this is the last day of my three week christmas break. I'm sad to be heading back to both school and work tomorrow, even though I love both!here are some highlights from my break:
- Syriana: I went to see this with my dad, and I thought it was really well done. It makes you think about the government and big oil – I always knew it was corrupt, but this movie takes things up a level without being unbelievable. It's fiction, but based on actual events. I think the two most chilling things about the movie were the making of two suicide bombers and the U.S "Committee for the Liberation of Iran" – U.S. agency working to "liberate" Iran from its current state, which sounds a bit like a manipulated coup to me. Go see it, you'll understand what I mean.
- Chronicles of Narnia: I went to this with my dad too, and my best friend. Heavy christian overtones, but a great story. I loved the book, and this was really true in its adaptation. The White Witch was awesome – very scary!
- Brokeback Mountain: I went to this with my best friend too, after a yummy dinner and chai. This movie was really well done, handled a difficult subject with a lot of grace I thought. The "gay cowboy movie" really got to me. The more I think of it, the more I loved it. It was very sad, but also very beautiful. Excellent acting – Heath Ledger was brilliant.
- Memoirs of a Geisha: I was hesitant about this movie, because I didn't like that the lead actresses are Chinese and Malaysian, and geisha is Japanese. But, I kind of forgot about it. The movie is beautiful, and the story is great. It's kind of stunning. Asia is beautiful.
- Race Against Time: Stephen Lewis is the UN Special Envoy to Africa for HIV/AIDS, and is a Canadian diplomat with extensive experience in that region. His love for Africa and his commitment to democratic socialism are palpable through this book, a series of CBC Massey Lectures given in 2005 in five different Canadian cities. Lewis is clear in explaining the particular problems faced by Africa, and the history of those problems, and is critical of both governments and NGOs in the roles they have played in creating those problems and what they are not doing now to help solve those problems. Lewis is especially critical of the US government's steadfast refusal to commit an adequate amount of foreign aid to developing countries, and Bush's Foundation, which is supposed to be helping Africa get out from the shadow of HIV/AIDS but is further hindering Africa's healing. If you can, I would definitely recommend reading this book.
- A Million Little Pieces: James Frey's account of his 6 weeks in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre is a compelling look at addiction. The language Frey uses is stark and simple, as if he needs to get these memories out of his system as quickly and brutally as possible. A major point here is that Frey rejects the creed of Alcoholics Anonymous for personal reasons, despite the fact that it is the only proven method of retaining sobreity (with a grim success rate of only 15%). AA is heavy on god/higher powers, and it's in a way refreshing to see someone deal with an addiction (and a major, severe addiction) without falling back on the crutch of religion – Frey looks at it as "replacing one addicition with another". However, on the other hand, I'm concerned that his account will encourage others to try to quit their own addiction by way of sheer willpower, and they will not be as fortunate as he has been in their efforts. Addicition is serious, and this book shows just how serious it is.
- The Truth About The Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It: Marcia Angell is the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, so I think her credibility on the issue of the shady business practices of big pharmaceutical companies is pretty high. Her account of how drug companies choose the drugs they bring to market, how they market them, and how much money they are really making in comparison to how much they are spending on research and development and how much they are spending on marketing their products is a stark and sad unveiling of an ugly, ugly business. The bottom line: drug companies are BUSINESSES, interested only in making their stockholders more and more rich (CEO's earn tens of millions of dollars every year, and almost equivalent to their salaries in stock options). They are not particularly interested in creating life-saving drugs, as they like to claim. They are interested in treating life-long illnesses rather than acute illnesses (people only buy drugs to treat acute illnesses until the illness is gone) or fatal illnesses (people with fatal illnesses tend to die rather than buy drugs for decades) or illnesses that afflict specific populations (the poor, those with rare diseases). They want patients who will stay alive to buy drugs at a high price for a long time. That's it. This book makes it clear that the pharmaceutical industry has very little humanity.
- Christmas baking: this was one of the more fun parts of my holiday – trying out new recipes, making old favourites, and giving them to friends and loved ones! the best new recipe this year: florentines. YUM! Thanks to Angel for all your help!
- Relaxing: this was about the best part of my break. After a very stressful year, it was nice to unwind, and not have to do anything I didn't want to do.