Wednesday, June 14, 2017

June Jewels

Why is it SO EASY to find typos in a post, email or text AFTER you send it?

Haven’t we all left enough voice mail messages that we could do without the instructions reminding us to wait after the tone and leave our message?  By now, is there anyone alive who actually needs to know how to leave a message?  I think we all know the drill. 

You know you need to lose weight when your socks feel tight.

Does this happen to you?  You suddenly find a bump or bruise you didn’t know you had, or a cut suddenly appears that you don’t remember happening.  I can never figure out what I did this time to cause a cut or bruise.

You know you are impatient – or overbooked – when you can’t wait for the toaster to pop and you can’t find 30 quiet minutes to use teeth-whitening strips.

How is it that I can wake up at 5 AM and still be late for my 10 AM aqua aerobics class?

True confessions:  As much as I loved the Beatles and Paul was my fave, I really never liked Wings as a band.  Now that Sirius Radio has added the Beatles station to its lineup, that’s all they seem to play.  Maybe more of the credit for all those Lennon-McCartney songs I loved should have gone to John, or maybe it’s just that after the Beatles broke up, I never got over it.  You know, since 1969.

Remember the good old days, when you could buy vitamins without having to read the box for 10 minutes?  Now I have to find the multivitamin-mineral supplement for women over age 50 in the smaller size (that last part is not a necessity but is preferable).  Tell me again the advantages of growing older?

Why is there always that one thread or piece of lint that manages to fend off the powerful suction of the vacuum cleaner and remain affixed to the floor?  You go over it and over it until you finally are forced to bend down and pick it up.  But then, what do you do with it?  You toss it lightly back on the floor to see if NOW the vacuum will suck it up.  God forbid you walk to the trash can and toss it in.

I want a nap more than anything.  And a good, sharp utility knife, one that slices through cardboard like a hot knife through a stick of butter.  #modestgoals

Is there a legal limit on how tired someone can be?  Because I think I may just have exceeded it.

You know you’re getting old when you go to the beach with your friends and someone is either reading AARP Bulletin or telling you about an article she read in it that you just have to see.

Don’t you love those disclaimers for drugs advertised on TV?  “Caution, this product may cause constipation or diarrhea.”  OK, which is it?  And I especially love the line that says, “Do not use drug XYZ if you are allergic to drug XYZ.”  How do you know you are allergic to the drug until you take it?

Passwords: Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.  Some call for a minimum number of letters, or some require letters and symbols, and you can’t use what you previously used, and you don’t want to make obvious choices (like your birthday or the name of your pet).  Sometimes you are required to change them every certain number of days/months.  It is SO HARD to remember them all, and you aren’t supposed to write them down where someone would have access to them (although the person who NEEDS access to them is YOU).  Passwords are the bane of modern existence.  That might make a good one: Baneofmodernexi3tense. 

As I walked out of Lowe’s recently, the cashier said to me, “And don’t forget to take our online survey.”  As if I have nothing better to do than to log onto my computer (see above), find the Lowe’s website and take their survey.  Of course, if I had experienced bad customer service or found something to which to object, you can be sure I would have found the time to take the stupid survey and embellish it with a few choice words. 

And speaking of Lowe’s/Home Depot, here’s a story a friend shared with me.  She was in the Garden Center and asked where she could find peat moss.  “I don’t know who Pete Moss is,” the worker answered.  So much for expert gardening help.

If there is a limit on how many HGTV shows one can watch in a single day, I may have exceeded it. This morning I watched a program on bargain lakefront vacation home renovations???  I see more of Chip and Joanna than I see of my family. These HGTV shows are as addictive as a bag of potato chips!

It’s funny how when I lived on Joshua Drive, EVERYONE asked me how to spell it, but no one ever asks how to spell Constitution, the street where I now live.  Really, folks, you couldn’t figure out how to spell Joshua?  How many variations could there be?  It is spelled exactly how it sounds.  I guess I’m relieved that people actually are aware that we have a Constitution in this country and that they can spell the word.  (Well, there may be a citizen on Pennsylvania Avenue who is not familiar with it and probably can’t spell it, either…)

I am fascinated by the popularity of “The Golden Girls” among women much younger than me.  This was an ‘80s show, and one I watched and loved when I was younger (in my 30s), but I would think it would be so dated to the Gen X viewers.  Yet I know so many young people who love it, I assume because of the strong friendships among the women.  It is a classic!

You know you’re losing it when you find the apples stashed in the pantry next to the red potatoes because they look similar.

I love watching “So You Think You Can Dance” with the very talented (and flexible) contestants doing things with their bodies that I cannot imagine trying.  I’d settle for a stint on “So You Think You Can Get Up From the Floor Without Assistance” if only I actually could.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tina's May 2017 Movies

Here we go, folks, with a look at the 16 movies I watched this month.  They are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna fish, 5 being the top mark.  Movies marked with an * are those I had not seen previously, and numbering picks up from last month.

48.  Legally Blonde (2001) – Reese Witherspoon bursts onto the screen in this movie about a sorority girl who decides to follow her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law School and enroll to win him back.  Blessed with a 4.0 average and a way to win over recruiters, her Elle Woods has no problem gaining admission.  Getting adjusted is a bit more of a challenge, but Elle is more than just adorable.  She is plenty resourceful and smarter than even she knows.  Will she win the boyfriend back, and does she really want to settle for someone who dumped her because she is “too blonde?”  There is nothing profound here, but it is great fun to watch Elle Woods in action.  3½ cans.
49.  Harry Benson: Shoot First* – Imagine being on the scene, armed with a camera, at some of the most memorable moments in history.  Harry Benson was a photojournalist who became a celebrity photographer – not one of the unpopular paparazzi, but an invited guest brought in to record history in the making.  From his pictures of the Beatles landing in the US to his photos of President Nixon waving from the helicopter as he departs the White House to his shot of Senator Bobby Kennedy on lying shot on the floor of a hotel in California, where he was assassinated, Benson was there, adding his skill to capture the moment memorably and build our collective retrospective of iconic moments.  He took pictures of every famous person you can name, from chess master Bobby Fischer to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson with the great Muhammad Ali, all four of the Beatles fooling around together.  These are legendary photos of legendary people taken by one of the most legendary photographers of his time.  4 cans of film.
50.  Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer* (2017)  – Richard Gere is the title character, Norman, a “fixer” – more like a fixer-upper, really – whose work is to forge connections between people of influence.  In this case, Norman somehow aligns himself with the man who a few years later becomes the Prime Minister of Israel, closing the deal on their friendship by buying him a very expensive shoes.  Norman is not above stalking his prey on the street where they live or where they run, all trying to broker relationships and deals between them.  He overplays and overstates his own importance, so when his synagogue needs $14 million to save its building from destruction, he “seems” to have an anonymous donor for half the needed funds.  It’s hard to pin Norman down, to have him explain exactly what he does as a businessman/consultant.  I found him brash and desperate, not quite on the “Glengarry Glen Ross” scale, but clearly losing his influence or unable to reach the people he needs to keep playing the game.  At least here, Gere is no longer the sexy young man or the handsome, silver fox.  He appears smaller and with much less charm and power than ever before.  Maybe it is my distaste for power brokers and people who seem to generate nothing of real value, but I found the movie unduly complex and somewhat annoying.  Bring back that gorgeous Gere I used to love.  2½ cans.
51.  The Great Gilly Hopkins* (2015) – Sometimes she is a sullen teenager, and other times she is a feisty but caring young woman truly lost in life.  Gilly (Sophie Nelisse) never knew her mother and has bounced around foster homes, so she is naturally suspicious and withdrawn when she arrives on the doorstep of the relentlessly cheerful and devout Mrs. Trotter (Kathy Bates), a veteran foster mother who already has a young boy living in her house.  Gilly can be nasty and she certainly doesn’t take any guff.  Her goal is to find her birth mother, and she sends a note disparaging her current living situation as she runs away to reunite with her long-missing mom.  When her grandmother (Glen Close) arrives to reclaim her, she realizes that the Trotter house is her home and these people (including the blind next door neighbor who comes for dinner every night) are the family she craves.  Gilly is a tough kid to love, and she has faced so much adversity in her short life.  Will she be able to stay with the people who love her?  I liked this movie despite its sometimes overwrought moments.  3 cans.
52.  The Bridges of Madison County (1995) – Every now and then, I just HAVE to see this perfect little movie.  The plot is simple:  A photographer (Clint Eastwood) passing through Iowa to take pictures of bridges meets housewife and mother Francesca (the glorious Meryl Streep) and over a four-day period, they fall deeply in love.  But she can’t abandon her family (which is conveniently out of town when they meet) any more than she will ever forget that brief interlude when she stopped being a mother/wife and reclaimed her status as a woman.  Beautifully shot, this movie is all about subtlety – a small hand gesture here, a bowed head there.  As her grown children go through Francesca’s belongings after her death, they learn about this unknown chapter in their mother’s life and it forces them to not only reconsider her but to reexamine their own lives and relationships.  Meryl can do no wrong. 5 cans.
53.  The Color of Money (1986) – Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) isn’t quite so fast anymore.  The former pool shark now shills for other players, and Vincent (Tom Cruise) is his prodigy.  But Vincent has an ego as big as his towering head of hair, and he doesn’t want to lose, despite Eddie’s advice that you have to lose sometimes in order to set up the next score and win big.  In pool, it is all about the con, the hustle and the dump to raise the stakes for a better payoff.  Eddie’s wisdom faces off against Vincent’s braggadocio, and who will really be the hustler here?  The coolest thing about this movie is the range of pool shots these guys make.  How’d they do that?  3½ cans.   
54.  Passengers* (2016) – I’ll admit right up front that I have trouble suspending my sense of reality (I could barely tolerate watching “Gilligan’s Island”), so watching this science fiction film seems like an unlikely choice for me.  However, Chris Pratt is one of the Chris stars I like, and Jennifer Lawrence is everywhere these days, so I decided to give it a try.  The premise is that a contingent of passengers have left earth to travel on a spaceship bound for a new home.  They are in suspended animation during the trip, which is scheduled to take decades.  But the sleep pod containing Pratt’s Jim malfunctions, and he wakes up 90 years early (I feel ya, man).  Alone on the ship, surrounded by other humans in their sleep pods, he makes friends with the automaton bartender (Michael Sheen) and tries to keep himself busy.  But the sleeping beauty Aurora (Lawrence) is too tempting, so he finds a way to interrupt her beauty sleep and, as you can guess, they bond.  The spaceship is pretty cool, and somehow is stocked with all of the clothes (and, in Aurora’s case, make-up and jewelry) that one would need during interstellar travel.  I won’t give anything away, except to say that despite my inability to suspend my sense of reality, I found this view of life in space a blast.  3½ cans.
55.  A Walk on the Moon (1999) – Start with Diane Lane, an actress that I love.  She plays Pearl Kantrowitz, and she, her mother-in-law (Tovah Feldshah) and her kids are spending the summer of 1969 at a very modest camp/resort in the Catskills while hubby Marty (Liev Schreiber) schelps back and forth to the city to his job repairing TV sets.  Pregnant at a very early age, Pearl now feels bored and trapped in her role as wife and mother, so when the Blouse Man (Viggo Mortensen) shows up in his magic bus, she’s receptive to flirting.  She is living at a time when feminism is making women rethink their roles, a time when Neil Armstrong lands on the moon, and when the Woodstock music festival is taking place nearby.  Both Pearl and her teenage daughter are curious about what else there is for them as women and eager to stretch their wings.  I love this movie, with its authenticity about the era, the sexual awakening of the two women, the fear of growth and of loss.  I love the announcements about the arrival of the knish man (voiced by Julie Kavner, of Marge Simpson and “Rhoda” fame), I love the acting and seeing the characters watch in awe as Armstrong takes that giant step for mankind (and Pearl takes a pretty major step of her own).   What a time in history, and what a way to combine that era and these characters!  4 cans.
56.  The Wizard of Lies* (2017) – This HBO dramatization of the real story of disgraced investment mogul Bernie Madoff doesn’t break new ground, but it provides a deservedly harsh look at a man whose Ponzi scheme cost his investors millions of dollars.  For years, Madoff (Robert DeNiro) persuaded people to give him their money so he could invest it for them.  His firm employed his own sons, who were unaware of the fact that the trades, the statements -- everything -- were lies.  His elaborate fraud went undetected for years, as investors enjoyed better than average returns, never realizing that he was using the new money to pay off the earlier investors.  Madoff was a genius when it came to making people beg him to take their money.  The many victims here lost their life savings thanks to his greed and hubris – he did not want to lose – ever.  In the end, he lost it all.  And even as he pleaded guilty, he maintained that the investor themselves were responsible at least in part because of their own greed.  He destroyed lives, including that of his family, and ended up in jail, where he will finish his days alone.  Well done, Bernie.  4 cans. 
57.  About Alex* (2015) – A cast of 20-somethings attempts to recreate the angst and vibe of the classic “The Big Chill” here but comes up short.  A group of college friends with varying relationships gathers after the suicide attempt of one of their own.  Alex (Jason Ritter) -- the same name as the successful suicide friend in TBC – is lonely and needs his friends, all of whom show up when his attempt to kill himself doesn’t work.  There are couples and would-be couples and plenty of history between and among the group here, none of whom are as established as the crew in “The Big Chill.”  They aren’t as interesting, either.  And the soundtrack from “The Big Chill” stands alone.  Sorry, but I found it impossible to watch this movie without referring back to a much better and previous telling of a very similar story.  That one gets 4 cans.  This one?  2 cans.
58.  Princess Diana – Her Life, Her Death and the Truth* (2017) – It is hard to believe that nearly 20 years have passed since the shocking death of Princess Diana of Great Britain.  This CBS program examines her less-than-charmed life, marrying England’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Charles, having two sons, and enduring the humiliation of his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.  But the heart of this program is the examination of Diana’s death, along with the man she was dating at the time, Dodi El-Fayed, in a suspicious crash in a tunnel in Paris.  Fleeing paparazzi and traveling far above the speed limit, their car sideswiped a vehicle as it entered the tunnel and crashed into a barrier, killing Diana and Dodi along with their driver Henri Paul.  Tests later proved that Paul was drinking drunk, and that the accident was not a conspiracy by the Royals who forsook Diana after her divorce from Charles.  The show looks at her life, her relationships, how she became a Princess, her ancestral home, and her kindness and generosity to the afflicted and underprivileged, traits that are continued by her sons.  I forgot how simply beautiful she was, and how unhappy.  3½ cans.
59.  Dirty Dancing* (2017) – The big question here is why, ABC?  Why remake a classic?  Why make us endure it for three hours?  And why cast someone (Abigail Breslin) so completely unsuited for this role?  Breslin plays the Jennifer Grey part of “Baby” Houseman, a bright but unworldly girl who falls in love with Johnny Castle (Cole Prattes), the dance instructor at Kellerman’s Catskills resort.  The appalling casting casts a pall over the entire movie because there is no chemistry between the leads, because she looks much younger than 18 (and is dressed in such dowdy clothes that her wardrobe looks 45) and because his falling for her is about as likely as Ryan Gosling actually being my next husband.  There are a few differences in the plot here, which we all know so well.  Baby’s parents (Bruce Greenwood and Debra Messing) have meatier roles than the parents in the original and they are going through marital troubles.  And Johnny himself turns out to have gotten into enough trouble as a youth that he ended up doing jail time.  The characters also get to sing some of the songs.  The dancing overall is OK, but Prattes is no Patrick Swayze and Breslin?  Decorum prevents me from truthfully commenting on her lack of dance prowess.  And I cannot neglect to mention the most egregious faux pas of all, when the waiter in the dining room of Kellermans’s offers Baby’s father a pastrami sandwich, which he says they serve with cole slaw and mayo.  Mayo?  On a pastrami sandwich?  No respectable Jewish joint would EVER serve pastrami with mayo.  Sacrilegious!  The only saving grace here was that I watched it with a friend, and together we had the time of our lives.  We just didn’t do the lift.  And when Baby and Johnny do it, she looked like she was about to bowl him over and flatten him.  This movie wasn’t as good as “Sharknado,” no less the original Dirty Dancing.  1 can.
60.  The Keepers* (2017) – This engrossing series comes from Netflix, the folks who offered up an equally compelling documentary last year, “The Making of a Murder.”  Like the earlier series, this 7-part program tackles a murder.  In 1969, a young nun teaching at Archbishop Keogh High School near Baltimore goes missing and two months later her murdered body is found.  The case remains unsolved, but two of the now-grown women who were students at the school Abbie Schaub and Gemma Hoskins) join forces to examine the case.  They sort through newspaper articles and TV clips, determined to unearth the truth.  They interview anyone involved with the victim and the school.  It turns out that the attractive young woman, Sister Cathy Cesnick, might have been about to blow the whistle on the school counselor, a priest named Father Maskell, who was abusing a number of the girls in the school.  For years, the murder went unsolved, and Maskell continued his horrifying acts with young Catholic girls who were too afraid and too ashamed to come forward.  This documentary covers the case and their stories in great detail – almost too much detail.  It wasn’t until years later, in the 1990, that one of the young victims of the abuse starts to recall the memories of the trauma she suffered and, along with another victim, turns to the courts.  Old crimes are hard enough to prove, but given the power of the Catholic Church in Baltimore, the case was almost impossible.  The amateur investigators start a Facebook page that ultimately opens the door to many other former students who suffered at the hands of the abusive priest.  As in the Oscar-winning movie “”Spotlight,” the list grows, and so does the cover-up by the Archdiocese.  Meanwhile, the crime, and any justice for Sister Cathy, begins to fade.  This is a fascinating and disturbing tale of morally reprehensible people who are allowed to continue to have access to children and who get away with their abuse by terrorizing them into silence.  I thought this program would move along better if there had been a voiceover narrator rather than using so many long set-up shots, but the number and depth of the interviews with the principals in the story carries the narrative well.  Not for the feint of heart.  4 cans.
61.  Broken Flowers* (2005) –I always thought that no one can do nothing better than me, but Bill Murray comes in a close second.  Here he is Don Johnston, a computer mogul who doesn’t own a computer and who is content to sit on his couch listening to music and doing, well, nothing.  One day he receives an unsigned letter from a former girlfriend – of whom there are many – letting him know that after they broke up, she discovered she was pregnant.  She never told him, and she raised the son on her own.  Now, she says, she thinks her son might be looking for his father.  Don is hardly flummoxed by this news.  He is so unmoved that you’d think the letter said there was a Macy’s One Day Sale.  But his neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright) is captivated by the news and plots out an itinerary for Don to visit each of his former girlfriends who might be the author of the mysterious letter.  Don visits each one, crossing all but one off the list of potential mothers.  In small parts, they are Sharon Stone, Julie Delphy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton, each with her own life, some of which are modestly amusing (Lange is an “animal communicator”).  With his deadpan expression and less dialog than Tom Hanks while stranded on that deserted island in “Cast Away,” Murray is the perfect actor for this understated role.  Which doesn’t mean I liked or recommend the movie – unless you are a huge Bill Murray fan.  I liked him better in “St. Vincent,” where he was equally unmoved, a bit of a reprobate, but ultimately a good guy.  3 cans.  Barely.
62.  The Lovers* (2017) – Michael (Tracey Letts) is a philandering husband, constantly contacting his aggrieved wife Mary (a hardly-recognizable Debra Winger) with excuses so he can spend time with his paramour Lucy (Melora Walters).  But Mary seems relieved, because she is involved in an extramarital affair of her own, with younger and hunkier Robert (Aidan Gillen).  Although Michael and Mary reside in the same house, their paths barely cross, and both of them know this sham of a marriage is nearing an end.  They – and their partners – are just waiting for their son Joel (Tyler Ross) to come home for a visit so they can tell him in person.  But somewhere along the way to resolution, Michael and Mary find each other again and start a fervent romance, with each lying to their other lover to spend time together.  What exactly IS fidelity anyway, you might ask.  Is it cheating if you are secretly having an “affair” with your own spouse?  There were people chuckling in the theater, but the movie never elicited that response from me.  It was a story I had never seen or considered before, and I felt real sadness for the characters (particularly Winger as Mary, with lines of anguish etched into her face).  Different isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t necessarily good, either.  3 cans.
63.  The Great Escape (1963) – No, this is NOT a vacation flick.  It is about a group of military prisoners of war at a German prison camp in WWII who bond together and dig their way out.  Back in the day, films used to be made that included large casts of notable names.  Here we have James Garner (his war movie “36 Hours” is even better than this one), Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and many more as the imprisoned men who cleverly manage to dig their way out of the camp and back into society.  But will their escape stand?  Or will their new identities hold up?  This movie is based on a true story and brings humor and humanity to an otherwise life-threatening and dismal situation.  Great performance all around.  3½ cans.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mid-May Musings


I spend more time looking for something to watch on Netflix than I do actually watching whatever I picked out to watch on Netflix.

I recently attended a class in “knife skills” at Williams-Sonoma.  It was probably just as well that it wasn’t hands on, because for me that might have meant thumbs off.

When it comes to food – and doesn’t it ALWAYS come to food? – I’m trying to remind myself to slow down when I eat.  Enjoying is better than inhaling!

If you see a whisk wandering around the streets of Somerset, NJ, it is mine.  It somehow escaped from the jar of utensils on my kitchen counter, obviously to seek adventures outside my house.  Too late, baby.  You have been supplanted by a 97 cent replacement whisk with the hope that kitchen gadget escapes are not a trend here in Tina Town.

Nothing gets me up faster than leg cramps.  I jump out of bed or out of the recliner, which is no fun at all.

Which reminds me – we sit ON a chair but IN a recliner.  Not sure why.

Why is it that when I don’t have to get up I can’t sleep but when I do have to get up, I can’t wake up?

You know those thin plastic or fabric straps that come on dresses or tops for women?  Does anyone actually use them to keep the garment on the hanger, or do you think of them as needless annoyances that have to be removed, like those postcards that come in magazines?  I cannot read People until I have removed every one of them.

Listen up folks: There is no letter R in the words IDEA or WASH, so stop using one.  And please, for the love of God, stop using single quotation marks in headlines, newspapers!  The only time you use a single quote is when it appears within a quote.  Why, why, why?

These days, much of what we do on line is stored in “the Cloud.”  Notice that when anyone mentions the term “the Cloud” that they typically will point or look up to the sky.  You know, where clouds are.

It seems like every day on Facebook the day belongs to someone named Karen or Bob or Mike.  Are we going to have to celebrate until every possible name is included?

As I was watching one of my favorite actors – Tom Hanks – in one of my favorite movies – “Castaway” – it occurred to me that I really don’t ever want to travel with Tom Hanks.  In this movie he survives a plane crash and ends up alone on a remote island for 4 years.  In “Sully” he plays Chesley Sullenberger, captain of the US Airways flight that he safely landed in the Hudson River.  In “Apollo 13,” he portrays astronaut Jim Lovell from the ill-fated Apollo 13 flight that miraculously landed safely back on earth after terrible technical issues that prevented the crew from landing on the moon.  You also don’t want to wait in an airport with Tom Hanks, where you might be stuck for years, as he was in “The Terminal.”  And a trip on a ship?  Well, he was “Captain Phillips,” who commanded a ship that was attacked and taken over by pirates.  At least we know good old Tom made it back alive, but personally, I don’t need the drama.

Recently a new burger place, 30 Burgers, opened in my area.  Is this place 5 burgers better than 25 Burgers? 

I’m not sure why I am thinking about this now, but I was just wondering about how people who are born on Leap Year celebrate their birthdays.  And how do they explain that their date of birth is not February 28 or March 1, but February 29? Is there a party only once every four years?

Whenever I have to go to Customer Service at places like Walmart (yes, I DO go to Walmart; a girl needs a good junk store), I’m always amazed by how genuinely miserable the people who work there seem to be.  I know it is tough dealing with the public, and that people can be a real pain in the ass, and that jobs are hard to find, but why would someone apply for that kind of job in the first place?  Maybe they have just reached their breaking point.  But I can’t help thinking about the day that they showed up for the interview.  Were they full of enthusiasm, selling themselves as perfectly suited for a customer service position?  Because times have CHANGED since that interview and when they were hired to the harsh reality of actually having the job.  Kind of like Donald Trump's thinking being president would be a snap and then finding out he hates it and wants his old life back.

I know I should be grateful when I get that monthly e-mail from Amazon letting me know there are plenty of free titles available for my Kindle.  But the truth is that there are already so many things stacked up and waiting to be read on my Kindle that I should not be allowed to even look for one more book!

Do you read printed books?  Or do you read only on a Kindle-type device?  Or both?  I love books but have to admit that reading on my Kindle is very convenient, especially when I travel.  Still, I appreciate reading a book and I always pick up bookmarks when I travel.  They remind me of where I have been, they are cheap and there is always room in the suitcase for just one more.

Nutritional Tip:  When your lemons look like fuzzy limes, it is time to toss them.

Chocolate and I recently went through a trial separation.  That doesn’t mean we won’t work things out eventually, but we both need to adjust our expectations.  So, for now, we are keeping our distance.  What I really need is a restraining order – on me!

I like to think of myself as generous – at least to others.  But when it comes to me, I will squeeze a tube of toothpaste to death before I throw it out.  I will put water in the shampoo bottle to get a few more latherings, use the roll-on deodorant until it rolls no more and I will stock up on laundry detergent only when it goes on sale. 

Ah, I love this time of year.  Most of the time it is warm enough to turn off the heat and cool enough not to need the air conditioner.  Take that, Public Service!

When people casually greet you with a “how’s everything?” they don’t really want to know, and you don’t really want to tell them.

Tons of people watched as April the Giraffe finally gave birth to her bouncing baby giraffe, who weighed in at 129 pounds.  I’m not sure what this says about the public, where so many people watched a giraffe give birth.

Remember when we were growing up and kids wanted to be teachers and baseball players and firemen?  I don’t remember anyone ever aspiring to be a professional document shredder.  Yet there are entire businesses built around the destruction of documents.  This kind of career could never have been imagined “back in my day.”  Recently I spent the better part of a week going through old spread sheets and tax returns and receipts so I could gather them up and take them to the “Shredding Day Event” held in the county once a month.  As much as I hate doing this kind of chore, it feels so good when it is done!

I’ll end this month’s message on a sad note.  I recently learned about the passing of a very dear colleague, a man I admired and adored, Arthur Congdon.  Arthur was a brilliant designer, an expert on corporate identity (among may other things), and I was fortunate as the “Logo Cop” of Johnson & Johnson to hire him as a consultant to work on how best to display and protect the iconic Johnson & Johnson signature.  No one knew more than Arthur about this field, with his extensive branding program experience with many major corporations.  But Arthur was so much more than a designer.  He was a Renaissance man, with a love of music and art, and, above all, family.  I have songs on my iPod that came from his massive collection of Broadway cast recordings that he so graciously loaned me.  I remember his story about bidding for charity on a chance to conduct an orchestra and winning the opportunity, a huge challenge that he handled with his usual enthusiasm and relish.  We kept in touch long after I retired and he and his beloved wife Jan had moved to the St. Louis area to be closer to their grandchildren.  They made sure they lived in a location that was cosmopolitan enough to have museums, operas and symphony orchestras.  When you get a chance in life to engage in conversation about things for which you have true passion, and you have a chance to share common interests in the workplace, you are fortunate, indeed.  But when you get the chance to share a friendship with someone you admire, someone who enriches your life, that is rewarding beyond measure.  Rest in peace, my dear friend.  You will always have a special place in my memories of Johnson & Johnson and in my heart.



Monday, May 1, 2017

Tina's April 2017 Movies


This month's movies included a few "doubleheaders" and one of my  all-time favorites.  All movies are rated from a low of 1 tuna can to a high of 5, and movies not seen previously are marked with an *astersik.  Numbering picks up from the previous month.
37.  Newtown* (2017) – This devastating documentary aired on PBS’ Independent Lens series.  It recounts the grim story of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, where 20 innocent 6-7 year old children were killed along with 6 adults – including teachers and the mother of the deranged shooter.  Much of the film focuses on the parents of just a few of the children.  The shared not only their memories of the loves they lost but also their hopes to ban assault weapons from private use.  Why anyone needs an assault weapon is not within my realm to understand.  I find it ironic, however, that under the current administration, the new secretary of Education thinks that weapons should be allowed in schools in case of an attack by a bear.  Let’s count the 26 lives lost on that fateful day and compare that number to all of the lives ever lost to an incident in a school caused by a bear.  This tragedy should NEVER be forgotten or repeated.  Those poor kids and teachers died for no reason, and others will, too, until we come to our senses in this country and enact real gun control.  And bear in mind that once funding for public television disappears, you won’t find programs like this one available again.  26 cans, one for each victim of this horrifying tragedy.
38.  Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery* (2017) – The only real mystery in this documentary miniseries is why Casey Anthony was not convicted of killing her two-year-old daughter, Kaylee.  Back in 2008, the young Florida mother admitted that her daughter had been missing for 30-days but insisted she was abducted by her nanny.  She proceeded to lead the authorities down countless blind alleys while her parents and the rest of the country sat back amazed by her audacity and prayed for Kaylee’s return.  You might remember the details – the abandoned car with the stench of a dead body coming from the trunk, the images of Casey partying while no one knew her daughter was missing, her computer searches for chloroform, courthouse visits between Casey and her parents – all recorded and played out on national TV (thank you, Nancy Grace).  All this and more details turn up in this examination, and all of the evidence points straight to Casey, portrayed as a young, pathological liar who must be the murderer.  But the one smart thing she did was hire an attorney who deflected the attention everywhere else.  In the end, Casey apparently got away with murder.  But while she is not in an actual prison, the erstwhile “Tot Mom” will never escape the notoriety and disdain of the American public.  Truth is stranger than fiction.  4 cans.
39.  The Wedding Singer (1998) – I’m not much of an Adam Sandler fan, but this lighthearted story about Robby (Sandler), a wedding singer who falls for Julia, a waitress (Drew Barrymore), even though she is engaged to another guy – a creepy womanizer (Matthew Glave) -- is sweet in its simplicity.  Robby is engaged, too, but he is left at the altar by his fiancĂ©e and becomes friends with Julia and helps her with her wedding plans.  Of course they fall in love, but she’s engaged, he’s honorable, and what happens is as unlikely as it is predictable.  And I was charmed anyway.  3 cans.
40.  Bull Durham and 41.  For Love of the Game (1999) – As baseball season arrives, what better doubleheader to see than two Kevin Costner movies about life on and off the diamond?  In Bull Durham, Kevin plays Crash Davis, a career minor-league catcher whose highlight was a brief “cup of coffee” in the Major Leagues – or, as he calls it, “the show.”  Crash is signed by the Bulls mainly to tutor young pitching phenom Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, a kid with plenty of potential but who doesn’t understand or respect the game the way Crash does.  His tutoring extends beyond the mound to Nuke’s budding relationship with baseball groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), who has reached home plate with many a ball player in her time.  She finds Crash appealing, he finds her intriguing, but she has committed her summer of love to studly young Nuke.  This wonderful, funny movie captures minor league life on the road, the platitudes of baseball, the camaraderie of the clubhouse, and the difference between a relationship with a boy and with a man.  In For Love of the Game, Costner is Billy Chapel, 40-year old renowned pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, a future Hall of Famer who is still performing well on the field but facing a future without baseball.  The Tigers are in New York to play the Yankees often enough for Billy to meet and court Jane (Kelly Preston), a writer with a teenaged daughter.  Most of the action takes place off the field, focusing on the relationship between Billy and Jane, until Billy has the unique chance of pitching a perfect game.  And what good is fame and fortunate when there is no one beside you to enjoy it?  Bull gets 4 baseballs and Love gets 3½.  Bring on “Field of Dreams!”
42.  Gifted* (2017) – I get all the various actors named Chris confused – Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans – and I do like them all.  Here, Chris Evans is Frank Adler, the uncle/caregiver of an enormously bright little girl, the daughter of his late sister.  Little Mary (McKenna Grace, the owner of the longest eyelashes this side of Christine from “Flip or Flop”) is 7 and has never gone to school, having been taught by her uncle.  But he wants Mary to be a real kid, to make friends and to do what other kids do, so he enrolls her in the local elementary school.  Bored by the simple math problems her teacher gives the class (“How much is one and one?”), she immediately dazzles Ms. Stevenson by calculating a tough multiplication problem in her head – and adding the square root.  What 7-year old can do this?  Mary is offered a spot at a prestigious school for advanced students, but neither she nor Frank wants her to go.  Frank’s British mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), herself an accomplished mathematician, disagrees and sues for custody.  I won’t reveal the case, but the central themes are the strong bond between Frank and Mary (and her one-eyed cat, Fred) and the concern of everyone: What’s best for this brilliant little girl?  Octavia Spencer has a small part as the landlady in Frank’s community who doubles as a friend/mother figure to Mary.  The movie is predictable in parts but full of love and very touching.  3½ cans.
43.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* (2017) -- Oprah Winfrey produced and stars in this screen version of the best-selling book by Rebecca Skloot (Rose Byrne) about Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose cancer cells were harvested and used without her knowledge or permission (she wasn’t asked).  Winfrey plays Debra, Henrietta’s daughter, a woman desperate to know more about her mother who agrees to help Skloot uncover the mystery behind her mother’s cells.  A poor woman, Henrietta is treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 1951.  All we glean from the movie version of the much more detailed book is that Henrietta died, but her cells lived on and helped medical researchers in their work on a variety of diseases.  Debra, who seems to suffer from some form of mental illness, sometimes reluctantly and sometimes enthusiastically works with “her reporter” – as she refers to Skloot – to find out what really happened.  There is a good deal of resentment by the family for not being informed about her mother’s cells or medical records.  This movie, while interesting, is not nearly as engrossing as the book.  I never thought I’d hear myself saying that I needed more science, but that’s what the book provided that the movie lacks – so to speak.  Oprah does a credible job in her role, but she is so much larger than life that it is difficult to separate the celebrity from the actress.  Byrne brings a little too much enthusiasm to the part.  I loved the book –which spent years on the best-seller list – and I like the movie.  3½ cells.
44.  Castaway (2000) – What can I say about this movie that I haven’t said before?  There are vast periods of utter silence, as Chuck Noland (the redoubtable Tom Hanks) finds a way to survive alone on an island after drifting ashore following a crash of his FedEx plane.  Chuck leaves behind his beloved girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) to take the ill-fated flight, with only her picture in an heirloom locket giving him strength to survive.  His only company is Wilson, a volleyball that becomes his BFF.  But the part I love the most is that he does survive and he gets to see Kelly again, and she tells him, “You are the love of my life.”  The lump in my throat is bigger than Wilson the volleyball.  The only other thing I’d say is never to travel with Tom Hanks.  “Castaway,” “Apollo 13,” “Sully” and “Captain Phillips” prove that he could be dangerous to your health.  5 cans.
45.   Hello Dolly (1969) – Budding superstar Barbra Streisand was just 25 when she was tapped for the title role in the movie adaptation of the Broadway musical made famous by Carol Channing’s iconic performance.  Let’s face it – this is NOT a great movie.  There is a lot of slapstick silliness, and we are induced to believe some sort of romance between Streisand’s Dolly Levi, matchmaker extraordinaire and young widow, and the much older and completely irascible Horace Vandergelder, played by Walter Matthau with more than a tad of reluctance.  Presumably he cheered up when the check cleared.  The story is simple: She’s a matchmaker, looking for a wife for the grumpy old man, and decides she is the best candidate for the job.  All she has to do is convince him, which takes us through innumerable musical numbers and extraneous characters.  This movie is an overblown pastiche of a musical, despite a few memorable songs and one dynamite cameo by Louis Armstrong himself.  So why watch?  Because this week I am going to see the Broadway revival, starring the Devine Miss M herself, Bette Midler.  The whole point of the show is to provide an actress like Channing, Streisand or brassy Bette with a star turn, and I have no doubt Bette will more than hold her own.  As for this production?  You can let this parade pass you by.  2½ cans.
46. Parenthood (1989) – This Steve Martin comedy became the loose basis of a TV show I loved, and although the movie can only cover so much ground in two hours compared to a TV series that lasted for about 7 years, the movie is nonetheless entertaining.  Although I don’t have kids, I certainly laughed my way through some of the trials and travails of the Buckman family.  Martin is Gil, the main character, trying his best with wife Karen (Mary Steenbergen) to be a good father.  When Cowboy Dan doesn’t show up for his son’s birthday, Gil fashions a cowboy outfit complete with “chaps” made from the bathroom throw rugs.  Meanwhile, his sister Helen (Dianne Wiest) is flummoxed by her daughter Julie (Martha Plimpton) and her choice of boyfriend, or, as she calls him, “that Tod” (Keanu Reeves in a part essentially similar to his role in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”)  When mom accidentally gets Julie’s pictures from the local Fotomat (this movie is OLD), she is amused and outraged by the casual sex between the two young lovers.  “You can almost see his face in this one,” she says.  Parenthood is a tough job, and this movie reminds the viewer of much of the joy, some of the disappointment and all of the fun.  3½ cans.
47.  My Blue Heaven (1990) – In a completely different role, here Steve Martin is mobster Vinnie Antonelli, a fish completely out of water as a native New Yorker forced to move to San Diego as part of the witness protection program.  He only stands out from the neighbors in his new community when he mows the grass in his sharkskin suit, teaches his FBI agent Barney (Rick Moranis) how to merengue and tips everyone in sight.  Martin’s trademark white hair may be gone, but his smile and silliness are intact.  Barney is charged with the job of keeping Vinnie alive and making him fit in while awaiting his testimony in a New York mob case.  But trying to get Vinnie to keep a low profile – and alive -- is a real challenge.  Nothing earthshaking here, but good for a few grins.  Martin is terrific.  3 cans.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

April Observations

Why is it that when you are in a hurry you get every red light and it seems to be National Slow Drivers Day?  And when you are ahead of schedule, you always get green lights and there is no traffic?

You know you're getting old when you pick up a book at the library and it turns out to be a large type edition, and you realize that you don't even mind because it will be easier to read.

Here’s another thing I have noticed about getting old:  Women shrink and sag, their hair gets thinner and their hips get fuller.  Men get bushy eyebrows and longer earlobes.  And I no longer have to shave the inside of my legs, my calves.  Just an observation.

There are some days when I have to look down at my shoes to make sure I am wearing an actual pair.

There are days when I drive 100 miles and I don't go anywhere.

Does this happen to you?  You look for something in the place where you just KNOW it will be, except that it isn’t in its place.  So you keep looking there, and finally give up because the item – a utensil, a pair of shoes, a sweater – is NOT where it was supposed to be.  Then you randomly glance at the spot in question at another time, and there it is.  What happened?  Did the thing you were looking for slip away for some sort of dalliance?  And how did it get back?  Ah, the secret life of your stuff.

Recently I went to visit a friend who has an adorable dog.  I am not a dog or cat person (sometimes I’m not even sure I am a people person), but I find Byron irresistible.  I’ll even let him sit on my lap and gaze and me with his puppy-dog eyes (even though he isn’t a puppy anymore).  Before I left for the visit, I decided that I would stop at Pet Smart to buy Byron a gift.  I have NEVER been in a pet store.  It was overwhelming.  What should I buy?  I found a few likely candidates, but when I realized they squeaked, I figured it best to avoid that type of annoying sound.  After browsing the aisles for something that Byron would want to play with, I settled on a bunny from Ellen DeGeneres’ pet line.  I went the register to pay and the cashier asked me if I had a loyalty card.  I told her I had never even been in a pet store before, which she found shocking.  I told her I wasn’t sure this was the right gift, so she asked me what kind of dog it was.  “He’s black,” I answered.  What do I know?  Then I remembered he was a snickerdoodle, or something like that.  You know, part poodle and part something else.  She probably went home from work that day shaking her head about the dopey woman who came into Pet Smart that day.  PS – I barely had the bunny out of the package when Byron seized his gift, ran around the room with it and spent the day chewing the ear right off the bunny.  I think he liked it.  And no, I am NOT getting a dog!

I recently took an on-line quiz about one of my all-time favorite movies, “Animal House,” and aced it.  I’m not sure what that says about the information stored in my brain, but as the motto of fictional Faber College asserts, “Knowledge is Good.”

I totally get the relatively simple concept of losing weight:  “Eat less and move more.”  But sometimes that motto seems to morph into “Eat more and move less,” which, I can assure you, does NOT yield the same results.  So I have come to this realization about the very logical and effective Weight Watchers program:  If you are not making progress, you are probably making excuses.

I read an article that says there is scientific evidence that eating chocolate cake for breakfast (and the timing is critical, according to the research) can increase your intelligence and help you lose weight.  I approach this news with skepticism, hope and a fork.

The question is never “How long CAN you keep Girl Scout Cookies in the freezer?”  It is always, “How long WILL you keep Girls Scout Cookies in the freezer?”

With all of this talk about our appliances performing “surveillance” on our daily lives, I’m wondering if Alexa is divulging my shopping list to anyone.  And who could possibly be interested in knowing that I need bananas?

And speaking of bananas, here is my question of the day:  Why are the bananas in Stop and Shop ALWAYS better than the ones in ShopRite?  They aren’t bagged, for one, but they are consistently superior to the lame ones in ShopRite, even if they are the same brand (Chiquita, etc.)  Such a mystery.

My idea of pressure is getting a 14-day book from the library.  Will I have time to read it and return it?  What if it is late and that goes on my permanent record?  I can’t take the pressure.  It is easier to just buy the book.

You know your day is busy when you think you can’t afford the two minutes it takes to run the electric toothbrush for the full cycle.

Whenever someone tells me something that is confidential and says I should not repeat it, I always think, “No problem.  I’m probably not going to remember it anyway.”

There is no time that I speak more clearly than when I am trying to enter destination information into the navigation system in my car.  However precisely I enunciate the address, she fails to understand and cannot locate the desired destination.  Frankly, I think she is suffering from some sort of hearing impairment issue, because what she CLAIMS to hear and what I actually said are so completely different (like I saw "Raritan" and she thinks it is "Matawan).  It would be easier to fold and unfold a map – or just use my phone, which magically picks up every word I say when asking for directions.

Does this happen to you?  I’ll wake up during the night with a sore knee or a sore throat or some ailment, which, of course, feels so much worse during the night, and in the morning I’ll call the doctor’s office for an appointment, whereupon I instantly feel better.  So I don’t take anything, hoping that when I get there whatever is bothering me is at its worst so the doctor doesn’t think I’m a hypochondriac.  The same thing happens with the car.  You hear a terrible noise, make an appointment, and by the time you get to the service place, the noise is nearly gone.  So then you try to replicate it so the mechanic can diagnose it, which almost never works.  Odd, isn’t it?

Lately I have been having more problems than usual sleeping.  I may have trouble falling asleep, but it is what happens during the night that makes me crazy (and now you know how that happened).  I will wake up at 3 or 4 AM and have a discussion with myself about whether I should get up and go to the bathroom.  Am I awake BECAUSE I need to go?  Or should I go because I am awake?  So I get up and go, which makes me consider WHY I had this internal debate in the first place, since I always get up and go.  And then I go back to bed more awake than when I first got up and I can’t fall asleep again.  I make sure I am in what I consider a real “sleeping position.”  The pillows are arranged just right, there’s no pressure on my shoulders and my hands are unclenched to prevent carpel tunnel.  I am cool and comfortable – and fully awake.  If I could get exercise points for tossing and turning I’d be in great shape!  Should I get up and read a book?  Should I see what movies are on the DVR?  Should I put on the TV?  I refuse to turn on my phone before 7 am (most of the time).  I roll over and ask Alexa my schedule for the day or the temperature – as if I can do anything about either.  Just go back to sleep, I admonish myself.  Sometimes I try to meditate, to calm my mind and relax my body – if I can stop thinking about relaxing!  I’ll tell you, it is NOT easy being me, and it is certainly a relief to everyone that I live alone.  No one could put up with me.  I can’t stand myself when I am tossing and turning.

I think I had a bad dream last night that was prompted by the recent United Airlines incident when a passenger was dragged down the aisle of the plane in an effort to “re-accommodate” him (airlines parlance) since the flight was overbooked.  In the dream, I was at an airport, trying to get somewhere, and the authorities kept questioning me, delaying my departure.  I woke up so upset and reluctant to go back to sleep because I was afraid the dream would continue – which NEVER happens.  And I wonder why the bags under my eyes look like they came from American Tourister!