Wendy’s Word

Not your mama’s blog….

Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell July 18, 2010

Filed under: Books,Food — wendy @ 8:47 pm

Ok, I read it.  First I saw the movie, and while I enjoyed it, I had no great desire to read the book.  I actually found Julie Powell to be kind of annoying.  But I saw it in the library and couldn’t resist.

I still think Julie Powell is kind of annoying.  She’s so self-centered, upset about her dead-end secretary job and living in a semi-squalid apartment in New York.  Guess what, Julie?  You’re college educated – you could probably find a non-secretarial job if you wanted to.  So don’t complain so much!  And she gets so uptight about her cooking challenges, blowing up with four-letter words at failed attempts to make complicated dishes.  Been there, but again, Julie?  You’ve imposed this on yourself, so don’t stress out so much about it!  There are real things in the world to get upset about, like poverty and war.

But actually, I really enjoyed Julie and Julia.  I enjoyed her saucy language, her description of her friends’ love lives, her twenty-something with the crappy job in a crappy apartment experiences.  Once you get past her self centeredness, the book is fun.  And I’m insanely jealous that her blog got more than 30 hits on the first day!

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The Big Short, by Michael Lewis

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 8:33 pm

The Big Short is Michael Lewis’ story of the few people who not only predicted the financial crisis we’re now in, but made a fortune betting on it.  Michael Lewis is an entertaining writer.  I enjoyed Liar’s Poker and The Blind Side, and The Big Short is good in the same way.  As in his other books, Lewis introduces us to the characters betting against the market, so we get to know them and even sympathize with them.  At the same time, he educates us about the subprime mortgage market and how those markets were shorted.

Because the very concept of enticing people to take out bad loans just so banks can bundle and sell them and because Lewis does such a good job of drawing out his characters, I found myself wondering whether Lewis’s subjects were good guys or bad guys.  On the one hand, they seem like the good guys.  Regular, albeit very smart, guys who can clearly see that a bunch of no-documentation loans with low teaser rates are going to have a high default rate once the interest rates goes up in two years.  They’re particularly shocked that these funds can get good ratings from the rating agencies, which come off as stupid at best and corrupt in their motivation of greed and self interest at worst.  I was almost rooting for the loans to go bad so our heroes who are basically saying that the emperor has no clothes can be proven right.  But then I remember that these investors are becoming filthy rich off of people losing their homes and I come back to my senses.  It’s one thing to be a whistle blower, but another to capitalize upon the crazy subprime mortgage market, to the point that investment banks were buying bundled mortgages and betting against them at the same time.

Lewis’ book was an informative and enjoyable read.  But because it’s so clear, it makes me all the more angry about what financial institutions will do to make the next buck and the lack of regulation that allows them to do it.

 

Othello in Griffith Park

I love Shakespeare in the park, especially free Shakespeare in the park.  It’s one of the perks of summer, almost (but not quite) counterbalancing this nasty heat.  On Friday night, we we saw Othello in Griffith Park, put on by the Independent Shakespeare Company.  ISC used to perform in Barnsdall Park — we saw them perform Twelfth Night two years ago and enjoyed it alot.  Now they’ve moved to Griffith Park, which is a lovely venue once you find it.  (Griffith Park is huge, and if you don’t know where you’re going, as I don’t, it’s easy to drive along endlessly.)  The advantage of Griffith Park is that it’s large, so it’s easy to find someplace to sit with a good view of the stage.  It’s casual, so you can eat your picnic during the performance if you happen to be late (because you’re driving endlessly through Griffith Park).  Be forewarned that there’s no seating so bring your blanket or chairs.

I’m no theater critic, but I enjoyed the production very much.  The set was simple, as were the costumes.  No resetting in modern times or dumbing down to appeal to contemporary audiences.  Just Othello, straight up.   There was laughter at Shakespeare’s jokes at the beginning, but by the final tragic scenes, you could hear a pin drop.  The audience was fully engaged.

ISC is performing Much Ado About Nothing in August.  I’ll definitely be there, but will leave much earlier to get there so I don’t get lost again!

 

Levi’s® Pioneer Sessions: 2010 Revival Recordings July 2, 2010

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 8:49 pm

Would I sell my soul for a good cover song?  Apparently.  Those of you who know me or have read earlier blog postings know that I love cover songs.  So when I heard about Levi’s Pioneer Sessions, a series of covers available for free download, I was on it.  And actually, I didn’t have to sell my soul, I only had to sign up for promotional e-mails and most likely give Levi’s access to all my internet habits.  But who doesn’t have that access these days?

At any rate, the Levi’s Pioneer Sessions are fantastic.  I love all of the songs.  In a way, I’m not a fit reviewer for these sessions, since I’m not familiar with some of the songs being covered and most of the bands doing the covers.  But that allows me to say that the songs all stand up on their own, whether you’re into covers or not.

Covers of songs that I am familiar with seem close to the original — no dramatic style changes — but sound fresh and modern.  My favorite is Raphael Saadiq’s rendition of The Spinners’ “It’s a Shame.”  It’s thoroughly Motown, but still sounds contemporary.  I was skeptical about The Shin’s cover of Squeeze’s “Goodbye Girl” until I heard it.  They did a great job — very similar to the original, but with their own flair.  You can never go wrong with a Bob Dylan cover, since his songs are brilliant but his voice is less so, and Dirty Projectors (which I have to confess to never having heard of) do a great job with “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.”  Folksy and indie at the same time.  One cover that differs in style from the original is The Swell Season’s cover of “Young Hearts Run Free.”  Not a trace of disco to be found.

Since I downloaded the songs, two more have been added.  I think that might be it, but you never know.  Listen for yourself.

Welcome to Levi’s® Pioneer Sessions: 2010 Revival Recordings.

 

Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 8:46 pm

Never saw the movie, don’t know the musical.  But I did enjoy Doctorow’s other books, Billy Bathgate and The Waterworks, so I thought I should read his best-known novel.  Ragtime intersperses historical figures — Houdini, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, and others — with fictional characters.  The early part of the book focuses on the historical figures, particularly the love triangle between Evelyn Nesbit, Henry Thaw, and Sanford White, and introduces us to the fictional characters.  The interaction between the two is fun, although did I really want to read the erotic scene between Evelyn Nesbit and Emma Goldman, the idol of my youth??  Not really.  The story takes off when a black pianist enters the life of the family that the novel centers on.  The pianist suffers an injustice and much action ensures.  As with Doctorow’s other novels, New York City is a character as well, as the novel gives a strong sense of turn of the century New York, from the wealthy businessmen to the downtrodden immigrants living in tenements.  Ragtime was a quick and enjoyable read, and now I can see the movie guilt-free!