Arts Wrap: February 2012


Book--Fiction: N/A

I totally slacked on fiction this month. My non-fiction book was quite the beast--I learned more from it than I probably would've from a semester-long college class on the same subject. Forgive me, I'll read some fiction in March.


Book--Non-Fiction: Rule and Ruin

This will be future required reading in college political science classes, mark my words. After six years of researching in the Library of Congress (along with extensive interviewing), Geoffrey Kabaservice has created a historical masterpiece. It kills me that so very few people will read this book, since it is so very good (yet appeals to an extremely tiny audience). In Rule and Ruin, he details the downfall of moderation in the GOP, starting from Teddy Roosevelt in the early 1900's up till the present day, with much of his focus placed on the presidential elections of 1964 and 1968.

Rule and Ruin gives an unbelievably rich and detailed account of how the Party of Lincoln morphed into what it is today. I got tired of reading newspaper articles on the subject--everybody has an opinion, but I wanted history. Boy, did I get it.

I used up four  different highlighters throughout the course of Rule and Ruin and spent endless hours on Wikipedia brushing up on my 20th century American history. What's remarkable to me are the modern-day parallels that we can draw from the GOP's past experiences. History is repeating itself in more ways than you know.


Television: Out of the Wild: Venezuela

I came across this show while searching in the O's on Netflix (I was looked for The Office). Nine average people are dropped off on Mount Roraima in Venezuela (think Angel Falls...or those flat-top mountains from the movie Up) and must traverse 70 miles through the wilderness back to civilization. There's no prize money at the end. There is no "winner." People don't get voted off.

The nine people are given three days of survival skills training, some backpacks with basic supplies (mosquito nets, machetes, flint for making fires, water purifiers, etc) and that's it. They traverse down mountains, through jungles, swamps, savannas, and down a river. Each person has a GPS device attached to their backpack, and they can press the "come-and-get-me" button at any time, at which point a helicopter comes and carries them away.

Despite hiking with 50-lbs packs all day, every day, the average contestant ate approximately 1000 calories per week. You'd think the lush Venezuelan climate and landscape would provide much more sustenance than that, but jungle living is much harder than people give it credit for.

Seriously, these people were such ballers. I don't know how they did it. What a testimony to the limits of the human body! It makes the contestants on Survivor  and The Amazing Race look like poseurs.


Film: A SeparationPonette, Breakfast at Tiffany's

Wow, where to start with these three gems? A Separation won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film this year, and rightly, rightly so. Even though Iranian culture is completely separate from Arab culture (Persians are not Arabs, contrary to what many think), it was interesting for me to watch and see how it related to what I knew in Jordan. (It's an Iranian film made by an Iranian director, so I assume A Separation reflects Iranian culture with reasonable accuracy.) It was also cool to hear Farsi spoken extensively for the first time in my life. I didn't understand a single word! Farsi is an Indo-European language; Arabic is Semitic. Despite using the same alphabet (although Farsi has a few more letters), that's about the extent of the two languages' connection.

A Separation has rich characters and a rich story. No other movie has made me question my definition of morality as much as this one.

Ponette is a French film from 1997 that depicts the story of how a young girl, Ponette, copes with her mother's sudden passing. Quite simply, this movie has the best acting I have ever seen in my life--and it's delivered by a FREAKING FOUR-YEAR OLD. You will not believe your eyes.

Definitely keep a box of Kleenex nearby as you watch this movie. Nothing is as tender--nor as heart-wrenching--as watching children try to interpret the lofty concepts of death, love, faith, and hope.

And, of course, Breakfast at Tiffany's. How did I go so long without seeing this?! Audrey Hepburn is simply divine in her role as the impulsive, delicate, and broken Holly Golightly. And George Peppard plays Paul Varjak to perfection.

Paul Varjak: I love you. 
Holly Golightly: So what. 
Paul Varjak: So what? So plenty! I love you, you belong to me! 
Holly Golightly: [tearfully] No. People don't belong to people. 
Paul Varjak: Of course they do! 
Holly Golightly: I'll never let ANYBODY put me in a cage. 
Paul Varjak: I don't want to put you in a cage, I want to love you!

"So what? So plenty!" Isn't that beautiful writing? (George Axelrod--look him up.) I love it when Paul goes on to say, "We belong to each other because that's the only chance anybody's got for real happiness." A Separation made me think about morality, Ponette made me think about death, and Breakfast at Tiffany's made me think about love (what a good month of movies I had!). Sometimes I suffer from Golightly Syndrome, and I'm so happy to have my own personal Paul Varjak to bring me back down to earth.


Music: Madonna's Super Bowl Performance

Okay, so admittedly this was less music than it was entertainment, but I'm still obsessing over it.

Dance: Ballet West's Don Quixote

I have no video for this, but it was a lovely performance! I wrote about it here.

Comedy: Saudis in Audis

What? You didn't know Arabs could poke fun at themselves? Remy is one of many!

Food: Birthday Cake Oreos

I have no idea how this category eluded the January Arts Wrap, but it was an egregious error on my part. This month ushered in Birthday Cake Oreos, which are basically Funfetti Oreos. YEAH, AWESOME. They're a limited edition specialty Oreo to commemorate Oreo's 100th anniversary. My family may or may not have collectively downed five boxes of these in the past three days.


Fashion: Blair Eadie

Again, how did I not include this category in my inaugural Arts Wrap?! Shameful. A few of you out there know that I'm obsessed with Blair "Bee" Eadie. Atlantic-Pacific is my favorite fashion blog by far. I love Bee's signature wrist of jewelry, her layering, pattern mixing, clean lines, color combinations . . . okay, so basically everything. Here are my two favorite outfits she blogged this past month.

Image from Atlantic-Pacific

Image from Atlantic-Pacific

Journalism: David Brooks and Jan Fleischhauer

I always love reading what David Brooks has to say, and this month he just hit it out of the park with this columns in the New York Times.

America is Europe
The Materialist Fallacy
The Machiavellian Temptation

I hesitate to call David Brook's a "journalist" since he doesn't quite fit that mold (he's more of a commentator than anything). Nick Kristof, however, can be a commentator with some of his columns, but is more often a journalist. He's been doing some amazing reporting out of South Sudan this month, which, sadly, I haven't done a good job of keeping up on.

I loved this piece in Der Spiegel about how Germany has become "the America of Europe." Again, it's an opinion piece (so not technically "journalism"), but it made a very interesting point.
Sentiment towards the Germans isn't very good in the region right now. Hardly a day goes by without Chancellor Angela Merkel being depicted in a Nazi uniform somewhere. Swastikas are a common sight as well. It doesn't seem to help at all that we faithfully approve one aid package after the other. If calculations by experts are true, then we are far beyond the point where we are just providing loan guarantees. 
A good deal of the €130 billion expected to be approved by the German parliament on Monday will never be seen again. But if you read the editorial pages of newspapers in the crisis regions, for whom this money is intended, you would be led to believe that we are out to achieve what our grandfathers failed to do 70 years ago (and this despite the fact that research into Hitler outside of Greece is fairly unanimous in the belief that National Socialism didn't launch its tyranny of Europe with a bailout package).
It won't be long before they start burning German flags. But wait, they're already doing that. Previously we had only known that from Arab countries, where the youth would take every opportunity to run through the streets to rage against that great Satan, the USA. But that's how things go when others consider a country to be too successful, too self-confident and too strong. We've now become the Americans of Europe. The role reversal won't be an easy one either -- it is already safe to say that today. We Germans are accustomed to having people admire us for our efficiency and industriousness -- and not to hate us for it. 
I was impressed by the fairness which Jan Fleischhauer used in writing about her own country:
But before we complain too much about all this ingratitude, we should remind ourselves that we ourselves spent years passing the buck. As long as the global villain was America, the Germans joined in when it came to feeling good at the expense of others. The Americans also had every reason to expect a little more gratitude -- after all, it was their soldiers who had to intervene when a dictator somewhere lived out his bloody fantasies while the international community stood by wringing its hands. 
People came to secretly rely on the USA as a global cop in the same way that Germany's neighbors are now expecting the Germans to save the euro. Unfortunately, however, the feeling of inferiority can be just as vicious as that of superiority.

That'll do for February. The Germans say auf wiedersehn, Iranians say khodahafez, Ponette says au revoir--but let me sign off in the tongue of Holly Golightly: Goodbye, darlings! It's been simply marvelous, marvelous, I tell you!


  1. Thanks again for doing these, my culture queen. You are my eyes into what I'm missing being "uncultured" ...and sometimes I can catch up on some of it =)

  2. Kristi Boyce, you rock!! Let me know if I can buy you a highlighter sometime.


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