In It’s a Wonderful Life, James Stewart learns that, despite all of his economic woes, he is both loved and needed in his community. By the end of the film, Stewart finds that his life really does have meaning and importance by virtue of his worth to the community around him. Although he faces some personal trials, Stewart realizes that it’s the intangible things – love, friendship, and faith – which are truly important.
In Die Hard, John McClane faces his own trials by virtue of his fear of flying. A nearby passenger with a dim grasp on foot anatomy advises McClane to toss away his shoes in favor of “making fists with his toes” as an antidote to the fear, and our protagonist reluctantly takes the advice. After callously abandoning all footwear, McClane suddenly learns that what he’s taken for granted all his life is what he needs most…when he has to run barefoot across glass!
Both It’s A Wonderful Life and Die Hard espouse the same philosophy: you shouldn’t take things – yourself, your value to the community, shoes – for granted; yet Die Hard does it in a much more effective way: with extravagant torture.
All notions of giving and receiving aside, many movies hold that the real purpose of Christmas is to emphasize togetherness and family. In Die Hard, the giant blond terrorist, Karl, learns that all the untraceable bearer bonds in the world are not nearly as important as his dear brother. Unfortunately, he learns this after John McClane casually murders his sibling. Karl is so overcome by vengeance and grief at this realization that he abandons all thoughts of self-preservation and dies futilely while trying to kill Bruce Willis. He was so torn apart by the loss of his family that he wasn’t thinking logically, and was thus killed easily. So you see, John McClane also knows family is important; that’s why he makes sure to take them out first.
Christmas is, by and large, a celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is a day to give all acknowledgement and glory to the Lord. Bruce Willis screams “Jesus Christ!” like eighty times in Die Hard. That counts. Mark it.
Die Hard, likewise, is absolutely riddled with Christmas Miracles: Hans Gruber has absolute faith that the FBI will cut the electricity to Nakatomi Plaza and they do it right on schedule, Argyle has faith that he’ll be the first jive-talkin’ black sidekick in cinematic history not to die a horrible, disposable death, and he is still alive as the credits roll, while John McClane regularly demonstrates remarkable faith that the laws of physics will temporarily suspend themselves every time he manages to survive his reality-bending acrobatics.
So when you finally arrange for your close ones to gather in the living room by the familiar warmth of the fireplace with a copy of John McTiernan’s Die Hard, try to look beyond the mindless violence and machismo and surely you will discover the true values of the Holidays deeply imbedded in the fabric of Bruce Willis’ action-flick.
It’s that time of year when it gets dark way too early, the weather takes a turn, and the temperature starts to drop. Instead of studying for finals or writing that dreaded last paper, it is tempting to curl up under a blanket, watch the latest episode of that TV show you forgot existed and down a cup of hot chocolate. Unfortunately, that paper still needs to get done, but afterwards, you can reward yourself by going to one of these great restaurants that are perfect for when the weather starts getting colder.
La Mediterranee (Upper Fillmore)
This cute restaurant is compact, cozy, and has the option of outside dining beneath heaters. Not only are all the employees extremely friendly but the food here comes in huge portions, is inexpensive and is a perfect place to escape from the cold outdoors.
My favorite thing on the menu, by far, is the lunch special ($8.95) that is served from 11AM- 5PM. It comes with three items from a choice of nine, plus a choice of soup, salad, or potato salad. My favorite combination of items is spinach and feta fillo, chicken pomegranate and chicken cilicia fillo. The spinach and feta has a crispy, flaky outside and a creamy, salty filling. The chicken pomegranate is a chicken leg that has been slow cooked in juice, a blend of seasonings and spices until it is so tender that it falls off of the bone. The chicken cilicia fillo is a combination of chicken, cinnamon and raisins and stuffed inside a flaky piece of fillo and dusted with powdered sugar.
Also a good option: chicken kebob ($13.95) with rice pilaf
Chili Pies (Nopa)
Chili Pies is the perfect winter food for me. I love sitting in the warmth of the shop with a piece of their homemade pie, a latte, and a good book. Each pie is made fresh and can be topped with ice cream or frozen yogurt. I also love the fact that the lattes can be made with rice milk! Take a couple of friends to this cute shop and have fun trying a few of the different varieties that change daily! (pie slice $5 a la mode $7)
Also good options: green chili apple pie has a cheddar crust and walnut streusel and comes with ice cream and red chile honey drizzle, individual savory pies ($7-$8 each), hot chocolate ($4.50)
Fattoush (Noe Valley)
I’ve been coming to Fattoush for years. The food is consistently good and the service is warm and hospitable. Snuggled in Noe Valley, it may not be the first choice for those living on campus, but it is definitely worth the trek. Between the squishy cushions, dim lighting and true Middle Eastern flavor, it is one of my top restaurants to go to when it starts to get colder.
My favorite things to get on the menu during lunch are the falafel wrap ($8.95) that comes with potatoes and salad and the starting combination. The falafel is the perfect mix of crunchy outer and soft, flavored inside and compliments the tahini and soft lavash bread perfect. The salad that comes on the side balances out the wrap with a dose of freshness.
The starting combination ($12) comes with babhganouge, rihan (tomato and eggplant in basil sauce), hummus, tabouli and khyar b’laban (yogurt cucumber salad). It is definitely the best way to sample the starters and gives everyone something to try.
Also good on the dinner menu: Beriani with rice ($18), shakshuka ($21)
The Grove (Hayes Valley, Marina, Fillmore)
The Grove is the perfect place to escape the cold. Between the big squishy chairs, the fireplace and the homey feel, I love coming here to study or meet friends. The menu consists of simple, American favorites such as mac and cheese or chicken pot pie (prices vary) as well as many baked goods that are the perfect afternoon snack.
My favorites on the menu are: Coffee ($3-6), cookies ($3-$4), pies (prices vary), vegetarian Chili ($5)
I love San Francisco, but being a SoCal girl sometimes makes the winters unbearable. Fortunately, I have found several places that are the perfect way to escape the foggy, frosty air. Sometimes, it just takes that one restaurant or cafe to feel warm and cozy during the season!
This is crunch time, and not only in terms of leaves. But in the midst of all our study groups, late night paper writing, and general lack of sleep that accompanies the end of semester stress, are the holidays! It’s easy to see how all the cheer disappears when all we can think about are grades and deadlines. Being away from our families at college doesn’t help either since home is where the majority of the merriment builds. Don’t wait for the holidays to hit you when you go home, seek it out here in the city so you can enjoy the marathon of holidays properly.
Thanksgiving marks the unofficial start of the holidays, but before you get too far into thinking about the deals you’ll score on Black Friday, take a second to think about what the holiday means. No, I don’t mean the textbook facts, I mean the “thanks” part. Too often we forget how lucky we are to have even the smallest things, but Thanksgiving is the perfect nudge of a reminder to appreciate those around us.
There is no better way to say “thank you” and simultaneously delve into the holiday spirit than by doing a little service. Now I know we’re all busy, but even one hour can give you the satisfaction you seek of doing something selfless this season and help someone at the same time.
Here are some organizations that will say “thank you” to you for any kind of help: Glide will serve 5,000 meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for the animal lovers, SF SPCA Macy’s Holiday Windows is the campaign to adopt out hundreds of animals directly from the Macy’s windows.
There is so much more to the holiday season than giving the gift of time, as important as that is. What makes these days special are all the traditions that go along with them: the food, the lights, the wacky clothes, the songs, and the stories onstage, in books, and in movies. Just because you’re not home to revel in the excitement of the big days with your family and friends, doesn’t mean you should miss out! Set aside a few hours every week, take a break from studying, and take in all this city has to offer during the cheeriest season of the year. Here are my suggestions to make this holiday everything it can be.
Take It To the Stage
There is nothing like the enchantment of the Nutcracker during the holiday season. Even though going to ballet performances can be pricey, you don’t have to miss this magical masterpiece because student tickets are available. Hurry and reserve your tickets before they sell out!
Whether you’re looking to hear some of the old favorites, get caught up in the classic hymns, or sing along with the carols, the San Francisco Symphony has the concert schedule to fill all your needs.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside…
So Let’s Stay In!
It’s practically impossible to escape watching a holiday movie in December. Whether you’re looking for comedy, action, or heart-wrenching films, they’re all out there, but here are some of my favorites: “Polar Express,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “A Christmas Story” (comment with your own suggestions on: http://foghorn.usfca.edu). With your choice of warm cider, hot chocolate, eggnog, or a peppermint mocha from Starbucks, there is no way you won’t be in a holiday spirit after watching any of those films.
Playing holiday themed board games like “Whoville-opoly,” listening to festive music, and baking cookies with no shortage of appropriately shaped cookie cutters is the prefect recipe for merriment. Just don’t forget to leave some for Santa.
Shopping as a Sport
Not really, but it might as well be for the next few weeks because it’s enough of a challenge to constitute one. Two words: Christmas sweater. Not only is having one an essential element of getting into the spirit of things, it’s a great excuse to go shopping and spend a few hours trying on silly clothes. Hit up the thrift and vintage stores on Haight and you’ll be singing carols all the way home.
Looking in record stores for abandoned holiday CDs and vinyls, preferably in your festive sweater; need I say more?
San Francisco Specialties
It’s the next best thing to snow! Ice skating in Union Square is one of those things I don’t have to explain why you should go. If it’s not obvious why this is a fantastic use of time during the holidays, then I can’t help you.
Walking around looking at buildings decorated in lights is another must for raising holiday spirit, but why not take advantage of our extraordinary city and do it San Francisco style?! You can take a tour of the city on a motorized cable car to see all the special sights this year, perfect for a group or just a few. (http://www.buysanfranciscotours.com)
Don’t miss all the magic of the holidays in San Francisco because of school and work. With a little careful planning, you can finish your projects and enjoy the festivities. Now that we’re all prepared, bring on the holiday season!
Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain
Scene Editor: Tamar Kuyumjian
There is no doubt that the state of the current economy is affecting us all in one way or another. Personally, I’m not worried about my finances so much as my parents’, who are currently financing my education here at USF. It is this concern which has prompted me to conserve money in almost any way I can. I say “almost” because there are a few things that I refuse to go without – toothpaste for instance. However, I remain determined to control myself for my family’s sake.
Over the course of the semester, I have made various attempts at conserving money using different tactics of varying degrees of strictness.
At first, my strategy was to alter my consumer habits in a few small ways and hope that combined, they would translate into some big-time savings. “Just buy what you need, and then stop,” I told myself, “Don’t worry about it too much.” Little did I know that I would become very good at stretching the definition of the word “need.”
“Need” started out as the basics: shampoo, ink, paper, and textbooks, but soon went through a growth spurt and became Goldfish!, Soy Milk!, Lean Cuisine!, and, the biggest menace of all, Ben & Jerry’s.
When I finally clued in that my plan was not working all that well, I turned to more drastic measures: scare tactics. In an attempt to traumatize myself into spending less, I amassed all the receipts I hadn’t bothered to throw away over the months and organized them by month. Then, I highlighted every total and the date I spent it, and added up my monthly spending.
When I looked at the totals side by side, I was horrified. I immediately made myself a sign in bright bold letters that said, “Absolutely NO more spending!!!!” with the amount I had already spent that month occupying a prominent spot on the piece of paper. I taped this sign to the back side of my room’s door, and there it has remained ever since. The constant reminder it provides comes in handy when I am considering going out to eat despite the fact that I have quite a bit of extra flexi. Other cutbacks that accompanied my shock therapy included refraining from buying food from Lucky’s, holding out until Christmas break to get my long-awaited haircut, reserving Starbucks for special occasions, and, though I know I shouldn’t, watching movies online instead of at the theater.
All this was going pretty well until Black Friday hit, and a wave of shopping fever came crashing down upon my friends and I, who were lured from the bubble of campus by bait reading: SALE! 50% OFF! A full outfit later, and I was looking once more at a much-depleted bank account. Since my first attempt at saving, however I have learned that paying attention to your money is everything. I have found that the more I track what I spend, the more willing I am to be reasonable with myself. It pays to know yourself and your weaknesses.
So the next time you go out shopping and are tempted to buy something, ask yourself, “Do I absolutely need it?” or “Do I absolutely love it?” If any reason not to buy the object in question can be found, put it down. Your wallet (and your parents should you be so lucky) will thank you later.
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