Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mid-Month Musings for June 2016

Let me start this month’s edition by thanking those of you who faithfully read these monthly musings and take time to let me know you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.  You frequently tell me that you can relate to exactly what I have expressed.  Here’s a little secret:  Your random thought ARE the same as mine.  The only difference is that I write mine down.  And here we are.

I will get that gravity defying crumb that is rattling around in the toaster out of the toaster if I have to take the damn thing apart to do it!

From now on, my criteria for buying a vacuum cleaner will be how well it sucks up sequins and glitter.

Do you know where your tongue is?  Well, of course you know it is in your mouth, but you don’t think about your tongue until you are in the dentist’s chair and are told to relocate it temporarily.  That’s when you feel you have lost all control over the errant organ.  Moving it out of the way seems to be an impossible task since you have no idea where it is situated and what it plans on doing next.  I have a similar issue at the nail salon, where I am always admonished to “relax your hands.”  Who knows where my fingers go?  I feel a little out of control.

You know those flapping batwings all women my age have under their arms?  I guess the only way to get rid of them without surgery is to work out really hard.  I don’t know any women my age who are willing or able to work out that hard.  Michelle Obama is our Shero.

I always wonder how old the potatoes are in the supermarket.  I mean, it isn’t like they have expiration dates.  Bananas go from green to yellow to brown.  Fruit gets mushy.  But potatoes?  Unless you can see the whites of their eyes, who knows how long they have been hanging around, hoping for an adoption?

Just wondering - does Guy Fieri ever go to a diner, drive-in or dive he doesn't like? Or do the producers refuse to air the losers? He can't like everything - or can he?

Who came up with the term “rock and roll” and why?

Let’s face it:  There’s never a day when I don’t want to eat M&Ms.  But I rarely ever do.

If you are like me, you feel pressure when someone asks you for directions.  I might know exactly how to go, but I won’t necessarily remember the names of the streets or the landmarks.  I find myself coming up with instructions to “turn by the old XYZ Diner, or that’s what it used to be called.”  Or I’ll think to myself, “I think that street is where Susie used to live and it is a block past that.”  Actual street names might be more helpful.

Who among us has NOT, on occasion, pulled some garment out of the laundry, given it the sniff test and decided that we could get one more wearing out of it?

What does it say about me that I buy “ultra-strong” toilet paper?  That strong just isn’t strong enough?  What makes it ultra-strong anyway?

I will spend 10 minutes rearranging things in the trunk of my car so that I can carry them all into the house in one trip.  It would take less time to make two trips, but that is against my principles.

It was the beginning of the War of the Weeds in Tina Town recently, and I won the initial skirmish.  But when I wake up the next day with my hips and hamstrings screaming, those weeds will have the last laugh.  And then they will come back and taunt me.

It annoys me that I have to make sure the plants are watered but that the weeds can thrive no matter what conditions prevail.  I just watered the flowers, so expect a downpour to follow.

Speaking of which, I don’t get the thrill of gardening.  The bending over, getting your hands dirty and pulling weeds doesn’t seem like fun to me.  I love to look at pretty flowers, but I think mine will be in pots!

Don’t you hate it when someone you are with takes a bite of something, tells you it tastes funny and then asks you to confirm that by tasting it?  No, thanks.

I don’t know if I require less sleep these days, but I am sure getting less sleep these days.  Yet I am not taking naps – unless, of course, I am at the movies!  I really think I need more sleep than I am getting, but I’m up crazy early and can’t get back to sleep.  Maybe I need an all-night movie theater to cure my sleep woes.

Speaking of which, I wish the world were ready for me when I am ready for it.  When I wake up at 4 AM and cannot get back to sleep, it would be great to be able to go to the library or the dry cleaners.  Around here, the post office doesn’t open until 10 AM, which is way too late.  And wouldn’t it be great to stroll down the aisles at Costco around 6?  Dream on – which I would if I could sleep.
Truth:  The more you shave your legs, the more often you will cut yourself shaving your legs.

If my actual friends and family contacted me half as much as Macy’s and Raymour & Flanigan do under the guise of bargains for “Friends & Family,” I’d feel like I was being stalked. 

I have two “potluck” dinners to attend.  The whole concept confuses me.  Will there be pot?  And who’s getting lucky?

My Douglass sisters and I took advantage of a trip to Atlantic City to make a detour to the outlets at Tinton Falls on the way home, where we walked into virtually every store (minus the ones that sell children’s clothing) and contributed significantly to the local economy.  For women, shopping is about the hunt, bagging the big find and paying as little as possible. Debbie won with her purchase of two sweaters for $10 – total – but we all went home with multiple bags.  So we all won.

When I called the sprinkler company about starting up the system, I was told that the earliest they could get to me was May 18th, and I was worried that my grass wouldn’t survive that long.  But the woman at the company said not to worry because we would be getting plenty of rain between now and then.  Sure, I thought.  Meanwhile, it rained practically every day since we spoke.  I wonder if she plays the lottery.

At this age, buying just one sympathy card makes no sense.  I buy in bulk now. 

Without fail, every time I go into a sauna, the first thought that crosses my mind is: “Wow, it is really HOT in here.”  Duh.

I am slowly making my way through listening to the 5500 songs on my iPod, in alphabetical order. (I know this sounds like such a Tina thing to do.)  I never realized how many songs there were that started with the word “All.”

Sometimes I just wish there was “left turn on red.”

And finally, already this month we have experienced another senseless tragedy with the murder of 50 people in a club in Orlando and the injuring of 53 more.  Why should anyone in this country be allowed to purchase assault weapons?  The right to bear arms was created when muskets were the weapon of choice.  This slaughter of our own people by our own people has got to stop. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tina's May 2016 Movies

Thirteen movies made the May list, with several that I enjoyed watching again as well as a few new ones (noted with an asterisk) I found worthy of the list.  Movies are rated on a scale from 1-5, with 5 being the best.  Numbering picks up from the previous month.

47.  Lego: A Brickumentary* (2014) – I am a little too old to have played with Legos as a child, but I never imagined that the ubiquitous bricks – launched in their current form in 1958 – would be a cultural phenomenon.  Sure, millions of kids play with the interlocking plastic blocks, building special kits and also letting their imaginations run wild.  But the creativity aspect of Legos reaches far beyond kids.  In this fascinating documentary, an artist has an entire show of original art and reproductions of famous works made of Legos; a psychologist shows how autistic children interact better in social situations when they build with Legos; an architect gets a commission for a huge project based on the model he submits that is made with Legos; and Legos go on a space mission to Jupiter.  Adults flock to Lego conventions, and some have even gotten jobs with the company based on their designs.  Let’s face it, we would all envy grown-ups who get to play with toys all day, coming up with new designs and uses for the colorful bricks.  People have created actual cars, homes and movies starring the bricks.  It’s fair to say that Legos are a cultural icon.  3½ bricks.
48.  Sing Street* (2016) – Plenty of teenaged boys have started bands to meet girls.  When 15-year old Dublin schoolboy Colin (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) develops an immediate crush on aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynston), he asks if she will be in a video for his band – and then quickly realizes he has to form one.  Luckily, he recruits some decent musicians and begins writing songs to win her over.  Colin is the youngest child of a couple who fight constantly and have put him in a local school where he is bullied by his classmates and castigated by the administration for not wearing black shoes as part of his required uniform.  The “band” of misfits becomes his support system, along with his musically inclined slacker older brother, as he navigates the world of songwriting, performing and romance.  Walsh-Peelo, with his rosy cheeks and innocent face, makes a very appealing lead in this sweet story.  3½ cans.
49.  Learning to Drive* (2015) – This movie is about life lessons, not just a reminder to use your blinker when turning.  Patricia Clarkson is Wendy, a book critic who is suddenly dumped by her cheating husband.  She realizes that she needs her independence, and that means she has to learn to drive so she can visit her daughter (Mamie Gummer), who lives on a farm.  She enlists the aid of a very proper Sikh named Darwan (Ben Kingsley), a driving instructor who is looking for a wife.  One marriage is ending while another is beginning, and these two people have plenty to teach each other.  She sees him subjected to incredibly rude and belligerent comments from people put off by his turban and beard.  He sees her as lonely and unable to focus on just one thing at a time.  The movie restrains itself from including an obvious romance between the characters and allows them to show how their friendship leads them to individual growth.  Patricia Clarkson always delivers outstanding performances, usually in secondary roles, but she’s got the chops to pull off the lead with plenty to spare.  3½ cans.
50.  First Monday in May* (2016) – Is fashion truly art?  This captivating documentary answers that question with a resounding YES.  Although the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been relegated to the massive building’s basement, each year the opening of a new show on the first Monday in May elevates fashion by not only highlighting a theme from the collection but also through its gala.  The celebrities turn out in couture outfits and sit when Vogue’s Ann Wintour tells them to sit.  As a member of the Met Board, Wintour wields plenty of power, dispensing “advice” from behind her dark sunglasses while carrying her ubiquitous container of coffee.  This film provides a behind-the-scenes look at the 2015 exhibition, “China: Through the Looking Glass,” a melding of Chinese inspired Western fashion and the Museum’s considerable collection of Chinese art.  The hero of the story is Met Costume Institute Curator Andrew Bolton, whose vision and year-long work make the exhibition take shape.  Even as the gala gets underway, he is roaming the hallways, fussing over every detail of the show.  Wintour is on hand to reinforce her “Devil Wears Prada” persona, which she shrugs off when questioned about her bad reputation.  The fashion is stunning, carefully crafted and meticulously handled by the Museum’s reverent staff.  Their glory is challenged by the clothing, hats and jewelry worn by the star-studded guest list.  It was worth the price of admission just to see Rihanna ascend a staircase with an elaborate yellow dress and train.  4 cans.
51.  Paper Towns* (2015) – We’ve seen this kind of movie before:  Somewhat nerdy teenaged boy has a crush on the popular girl in school and will do anything for her.  Here Quentin (Nat Wolff) has lived across the street from popular but enigmatic Margo (Cara Delevigne) since they were kids, but their friendship has never blossomed into romance.  After catching her boyfriend cheating on her, Margo enlists Q in an adventure to seek revenge, which, for the high school senior, marks his first time doing anything so contrary to his straight-laced persona.  He only falls more in love with Margo, who disappears the next day.  Q is convinced that he can track her down through a series of confounding clues she has left behind, whereupon the movie becomes a buddy trip as he and his friends take off from Florida to upstate New York to find her – and, hopefully, make it back in time for prom night.  Will they locate her in time?  Does she want to be found?  Will Q’s nerdiest friend really go to the prom with a pretty and popular girl totally out of his league in real life?  I found nothing new here, and I did not like Margo’s character at all.  Besides, the practical side of me, the one that questions where these kids got the money to travel and how Margo intends to fund her adventure, did not help me accept any of the premises here.  2½ cans.
52.  5 Flights Up* (2015) – Artist Alex Carver (Morgan Freeman) and his wife Ruth (Diane Keaton) are just as in love with each other now as they were 40 years ago when they got married.  They love their Brooklyn neighborhood and dote on their dog Dorothy, but traipsing up 5 flights to get to their apartment is wearing on them, so they reluctantly turn to niece Lily (Cynthia Nixon) to put their home on the market.  Between selling and buying, bidding wars erupt, with complications from what could be a terrorist incident on the nearby bridge.  This movie is propelled more by its warmth and less by the obnoxious characters who come to the open house, invade the couple’s space and make them rethink whether they really want to forsake their routine in favor of a building with an elevator.  Freeman and a less-quirky-than-usual Keaton make a perfect couple and have great chemistry.  They make the movie worth seeing.  3½ cans.
53.  In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye* (2012) – If you are looking for strong female role models, look no further than this documentary on the formidable women who have served as editors and fashion editors of the 120-year old fashion magazine.  From Diana Vreeland to Anna Wintour, from Polly Mellon to Grace Coddington, these women have their fingers on the pulse of fashion and have for decades.  Their selection and depiction of fashion displayed in the magazine reinforce or create new trends, establish the careers of designers and launch models into superstardom.  And each of them is fierce.  Designer Vera Wang started her career as an assistant to fashion editor Polly Mellon, a steely-eyed woman who Wang describes as a nightmare.  These women are all trendsetters, have strength in their convictions, and most of them stayed in their jobs for decades.  This was my second Wintour movie this month, and this one was equal to its predecessor.  4 cans.
54.  An Unfinished Life* (2005) – Let’s face it, Robert Redford looks mighty fine wearing a cowboy hat and riding a horse.  Here he is Einar, an aging rancher living in Wyoming and feeling bitter over the death of his adult son.  He leads a quiet, stoic life, taking care of his friend and former ranch hand Mitch (Morgan Freeman), who was crippled when he was mauled by a bear.  One day a desperate woman shows up on his doorstep with the granddaughter (Becca Gardner) he didn’t know he had.  She is Jean (Jennifer Lopez), his son’s widow, whom he blames for the death of his son.  She is a victim of domestic violence, trying to escape her boyfriend (Damian Lewis).  Einar is the strong silent type who doesn’t warm up or forgive easily, even as he grows attached to his 11-year old granddaughter.  Despite his advanced age, he can ward off younger men who cross his path.  But can anyone forgive the bear?  Can they ALL live peacefully?  Jean has her demons and Mitch has the marauding bear, while Einar wrestles with himself.  3½ cans.
55.  The Godfather Saga (not sure of the date) – Even after a zillion viewings and despite knowing every line, I relish the opportunity to watch genius at work.  The sprawling saga that combines The Godfather and The Godfather II in chronological order ranks up in my top five all-time favorite movies.  The story, the acting, the detail – I love every frame.  If you don’t know the plot and the highlights by now, there is no sense in my trying to summarize it beyond telling you it is epic.  Loved every minute.  5 cans.
56.  Same Time Next Year (1978) – A married accountant and a housewife meet at a small California inn and are immediately attracted to each other.  They continue to return for yearly trysts that are shown in 5-year increments.  Their ardor for each other never wanes over the 25 years we get to be voyeurs of this funny, warm and loving relationship.  Although I would never condone philandering, this relationship is so much more than that.  Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn are at their peak performance levels as George and Doris, who sometimes are on completely different – and highly amusing – wavelengths.  I love this movie and would be happy to watch it at the same time every year.  4½ cans.
57.  Hoop Dreams (1994) – Simply put, this documentary that chronicles the lives of two inner-city Chicago high school basketball players is the best sports documentary of all time.  Director Steve James shot 300 hours of footage over 5 years, tracing the basketball dreams of Arthur Agee Jr. and William Gates from the time they were 14 until they graduated from high school.  Both promising athletes, they had to survive the realities of urban life – poverty, family issues and injuries – while holding out hope for college scholarships and professional basketball careers.  Recruited by a prestigious suburban high school that they traveled three hours a day to attend, the teammates were separated when Agee’s family couldn’t come up with the money and he couldn’t come up with the grades.  Indifferent students but potential basketball prodigies, both players had inconsistent careers, Agee plagued by poor grades and high expectations, and Gates by knee injuries, surgery and rehab.  This movie shows the struggles, the challenges and the hoop dreams of so many kids who think they will make it to the pros.  Life doesn’t always work out the way we plan.  5 cans.
58.  Breach (2007) – Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) is a tough, taciturn, church-going, Bible-quoting FBI agent who just happens to be selling US secrets to Russia.  Young Eric (Ryan Phillippe) is an FBI technology expert and aspiring gent whom the Bureau assigns to work for Hanssen and get the goods on a man responsible for breaching US security.  This suspenseful drama is based on the real-life case of the Russian spy.  Eric has to be fast on his feet to avoid detection on the part of the wary Hanssen, and he cannot disclose his assignment even to his increasingly impatient wife.  It is hard to know whom to trust, and Hanssen is a very experienced, perceptive operative, so working with him and against him is a tough assignment for Eric.  The movie is taut and compelling as Eric takes orders from his superiors and tries to keep Hanssen in the dark.  3½ cans.
59.  Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont* (2005) – I’d like to thank the algorithms of Amazon Video for suggesting I might like this little gem of a movie.  Mrs. Palfrey (Joan Plowright) is a genteel, elderly widow who moves into the Claremont, a residential hotel in London not quite as antic as “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” but inhabited by seniors who create their own family.  One day Mrs. Palfrey literally stumbles upon aspiring writer Ludo (Rupert Friend) when she takes a spill outside his basement flat.  He gallantly helps her up and takes her in to make her tea, and a friendship that spans the generations is born.  The regulars at the hotel assume he is her grandson, and Ludo and Mr. Palfrey play along.  What is family anyway, but a group of people who care about you?  Accidents of birth are not required.  The charming young man is devoted to his “Sa Sa,” and he helps heal her loneliness.  I fell instantly in love with this movie.  From now on, when Netflix or Amazon Video suggest some movie I might like based on others I have seen, I’m all in.  4½ cans.

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, 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.