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Monday, October 28, 2013

Recent Documentaries That Will Change You. You're Welcome.

I spend all day working on documentaries for work, so I often don’t want to spend my nights watching them recreationally.  But I’ve seen a slew of fantastic (and in some cases life-changing) feature-length documentaries lately.  Here they are, for those of you who are documentarily-inclined:

1. Happy – this doc is all about the science of happiness.  It really has changed how I view the world.  Among other things, a scientist in this film tells us that only 20% of our daily propensity for happiness is due to current circumstances like health, wealth, where we live, etc.  Fully 40% of our happiness quotient comes from “intentional acts” like being nice to other people and exercising and being grateful.  Amazing.  You can stream the doc here:

2. The House I Live In – this is a mind-blowing exploration of the problems that have arisen as a result of this country’s “drug war.” Academics, judges, and prison management personnel talk about the ways in which that “war” is destroying our prison system and our inner cities.  None of the interviewees disputes that drugs are harmful and should be policed.  But they all feel that a sentence of “life without parole” for a violation as small as possession of 5 grams of drugs (and this actually occurs!) is tragic and wrong.  Stream here:

3. Queen of Versailles – fascinating (and hilarious) perspective on one uber-wealthy family’s fall from riches during the years of the market collapse:

4. The Other Dream Team – 1992 Lithuanian basketball team struggles to assert its identity after the fall of the Wall, and ends up playing Russia in the Olympics.  Beautiful, gripping story of personal and historical triumph:

5. Searching For Sugar Man – if you haven’t seen this one yet, just do it.  I know you think it sounds boring, and I did too, but we were both wrong.  It is incredible.  I don’t think it’s streamable on Netflix, but it’s worth a rental.

I watched Gasland too, and although it was in many ways illuminating, I didn’t make it to the end because I found it highly repetitive and irritatingly cooler-than-thou.  Haven’t managed to see Blackfish yet, and I’m not interested in 20 Feet From Stardom, because it’ll just remind me of all the reasons that the music industry makes me want to fist-punch a window.

I’d love to know your thoughts on these films.  Please let me know if there are others from the past couple years that you recommend!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I'm Not Avoiding Bread Just To Be Trendy

            Recently I was at brunch with some friends, and I couldn’t find anything on the menu that was gluten-free and dairy-free.  I ended up ordering two scrambled eggs and a piece of bacon, because those were my only choices. 
One of my friends rolled his eyes and said, “The 1950’s called – they want their breakfast back.”   He drilled me with questions – do you have celiac?  No?  Then, what would REALLY happen to you if you ate a piece of French toast? 
I explained that I’d get a stomachache that would last the rest of the day and into tomorrow.   I explained that my stomach would swell up like I’m 4 months pregnant.  I also explained that I really didn’t want to go into detail most of the symptoms I’d experience, because Mama taught me not to talk about toilet problems when I’m sitting at the table. 
My friend vaguely accepted my explanation, but I could tell that he was thinking, “Whatever, she’s just being dramatic.” 
I’d like to explain something to those of you who do not have food allergies or intolerances: it is not fun to suffer food intolerances.  Those of us who are high-maintenance-orderers in restaurants aren’t trying to be trendy.  Personally, I find myself outrageously annoying when I’m in a restaurant asking what ingredients are in every dish. 
I wish I could go back to my old life in which I drank Dr. Pepper and at potato chips every day, and I ordered French toast with reckless abandon (and, ahem, I never gained a pound – those days have also tragically ended).  But that’s never gonna happen. 
And it’s not just that I can’t eat dairy or gluten.  I can’t eat onions or garlic or beans or a million other gas-producing things if I don’t want to suffer chronic pain.  I don’t want my whole body to be so itchy that I am up all night scratching.  And believe me, you don’t want to be in a room with me for too long if I’ve eaten onions or garlic or beans.  And I don’t really want to be in a room with me for too long either. 
Those of us with food allergies can’t just relax and enjoy going out to restaurants like we used to.  When we go out to dinner, we think, “Okay, I’ll be miserable afterward for a day or two, but I really want to go on this date,” or, “I really have to go to this work function and not question the menu,” or, “I haven’t seen these friends in two years so I’m going to eat whatever they cook for me…”  We brace ourselves for the painful after-effects of eating something as simple as a piece of sautéed fish in butter.  And before we take a single bite of the fish, we reach under the beautiful white tablecloth to pull out two Lactaid pills so that at least we don’t end up with cramps before we even get home.  We leave Lactaid pill wrappers strewn across the tablecloth like little paper carcasses.

          If you don’t have food intolerances, you are lucky.  Immeasurably lucky.  Enjoy it.  The rest of us are watching you eat a piece of bread and secretly salivating.  We wish we could be you.  But we can’t.  So please, give us a break, and don’t roll your eyes when we order nothing but two scrambled eggs and a piece of bacon.

Twitter: @ShadowSwan
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Friday, October 11, 2013

Recycled Orchestra

In Paraguay, a group of young people and a dedicated director have created instruments out of trash, and brought music from within a landfill.  Inspiring in so many ways:

On a related note, Goldfish can tell the difference between Bach and Stravinsky:

And on an unrelated note, this 7-year-old has the best fashion sense of anyone I know:

xoxo mwwwah

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sorry for the radio silence!

Hi friends!  Sorry for the radio silence for a couple weeks.  I've been traveling for work, and tonight I have a show in NYC at Rockwood Music Hall (196 Allen, just south of Houston).  8PM SHARP! Would love to see you there.  More details:

My music can be heard here:

And here:

And my latest album, "little bones," is on iTunes - just look for Laura Thomas Band!

I'll be back to blogging on the regular next week!  xo