A Good Yarn

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Catching Up

Once again I've gone a week without posting. I hate when I do that. It's been busy around Chez Renee and when not busy, stinking hot. Too hot to sit in front of my computer. But it's cooled down to a very nice 79 degrees now, so here I am. I'll have to break this up into a couple of posts so that I don't lose anyone ;-)

Thursday night I went to a fun concert:

I was not a huge INXS fan in the 80s, but I loved the Rockstar: INXS show last summer, so I wanted to check out the new lineup. J.D. was my choice for the band all along, but after seeing them live, I am really convinced they made the right choice. I was a little worried about the cheese factor. J.D. fancies himself a sexy man and what's acceptable on tv may be a little much right in front of me. For the most part, I was amused by his antics. I didn't enjoy his attempt to fornicate with the microphone stand, but other than that, he was just typical rockstar sexiness. His energy matched the band really well and his performance of the old INXS songs was right on - they sounded as good as the originals, but not in a karaoke way. I liked a lot of the new songs, too. I enjoyed the show a lot more than I thought I would and I'm glad I went.

Before the show we went out to dinner at the new Chatterbox Pub in Highland Park. The St. Paul version is divided into two rooms. There's a bar area, with a mirror ball (I love those things!), some videogames, booths, etc. Your typical bar set up. The dining room is decorated like a 1970s basement. There are a bunch of couches and cushy chairs. There are also booths if you just want to sit and eat dinner or play a game or something. Because they have tons of board games that you can check out. They also have several tv sets that you can play old school videogames on. Such a fun place! I figured it would be a perfect place to come back and knit, which I did later in the weekend. I ate both times and both times the food was ok. The first time I had a burger and fries. The burger was really garlicy and the fries were the thin kind - I prefer really potato-y fries. The second time I had the mini sloppy joes and onion rings. The sloppy joes were a bit dry, but I got mine without the coleslaw. The onion rings were just ok. Kind of greasy. So, I'd say it's a great place to hang out, have fun, but probably not my top dining destination.

Friday night I checked out a movie:

I really liked it. I'm a fan of the X Men series, so I guess you can factor that in. I would say it was missing the style of the director of the first two, Bryan Singer, but I really enjoyed the story and the special effects and action were just what you're looking for in a summer film. There's a short scene after the end credits, so if you do see it, make sure to stay to the very end.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I Heart Heather

Last night I went to the Minnesota Lynx home opener. They teased us by leading for most of the game, but in the end, the Connecticut Sun took control and won by a handy margin. It was a fun game, though. Before the game we ate at a relatively new restaurant in town, NBA City. I ate there last weekend with my brother and Michael, before we went to Gameworks for a little videogame fun. The first time we went, we enjoyed the food much more. We had buffalo wings as an appetizer, then Greg had the ribs and I had a Phillie cheesesteak. That was all very good. The french fries were very potatoey, which I like. Last night I had a pepperoni and sausage pizza, which I didn't like all that much. It was ok and I think I would have liked a margherita pizza better. I also had a tomato and mozzarella salad, which was also ok. The tomatoes aren't in season yet, but there's nothing anyone can do about that. I would say that this restaurant is better than most chains, but not on the level of fine dining. We had 2 for 1 drinks last night too, which was a really good deal. The best part of the restaurant for me is that it's a great place to watch a game. They have a lot of flat panel HDTVs with really good sight lines from the tables. The floor looks like a basketball court and they have a lot of fun basketball themed decor as well, so it's definitely worth a visit if you're a sports fan.

I wanted to share the new sock yarn I ordered from Heather. I received it last week, but was just too sad to talk about it. I did get some comfort in holding it and petting it when I was feeling bad about Finbar being sick, though. It's so gorgeous too.

This is a fingering weight in pretty greens and pinks. So pretty and springy!

This is a heavier weight in gorgeous blues and greens. It's more like sport weight. They're both so soft too.

Heather surprised me by including this bonus skein of sportweight in purples and black. LOVE IT!! Such a nice surprise and totally something I would pick out for myself.

Heather is a genius at the dyepot. I would highly recommend you get some for yourself next time she has an offering.

Despite my depresion and lethargy over the last couple of weeks, I have been knitting. I finished up the back of the Nora cardigan.

I was kind of in denial about how late in the month it's getting and thought I might have a shot at almost finishing this in May, but I can see by looking at the calendar, that's not going to happen. Oh well, there's nothing that says you have to finish all your Project Spectrum projects in the designated month.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Green Swap

When I returned to the office yesterday, I found a nice box on my desk. I was kind of dreading going back to the office and getting back into the daily grind, but I gotta keep on living and I gotta make some money to pay off those vet bills. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit how pleased I was to get a present. I can't believe I'm that materialistic, but I really am. Here's the box:

Yep, it was my Project Spectrum Swap for May. The timing couldn't have been better. Loved the pretty green paper and I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but even the peanuts were green. Love those little touches! Here's what was inside:

In the front, from left to right:

*a mini Kacha counter. How cool is that? I've never even seen one of these. I love my kachas and this one you can put on a string around your neck - perfect! And it's a pretty green!

*a very pretty green pen. I love pens! Maybe sometime I'll post my pen cups.

*a kaleidoscope. I don't have one of these and have been meaning to pick one up and just never got around to it - thanks! For those who aren't aware, you can use one of these to see how different colors work together in patterns when planning something like a fair isle sweater.

*a green Chibi. Love the Chibis! This is a good addition in my quest to own chibis in all the colors. I told you I'm materialistic.

Coming back around in the back:

*a bag of green jelly bellies! I love Jelly Bellies!! These will definitely be eaten up - I may even share. Maybe.

*a skein of sock yarn

*a garden in a bag - Basil. So cool! My favorite thing to eat over the summer is Caprese salad, so I'll be starting these seeds up right away!

Wait, let's go back. What about that yarn. Did you notice it?

Yes, it's Austermann Step with Aloe Vera and Jojoba Oil. SO COOL!!! On Friday night at SSP a few of us were talking about this yarn and trying to figure out how it would work and if it would be nice and let me tell you friends, it's really nice. It feels really soft. It doesn't feel oily or anything, but you can feel the softness. I guess kind of like those kleenex with lotion in them. But much nicer. I'm just thrilled to have some of this and can't wait to try them out and wear them! My feet get really dry in the wintertime here in Minnesota and this could be very good.

What a great box of goodies, huh? My super fantastic swap pal is Kim. Thank you so much Kim! This PS Swap thing is so awesome! Both months I've had a ball putting together my box for my pal and been absolutely thrilled with the gifts I've gotten. Lynne, you're brilliant!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Thanks Again

I was just blown away by the encouragement and support expressed by my blogging friends. (and my non-blogging friends, of course). This whole blogging thing is sort of strange. You sit in front of your computer and post thoughts and feelings and your life and you're never really sure who or even if anyone is reading or caring. Then something horrible happens and you realize that people really are reading and they really do care. Thank you so much!

Things are getting a little bit easier every day. I tried to keep myself busy and distracted and out of the house as much as possible over the weekend. I didn't have all that much planned for the weekend, which is really unusual. I usually look forward to those weekends because it gives me a chance to catch up on some housework and watch some movies or tv and knit. But, being around the house was just too depressing. Everywhere I look, I remember Finbar sitting there, next to me. He used to follow me around the house and sit close, watching out for any danger. So, busy and with people was a good salve to the soul.

Friday I had scheduled a visit to one of the kids I am a GAL for in southern Minnesota, so that took me pretty much all day. I was going to call it off, but I'm really glad I didn't. It was nice to be distracted by other people's problems instead of just my own. Friday night was the Sip, Stitch and Pitch night at the St. Paul Saints game, sponsored by Ginko Coffee and Borealis Yarns. I was way too out of it to remember to bring a camera, so I don't have any pictures. However, it was a nice night. I went on a bus with a group from Needlework Unlimited and they surprised us with t-shirts proclaiming us Designated Knitters - cute and you can see some pictures if you follow that link to NU! We arrived too late for the yarn swap or to receive one of the free skeins of Plymouth Encore. However, one of us, Shelley, won the fastest knitter contest. She won a 5 pound Salted Nut Roll. That's one big candy bar, I'll tell you! Meleah won the X-Men mutant contest with her very impressive elbow trick. They also had other fun stuff like throwing a giant ball of yarn into a giant coffee cup, avoiding the "kitty", a guy who sang "The Sweater Song" by Weezer, the team mascot knitting a garter stitch scarf, which she finished and wrapped around the announcer at the end of the evening, and little pink pig stitch markers thrown into the audience. All of the knitters were in one section, so it was really fun to sit outside (on a GORGEOUS evening) and knit and see a baseball game or a lot of other knitters, depending on where you looked. I'm very glad I went.

Saturday was a little tougher. I managed to do some housework and FINALLY mow the lawn. I went with Bill and his family to see this film:

It was cute. There's a family of porcupines with thick Minnesota accents that I found quite familiar and enjoyable. Steve Carell did his usual hilarious job voicing a manic squirrel. Being around the kids is always uplifting for me and the margarita I had at dinner afterwards wasn't so bad either.

Sunday I did a little crafting:

I made my bead project for May Project Spectrum, but no matter how hard I tried, I coudln't get a good picture. I cannot figure out how to take close up pictures of small things with my camera.

It was from a kit from The Bead Monkey, so here's how it looks in another colorway:

The kit comes with the makings for two rings. I made them both up, but I really only need one to wear, so if anyone else wants the other ring, email me or coment and I'll send it out. If more than one person is interested, I'll do a drawing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Thanks, friends

Thanks for everyone's kind words and good wishes. Unfortunately, it seems I spoke a little too soon on Tuesday. Finbar rapidly got worse and after re-testing, we found it was cancer. I made the decision to end his suffering last night. I wanted to email everyone back individually, but when things turned bad, I just didn't have the heart. I do appreciate the support you gave me and my baby, though.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


OK, I have a few things to update you on. First, the lawn is still long because I can't get the lawnmower started and the bunnies are still loving the long grass:

I made it out to Shepherd's Harvest this weekend. I wish I had cute animal pictures to show you, but unfortunately I'm a complete moron. One of the settings on my camera got set to something weird in the jostling in my bag and all my pictures came out way too dark. The moronic part is that I didn't think to check this setting (which is easily changed and has happened more than once) until I got back home again. I did figure it out eventually and took pictures of my purchases.

This is some chocolate brown alpaca yarn from Enchanted Meadows Alpacas. I fell in love with all of the really dark brown alpacas and llamas at the show and had to buy some yarn in that color. I bought enough for a sweater, although it's sock weight, so it'd take me forever to knit a sweater for myself.

A skein of Mer-made sock yarn from Blackberry Ridge. I already have a skein of this yarn, but the colors are different enough I just go ahead and knit two pairs of socks that are similar. Or, maybe one of them will become a gift in a swap. This is great yarn, though.

I also picked up this kit from Blackberry Ridge. It's for a bunch of mitten and hat ornaments. They're so cute! Some of them are beaded too.

I also picked up a few tool-type things, but those are boring, so no pictures.

I also felted the Wobbly Circle Tote:

Project Name: Wobbly Circles Felted Tote
Designer: Leigh Radford
Pattern Source: Interweave Knits Spring 2006
Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky
Yarn Source: Stash and Needlework Unlimited
Date Started: 4/17/06
Date Completed: 5/13/06

Comments: I fell in love with this bag when I saw it in the magazine. I thought it would be the perfect way to use up some of my LP Bulky stash too. The gauge is a bit bigger than the pattern, so the bag is a little bigger than ideal, but it's workable. I also joined the KAL, but I haven't posted to that blog.

Finally, I mentioned that Finbar is sick. We spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out what's wrong with him last week, but I think we've got it figured out. It seems to be pancreatitis. I've been pretty stressed out about it, but I'm feeling more hopeful now. He's been on IV meds for the last two days and it seems like it's working, so I'm hoping he's going to be back to normal soon.

As you can see, his hair was growing in again finally, but he had to have his belly shaved again for an ultrasound. Poor bald doggy!

Fiona's been enjoying being the only dog in the house for a little bit. Although she looks a bit sad, here. But it's one of the only times she's forced herself into my knit picture taking, so I think she's enjoying the attention - and all of the extra treats as I kept trying to feed Finbar without luck.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I wrote up this post before and Blogger ate it. UGH!!!

Dyann tagged me for a meme, so here goes:

Seven things to do before I die:
1. Travel to Ireland
2. Buy a widescreen HDTV
3. Knit up a significant part of my stash
4. Watch all of the things I've videotaped for myself.
5. Go through all of my junk and get rid of everything I don't use regularly.
6. Keep myself open to new experiences and people.
7. Read as many books as I can.

Seven things I cannot do:
1. Turn down a chance to have fun.
2. Stay within a budget (see #1)
3. Sing
4. Drive a manual transmission
5. Say no to someone I care about
6. Dance
7. Find a husband.

Seven things that attract me to my husband:
See #7 above

Seven books that I love:
1. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
2. The Alienist, Caleb Carr
3. The World According to Garp, John Irving
4. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
5. The Barrytown Trilogy, Roddy Doyle
6. Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver
7. The Awakening, Kate Chopin

Seven things I say:
1. Does that make sense?
2. Do you know what I mean?
3. Oh my god! I love (that book, that restaurant, that yarn, that movie, etc.)!
4. Things always work out, maybe not the way we wanted them to, but how they are supposed to.
5. I'd rather set my hair on fire.
6. Talk to you later.
7. Are those idiots who voted for him happy now?

Seven movies I've loved:
1. The Godfather, part I and II
2. Schindler's List
3. Blade Runner
4. Casablanca
5. The Usual Suspects
6. Unforgiven
7. Three Colors Trilogy

Friday, May 12, 2006


Well, I didn't go to MDSW this year. I didn't feel as deprived as I thought I would. It seems like there was less chatter on the blogs about it this year than last year. Maybe it's just because I feel behind in my blog reading when I was working on my taxes and still haven't quite caught up yet. Anyway, Kerry went again and was nice enough to bring me back a bag:

and a skein of Tess' sock yarn:

Isn't it pretty? I had requested a skein of STR, but as you've probably heard, they sold out in record time. I bought a skein of Tess' yarn last year and made a pair of Jaywalkers. It's fantastic yarn and I can't wait to knit this up too! I've been acquiring a shocking amount of sock yarn lately, so I've gotta start knitting socks! I'll post my other purchases as they arrive.

I could have knit that lovely sock yarn as a May and June PS project, but I've been knitting a lot of small projects and decided to start another sweater. So, here's another May PS project:

It's some Berroco Cotton Twist that I bought for cheap at Elann. Love Elann! This is a pretty, shiny cotton blend yarn, but it splits like crazy. The pattern is Nora from a Berroco leaflet:

I was tagged for a meme, but I'll save that for another post.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


First, I want to send a big thank you to Bethanie! She sent me an awesome RAOK last week:

That's a cheery card, a nice tin of "Sip for the Cure" pink grapefruit green tea bags, 2 skeins of some lovely highland wool and the cutest notepad that says, "Give yourself time to dream". Isn't that awesome?! It was such a nice surprise and I really love the gifts - thanks Bethanie!!!

So, I have been knitting a bit. I'm onto May Project Spectrum, so I started a mitred square in greens:

I've actually knit the last quarter of that square since the photo, so tonight I'll block it and then I'll sew it together this weekend. I also knit up the second side of my Wobbly Circles Tote, but since it looks exactly the same as the first side, I'll spare you the photo. Hopefully I'll have time to sew it together and felt it this weekend also.

I also did my Project Spectrum papercrafting project for the month:

I made a couple of green Mother's Day cards for my mom and step-mom, and then made a few more that said Happy Birthday. If I'm making cards, I like to make 6 at a time, just to make it worth my time. I used the chalk stamp pads and daubers that I learned last year and embellished with the Liquid Beadz that Heather sent me for the PS Swap last month.

It was the first time I used the Liquid Beadz and I would call it a mixed success. These are a mix of seed beads and bugle beads in an adhesive gel. You apply them to whatever you want with a knife or stick or even your fingers. I found that if you apply a small amount at a time it works better than taking a big glop and trying to spread them out. The adhesive is pretty sticky, so it's kind of messy, but it's also messy to use glue or double-sided tape and beads, so it's probably a wash no matter what method you use. The gel dries clear overnight and the beads are really well adhered. This Blazing Orange mix is gorgeous too. On the downside, I got gel on the paper in places where there were no beads - around the edges - and that looks kind of messy. It also was pretty heavy for the paper, so the paper is sort of wrinkled. That may happen with any seed beads because of their weight though - I've only ever used microbeads on paper before. I think if you used this product on other things - like a frame or something glass, it would be perfect. That little jar of beads goes a long way, too. Thanks, Heather, for letting me experiment!

One last bit of greenery. I hate doing lawnwork, so I haven't mowed yet this year. My grass is getting pretty long, which is apparently just fine with this bunny:

She apparently felt perfectly safe being in the backyard with the dogs. Luckily for her, Finbar is sick, so I guess he didn't notice her, because normally there's nothing he likes more than chasing bunnies and squirrels out of the yard.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


That week flew by! I didn't even feel like it was rushed or anything, it just was over before I knew it. So, I'll try not to make this post so ginormous. But, I'll start with the movies. The M-SPIFF finished up last week. I caught a couple more films in the "Best of the Fest".

First was "Shooting Dogs", a film about the genocide in Rwanda. It's based on a true story about a college in Rwanda that was housing a number of UN "Peacekeeping" troops when the Hutus started killing the Tutsis. Many Tutsi in the area sought refuge on the school grounds. It's a story that's similar to "Hotel Rwanda" and just as affecting. Unlike Hotel Rwanda, the main characters in this story are white, which may make it more accessible to a white audience but is also a downfall. The school is run by a priest played by John Hurt, who has been in Africa for years. Also present is a teacher who is staying for just one year, Hugh Dancy. I thought both men gave really good performances and the film effectively shows the brutality of the genocide the lack of response by the U.N. or the U.S. It was really heartbreaking.

Next I saw "Souls of Naples", the only film in the festival that I saw but didn't enjoy. It's a documentary about the people of Naples. I've been to Naples, though didn't spend much time in the city itself, which is why I wanted to see the film. There are small interviews with many residents and you do get a picture of city with a great disparity. There are super rich people and there are super poor people, but there doesn't seem to be much in the middle. The cinematography is beautiful, but it just didn't hold my interest. I kept falling asleep. Maybe I was just too tired. I wasn't able to make it to the films on Wednesday and nothing on Thursday interested me. The rest of the weekend I had plans with friends and they weren't interested in the fest, so that was it for me. A quite enjoyable experience and now I'm looking forward to the City Page Documentary Film Festival!

As I said, my friends weren't interested in the more obscure films of the fest, but we did see this one on Friday night. I actually liked it more than I thought I would. Like "Transamerica", I had a lot of preconceptions about the film that turned out to be untrue. I thought it was going to be a typical chick flick with a lot of hijinks, especially by Jennifer Anniston. It's much more thoughtful and quiet than that. There's not a ton of laughs - it's more about the characters and their lives. The husbands are also prominent parts of the film and they're not stereotypes. I really had a lot of fondness for all of these characters.

After the movie we had dinner at Salut, one of the hot new restaurants in town. It's very pretty inside and has a good menu. It's a French restaurant, but not in the stuffy "French restaurant" way. It's very comfortable and inviting. I had a blood orange margarita to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and it was wonderful! For dinner I had a bowl of French Onion soup and a butter lettuce salad. The soup was delicious. Chock full of bread and cheese, just the way I like it. The salad was presented beautifully, but wasn't anything special, taste-wise. We all shared the cheese plate and that was quite enjoyable. I'd definitely go back to Salut again.

Saturday I saw "Inside Man". Really enjoyed that one too. It's very stylish and beautifully shot. I enjoy a good heist movie and this was that. You have to suspend your disbelief a bit. In order for things to end up the way they do, a lot of things have to happen just that way. It's not exactly clear to me why the bank robbers have chosen this crime and this manner, as opposed to another place and time. And I still wasn't exactly sure about some things in the end, which I won't get into so as to avoid spoilers. But, having said that, I was satisfied. I was caught up in the action and waiting to see what was going to happen next and I didn't guess everything that was going to happen 5 minutes before it did. I was pretty disappointed in Jodie Foster's performance. I thought it was a little over the top and unbelievable. Perhaps that's partly the writing in the script. Overall it was enjoyable though.

Since this is getting way too long, I'll leave the knitting portion of my post for next time.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Saturday I attended the MKG Yarnover. It was really a fun day - I had a chance to see so many of my knitting friends, learned some new things in classes and bought a few goodies. Speaking of goodies, I got a few things in the gift bag.

From the left - we got an electronic row counter, which is pretty cool. It's on a ribbon too, so it'll be nice to use when out and about. We also got a larger sized zippered bag - the logo at top is what's printed on it. It's a nice size to hold a lot of notions or a small project. The last thing is a door prize that I won - a pattern booklet from Prism yarns.

I took two classes - in the morning was Borders from Melissa Leapman. We learned a number of different borders to knit as part of the main body of a knitted object. Here are my swatches from class:

We learned a bunch of different ways to make a hem. This one has the hem knitted on a smaller needle, then one row on a bigger needle to create the fold line and then knit with the regular size needle, knitting 2 together to join the hem edge to the main garment.

The top one is a large ruffle. The bottom one is a feather and fan type of border, with a bobble at the point of each lower edge.

The top one is a fringe that is created from the knitted fabric rather than applied later. The bottom one is a faux tassle.

These were all new techniques for me, so I really enjoyed trying them out. Melissa was a good teacher and very interesting. She brought a lot of samples of sweaters from her books which use these borders. I already have "Hot Knits", but I think I'm going to buy "Cool Crochet" as well.

The afternoon class was Tips and Techniques from Joan Schrouder. Joan is a knitting genius. She writes into some of the knitting lists that I'm in, answering technical questions on just about anything you might want to know. I won't show my swatch from class because it's really ugly. We learned a couple of different cast on techniques - including a form of long tail that you can set up in knit and purl, which would look really nice in ribbing. We learned 3 different buttonholes that are really nice - I'll definitely be using those again. We learned how to knit and purl backwards, so you don't have to turn your work around. I knew how to knit backwards, but I'd never purled backwards before. We did short rows for darts or sleeve caps, which I had already done. Finally we learned a bind off for ribbing using kitchner stitch. As I said, I already knew a few of the techniques, but I learned a lot. I was a bit drowsy post-lunch so my attention lagged a bit a few times. Joan brought in some of her sweaters as well and they were just amazing. Maybe some day I'll be that meticulous too.

I didn't do too badly in the market. I bought a couple of tools - a set of lighted knitting needles, just because I think they're so cool.

I also bought a set of sock blockers. I wore my Jaywalkers quite a bit before it got warm and decided it would be nice to block them after washing.

I also bought a couple of bead kniting purse kits:

And I bought some Euroflax Linen yarn to make the beaded shawl from "Big Girl Knits"

A pretty good haul, but I managed to restrain myself from a few other things I liked.

I finished up one final project for April Project Spectrum, too:

Monday, May 01, 2006

More Films

It was a great, fun weekend. I saw a few more films in the Film Fest and attended Yarnover on Saturday. I also finished up one last project for April Project Spectrum. I'll break it up into multiple posts and start with the films.

Friday night I saw a great Finnish movie called "Paha Maa" - "Frozen Land" in English. It starts and ends with one of the characters' funeral, but you don't know whose funeral it is until the end. Then you meet an English teacher who is let go because of funding cuts after a math teacher is hired. This sets off a series of events that are mostly quite tragic. Later in the movie the math teacher is lecturing on "Chaos Theory" and I think that's what this film is about - how one thing leads to another, which leads to another. You know, the butterfly effect. It's pretty depressing and there's some sex and violence, so it's not for everyone. Apparently in Finland people either love it or hate it. Put me in the love camp.

Saturday I saw a couple of documentaries.

First was a documentary that was nominated for the Academy Award last year. It's about the mayoral race in Newark, NJ in 2002. It was so dirty and contentious that it garnered national attention. The incumbent mayor had been on the city council or mayor for about 30 years. The challenger is a 32-year-old city councilman. Both men are African-American Democrats, but that's about all they share. Remember the name of the challenger, because you'll hear it again - Cory Booker. He's amazing. He went to Stanford University where he was an All-American football player and earned an undergraduate degree and a Master's, he's a Rhodes Scholar and he graduated from Yale Law School. Obviously, he's brilliant. He's also very good looking and charismatic. He settled in Newark after graduating from Yale and won a seat on the city council. He lived in (and still does live in) the most notorious housing project in Newark, "Brick Tower" so that he could live with his constituents and stay grounded. I think we'll be hearing his name on a national level before long.

The film is about his run against the incumbent mayor, Sharpe James, who had been survived a number of scandals among his staff. Mayor James was known for revitalizing a lot of the business climate in Newark, but Booker felt like it was at the expense of the poor - a lot of affordable housing had been lost in favor of business development. James had been re-elected many times and had a lot of support - someone in the film compares him to Marion Barry in Washington, DC - people feel like he's "their guy", so they'll overlook a few moral lapses. James has tight control of the city and uses that against Booker - threatening Booker's supporters with the city inspectors, the police, the fire department, etc. He appears completely paranoid - several times having the documentarian escourted out of his speeches and manhandled. He also makes wild accusations against Booker - accusing him of being a Republican, of being a puppet of the far right, of being gay, of being white (Booker is light skinned, though both his mother and father are African-American). Time after time he distorts things and outright lies, but never really seems to pay any consequence. The thing that was really shocking to me was that in New Jersey, buying gifts for the electorate is allowed, and thus is expected - you have to put on big meals, send greeting cards for every occasion and flat out give out gifts to curry favor with the voters. Amazing.

The last film I saw was "Sir! No Sir!", a documentary about the "GI Movement" - the anti-war movement within the military during the Vietnam War. This film is really interesting for someone like me, who is too young to really remember Vietnam. The filmmakers point out that during the war, there was very poor morale and a lot of opposition to the war among all branches of the military. But in the 80s, history was re-written in films like "Hamburger Hill" and "Rambo" so that now you think of Vietnam as a bunch of hippies protesting and spitting on soldiers who were just serving their country. The film sort of debunks the myth of the woman spitting on a soldier in the San Francisco airport as he returns from Vietnam. It also shows that Jane Fonda was not the hated figure that she's portrayed as now - she is shown performing for large crowds of military members, with them cheering her on and getting on stage with her. There are a lot of interviews with former military members who were part of the GI Movement, including showing them so young and fresh in their uniforms.

Of course, the whole thing rings very true and familiar to today's situation. Today you don't have the draft, but you do have a lot of young kids who joined the reserves or guards to pay for college, who had never seen a real war in their lifetimes and had no concept that they'd actually be called up for active duty. I wonder how strong the anti-war movement is among the troops and how long we have to be in Iraq before we start seeing officers killed by their men like we did in Vietnam.

M-SPIFF is over now, but the Best of the Fest is going on all week. I plan to see a few more of these films this week, which I missed out on before.