Sunday, May 15, 2016

No Glittering


If you know me at all, you know you are much more likely to find me sporting sweats or wearing a pair of jeans than all glammed up in diamonds and pearls.  The thought of having to apply make-up, squeeze into pantyhose and do my hair is more of a challenge than a good time.  But I am a good sport, so when my Douglass alumnae sisters need me to attend an event, even one that is formal, I’ll start the primping process. 

While I never mind shopping, going on a mission to find something dressy, that fits, looks decent and is comfortable enough to wear all night is no easy task.  But Macy’s had just the right outfit, muted yet glimmering, classy and elegant.  Totally not me, but hey, I can pull it off, I figured. 

I should have recognized the problem as soon as I saw the tag that said, “The glitter on this garment gives it added dimension and beauty.”  OK, that’s kind of what I am looking for.  But then they added this telltale warning: “Due to the natural characteristics of the fabric, some glitter may fall off during wear.”

“Natural characteristics?”  Does that mean gravity?  “Some” glitter?  Because shimmering things were jumping ship as I paid for the outfit at the register.  I wisely asked the salesperson to put it in a separate bag from the black skirt I bought to wear with it.  I even kept it in isolation in the closet until I was ready for the big night. 

As soon as I removed the clothing from the plastic isolation chamber, glitter started raining down on the carpet in the walk-in closet.  As I put it on, more sparkles flew.  I went to the bathroom, sequins went to the floor.  The good news, I figured, was that if I went missing that night, there would be a trail of glitter the authorities could use to trace my steps.  If I had been abducted, there would be no need for DNA testing.  The glitter would provide all the evidence needed to find me. 

When I put on make-up I had glitter on my face.  When I put on my new black patent leather shoes, gold flakes littered the tops.  When I took out my phone to take a picture the fall-out continued, festooning the case. 

Finally, all dressed up and with somewhere to go, I was afraid to enter any room in my house after leaving the bedroom.  Or sit down, for that matter.  I really did not want my new sectional sofa to glow in the dark.

So I went to the garage, leaving a shiny trail through the laundry room.  I grabbed an old towel I keep in the car so that when I sat down in the backseat of my friends’ car, I wouldn’t glitter that up, either.  Now my garage floor has a shimmer it never had before.

Since the party was actually conducted in two separate venues, I’m sure I left plenty of glitter for the cleaning crews to remove.  And the dance floor came alive with that certain glow as I partied with my pals.

And then Cinderella came home from the ball, took off the now slightly less shiny outfit, put on pajamas -- and took out the vacuum.  Just like the real Cinderella (OK, I know it is a fairy tale, but go along with me on this), I went back to work as the clock struck midnight, diligently attempting to round up all of the shiny stuff.  Three times I unplugged the vacuum convinced I had captured it all.  Three times I plugged it back in and tried again.  My bedroom carpet hasn’t been vacuumed this carefully since I moved in, and, yet, I still see evidence of the evening.  I had to keep changing the angle of my head to make sure I could see every last sparkle.  Even this morning there was glitter on my pajamas, my face and my chest.  I didn’t even try to check my hair.  I went to the community pool to work out and probably brought some along with me.  Next, I’ll find it on my bathing suit.

I think the next time around I’ll have to get back to cotton, “the fabric of our lives.”

Here’s the scenario I imagine:  Years from now, when I am dead and gone and the house goes on the market and the realtor is showing it and some older couple (this is an age-restricted community, after all) declares that they love it and want to buy it, they will hesitate for one reason and – no doubt – ask the realtor this question:

“What’s with all the glitter?”





Sunday, May 1, 2016

Tina's April 2016 Movies

April was certainly not the cruelest month when it came to movies.  I really enjoyed a few new ones (denoted with an asterisk*) and I revisited some movies I had seen previously.  I actually stopped watching a few that just were not my cup of tea (for instance, the Robert Redford and Nick Nolte movie "A Walk in the Woods" was awful).  Movies are rated on a scale from 1-5, with 5 being the best.  Numbering picks up from the previous month.

34.  Hello My Name is Doris* (2016) – Sally Field brings strength and a little sass to practically any role in any movie (think “Norma Rae,” and “Places of the Heart,” her two Oscar-winning roles).  Here she is a quirky, lonely, possibly mentally ill woman of a certain age whose mother has died, leaving her in their hoarder-type house by herself.  Each day she takes the ferry to work in Manhattan from Staten Island, collecting broken lamps and other people’s discarded junk along the way.  At the office she is tolerated by her colleagues, thought of as odd and largely left alone.  But one day John (Max Greenfield) starts working at her company, on her floor, and dear old Doris is suddenly smitten with the much younger, handsome and charming young man.  She fantasizes about him, but then fantasy starts to become reality (and starts to become stalking) when they become friends.  Doris’ usual outlandish outfits are considered trendy by his hipster friends, and Doris finds herself out on the town, making new friends and coming out of her shell.  I chuckled often during this movie, even though I knew some of the things Doris thought and did would become disastrous for her.  Still, the charm of the story and accepting and friendly attitude of Doris’ crush John were delightful to see on screen.  4 cans.
35.   Bill Cunningham New York* (2010) – “It’s about the clothes.” That’s the credo of Bill Cunningham, fashion expert and chronicler for The New York Times.  A cheerful man who lives so modestly in comparison to the fashion icons he knows and photographs, Bill can be found bicycling around the streets of New York in search of fashion.  For him, the street is at least as important as the runway, as he and his camera capture things that he spots in his travels, from plaid to fanny packs.  His inherent sense of style made him the ideal choice for The New York Times' Style section, and his “On the Street” photo essays show exactly what is happening in fashion.  Everyone in the fashion industry knows Bill, and, as an octogenarian, he has had time to meet every significant force in fashion for decades.  But he is not like the paparazzi.  He eschews the famous faces for the clothes they wear. This was a fascinating documentary about a man whose joy can be found on the streets of New York.  4 cans.
36.  Joan Rivers – Exit Laughing* (2016) – Abrasive, acerbic and hilariously funny, the late Joan Rivers was nothing if not resilient.  Her career in comedy spanned the little New York clubs and the esteemed Second City in Chicago to Vegas and a stint as the main substitute host on the measuring stick of success for all comedians, Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”  She reinvented herself by delivering her humor in a way that reflected social commentary.  She could be a polarizing figure, as her barbs on modern celebrity engendered vitriol from some people who didn’t get the joke.  But to her peers and today’s new comedians, she remained relevant and as funny as ever until the day she died in 2014.  This loving tribute features plenty of clips of Joan on the stage and from interviews with her as well as comments from the comics who considered her a ground-breaking figure.  While the PBS documentary traces her career, it focuses more on the ways she inspired new generations of comedians, who lovingly acknowledge her influence.  She just wanted to be the funniest person who ever performed, and many would say she achieved that goal.  3½ cans.
37.  Trainwreck* (2015) – Amy Schumer is in-your-face funny.  Blunt, unafraid of saying or doing anything, she has become the symbol of women in charge of their lives, their sexuality and their sex lives.  I admire that approach and her assertiveness, but I can’t say I like it, particularly in this movie, which she wrote (so she bears the brunt of the criticism).  Here she plays a writer for a magazine that seeks sensational stories.  When she has the chance to interview a renowned sports orthopedic surgeon (Bill Hader), the last thing she expects is to fall in love.  If a man is called a womanizer, I guess we can refer to this character as a “manizer,” since Amy flits from one sexual conquest to another, eschewing intimacy in favor of sex – and she is not afraid to tell them what she wants and then kick them out when she’s done.  She drinks too much, says only outrageous and inappropriate things and belittles her married sister (Brie Larson) for having a more conventional life.  We also see her spending time with her ill father (Colin Quinn), the only time she seems like a “normal” person.  Don’t get me wrong – I love some raunchy humor, and I thoroughly enjoyed the gross “Bridesmaids” – but this movie was just too over the top for me. I’m glad I waited to see it until I could watch it for free on HBO (I know, not exactly “free”).  I’ll be eager to see where Amy’s career takes her, and whether she sticks to this kind of low-brow “entertainment.”  2 cans.
38.  Nothing Left Unsaid* (2016) – If Gloria Vanderbilt had not existed in real life, you could never have created her as a fictional character.  This HBO documentary examines her extraordinary life through interviews with her journalist son, Anderson Cooper.  In the spotlight even as a baby (when her immensely rich father, Reginald Vanderbilt, passed away), Gloria first gained fame as the “Poor Little Rich Girl,” the subject of an epic custody battle between her young mother and her grandmother and aunts on the Vanderbilt side.  She married men much older, dated such famous men as Frank Sinatra, partied with Truman Capote, and placed her name on the backside of millions of pairs of jeans.  In between, she was an artist, a model, an actress and an author – and possibly the first woman who was famous just for being famous.  She comes across here as a true survivor, and as a mother connected to her son Anderson, especially after having been on hand as Anderson’s older brother committed suicide by leaping out a window of the family mansion.  She has led many lives, and all of them have been voyeuristically interesting.  4 cans.
39.  Jackie Robinson* (2016) – The legendary Jack Roosevelt Robinson gets the Ken Burns treatment in this PBS documentary.  Burns uses meticulous research, rare footage and photos and interviews with players, writers and, most important, Robinson’s extraordinary wife Rachel to tell the story of the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947.  It is hard to imagine a segregated team in baseball now, but in the 1940’s, the US was still full of blatant discrimination.  Robinson couldn’t use public restrooms unless they were designated for “Coloreds,” and was expected to ride in the back of the bus.  This intricate biography traces his life as a man, an athlete and a symbol, someone who had to subjugate his own views to be the pioneer in his sport.  Even before he retired, he was a major voice in the Civil Rights movement, a highly respected and intelligent thought leader.  It is a moving story, and, like all of Burns’ work, well told.  4 cans.
40.  Ricki and the Flash (2015) – I saw this movie last year and really enjoyed it, and nothing’s changed.  Meryl Streep (of all people) plays a washed up rocker who is estranged from her kids but reenters their lives when her daughter suffers from deep depression.  Meryl can shred some mean guitar AND be a way cool Mom.  I’ll say it again:  Meryl never disappoints!  4 cans, partially for Meryl and the music above the story itself.
41.  Confirmation* (2016) –Based on the actual case, Kerry Washington plays law professor Anita Hill, who is called on to testify about the sexual harassment she suffered while working for Judge Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce) as he is nominated as the first African American to the Supreme Court.  This movie affirmed several things to me:  1. Women are harassed more often that you can imagine and don’t take action because they fear they either won’t be believed (the “he said, she said” syndrome) or they will be attacked for their claim.  2.  I detest politics.  In this dramatization of the Thomas confirmation hearings, few people in the Senate care about what is right or wrong because they are determined only to get the votes to get their guy confirmed.  Hill came forward only after staffers found out about her experience and she was forced to testify.  Thomas claimed the confirmation hearings was a “high tech lynching,” as he vehemently denied claims against him.  Of course, he was confirmed and 20 years later remains on the Supreme Court, where, in my memory, he has rarely been heard from since.  This story is a sad commentary on our political system, and, frankly, not nearly as gripping as the actual events – albeit it, thankfully truncated.  Washington aptly lends a quiet dignity to her portrayal of Hill.  And, for what it is worth, I believed Hill then and believe her today.  At the very least, her testimony defined sexual harassment for women everywhere, and bringing the subject to light was worth it for the country, if not for Hill herself.  3½ cans.
42.  Kissing Jessica Stein (2002) – Long before the days of Tinder, match.com and J-date, people used “the personals” to meet prospective mates.  Here Jessica (Jessica Westveldt), a neurotic New Yorker, is intrigued by an ad read by one of her co-workers, despite the fact that she is straight and the ad is from the “Women Seeking Women” section.  She meets Helen (Heather Juergensen, who co-authored the screenplay with Westveldt), who is pretty sure of her own sexuality, and they proceed to bond as friends and eventually build a romantic relationship, much to the surprise of Jessica’s inner circle and herself.  This movie exudes charm, as the slightly crazed Jess allows herself to be open to new experiences, not an easy thing for the buttoned up artist.  But will there be a happy ending?  You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.  4 cans.
43.  Eye In the Sky* (2016) – Let’s begin with the premise that war is hell.  And no amount of high tech weaponry can make it better.  The remarkable gadgets in this movie enable the military folks to see into windows and blow things up thousands of miles away.  But this tense drama isn’t just about the technology.  It takes the distinct human toll of battle into consideration, as one decision-maker after another avoids making the call that will lead to “collateral damage.”  Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman are the military leaders, their respective staffs located all over the globe.  This movie was not my kind of entertainment, but it was very thought-provoking and well done.  But war IS hell.  3 cans.
44.  Finding the Funk* (2014) – To find the funk, you start with James Brown and his bass player, Bootsy Collins, and work your way through George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelics, past Sly and the Family Stone and head straight to Prince.  The driving, heavy beat of funk, amplified by some cool bass guitar, pervaded music from the 1960s on, running through Chic, Earth, Wind and Fire and today’s artists, like D’Angelo.  I enjoyed this musical history that included groups I never thought of as associated with the funk sound, like the Ohio Players.  3½ cans.
45.  A Few Good Men (1992) – Let the testosterone flow in this classic from writer Aaron Sorkin and director Rob Reiner.  Smug actor Tom Cruise is the perfect Lt. Daniel Kaffey, a smug military attorney who is charged with defending two young Marines accused of murdering someone in their troop.  Kaffee typically avoids court by entering in a plea bargain, but the two defendants are insistent on their innocence.  The case hangs on whether they were ordered to impose a “Code Red” on a recalcitrant cohort for not being a cooperative and willing part of the squad.  The Commander, played by a stern and fiery Jack Nicholson, declares in the most quoted scene that Kaffee can’t handle the truth he is demanding.  Who is to blame for the young man’s death?  Cruise has carved a career out of playing similar characters – never wrong, rarely doubting themselves, and always the hero.  Still, Sorkin writes a good script.  3½ cans.
46.  The Rainmaker (1997) – Matt Damon is inexperienced lawyer Rudy Baylor, who hooks up with a shady law firm in Memphis to get his career started.  But Rudy brings with him a promising case:  A woman whose son is dying wants to sue the insurance company that refuses to pay for his treatment, claiming it is “experimental.”  Rudy is clearly in way over his head – as his opponent (Jon Voight) and even the judge point out.  Helped out by a shrewd lawyer (Danny DeVito) who hasn’t been able to pass the bar, Rudy has a genuinely human touch.  Will the callous law firm stonewall him or will Rudy be able to overcome his naiveté and save the day?  Along the way, he falls for abused wife Kelly (Claire Danes), giving him yet another way to demonstrate his humanity.  Based on a John Grisham novel and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this story is arresting yet warm.  My only complaint is that the bad guys look cartoonishly BAD, and Rudy is a little too much like “Rudy,” the completely earnest football player in the classic sports film.  3½ cans.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Abstract April Thoughts

I just found out that the development where I live has a kiln in the arts & crafts room.  Quick, someone warn Fern Leibowitz!  (And if you don’t get that reference, we may not be able to continue our friendship; it’s from “Animal House.”)

I’m looking forward to summer at my new digs.  For the first time in 8 years, I won’t be the one dragging 50-pound containers of chlorine to throw into the pool (the chlorine, not the containers).  At least I don’t think they will make me do that here!

I’m happy to live in an area where there are public parks and libraries, community theater and other amenities.  I just have to take advantage of these local perks.

On the day you go to the dentist, don’t you brush your teeth as if your life depended on it?  And then you come up with the fabrication about your daily flossing ritual.

I think nothing of blowing $100 on something that I want, or treating friends to movies or manicures, but I will squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of that tube until it screams.

In just a few weeks, on April 28, Douglass alum Mary Norris ’74 will be delivering the Zagoren Lecture on campus as part of the AADC series.  Mary is the author of “Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.”  As a punctuation enthusiast (who knew people had this interest?), I found her book highly entertaining.  I hope my Word Nerd friends will come out and enjoy this free and special evening with the author.

As much as I am a fan of technology – and dependent upon it in so many ways –I am puzzled by the random things that happen.  Losing the phone connection is probably the most common issue, but getting Netflix to load without the spinning wheel, having the wifi connection in the house suddenly disconnect itself, and pairing the phone and headset are just three examples of the problematic issues that we all seem to experience.  But the idea of being able to converse with someone via Facetime or Skype, to connect with family and friends and even to order things on Amazon in the middle of the night without human intervention make the problems seem small.  Unless you are in the middle of House of Cards and that damn Netflix keeps “loading.”

Entertainment has dramatically changed in my lifetime thanks to all of these electronic advancements.  Now I can watch Netflix (when it isn’t “LOADING”), stream movies on Amazon video for “free” (a privilege accorded to paid Prime members, and well worth the annual fee), watch things on demand AND see any of these things plus televised sports on my TV, tablet or phone.  Still, so often I think, “There’s nothing on.”

What IS on, and often on, are reruns of the “Gilmore Girls,” a delightful show about the special bond between a mother and daughter that I was “persuaded” to watch (arm-twisted) by my young Douglass alumnae friends.  Watching seven seasons of anything is a COMMITMENT, but I enjoyed it so much that every morning and evening when I am home I have the TV tuned to one of the two channels that airs reruns.  I keep it on in the background as I get ready for my day or make dinner.  The problem is that the two channels are on different seasons.  One evening last week I saw the episode where the great grandmother dies and then in the next morning's episode the great grandmother arrives for a visit.  I felt like a time traveler.  But it is so worth it.

I must admit that although Paul McCartney was my favorite Beatle, I have never liked any of the music he did with Wings.

Here’s the thing about doing housework: There is no reward in it.  You do a great job and it’s not like you can rest on your laurels, because before you know it, you have to do it again.  NOTE TO SELF:  Must find cleaning service…

I can easily do a 3.2 mile walk, but when I tried the elliptical machine for the first time recently, my thighs were BURNING after two minutes.  Just when I think I’m making progress, I realize that I have a long way to go.

My beloved nephew, Brandon, just turned 23 and lives in Chicago, where he works for Amazon.  Recently he said something to his mother that he has never said before:  “I have a conference call at noon.”  Can’t describe how proud I am.  Oh, and he bought his own Keurig coffee maker recently and his mother sent him a selection of coffees.  My little man is growing up.

I wonder at what point I’ll have to change the listing of my hair color on my driver’s license from brown to gray.  Not that I need to right now, but someday.  Do people do that?  What if you go from brown to blond and then back to brown again and then gray?  Does Uncle Sam care about your myriad of hair colors?  So much to ponder.

My house is always at its cleanest either when company is coming (apparently, just having me here is not incentive enough to clean) or when I have been on the phone for a long period of time.  That’s when the stove, the counters and the refrigerator get swabbed down.  If only I could vacuum while talking.

If you looked at my March Madness brackets for men and women in this year’s NCAA Tournaments, you would have to conclude that I know nothing about basketball.  I barely got any games right.  I should have bet money on UConn winning, because that probably would have resulted in a loss.

I’m confused about the way stores and companies describe things.  If you want a soda, you have to determine which name actually goes with the smallest serving.  Is it a “small?”  A “regular?”  In some places small is, in fact, NOT the smallest size.  I think that even applies to the great ice cream stand, Polar Cub, where you can order a “baby size,” which, by the way, is large enough to be a small.  Get it?

The same logic applied to my recent trip to the nail salon with my BFF.  I just want a regular pedicure, I explained to the technician, hopeful that the language barrier wouldn’t result in an upcharge.  “No,” cautioned the BFF, “you want express.”  I do?  It turns out that the express is one rung below the regular in cost and in time, meaning that they barely touch your cuticles, slap on some polish and get you on your way.  It also turns out that it was the worst manicure I have ever had.  I swear it started chipping as we drove home (the pedicure was passable).  So, next time, I’m going to upgrade to a regular.

Finally on this subject, the place where the description correctly reflects the end product is in the “Tiny Houses” programs I watch on HGTV.  The clients insist they are ready to downsize or to “rightsize” so they can drag their homes behind them by truck.  They are certain that a home no bigger than a garage will offer them plenty of space if organized properly.  They are certain of this until they first step into a tiny house, whereupon they take a look and admit, “This is really small.”  And this comes as a surprise to you, I ask?  I’m sure I have mentioned this before, but I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

I just had a new passport picture taken.  In the pantheon of poor pictures, this one rates only slightly above Nick Nolte's mug shot.  The photographer wouldn’t let me smile and insisted I take off my glasses and raise my chin.  My eyes look red and I have no color at all.  This is what I am guessing the people in “The Walking Dead” look like.

It annoys me that we have to pay more to get people to do their jobs correctly.  I had to mail off my passport (along with the lovely new picture) and I decided I had better send it Priority Mail and with a return receipt just to make sure the Post Office is doing its job.  The last time I renewed my passport, I paid extra to expedite it, which is like saying “we’re not going to do the job you expected, so you need to pay extra to be sure we do.”  Recently a friend posted on social media about getting a bid from a contractor for some work.  He quoted her $1500 for the job, and about double that amount if she wanted him to stand behind his work.  Really?  So he can do a shitty job for $1500 and a good job for $2500?  Needless to say, she didn’t use him.  Where’s our pride in getting it done?  Even the big ticket items we buy are offered with warranty plans at an extra charge so when they fall apart, we will be covered.  How about making them so they work in the first place?  Remember the old Maytag repairman?  That’s the kind of quality we want, where the item never has to be repaired!

Passover is approaching and I just found matzo that is dipped in chocolate in ShopRite.  This is something I did NOT need to discover.  I won’t even walk down that aisle now.














Friday, April 1, 2016

Tina's March 2016 Movies

March Madness had its usual negative effect on my movie watching, so there are only 9 movies to report on this month. However, all of them were movies I had not seen previously (as indicated by the *).  Numbering picks up from previous months, and all films are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the top.

25.  The Magic of Belle Isle* (2013) – Let’s start with the fact that I could listen to Morgan Freeman read the phone book and be entranced.  In this quiet film, he is Monty Wildhorn, a wheelchair-bound author whose inspiration for creating memorable characters died along with his wife.  Now he is content to live out his days doing the one thing that he loves, drinking, which he considers a full-time job.  When a relative takes him to vacation at the empty home of a friend, hoping to help him reconnect with his literary roots, he meets the divorced woman next door and her three daughters, who slowly become central to his life.  He and the mother (Virginia Madsen), have a growing friendship that is unfailingly polite, not even using each other’s first names.  They live in a quiet little town on a lake, where the kids are only minimally connected to social media and are encouraged to spend time outdoors and using their imagination.  Without realizing it, this is exactly what Monty needs to regain his spirit.  This movie was directed by Rob Reiner, who is behind some other lovely, languid movies, though best known for rom-com “When Harry Met Sally.”  Freeman is perfection, his character completely true to his roots. Catch this one on Netflix if you can.  3½ cans.
26.  Take Me Home* (2011) – Road or buddy movies are seldom like this one, a quiet, introspective journey across country by a woman seeking to visit her ailing father (and escape her failing marriage) and a man driving an unregistered cab who picks her up in New York City and agrees to her command to “just drive.”  Maybe it helps that the leads – Sam Jaeger and Amber Jaeger – are married in real life, or that Sam wrote and directed the movie.  He employs the right amount of light humor and desperation as you see a budding friendship you can only hope will develop into something more.  Worth a trip.  3½ cans.
27.  Elsa and Fred* (2014) – The filmmakers trotted out old veterans for this movie about love in later life, with Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer playing the leads.  He is a recent widower whose daughter has dumped him into an apartment building with a health care worker he doesn’t need – especially since his intent is simply to stay in bed all day, every day.  But the woman across the hall has other ideas.  Call her eccentric – call her overbearing and obnoxious, to be more accurate – but Elsa is game for living life to the max.  It turns out that Fred needs her kind of care to improve his health.  She is obsessed by the movie “La Dolce Vita,” and would like nothing more than having a sweet life – with Fred as her partner.  Fred seems to relish the attention, and before you know it, the two are having expensive dinners and skipping out on the check – and that’s just the beginning.  MacLaine can play eccentric in her sleep (see “Steel Magnolias” and “Terms of Endearment”), and Plummer is not in the Alps anymore.  Good cast, not a bad story, but I couldn’t warm up enough to Elsa to really enjoy this movie.  3 cans.
28.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot* (2016) – Suppose you were in the news biz but stuck in a desk job with nothing much about to get you elevated to the next level.  Would your solution to this problem be to get yourself imbedded in a combat unit in Afghanistan?  That’s what Tina Fey’s character, Kim Barker, does in this movie (based on a real story), billed as a comedy/drama largely because of Fey’s rep as a funny woman/writer.  But war is generally hell, not comedy, and this one bears that out.  Kim dodges bullets and the advances of the people she has to interview for stories, all the while living in a dumpy apartment, drinking to excess and looking for the big “get” – interviews with the newsmakers of note.  I found the story different from other “war” movies but repetitive, as we follow Kim’s exploits for several years.  During that time she may have become older and wiser, but her situation remains dodgy and dangerous.  Will she survive?  Will she be a war correspondent forever?  Stay tuned.  Lots of violence, drinking and questionable behavior.  3 cans.
29.  Before We Go* (2014) – Chris Evans forsakes his superhero persona to play a street musician in this sweet movie about two souls who meet and share a long night of adventure in New York.  Brooke (Alice Eve, an actress who reminded me of Elisabeth Shue) is trying to get home to Boston but her purse and money have been stolen.  As she runs through Grand Central Station, she encounters Nick, a former med school student turned musician, who is a nice guy just trying to return the cell phone she dropped while racing by him and his trumpet.  He sees that she is desperate and decides to be gallant and help her.  If you have seen “After Sunset” or “Before Sunrise,” you’ll feel that you have seen this movie before, although it is considerably less preachy and more charming than those Ethan Hawk-Julie Delphy movies.  Nick leads them around New York, trying to round up money to get Brooke to Boston by plane, train or automobile.  Their adventure leads to sharing information about their lives and failed relationships.  It isn’t exactly love at first sight, but you can feel the chemistry between them.  The characters – especially Nick – are charming and seem entirely human, even if they rarely have to take a bathroom break in the after-hours journey.  Evans also directed the movie.  3½ cans.
30.  Everything Is Copy* (2016) – This HBO documentary is Jacob Bernstein’s tribute to his late mother, author/journalist/screenwriter/director Nora Ephron.  Known for her humor as much as her acerbic wit and penchant to control everything, Ephron is best known for writing “When Harry Met Sally,” a rom/com that is in my Top 10 favorite movies.  One of four daughters of screenwriter parents, Nora was born to the business, growing up in Beverly Hills.  She immediately started a career as a writer after college, mainly doing magazine essays but also venturing into daily journalism under publisher Dorothy Schiff of The New York Post.  She drew largely on her own life and probed her contemporaries for their take on relationships of all kinds.  She turned her disastrous marriage to Watergate’s Pulitizer-Prize winning journalist Carl Bernstein into a book and then a movie, “Heartburn,” starring no less than Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.  She worked for esteemed director Mike Nichols on the screenplay for “Silkwood,” also starring Streep.  This love letter to Nora is propelled by her many erudite friends (as well as former husbands) who knew her well and shared much about her as a friend, colleague and character.  I highly recommend this movie if you have ever seen Nora’s work, or, if, like Nora Ephron, you also hate your neck.  4 cans.
31.  The Program* (2016) – I think it is safe to assume that by now everyone knows the story of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.  And although I have seen two documentaries on this subject, somehow I was drawn into this new dramatization of events.  Armstrong was the seven-time winner of the Tour De France, cycling’s premiere event.  Cancer survivor, humanitarian (through his “Livestrong Foundation” and raising millions for cancer research), Armstrong was also deceitful, vindictive and fanatical.  To be on his cycling team meant you had to buy in to “the program,” a carefully plotted and managed regimen of using banned performance enhancing drugs.  So many people were in on the fraud, and yet when they were questioned, they rarely spoke against the megalomaniacal leader of the pack, and, when they did, Armstrong did not merely deny the accusations, he took legal action against their claims.  In this drama, journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) notices early on that Armstrong’s times have improved in a way that seems impossible, and he suspects drug use.  Getting anyone to go up against the face of the sport, the hero who overcame testicular cancer, was next to impossible for Walsh – until the whole scheme ultimately fell apart.  The pat Armstrong answer that he “has never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs” is shown to be untrue. The fall from grace for Armstrong was steep.  The rise to respectability for Walsh was not quite as dramatic.  We live in an age of deniability, where no one seems willing to take responsibility and own up to their actions.  The defense that “everyone else is doing it” is not enough – in my mind – to justify Armstrong and not only what he did but how he treated people in his inner circle, as he built his own image.  Kudos to actor Ben Foster, who must have dropped his body fat number to zero to play Armstrong, and to the rest of the cast.  Karma is a bitch, and it gets you in the end.  3½ cans.
32.  You’re Not You* (2014) – This Hilary Swank movie is about Kate, a talented pianist who contracts ALS, rendering her increasingly immobile and dependent on others for her care.  She and her husband Evan (Josh Duhamel) get by for a while, but as she needs more care, they hire Bec (Emmy Rossum), a wild child college student who stays out late, shows up late and seems exactly what the straight-laced Kate doesn’t need.  But somehow Bec survives her first few weeks, and as Kate’s condition worsens, Bec’s skills improve.  They form a close bond that grows stronger even as Kate’s abilities wane.  ALS is an insidious disease, and when Kate’s friends early on tell her she’s “just tired” and will get stronger, she has to correct them because that is not the progression.  This movie sometimes feels like a Lifetime Movie of the Week, but the acting is too good for the run-of-the-mill tearjerker.  I loved the growing friendship and trust between the young caretaker and the uptight patient, and I appreciated Kate’s sense of guilt for “doing this” to her vibrant husband, who betrays her.  3½ cans.
33.  Georgia O’Keefe: A Woman on Paper* (2016) – This PBS documentary examines the life and work of the famous American artist O’Keefe, whose charcoal sketches first attracted attention in the 1915 timeframe.  O’Keefe was the mother of modernism among female artists and was influenced by the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz, whom she later married.  He was the first person to show her work in his gallery.  To look at the color and richness of her work, which shines with simplicity, is to see the evolution of a modern, independent woman.  I have a photograph that I took at the Presby Memorial Iris Garden in Montclair that I always refer to as “my Georgia O’Keefe” because it gets up close and personal with a white flower.  O’Keefe’s style is instantly recognizable, and her influence, even 100 years after she began her career, is undeniable.  I loved watching this movie and seeing so much of her work from her ultimate home, New Mexico.  Her paintings enhanced the beauty of the landscapes that inspired her.  4 cans. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

More of My Meandering Mind


Oprah, stop talking about eating that damn bread.  I’m on Weight Watchers, too, and you’re making me hungry!

No matter which button I press on the refrigerator, I always get crushed ice – unless those are supposed to be mini-cubes.

I don’t know why I bother to watch the Food Network.  It is filled with things I either can’t or won’t eat and that I would never be able to cook anyway.

I don’t mind meal prep and cooking, but clean-up?  I’m sick of it.  I know I can use paper plates, but I really need disposable pots and pans.

If Facebook eliminated posts showing cute animals and babies, or stopped people from political rants, there wouldn’t be much left.  That would be fine with me.

What is “same difference” supposed to mean?  Things are either the same or they are different.  And “I could care less” must mean you actually DO care, since you could lower the care level.  Strange language, this English.

Why do people just assume that you are interested in whatever they are interested in?  And why do people assume you know what they are talking about?  She says: “You know, my brother's job in the circus…”  Me, thinking to myself:  “She has a brother?”  “What circus?”  I once had an entire conversation with someone about paint, a subject about which my entire knowledge includes a roller or a brush.  I try never to assume anything, including the fact that someone I seldom see or only met once even knows my name.

Can someone explain why the local Spanish Restaurant, named “Spain 92” (I get that it is a Spanish restaurant, but I’m not sure of the 92 part; it must be the year it started) is featuring an “Irish Fiesta?” I’m so confused.

There is a local restaurant that has been out of business for about two years.  Yet the sign on the marquee says, “Thanks for your support.”  Is that supposed to be sarcastic?  Because if enough people supported the business, wouldn’t the restaurant still be open?  Just wondering.

I still use the word “Yikes.”  Is it just me?

You know you are sick when you stick a thermometer in your mouth to take your temperature and it feels refreshingly cool.

Why do they make the blister packs with pills so hard to open (I know, I know, TYLENOL poisonings and all that)?  Seriously, I need a hacksaw to pop some pills.  And when you feel as sick as I did recently, everything is too tough to handle. 

Sometimes I think of stop signs as just suggestions.  I doubt that explanation would fly with a cop.

I really don’t understand why UFC fighting is considered a sport.  Isn’t it just two people beating the crap out of each other?  Why is that a sport?  And why (money aside) would anyone want to do this?

This getting old is not easy.  I’ll be walking along and suddenly, for no apparent reason, my ankle will start to hurt.  Or I get out of bed in the morning and some random body part hurts for no specific reason.  That’s when I reach for the Motrin and think that getting old is a bitch.

My fingers have been so dry and cracked this winter that if I got arrested, I doubt that the authorities would be able to get a good fingerprint.

I find it ironic that when people drive to the gym, they fight to park as close as possible to the entrance.  Isn’t the whole point of going to get exercise?  So walk a little more!

There is an ice cream stand on Hamilton Street in Somerset that I passed every day on my way to work for years when I first lived in town.  To me, winter officially began when the windows would be boarded up, and the harbinger of spring was always when the place opened up again. So I was horrified when I drove past it recently and saw a large “For Sale” sign in front.  Now the place is open, but will it stay that way?  How will I define the seasons if it goes out of business?  Such problems!

Have you ever had a manicure and while your nails are being polished, you already know you hate the color you picked?  But then you feel badly saying something.  A friend of mine once left the salon, drove down the street, entered another salon and asked for just a “color change.”  I didn’t really like the color I selected the last time (that’s the bad news), but it was probably the worst manicure I have ever had, because it was chipped by the next day (the good news?) and less than a week later, I’m taking what little remains off my hands – so to speak. 

Oreo cookies now come in mega stuff, double stuff, thin, minis, vanilla, chocolate, mint, peanut butter, lemon, red velvet and even root beer (I hear).  These are NOT my mother's Oreos.  My mother wrote to Nabisco to suggest using a box instead of the old cellophane wrapper and she always took credit for the idea when Oreos showed up in a box.  I wonder what she would think of today's wide variety.

I have lived in this house for 6 months now and I still turn the wrong way when I reach for the light switches when entering a room. 

I’m going to end this month’s edition on a serious note.  Recently I lost a very dear friend, John Graf, who was a well-known character and friend to so many people in this area.  John’s death was sudden and unexpected, which makes his loss even harder to accept.  A former President of both the United Way of Somerset County and of the Cagers Club (the fan club for Rutgers Women’s Basketball), John was a loyal and enthusiastic basketball fan who attended home and away games.  He recruited me to join the Cagers Club, and I relished becoming part of that special family.  Our trip around the country in 2014 for the Women’s National Invitational Tournament – won by Rutgers – was a great experience.  John was also a gifted singer who often performed the National Anthem before Rutgers games, and I remember him performing at Madison Square Garden at a New York Liberty game.  He had legions of friends in politics, philanthropy (where he raised enormous amounts of money for countless charities) and within the local theater community.  As a non-denominational minister, he performed thousands of weddings, baptisms and funerals.  He was there at so many significant moments for the people he loved and he made such a difference in their lives.  Now he is cheering from the best seats in the house.  I picture my late friend and fellow fan Rose spotting John entering the pearly gates and saying to him, “What are YOU doing here?”  He is gone way too soon, and the RAC in particular and life in general will be an emptier place without him.  Goodbye, my friend.