Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ever More Random Thoughts, November 2014 Edition

My GPS got lost sending me to Walgreen’s the other day.  It turns out it isn’t really on the corner of Happy and Healthy.

Why is it that every time I have an appointment with the eye doctor that requires that my pupils be dilated, that day is the brightest, sunniest day of the week?  I exit the office nearly blinded by the light and proceed to attempt to drive home.  I guess this question is the converse of why it always seems to rain when I put out massive amounts of newspaper and junk mail for recycling.  Speaking of which, here is the rule:  If you put out the recycling the night before the pick-up, it will be picked up late in the day.  But if you forget to put it out the night before and drag your recycling can out on the morning of the pick-up, you will have missed it because the truck came early.  Am I right?

Isn’t it ironic that when you go to the doctor you become the patient, but when they leave you in the examination room in that flimsy paper gown for 30 minutes with magazines from 1997 to read you become impatient?

They used to refer to James Brown as the hardest-working person in show business.  I think the title now belongs to Flo for all those Progressive Insurance commercials.  That woman is everywhere!

I am so tired of making my bed.  I mean, I do it every day (the only exception being when I am sick enough to stay in it all day), but it is the same routine every day.  I wouldn’t think of NOT making it, but I am tired of the routine.  Just saying.

I saw a sign on the corner the other day advertising a garage sale.  It occurred to me that GARAGE and GARBAGE are the same except for the addition of the letter B.  Ironic, considering how much GARBAGE you see at GARAGE sales.

I am available to star in a sequel to the movie “This Is 40” and call it “This Is 64.”  I wonder if Hollywood would be interested.

So I see that big butts are all the rage in music and videos.  This couldn’t have been the case before I lost 80 pounds? 

Do you put something on your To Do List after you have done it just so you can cross it off?  I thought so.

We all have the best of intentions.  When we designate a special, cozy spot for a chair and a lamp so we can read and quietly enjoy a cup of tea, we actually think we will find time to do that, but how rarely does that happen — if ever?

As women, we will come up with whatever excuse we find necessary to justify buying a new handbag or pair of shoes, but, if you are like me, you probably continue to use those old, stained potholders you have had for 20 years.  Come on, they are potholders.  You can replace them without feeling guilty about spending the money after, say, maybe 10 years.

I am sure you clean up before the cleaning lady arrives — like I do — but I also stomp around the living room so she has to vacuum it and doesn’t think I never go in there because you can still see the marks from the last time she vacuumed.

What happens when a woman with a hyphenated last name marries a man with a hyphenated last name and she wants to use her name with his?  Sarah White-Jones Baxter-Burnside?  Good luck to THEIR kids.

I’ve reached the point in life where, when I find a sock with a hole in it, I toss it out and save the other sock, which then gets paired with another solo sock, whether or not they match.  Caution, this practice works best with white, athletic socks.

Speaking of sox, I’m always perplexed when I spot one gnarly-looking sock lying in the street.  I picture the sock’s journey to this escape from the washer or dryer into the sewer system and wonder, is this what happens to a missing sock?  Do they really go all Andy Dufraine and find a way out to “freedom?”

Don’t you hate it when you cannot find something and you keep looking where you just KNOW it will be and it still isn’t there, but you keep telling yourself, “It will turn up,” because that’s what your mother always said, and it is still missing?  This is my way of saying that the hydrocortisone cream I had in the pocket of my sweatpants escaped and remains a fugitive in this house.  Someday, when I move, I KNOW it will be located, but by then it will be too late.  You have been replaced, relieved of your duties, Mr. Hydrocortisone.  But I still think if I look under the chair for the 38th time you will be lying there in wait. 

I watch a lot of HGTV programs where people are renovating houses.  On “House Hunters Renovation,” the people who have just bought a house end up completely redoing it.  There are “Bath Crashers” and “Kitchen Crashers,” where the hosts lurk in the aisles of Lowe’s until they find someone willing (and smart enough) to agree to have their bathroom or kitchen renovated for free by professionals — in what they claim to be three days.  Who would be stupid enough to turn down such an offer?  And now I note a plethora of celebrity renovation shows.  Vanilla Ice renovates homes for Amish people.  As unlikely as that seems, “Beverly Hills 90210” alum Jennie Garth is renovating her own home on her own TV show.  William Shatner has a renovation show — renovating the Starship Enterprise?  And Daryl Hall of the duo Hall & Oates seems to have a lot of experience in rebuilding old homes.  Even Olympic ice skater Brian Boitano is a designer.  Or is his a cooking show?  I’m getting confused with the Food Network now.  The point is that it seems anyone can have a chop saw, a nail gun and a TV show these days, and you don’t have to be the Property Brothers.

At Weight Watchers recently we discussed posture, and how maintaining the correct posture helps keep your core muscles strong.  Good luck to the next generation, I say.  The only strong muscles they will have are their hand muscles, as they walk slumped over, clutching their smartphones and rarely looking up to see if cars are coming.  I’m no better, by the way.  I slouch, though I try to remind myself to walk erect, but my excuse is I have to keep my head down so the brim of my hat keeps the sun out of my eyes.  This excuse does not work for me on a cloudy day, I must admit.

I recently had a long-delayed reunion with a dear friend with whom I worked back in the 1970s.  We have always stayed in touch but have only seen each other sporadically.  It is amazing to me how it does not matter how much time has passed between visits, because we pick up the conversation as if we just spoke 10 minutes ago.  If you have people in your life like this, you are lucky.  You know who you are.

I have acquired the (well-deserved) reputation of being a grammar freak, as evidenced by the number of posts on Facebook that point out errors and mention my name (not for making the errors, but because these folks know I will be in full-on twitch mode when I see them).  That reputation is not to say I don’t make the occasional error myself (though it is more likely to be a typo than a grammar mistake).  My sister thought it was odd that after I retired I bought several new grammar books.  After all, she reasoned, I wasn’t working anymore, so I wouldn’t need them.  But I’m still writing, I explained, and I still want to do it right. 

Lately, I’ve been going through old pictures — actual photographs and even slides —  weeding out the thousands of pictures I have taken of trees and flowers and ducks on a pond, and especially going through the wedding pictures of people whom I no longer see and who aren’t even married to each other anymore.  In the process, I have come across plenty of pictures of myself that made me say out loud, “What could you have been thinking when you picked THAT outfit?”  I hope I don’t do that in the next picture purge, looking at today’s clothes with the same degree of disdain in 20 years.  Assuming I’m still around in 20 years and know how to purge, that is.

A friend told me a story about buying something recently at Kohl’s for $55 that was on sale for half price, AND she had Kohl’s cash, AND she had a coupon, AND she had some other promo, so, when the cashier rang her up, the item was down to $6.30, AND she still asked the cashier for a scratch off coupon, all while her daughter looked on in total embarrassment.  My hero!

It is deer season here in Hillsborough, so you never know when you might — God forbid — literally run into a deer on the road.  I have noticed that they seldom look before bolting across the street. They also seem illiterate, since they rarely read the signs that say “Deer Crossing” and just cross anywhere they choose.

My superstitions have become “stupid”stitions.  Last year I designated certain pairs of socks, certain underwear and certain shirts to wear to Rutgers Women’s Basketball games.  If they won, I kept these items in the rotation, but if they lost the game, the garments were banned.  When I hit the road for the WNIT Championship, I had to keep washing the shirt I wore to the games since the team kept winning, even though there was barely time to get home and throw in a load.  So I showed up at the Championship game in the winning shirt only to see the team wearing black uniforms for the first time all season.  I guess their uniform color didn’t matter, and I’m hoping this year my choice of the aforementioned items won’t either.  Then, maybe, I can tackle my issue of parking in the same location so as not to jinx the team.

One of my sister Douglass alumnae contributed this random thought for this month’s blog, and I have to say I am with her 100%:  She says she dislikes being in a store and being rung up at the register while the cashier carries on a full conversation with one of the other nearby cashiers.  What is the proper response to this situation?  I don’t like when that happens to me, any more than I like the fact that the cashiers can barely make change on those rare occasions when they confronted with actual cash.  Any suggestions for a proper (or improper) response to the former situation will be graciously accepted for future use.

I turned on the Hallmark Channel the other day to watch an episode of “The Golden Girls,” only to find that the network has already begun airing those truly insipid holiday movies, most of which were made for TV and few of which are worth watching.  It wasn’t even the 1st of November.  This morning I heard two Christmas songs on the Love station on Sirius radio, which I hope doesn’t mean that the station is converting to all-holiday, all of the time, already.  I’ll be sticking with ESPN radio or my iPod instead.

Happy Holidays to you…

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tina's October 2014 Movies

I tried to see as many movies as I could in October, before basketball season begins to occupy my time.  Here are the 15 that made the cut.  Numbering picks up from previous months and movies marked with an * are those I have not seen previously.  Movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna fish, with 5 being the top grade.

127.  The Rule* (2014) — I don’t know anything about Benedictine monks or private schools in Newark, New Jersey, so this documentary about St. Benedict’s was eye-opening.  I knew the reputations of St. Benedict’s accomplished athletic teams, but the school provides so much more — a safe, nurturing environment where kids can learn academics and self-worth, even while they navigate the sometimes scary streets of Newark.  The monks follow the principles of St. Benedict himself, which focus on community, trust, connectedness and other qualities that are foreign to many of the students.  The monks are a dedicated but realistic lot, ceding responsibility to the students to police themselves and giving them leadership responsibilities that they can use later in life.  Any educational institution that can claim a high graduation rate and where most of the students go on to college is a successful one in these turbulent urban areas, and St. Benedicts has achieved that record.  I was impressed.  3½ cans.  
128.  Love Is Strange* (2014) — There actually is nothing strange about this love story between George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow).  The couple has been together for 39 years when they decide to get married.  Immediately, George loses his job as a music teacher at a New York Catholic high school because his marriage defies the teachings of the church.  He and Ben are forced to sell their beloved New York City apartment and, because their friends and relatives live in small places of their own, they have to split up, George living with hard-partying friends and Ben bunking —literally — in the bottom bunk in the room of his teenaged great nephew.  Both feel displaced and in the way, interfering in the lives of their new landlords and missing their private time together.  This is a poignant story that illustrates the complications of life together and apart — and of living in the city.  Molina and Lithgow underplay to perfection.  While I did not agree with the title, I was captivated by the Chopin music used liberally throughout the score.  I haven’t liked non-musical movie music this much since the soundtrack from “Cinema Paradiso.”  It made me want to find Chopin on my iPod once again.  3½ cans.
129.  My Old Lady* (2014) — I think THIS movie should have been called “Love Is Strange,” because in this movie, it sure is.  Kevin Kline plays Mathieus Gold, who has inherited an apartment in France from his late father.  When he goes to claim it so he can sell it, he finds the formidable 92-year old Madame G. (Maggie Smith) living there.  Apparently there is an odd practice in France where one buys an apartment but cannot take ownership of the property until the present owner dies.  While Smith may not be buying green bananas, she nonetheless is destined to outlive us all.  This sounds like a comedy, but it isn’t.  Mathieus learns things about the father he hardly knew and meets Smith’s daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas), while we wonder about whether they may be related since her mother had a long affair with his father.  Kline’s Mathieus is a sad sack, bereft of money, friends and self-esteem.  Normally I find Kevin Kline so charming and engaging that I kept picturing a more appropriately sardonic Bill Murray in this role.   Love may be strange here after all, but I didn’t find this movie either uplifting or compelling despite the presence of Maggie Smith in the title role.  2½ cans. 
130.  Driving Miss Daisy (1989) — An old Jewish woman falls in love with an old black man.  OK, that’s not how this story is billed, but the bond that develops between the persnickety Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy) and her obliging chauffeur Hoke (Morgan Freeman, in my second favorite Morgan Freeman movie, after “The Shawshank Redemption”) is a special friendship.  Miss Daisy is a southern lady living in a large house by herself, getting by with the help of her son (Dan Ackroyd) and staff.  She doesn’t want to give up driving herself to the Piggly Wiggly, but after she crashes the car one too many times, her son hires Hoke to drive her around.  At first she won’t give him anything to do and won’t even get in the car, but, over time, the ice melts and she comes to trust and appreciate him.  This story is about love and respect that is hard-won.  I love this movie.  4 cans.
131.  Young Victoria (2010) — It’s not easy being queen.  Just ask 18-year old Victoria, who ascends to the throne in England as the only descendent of her uncle the king and his brothers.  But Victoria (Emily Blunt) is pushed and pulled by her mother the duchess and her advisor, both of whom want her to turn over her powers until she is older.  The poor young woman is like a prisoner in a very lavish jail where she is not permitted to attend school or even to descend a staircase without a helping hand.  But Victoria is stronger than she looks, and she’s not about to give it all up for her self-centered mother and her power-hungry advisor.  Besides, she is in love with Albert (Rupert Friend), a distant cousin from Germany who may have his own aspirations.  Lavish sets and costumes make this a dazzling vision of royalty at its best and worst.  3½ cans.
132.  Good Morning, Miss Dove (1955) — Jennifer Jones plays the title character, a taciturn school teacher who we can disparagingly call an “old maid.”  She is devoted to her students and her craft, as we see through a series of flashbacks that show her first as an active young woman who is forced into a life of work that was unplanned.  Along the way, her students become police officers, doctors and mothers.  I remember first seeing this movie when I was a teenager and admiring Miss Dove’s devotion, but I have to admit that now it seems so stiff and outdated.  Still, there is always room for movies about characters who behave with honor as they try to elevate the standards of those around them.  2½ cans.
133.  Gone Girl* (2014) — This review will be very short so I don’t spoil the story for you.  Ben Affleck and Rosamind Pike are Nick and Amy Dunne, an attractive young couple seemingly in love with each other and living a comfortable and happy life in the Midwest.  Suffice to say that things are not always as they seem.  If you have read the book, you’ll find this movie to be a faithful rendering the Gilliam Flynn’s story (since she wrote the screenplay), complete with twists and turns.  Don’t try to figure it out, just go along for the ride.  Well worth seeing.  4 cans.
134.  Up in the Air (2009) — Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a man with almost no baggage.  Even the suitcase he carries on his nearly daily business flights is exceedingly well thought out.  He leaves no room for ambiguity in his life, which revolves around his job, working for a firm that specializes in firing people for companies who cannot or will not pull the trigger.  He has virtually no personal life, which suits him just fine.  His big aspiration is to get to 10 million flight miles and get a special gold card from the airline.  All that is fine until he meets Alex, the female version of himself (Vera Farmiga) and suddenly he has to juggle his schedule to spend time with her.  Meanwhile, he is training a young woman (Anna Kendrick, looking too young to work at anything other than a lemonade stand) to be as detached as he is as they deliver life-changing news to emotionally overwrought soon-to-be former employees.  The social commentary in this is stunning, as the diminished value of people and their work is at the forefront.  Oh, the humanity — or lack thereof.  Clooney is perfect as Bingham, charming with Alex, unyielding as the executioner.  And many of the people depicted being fired are real victims of unemployment, so their presence lends an air of authenticity.  4 cans.
135.  Stakeout (1987) — It is probably not a good idea for a police officer to fall in love with the person he/she is supposed to be staking out, but that’s what happens with Chris (Richard Dreyfus) and Maria (Madeliene Stowe).  Maria’s ex (Aidan Quinn) has just escaped prison and the cops are assigned to keep an eye on her lest the bad guy show up.  So Chris and his partner Bill (Emilio Estevez) hole up in the house across the street to check her out.  This film is part buddy movie (and Dreyfus and Estevez have great chemistry), part action movie (check out the sequence near the beginning at a fish processing plant) and part inadvertent love story.  Stowe and Dreyfus are charming together, and Dreyfus’ Chris is a clever guy.  This movie came out around the same time as two similar ones that I also liked very much: “Running Scared” with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines and “Midnight Run” with Robert DeNiro as a bounty hunter and Charles Grodin as his prey, who almost drives the hunter crazy.  Three fun films, fans.  3½ cans.
136.  Hoosiers (1986) — With basketball season about to start, what better movie to enjoy than this quintessential sports classic about the disgraced coach who leads the small-town underdog team to the state championship game?  Gene Hackman is a memorable Norman Dale, a tough coach whom the townsfolk don’t appreciate at first.  In the beginning Coach Dale barely has enough players to take the court, and the best player in school won’t even come out for the team.  Yes, the story is riddled with the usual sports clichés, but this tale, based on the true story of an Indiana team in the early 1950s, will win your heart as much as they win their games.  And from a basketball standpoint, these guys look like they can actually play.  4 hoops and a holler.
137.  When the Garden Was Eden* (2014) — Speaking of basketball, this documentary from ESPN’s “30 for 30” series examines the rise of not only the new Madison Square Garden in the 1960s-1970s, but also its inhabitants, primarily the New York Knicks.  Until the NBA really began rolling nationally, it seemed that only the Boston Celtics won the Championship each year, often at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.  But in the late 60s and early 70s, the Knicks moved into the new Garden at Penn Station and, with the move, came the such unique players as Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Dave Debusschere, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Jerry Lucas, Cassie Russell, Phil Jackson, future Senator Bill Bradley — who deferred his basketball career for two years so he could be a Rhodes Scholar — and Willis Reed, whose walk onto the floor for the 7th game of the 1970 Championship, despite what seemed like a devastating injury, became the stuff of legend.  Before the rise of the Knicks, the Garden was the raucous home of college basketball and the cigar-smoking, betting men who followed the game.  But the Knicks brought glamour and winning and attracted the stars to courtside.  The team that emphasized teamwork won championships in 1970 and 1973 and hasn’t won since.  But it was great while it lasted.  This film was a labor of love for actor/director Michael Rapaport, a native New Yorker who wasn’t even alive back in the Knicks heyday but grew up steeped in their lore.  If you know anything about pro basketball, you probably know this story, but to relive it was a real treat.  4 hoops.
138.  The Fault In Our Stars* (2014) — Any movie that starts off with the protagonists meeting in a cancer support group for teenagers cannot end well, but we are willing to come along for the all-too-brief ride because the characters of Hazel Grace (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) are just so appealing.  Hazel is going to die someday from lung cancer that has almost killed her once, but Gus, who has already lost his lower leg to cancer, looks healthy and recovered.  The two share witty texts, become fast friends and head out to Amsterdam to catch up with her favorite author (Willem Dafoe) to find out what happened to the characters in the book she loves.  They enjoy a romantic dinner and imbibe in champagne as they fall in love.  Gus is cute as can be, and Hazel, sporting a cannula for oxygen, reluctantly falls for him since she knows one of them will end up alone.  This movie is a good example of the book being better than the screen adaptation.  Something about the dialog just made it pop off the page, where, when delivered by the characters on screen, it seems contrived.  It is little corny, a little sad, and probably intended as “Love Story” for a generation 40 years younger than me.  Read the book instead.  3 cans.
139.   The Judge* (2014) — Smug Chicago lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) has a challenging client, an irascible, elderly judge who is being tried for murder in a small Indiana town.  The client, Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) doesn’t want to take his attorney’s advice, and, in fact, treats him such disdain that it hamper’s Hank’s trial strategy.  Add the fact that Hank is his son, and the matter becomes that much more complicated.  Long-festering emotions spill out even as Hank is forced to care for his father in ways he never imagined.  As you can imagine, father and son begin to look at each other with new respect and less venom.  I’ve never been a big RDJ fan, but he holds his own against crusty Duvall.  Vera Farmiga plays Hank’s former high school sweetheart and adds a twist to the story.  I suspect that when Oscar time rolls around, at least Duvall will hear people say, “Here comes the Judge.”  4 cans.
140.  The Best of Me* (2014) — The Nicholas Sparks formula is getting a tad too familiar:  Young, attractive, star-crossed lovers get together, break apart, reunite years later, something BIG happens, etc.  I don’t want to give away the plot, but I did find this outing better than the other Sparks movies I’ve seen, at least since the classic tearjerker, “The Notebook,” which I love.  I really enjoyed this one, too, with a very handsome James Marsden as Dawson Cole, the boy from the wrong side of the tracks (played as a young man by a very handsome Luke Bracey, with echoes of Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook”) and Michelle Monaghan as Amanda (younger version by Liana Liberato), the rich girl who doesn’t care about Dawson’s trashy and dangerous family.  The knight in shining armor is Gerald McRaney as Tuck, the local man who takes in young Dawson and becomes a surrogate father to the troubled teen.  When Tuck dies, Dawson and Amanda are summoned by his lawyer to dispose of his ashes and his things, reuniting after 21 years and many unhappy memories.  But do you ever really get over your first love?   And is love alone enough to make the relationship endure despite obstacles?  This is probably not a movie to which to drag the man in your life, but it is one I can imagine myself binge watching when it hits TV and someone airs it incessantly.  It wasn’t the best of Sparks, but it was close enough.  4 cans.

141.  The Departed (2006) — Moles, rats, mobs and tons of blood populate this suspenseful drama by Martin Scorsese.  Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young state trooper recruited by police (Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen) to go undercover with the mob in Boston, which is led by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson, looking a bit demented, like the character in “The Shining”).  His counterpart is Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), raised and planted in the police department to be the rat by Costello.  Each man knows someone on the other side has infiltrated their respective organizations, and each scene draws them closer to figuring out who is whom.  Just when you think one of them will be unmasked, there is a twist.  The tension stays at a high level throughout the story, and, by the end, you don’t know who is legit and who has sold his loyalties to the highest bidder.  This film is also my third with Vera Farmila this month, as she plays a police psychologist involved with both Billy and Sullivan.  4 handguns.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Random Thoughts, October 2014 Edition

Here’s my theory and I know it is true:  Whatever you have to do takes up the time in which you have to do it.  So I can accomplish either 10 things on a very busy day or two things on a relatively free day. There are 24 hours in each day, and we manage to fill them up (and then some) every day, don’t we?  By the way, I have this same theory about kitchen cabinets:  No matter how many cabinets you have in your kitchen, you will find something to fill them up.

What are we supposed to do with all those miscellaneous vases that accumulate from flower deliveries?  Some are nice, most are cheap, and, not that I get flowers that often, they pile up.  My local florist was happy to take them off my hands and even gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers for bringing them in.  I said I would take the flowers — as long as they weren’t in a vase.

I think nothing of spending money on big things, but I will nurse an emery board along until there is nothing left with which to file my nails. 

If Beyoncé went into the home furnishings business, she could sell her collection at Bed, Bath and Beyoncé.

I saw this on Facebook so it isn’t an original thought, but it is certainly true:  I will carry 18 bags of groceries into the house at one time or die trying rather than make 2 trips.  Throw in a handbag and a camera just to make the load that much more impossible to bear and you have me in a nutshell.

Thank you, Dr. Oz, for your obvious concern about my health.  Every single day you send me a message about “a new fat buster that burns belly fat without dieting.”  I’m starting to think this whole Dr. Oz thing might not be legit.  Thoughts?

With all of the HGTV home sales and improvement shows I watch, I now think I have seen every home in the US and Canada.  And I should have a certification in carpentry and design just by osmosis.

I will be moving next year, which should give me ample time to get rid of my collections of things like those perfume strips that come in magazines, countless candles that I don’t burn (along with candleholders) and a collection of canvas bags that never seems to diminish despite my having donated a bunch to a good cause a few years back.  How some of this stuff made it through my last move (in 2007), I cannot fathom.  But this time I am ditching the receipts for the monthly mortgage payments from my first house — in 1983!  I don’t think I need them anymore.  Right?

Parking is getting more difficult these days.  At Weis’ markets, there are spaces blocked for people picking up their on-line orders.  At Kohl’s, there are spaces reserved for “Employee of the Month.”  At Buy, Buy Baby, spaces are allotted for people with infants and pregnant women.  It takes me longer the read the signs indicating the parking restrictions than it does to shop in the store.  The good thing is that having to park further away assures that I get some walking in.

My hair is becoming gray, and it is especially noticeable since I haven’t had it highlighted in a while.  It is growing on me, so to speak.  I wonder what it will look like when I am completely gray, because, at least right now, I’m not planning to color it.  So does that mean I have to get a new driver’s license and change my hair color listing from brown to gray? 

How can you tell whether a pumpernickel bagel is toasted?  Don’t wait for the punchline; I really don’t know the answer.

I think there is something drastically wrong with my car.  It cannot be parked straight.  Maybe it is a parallelogram instead of a rectangle, because it couldn’t be the driver (me), could it?

Where do we get the expression “a month of Sundays?”  I mean, every month has 4 Sundays, right?  So does the expression mean every day in the month is a Sunday?  I know it means a long time, but where did we get this expression?

Let the Ray Rice incident serve as a cautionary tale to show that you can go from hero to zero with one incredibly offensive and harmful act, changing your life and those around you forever.  Smarten up, people.  Domestic violence — or any violence — is just not acceptable.  Deplorable.

I cannot bring myself to toss out paper clips.  When I recycle paper, I always remove the clips and save them to reuse. 

For someone who doesn’t sew, I have a collection of buttons that could go into the Guinness Book of World Records.  I must have the extra buttons from every article of clothing I have ever bought.  I’m afraid to throw them out, because what if I need one? Of course, there’s always the cleaners, where they sew buttons on for me because I either can’t see the needle to thread it or I will stab myself in the finger.  Don’t laugh.  It has happened more than once.

Is it just me or does the name Ariana Grande sound less like a singer and more like a beverage from Starbucks?

I can’t be the only one who sees the irony of having the all-you-can-eat buffet Flaming Grill located next to Retro Fitness.

I wish these social media sites would stop asking me if I know So and So.  Maybe I do, maybe I don’t, but do I need one MORE way of connecting with people?  There aren’t enough hours in the day!

There are few things I hate to do more or at which I am worse than scheduling, the bane of my existence.  Ask me for a particular date and I can check my calendar for a quick yes or no.  But ask me to gather 6 women for dinner or lunch and I'm overwhelmed with everyone's vacation schedules, commitments (legit ones, I know) and other plans.  I need a spreadsheet -- or an administrative assistant.

I truly believe that there is no one who knows the real words to "Louie, Louie," or who can figure out why that damn cake is melting in the rain in "MacArthur Park."  It amazes me that the latter song was recorded not just by actor Richard Harris but also released by the Disco Diva herself, Donna Summer.  You think maybe they got it and I didn't?

Speaking of music, like U2, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.  But I also can't remember what it was.

I see that Rutgers just created an endowed chair in communications that is named for Gloria Steinem.  That got me to thinking that if they ever named an endowed chair for me, it would have to be a recliner.

When did Halloween get to be such a big deal?  When I was a kid, we slapped on some concocted outfit and a mask, grabbed a bag (and were forced to wear a coat OVER our costumes if Mom thought it was too cold out) and headed out to collect out loot.  Now it seems that Halloween is big business.  Temporary stores pop up for the month leading up to the big day, lawns are festooned with inflatable characters sporting “Boo” signs, and at least one house I pass on my walk has a skeleton riding a bike on the front lawn.  I hate Halloween.  I don’t want to buy candy and keep in it my house, I don’t want the doorbell interrupting whatever I happen to be doing, and I basically just don’t want to be home.  So I am going out to dinner with like-minded, snarky friends, all of whom lack the true spirit of the holiday.  Get it?

I rarely get calls on my cellphone, so when I get a random call from an unknown source, it is probably going to be someone dying to give me a free cruise, a vacation home or a hard time.  I just registered my cell phone on the national Do Not Call hotline, which is a quick and easy thing to do.  When sales people call my phone, I ask them if they are aware of the Do Not Call registry and I tell them that it is illegal for them to call me since I am registered and I will report them.  The conversation usually comes to a quick halt.  These calls are SO annoying!

Is it just me or are those Matthew McConaghey Lincoln commercials just a tad creepy?

Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “If it were up to me…”  Then I realize that, in most situations, it IS up to me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tina's September 2014 Movies

With 14 hours of "The Roosevelts" occupying much of September, I was lucky to squeeze in a dozen movies this month (and I counted the 14-hour documentary on Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor as just one).  Movies not previously seen are marked with an * and the numbering picks up from the previous month.  Movies are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 cans of tuna fish, 5 being the best.

115.  The Young Philadelphians (1959) — Anthony Judson Lawrence (Paul Newman) is raised as the scion of a Mainline Philadelphia family with a Princeton education and a career as a lawyer.  He falls in love with an equally privileged young woman (Joan, played by Barbara Rush), but is persuaded to delay their marriage by her father, who makes him a better offer.  It seems as if every Mainline person in Philadelphia knows everyone else, and all the old men look like the pictures on the “Community Chest” and “Get Out of Jail Free” cards in Monopoly.  Tony’s family secrets and his way of life are put on trial when he has to defend his college roommate (Robert Vaughn) in court against a charge of murder.  This drama has a great courtroom climax and enough of a plot to overcome its soap opera tendencies.  Newman is terrific and very handsome, the women are sophisticated and haughty, and Billie Burke, as a wealthy if somewhat ditsy client, is delightful.  I am guilty as charged of loving this movie.  4 cans.
116.  Spencer’s Mountain (1963) — I recall being more enamored by this family movie when I first saw it at age 13, but now it seems pleasant enough but more dated and corny.  Henry Fonda plays Clay Spencer, patriarch of a family of nine children, one of whom, Clay Jr. (James MacArthur), is graduating from high school.  Poppa and his wife Olivia (Maureen O’Hara) are proud but poor folk, living in beautiful Wyoming.  He wants to build a dream house up on Spencer’s Mountain, while she is just trying keep that brood fed.  Clay Jr. dreams of going to college, but can’t afford it.  Will he win a scholarship?  Can the family afford to let him leave the farm or will he end up working in the quarry with the rest of the Spencer clan?  MacArthur is way too old to be believable as a high school student/graduate, and Fonda channels characters from his other movies, such as “Mr. Roberts” and “On Golden Pond,” showing his gruff but loving side.  This movie is from writer Earl Hamner Jr. and was the basis for the long-running TV show, “The Waltons.”  2 cans, not because it was bad, but it moves slowly and seems a bit corny to me now.
117.  Harry & Son* (1984) — Paul Newman, who also directed, is Harry in this bittersweet story of an aging father and the son who can’t please him.  Harry is a widower, living with his son Howard (soft-spoken Robby Benson), the son who can’t hold a job and who aspires to be a writer.  Harry only knows hard work.  He’s been in construction for years and now demolishes buildings, but he gets spells where he can’t function properly.  As he tells his son, “I want to work and can’t.  You can and don’t want to.”  They are both frustrated with each other, but there is obvious caring and love between them.  The unlikely casting of a very young Ellen Barkin as a former girlfriend of Howard’s who is now pregnant, and Newman’s real wife, Joanne Woodward, as the local pet store owner who has an eye for Harry, round out the cast.  Newman is good as a man losing his grip and aspiring to better things for his son, and Benson is quiet and effective as hapless Howie.  3½ cans.
118.  When the Game Stands Tall* (2014) — I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for sentimental sports movies, even though they are generally riddled with clichés even if they are based on real stories.  From “Brian’s Song” to “Rudy” to “Remember the Titans,” these movies typically have the obligatory health scare or death scene of someone dying far too young.  They normally have the underdogs positioned to come from behind and take home the big prize, even if that prize is — as in the case of “Rudy” — just getting into the game.  Here, too, Jim Caviezal plays real life high school football coach Bob Ladouceur, coach of the DeLaSalle Spartans, owners of a remarkable 151 game winning streak.  The team hasn’t lost in years but we know it wouldn’t be much of a movie without the drama of the streak being threatened.  Ladouceur works hard — almost tragically hard — not just to coach his team, but to help them develop into responsible young men who would do anything for each other and the team.  There is a lot of pressure on the players to uphold the standard set by each previous year’s team, and the town — and the parents — add to that burden, even as Ladoucer does not.  The movies isn’t as sentimental as some others I’ve seen, and, though it has heart, it doesn’t pack quite the dramatic punch as they do, either.  Let’s give it a field goal — 3 cans.
119.  Rudy (1993) — And speaking of “Rudy,” I couldn’t resist watching this classic when I spotted it on TV tonight.  If you don’t get a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye watching the diminutive Rudy finally get his chance to play football for Notre Dame, then you have no heart.  Sean Astin puts his all into playing Rudy, a kid determined to get into Notre Dame and even more determined to play football.  Despite being “5 foot nothing,” Rudy’s willingness to do anything for the team endears him to the other players (at least the ones who don’t feel that he is showing them up with his all-out effort at every practice), who insist to the coach that Rudy be allowed to dress for the final game of his senior year.  With only seconds left on the clock and the chant “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy,” reverberating around the stadium, the coach reluctantly lets Rudy into the game, his first time playing real football for Notre Dame.  This heartwarming movie, based on a true story, shows us what determination and persistence mean, and how sometimes dreams really do come true.  4 cans.
120.  Good Job: Stories of the FDNY* (2014) — Actor and former firefighter Steve Buscemi sits down with active and retired members of the New York Fire Department to discuss how they view and do their jobs.  The tough but touching documentary reveals the dedication and the trauma of fighting fires, of losing friends, of seeing the first loss of life, of noticing that the sheets on a child’s bed are the same as the sheets on your own child’s bed.  These brave men and women were born to do this job, or didn’t know what else to do with their lives.  Some women and African Americans entered hostile work environments among the 90% white male workplace, but they proved their mettle more than the “probies,” the probationary firefighters, and most cannot imagine doing anything else.  Many are now suffering the symptoms of illness directly related to the job or have watched their comrades die during or after the biggest loss of firefighters in the history of the FDNY, on September 11, 2001.  This is not a group of people prone to sharing their stories — even with their loved ones — but here they open up and enlighten all of us about their lives and what they do to serve the people of New York.  An excellent HBO documentary is the result.  4 cans.
121.  Beverly Hills Cop (1984) — Can it really be 30 years since Eddie Murphy brought brash and clever cop Axel Foley to the screen?  Here he is the proverbial fish out of water, a Detroit cop who goes to Beverly Hills in search of the killer of his childhood Detroit friend.  He can improvise his way through any situation, and, though the Beverly Hills Police Department is strictly a by-the-book precinct, he eventually wins their support, too.  There is comedy, drama and great 80s music here, and Murphy brings plenty of life to Axel Foley.  I hadn’t seen this movie in years, but it was well worth revisiting.  4 cans.
122.  Nixon By Nixon: His Own Words* (2014) — While there might be debate over what President Richard Nixon knew and when he knew it about Watergate, this much is clear:  He and several of his key aides knew of the existence of a recording system in his office, on his phone and on their own phones and they proceeded to speak candidly about Watergate and every other issue anyway.  It appears Nixon either forgot he was being recorded when he told Counsel John Dean that getting a million dollars to pay off the men involved in Watergate would be easy or that he felt that he, as President, could protect the recordings from ever being released.  Whether he was ordering the monitoring of Henry Kissinger’s phone calls, trying to collect dirt on Teddy Kennedy through the Secret Service, banning all reporters from the Washington Post from the White House or referring in a pejorative way to Jewish people and others, everything he said was recorded.  As we know from the tapes released at the time of Watergate as a result of a ruling by the Supreme Court, Nixon and his staff were deeply involved in the Watergate cover-up that led to his resignation as President.  This documentary provides a fascinating account of Nixon, not only from the recordings, but from interviews he conducted after he left office.  Who among us would want our private conversations made public?  But Nixon’s hubris led him to believe he could do or say anything with impunity because he was the president.  Now we know it’s not the crime, it is the cover-up that gets you in the end.  And we know that recordings — today video, then audio — will relay the truth.  These recordings, released in 2013, reveal much about the abuse of power.  Fascinating and sad.  4 cans.
123.  Blow Out* (1981) — This movie is neither the sequel to “Shampoo” or the prequel to “Hairspray.”  John Travolta plays Jack, a sound engineer who is out one evening recording sounds when he sees a car careen off a bridge after what sounds like a gunshot — not a blowout.  He jumps into the river and rescues a young woman who was a passenger in the car.  The police seem curiously uninterested in the woman (Nancy Allen) since they are trying to protect the reputation of the dead driver, a political candidate, a married man who wasn’t supposed to be with the woman in the first place.  But Jack can’t let it go, since he knows the accident wasn’t an accident.  John Lithgow and Dennis Franz play the bad guy and a mercenary photographer who staged the incident to blackmail the candidate.  This movie has its share of suspense but seems a little hard to believe at times.  Still, director/writer Brian DePalma knows how to grab our attention, and Travolta gives what I’d call a “sound” performance.  Get it?  3 cans.
124.  The Roosevelts: An Intimate Portrait* (2014) — This Ken Burns documentary occupied much of my time this month with its 7-part, 14-hour airing on PBS.  The rich history of the Roosevelts — from Theodore to Franklin and Eleanor — is lushly documented, replete with thousands of photographs and hundreds of film clips on the two presidents and one of the most famous women of the 20th century.  Their family histories and political ambitions are thoroughly explored against the culture and tenor of the times in which they lived.  Teddy was surely a “rough rider,” a man who loved to hunt and kill animals but who also set aside massive tracts of land for preservation.  He built the Panama Canal and fought in the Battle of San Juan Hill, perversely proud that his regimen suffered the most causalities.  Franklin and Eleanor, distant cousins to each other and related to Teddy, had far different upbringings but married young and stayed together despite his infidelities, which might have ruined his political aspirations.  Eleanor, meek and abandoned as a child, grew into her own social consciousness and added her views to Franklin’s plans to bring the country out of the Great Depression upon his election as President in 1932.  She forged her own life as he continued to serve as president through World War II and until his death just after he was elected to an unheard-of fourth term in 1944.  Much of this story is known, but no one can document a story and make a grand tale seem intimate better than Ken Burns and his collaborators.  This series is a “good deal.”  4½ cans.
125.  To Catch A Thief (1955) — When a cat burglar targets wealthy women vacationing along the French Riviera, suspicion naturally points to “retired” burglar John Robie (a dashing Cary Grant).  To prove his innocence, Robie must catch the real thief, while simultaneously warding off the police and the doubts of beautiful young heiress (Grace Kelly).  With Grant and Kelly as the leads and the backdrop of the gorgeous French Riviera, who even cares about the plot?  The story is satisfying, even if it is not that difficult to figure out whodunit.  3½ cans. 
126.  Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) — In light of the recent passing of comedy icon Joan Rivers, I thought it was the right time to view this documentary again.  Bawdy and profane, Joan Rivers was one of the few women to do stand-up comedy and to hold her own against the countless men commanding the stage and TV shows.  Once the chosen one as permanent guest host of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” Joan became persona non grata when she accepted Fox’s offer of a show of her own.  Johnny never spoke to her again, her show was quickly cancelled and her husband Edgar committed suicide.  All of these events are covered here and lend a sense of sadness to Joan’s life of desperation, as she tried to keep her “”book” filled with nearly any kind of gig that is offered to her.  She maintained a sumptuous lifestyle, living in an apartment she described as one where Marie Antoinette would live.  She shows us the myriad of card catalogs containing virtually every joke she ever wrote and performed.  She was tireless, fearless and ruthless — about other people and about herself.  She was, as the title says, a piece of work.  And very, very funny.  3½ cans.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life Lessons for My Nephew

As I was splitting an English muffin the other day with a fork, I started thinking about my nephew.  He’s 21 years old now and a senior in college.  A year from now — with any luck — he’ll be gainfully employed and making his way in this world.  So, I wondered, does he know that you never slice an English muffin with a knife?  I mean, my sister and her husband have raised him well, and he is becoming increasingly independent, but he is an only child, and he is accustomed to having things done his way (or for him).  How will he handle the interview process?  We are preparing for that now with the purchase of two suits, the first he’s had since his Bar Mitzvah.  I started to think of the things I know and would want to share with him to help him cope with life on every level, from the practical to the sublime.  He probably knows a lot of this stuff already, but does he practice it?  And that starts with the English muffins.

For instance:

1. Always buy Thomas’ English muffins, no matter what the price may be of other brands.  And always, always, split them with a fork.  You absolutely need those nooks and crannies.
2. And don’t skimp on the toilet paper, either.  Single ply should be illegal!
3. Never say never.  You hear people say, “Oh, I could never do that.”  But until you are in a situation, you really don’t know how you will react and what your capabilities are.  So if you think you cannot possibly take time to come see your favorite aunt, think again.
4. You are NOT the center of the universe.  The world exists all around you, but not because of you.
5. If you see a truck in the distance stopping at a red light ahead of you, try to move safely to the left lane.  Otherwise you’ll be stuck behind him when the light turns green.
6. If you are behind a truck or sports car on a hill, give them a little extra space because they might just slide back when they shift into first gear.  Not everyone drives an automatic transmission.  In fact, it wouldn’t kill you to learn how to drive one.  That’s how I learned to drive.  You will have a skill that few people have anymore and it could come in handy if you go on “The Amazing Race.”
7. Think before you speak.  And think about how your words will be taken by the other person/people.
8. Don’t make your hobby into your business or it won’t be a hobby anymore.  That’s why I don’t do professional photography.  It is still fun for me.
9. Take initiative.  You can’t always rely on other people to make the plans and the arrangements.  If they leave you out, you’ll be missing out on something you wanted to do.
10. Be nice to girls and to their parents.  And never be a jerk.
11. Don’t think that your way is the only way.  Try new things.  You might just learn something and find a better way.  After decades of eating my cereal dry, now I’m adding a splash of milk.  And I like it.  
12. Cops will find you when you drive away from a bar.
13. Never, never, drive drunk.  Don’t drive with someone else who is drunk.  And don’t text while driving.  The common denominator here for risk seems to be driving or riding in a car.  So think about that carefully.
14. However, assuming you didn’t do the driving but you stayed in one place and got drunk and the world is spinning, do yourself a favor:  Stick your finger down your throat and make yourself throw up.  It is yucky at the time, but getting over it is preferable to being sick all night.
15. When a girl says no, she means no.  Show some respect.
16. Demonstrate your appreciation.  If you go on a job interview, write a follow-up letter of thanks and mention specific things from the interview.  And show your appreciation to your parents, who have sacrificed so much for you.
17. Have a firm handshake and look people in the eye.  Though you come from a generation that has spent its youth looking down on a handheld device to communicate, speak directly and be engaged in the conversation.
18. Don’t interrupt.
19. Under no circumstances are Sperry Topsiders, no matter how new, appropriate to wear with a suit.
20. Keep your shoes shined.
21. Under no circumstances should your pants dip below your boxers so they are visible.
22. Respect is earned.  Make sure your actions inspire respect from others.
23. On the other hand, your grandmother, the late, great Sylvia Gordon, always advised me not to take crap from anyone.  So don’t — but earn their respect.
24. You can’t control the outcome of every situation, but you can control the amount of effort you put into it.
25. Just when you think you know everything, you’ll figure out that you have a lot more to learn.
26. Always, always, always, be nice and respectful to executive/administrative assistants.  They know more than you do (and probably more than their bosses in many cases) and they are the gatekeepers.  You want to see the boss?  You had better have a good rapport with her/his assistant.  Treat them as the professionals they are.
27. Failure is not fatal.  It isn’t something to which to aspire, but when you fail, as you inevitably will, learn a lesson from the failure to make it worthwhile.  You’ll most likely recover and you will have learned something useful.
28. Read.  Enjoy culture, not just those loud bands you follow.  Visit museums, see good (and bad) movies, go to the theater.  Experience the classics.  Love “The Godfather.”
29. When in doubt, do without.  If you aren’t certain about buying something, you probably don’t need it, so don’t buy it.
30. You’ve been a lucky guy, getting through college and enjoying life, so pay it forward.  Whether it is your time or your money or your expertise, share with others less fortunate or with people who can use your help.  I can’t count how many resumes I have reviewed for people, how many causes I have supported, how many interviews for which I have helped people prepare.  You can’t buy the feeling of doing good for others and it makes you feel great.
31. Don’t make decisions based on money.  Sure, money is a factor, but don’t make it the deciding factor in whether you take a new job, or you might be working in a field you don’t like just because the job paid you more than you were getting elsewhere.  This caveat applies to a myriad of things.
32. Expand your vocabulary so you know the meaning of words like caveat and myriad.  I know you can beat me on Words With Friends, so I haven’t even tried to play you to avoid embarrassment.  
33. Recycle.  That means all those beer bottles, you know?
34. Always have sharp knives.  You can get cut more easily when your knives are dull.  And pay attention to what you are doing when you have a knife in your hand.
35. Work hard.  Do your best.  And have fun.  You should have a laugh at least once a day.  It is good for the soul.
36. Cherish your friends and your childhood memories.  All those days on the soccer fields, all those baseball games and hanging around with the Case Drive Crew are priceless.
37. Be responsible.  Pay your bills on time and don’t run up credit card balances.  
38. Do what you say you will do.  Let people be able to count on you.
39. Rise to the occasion.  Don’t be afraid to take on a larger responsibility than you are ready to take.  Someone who suggested it thinks that you are ready.
40. You are responsible for your own career.  Take it on fully and don’t expect anyone to hand you success.  Earn it.
41. Don’t assume anything.  Communicate unambiguously and never make assumptions.  You know what they say — “When you ASSUME, you make an ASS of YOU and ME.”
42. Stay active.  Work out, run, whatever you like to do to stay fit and in shape.  Your mind and body will be better for it.
43. Keep track of your stuff.  Don’t lose your shirt, shorts and phone charger.  I say this now, because you already do, and you should stop that immediately.
44. Don’t use a dumb e-mail address like “Hotguy” or post information on Facebook or Twitter about getting drunk or doing stupid stuff.  Prospective employers will look up your social media profile and be turned off by what you post.  You not only won’t get the job, you won’t even get the interview.
45. Proofread everything you send out.  Eliminate the errors before someone points them out to you.  I have seen resumes where the people had their own names spelled wrong.  Doesn’t that make a great first impression?
46. If you get a stain on something, treat it immediately.  You can save plenty of clothes with a little cold water or a Shout wipe.
47. Clean up after yourself.  The dishes need to be washed, the beds need to be made and your sheets need to be changed more than once a year.  If you keep things orderly, you’ll be more productive.  
48. Make sure you have a supply of the stuff you use most often, from orange juice to toilet paper to pens & pencils (assuming you ever use them).  You don’t have to go overboard, but stock and restock the items you use most so you don’t run out.  
49. Keep in touch.  I want to hear from you when you don’t need something or you aren’t obligated to thank me.  Just talk to me because I am someone special in your life.
50. Always, always, remember the answer to this question:  “Who is your favorite aunt?”  I know I am the only one, but still…