Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Nielsen Home

Jeff and I are part of the Nielsen system for one week. Apparently, we are part of a carefully selected sample of homes in our area. We agreed to keep a TV diary for a week, tracking what shows we're watching on both of our TV's.

I was happy that we were asked to be part of the viewing public being tracked. It gave me just a teeny sense of power. But I'm already annoyed that Nielsen wants a list of all the channels offered by our cable system--there are a lot of them. Guess I have to do some work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What I've Been Reading

I've read two books this month.

West with the Night by Beryl Markham

The title itself is beautiful; it refers to Markham's solo, non-stop flight from east to west from England to North America. Markham grew up in Kenya and her adventures include boar hunting, racehorse training and of course flying. This memoir not only has fascinating subject matter, but is also beautifully written.

I have to credit my mother-in-law for recommending and lending the book to me. I only had a vague idea of who Beryl Markham was and had no idea she was such a gifted writer.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The second book is more mainstream. I like to see how writers create dystopian or post-apocalyptic societies. The tradition of The Hunger Games makes sense in a cynical, depraved kind of way. What will the dual victories of Katniss and Peeta do to that tradition? I better get cracking on the sequels.

I saw the film before I read the book, which means I visualized the characters as the actors who portrayed them. This worked for me because I thought the actors were good, especially Jennifer Lawrence.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lola Lane's Torchy Blane

Last Saturday, TCM showed the fifth of nine Torchy Blane films, Torchy Blane in Panama. This was the first without Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane. According to TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, this movie flopped because people wanted Glenda back.

I have to agree. There's something missing in Lane's portrayal. I can't put my finger on it. I like Lola Lane; she has one of my favorite lines from Marked Woman, "They found him in a ditch full of slugs." But she just isn't Torchy to me. I even miss Barton MacLane.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Torchy was the model for Lois Lane. It was Lola Lane who inspired the name.

Torchy is going on hiatus during TCM's annual February homage to the Oscars. I'll have to wait until March 9th before Torchy Gets Her Man.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Shopping Expeditions

Jeff and I decided to go furniture shopping last Monday. We need a new couch, counter stools for our new kitchen counter, lampshades and a stove. We focused on the sofa and headed to the local furniture store.

The first glitch was that we'd need to get a sofa and a love seat; a new sofa wouldn't look right with the old love seat. There was a sale going on at the first store we visited, but it ended on the same day. We went back and forth from couch to love seat to couch, but weren't sold on any of them. We liked one model but could only get both sofa and love seat with recliners. That increased the cost and we don't have room for recliners in our living room. I wondered if we have have trouble finding something we liked enough to buy.

Thursday we headed up the road to a kind of furniture row. We hit stores on the right side of the road before heading back down the left side. It ended up that we liked a couch and love seat we saw in the first store. The price was in the middle of the range we had seen and we liked this model more than any of the others (even the sofas marked down to $3000+.) So we went back to the first store and put in our order.

One store's selection cracked me up. It featured only modern furniture with lots of plastic. It reminded me of the Henry Hill's mistress's apartment in Goodfellas. Very bizarre and I guess not all that modern after all.

Now I wish my clothes shopping expeditions had been as successful.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Life Without Roe

I am following up on yesterday's post about the anniversary of Roe v. Wade because I wanted to link to this post and this article.

Fear and desperation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

40 Years

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade. I have been lucky enough to have been part of the generation that has had legal access to abortion. At least in theory.

No one aspires to have an abortion (despite what Rush Limbaugh says--I don't even want to look for that link.)  But the absence of abortion rights means forced birth.

Even worse is that people who want to outlaw abortion are also looking to limit or outlaw contraception. They don't care that access to contraception reduces the number of abortions; they want to control women.

Outlawing contraception will not lead to a more "moral" nation--whatever that means. It will lead to unwanted pregnancies, fear and desperation.

Prohibiting abortion will not stop abortion. It will just kill women. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fido Fleece Weather

I'm not one to dress my dog. But I do have a cute picture of Spike in a Harley-Davidson hat.
He hated it. We left it on long enough to snap the photo and never bothered him with it again. He doesn't mind things around his neck, so we have a few fancy collars, including feathery ones and a bow tie that he tolerates.
For the most part, the winter has been mild. But an Arctic chill is now upon us. So we put a coat on Spike if we think we'll be outside for more than a few minutes. Spike acts as if we're torturing him. He tries to get away from us, sometimes hiding under the chair.
Oh Spike, we're only trying to take care of you.
Besides you look very cute in your Fido Fleece.

Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall

President Obama was re-inaugurated for his second term today. I didn't hear his entire speech but caught part of it in the car.

From the full text courtesy of CNN:                 

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

After the President's re-election in November, there was some grumbling from the right that Obama didn't really have much of a mandate. Apparently, he didn't have enough of the white, male, middle class vote.

Only someone blind to his own privilege could make such a comment.

Last I checked all votes were equal.

Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall: let's stand together.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Torchy Blane: Ace Reporter and Crime Solver

I'm a fan of classic films; four of my five favorite movies were released from 1938 through 1942. I often spend time scrolling through TCM listings for films I haven't seen at all or haven't seen in a while.

But it's more than just the classics--the Casablancas and the Bringing Up Babys--that I enjoy. I'm a fan of old movies in general, including the B-pictures and series: Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, The Lone Wolf and today's subject Torchy Blane.

Warners Brothers issued the nine Torchy Blane titles. Warners Brothers movies are my favorites. For one thing, many feature Bette Davis. Also, Warners movies had a grit to them--a focus on the working man or woman.

Torchy was the quintessential working girl reporter. Smart and fearless, she fast-talked and wise-cracked her way through the case to solve it and scoop the other reporters. In her first scene in the first film, Smart Blonde,Torchy leaps onto the back of a train just to get an interview. What a gal!

In seven of the nine films, Glenda Farrell plays Torchy; she was perfectly cast. Her onscreen partner was Barton MacLane as her boyfriend, Police Lieutenant Steve McBride. Both appeared in Warner Brothers classics in minor parts, but it's a treat to see them as stars in their own series.
Lola Lane and Jane Wyman each play Torchy in one film. Neither is particularly successful. They lack Glenda's crackling energy and intensity.  
Interesting trivia: Torchy was the inspiration for Lois Lane.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fringe Series Finale

Last night we watched the last episode of Fringe. We've watched Fringe from the beginning. It wasn't always easy to follow, and it seems like some loose ends were dropped along the way, but we've enjoyed it. I especially liked the season when Faux-Olivia from the parallel universe took over for Olivia and the last season.

Let me get my complaint about the finale out of the way: too many damn commercials. I've never actually counted, but if I recall correctly, Fringe just had commercials each fifteen minutes. Last night it seemed as if there were one commercial for every two scenes. Very annoying.

I read a report on CNN and expected the finale to be sad. I did tear up a bit but it was bittersweet instead of depressing. Walter will never see Peter and the others again, but he saved the world. It seemed like a kind of karmic payback because Walter originally stole Peter from the parallel universe and Walternate.

I'm intrigued by the successful plan to reset time. Peter and Olivia return to an idyllic picnic with their young daughter--their happy ending.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Good Day

I don't usually do post-mortems of my days. When I do, they're usually negative. I focus on what I didn't do that I should have.

Tonight I'm feeling pretty good.

I did a few things yesterday that I needed to do today; for once I started out ahead of the game.

I got my broken keyboard replaced this morning. The new keyboard arrived two weeks before we expected it.

I got (most of) my housework done.

I made butternut squash--sweet potato--carrot--apple soup.

I went to the gym for a second time this week--for the first time this year.

I got my hair done and it looks good. Afterwards we enjoyed take-out Indian dinner.

I hope this is a new trend.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Work in Progress...Or Not

I wrote a post last night about goals, accomplishments and disappointments. I had procrastinated for weeks before I wrote it. I barely touched on the issues that I need to address.

I stopped for two reasons. I hadn't thought through all the issues. It was getting late (11:41 PM.) It was after midnight before I got into bed. I was tired when I heard the alarm this morning and turned it off. The next thing I knew, it was 9 AM.

I was in the weird position of missing a goal because I was writing about my goals.

That moment is emblematic of my life. It reminds me of something I wrote in March 2006: Each wrong step I make pushes me deeper down in the crap, the pile of things to do.

There's always more.

I'm not going to give up. I will never do everything I want to do or should do, but I can do something.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Work in Progress

That's how I described myself to myself one morning last week when I just didn't want to get up.

Perhaps a little context will help.

One of my recent goals is to get up at 7 am when I don't need to get up. It's a relatively easy goal but I'm already having issues.

My dilemma: how do I decide what goals to make for myself? Do I really have to do them now?

The second question is easier. The beginning of the year, whether it's January, May (my birthday) or September (the school year) seems like a logical place to start.

But back to my first question...I don't want to make my goals too easy--I want to stretch. But, if my dreams are too tough--I may quit before I even get started. I think that's why many resolutions fail--they are too big and people don't know how to break them down into manageable steps.

I can't decide where I want to go until I assess where I am.

2012 accomplishments:

I got a raise. I also attempted to supplement my income with new projects. I made a few bucks but overall these projects weren't successful. Making more money remains a goal. I need to break it down and then take some actions.

I did more writing in 2012 than I did in 2011. I wrote over one hundred more blogposts. I started two stories (possibly novels?) and a memoir piece on the Jersey shore. It's not much, but it is a start. I continue to journal daily and read some of old journals which gave me some ideas or more accurately reinvigorated some ideas.

More on this in a future post.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Face Off Season Four is Coming

I spent most of the day on household chores. It was a nice surprise to have a Face Off marathon on SyFy to keep me company.

The marathon started with the season one finale and then went through the entire second season. The challenges were interesting: revised Wizard of Oz, werewolf wounds, Tim Burton characters. The work was fantastic. 

Season Four starts next Tuesday. I'm looking forward to the return of my favorite reality show.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

This. Is. Jeopardy.

I usually do a good job playing Jeopardy at home with the TV. Last year I thought I'd take the online Jeopardy test, but I missed the deadline. Not this year: I took the online test this evening.

The test consists of 50 questions. You have to answer each within 15 seconds. I thought I did pretty well. I remembered one answer after the time limit (went blank on The Hunger Games.) There were a few others I didn't know and a few I guessed on.

The most frustrating part is that they do not give you your score. You have to wait and see if the Jeopardy people contact you for further consideration.

Damn, it's like going applying for a job. You send your resume and cover letter out and may never hear back.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Thoughts on The Help

On Saturday night, Jeff and I watched The Help. We haven't been out to the movies in years so by the time we saw this, I'd already heard and read about it.

Overall the movie was good. I was hooked by the story and the acting was excellent across the board.

But... My sense is that the movie was designed to  make white people feel better in a "Oh, isn't it great that things have changed," kind of way."Now, we don't have to worry about racism anymore. After all, we have a black president."

Yes, much of the blatant Jim Crow racism is gone, but we remain a racist society.

Back to The Help, it suffered from being filtered through a white character, Skeeter. Skeeter is the one who guides (saves) Aibileen and Minny and later the other maids and nannies. Skeeter is the one who makes money from the book created from the stories of the help and Skeeter is the one who escapes Jackson, MS.

I think elle's take is insightful. I'd enjoy seeing the same cast in a version of the film focused on the title characters without Skeeter as the main character.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Veronica Mars Re-Watch: Season One Episode Eleven

After this episode, I'll be halfway through Season One.

Silence of the Lamb: Two weekly mysteries.

Neptune's sheriff department hires Keith as a consultant on the E-string serial killer case. He had previously worked on the case as sheriff and doubted that the Oakland strangler committed the Neptune killings but was overruled. The investigation reveals a stark contrast between Keith's professionalism and Sheriff Don Lamb's posturing.

The episode also introduces Deputy Sheriff Leo who saves Keith's life as he is rescuing a young woman from the strangler. Leo flirts with Veronica when he first meets her; she uses his interest  to get access to the recording of the phone call that led Lamb to suspect Abel Koontz as Lilly's murderer. Leo is suspended for a week because the evidence room was found unlocked when he was on duty.

Meanwhile Veronica has started a side business digging up dirt on parents for fellow students. She is surprised to discover that her friend Mac was switched at birth with snobby 09er Madison Sinclair (seen in Return of the Kane cheating to ensure that Duncan won election as class president.)

Mac, Veronica and Wallace crash Madison's birthday party where Mac meets her biological sister. Later she meets her biological mother. A poignant moment at the end of the episode: Mac's biological mother is sitting in her car outside Mac's house as Mac's adoptive family is packing for a camping trip. Mac and bio mom symbolically touch hands through the car window.

Mac also helps Veronica strip the altered voice on the phone call. Veronica recognizes the voice as belonging to Kane Software's Head of Security, Clarence Wiedman. In retaliation of the photos he sent to her mother in You Think You Know Someone, she sends him photos that she's taken of him. The episode ends with a Veronica voice over saying, "Clarence Wiedman, game on."

Side note:

This episode was originally scheduled to air before An Echolls Family Christmas but was pulled because it was too dark for the holidays.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In Celebration of Nancy Drew

This morning I looked through the movies available on HBO on Demand and decided to watch Nancy Drew, the 2007 version starring Emma Roberts. It's a cute, fun movie. In this version, Nancy is a bit of an outcast in her knee socks and penny loafers at a LA High School, but she wins everyone over by the end of the film.

I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries. I even belonged to a book club and got a new book each month. In many ways, she was an inspiration. Nancy was smart, brave and resourceful and led a life rich in adventures. Among her fans are Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Gisnberg and Sonia Sotomayor.

I read other mystery series: the Dana Girls, Judy Bolton, Trixie Belden. I don't remember much about the Dana Girls except one title I liked, By the Light of the Study Lamp. I re-read a few Judy Bolton mysteries a few years ago and they didn't hold up. The Trixie Belden stories did. Trixie is a much more realistic heroine than Nancy; griping about chores and babysitting her little brother.

As far as I know, only Nancy was immortalized on the big and the small screens.I was also a fan of the 1930's Nancy Drew films starring Bonita Granville.Like the Emma Roberts version, these films were comedies, but they were screwball comedies. Granville's Nancy bears only a slight resemblance to book Nancy.

Today I found the two Nancy Drew TV series in the watch instantly section of  Netflix. I'm curious to see how they depict Nancy.

Here's a six-word story I wrote about Nancy:

Nancy Drew, childhood hero of Supremes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day

I got up earlier than I expected, before nine. Spike and I went out for our walk round 10. It's funny how we communicate with only a look. Spike came to live with us when he was just over a year old. He was already trained (I hate the term housebroken.) He would scratch at the door when he needed to go out.

Over our ten years together, we've gotten used to each other and have learned our routines. Many evenings we'll find Spike sitting by the door when he wants to go out. Now that we have hardwood floors, he doesn't scratch but we hear his nails on the floors. Also, he can look at me and I know when he wants to go out.

That's what happened this morning. I figured I would take a quick shower before I took Spike out, but he looked at me and stretched his front legs. I knew he wanted to go out. Yes, I am well-trained.

We met a woman and a cute dog this morning. I didn't recognize the breed of the dog--his ears resembled those of a papillon but the coloring looked like that of an Australian Shepherd. It was a toy Australian Shepherd--I didn't even know the breed existed.

The woman said it was a beautiful day. I didn't agree; it was darker than normal--overcast. But it was quiet and I guess the calm was beautiful.

I didn't see the sun until Jeff, Spike and I went to the dog park around three. Snow still covered most of the park, but there were areas of grass, dirt and mud. We ran into Bill and Bo, and did two loops around the park with them.

Today is a holiday--the beginning and the end of things. I need to think about how that applies to me.