Friday, December 31, 2010


Goodbye to you

That was my first thought. Then I read Jezebel--this is a more accurate reflection of my feelings.

I would like to say that I am feeling positive about the New Year. But I'm still playing defense--that's how 2010 has effected me.

2011 has got to be better.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Movie (and TV) Traditions

Jeff and I have a few holiday traditions such as watching certain films and TV shows (not in any particular order.)

1. It's a Wonderful Life:

Somehow I never saw this film until I watched it with Jeff--probably our first Christmas together in 1986 when we got engaged. As I wrote the other day, I love the way the film used the alternate timeline/reality. I like that device so much, I'll watch lesser movies, such as Mr. Destiny with its ridiculous over-the-top chase scene ending and The Family Man

James Stewart is always good as the ordinary man. Here he plays a man torn between his wistful longings for a life of travel and adventure, and his compromised life devoted to family and community. He shows it all on his face when the Board of Directors agrees to keep the Bailey Building & Loan open--on the condition that George take over his father's position. It takes a look at the world of Pottersville for George to realize his compromise was actually wonderful.

In a solid supporting cast, Lionel Barrymore stands out as Potter, fully realizing a character who could be a caricature in a lesser actor's hands. Thomas Mitchell's Uncle Billy is also solid. Take a look to see what Riku says about the film.

2. Christmas in Connecticut:
I wouldn't call this a screwball comedy as some commenters do on imdb but it has elements of farce with Barbara Stanwyck's Elizabeth Lane posing as the perfect cook/homemaker. Stanwyck proves she can excel in comedy as well as drama. Her leading man is Dennis Morgan. I've always liked him--he is underrated as an actor--maybe because of some of his musical roles. As soon as you see the big tip he gives to the driver (especially compared to the paltry tip of Elizabeth's fiance John--played by Reginald Gardiner) you know he's the man for her. Christmas in Connecticut also provides a change-of-pace for Sydney Greenstreet. He didn't always play a villain, but he was known for his mysterious, sinister characters. The film also features SZ Sakall as Felix--he's always a pleasure to watch.

3. The Man Who Came to Dinner
This isn't a true Christmas movie, but the action takes place over holidays so this has entered our Christmas movie rotation. I originally watched this for Bette Davis--my favorite actress. She heads another strong supporting cast but the lead is Monty Woolley as Sheridan Whiteside. Ann Sheridan is on hand with Billie Burke and Reginald Gardiner (who was also in Christmas in Connecticut.)

4 An Echolls Family Christmas; Veronica Mars Season 1: The only TV episode on the list, this works as a stand-alone episode as it reveals very little about the season-long story of who killed Lilly Kane. Two mysteries-of-the-week come to a head at the Echolls annual Christmas party when Veronica and her father Keith expose the underbelly of Neptune CA.

Holiday Countdown

I haven't written in over a week--no surprise that I've been getting ready for Christmas. Today I finished wrapping the presents, but received two unexpected gifts. I guess my shopping is incomplete.

I couldn't sleep last night; I was awake until at least three. It wasn't any specific thing--my mind seemed to race from topic to topic. I was tired but somehow not tired enough to sleep.

Jeff did the grocery shopping today--that was a huge help. While he was gone, I dusted and vacuumed the living room and dining area and started wrapping. I was surprised to have everything done before dinner, which Jeff made. It's nice to relax tonight.

Tomorrow I'm making Christmas breakfast--scrambled eggs with cheese, veggies, bread, sometimes meat, baked in stoneware. Then I'll make the scalloped potatoes for Christmas Eve dinner and a carrot salad with dried cherries, cranberries and raisins. Then we just have to pack up the car and be on our way.

Hoping for a Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Party

Tonight Jeff and I went to our only work-related holiday party. It was sponsored by AMA (American Marketing Association, not that other AMA), Public Relations Society of America and Connecticut Digital Association (I think that's the correct name.)

I used to be active in the AMA local chapter; I was on the Board of Directors for several years and served as President and Vice President Communications.

It was good to reconnect with some colleagues and meet a few people as well. I haven't been an active networker recently. I guess last night's party was my way of putting a toe in the water. Maybe I'll be ready to dive in next month.

In a moment...

After my afternoon walk with Spike, I realized that I had misplaced a glove. I retraced my steps to the front door. Not only did I drop my glove in the doorway, but I had dropped it in the exact spot that propped our exterior door open.

We've had some security issues in our condo. If I hadn't noticed my dropped glove, I could have created a new security problem in my home.

What a set up. What could have happened in those few moments between my dropping and my recovery of the glove?

What if I hadn't discovered it...until after someone took advantage...

One small action, one moment can change everything. Yes, that sounds a bit melodramatic like a promo for ABC soaps. But it could still be true.

I've always been intrigued by the idea of alternate timelines and parallel universes, most brilliantly portrayed in "It's a Wonderful Life" A writer I know wrote a story about
different outcomes that cascaded from a man's decision to turn left or right at a corner. The story ended with Tom is dead or Tom is dead or Tom is dead or Tom is dead.

Chance, coincidence, synchronicity, destiny, a writing prompt, whatever. Always food for thought.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On a morning, gray and dreary

I headed out for a walk with Spike before eight. It was damp and raw but not raining.

He stopped at the top of the front stairs, resisting my efforts to descend. I got him down to the first landing--he stopped again and then jumped off to the grass next to the steps and sat down. He peered into a unit after hearing a woman near the window. Then he looked over to another unit--with lights on in the kitchen and dining room. Spike obviously wasn't in the mood to walk. "We're going to the dog park," I told him.

It was a good move. The park was apparently redolent with aromas, which Spike carefully investigated. He ran over to greet and then pounce on Daisy, a golden retriever. We did a loop with Ella, Maisie and their human.

I caught a glimpse of red among the trees. I think it was a cardinal but couldn't get close enough to confirm.

It's supposed to be bitterly cold tomorrow--this may be our last visit for awhile.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cooking Time

I started my own tradition--cooking on Sunday afternoons, especially when the weather is bad. Today was rainy and foggy. I made flank steak and black bean chili. We also had tostadas with guacamole and salad for dinner.

Last week we finished my earlier creations: pumpkin soup and vodka sauce. We still have some chicken soup left after Thursday's dinner (and today's lunch.) I guess chili will make its return appearance later this week.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Warm and Balmy

"You don't know what you've got till it's gone." --Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell.

Today it was 40 degrees; it felt warm and welcoming after a string of cold days. We ran a few errands and then went to the dog park--it was a good day for Spike.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Seasoning

Last night we set up our two five-feet artificial Christmas trees and put out candles, pictures, Santas and angels. We used to get a real tree until a particularly busy Christmas season. I was working in equipment leasing and had to finish several transactions before year end. Jeff was working two jobs. Getting a tree was more hassle than it was worth. Shopping on Christmas Eve, we found our first artificial tree. As silly as it was, I felt guilty for not having a tree; our last minute purchase assuaged my guilt.

Later I bought a second tree. I don't miss the real one--oh the scent is nice but the falling needles are a pain.

I've had a tough year. I was hoping to jump start the holiday spirit by decorating early. It hasn't worked out as I planned but at least I'm not in a Scrooge frame of mind.

It's time for me to break out It's A Wonderful Life, Christmas in Connecticut and An Echolls Family Christmas (from Veronica Mars.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shiver in my bones just thinking

about the weather

This is the coldest morning yet this season. At least it's just cold and not a rainy (or snowy) day. The sun isn't providing much warmth and the gusty winds made our morning walk downright unpleasant.

Spike didn't seem to mind but he did walk briskly.

I need to keep my weather whining low key because it could be a lot worse--lake effect anyone?

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Patch of Blue

No, not a movie this time.

Spike and I got to the dog park later than I planned. The estate attorney called me just as I was headed out the door around 3:30--a downer to my day and the whole week.

Walking into the park, I looked up and saw a beautiful blue streak in the evening sky. In the streak was a cloud that at first glance looked like a dolphin leaping out of a blue sea.

I needed it--another unexpected gift of autumn.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


On a bumper sticker at a car in the hospital parking lot:

Black Holes where God divided by zero.

I liked it--it was a little geeky and made me think.

I must admit that I sometimes make assumptions and judgments about people based on their bumper stickers. The smile I get from a dog breed sticker or my dog digs whatever bone-shaped magnets--fades when I see McCain Palin 2008. I'm also not crazy about the band parents whose stickers proclaim they have no life.

But a math/science joke is nice to see.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lamentations of the Labor Challenged

Technically I am not unemployed but underemployed. I lost my last full-time job in November 2008. I received severance of five weeks salary for a five year stint and had about five days vacation pay. At the time Jeff was between consulting assignments. My main concern was health insurance--our Cobra payment was estimated at $900 a month.

I was lucky to have had a part-time job teaching SAT prep since 2002 that had just started offering a health plan for part-time employees in October 2008. While tutoring was slow that season, I picked up a class and that activated the insurance. I also got some PR work from my old boss that lasted about five months.

Unemployment insurance was a godsend to me. It supplemented my my sporadic work and provided the basics those weeks I didn't work at all.

Once again Congress has let extended unemployment insurance coverage lapse. Why are they attempting to balance the budget on the backs of the unemployed while concentrating all efforts at preserving tax breaks for the very ultra rich? (I am deliberately redundant.)

And those tax breaks--they've been around for nine years and apparently haven't saved the day yet. Why haven't these tax breaks already created all those jobs that the Republicans allegedly care so much about?

Oh right, it's all bullshit. The unemployed can only offer votes--the tax break beneficiaries can offer cash--perhaps enough to buy all the votes needed.

While things are starting to look up, it's the large institutions that are benefiting. Many of the un- and underemployed are existing day to day, check to check.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have the part-time job and Jeff found more consulting jobs. We have a low mortgage payment (thank God we didn't move back in 2006-7.) We also have family members who could help us out and did without us asking.

I know how I need unemployment. Too many others need it more.

Don't cut us off at the knees.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November Close

I didn't meet my writing goals for November. I came close on the daily blogging front--a miss on Thanksgiving Day. But I did write 32 posts this month so the pace was decent.

I haven't pulled out my Mets piece. I've thought about it but that isn't good enough. I need to start submitting that soon.

I went back to the gym but hit a snag there-- I missed last week. At least I got there this morning.

I have extra to catch up on for December.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Unexpected Gifts

I thought it would be cold when I took Spike out this morning. It was only about 30 degrees when I first got up.

We walked out into warm bright sunshine. I stuffed my gloves into my pockets and unbuttoned my coat. Spike and I headed down Maple; the sky was a cloudless blue.

Our morning walk morphed from a procrastinated chore in the cold to a pleasure--a bonus--to get the morning off on the right foot.

Later on our midday walk we passed a neighbor from Highview Condominiums whom we hadn't seen him in months. "Is that Spike? It's good to see he's still around." I told him Spike had just celebrated his tenth birthday.

I realized that Spike's been a fixture of this neighborhood for nine years. He's touched many lives.

I thought about the dogs that I have met and now miss. Paul, Booker, April, Bonnie, Lucky, Fly, oh I forget some names. I even miss Pumpkin the cat. I assume he/she died because it's been so long since we've seen him/her. That was a cool cat; Spike could aroo all he wanted--Pumpkin wouldn't even react.

Walking with Spike has connected Jeff and me to our neighborhood as nothing else could. Our neighborhood is a mixed bag--and evolving. But it is our neighborhood.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thank You Suffragists

American history, according to high school, is calm; things just flow along--then there's a big war--and then things just gradually grow better. Ta-da!

High school history would be much more interesting if schools taught the messy violent reality.

Recently we watched Iron Jawed Angels, a HBO movie about US suffragists. I had seen parts of it and have had it saved on our DVR for over a year.

Less than one hundred years ago, women were denied the simple act of voting. Most of us take this right for granted (Ann Coulter thinks women shouldn't vote--don't take anything for granted.)

Alice Paul and Lucy Burns among others were tortured for trying to gain these rights. Iron Jawed Angels focused on Alice Paul (Hillary Swank.) While Patrick Dempsey is likeable as the semi-romantic lead, the subplot detracts from the main exciting plot. More coverage of the Night of Terror would have been welcome. We did see a beautiful (unfortunately true) scene in which Lucy's cuffed hands are hung over the jailhouse door. Her fellow suffragists hold their own arms up in protest of her treatment.

What these women sacrificed for us should not be ignored. They should be praised and celebrated in our textbooks.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Great Performances: Ian McKellen as Gandalf

I often have the TV on as background while doing chores. Over the past week I've caught parts of "The Fellowship of the Ring" a few times.

Tonight I saw my favorite scene--when Frodo volunteers to go to Mordor during the Council of Elrond. The reaction shot of McKellen is incredible--Gandalf's face reflects his fear, pride and acceptance of Frodo's destiny.

Gandalf knows he is at the crossroads--the end of the age of wizards and elves and the dawn of the age of man. At this point, Gandalf can only assist as part of the Fellowship.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

I'm embarrassed to say today is the first time I heard how the expression Black Friday originated--the period when retailers are turning a profit or are in the black. Wikipedia says the original term refers to disruptive pedestrian and vehicular traffic the day after Thanksgiving.

Whatever the origin, I an not a participant in Black Friday. It goes against my every instinct for a successful shopping trip.

Jeff and I relaxed today. He started some work he needs to do and I prepped for tutorials this weekend. Karl sent us home with leftover turkey and pulled pork from the party last month. We had delicious pulled pork sandwiches with a carrot/raisin/dried cherry salad for dinner.

Time to relax again.

Thanksgiving Thoughts and A Missed Post

I blew my goal of posting daily this month. We went to Jeff's sister's home yesterday for Thanksgiving. We had an early meal around 1:30 and ended up staying overnight. Staying was not part of our original plan. I could have logged on to their computer to write a post, but I didn't bother.

Not a good attitude. Daily blogging was the only goal that I had kept up with this month. I could have written a few lines and saved it. At least I would have a heading with November 25th, but that didn't seem right. Plus I am probably the only one keeping track of this goal; I can't fool myself.

Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. It was a time to get together for good food and company without the bother of buying Christmas presents or going to church.

I never thought about it from the Native American viewpoint. There are issues with the whitewashed history that we learned in school. But Thanksgiving isn't tainted like Columbus Day--it's apparently similar to some Native American traditions.

In this crappy year of 2010, what do I have to be thankful for? Jeff and Spike are at the top of my list (even when they drive me crazy.) I'm thankful that despite financial challenges, we haven't been in real trouble.

I'm thankful that we didn't have to travel for Thanksgiving this year, that we spent the holiday with Jeff's family--I can trust them not to sue me or rob me--unlike the people from my side of the family.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getaway Day

I'm so glad I don't have to travel for Thanksgiving. The last time we went over an hour away, we drove down to Florida. We arranged our arrival for Tuesday.

Getting there was fine. We didn't do as well on our return. The traffic in northern Florida was pretty intense on Saturday as we ventured north.

This year we only have a 45 minute drive to Ridgefield, CT. I'm making pumpkin swirl bread and a salad. We also have two bottles of a nice Riesling Weishaus Max Ferd Richter (not too sweet) and some beer--Lagunitas Censored Rich Copper Ale.

Looking forward to a nice meal with relatives who aren't despicable.

A Bright Spot

I was walking Spike this morning and noticed four reddish orange roses, a bright contrast against the grayish green shrubbery atop a gray stone wall. The roses were just past their peak, but still looked beautiful--a bright spot that made me smile, especially because the blessed tree is now missing all of its leaves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Medical Matters

The ER recommended an orthopedist to my mother; he squeezed her in today. He has several offices around the county. Today he was in a location one hour from my mother's place, an additional half hour from me.

I can't say that I was glad to do it. But of course this was the least that I could do. My mother joked that she had changed my diapers. I asked how many diapers the ride today was worth.

Anyway we learned my mother broke two bones in her hand, not her fingers. Her hand is still too swollen for a new splint so she has to return on Monday. Luckily she'll see the doctor in a closer office.

It'll be a tough few weeks for her until she recovers. She doesn't like to depend on the kindness of strangers (or daughters.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

An Evening in the ER

Not anyone's choice of a place to spend an evening. Especially when I just wanted to eat some dinner and get into bed early.

My mother fell this afternoon and hurt her hand. She ended up in the emergency room tonight to have her wedding ring cut off. Her hand was bruised and swollen; her band is so thick, it took a special tool and several attempts to cut through the ring.

Ultimately, it was good that she went to the hospital because she broke her middle and ring fingers. The doctor put her in a splint and referred her to an orthopedist.

Around ten, she was released and Jeff, Spike and I drove her back to her place. She seems more annoyed with the inconvenience than in any kind of pain. As falls go, it could have been much worse. It's nice that she leaves nearby and is no longer fourteen hours away.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All About Eve

I just turned on this film before the iconic line, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

Great timing; it's one of my favorite lines in a witty, snappy script.

I'm not sure where I would rank this film. I have always loved Bette's performance. She is sophisticated, glamorous, smart and sexy. I also enjoy the work of George Sanders, Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter. Marilyn Monroe is memorable in her few scenes.

A quibble--Anne Baxter's performance is the weak link. She's good but she's just a little over-the-top. There's something in the tone of her voice that brings me out of her scenes. Everything she says sounds so fake. In a way that works for the character because she is constantly creating her own history. But it's hard to believe that people find her sincere.

I also have issues with the 1950's gender roles. Bill tells off Eve when she comes on to him. One reason for his rejection is understandable--he's in love with Margo. But then he insults Eve for making the first move. He goes after what he wants; it doesn't come after him.

I cringe when I hear Margo's theory about woman's career of being a woman. In true 50's fashion, a woman can't be happy or fulfilled without a man. I try to focus more on Celeste Holm's face during that scene--her guilt over her trick on Margo. Holm is very powerful and subtle.

Great film, even with the 50's baggage.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Wall

Why is it today?

I don't know what to write about.

What can I do?

Is blogger's block a serious problem? Or are there too many damn blogs anyway?

Friday, November 19, 2010


The other day at the condo's recycling bins and dumpster I got talking to a neighbor. We started with the weather as you often do when you barely know someone.

Then she made a comment that stuck with me. She mentioned a beautiful tree in the parking lot--its leaves were a flaming red, and said, "We are blessed."

I don't think of myself in terms of being blessed. Instead I may call myself lucky or privileged. Lately, I've been thinking more negatively--unlucky, screwed, but not cursed.

My neighbor was right; it was a beautiful tree. I had obviously seen it before, but had I really seen it or did I rush past with blinders on?

As part of a writing exercise I did earlier this year, I listed things that made me happy. I mentioned the morning sky from my living room window. I don't have a view in the usual sense of the word, but I can find beauty and happiness in the everyday views.

Spike has helped me appreciate things. I notice so much more walking around the neighborhood rather than driving through it: a man practicing tai chi on the lawns of Morningside Gardens and a goat grazing in a backyard on Highpoint Street.

Spike is my blessing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Encounter at Taylor Farm

Spike and I got to the dog park around 9:15 am. It was our first visit since Sunday and our first morning visit in over a month.

We started a loop around the park and saw Ella and Maisie coming down the path from the woods. I called Ella's name; she ran to me. Maisie was on a leash, but her human (never learned his name) released her and she ran toward us. Maisie sat by my feet and Ella rolled over so I could rub her tummy.

Their greeting reminded me why I am a dog person. They find joy in such simple things--running across a field, following a scent, rolling on their backs. They're so appreciative of simple gestures--calling them by name, patting them on their heads.

The other night, I dried Spike off after a walk in the rain. He seemed so happy and appreciative of my caring gesture. In that brief moment, I felt an even deeper bond between us--although we have already shared eight years together.

Loyalty, devotion and love. Right back at you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writer's Cafe

Writers Artists Collaborative is running a series at the Westport Art Center. Today was the second in a series of Writer's Cafes--lunchtime gatherings for writers. I'll return next month; I'm curious to see how the group will develop.

We did an exercise today: write nine things you forget and nine things you remember (in ten minutes.) I didn't get the exercise until we shared our lists. In some cases, the lists were rich enough to pass for lines of poetry. Other lists were great for writing subjects. Some focused on specific days or events; other lists seemed disconnected.

I can write several memoir pieces from the list of things I remember--I already wrote about the limo from hell for the New Canaan memoir class. The list of things I don't remember could be weaved into some poetry.

Pretty good writing exercise.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Last week I heard a song from a One Hit Wonders show on WCBS FM Radio--The Playground of Your Mind.

I don't remember the singer's name. He had a good voice, but the lyrics were absurd. The worst part was a little boy singing about a shiny new nickel and all kinds of candy--puke-worthy. By the second verse the kid's onto marriage and children's visits to grandparents. Very bizarre. Searched for a few seconds on youtube and didn't find anything--believe me, that is a blessing.

Since I heard it, the song's been stuck in some loop in my head with lyric fragments randomly popping out.

Prior to Playground, I was singing Rocky Horror--a reaction to a Halloween day marathon. At least I like the Rocky Horror songs.

Playground is slowly receding from my consciousness; soon to be relegated to the dark crevices of my mind.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Midway Through November

If I were doing Nanowrimo this year, I would be at 25,000 words--assuming I had kept up the 1667 words-a-day pace. I'm glad not to have that goal this month--it's a tough road.

I have good, logical reasons why I didn't attempt Nanowrimo. I won't bother listing them. The main reason was that my heart just wasn't in it; I knew that I wouldn't have a chance to succeed.

One of my writing goals was to blog here daily. For the most part, I did so--although I saved two posts instead of posting them--d'oh!

My other goals were rather vague, so it was easy for me to neglect them. Let's make one reasonable goal for November. I'll watch the recording of "the game" and then do a final edit of my Mets piece. It's time to start selling it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Great Bette Davis

I was in high school when I first became a fan of Bette Davis. I specifically remember my mother letting me cut school so I could watch The Letter on TV. Yes, back in the day before recording devices.

I was lucky to see Bette in person twice. She appeared in a program called Bette Davis In Person and On Film in Philadelphia in April 1974. The film clips included scenes of her movies from the thirties through the sixties: Of Human Bondage, Jezebel, Now Voyager, All About Eve, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The "What a dump!" line from Beyond the Forest,, further immortalized in the Albee play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Bette then appeared on stage to answer questions.

Six months later, I saw Bette as Miss Moffatt. There were numerous problems with the play, a musical version of her film, The Corn in Green, before the production closed. As much as I love Bette, even I could see that she was not the best choice of musical lead. But it was great to see her perform live. I also liked the new setting of the school in the deep south. Dorian Harewood was a revelation--he had a powerful voice--like James Earl Jones singing.

Bette Davis was an incredible actress; I love to watch her work.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holiday Season Already?

I'm always running behind the times--Joni Mitchell, Just Like This Train.

I started tutoring a new student today. Walking into her home was like entering a Christmas wonderland: a ten-foot tree in the entry, poinsettias, nutcrackers, garland. Later I attended the 32nd Annual Winterfair. There were a variety of gift options--clothing, soaps and make-up, ornaments, vinegars and oils, pies and candy. Holiday season keeps sneaking in earlier each year.

I thought I would get an early start on Christmas decorating this year. Major cleaning and organizing in November--putting up decorations the first week in December. Guess I'm behind schedule already.

2010 has been a rough year for me. I'm hoping to turn things around and close out the year on a high note. Can the holidays help me do that? More often than not, I find Christmas stressful. I hope I can overcome that.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Fifth Favorite Movie: The Letter.

The Letter

From the opening scene when Leslie empties her revolver into a man running down her veranda--you are drawn in her world: the Singapore heat; the moonlight; the rhythm of the ceiling fans. Leslie Crosby's explanation of the shooting is clear cut; her husband was away--an acquaintance's visit grew sinister. She defended herself as any woman would.

But there is more to Leslie's story. Her crochet lace work grows more intricate throughout the film as her clear cut story is obscured and contradicted by the evidence in, you guessed it, the letter.

Bette Davis is my favorite actress. Of all her roles, I believe Leslie Crosby is her best. (Margo Channing is a close second.) She also has an incredible supporting cast: James Stephenson, Herbert Marshall, Gale Sondergaard and Victor Sen Yung.

Don't forget director William Wyler. He had to work around Hayes office censorship and make his film make sense. He succeeded brilliantly.

Weather Wishing

Today was beautiful with bright sun--I couldn't find a cloud in the sky.It's the first of three wonderful days. I only wish that it had been this nice last weekend when we went up to Lakeville.

But that's the luck of the draw. Those are the breaks. Enter the trite saying here.

We still had a nice weekend away last weekend, but I was too cold for hiking or even walking around Kent.

I hope our next getaway is nicer.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tutoring Time

My work as a SAT tutor is sporadic, geared around the seven times the SAT is administered each year. The busiest times are before the March (or April) and the October tests.

It's surprising that I will start three new tutorials this weekend. One student needs a little more work before the December test; another wants to focus on reading for the January test; the third is starting a full tutorial for January.

I'm happy for the work, especially at this time of year. I enjoy tutoring and I like the kids that I meet.

But I feel for them. I went to high school in a different time and place. The students I tutor are under so much pressure: AP classes, extracurricular activities, standardized tests. On the other hand, they are receiving a much better education than I did.

I wonder how I would stack up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two Poems for Anne Boleyn

I mentioned last night that I'm fascinated with Anne Boleyn. I've written many poems about her.

Here are two:

Queen Anne Lack-head
previously known as
the Happiest of Women

For Anne

Never naive, but nonetheless a pawn
buffeted by a tide of rising family fortunes
and the caprice of an absolute monarch in a midlife crisis

Raised to "the king's own sweetheart"
wife and queen
the happiest of women

But there were some who rose with her
that they could use but not control her
biting back retorts to her clever jibes

They didn't object as she was plunged into a maelstrom
of lies and manipulation
Arrest, sham trial, guilty verdict and execution

It was the king's will
Hadn't he once said that he who could raise her so high, could also drop her so low?

In that, he was as good as his word.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What I'm Reading

The Myth of "Bloody Mary" by Linda Porter is billed as the first popular biography of Mary I in thirty years.

I've been fascinated by Anne Boleyn since high school when I read the novel, The Concubine by Norah Lofts. I even wrote my senior year term paper on Anne. I currently have 12 novels/biographies about Anne on my bookshelves. I started to expand my reading of the period beyond Anne and now have 5 books on other Tudor subjects.

Most of what I've read about Mary has been tangential to other subjects and focused on her early years. Her world was thrown upside down by her father's repudiation of his marriage to her mother; she went from princess to illegitimate offspring in a flash. From her reign, I remember that she had an unpopular marriage to Philip of Spain and that she executed many enemies.

I still have about a hundred pages left to read, so I can't make a final review. But I have been impressed with how Mary protected England in her marriage contract. The fear of a female monarch was that once she married, England would become an afterthought in the king's realm. Mary avoided that pitfall by putting England first.

She should be applauded for that, if nothing else.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Actors and Roles: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

For some reason, I woke up this morning thinking about the film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Specifically I was wondering who played Harding, one of the patients in the ward. Thanks to, I see it was William Redfield. I don't recognize the name, but I remember seeing him on The Odd Couple and in Fantastic Voyage.

It's weird to be thinking about Harding/Redfield of all the characters/performers when this is clearly Jack Nicholson's film--he is brilliant. I used to be a big fan and then got tired of him. It's arrogant of me to say that--maybe it's more accurate to say I'm tired that he seems to get major acting nominations for every film appearance. But there's no arguing that his work in this film wasn't great. His first Oscar win was for Cuckoo's Nest--after four nominations for Chinatown, The Last Detail, Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider.

Louise Fletcher also contributed an Oscar winning performance as a memorable villain (Nurse Ratched ranked number five on AFI's villain list.) I also appreciate Fletcher's portrayal on Deep Space Nine of Kai Wynn--a religious leader with her own agenda.

Lastly I want to mention Brad Dourif's haunting performance as Billy Bibbit. In his second film, he was nominated for an Oscar.

Somehow a stray memory or dream fragment got me thinking about a film that I haven't seen in years. It's time for me to add it to my Netflix queue so I can revisit it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Back

Daylight savings time ended last night (or should I say this morning?) At the dog park on Friday, I got into a discussion with a couple about how this will impede our evening dog park visits. Then we moved on to the reasons for daylight savings. The woman said it started because we used to be an agricultural society; her husband thought it had to do with energy savings. According to Wikipedia, George Vernon Hudson proposed it to give himself more time to collect insects. Live and learn.

I once wrote a poem called Spring Forward. It gets a lot of laughs when I share it. I need to write a companion piece called Fall Back, but I'm just not as inspired.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weekend Getaway

About four years ago, Jeff and I discovered the Interlaken Inn We wanted to get away for our anniversary and take Spike with us, so we needed a pet friendly place. We had a townhouse room with small patio on the courtyard. A wedding reception was set up on the lawn and we listened to the band, played with Spike and I danced a bit. Interlaken also has a fantastic restaurant, Morgan's, that serves organic and local food. The surrounding area offers parks and hiking trails, antiques and wineries. We liked it so much that we've gone back four times including New Year's Eve last year.

We couldn't make it for our anniversary or Jeff's birthday this year, so we picked this weekend. We are only going for one night and want to get an early start. We'll stop in Kent for shopping at one of my favorite stores Foreign Cargo and will head over to Millerton, New York to visit the tea tasting room at Harney's

It's going to be a great weekend.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Spike!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures of Spike in honor of his tenth birthday.

For as far back as I can remember, I've been a dog lover. I was born into a family with a loving, loyal, protective collie named Susie. Jeff is also a dog lover. We talked about and thought about getting a pet for a long time. Dogs v. cats--would we rather deal with a litter box or walk a dog daily and pick up poop? Was it fair to have a dog in a condo without a yard?

A Maltese named Clyde helped us make up our minds when we watched him over the holidays at the end of 2001. We loved having him around, he seemed to have plenty of room and we didn't mind the daily walks even in cold weather.
A few months later, I went to the local grocery store to pick up a newspaper and there was Spike's picture on a flier in the window. He needed a home. Sarah, who had taken Spike in when a friend was transferred to Atlanta, was also transferred. Sarah already had a dog of her own and could only take one with her.

The adjustment was tough on Spike. He was used to having a pal around and would howl when we left him alone. But living with us had some benefits: Spike was a vegetarian with Sarah. We changed that.

Spike was just over a year old when he came to live with us. He is ours and we are his. He has made us very happy. Because of him we have discovered wonderful parks and preserves and beautiful buildings just off the main roads near our condo. We are more engaged in our own neighborhood.
 We have made wonderful friends at Taylor Farm dog park.

I can't imagine our life without Spike. He is a joy.

Happy birthday Spike!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Gatekeepers

I was reading the On Language article on student slang at the University of North Carolina in the Sunday New York Times

I was particularly interested in the term "sketchy." I remember one of my SAT tutoring students got a question wrong using the slang definition of sketchy rather than the standard dictionary definition.

As I read on, I was blindsided by a throwaway line about halfway through the article. The linguist studying slang said, "female students are putting themselves into more dangerous situations than they did in my day..."

WTF? Women are putting themselves in dangerous situations. So the dangerous people are just sitting around waiting to see who shows up to be victimized; they can't help themselves. Then there's the comparison of what students did in her day--apparently they didn't put themselves in dangerous situations. In contrast, the female students today are reckless, stupid, slutty or all of the above.

As I said this was a throwaway line in the article. But this kind of attitude is prevalent in society. This is the type of attitude that leads to blaming victims for being raped. "What was she doing being there, wearing that, doing that?"

Why are women responsible for situations around them, the things that happen to them? Why are they the gatekeepers? It doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The F Word

I mean fat.

There were a series of posts on Shakesville last week about fat shaming--being fat shamed, doing fat shaming, etc. that started here

The infamous Marie Clare piece, Should "Fatties" Get A Room (Even on TV) also appeared last week. That article included the gem that the author has a problem with fat people walking across a room.

Check out Jersey Shore and you'll hear the fat insults flying. When Angelina says she's hot, the Situation tells her to lose five or ten pounds and then they'll talk. In Miami, Pauly mentions two beached whales on the beach; oh wait it's Angelina and her friend. By the way, these girls are not fat. But it doesn't seem to matter.

When did fat become the ultimate insult and the ultimate sin?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2010 Election Night

I'm watching election results with a sense of apprehension.

I'm a registered Democrat, but I'm not crazy about the Democrats. For example, Obama has disappointed me-not because I think he is a socialist/communist--but because he has taken his supporters for granted. He reminds me of a victim of bullying who is trying to get in good with the bullies by picking on someone even lower on the totem pole than he. This kind of leadership doesn't inspire me.

Just saw a graphic on CNN that across the country, most people are voting against candidates rather than for candidates. Then I switched to Fox News--Karl Rove says voters have to be voting for something; if they are just against something--they won't vote.

I'm not sure about that.

There is so much anger against politicians in general. The nastiness of campaigns can only make it worse. I'm not sure if this is the nastiest year in campaigns, but it seems that way to me. I suspect the "relaxed" spending laws have been a major force behind the nastiness. No one is accountable.

As of now, Republicans have a majority of the House. The make-up of the Senate is still undetermined. Dick Blumenthal beat Linda McMahon for the CT Senate seat. Many of the other CT races are undetermined. Bridgeport had approximately 40,000 less ballots than needed and polling hours were extended in several locations.

I was a political science major in college. A part of me watches the campaigns dispassionately--fascinated by campaign strategies and tactics. Then there's the part of me who is appalled.

I wish I could be hopeful.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo: No

For the past four years, I've participated in National Novel Writing Month The goal is to write 50,000 words of a completely new work. If you hit 50K, you're a winner.

My first two attempts were pitiful; I only lasted a few days. In 2008, I made it to 40,000 words. I was proud of myself--it was the longest piece I had ever written. Last year I won. NaNoWriMo showed me that I can write consistently; I can write every day; I can produce output.

NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality. Quality is for another draft.

Of my two novels I completed, one is like junk candy. The other has some good features, but not enough to salvage the novel as a whole. It would be more efficient to pull out the good and put it in another work than to try to fix the the novel.

This year, NaNoWriMo is not for me. For one thing, I don't think I can win. I know that's a bad attitude. I know I can learn from failure. I know that I have to be willing do something badly in order to do it well. I know.

Right now my heart isn't in writing a novel. But I want to set some writing goals for the month.

1. I will blog every day this month.
2. I will review and finalize my Mets piece.
3. I will work on my travel memoirs, starting with Russia and Egypt trips.
4. I will make my goal number 3 more concrete (i.e. decide on a word count.)

Let's get it started.

13 Ghosts: TCM to the Rescue

Over the weekend, TCM ran a series of horror movies, including several William Castle movies on Sunday. I recorded 13 Ghosts--I hadn't seen it in years. I can report that my memory served me well--this was the movie with the suffocating canopy bed

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween Consumption

One of my tutoring students told me yesterday that she's too old to dress up for Halloween. I didn't tell her that I was dressing up myself.

Our friends have a Halloween party every year. They spend hours decorating their house, inside and outside--ghosts, skeletons and spider webs.

The theme this year was Mardi Gras. I saw some incredible authentic masks from New Orleans (courtesy of the hosts and fellow travelers to the Big Easy.) A few of the women wore beautiful gowns as well. I didn't wear much of a costume--my real clothes with a multi-colored glittery top hat, glittery makeup and several strings of beads. I taped a feathered mask to a chopstick and carried it. It was passable, but not particularly creative. It would help if I didn't wait until the last minute to decide on a costume.

At a party store, Jeff saw a jester costume that he liked. The $125 price tag was the end of that. I balked at $40 for a cape. It just seems silly to spend a lot of money for a one-time event. Even more of an issue is--where do we put all the stuff after Halloween? We just don't have a lot of space. Our storage bin already has two big boxes of Christmas decorations and two small Christmas trees. At least we use them every year. I don't see myself wearing the same Halloween costume year after year.

After today, I guess we're officially into Christmas season, though some stores have already put out Christmas merchandise. At least I haven't heard any Christmas carols yet.

But for now I have to figure out where to store the top hat, beads and masks. Then there are the five bags of candy for our non-existent trick-or-treaters.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I've been in cocoon mode for over a week now. I've taken Spike for walks and the dog park, run some errands and had two tutoring appointments, but otherwise stayed close to home.

I did some good things--cooking and food prep, SAT practice tests and a little flurry of blogging activity. But, for the most part I've been self-indulgent--watching TV, playing yatzhee and rummikub.

But now it's been going on long enough. This is the week for me to get out and about. Yesterday on my walk with Spike, I felt optimistic. We were walking through the hospital parking lot and I saw two matching maple trees--the same size and the same pinkish orange leaves. It made me smile.

Later walking around Cranbury Park, I turned around, saw Spike and felt my heart open. Things can't be that dark if I have him. I've relied on him and of course Jeff. I just hope I haven't dumped on them too much.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Tonight we had angel hair pasta with the marinara sauce I made yesterday. It was the best sauce I ever made. I worry that I'll be never be able to reproduce the exact recipe. I used some new spices from Wildtree--scampi and garlic herb spice mixes.

I made a side salad of romaine and we finished the last of the carrot jicama salad. For dessert, fresh strawberries, blackberries, a peach, with a splash of Grammy's raspberry liquor (my mother makes it for Jeff) and some champagne sorbet.

Delicious--I feel as if I'm finally out of my food rut.

Posting Notes

This is my twelfth post this month--a new record, surpassing my high of 11 posts in July.

This is also my fifty-first post. It's not a major accomplishment, but it's something. And it will get better.

Cooking and Food Prep

Yesterday, I got into my home-mode. I made spaghetti sauce, lentil and walnut salad, carrot and jicama salad, and a third salad of cherry tomatoes, avocado, English cucumber, jicama and red pepper over greens.

Last night we had the salads with stuffed shrimp and scallops. We reserved the sauce for tonight with some fresh angel hair pasta. I also have some carrot ginger soup I made last week.

Sometimes living in a cocoon can be beneficial.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bringing Up Baby

This is the quintessential screwball comedy and my fourth favorite movie.
A madcap heiress ropes a reluctant paleontologist into helping her transport a tame, music-loving leopard from New York City to Connecticut. What could be screwier than that?

Katharine Hepburn is charming and intoxicating and Cary Grant is at his flustered best. They first meet on the golf course when Susan Vance (Hepburn) plays the ball of David Huxley (Grant) interrupting his important game. Next she takes off in his car. Things just get crazier from there at a nightclub with the olive trick and the ripped dress, a drive around Riverside. Then the fateful trip to Connecticut: an encounter with a pair of swans, a stolen car, a shifting riverbed, an escaped circus animal, multiple arrests and a memorable interrogation.

Backing Hepburn and Grant is a brilliant supporting cast: May Robson as Aunt Elizabeth, Charles Ruggles as Major Applegate and Walter Catlett as Constable Slocum (among many others.) Don't forget Skippy, the wire haired terrier who played George, "...a perfect little fiend and you know it," as Aunt Elizabeth says. Skippy worked with Grant earlier in The Awful Truth and is best known as Asta, Nick and Nora Charles' dog in The Thin Man Series.
The dialogue is fast and snappy--jokes fly so fast it's easy to miss some. One of my favorites is when Constable Slocum asks why Susan is limping. She says she lost her heel. Slocum says, "Well, forget about him." I'm not giving it justice here--trust me, it's very funny.

The film includes what may be the first modern movie use of the term, gay. When Aunt Elizabeth asks why David is wearing a negligee, he says he just turned gay, all of a sudden (apparently, an ad lib by Grant.)

A great film and a funny movie: see it.


I've had a rough few days.

On Friday, the Florida probate judge rejected my interpretation of my father's will. The result--my father's wishes are being ignored. While I can certainly use that part of the inheritance that I will forfeit, the insult to my father is worse than the injury to me.

I've been sick since Saturday, weak, chilled and achy. I'm feeling much better today, but I'm still exhausted despite several hours of sleep.

For the most part I've retreated inside our condo. I played yahtzee, worked on SAT practice tests, read "The Myth of Bloody Mary" and watched baseball. Yesterday I walked Spike, cooked dinner and did the laundry.

I find myself wanting to cook and bake--tonight for dinner, I sauteed and then baked salmon fillet with ginger soy sauce on fresh spinach sauteed with garlic, lemon and wine. We also had sauteed string beans with red pepper, carrot, onion and garlic.

To use some older fruit, I baked apples and pears with oatmeal, butter, sugar cinnamon, raspberry liquor and orange juice. All in all, a nice meal. I'm already thinking about tomorrow. Marinara sauce, maybe some muffins. I need to keep busy right now.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time Suckers

This morning over breakfast I took a quick look at my last blog post.

There was a typo. So I went into edit and found myself doing more than fixing that error. I made several minor edits to shorten sentences and clarify my points. I also added a few ideas as I thought more about the topic. Next thing I knew a half hour had passed and my morning schedule was thrown off.

Later when Spike and I were out on our walk, I got to thinking more about time suckers. Specifically, what are my time suckers? Watching TV is definitely one (especially reality shows); surfing the Internet is another. Sometimes I run into neighbors and hello's extend into long conversations.

Now I just can't say turn off the TV: turn off the computer: don't talk to neighbors. It's not cut and dried. It's the never ending need for balance--to walk the tightrope while trying not to fall.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guilty Pleasures Revisited

I've written about my embarrassing love for Jersey Shore here and here

But I've had other reality guilty pleasures. Here is my story.

In started in 2007, when I broke my second ankle. I am prone to foot injuries. But let me tell you, feet injuries are easy compared to ankle injuries. Thanks to wireless, I could do most of my work at home, going into the office only occasionally. I spent a lot of my recovery time home in bed.

During my recovery, I watched a lot of TV. One Sunday afternoon, I came across my introduction to the Flavoverse (term courtesy of Television Without Pity) a marathon of Charm School: Flavor of Love Girls with Monique. I got sucked in pretty quickly. I tried to cut my losses by not turning into the heavily promoted Rock of Love.

But my defenses were eventually worn down. I watched episodes of Rock of Love, Real Chance of Love, Daisy of Love, Entertainer of Love: A Basement Affair, and Megan Wants a Millionaire. As VH1 expanded its dating shows, the objects of desire became more and more removed from "prizes." Real, Chance and Frank were losers on I Love New York, and New York was a loser on two seasons of Flavor of Love. How many degrees of separation are these contestants from the original prize? Are the originals really prizes themselves? Hoopz, the winner of Flavor of Love, joked on I Love Money that she could kiss anyone; after all she had kissed Flav.

What I like about the dating shows is that for all the talk of love and being there for the right reason, the interesting relationships that develop are between the competitors such as Farrah and Ashley from Rock of Love Bus. The relationship between the prize and the winner rarely survives to the reunion show.

Once people are cast on I Love Money--the pretense of being there for Brett, Flav, Daisy, Megan, etc. is cast aside. They're all there for the money--hey it's in the name of the show.

VH1 has quietly resurrected I Love Money 4. It had to shelve Megan Wants A Millionaire after a few episodes and I Love Money 3 completely because one of the contestants on both shows, Ryan Jenkins allegedly killed his wife Jasmine Fiore. While VH1 needs to strengthen its screening process of contestants, I must admit that I'm happy to see I Love Money again.

Is there a 12 step program for reality show addicts?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nature Bats Last

Saw that phrase on a bumper sticker in my parking lot today. It intrigued me.

First because I've been wondering if the recent severe weather is some kind of revenge by nature. (Really, tornadoes in NYC?)

Secondly, I love the language of baseball and how it's extended into other areas of life. I have a notebook in which I've listed a bunch of baseball terms. I'd like to write a story sometime using only baseball terminology.

Baseball is rich in language, numbers and imagery.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Artist Date: Elephant's Trunk and Merwinsville Hotel

I didn't have a very productive weekend. I barely cleaned; I barely worked on my resume. But I still had a good weekend.

Today I went on an artist date I also did another thing that I've been wanting to do for a long time: I went to the Elephant's Trunk Flea Market Elephant's Trunk is an outdoor Sunday flea market running from April through November.

After a cold start to the morning, the day turned sunny and warm. I spent about an hour and a half wandering up and down the aisles of jewelry, china, glassware, clothing, tires, musical instruments. I didn't buy much--a few political pins, a small carved wooden dog with his head raised in a howl, two sets of fork and spoons made from china. You can make a half day of it at Elephant's Trunk--there are food trucks offering hot dogs, sandwiches, fried dough, pretzels, chili and donuts with tables and chairs nearby so you can sit down to enjoy your food. But you can't linger for long; around noon, I saw the first vendor start to pack up his goods.

I left the flea market and headed to the Columbus Weekend Art & Fine Crafts Show at the Merwinsville Hotel The Merwinsville Hotel is worthy of a post of its own. It served as a meal stop for passenger trains going through Gaylordsville from the 1840's through the 1870's.

Jeff and I found the hotel one weekend when we were exploring the area and made a wrong turn. I became fascinated with the place and we've gone back several times. Attempts to restore the hotel have been continuing since 1971. While there is still much work to do, Jeff and I have seen a lot of progress since we first found the hotel in the mid 1990's.

Today I purchased some hand made Christmas cards and a few souvenirs--a new Merwinsville Hotel tee shirt and a pair of wine glasses with the hotel logo. I previously purchased Christmas ornaments, tee shirts, a print of the hotel in its heyday and a trivet.

I'll be back in December for Christmas in Gaylordsville.

Back home, I picked up Spike for a long visit to the dog park. All-in--all a great fall day,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beautiful Morning and a Lovely Day

This morning I did something I've been meaning to do for a long time--I took Spike to Mathews Park for his morning walk. Mathews Park is about three blocks from our place and while Spike has been there a few times for shows and markets, we've never gone there just for a walk.

Today was the day. For the first time in eight weeks, I didn't have to work on a weekend. At first I was disappointed that Jeff was going away although he had planned it for months. Ultimately, I decided there was something nice about being on my own.

Mathews Park consists of several attractions. The small Fera Park is tucked into the left corner, a little too close to an adjacent gas station. The Lockwood Mathews Mansion on the right is the main attraction. Stepping Stones Museum for Children is currently closed for renovations, but we had a great time there in June with our twin niece and nephew, Jane and Ian.

Today after we walked through Fera Park, Spike and I were welcomed into the Center for Contemporary Printmaking when Spike poked his head in an open door. I enjoyed the Stepping Stones' wind chimes as we walked by. Next we walked through Devon's Playground and Pine Island Cemetery. I was careful to keep Spike on the main path through the cemetery. While I'm not a believer in hallowed ground, I don't want to disrespect anyone's beliefs.

With our afternoon visit to Taylor Farm Dog Park, today was a

Six Months

When I woke up this morning, I was thinking that today was the date of the October SAT. I sent good wishes to my two tutoring students who were taking the test today.

Only later did I realize that today is the sixth month anniversary of my father's death. Not a day to celebrate.

Last year at this time I was planning my last visit to my father's. I arrived on October 17th--his birthday.

My brother Jim gave up on baseball years ago but he's rooting for the Phillies this year because of Dad. Go Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, etc. This die-hard Mets fan is supporting you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

3. Fargo

It's time to return to my favorite movies Fargo from 1996 is the newest film on my list

I've always enjoyed movies about heists that have gone wrong. While Fargo isn't technically a heist movie, it has some of the same elements. I mean what could possibly go wrong with hiring two guys you don't know to kidnap your wife for ransom?

The actors are incredible. I can't think of a weak performance in this film.

The characters are fascinating and the film's successful characterizations start and end with Marge. I'm not sure I've ever seen a pregnant woman as a hero, unless the pregnancy itself was the plot line. Marge is not only smart and good at her job, but she is also empathetic to her subordinates and acquaintances (e.g. Lou and Mike Yanagita.)

Plus Marge has a happy marriage. That may seem like a minor point but many films show that a woman who is professionally successful cannot be personally happy. Marge and Norm are in love and supportive of each other. The movie ends with them both experiencing professional success--Marge has solved the case and apprehended one of the kidnappers while the Post Office has selected Norm's mallard for the three-cent stamp. Their personal success is shown as they happily await the birth of their first child--"Two more months," says Norm.

Fargo has many funny lines and situations, but never makes light of the deaths of its characters: the state trooper who stops the Ciera, the witnesses, Jean Lundegaard, Wade Gustafson, the parking lot attendant, even Carl Showalter himself (I hope I didn't forget anyone.)

The Oscar nominated cinematography is incredible--you feel the bleak cold. You understand Jerry's anger and frustration as he starts to scrape the ice off his car and throws the scraper, only to retrieve it and scrape the windshield in earnest as he has no other choice.

A great film.

Not Posting

It's frustrating when I go onto a blog I like and there are no new posts.

And here I am--I haven't posted in about three weeks. It's disingenuous to say that I've been busy. I don't have a full time job or even a consistent part time job. But everything is relative and I can say that I've been relatively busy. I've been working with five tutoring students. Two are taking the SAT this Saturday. The other three will be taking the PSAT the following week and the SAT in the next two to five months.

But I haven't been busy enough to justify not posting.

So why didn't I write more?

I tend to post in the evening and sometimes I'm tired and blow it off.

I'm still involved with family drama and I figure it's better for me not to write about it now. Unfortunately, every time I start to feel that things are getting back to normal, there's some new chapter.

Feeble excuses.

In the spirit of the fall--the beginning of the new academic year and the Jewish New Year, I'll just say that I will post more. I wish I could commit to posting every day, but don't want to set myself up to fail already. Five posts a week is reasonable. No more disappearing for weeks at a time.

Friday, September 17, 2010


In a week when I did little writing, I was thinking about Stephen King's The Tommyknockers The aspect that intrigued me was that under the influence of an alien spacecraft, Roberta could actually write by using her thoughts to control her typewriter. Of course, there's a terrible price to pay.

I often write in my head. When I walk with Spike I think about this blog--writing lines for entries as well as lines of poetry. I think about plots for novels and sometimes I narrate my actions (a la Tobey Maguire in Wonder Boys.) When I'm hiking, I look at odd shapes in rocks and tree branches and let my imagination go. Sometimes when people watching, I imagine myself driving off in a passing car or being part of a nearby family.

I tell myself that this thinking is an important process--a crucial part of my writing. But I need to produce on the paper. Suddenly I'm reminded of the SAT: ETS doesn't care about the actual work done nor does it give partial credit. The only thing that matters: did you darken the correct oval?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Taking Stock Again--and Failing

Fall is in the air. My tutoring has picked up. I started with two students this week, will finish up a postponed tutorial and start another tutorial that will stretch into the spring.

August was not a productive month for me. The plan was to concentrate on writing. I was going to write a memoir piece between 1000 and 1500 words and enter a contest. The entry was due Tuesday and of course I would blog about it.

I wrote several short and medium pieces about the Russia trip and my father's death. The Russian material didn't flow. My idea was to weave my recollections from my journal entries. Oh, there is some good stuff there, but I couldn't bring it to life. I wrote one piece on the midnight train to St. Petersburg. It was too disjointed--it needed some overall theme or structure.

I think I'm too close to Dad's death to write about it. Let me rephrase that--to publish something about Dad's death. It's hard to know if what I'm writing now has any meaning to it. But I continue to write about it it my morning pages--one way of processing things.

As I wrote earlier, I wanted to blog about the memoir contest--about entering it--and later (I hoped) winning it. I'm not comfortable writing about failing. It wouldn't be so bad to lose the contest. I lost much more by not entering at all.


Today is my sister's birthday. Joanna would have been 60, but she died in 1996.

I've been thinking about her a lot lately, Primarily because I've been reading my journal from our Russia trip in order to write a memoir piece (more of that in a future post.)

Now I'm focused on a loss of shared memories, Joanna's perspective on things and stories she could tell me. I can't compare notes on Russia, for example. I would have never gone to Russia without Joanna. My journal isn't as thorough as I would have liked. Some of the things that I remember so clearly I didn't even write about. At least I'm writing them now.

Of course, this focus on memories is also because of my father's death in April. I remember thinking a while back that I should sit down with my dad and hear more of his stories, maybe even take notes. I didn't get around to it. That's the downside to procrastination.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy September

I love September. For one thing, it's the beginning of fall--my favorite season. The cool brisk air invigorates me after summer heat and I love the changing colors of the leaves.

September is a time of celebration: Jeff's and my wedding anniversary, Jeff's and other family members' birthdays. September is an ideal month for vacations--it's less crowded and often cheaper than the summer and the weather is usually good.

Most importantly, September is a chance to start over. While I no longer anticipate a new school year, I work with high school juniors and seniors who are laying the groundwork for new life chapters. As for me, I revisit my own dreams and goals for the year.

I'm not where I want to be. I've been blindsided, as the B-52's sing in Vision of a Kiss, "my life jumped the track." But I've accomplished some things anyway. And I've still got a third of the year left to make my mark.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taking Stock

Years ago, my friend Bev asked why I was so hard on myself. I don't remember the specifics but the context was writing--more specifically--not writing.

I do have a tendency to beat myself up over things I should have done, wasting time, etc. Sometimes it's counterproductive. At other times, it's needed to get me back on track.

I wasted a good opportunity for some solid memoir writing last week. I came back home with a mental map of what I needed to do this week. Since I had to include what I should have done last week, the map is full. But I didn't follow through--I have very little to show for the past two days. And that means more pressure to do things today and the rest of this week and the more I want to just say no--fuck it and hide myself away and read or watch Bette Davis movies or something.

It's not that I'm a perfectionist--far from it. I'm not sure what my problem is. I asked Jeff last night what's wrong with me? (He didn't reply--probably thought there was no right answer.)

I recognize that I am going through an emotional, stressful time: death, legal challenges, impending relative visit, underemployment, financial concerns. It's a lot to handle. Despite that laundry list of woes, I also recognize that I am lucky and privileged--I have resources to deal with them.

I've just got to figure out how and where to start.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jersey Shore Season Two

Four episodes into the second season--it's not quite the same. I prefer my guidos and guidettes in their natural habitat of Seaside Heights--the boardwalk and the t-shirt shop.

The Miami season is not without its charms. I liked watching the road trips of Pauly and Situation and Snooki and Jenni, Snooki the munchkin at the gelato shop, and the ridiculous farce of Snooki and Jenny writing an "anonymous" letter to Sammi and hiding it in her bureau drawer. Sammi may be dumb, but can she possibly be that dumb?

There's much too much of Sammi and Ronnie and their repetitive arguments. And then there's Angelina. I hate her. I can't help it--she has no redeeming qualities.

I'd like to see more family meals, GTL and non-Ronnie and Sammi relationship discussions. I'm still watching--the cast mates beat the Kardashians anyday.

Back Home

I wish I could write that my pet sitting/writing retreat was a resounding success. In a post last week, I wrote about my slow start. I also had one afternoon that revolved around legal issues and a morning with Internet access problems. Actually not having Internet access could have helped my writing, but alas I thought I needed Internet for the legal issues.

I did do a lot of writing. I wrote in my regular (morning pages) journal and my art journal. I just didn't do as much as I would have liked on my memoir selections--maybe 1000 words.

I want to enter a memoir writing contest and the due date is September 7th. I wasted a golden opportunity and have to turn myself around.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dr. Laura--First Amendment Crusader

Why apologize? What is the point when you will turn around and talk about ugly hateful groups that have usurped your First Amendment rights?

And just FYI, that last statement demonstrates your misunderstanding of the First Amendment.

The audacity of calling Jade out as over sensitive and then, claiming usurpation of your First Amendment rights?

It pains me that people look up to this woman.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pet-sitting/Writing Retreat

Melissa--Jeff's sister--asked if we wanted to pet sit their golden retriever, Lolly. I left the decision with Jeff--he's the one who has a job commute to consider.

Jeff remembered that I hadn't been on a writing retreat this year, and suggested that I could use this housesitting assignment as a writer's retreat. He even offered to bring back take-out every night. (I have said that having fixed meal times--especially if the food is good--is helpful for writing--you don't have to think about and plan dinner--just show up.)

I'll be upfront. So far I haven't done much writing. I read U is for Undertow in two days, read lots of blog posts, watched TV and movies. I am trying to convince myself that this is part of my creative process and I have to ease into my writing.

I did my morning pages--yesterday slowly and haltingly--a little faster and smoother today. I looked at my Presbyterian Flirtation piece--I have been struggling with that since I started it about two weeks ago. I should just leave it and work on something else.

Yesterday, I also started something about my dad's death--133 words--pitiful output for sure.

Wondering if I should work with Russia and Egypt trips. Regardless, I need to write.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Most Important Civil Right: Dr. Laura and Other Whites Must Use the N-word

I was blown away by the stupidity and blindness of Dr. Laura' s rant. It may be old news but I'm still thinking about it.

I didn't expect much from her. I used to occasionally listen to Dr. Laura. Just as I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage--when I'm curious of what is being discussed on talk radio, have a few minutes in the car and have already heard the daily headlines.

Based on previous broadcasts, Dr. Laura is a jerk--at best. I'm thinking about a digression when she discussed how salad spinners were good wedding gifts, although she preferred her salad with mist. WTF?

She has always had a nasty, judgmental streak--although I can't cite any specific examples from the past. This time she attacked the caller almost immediately judging that some comments that bothered Jade were not racist. Soon after that, she began her N chorus.

When she went off on her tangent about HBO comics, she reminded me of my brother-in-law. He once reprimanded me because he assumed I was okay with the N-word in rap music, but not in Southern racist singer, Johnny Rebel's music. I said I didn't like any use of the word, but he's not the type to utilize facts when it can interfere with a rant.

I don't understand how the right to use the N-word is such an important right for whites--why it's raised to the level of a philosophical question by stupid "philosophers" like Dr. Laura.

I don't want to argue about the historic use of the N-word as used by Mark Twain or Margaret Mitchell. I wish the funeral for the N-word had taken, but I guess we'll always have idiots like Dr. Laura who will grab the chance to spew shit across the airwaves because they are so deep, thoughtful and philosophical.

As a writer, I generally hate euphemisms and the using "N-word" can be classified as one. But rather err on the side of caution and respect; I hereby reject my white right to use the N-word.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Senior Canine Citizen

Spike will be 10 in November. I thought of him as middle-aged, but earlier this year the vet called him a senior citizen.

That was a blow--reminding me that his life span is so much shorter than Jeff's and mine.

I've seen the signs that he is growing older--his caramel colored patches are whiter, he doesn't run as often as he used to, he's slowed down in general.

It really hit home last Saturday. We decided to walk to the Sono Arts Festival--about one-and-a-quarter mile Spike seemed fine during the walk, but it wore him out. We hunkered down at Burger Bar for lunch and rest. Spike was revived by the smell and taste of burgers.

We took it easy the rest of the afternoon. We walked about a block, rested, walked a little longer, then rested some more. We took a cab home. Spike vegged the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I don't want to be melodramatic about this. We worked Spike a little too hard but he recovered by the next day. But last Saturday was a reminder of how little time we really have together.

Ups and Downs Redux

10 days since my last post--no excuses. I could just reprint my last entry and be done with it. Because-that's been my last 10 days.

I process things by writing about them. But at this point, this blog is not the place for writing and processing everything. I continue to do morning pages and I have an art journal. At least I am on a page, it not this one--but I will be back on here more often.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ups and Downs

And now I've been torn up before
But I can handle that once more
I've been down for a long, long time
But now it's time to ease my mind

From Ups and Downs: Paul Revere and the Raiders

One thing about looking up lyrics online is that you find discrepancies. I think these lyrics are correct. They've been running in my head the last few days.

On Wednesday, for a brief gaudy hour (apologies to Margaret Campbell Barnes whose novel of Anne Boleyn had the same title) I felt mellow and peaceful. I had a nice morning walk with Spike at the dog park, a good workout at the gym, then I did a little writing and worked on my to do list.

By Thursday, however, I was both depressed and angry. It's a tough realization that members of your family are determined to ruin your life as best they can.

I'll rise above the depression and I'll channel the anger. I won't let them get me down again.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding Good Lines in Unusual Places

I've been a fan of the Bowery Boys for a long time. No one will mistake their movies for great cinema, but I like them even if they're not as funny as I remember. TCM has been showing the Bowery Boys on Saturday mornings and last Friday had a marathon, so I've seen several of the films recently.

One of the movies I watched this past week was Angels' Alley (1948). Most of the dialogue was forgettable but one line really stood out: "A halo has to drop a foot to be a noose." I liked it enough to jot it down. Amazing how screenwriter Tim Ryan's words in a B picture can still have an impact over 60 years later.

Checking In on Time Management

Last week I wrote that this could be the week that I get it together

I sat down on Sunday night and made some plans. I knew that I couldn't go from what I'll charitably call a "relaxed" attitude to schedules and to do lists to a master of time management overnight. So I set realistic goals for Monday and today. On both mornings, I ran about 20 minutes late but didn't sweat it. For the most part, I accomplished what I wanted to do. Both mornings I started with coffee and morning pages, checked emails and took Spike to the dog park. Monday morning I went to the gym (the first time in two weeks); today I went out for coffee and conversation with my friend Cynthia. Afternoons I ran errands, made calls and reviewed paperwork for myself and for my father's estate.

Overall I'm happy, even running late both mornings and not checking off every item on the list each day. It's a start--a first step--and I'll go on from here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saying Goodbye: The Celebration

Last Sunday, we had a celebration of my father's life. We chose his old hangout in New Jersey, taking over the back room of a neighborhood bar. About 30 people attended--most of them relatives. We hired a keyboard player/singer, who knew Sinatra songs (but damn not "My Kind of Town") and Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" as well as other standards. Thanks Jeff (my husband) for the idea. Dad loved to sing and I think he would have appreciated it.

Dad was the last of his generation. His three sisters are long gone as well as their spouses. I think he would have been happy knowing his nieces and nephews, their kids and grand kids were there.

I wonder how he would have felt about his ex-wives attending. Maybe my mother would have gotten a pass--as the mother of his children, despite his issues with her. My ex-stepmother was there also. I don't know the story of their break-up; it was 25 years ago. But Marie said she still thought of my dad as her husband and I knew she was truly mourning him. My brother Jim gave me Dad's wedding ring to give to her; she was touched. I also gave her a few pictures of her parents and from one of their trips. She had been asking for more photos. I didn't want to tell her that I think Dad destroyed them. I found one picture from my college graduation. He and I were there and she was torn off.

The worst part of the day was wondering what my nephews and brother-in-law would do. My nephews (I believe guided by their father) are trying to get a piece of the estate on a legal technicality (is there any other kind?) I am a lawyer and years ago, drafted a will for my father based on New Jersey law when he lived there. I declined his request to re-draft the will after my sister died and he moved to Florida. That proved to be a mistake. I have never practiced law and was far removed from legal research when he asked me. I felt uncomfortable and it would have been inconvenient for me to get to a law library for research. I guess I was a fucking fool.

Now my brother and I are fighting mean spirited, greedy opponents who are trying to take advantage of my father who tried to save a few bucks re-drafting his will without legal advice. This left an opening for assholes to disregard his clear intentions and try to shake us down for money.

Next we have a quintessential example of adding insult to injury. Friday night before the celebration, my mother handed me a sealed letter from my brother-in-law. In it, he accused me of driving a wedge in the family for money and dishonoring my sister. I don't know if he is living in a bizarro world or if he just thinks he can manipulate me by invoking the possible wishes of my dead sister.

All I know is that I won't be manipulated; my father has a right to have his wishes honored, and my family has been reduced by three.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Blogday or Blogiversary

It's been two months since I started this blog. I wrote two posts exploring why a blog here and here

If I had kept up with my goal of posting every day, I'd have about 60 posts now. I would have been happy with five posts a week; if I had done that, I would have about 45. Instead this is my 23rd post.

I am far from my goal, but I'm not going to beat myself up. This is a start.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Make-Up and the Feminine Ideal

During her recent visit, my mother told me that I look much better when I wear make-up. She's never been shy about commenting on my appearance. Recent topics: my hair color (too red) my shorts (too short) and my skirt (no one wears skirts anymore.)

Now I happen to agree with her; I do look better with make-up. My tinted moisturizer evens out my skin tone between a pale complexion and freckles. Eye make-up keeps my eyes from looking like small dots now that I wear glasses exclusively. But that doesn't mean I have to be "on" at all times--i.e. put on make-up to take Spike to the dog park or go to the grocery store. Who cares?

Apparently, my mother. She approved of my make-up as we headed out to dinner last Saturday night. Then she described a magazine article that said women should wear make-up at all times, even when they are just at home with their children. She added that I should do the same because I have Spike.

Part of me wanted to challenge her. Did she think kids (or Spike) really care if their mothers wear make-up? Should I also wear pearls when I vacuum because that's what June Cleaver did? Did she take every stupid magazine article as gospel? Does wearing make-up make someone a better mother or an ideal woman? Did it ever occur to her that the magazine could have a vested interest in selling make-up? In supporting the patriarchy?

I said nothing, let it slide and we headed out to dinner.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Measuring Your Life--Stephanie Klein

My last post started with housework and ended with deadlines and schedules. The next day I was browsing some blogs that I hadn't read for a while and found this post:

Stephanie asked how do you get things done and what's your daily schedule? She listed some of her to-do's. Many items on Stephanie's list aren't on mine--and getting monogrammed aprons for the kids wouldn't make my list even if I had kids--but that's not the important part. Apparently, many of us struggle to complete all the things that we need or at least think we need to do. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone in this struggle.

It's almost midnight. I think about my priorities for tomorrow, then remember tomorrow is Friday. How about I put myself on a schedule next week? Yeah--next week I'll get my act together.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Housework, Houseguests and Deadlines

I am doing my housework
Got no time to fool 'round
I am doing my housework
Cleanin' up and I'm gettin' down

From Housework, The B-52's, Bouncing off the Satelites

For the next few days, my mother is staying with us for the first time in the 22 years we've lived here. For most of those years, she lived only 20 minutes away so there was no need for her to stay overnight. After she moved to Hilton Head, she'd stay with relatives who have more spacious homes when she'd visit.

Having her stay here meant that I had to clean and organize the guest room, which recently has been functioning more like a storage area.

I'm not big on housework--I tend to let it slide. Plus I'm an inefficient cleaner. I get easily distracted and can take all day to do a simple task. Cleaning is frustrating because I know I'm going to have to do it all over again--it's never really finished.

Having a deadline was crucial for me to finish this job. Otherwise, I would still be saying to myself, I've got to clean and organize the guest room. The whole deadline thing reminds me about the idea behind nanowrimo: if you don't give yourself an artificial deadline, you'll never write a novel.

Thinking about nanowrimo leads me back to something that I've been saying and not doing for months. I need to put myself on a schedule. That sounds boring and pedestrian. Maybe I should say I'll design a vision or a mission for my life and then decide on goals based on them. At least it sounds loftier.

Maybe next week.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I was channel surfing the other day and saw that Double Indemnity was on. I was surprised to see it was a 1973 TV remake with Richard Crenna in the Fred MacMurray role, Samantha Eggar as Barbara Stanwyck's Phyllis and Lee J. Cobb as Keyes originally portrayed by Edward G. Robinson. This post by Riku tells how EGR made the film

I turned it on in the middle and only caught a few minutes. The scenes I saw seemed to mirror the original movie (later I saw on IMDB that Steven Bochco of Hill Street Blues fame worked on the screenplay.) I'm sure the actors relished the chance to play such great characters and they were good in the scenes I saw, but why remake such a classic?

Perhaps TPTB in Hollywood thought that remaking films would bring in the audience. It worked for the Maltese Falcon; the third version was the classic everyone knows today. I liked the original Ricardo Cortez version and would like to take a closer look at it. The second version in 1936, Satan Met a Lady, was almost unrecognizable. It was bad, even with my favorite actress, Bette Davis.

On the other hand, my favorite film of Bette Davis, The Letter, is a remake. I'd love to see the original from 1929. Herbert Marshall plays the murdered lover in that version and the husband in the 1941 version with Bette. I have to admit that as much as I love Bette, her version of The Letter suffered from restrictions imposed by the censors (though the filmmakers did as well as they could under the arbitrary code.)

There are no clear-cut rules for remakes--but please hold off on TV shows for now. For every somewhat enjoyable Brady Bunch, there are dozens of mistakes such as Car 54 (I long to see the original TV shows again) and Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Another Dog Park Morning

Today marks the fifth day of the Northeast heat wave. No chance of triple digits--the temperature will top out at around 90. Unfortunately, humidity is also in the 90's. The humidity is like the canopy in that old horror movie--was it 13 Ghosts?--when the unsuspecting victim settles into bed and the canopy lowers to suffocate him. (One of my more creative analogies if a bit long-winded.)

Spike took care of business quickly then we walked through the woods. I tried to concentrate on feeling at peace. Instead I was distracted by feeling sticky and uncomfortable.

A dog park visit takes longer than just walking around our neighborhood. Plus there's something problematical about driving somewhere just to walk. But the benefits for Spike outweigh these minor issues. Spike gets to walk off leash, see other members of his pack and meet new dogs. Apparently, dog park also offers intriguing scents and a delicious selection of grasses.

Other things make dog park visits memorable to me. Today it was finding honeysuckles (most have dried out) next to a bush of ripening wild raspberries. The other day it was seeing a white heron in the tidal pond as we turned onto Canfield Road.

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "You can observe a lot by watching."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Writing Your Life

A few weeks ago, I posted about my memoir group doing a reading at New Canaan Library and getting our book published.

Here is the link to purchase it.

I've heard most of the entries and will soon sit down to read the book it its entirety.

Favorite Lines: "This is an outrage..."

It's funny what lines stick with you, It can be a lyric that gets stuck in your head that you sing over and over. Or it can be a line from a movie or TV show that you appropriate for your own.

One favorite line is from A Night at the Opera. Groucho as Otis B. Driftwood is late for a dinner engagement with Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont). She has him paged to discover he is sitting directly behind her, dining with another woman. After the waiter brings Groucho the check, he says, "This is an outrage." Handing the check to his dinner companion, he adds, "If Iwere you I wouldn't pay it." Here is the entire scene; the line appears around 2:17.

My husband, Jeff and I use this line almost every time we go out to dinner. My father also used it often. It's now a permanent part of our family lexicon.