. The entire story is written mathematically, scientifically, rationally. I absolutely loved it.

It starts with:
Their eyes met across the room, at an approximate inclination of twenty degrees.
Sallie gazed at James.
James gazed at Sallie.
And at once, both were illuminated.

And the entire story goes on with this type of tempo:
And so, to add symmetry to our story, was Sallie Brown. Her attraction toward James was not just one of surface value - she liked his inside parameters as much as his outside exponents. The though of him with her made her head spin like an unbalanced torque and made her heart slide like a kilogram weight on a frictionless pulley.

Isn't that just genius?

David Levithan wrote these stories, separately, for friends and family over several years' worth of Valentine's Days. I think he started when he was 17 years old. And what I find even more interesting is that, so far, there is no bio stating that Levithan is gay. But his novels feature gay characters and he also is a founding editor for PUSH, which commits to supporting new authors, "new voices", for teen literature. All in all, a pretty cool dude and I am pleased to know that he is a writer for a generation that will, hopefully, not be so bigoted about LBGT lifestyles.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sweet Spot

Friday evening we tried out the new restaurant Tribeca Tavern in Raleigh, where the (second) the now closed Michael Dean's was located. It was quite good and most likely, we will go back.

When I received my comment card, I rated everything pretty well. The one thing I made a comment on for improvement? Get rid of the Heinz 57 ketchup bottles.

I can't believe, in this day and age of technological marvels, Heinz 57 continues to make those stupid bottles. Or perhaps worse, that restaurants continue to utilize them. Tribeca Tavern wasn't the first, nor I am banking, is the last to have these on every table.

I am not a ketchup eater but my little Mi-Mi is. And she can't get the ketchup out of those damn things. So I give it a go and god-dammit, the ketchup DOES NOT come out for me. I mean, if it isn't full, you will have a long wait before you see anything appear on your plate. I grab a knife and start using it to help rush the stuff out. I give up because I start thinking about my paragraph #3: why are these bottles in existence?

Remember the commercials for anticipation? To wait for the ketchup to come out?


Tim took over since I was so pissed. The waitress came by and I mentioned my dilemma with the bottle and she said "just tap the 57". What? I never heard such a thing and she looked at us like _we_ were dumb (I write that for fun - our waitress rocked).

So I search for it and sure enough, Heinz themselves put this statement on their website:
To release ketchup faster from the glass bottle, apply a firm tap to the sweet spot on the neck of the bottle— the "57." Only 11% of people know this secret. Now you're "in-the-know."

I like the squeeze bottle, myself. Unlike grape jelly, it seems to work just fine.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Restrepo

I first heard about this movie from the Good Experience newsletter article.

Restrepo is a documentary about the Afghanistan war. There is an 'accompanying' book titled War. With the great technology that we have, there is an enhanced ebook for War, in which the reader can read the novel and watch clips of the movie that coincide. It was a new way to read novels in our 21st century world.

Currently, I only have iPad-envy so I don't get the pleasure of seeing the ebook...yet. But I did watch the movie and my one word "wow" does not do it justice.

This is truly a "in-the-trenches" documentary: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington spend a year with a platoon in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. There are personal interviews peppered within the footage but for the most part, it's the camera and life in the platoon. A voyeuristic view of the life these young men lived.

And it is scary, no, terrifying. There are firefights every day. And these guys rarely look scared. They react and they fight. I don't see a single person, within the camera view, that hides or retreats in fear. It's very eerie to see their faces become detached but focused on the task at hand.

Whether you agree with the war in Afghanistan or not, we have men (and women) that *have* to do this. And seeing what they go through is truly a sad state of affairs: the end of innocence beyond repair is what I see. While that is heartbreaking to me, I have extreme respect and awe what these men go through.

There is one scene - a firefight - and one of the men is killed. The reaction - real-time reaction - of some of the men when they find out is chilling. It's too intimate, IMHO, to see someone suffer from the realization that someone you know and care about has just died.

And the most gruesome scene is when civilians are hurt and killed. Be prepared for one of the worst things you will not soon forget. A quick glimpse haunted me for the rest of the movie.

But it's an amazing movie to see. When I searched for information, after seeing it, on where these men were now (the footage was filmed in 2008), I found an interview with the Major of the platoon, Major Dan Kearney and one of his statements about his family seeing it was
It was awesome for me because it answered a lot of questions that I didn’t have to answer for me.

Friday, April 01, 2011

99 Problems

Let's start the new month with some great music.

I found out about Hugo's version of Jay-Z's 99 Problems from a music podcast I follow/listen to: Bands Under the Radar.

I love remakes. Well, remakes that change the song up. I don't like when they just redo the same song.

So here is the original, from Jay-Z:


Then here is Hugo's version:

Not bad, huh?