Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Networking Blues

Those in the know say that most jobs are found through networking. Want ads and job postings are passe.

But what exactly is networking? How do you know that you're doing it right?

In the past, I've been good at cocktail parties--meeting new people and making small talk. But networking events are something different. There's this constant pressure--God forbid you make small talk. You can't just introduce yourself. You have to sum up our essence in a sound bite. It used to be a 30 second pitch--now 30 seconds is too long--it has to be a 15 second pitch.

At the same time, there's pressure to be likeable and trustworthy so people will want to help you, while at the same time being open to help others.

While I understand the theory of networking, current practice is especially tough. I remember how annoyed I was when someone I hardly knew called me up and asked who did I know in big companies.

"No one," I said. She never called me again.

I don't want to be that person. When I ask for help, I want it to be meaningful.

The Journal Keeper and Phyllis Theroux

This morning I went to a reading and workshop given by Phyllis Theroux, focusing on her book, "The Journal Keeper" a memoir of six years of her life.

I enjoyed her selections from the book and the discussion that followed. After the workshop, I purchased her book and she inscribed it to me. I'm now looking forward to reading it.

Funny, I never thought of myself as particularly interested in memoir--until I learned a memoir does not have to be a complete timeline of life. I took memoir workshops at a Mercy Center writing retreat and at New Canaan Library (which led to a publication of our selections.)

Phyllis discussed a keeping a journal that you want to keep--reflecting on your feelings, being careful not to include raw emotions that could hurt a reader. I asked her opinion of morning pages, as developed by Julia Cameron. In my 15 second description, I might not have given morning pages their due. I said roughly--they were the mundane from which deep thoughts could arise. (Damn, roughly--I don't remember exactly what I said. I'm sure I said mundane, but doubt I said deep thoughts--where did my exact words go?)

Anyway, Phyllis completely disagrees with the idea of morning pages. I've been writing morning pages for over 12 years. While I haven't had an epiphany when writing them or had them lead me to the writing life I desire, I find that writing morning pages is a grounding exercise for me. I feel better for writing them.

It can be easy to say well, I wrote morning pages, so at least I did some writing, and let it go--forget about other writing. But Julia says morning pages are a tool--they aren't necessarily real writing--they help you get rid of distractions so you can concentrate on your art.

On the other hand, if you approach your writing with the idea that you have to reflect on your actions and emotions, and have something to say, as Phyllis suggests, you might never feel secure enough that you have something good enough, to actually commit your thoughts to paper.

As usual, I don't have clear answers. To me, asking and pondering the questions is what is important.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Sunday I found the film, Laura, on TV. Bringing up Baby was also on, and although BUB is a film I can turn on at any time and enjoy, I decided to watch Laura from the beginning. (I have BUB on DVD.)

I'm not sure if it was Laura or The Best Years of Our Lives that turned me on to Dana Andrews. Let me be superficial here--he was hot. But he wasn't only hot--he could act. The Best Years of Our Life is worthy of a post on its own.

In Laura, Dana as Mark McPherson epitomises the tough cop with a tender side. He doesn't really fall in love with Laura's portrait (as Clifton Webb's character Waldo Lydecker says)--he falls in love with the woman that is described to him (although it doesn't hurt that she is as beautiful as Gene Tierney.)

There are a few good suspects in the murder: Shelby Carpenter--Laura's cheating fiancee--I won't go as far as calling him sleazy but maybe he's oily (Vincent Price looking more broad shouldered than I remember from my favorite Saturday matinees); Ann Treadwell, a rich woman in love with Shelby who admits to Laura that she's considered murder (Judith Anderson who's scary just from remembering her role in Rebecca) and Waldo (Clifton Webb) who seems to have taken his role as mentor a bit too far.

I don't remember if I guessed the killer in this movie the first time I watched it. Sometimes I actively seek the murderer, other times I just let the story unfold before me.

I recommend Laura for its mystery, film noir aspects, good cast and twists.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Second Favorite Film: Citizen Kane

I previously listed my five favorite movies: http://lynnecoll.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2010-05-29

My second favorite films tops the American Film Institute's list while Entertainment Weekly ranks it as number two.

Many others discuss the brilliant innovations of Citizen Kane, such as the deep focus cinematography. I'm just going to share what I love about the film.

First, I love the setup: the eerie panning of Xanadu, a death followed by loud tones of the newsreel, "News on the March."

I love the alternating narratives--I fell in love with this device in Norah Loft's novel, Jassy http://www.amazon.com/Jassy-Norah-Lofts/dp/0449241017. Parts of the stories overlap; the timeline weaves in and out--like a path in a labyrinth--and Kane and rosebud remain a mystery.

Brilliant scene: Charles and first wife Emily growing apart, as demonstrated by the lengthening breakfast table between them.

Strange but lovable scene: a song and dance extravaganza about Charlie Kane in a newspaper office, complete with chorus girls.

I love the confrontation scene between Kane and Boss Gettys, as Gettys's gentlemanly behavior eclipses that of Kane's, and Susan's cry, "What about me?" is answered by marriage.

Of course, a film is much more than a collection of scenes. But I can happily watch Citizen Kane in its entirely as well as its individual scenes as I happen to catch it on TCM. It's possible to find something new with each viewing. The characters are complicated and compelling, regardless of how likable they may or may not be.

I first saw this film in a college class, Film and American Society 1930's through 1950's. It was a revelation that is hard to explain to younger people who have grown up with hundreds of cable channels, VCR's, DVD players and Netflix queues. I'm happy that technology allows me to watch Citizen Kane at any time.

Not Posting

It's pretty bad that I can manage two posts with limited Internet access, but now that I'm home, I've only posted once in about a week.

I don't have any good reasons, and I won't bother with bad reasons. Anyway, I'm far from my goal of posting daily. I'll get better.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Authors on Stage--including me!

Last November, I joined a memoir writing workshop at the New Canaan Library. The group actually began meeting in September, but two of us joined in November and two more in January. We met once a month and shared our stories.

Earlier this year, the Library Assistant Director and the Workshop Facilitator asked us about doing a reading as part of the Library's Authors on Stage series. They also arranged for a collection of our stories to be published.

Tonight we had our reading--we were the authors on stage. Afterward the last reading, I picked up my copy of our book and then bought six more. I'm not sure how I arrived at that number--originally I decided on three, Jeff got two and then he joked we needed presents and I picked up two more.

Here it is: Writing Your Life 2010 A Collection of Memories. It's front cover is a collage of images, including my wedding picture which I selected to illustrate one of my pieces, "The Limo from Hell." The back cover has a picture of the group as well as an official ISBN number.

It took a long time for me to call myself a writer; now I can say I've had a book published.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Saying Goodbye

I am writing this on June 9th, but am having a problem with my Internet connection and am not sure when I can actually post. I only mention this because the date is important to me--my father died two months ago. In an earlier post, I mentioned that my brother, mother and I went down to Stuart, FL to deal with the immediate aftermath of his death. Last Saturday, I went down alone to prepare to put his condo on the market, etc.

I expected to have to empty out the condo; I found that in Florida it's acceptable to leave furniture, linens and kitchen accessories in a unit for sale, so I did. It made my life much easier. I got rid of the remaining personal items, taking home some photographs and documents, throwing out others, donating some items to Treasure Coast Hospice Thrift Shop and leaving the rest.

This morning I sat in the living room across from the china cabinet, by far the nicest piece of furniture. It's flanked by two professional photographs I had bought Dad. One is of a cottage in Ireland; the other of Sherlock Holmes' pub, where we had lunch in London almost thirty years ago. I had planned to take these photographs with me, but they seemed to be right where they belonged.

I looked out on his lanai, the old porch he had remodeled. He loved to sit out there with his evening vodka and club enjoying the blooming bougainvillea.

I walked into the guest bedroom where I always stayed on my visits and made sure I didn't leave anything behind.

I took a last look at his bedroom; it seemed dark and lonely.

Back in the living room, I said goodbye.

This wasn't a final goodbye to my father. We are having a memorial party for him in one of his favorite hangouts in New Jersey next month. And there's the distribution of his ashes (exact time and place to be determined.)

And who knows, maybe I'll continue to hold conversations with him. (I recently met someone who regularly consults his dead father and then gets signs telling him what choice to make.)

Regardless, today is my goodbye to my father and his life in Stuart. I am tearing up as I write this--wishing I had made one more visit, thinking about Jeff's and my plan to spend Christmas 2010 with him. It's easy to overflow with regrets. Let me just say that I'm sorry about missed visits, but I always thought I had more time.

Now I have all the time in the world to miss him.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I woke up in Stuart, FL this morning. This is not a pleasure trip--my father lived here and this is my second visit since his death in April. In April, I came down with my mother and brother and we made the cremation arrangements, talked to his doctor, filed his will and hired an attorney to handle the estate. Since then, I've been officially appointed executor and will continue the process.

I started packing for this trip about a week ago after I did laundry. I tend to overpack but have gotten better at it over the years. That is, I overpack less. I always bring aspirin or Alleve, lozenges and Pepto Bismol tablets. If I don't feel well, I want to take care of it without running out to a drugstore. I like to bring extra underwear and blouses to avoid doing laundry. I do color coordinate my wardrobe and I don't carry a lot of shoes.

As I packed at home, I thought about the packing that I would be doing down here for Dad--packing up his life--so to speak. On our previous trip, we packed up clothes, books, CD's, DVD's, glassware, and packaged foods just in time for a food drive.

On this trip, I'll be packing up kitchen stuff and possibly making arrangements to get rid of furniture. I'll also be going through photographs and mementos. This is the hard part. It's relatively easy for me to pack up photographs and small items, but there is the emotional component. Do I dishonor my father by tossing things that he thought were important enough to keep?

And as a practical matter, what will I do with all the stuff? As I try to downsize and simplify my own possessions, should I take on someone else's? Will I just be passing on the burden to the person who will be packing up my life when my time comes?

Lots of questions. I'll try to come up with my answers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Morning at the Dog Park

I'm usually more of an afternoon dog park person than a morning person. But the forecast for today was humid with afternoon showers. So I arrived with my beagle, Spike at Taylor Farm at 8 am. Now Taylor Farm is not technically a dog park with clearly designated dog areas--it's a park where dogs are allowed off leash. It's approximate 30 acres consist of two large fields with a wooded area between them.

Within a few minutes of our arrival, four human-dog tandems left. Spike and I were alone as we entered the woods. The air was cool and sweet with the scent of honeysuckle. Besides an occasional car and the distant drone of a lawnmower, all I heard was the sound of birds singing. Anxiety about the unchecked items on my to-do list and worry about the the BP Gulf disaster dissipated.

Spike and I did two loops around the park as the sun burned off the fog and the humidity rose. Then we headed home to get back to the business of the day.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Casablanca's Dueling Anthems

Decided I was remiss to discuss this scene in my previous post without posting the link to the video of Casablanca's dueling anthems. This clip includes hilarious follow up when Renaud closes Rick's for gambling but still collects his winnings.
The second link is the scene from Dodge City. Ann Sheridan's pro Union song gets half of the saloon singing along. After the rebel sympathizers counter with Dixie, a full blown brawl breaks out.