Friday, February 29, 2008

Bring your own bag

The best answer to "Paper or Plastic?" is "Here! I brought my own bags!" Plastic bags are particularly gross, they're made of a non-renewable resource, petroleum, and they cause all kinds of problems. San Francisco banned plastic bags recently, as well as Bangladesh (where plastic bags were causing flooding problems) and some areas in Alaska. In Ireland, you have to pay extra for a plastic bag, a move which lowered bag consumption by 90%.

Why wait for your government to ban or charge you for a plastic bag? Just stop using them. Canvas bags are really cheap, and you've probably got a few laying around your house anyway. It's also really easy to sew a fabric bag that you can use over and over again (I've been wanting to try this one.) Canvas shopping bags also make great gifts! They also hold a lot more groceries than plastic bags (thus reducing your trips back and forth between the car and the kitchen).

For me, the only hard part about using canvas bags is remembering to take them to the store - so I keep them right by the door, and a lot of times I take them out to the car and leave them in the back, so I've always got them.

Check out these facts from the Sierra Club:
Reusing a bag meant for just one use has a big impact. A sturdy, reusable bag needs only be used 11 times to have a lower environmental impact than using 11 disposable plastic bags.

In New York City alone, one less grocery bag per person per year would reduce waste by 109 tons and save $11,000 in disposal costs.

Well, that ends the official Green Week on Special K, but will certainly not be the end of my sanctimonious preaching about being green. The things I posted about this week are just my own initiatives for the year to decrease my footprint. It doesn't take much to make a big difference. I hope y'all are also doing your best to protect the planet - leave a comment about your own green moves if you like, or host a Green Week on your blog. Peace!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

just do it

(comic by Natalie Dee)

Check out the new Top Five!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

DIY Laundry Soap

Commercial laundry detergents don't list the ingredients (go ahead, check), and that makes me a little nervous. It's fairly certain they contain nasty things like sulficants and possibly phosphates, which is really bad for water supplies. I had been using Seventh Generation, which does list the ingredients, but it's gd expensive.

I made my own laundry soap (found on Modern Cottage). It was super-easy to make, really cheap, and works really well. Here's how to make it:
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
2 cups grated soap (Ivory, or Fels Naptha)
and, if you want, some oxy clean (1/4 cup)
I found all this stuff at my local Jewel, also at Dominicks.
Grating the soap is really easy - even easier than cheese. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes to make

Guess how much you use? Only 1-2 tablespoons per load! But, I'm telling you, it really cleans the clothes. I put in a load of clothes I hate to TELL you how smelly, but it came out smelling like sunshine.

Oh, get this... use (what else?) VINEGAR for "fabric softener". I put in 1/4 cup in one of those Downey balls and throw it in. Rest assured, your clothes won't smell like vinegar! Turns out commercial fabric softeners, aside from being kind of useless, are really bad for the environment. Vinegar rinses right out, reduces static, is a brightener, and also if you have hard water, it helps keep your pipes squeaky clean.

Let me know if you make it! I think it's great!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Green Week

It's green week on Agoraphobia, and for no good reason (aside from, you know, like trying to make the world a better place) I'm gonna blog about green stuff all week. Lately I've been having some problems with cleaning products. Whenever I cleaned, I got a really scratchy throat and felt kind of sick from the fumes. So, I did some research and it turns out you can clean your entire house with vinegar. VINEGAR! You can get like a gallon for about 4 bucks (you want White Distilled), so it's a major savings. I just waited until my reg. cleaner ran out and filled it with half vinegar, half water. For those of you worried about killing germs - rest assured it gets the job done. Something about the acidity level.

Don't worry, it won't stink up your house with the smell of vinegar. Sure, it smells for a sec when you spray it on, but then it goes away. For sure it doesn't linger like nasty household cleaners you get off the shelf. It's also cool because now instead of having a bunch of different cleaners under the sink, I've just got a big jug of vinegar.

BTW, if you clean your windows and mirrors with vinegar (you certainly can!), the first time you'll need to clean them with a bit of soap and water because Windex leaves a residue on the surface that streaks, so you just have to clean it off the one time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Movies, movies, movies!

I gotta tell ya, there's nothing quite as painful as sitting at home, unemployed, in your jammies, as it approaches noon, watching your former classmate in a designer dress, elegant up-do, and a body that appears to be in even better shape than when she was a teenage cheerleader do the pre-Oscar show on the E channel. Ah, but I couldn't be happier for her...

Friday I saw the documentary The Rape of Europa (sounds like good times, right?). The book by the same name by Lynn Nicolas (1994) was quite influential for the type of work I do at the museum. Hitler had a plan to create a huge national museum with what he considered the finest art in the world and had gigantic stockpiles of looted art stored around Germany. If you're interested in that period and want to learn more, I'd highly suggest this movie.

Last night we saw Be Kind Rewind - the new Michael Gondry movie with Jack Black and Mos Def. Like Gondry's other films (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature), this movie is fanciful and, in parts, absurd - but it's really fun and a celebration of how movies can unite people. That's one of the things I love about going to the movies - sitting in a crowd and experiencing group emotion - preferably laughter - is really the only reason to go to the movies anymore (when our home theatre options just keep getting better and better).

Something I thought was interesting was that this is one of the most racially integrated movies I've ever seen without being about racial integration. Mostly it's sad that such a thing is unusual, but I applaud Gondry for the casting choices - and it only makes sense for such a joyfully inclusive movie.

My favorite thing about Be Kind Rewind was the inventiveness and creativity in low, LOW budget film-making (by which I mean a couple of kids in their backyard with a vhs camcorder.) Gondry and his team use some cool techniques to harken back to those nostalgic days of yore when we watched movies on vhs tapes (and liked it!) Pay close attention to costumes and sets for some homespun details and nifty diy effects.

There's a line by Jack Black who says something like, "You guys, stop arguing! While you're yelling at each other, you're wasting time when you could be watching this movie!" Which sort of gets at the heart of the movie. I'm not saying watching movies together will solve the world's problems (and in this movie, making movies specifically does not solve their problems) but it does provide a way for us to create and maintain a human bond with strangers.

Friday, February 22, 2008

If DeBordian Perruque Picked the Oscars!

Best Actress
Ellen Page- Although I actually think Ellen Page delivers a great teenage hipster-nerd/know-it-all performance, I would normally look for awards to go for to an actress with a role with more... um, range and gravitas? But Page works really well with the talent that surrounds her in Juno, and furthermore, was evidently pivotal in the creation of the soundtrack. Special K has already noted the recent interview with The Washington Post: "I call myself a feminist when people ask me if I am, and of course I am 'cause it's about equality, so I hope everyone is. You know you're working in a patriarchal society when the word feminist has a weird connotation." I gotta say, she seems like a cool and smart young woman. While there were some other great performances out there, Ellen Page was just so integral to the way that the movie developed that the award should be hers.

Honorable Mention: Amy Adams in Enchanted

Best Actor
Tobey Maguire deserves some credit for a great run as Peter Parker/Spiderman. I really liked all the Spider-Man movies, and Spider-Man 3 was a good ending to the trilogy. Maguire doesn't seem to make a lot of movies, but he owned the iconic role of Peter Parker. I personally loved the strut-scene, but I think he also captured the dark as well as the dork in the character. I doubt there will ever be another character that had as much to offer Maguire, or that there's another actor that will fit Peter Parker so well.

Honorable Mention: Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz, Matt Damon in Bourne Ultimatum

Best Supporting Actor
James Marsden, Enchanted
It's slim pickings here, so I'll just re-iterate that Enchanted is a fun, silly send-up of the Princess Genre. James Marsden has a consistent willingness to dive headfirst into an earnest goofiness I always get a kick out of. It'd be great to see him actually get some roles besides Cyclops, but at least Cyclops had the good sense to kick the bucket minutes into the crushingly awful X3. It's tough to leave out the carefully crafted irresponsible character that Jason Bateman put together in Juno, but Marsden just performs with such glee.

Honorable Mention: Jason Bateman in Juno, Michael Cera in Juno

Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney, Juno

I've been an Allison Janney fan ever since 1999. I most remember her role as Ms. Perky in 10 Things I Hate About You, but she was also great in Drop Dead Gorgeous and American Beauty in that same year. Evidently she was amazing in the West Wing, but here she has a great turn as Juno's dad's second wife. Janney has a nice little role in Juno with some meaty bits that she just devours.

Honorable Mention: Jennifer Garner in Juno

Best Director
Paul Greenglass for The Bourne Supremacy.
I was no fan of the grainy & shaky quick-cut cam that was omnipresent in the last Bourne movie, but Greenglass thankfully ditched most of that for enjoyable action sequences packed around a solid continuation of the Bourne character development and themes. It was great to get my catharsis in the theater in seeing a good soldier grow a conscience and beat the system, but the Bourne movies have now become the only action films I really enjoy.

Honorable Mention: Wes Anderson for Darjeeling Limited

Best Picture

Even though Juno is an unrealistic, crowd-pleasing, glib "indie" film that's nominated for real life awards, and it is even #57 on the stuff white people like, it is actually a really good film. The first few minutes of patter give way some really interesting and funny conversations, and there's a certain immature depth of emotional experience to be found here as well. It's also really funny, has a great and appropriate soundtrack, and I think that it, overall, is an accurate painting of teenage experience. The supporting cast is outstanding, and yes, I admit that Juno was the only film I saw last year. Enjoy your schaudenfreude as you laugh at my pathetic attempt at an awards ceremony. But at least I created, contributed something to the world... while you, you just criticize! Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, criticize! Attica! Attica!
Okay, seriously, Juno's pretty great. Check it out.

Additional Bonus Category! Best Monster: The Host

The Korean movie The Host was often over-the-top silly, and incomprehensible in its character development, but the monster is totally worth the price of admission. And honestly, I think the Host was probably the best monster I've ever seen in a sci-fi/horror film.

If Greta Picked the Oscars

Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress
As far as acting goes, nothing really jumps out at me. I mean, I could give it to the rugged young English lad in Atonement, but that would only be because he's so deliciously dreamy. Or maybe it should go to the robots in Transformers, they are at least supposed to sound mechanical and stiff.

Best Director
Tim Burton wins for best director, I mean he just tries SOOOO hard, right?

Best Picture
I'll go with Atonement just because it is the first movie in a long time that I liked more and more as I thought about it instead of less and less.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oh, Brad!

Arg. In order to save money, but to raise spirits, I went to the local beauty school to go blonde (a bit early - usually I do it in the summer, but I needed a change.) Why, oh why, didn't I go to Brad? Brad, who knows me, who knows how I like my blonde hairlights? Why? WHY?

It doesn't look bad, it's just not what I wanted. I took a picture of what I wanted! And, it took like four hours. Four hours for hair I didn't want! And, when I got home, all I wanted was a glass of red wine, but we're out of red wine! Arg!Luckily we're not out of coke and 151.

In other news, I've been gifted with a pair of lovely, handmade, wool socks! I thank you, K, and my toes thank you! And, in Oscar news (this is Oscar Extravaganza Week, after all), check out these awesome interviews with Ellen Page (fabulous, extremely bright, young, feminist, reader)* and all the Oscar noms, including Daniel Day Lewis, which is one of the most pretentious (and therefore hilarious) interviews I've ever heard.

*would it be lame if I carried around a pipe just like Juno?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

mini-film festival

I found some of the nominated animated shorts - they are:
I met the Walrus (trailer)

The slightly gross Madame Tutli-Putli, a puppeted stop-motion with real eyes. (17 min. film)

Même les Pigeons vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go To Heaven) (8 minute film)

Moya Lyubov (My Love) - a sort of watercolor-y Russian short so boring I couldn't finish it (part 1, part 2, part 3).

Peter and the Wolf (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, about 30 mins, total)

If Special K Picked the Oscars

Best Actor
Will Smith, I am Legend. Because he's the last man on Earth, Smith really has to carry this film. Forced to battle his inner demons as well as the one's that have taken over the earth, Smith brings his usual wide range to the role. My favorite parts were the ones that were more human than hero.

Best Supporting Actor(s)
Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrian Brody, The Darjeeling Limited. Why shouldn't all three actors win Supporting Actor? A group of male actors supporting each other so well I've hardly seen before.

Best Actress
Ellen Page, Juno. Page's loquacious character has a lot of swagger, but occasionally her sarcasm (thanks to the brilliant script by Diablo Cody) falls away to reveal a young woman who is "dealing with things well above [her] maturity level." Like Molly Shannon in The Year of the Dog, her tight performance is for a character who wears a mask, when it slips aside, we glipse the insecurities she tries to hide. My favorite line (Up there with The Virgin Suicides, "Clearly, Doctor, you have never been a 13 year old girl.") is Juno's "I don't really know what kind of girl I am." Page beautifully portrays a very bright young woman trying to figure it out.

Best Supporting Actress
Tabu, The Namesake. The parents of Gogol (Kal Penn) really steal the show. The one-named Tabu is amazing as his mother, a young woman at the beginning of the film who's aging (beautifully!) by the end. Her moving performance and chemistry with her co-star was simply incredible.

Best Director
Craig Gillespie, Lars and the Real Girl. Truthfully, I don't know too much about film directing, but I do know I like this movie, and whoever made it collected a good story, great actors, interesting spaces and terrific performances, so I figure he did a really good job.

Best Picture
The Bourne Whatever. When it comes right down to it, when I go to the movies, I really wanna have a good time, some laughs, maybe *one* tear that I pretend I didn't cry, and I want a certain husband to go with me. Sure, I might go see the art-housey Margot at the Wedding and spend the rest of the night depressed and wishing I hadn't gone, and I'm through the blood-drenched dick flicks like No Country for Old Men and There Will Be (whatelse?) Blood. But a good, old-fashioned spy-type movie like the last Bourne movie really does it for me (as does a certain lead actor).

Monday, February 18, 2008

If Carrie Picked the Oscars

For the second year in a row, I haven't seem too many nominees. There was a lot of blood running this year, and I am a bit more squeamish than I used to be. No matter- if I could cast a ballot, I'd pick...

Best Actor
Remi, Ratatouille. That little blue rat (an his artist creator) captured all my attention with his wide range of emotion and truthful performance

Best Supporting Actor
Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War. I just love that guy; I'm sure I'll agree with my decision when I see the movie through Netflix

Best Actress
Ellen Page, Juno. I only buy one DVD a year, and this will be it. In a year with not much going on in the theatres (without blood) I was happy this movie was out there.

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Garner, Juno. I think I may have liked her performance more than Page's. This is a sentimental vote. I love when I can see my emotions mirrored in someone's performance. Like that scene when she feels the baby, or she's talking about what the book says about painting the nursery, you get the idea.

Best Director and Picture
Atonement. This was a beautifully crafted film. I thought it would be another sappy love story (and that would have been fine) but there was this awesome twist and then another interesting turn. I didn't see anything coming- I love that.

8th Annual "If We Picked The Oscars"

I'm so excited to announce the kick-off of our EIGHTH year of "If We Picked the Oscars!" I've got some terrific guest hosts to join me, struggled a little bit with striking writers myself (hey, you guys, it's over!) and am ready to present to you, my valued reader, a collection of Oscar "picks" that have little or nothing to do with the actual Oscars, and sometimes even movies. Feel free to chime in on the comments and let us know what you think!

My first guest is your favorite sister and mine: Carrie!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Young again

Last night M and I actually went to a CLUB and watched a BAND, an activity we haven't engaged in for lo these many years. Back in MY day (the mid-nineties) we didn't stand around in smoke-free bars, waving our cellphones back and forth. Of course, also back in my day, we didn't have a lovely 3 course meal at a French restaurant, followed by REAL absinthe.
With wormwood and everything. Wee!

The band was Freezepop, and it was really fun. Not one Keytar but two. Never have I seen it played with such grace. Back in my day, drummers sat surrounded by untold numbers of drums and cymbals, but apparently all they do today is poke the buttons of a small plastic machine with their fingers. Freezepop's songs are ironic and kind of post-80s Euro-dance (can you tell I have no idea what I'm talking about?) M. and I were trying to describe the quality of the lead singers voice - look, I'm really not good at writing about non-visual things like food and music - I came up with, "She sings like she's not trying" and M. said, "It's like she doesn't care?" Which doesn't sound good, but actually, we both really love her voice. I thought they had a great attitude, jumping into the crowd and borrowing cameras to take pictures of the audience, letting the kids in the front row bang on the keytar like a bunch of monkeys. For some reason they closed the show with a couple of goofy covers, like The Final Countdown, which always reminds me of Gob, from Arrested Development, who reminds me of my brother. I couldn't believe all the youngsters knew the words!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


For those of you keeping score, it is now February: 10, Special K: 2. We were supposed to get 2-3 inches of snow yesterday, but in the afternoon it started snowing, quite hard, and did not stop all night. We have at least 6 inches (in addition to the snow we already had, which covered a layer of slush, which covered a layer of ice). Everyone is wandering around at their wit's end, muttering out, "I've had enough!" and "This is getting old!" The fact that we will not actually experience anything like warm weather for approximately another 6 months is particularly depressing. I spent most of yesterday researching those special lights you shine on yourself if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD? Come on!), which, it turns out, are really expensive.

Well, in order to fight the winter dulldrums, I'd like to announce a few upcoming blogging events to occur right here on Agoraphobia - next week, the annual If We Picked the Oscars, whereby "we" is myself and a few friends who have hardly seen any movies all year, much less the nominated films, who nevertheless regale you with our own elite opinions. The following week I'm planning to do a week of Green Blogging, and I invite you to do your own Green Blogging on your own website, and we'll all share our ideas about - you guessed it! Making the World a Better Place! Teaser: I'm about to make my own laundry detergent and test it out - I'll let you know on Green Week! (And now I bet you can't wait, right?)

And here's one more thing to amuse you during this dark, cold time, an awesome short film - check it out!

Monday, February 11, 2008

boo ya

Had a pretty quiet weekend sitting around on the couch (it was like negative 12 outside!) Actually played a lot of video games with my ol' man. We played Paradise City, which is actually pretty fun. I felt like Vince Vaughn and his buddies in just about every movie he's ever been in. (I'm not sure which one of us is Vince Vaughn.) It involves shouting BOO-YA! a lot. M.'s also got Motor Storm or something like that. He explained that it's simply not cool if you don't explode across the finish line. Just broke my No Film with Only One Women Rule and watched 3:10 to Yuma. Damn it, I have really got to stick to that rule! It gets me every time! If I wanted to watch a bunch of crap about moronic pressures of masculinity and the myth of the hero, I'd... well, explode my car across the finish line of Motor Cross.

Check out my lately ignored book blog for a couple of new posts, including one about six word memoirs - give it a minute and write your own!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

February: 2, Special K: 1

I think it's hit the national news that we're suffering some pretty bad weather in Chicago, because "friends" from all over the country have been calling me up to tell me exactly how warm it is in their area. It snowed last week, which I told y'all about, then it snowed a little during the superbowl (3-4 inches). Then about half of all that melted, leaving behind several inches of slush that threatened to invade even the most steadfast of winter boots. It was through this sludge that I trudged downtown to work (for FREE!) yesterday, cursing, at every step, neighbors who had not shoveled their walks, conveniently forgetting that I had not actually shoveled MY walk. Lo, did I pass one kind soul out there shoveling his walk, and did I command my most colloquial of voices and utter, "God bless ya!" He scowled at me, and didst return his own colloquialism, "This is the definition of an uphill battle" saith he.

All of this might not have been such a drag if I did not, in fact, have an interview yesterday. One wants to arrive looking fresh and professional, not slightly soggy with hat head, in giant, wet boots, wearing a crumpled suit jacket. It snowed all day, if you can call the beady pellets of ice that fell from the sky "snow". By the time I got home what we had was approximately one foot of snow on top of 3 inches of sludge. I shoveled immediately.

This morning I heard the depressing news that the sun has shown in Chicago for a total of 11 minutes this month. Eleven. Minutes. Damn you, February!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Democratic Process!

Well, I just got back from voting in the primaries, and am now filled with both a feeling of satisfaction and an odd sense of wonderment. Make that wondering: wondering whether or not my vote will actually be counted. I was asked, so casually, that (all important) PaperOrPlastic question - PaperOrElectronic? I did some quick thinking: which was more likely to be counted properly? Paper? I said. That's good, right? The young man did not inspire confidence. Probably it'll be fine, he said. Probably?!? I marked my choice (H.C.), I slid it into the machine. It slid back out. I protested. I was assured that it was counted, even though a receipt came out that said Vote Not Registered or some crap.

Anyway, don't let any of this deter YOU, fine citizen, from going out and voting for the (democrat) of your choice. A certain husband's grandma tried to convince me why she doesn't vote and it only filled me with a boiling rage. You cannot convince me that you shouldn't vote (yes, helpless old women send me into a boiling rage). But, I just have to think: Jesus Effing Christ! For hundreds of years we've been voting in this country and still it's a friggin' cock-mess? I've seen high school prom queen elections with more integrity!

Here are four simple suggestions for a better voting system:
1. Dip voter's finger in ink, mark ballot. Beat inkless finger people in the street at end of day.
2. Arrive at voters' station, pick up jelly bean. Put it in jar associated with candidate. Have huge jelly bean party the next day.
3. Text 001 for Obama, 002 for Hilary. Ryan Seacrest hosts.
4. Have one STANDARDIZED, goddamn paper ballot that's used at every polling station in the US. Holy Frick! Do I have to do EVERYTHING?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Giants Win! (I like the Giants)

We had a really fun Superbowl party tonight - everyone was rooting for the Giants after it was explained that they are:
1. Not the Patriots
2. The Patriots are big jerks

I learned some really interesting stuff like after 9/11 the Patriots won the Superbowl on accounta some lame calls because they were like Team America or something. And also, that there are these two brothers, Mannings, and their dad was a football player too or something, and that he only dated really athletic women so his kids would be great football players. That's all supposed to be true.

So, because I am my father's daughter, I will now give you a wrap up of the end of the game: The best bit was definitely when that one guy caught the ball on top of his head and then held on to it even though he was being tackled like a pro-wrestler across someone's knee! And then, the Giants made a touchdown, and then, with something like 35 seconds left, the Patriots tried to make a touchdown, but, too bad, they couldn't do it. I think the Giants caught their super-long pass. And then, for some reason, the time was 01, then it was 00, then it was 02, then 01, then 00, then 01...00...01...00, and then everyone was starting to run on the field, then they dumped the gatoraide, then they cleared the field and stood there for ONE second, then they mobbed the field again, then a guy named something strange cried. I liked that part.

It was very exciting.

Friday, February 01, 2008

February: 0, Special K: 1

There's over a foot of snow outside in Chicago, but thanks to a kindly neighbor with one of those nifty shovel machines who does our sidewalks, I'm on top! Thanks to him, I had a renewed believe in humanity and the energy to do the back walk all the way to the trashcan, so a certain husband can throw out the trash later. (The kindly neighbor will find a bottle of wine chilling in the snow.)

Yesterday as I was trudging through the snow, gettin' kind of grouchy, I had to keep reminding myself that it was actually gorgeous, and fun. It was snowing perfect, Currier and Ives, Tahoe-quality snow, sparkly and light. Today I took the plunge and planted a snow angel outside my kitchen window. brrrrr!

It has somehow registered on my radar that the Giants are in the SuperBowl. Ha HA! I happen to have a Giants t-shirt from my San Francisco days, so now I have something to wear to our annual Super Bowl party, which is really just an excuse to eat Cheesy Poofs and (meatless) mini-pigs in blankets (nut free).
Ready to vote for your favorite (democrat!) on Tuesday? Get out the vote!!!