Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Random Thoughts, October 2014 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tina's September 2014 Movies

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

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life Lessons for My Nephew

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

For instance:

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tina's August 2014 Movies

I watched a dozen movies in August, trying hard to see only movies I hadn't seen before (those marked with an *), but I couldn't resist a few old ones.  At least one I should have resisted (you'll identify which one by its one can rating). Numbering picks up from July and all movies are rated on a scale of 1-5 cans of tuna, with 5 being the top rating.

103.  City by the Sea* (2002) — Life isn’t easy for junkie Joey Nova (James Franco).  He has a girlfriend and a baby and a nasty drug habit.  When he and his buddy get into a fight with a dealer, Joey ends up stabbing the guy to death.  The cop who catches the case is his estranged father, Vincent LaMarca (Robert DeNiro), who abandoned his son after divorcing his mother (Patti LaPone).  Will father catch son?  Will he help him or bring him in?  I would not have watched this movie had DeNiro and Frances McDormand, who plays the cop’s girlfriend, not been the leads.  It was a taut cop story and worth seeing.  3½ cans.
104.  Boyhood* (2014) — Growing up is never easy, and surviving the upheaval of divorce only complicates things for the children, as this drama poignantly demonstrates.  The mother (Patricia Arquette) tries to build her vision of a real family for her son (Ellar Coltrane and daughter (Lorelai Linklater, the director’s daughter), but keeps marrying abusive losers who only make life worse for everyone.  Continual money problems and constant moving means the kids change schools and have to make new friends, and spend much of the time trying to figure things out on their own since the mother has to deal with her own problems.  The hook here by director Richard Linklater is that he filmed this movie over a 12-year period, so you see the actual actors actually age, none so obviously as the main character, Mason, who evolves from an innocent 6-year-old to a high school graduate on his first day of college.  Linklater teams with his star from “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” Ethan Hawke (as Mason’s father), once again.  Let me say that I really wanted to like this movie, but instead found it just as dull as I found the aforementioned Linklater works.  Mason is a good kid, but, because of the upheavals, he doesn’t get too close to anyone.  The family has communications issues and cannot relate to each other in a genuine way (I’m not saying the dialog is not authentic, it’s just gloomy).  In the end, I just didn’t really care about these people.  I can recommend it only to those with the patience to sit through three hours of not much happening.  3 cans.
105.  Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion* (1997) — Romy and Michelle (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow) are sweetly vapid young women approaching their 10-year high school reunion without decent jobs or men in their lives.  Best friends forever, the two somehow survived the horrors of high school — which this movie depicts with stereotypical accuracy — without even realizing that they were not in any clique.  They went to the prom together, dressed like Madonna, and while Romy pined for the high school jock, Michelle was worshipped by the geek who would later become rich and famous (Alan Cumming, without a trace of his Scottish accent, like a very young Eli Gold).  When they decide to attend their high school reunion, they create a story that depicts them as hugely successful their careers, claiming that Romy invented “Post-It” notes.  About to be ostracized yet again, they manage to turn the tables on the perky prom queen and her court.  Kudrow and Sorvino play their parts to the hilt, all blond, long legs, short skirts and eye rolls.  This is no “Citizen Kane,” but it is a pleasant enough diversion that was almost worth waiting 17 years to see.  I can probably go another 17 before I see it again.  3 cans.
106. China Moon* (1994) — If you are a fan of “Body Heat” or the old Barbara Stanwyck-Fred MacMurray classic, “Double Indemnity,” this film noir is right up your alley.  I think “film noir” is French for “sexy lady gets man to do something for her he shouldn’t do,” which generally means to murder or help murder her husband.   In this suspenseful movie, Ed Harris is Kyle, a cop known for his ability to crack a case, but this time he falls for the murderer.  Madeline Stowe is married to a mean, abusive and very rich banker (Charles Dance) when she meets detective Kyle in a bar.  He pursues her, and soon she is plotting for a way to knock off hubby and be with him.  Can she pull it off with his help?  How far is he willing to go for the woman he loves?  Will the cops turn the tables on him?  My only criticisms of this movie are that it takes a while to get going, and that the title really has nothing to do with anything.  Though “Body Heat” (with sexy Kathleen Turner and sweaty William Hurt) may be more sultry, “China Moon” is just as suspenseful.  4 cans.
107.  Seeking a Friend for the End of the World* (2012) — It is the end of the world as we know it, as an asteroid hurtles toward the earth it will ultimately destroy.  Seems like a good time to reassess your life, no?  Steve Carrell is Dodge, a hapless, morose guy whose wife bails out.  His young neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), breaks up with her boyfriend, and Dodge and Penny hit the road to find Dodge’s true love, his high school girlfriend, before the apocalypse.  This is an unusual road movie for sure, but, to me, it dragged on and on.  How long will it take before these two realize that they are meant for each other and that time is of the essence?  About 2 hours.  The ending is sweet, but getting there was a long, strange trip.  3 cans.
108.  The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone* (1961) — Karen Stone (Vivien Leigh) is an aging American actress whose wealthy husband dies of a sudden heart attack on their way to Rome following a failed Broadway show.  In Rome, the sad and lonely actress is introduced to Paolo, a handsome, much younger man (Warren Beatty, with a terrible Italian accent) whose “services” are booked by the Contessa (Lotte Lenya).  The lonely widow, ever so proper and afraid of what others may think of her, embarks on a relationship with the gigolo.  Beatty does his best James Dean, head cast downward, looking innocent yet calculating (probably adding up Mrs. Stone’s money in his otherwise empty head) as he enjoys the fruits of his “labor” — custom made clothes, dinners at the best restaurants, etc.  She clearly cares for him, but does he really want a woman more than twice his age?  The sad thing here is that Leigh herself was an aging actress by then.  In looking this movie up, I found another version with Helen Mirren and Oliver Martinez that I may just have to watch next.  3½ cans.
109.  The Hundred-Foot Journey* (2014) — Last month I saw “Chef,” another movie about food, and I was glad that I ate before I saw it.  The temptation of Helen Mirren, rapidly becoming one of my all-time favorite actresses, and food was irresistible.  Here she is Madame Mallory, the irascible owner of a hoity-toity restaurant in the French countryside who is dismayed when an Indian family builds a much less formal Indian place directly across the road in her tiny town.  She is the doyenne of diners, a celebrated restaurateur with a Michelin star to her credit.  But the Indian family has young chef Hassan (Manish Dayal), who has exactly what it takes to be an outstanding chef.  He also has a crusty and charming father (Om Puri) with whom Madame eventually builds a peaceful coexistence.  Meanwhile, Hassan strikes up a relationship with Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), who works for Madame and is no slouch in the kitchen herself.  This movie has no surprises, but, in the hands of director Lasse Halstrom, and with engaging performances by the key players, it offers a tasty treat.  3½ cans.
110.  Grand Central* (2014)  — This documentary tells the story of the rise, fall and rise again of Grand Central Terminal in New York, the largest train station in the world and one that was built over 100 years ago.  With tremendous foresight and planning, the building functions as well today as its creators originally envisioned.  Although Grand Central fell into disrepair in the 1970s, the New York power elite, mourning over the loss of the once great Penn Station, fought to save it.  People like Jacquelyn Kennedy Onassis, Bess Myerson and Mayor Ed Koch pushed not only to restore the beaux arts beauty to its grandeur.  Today it is a spectacular, thriving space where people eat, meet, greet and travel.  I love a happy ending.  3½ cans.
111.  Remember the Day (1941) — Way back before present day scandals involving unseemly relationships between teachers and students, it was possible to have a teacher demonstrate warmth and caring.  Here Claudette Colbert is Miss Trinell, an 8th grade teacher whose young student, Dewey Roberts, has a crush on her.  They bond over his love of boats.  Also with a crush on Miss Trinell is Mr. Hopkins (John Payne), a fellow teacher who sweeps her off her feet.  It is scandalous for the two unmarried adults to consort with each other (this movie takes place in 1914), so one of them will pay the price.  We start the story as an elderly Miss Trinell goes to a rally for presidential candidate Dewey Roberts many years after their initial encounter, and flash back to that special time of growing up.  This is an endearing and sweet movie that could not be made today.  3½ cans.
112.  Wordplay (2006) — What is a 10-letter word for something that captivates the mind?  How about engrossing?  Will Shortz, The New York Times Crossword puzzle editor, is the creator of a national crossword championship, held every year in Connecticut, that attracts people who are crossword fanatics.  Leading up to the tournament, we meet many of the contestants as well as celebrities from President Bill Clinton to comedian Jon Stewart who are dedicated to the Times’ puzzle.  The contestants practice all year, timing themselves, and can complete a Monday or Tuesday puzzle in just a few minutes — in ink (the puzzles get progressively harder during the week).  People who enjoy language (and obscure words) and who like to solve problems are attracted to these puzzles.  We see how they are constructed (the puzzles, though we can see how the players are wired, too) and by whom.  I love language but my brain is not wired to do puzzles or even to play Scrabble all that well, so I can admire these intelligent people and their mastery.  4 cans.
113.  Longtime Companion (1990) — The timeline of movies about the AIDS epidemic begins with this drama, continues with 1993’s “And the Band Played On” and leads to the recent airing of HBO’s “The Normal Heart.”  These moving dramas have much in common, as they all portray groups of young men whose world is suddenly rocked by what is first characterized as a virus of unknown origin affecting gay men.  In this movie, as in the others, the group slowly diminishes in size as men lose their partners and friends to the dreaded disease.  Where the other movies work in the activism in the fight against AIDS, this one concentrates on the relationships between the men, with Bruce Davison in the lead.  Other actors include Campbell Scott and Dermot Mulroney.  Movies like this can never and will never have a happy ending until the disease is eradicated, but just seeing the fear of the people involved as they try to understand what is happening is very powerful.  3½ cans.
114.  Stayin’ Alive (1983) — Tony Manero (John Travolta) hauls out the white suit and the attitude in this sequel to “Saturday Night Fever” that was directed by Sylvester Stallone.  Tony has crossed the bridge from Brooklyn and now lives in a dumpy Manhattan hotel, where he auditions and gets rejected from plenty of Broadway shows in his quest to be a professional dancer.  He falls for the lead dancer in a new show, a haughty Brit played by Fionnola Hughes, who considers him beneath her in talent and social standing.  If the show in which they star opened on Broadway, it would close by intermission.  Stallone overstages and overpowers everything, dousing it liberally with Rockyesque music largely performed by his brother, Frank, with some BeeGees tunes thrown in for good measure.  The dance sequences are like boxing rounds.  This movie is like “Sharknado,” but at least in “Sharknado,” the players got the joke.  Here they don’t understand how preposterous the whole Broadway show is and play it straight.  Travolta, while he’ll never be a Broadway dancer, gamely tackles the whole thing with zero body fat and occasional flashes of the charming /angry guy we loved in the original.  “Barely Alive” might have been a better title.  1 can.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer (A)Musings

Robin Williams — Wow.  You just never know what someone is feeling.  How someone who made so many people happy could be so sad himself is a tragedy.  RIP. 

I don’t know who Pearl is, but today I am wearing her mother’s earrings.

I notice that I am becoming more indecisive lately.  I can't decide what music to listen to on my walks, what clothes to wear or even pick out socks without pondering the decision — as if anyone would know or care.  Are you indecisive?  Yes and no.

Why is it that when I yawn, my ears always seem to pop?  They don't seem clogged between yawns, so I can only conclude that my brain is leaking out through my ears.

What could be more ignominious than having either a rest stop or a women’s prison named after you?  There’s a good news/bad news scenario.  “Congratulations, Lombardi Family.  We’re naming the Turnpike rest stop after Vince!”

I watch “Jeopardy” every night, and I just have to say that Alex Trebeck is a bit of a “know-it-all.”  I guess that makes him a wise guy.  By the way, if you record “Jeopardy” and skip the commercials and Alex’s meaningless little chat with the contestants, you can watch the whole show in about 20 minutes.  Don’t tell the sponsors.

Do you ever drive past a construction site, notice that a building has been demolished on a lot you pass all of the time and you have no idea what the building was?

No one seems sadder than Ted Allen when he has to tell one of the contestants on “Chopped” that “You’ve been chopped.” 

For someone who sees as many movies as I do, it is amazing how few “blockbusters” I watch.  I eschew action-adventure for the most part, shy away from anything remotely scary or bloody (which leaves out all those vampire movies) and anything with fantasy in it (I just cannot suspend my sense of reality).  That means when the list of Top 10 Box Office movies comes out, it is likely that I will have seen none of them.  Yet I manage to watch 150 or so movies a year.

If I stick the left earpiece of my headphones in my right ear, what happens?  Will I hear things in the wrong order?  Does it matter?  Will the audio authorities come after me and box my ears?

It is a wonder I can see at all sometimes with all of the schmutz that's on my glasses.  

July marked the 25th anniversary of the TV sitcom "Seinfeld," a show about, well, basically, nothing.  And who didn't love that? Waiting for a table in a Chinese restaurant, Vandelay Industries, Kramer, Elaine's manic dancing...all classic TV moments.  I watched from the first episode of what was originally called "The Seinfeld Chronicles," and enjoyed every episode except the finale, which was God-awful.  Still, overall, a great show.

My DVR has a perplexing habit.  When I turn it on, it sometimes flashes a read-out that says “DUI” before it give me the time or channel.  Do you think it drinks while I’m not watching?  I can’t come up with a logical translation for DUI.  Suggestions?

It amazes me how we have to nurture our plants and flowers and yet weeds can grow in cracks in the asphalt and thrive despite drought, cold and every other condition thrown at them.

As a walker, I am grateful for those electric fences that persuade dogs to stay in their yards and not attack me. 

My BFF suggested that I pick up the pace a little when I walk to get more out of the experience.  But wouldn't that potentially jeopardize my standing as the dead-last finisher in the Resolution Run/Walk on New Year's Day?  I have held the title for 2 years and don't want to give it up now, not when I can go for the three-peat.

Isn’t it odd that you can walk along feeling fine when suddenly you get a pain in your ankle or shoulder or elbow for no apparent reason, think you’ll never walk again, and then it goes away?

Last walking reference:  I try to walk for health and fitness, yet now I am developing bunions.  It seems to me that the punishment doesn't fit because walking is no crime.

After our horrible winter, I promised I wouldn’t complain about the summer heat.  So I’m not going to complain about the summer heat.

I know we need rain, but can’t we just get regular rain instead of torrential downpours that overfill my pool?  I’m tired of getting flash flood warnings on my phone every time we get another deluge.

One of my BFFs retired as a teacher.  Now I can call her anytime, because she has no class.

I used to have to straighten out those twisted cords on all of my phones.  I was always untangling them in the office — even in other people’s offices.  Now that we all have cordless phones, that’s one habit I have dropped.  Instead, I’m fixated on keeping the headphone cord for my iPod free of twists and kinks.  I guess I’ve just transferred that OCD characteristic from one thing to another.  Blue Tooth is a good thing for me!

Don’t you just love to find a book that you absolutely cannot put down, that you want to finish but don’t want to finish because you will be sad when you are done reading it?

I have some habits (actually, too many to mention) that really annoy me.  One is that I will write down a phone number but not the name that goes with it.  Later on I find the number but have no idea whose number it is. 

I need to go to bed earlier.  I don’t sleep well anymore, what with at least one stop in the bathroom after which I have trouble falling back to sleep, so that means I am usually up early after 5 or so hours.  Maybe if I went to bed earlier I could erase those Samsonite bags under my eyes.  I really don’t think I look my age (going on 64), but those bags!  You could go on a trip around the world with smaller bags than the ones under my eyes!  Maybe it’s time to see the wizard on Park and 73rd.  Or just go to bed earlier.  That would be cheaper and far less painful.

The very idea that a dab of concealer under my eyes could possibly disguise the bags is optimistic at best — or just plain foolish.  Maybe a vat of concealer, applied with a trowel, would make a difference.  I just bought a lighted make-up mirror, a concession to the fact that I need a lot of light to see.  I didn’t quite understand how BIG an 8 inch mirror was until this enormous looking glass arrived.  It also magnifies my face 7 times, so my head now looks like it could be on Mount Rushmore, and my pores look like the craters of the moon.  But my lipstick and eyeliner (yes, I do wear eyeliner — as infrequently as possible) will look great.  I’ll just have to get over the scariness of my face that big.

I don’t mind cooking, but cleaning up is a giant pain.  Since I live alone, both the cooking and the cleaning up are my responsibilities.  But at least I get to eat whatever I want to eat.  So there’s that.

These days, I measure the effectiveness of my brain by trying to recall every word of “Love Child” and “Along Comes Mary.”  When I stop remembering the lyrics, I’ll know trouble lies ahead.

You can’t tell me that my nails don’t grow faster in the summer.  I mean, you can tell me, but I won’t believe it. 

My bottle of nail polish remover has an expiration date.  Really?  What happens when nail polish remover “goes bad?”  Will the bottle itself disintegrate?  Just wondering.

Does anyone actually go on line and take the survey that Kohl’s asks you to take every time you purchase something?  We could save plenty of trees if they would stop handing out that little slip with the website on it.  Besides, most people go on line just to complain about service, and at Kohl’s I find everything to be more than acceptable.  Except that they keep asking me to take the survey!

What’s the point of ordering a load of mulch, having it delivered and then letting it sit in your driveway for the entire summer?  Not me, but several houses I pass have done just that.

Alert the media:  I actually finished two magazines this month in the same month they arrived!  Aside from my weekly People magazine, which takes only 10-15 minutes to absorb (if that’s an accurate description), I normally skim magazine articles first and put the magazine aside for later, in-depth reading.   That means I will soon be done looking at holiday recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas from last year’s Better Homes & Gardens.  Yet I cannot recycle my magazines unless I have at least gone through them once.  Why do I continue to subscribe, you (reasonably) ask?  Well, I wouldn’t want to miss something interesting now, would I?

And speaking of magazines, I have subscribed to TV Guide since 1974, and notice that they seem to send out a lot of “double issues” now, which makes me wonder — with a subscription that will probably outlive me, do I get half as many issues as I used to get?  Is a double issue counted as two issues?  Oh, the weighty concerns on my mind!