Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

I was going to write a post today reviewing 2012. But I think I'll procrastinate on that. Spoiler alert: I did not meet my goals.

Jeff and I decided to stay in tonight. I hate the holiday expectations built around New Year's Eve.  For years, we would find one of the few restaurants without a special (expensive) menu and go out to eat early and return home by about nine.

This year our friend Marti is having a party. After much discussion, we decided to skip the party and celebrate at home.  We started with a saketini cocktail (with vodka--I saw a recipe with gin and Grand Marnier which sounded odd to me.) Then a sushi appetizer from our favorite Japanese restaurant, Little Tokyo.

Our main course consisted of filet mignon, roasted pepper and sauteed spinach with garlic and shallots. I was going to bake a sweet potato or make sweet potato fries but Jeff got an extra sushi roll, so we decided we didn't need the sweet potato. We finished with dessert of a Dancing Deer cake, ice cream, fresh strawberries and champagne.

I've already washed all the dinner dishes and can relax now. I'll think about goals missed in 2012 and new goals to pursue for 2013 tomorrow (in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion--hey one goal is to write a post on Gone With the Wind.)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

What We're Watching

We're back watching our Netflix films pretty quickly; there's very little baseball on TV (though we did catch a special on the 1986 league series that was pretty good) and many series are now in rerun status.

This week we watched the remake of Total Recall and The Avengers. I wasn't impressed with either.

I'm a fan of the original Total Recall. This version had some good moments, though frankly I can't think of them now (not a good sign.) CNN named it as one of the ten worst films of the year (another not good sign.) I actually got bored during the climactic action sequence.

The Avengers? Another mindless action movie. I spent half the movie adjusting the volume. When we watched Thor, our neighbor told us the sound was shaking the pictures on her wall.

I'll be the first to admit that mindless action flicks can be fun and diverting. But I find myself more and more bored by the over-the-top action sequences that make up much of films today. They're just too ridiculous.

I remain a fan of the classic films of the thirties and forties. I hate the restrictions the Hays office imposed on films and enjoy many pre-Code films.  But the best directors were able to work around some of the stupid code rules, e.g. William Wyler's version of The Letter with my favorite actress, Bette Davis.

Good directors don't have to rely on mindless action or sex sequences.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vein of Gold

Okay, so this is a play on words for Julia Cameron and an exaggeration of the title of my earlier post on mining my journals. 

I found a few interesting things reading a journal from April 2007.

One of my many ideas is to write a poetry book with photographs about Spike. I had the title, "The Dog with with Perpetual Smile." Someone at the dog park described Spike this way; it's accurate--he is a happy boy.

I also found a haiku (of sorts) about my nephew's dog, Amos.

party dog
chaser of Polly cat
Frisbee acrobat.

I love it if I do say so myself.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Reading List

Going through our second bedroom recently, I found several books that I've gotten over the past year or two that I haven't gotten around to reading: Big Girls Don't Cry, Hollywood Be Thy Name, Pride and Prejudice, Reading Lolita in Teheran, Eight Men Out. I may have missed a few.

I just finished reading The Kid Stays in the Picture, Robert Evans' memoir. I skimmed through the childhood chapters. Evans incurred a lot of anger in Hollywood. Reading his version, he doesn't seem unreasonable. But, I had to wonder--maybe it was Evan's own fault that everyone was against him.

Despite Evans' sexist attitudes and stupid mistakes, something about him remained likable. But he lost me for good when he said it was unjust that Roman Polanski remains persona non grata in the United States. Poor little child rapist Polanski; his supporters sicken me.

The next book I'll read is West with the Night. My mother-in-law recommended it. She had just read it a second time, received a copy for Christmas and lent it to me.

Yesterday, one of my neighbors asked if I kept a list of books I've read. This is a good idea. I wish I had started when I first read about it in a New York Times article. Oh well, better late than never.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Now that the end of the year is upon us, it's time to think about accomplishments for 2012 and goals for 2013.

I thought this was a good place to begin for 2013 goals.

Christmas Plans Deferred and a White Christmas

We had invited Jeff's parents over for lunch on Christmas Eve. They live an hour away and no longer drive, so it's been easier for us to visit them than to bring them to visit us. But we figured Christmas Eve would work; we planned to head up to Melissa's any way later that day. Jeff's mother had hired a driver to bring them down to save Jeff a few hours driving.

I  should have known things were going too well.

At 6 AM on Christmas Eve, Jeff's father stubbed his toe so badly that he broke it. Because he has been taking a prescription blood-thinner, it was difficult to stop the bleeding. They had to cancel their visit to us. They weren't sure they would make it to Christmas Eve dinner, but luckily they did. Our dinner of two salads, beef tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole and sweet potatoes was delicious.

I woke up on Christmas morning to this:

Unfortunately, I didn't get a good photo of Spike, but these are nice.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mining my Journals

I've started writing about home renovations here.

What do home renovations have to do with journals? Well, since we worked in every room at one point or another, we had to empty every room and look at what we would put back in every room.

I've been keeping journals for over 20 years. Some are daily musings, some are records of trips, some are related to classes, retreats or writing books, and some are miscellaneous. I would probably keep every journal if I had a large storage area. Since I don't, I occasionally read through them, saving pages that are somehow relevant or meaningful to me, and tossing the rest.

This time around, I've read through about four journals. Frankly, they're a bunch of drivel. I found nothing worth saving.

If an outside observer were to read my journals, he or she would think I was unhappy. Pages are filled with lists of things to do, things I didn't do, things I should have done. The negative pages outnumber the positive.

But I don't remember these days as unhappy.

The main reason is that many of my journals are modeled on Julia Cameron's morning pages. She often describes these as brain drains. By getting frustrations out on the page, they may not mess up the rest of your life.  

I still hope to find something---an idea, image or phrase worth saving--worth mining.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What I'm Watching

We're ending fall 2012 with some classic film and television. (Sarcasm Alert.)

Up now: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
One of the toughest things in watching vampire movies is figuring out the mythology. How do you kill vampires? Stake in the heart is the traditional way. Sometimes exposing a vampire to sunlight burns him gradually, sometimes the sun explodes her. What's the status of silver? That's the traditional way to kill werewolves. Sometimes it kills or at least incapacitates vampires. Sometimes vampires turn into bats, sometimes other animals. Sometimes, it varies.

How can you tell for sure when you start a movie?

Abe shot his first vampire in the eye and then threw his gun into the river. I started to comment on vampire rules to Jeff and then learned that this film follows the traditional rule that bullets can't kill vamps (i.e. Abe was attacked by said vampire.)  Abe learned to use a silver-coated ax (hey, he's the rail-splitter, remember.)

I love the idea that southern slave-owners are the vampires/and vampire allies--a simple way to discredit the romantic idea of the old south--cavaliers and their fair ladies if I recall the beginning of Gone With The Wind correctly. Nothing romantic about the Old South. Enslavement of any group is equivalent to the enslavement of all humans. I didn't expect a meaningful parallel for such a silly idea of a movie.

Onto the action-filled finale, I said to Jeff, "I hate to say this in a movie about Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter, but this is getting silly."

At least Mary Todd Lincoln got a cool and appropriate revenge on the vampire who killed her son.

Next up: The series finale for Jersey Shore--yes, I'm watching to the bitter end. It starts with a bonfire/picnic on the beach. First commercial break: Damn, apparently there's a new movie--Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. That's one I hadn't heard of.

Back to Jersey Shore: A mystery frosting on a cake from a dumped girlfriend? Classy.

What is it that I originally liked about this show? (Is that a trick question?) It's hard to remember now. I started watching because I'm familiar with Seaside Heights ( at least the pre-Sandy Seaside.) There were a few funny lines such as "Party's here," and "I do great things--I'm a bartender."

I can't explain why I kept watching, but here I am. Goodbye Jersey Shore (although daily re-runs may continue for some time.)

Christmas Decorating

Last night I finished the Christmas decorating--a week before Christmas. I had wanted to complete the job about two weeks ago, but had other things to do first.

Today I started wrapping presents: I started with Jeff's presents earlier today. (As I predicted--one arrived after I finished wrapping his other gifts.) Tonight I wrapped presents for Elaine's party on Friday night. Elaine has hosted a holiday party for several years; for the past few years, it's been a women-only party. I figured I had enough gifts but wasn't sure about the gift bags. I used a few boxes so I was fine.

Again this year, we are spending Christmas Eve with Jeff's family, staying overnight at his sister's. Then we will spend Christmas afternoon with my mother.

Our Christmas traditions will be changing again next year. It's too early to focus on that. We'll concentrate on enjoying this year's Christmas Eve and morning.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Essay Tutoring

Today I finished tutoring one of my students. We had previously done a full SAT tutorial, then a few additional hours of SAT, and most recently three hours of college admission essay tutoring.

Something I realized tonight--I get to know students much better through essay tutoring than SAT or ACT tutoring. The most important part of essay tutoring is helping the  students pull out the specific details of their lives or dreams, and then describe them fully to show their personalities.

I've really enjoyed essay tutoring and hope to get to do much more of it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In the Kitchen

Today was a wet, dreary Sunday--the kind of afternoon when I enjoy cooking. But I had to tutor and teach. Instead, I cooked yesterday. I wanted to test run a new appetizer, French onion soup dumplings, that I've offered to make for Christmas Eve. I learned about his recipe from some of our dog park friends who run this blog with lots of delicious recipes linked and commentary on the recipes.

I also tried cooking cheese scalloped potatoes a new way. I usually boil the potatoes to soften them first before I cook them in the milk and cheese sauce. This time I used my salad shooter to slice the potatoes thinly and didn't boil them first. The cooking time took longer than that in the recipe, but now I'll know for next Monday.

Thanks to Christie for giving me the idea of recipe trial runs.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Sandy Hook Massacre

I don't think that I have anything new or profound to add about this tragedy. But it's something that happened relatively close to home so I need to write about it.

It's sad to say that I wasn't surprised to hear about another school shooting. But I was surprised that it happened in Newtown and that it was at an elementary school.

I've been trying to remember a school shooting haiku that I heard at a writers retreat. Here is the author Cliff Bleidner but not that haiku.

The story is still evolving (I've avoided most news today so I may have missed some developments.) Originally, I assumed the shooter's goal was to kill his mother and the children were collateral damage (a horrible term I know.) But that wasn't the case at all. The shooter's mother was  already dead before he headed to the school.

CNN has a timeline of school violence dating back to 1927. Guns weren't used in all the instances, but in many of them. We need to do something about guns.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What Do I Do For Me?

Wednesday night or actually Thursday morning to be precise, when I turned out the lights at 1AM, I asked myself the title question of this post. I don't know where it came from. It wasn't something that I was consciously thinking about.

Here are a few things that come to mind:

I don't always enjoy the process, but I feel good after exercise. Hiking is fun; it can also be sociable if I go with Jeff and Spike. I like swimming and yoga. But now, I work out mostly at a gym; it's the most economical choice. I like to lift weights; aerobics isn't as interesting to me, but I use that time to read. And I feel good after working out.
Sometimes writing is difficult, and like exercise, I don't always enjoy the process. But it makes me feel good, satisfied when I write. I like this blog because it's a permanent storehouse of my thoughts and ideas that's easy to access. I journal almost every day; most of it is drivel but it centers me and occasionally, I get a good thought or profound statement. My other writing--well, it's harder to describe. I usually get a good response when I share my writing (though occasionally people read things into my writing that I didn't intend.) I rarely submit my writing; I'm not looking for acclaim. It's some other need that I can't explain.

Artist Dates:
I'm using Julia Cameron's term artist dates.. The Artist Date is designed to feed creative work by replenishing the inner well of images and inspiration. I can't precisely contribute any of my work to a specific artist date. But I've had some wonderful experiences and having an Artist Date as a to-do has led me to go places and do things I might not have done: a Haitian art gallery, a Jackson Pollock exhibit, a reading of a new play.

These are examples of what I do for me. I need to do more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dog Park Afternoons

Some of our friends go to the dog park everyday (and some of those go twice a day.) Jeff and I have ever been that diligent. But depending on our schedules and the weather, we usually make several trips to the dog park each week.

This week Jeff and I split the dog park visits, skipping a few days entirely in a string of five dreary, raw, rainy days.

Last Wednesday was one of the few nice days. I took Spike to Taylor Farm around 2 and snapped these pictures.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows

Our latest Netflix arrival: Dark Shadows 2012.

The film starts with a brief story of how Barnabas became a vampire. It differs from the original version (Jeff and I don't like the changes) but Angelique is still the cause of Barnabas' curse.

The atmospheric mood works in the opening scenes: the house is suitably creepy--down a wooded trail to a cold and sterile mansion, complete with the appearance of ghost Josette.

Then Barnabas (and camp) appear. He thinks the McDonald's golden arches are the sign of Mephistopheles. He shows Elizabeth a secret room which is filled with her macrame. A second secret room opens with an array of wolves howling in sequence; it's filled with jewels and riches.

An interesting twist is that Angelique is the head of Angelbay Seafood--the competitor that has been crushing the family fishing business. Another is that Victoria Winters is actually Maggie Evans and had been locked away in an asylum as a child. Ghost Josette showed her the governess ad for Collinwood and she heads to Maine.

I enjoyed the 70's music (the film takes place in 1972)--including Alice Cooper, T Rex, the Carpenters, the Moody Blues, Elton John and Curtis Mayfield.

A party scene includes stars from the original series: Jonathan Frid (Barnabas), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Josette), David Selby (Quentin--not in the movie) and Lara Parker (Angelique.)  I'm sorry to admit I didn't even notice them (until I read IMDB's trivia page. )

Ultimately, the film is disappointing. It's schizophrenic--going from spooky to camp to over the top: a fight scene with Barnabas reminded me of Death Becomes Her; I love that film but the effects didn't work here.

I'm glad we saw this film but glad we didn't rush out to the theater to do so. Frankly, it's been years since we've done that and I had my doubts when I first saw the trailer. But, I'd still call it a must-see for Dark Shadows fans--mostly for what it could have been.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Veronica Mars Re-Watch: Season One Episode Ten

An Echolls Family Christmas: This may be the episode I've watched most often; after all it's part of my Christmas viewing. I'm not alone in enjoying it; take a look at this survey on TWoP.

The story opens with Logan hosting a poker party with Duncan, another 09er Sean,  Conner, Logan's father's co-star with in what Logan calls a $50 million crap pile, and Weevil, leader of the PCH motorcycle gang.

Weevil wins $5,000 but the money is missing. Veronica gets involved because Weevil took security from the other players, including Duncan's laptop (which heavily featured Veronica in an online journal.)

In the other weekly mystery, Lynn Echolls (Logan's mother) hires Keith to investigate threatening letters sent to Aaron.

Both stories come to a climax at the Echoll's Christmas party. Veronica requests a buy-in to another poker game that night  to reveal the thief, as Keith tries to prevent an attack on Aaron.

This episode has no great revelations about Lilly's murder. But we learn more about dysfunctions in the Kane and Echolls families. When Veronica confronts Jake Kane about surveillance pictures of her as a target, he seems confused. Then he asks his wife, "What did you do?" A few minutes later, Aaron is attacked by a spurned lover.

Last line of the episode, "No Veronica, there is no Santa Claus."

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On Discipline, Chores, Errands and Time

Terrible topic for a blogpost; I'm even scaring myself.

But it's my focus now. It's December 4th, 21 days before Christmas as a Santa chalkboard at the gym reminded me. I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping. I've deferred some decisions to Jeff because he can't make up his mind about some of my suggestions for his sister and brother-in-law. But I still have to make some decisions about my gifts for Jeff.

I want to decorate for the holidays but want to finish basic organizing, downsizing and other decorating first. We still have unhung pictures in the bedrooms--hey, it's only been a year since our renovations. We chose to switch things up--not hang every picture and bookshelf in its previous location. That means we chose to live with pictures, bookshelves, etc. lined up around the baseboards when we made up our minds. Frankly, I got used to all those things lined up around the baseboard and "forget" that I need to actually hang them.

Sometimes I got bogged down in the everyday chores and errands: cooking, washing dishes, food shopping, laundry, and got too tired to to work on the longer term projects.

As much as I desire inspiration to write, discipline is more important for me. I get many ideas but I need to select the best, sit down and write them.

It all comes down to time. Just last week, I pondered whether I had enough time to go to a time management seminar.


So far this week, I've done basic cleaning, ran some errands and prepped for tutoring. I  have a few more appointments this week (at least one is fun) and need to write a self-evaluation for my performance review.

Jeff's going away this weekend. I'll use some time then to work around here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

November Check-In

I made some specific writing goals for November. I would write a blog post per day for National Blog Posting Month and would write an additional 10,000 words.

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

The good: I wrote 35 blog posts this month. If you check the dates of my posts, it looks like I missed November 12th. But one of my posts for the 13th, Climate Warp, was posted at 12:01 AM. I'm counting that as a post for the 12th, so I've succeeded in my posting goals.

My other writing? Well, I failed badly. I wrote 1,806 words when I had a goal of 10,000 words.

One piece was about memories of summers at the Jersey Shore, focusing on Ortley Beach. A second was fiction--about a woman returning to her home town for Thanksgiving and her cousin's wedding.

Obviously, I'm not happy with my poor showing. I took my goal too casually. Half the month was over when I started writing. But at least I wrote. I'm (a little) happy about that.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Another YouTube Evening

After watching True Grit last night, I went on YouTube to listen to Glen Campbell's recording of the theme. This led to a few more Campbell recordings: Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix (which I decided would be a great cover for a woman to sing as a narrator dealing with domestic violence) and Gentle on my Mind. I followed with other songs by the Beatles, TLC, the Grateful Dead, The B-52's and even James Darren and Avery Brooks from Deep Space Nine.

 I love YouTube. It's great to find old songs. One night I found Midnight Mary. I didn't even know the singer's name, but remembered the chorus. The song was a top ten hit from 1964 by Joey Powers. It wouldn't have been a great loss if I had never heard the song again, but it's fun to rediscover songs and see how many of the lyrics I remember.
(The answer is usually a lot.)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What I'm Watching

There wasn't much of interest on TV tonight so Jeff and I looked through our instant queue on Netflix and decided on the remake of True Grit. For the record, I never saw the original. But when we've paused the film, I've been compelled to sing the parts that I remember from Glen Campbell's 1968 theme.

After only a minute or so, I said that I loved Mattie Ross, played by Hailee Steinfield. She's only a girl, but she may be the strongest woman I've seen in a western in ages. Mattie is brave, determined and focused; she has some great lines too.

I'm a big fan of Jeff Bridges. I haven't seen his Oscar winning performance in Crazy Heart yet, but all his performances that I've seen have been very good.

Matt Damon plays La Boeuf, Glen Campbell's role in the original film. I think I'm safe in assuming Matt is better since he is an actor first. But I need to watch the 1969 film before making any final decision.

"Time just gets away from us," is the last line of the film. I love it.