Friday, May 31, 2013

The 2013 Writers Retreat

This is my third consecutive year at the Writers Circle retreat at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT. I previously attended another one or two retreats here, as well as several at Mercy Center, and one on Enders Island. One year I even went on a week long retreat of the International Women's Writing Guild.

This retreat started last night and runs until Sunday lunch. This is my first retreat here in hot weather (90 degrees.)  I have to admit it's cramping my style. I decided against an outdoor workshop and miss writing outside.

I had hoped to have done enough recent writing to come here with specific goals for a specific piece. When that didn't work out, I brought several partially used notebooks, an artist's journal, Artist Trading Cards materials, and a folder with several story ideas as potential sources of inspiration.

I settled in a quiet alcove at the end of the hall under a large ceiling fan so it's relatively comfortable. So far, I've written two short blog posts, gone through some laptop files and revised two older pieces.

So far so good. Keep it up.


Driving on Route 84 in Danbury, I saw a bumper sticker, Obamunnist. I guess this is the latest trend in right wing car adornments.

I much prefer this bumper sticker:

Four Years After Dr. George Tiller

We won't forget how you were gunned down in your church.

Please read this. As usual, Melissa McEwan breaks it down logically and eloquently.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Because I Can't Help Myself




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Four Game Winning Streak

Hearing some pre-game commentary, I was a little discouraged about the Mets' chances for tonight. The Mets lost every game this season in which Jeremy Hefner appeared. Meanwhile the Yankees have lost three games in a row and can't let the Mets win the series; they need to tune up for their next series with Boston.

I shouldn't have worried. The Mets exploded for five runs in the first inning.

The final score was Mets 9, Yankees 4. Jeremy Hefner got his first win. Duda, Davis and Byrd had two RBI's each.

I could get used to this.

Winning Streak

After a string of six losses, the Mets have won three games in a row! (Yes, in this season, it warrants an exclamation point.) Against good teams (the Braves and the Yankees.)

Dare I hope that it continues?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


We had chili for dinner tonight--leftover from the batch I made Saturday. We also had beer and I selected a mug from Big Nose Kate's Saloon in Tombstone, Arizona.

Later when the Mets--Yankees game went into a rain delay, one channel showed a travel piece on Tombstone and Bisbee, Arizona. I repeated, "I was there," as reporters visited the Birdcage Theater in Tombstone and the Copper Queen Mine in Bisbee. But the reporter kept talking about gold and silver mines as she toured the COPPER Queen. It drove me crazy.

Is it just a coincidence that two things skew Tombstone tonight? I guess I need to write about it.

Game of Thrones Withdrawal

I'm going through a mini-Game of Thrones withdrawal--no new episode this week. But soon it will get much worse--only two more episodes this season. The next episode will be devastating, yet I can't wait to see it.

I've dealt with my withdrawal by re-watching Season 2 on HBO On Demand and catching part of the Season Three marathon on Memorial Day. I've also been exploring several websites I found in the forums of TWoP.

A wiki at has chapter summaries, character descriptions, and much more.

This site, The Tower of the Hand, cross-references and hyperlinks each page. It also has a great feature in which you set your scope, based on how many of the books you've completed. This keeps your from accidentally getting spoiled.

Here's a feminist viewpoint. It's not exclusively limited to Game of Thrones, but reviews other TV shows and books as well.

I just discovered this site. I am loving the chapter-by-chapter analysis. Each post has a brief summary, historical and political analyses, what if's, and book vs. show.

I have thought about a doing a from page to screen analysis of Game of Thrones, but it's too daunting. I've only read the books once (although I have re-read/skimmed A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings.)

Just a few stray thoughts.

One of the changes that I like best is the aging of the characters. Although I love the actors, some of them are even older than the aged characters. I fanwank that it's the different way age manifests itself in different eras (e.g. 50 is the new 30.)

Another change that I really like is the interaction between Tywin and Arya. Maisie Williams holds her own with Charles Dance and it gives Arya (and the viewers) a chance to catch up on the war news. The show also distills Arya's experiences as one of the small folks which can be repetitive in the book version.

I don't like the changes in Catlyn and Cersei. Catlyn is smarter and more politically savvy in the book than on the show. Cersei is softened with two of her horrible acts attributed to Joffrey in the TV version. These changes were unnecessary in the book to TV transition.  Rhiannon has a great post about characterizations of the women in Game of Thrones.

I'll continue to re-watch Seasons Two and Three and wait for next Sunday and the Red Wedding.

Monday, May 27, 2013


We went out to lunch for gyros today at Nik's before heading over to the dog park. I expected to see more people there; the beach was crowded. We saw another beagle Kayla who we met about a month ago.

It was warm and sunny, with a milder breeze than yesterday's. As we were relaxing on a picnic bench, we saw two small poodle-y dogs: one was hot pink and one was lime green. I was too far to get a photo to post to prove I wasn't hallucinating.

Later we stopped to get a bottle of Magellan gin and saw a bizarre bumper sticker: OBA -  MAO with a caricature of Obama in Mao uniform. It amazes me that Obama can be a communist, socialist and Nazi simultaneously.

Memorial Day Musings

On Friday, I posted about Memorial Day Weekend without discussing the reason behind Memorial Day. I'm lucky that I haven't lost anyone close to me in a war--privileged that I can enjoy the holiday without a personal death shadowing my celebration.

Memorial Day was created to honor the Civil War dead and was later expanded to honor the dead of all wars. But what of the survivors? We need to honor them by helping them make the transition back to civilian life. We need to support all the victims of sexual assault in the military.

Thank you for all your sacrifices.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

Nearly 35 million people will be traveling this weekend, according to AAA. 89 per cent of them will be driving.

That's what's become of most holiday weekends for me--traffic jams. That is also why I spent most holiday weekends at home.

There was a time when Memorial Day meant parades and picnics. I might have marched in the parade as a brownie or I might have stood on the sidelines and waited for candy to be tossed. I may be confusing Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, but I think we had parades both holidays.

In southwest Connecticut, we're having some bad weather (although nothing like the suffering in Oklahoma and other Midwest areas.) Personally, I'm disappointed to miss dog park Friday. But it will be a good weekend to stay in and cook and clean. I am also packing for the writers' retreat next weekend. I'm really looking forward to that.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy Blogiversary to Me

It's been three years since I wrote my first post. Tomorrow I officially start my fourth year of blogging.

I started this blog because I liked reading other blogs, I thought it would be a good way to help me write every day, and it was a good way to corral and house my thoughts.

This year, I made a goal to write 250 posts this year. It's close to my ideal schedule of five posts per week. I'm behind schedule but I'll try to make it up.

This. Is. Jeopardy: The Audition

On Tuesday, I went into Manhattan for my Jeopardy audition. I had previously taken an online test, filled out the application and came up with five interesting bits of information that Alex Trebek can ask me about it I ever get that far.

About 19 of us arrived for the 9 AM audition. Jeopardy personnel took photos of us, discussed and showed videos about game rules and procedures. We took a 50 question quiz. After that, we played mock games with three contestants each which included contestant interviews.

We left the audition without knowing how we did on the test, in the mock game or in the interviews. I think I did well overall. I did hit the signaling device too soon and made a wrong answer. 

Apparently, we are all put in a pool; I'm sure they ranked us as TV contestants in some way. They took notes on our interviews and made suggestions to people who spoke too quietly.

I wish I had taken notes on the exact numbers, but getting to the audition is a great accomplishment. People in my group came from as far as Ohio and Virginia. I'm lucky to be only an hour away from Manhattan.

Of course, I hope to be asked out to Hollywood. (I'll worry about the time and expense then--if I get the chance.)

If nothing else, I have a Jeopardy pen, Jeopardy ear buds and a great experience.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spike's Big Weekend

Before Spike went into surgery in February, Jeff promised Spike that when he got better, Jeff would take him to Burger Bar for a Kobe beef burger.

Burger Bar has outdoor seating, a sign welcoming dogs but tolerating humans, and a doggie menu. The owner remembered Spike from last year and gave him this complimentary bone. It's almost as big as Spike.

Here's Spike's entree:

On Sunday, we had a Cooper family birthday luncheon; Spike got lots of leftover filet mignon.

After a meaty weekend, it's no surprise that Spike needed some greens from Taylor Farm dog park.

On Sunday we also took advantage of a blessing of the animals at Jeff''s sister Melissa's church. Spike is now officially blessed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

On Adaptations

It's hard to believe that it's been a week since my last post. I spent a lot of time on that: I re-read I Capture the Castle; watched the film; watched the commentary; re-read a few scenes; then re-watched a few.

I wrote the post last Monday and edited it on Tuesday.

But the more I think about the adaptation of I Capture the Castle--more specifically the comments of the screenwriter, Heidi Thomas--the angrier I get.

I thought she made some condescending comments--there is no novel that can be transferred intact perfectly to the screen. Doesn't everyone know that?

I remember my first conversation about adaptations--it was with my mother after I had seen Gone with the Wind. I was around 12 or 13; the film was good, but I was disappointed. I missed Wade Hampton; more importantly, I missed Will Benteen. My mother said that they couldn't include all the characters and I got that. But I still missed Will--I thought he was an integral character.

Some changes didn't make sense to me: Rhett suggesting that he and Scarlet had a chance and she rejected him. That wasn't in the book because that was one of the ironies in the story--Rhett and Scarlett were in love, but both were too proud to admit their feelings.

I also questioned the casting of Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes. Scarlett loved Ashley because he was dashing and handsome: Leslie Howard wasn't. My sister said that Ashley was the son of the man with the greatest plantation in Georgia, and that appealed to Scarlett. While that was true, Leslie still wasn't the Ashley of the book.

But, back to my problems with I Capture the Castle. In my earlier post, I mentioned Thomas' comment that Stephen prostituted himself. Was that a joke, an exaggeration? She also commented that Stephen was morally outraged when Rose and Neil kissed. WTF--where did that come from? I read him as surprised and embarrassed.

The film downplays James Mortmain's writing block and his work, which is a huge subplot in the book. Thomas adds a scene before the added wedding, saying that she needed a scene between the brothers that wasn't in the book because of Cassandra's point of view. But she could easily have dramatised the scenes described in the novel between the brothers and Rose and Simon instead. Having Simon serve as Neil's best man is unnecessarily cruel.

I love the scene between Cassandra and Topaz in the book when Topaz is considering leaving James. Thomas changes that to an "I'm sorry, please come home" cliche.

The worst change is to the final conversation between Cassandra and Simon. As written, most of the conversation is about James' book. Only at the end of the conversation does it get personal when Simon asks Cassandra if she wants to go to America with him. They don't talk about her feelings for him.

Instead Thomas has Cassandra ask how Simon can still be in love with Rose after what she did. Cassandra also makes a snarky comment to Simon in Thomas' feeble attempt to let her get in the last word.

In the final pages of the novel, Cassandra is finishing her journal. In the margins, she writes "I love you, I love you, I love you." The screenplay changes it to "I love, I have loved, I will love." Apparently Thomas didn't want the ending to be about Cassandra's love for Simon. But that's what it was about!

Perhaps next time, Thomas can write an original screenplay; I don't intend to see it.

Appropriately, I recently read a post from Streams of Unconsciousness that discusses the latest film version of The Great Gatsby. Riku writes, "People will complain that a movie is not true to the book but what they really mean is that it's not true to their interpretation of the book."

That may be true, but I wish Thomas' interpretation didn't re-write Dodie Smith's story.

Monday, May 13, 2013

From Page to Screen: I Capture the Castle

I have written about my favorite book here. I remember reading that Disney had the rights to the film, but don't know what happened with that. BBC made this film in 2003. Last week I re-read the book so I would have it fresh in my mind as I re-watch the movie.

I had often thought about how I would cast the film. I thought Rachel Blanchard would make a good Cassandra, later Evan Rachel Wood. (My sister suggested Sara Gilbert.) Romola Garai is perfect as Cassandra and  Rose Bryne is wonderful as Rose. Oddly, I pictured Paul Simon as Simon; I had a very good picture of him with a beard on a Simon and Garfunkel single (maybe the Boxer.) Neil was rather vague to me; I pictured a version of Neil Diamond (I guess singer/songwriters were on my mind.) Topaz was the most interesting character to think about casting. I imagined Carol Kane, Meryl Streep and most recently, Tilda Swinton. I liked Bill Nighy as James. Joe Sowerbutts as Thomas was the only really wrong note. He seemed much younger than what I had imagined and nerdier too.

I even started on a screenplay myself. I didn't get beyond the opening scenes. My opening was similar to the one in the film. I would have shown them selling off the furniture to demonstrate the Mortmains' financial decline.

I love that the first words after the credits were the first line in the book: I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

I usually prefer novels to their film adaptations.  I Capture the Castle is no exception. Many scenes seem rushed, especially Midsummer's Eve, and the plan to lock up James.  Only the night out in London scene seems more fully realized than its counterpart in the novel. I loved the choice of the song, "You and the Night and the Music."

A few scenes--not in the book--seem off: the emotional discussions between James and Cassandra, James and Topaz, and Cassandra and Simon, Mrs. Cotton telling Cassandra that James will never write, as well as Rose and Neil's wedding. The bear scene fell short.  I also think the film did not capture (sorry) the bleak poverty and actual hunger the Mortmains suffered.

What bothered me the most: the idea that Stephen prostituted himself by sleeping with Leda Fox-Cotton. I never got that impression from the book. Actually I didn't get that impression from the film either. That's what the screenwriter thought, according to her commentary.

All-in-all, a decent to good movie; the highlight is Romola Garai's performance. But the film was disappointing to me as a big fan of the book.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Netflix Saturday Night: Les Miserables

Les Miserables

I expected to like this film. But it plays to all that I don't like in musicals. It's just wall-to-wall musical numbers.

It's well-done, but left me cold. It was hard to get into the songs. A few held my attention for a line or two. I liked the revolutionary songs the best.

The fault is not in the story. I loved the Frederic March/Charles Laughton film from 1935.

This film was nominated and won many awards, so obviously my opinion is in the minority. But overall, I am disappointed in this Netflix choice.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

WAC: Lunchtime Artist Talks

The current exhibition at the Westport Arts Center is Solos. I have to admit that I didn't get it looking through the exhibition the first time.

It was great to hear a few of the artists describe their work. I attended two of the talks, and unfortunately, was late today and missed most of the first artist's talk.  It's fascinating to hear the creative choices behind each piece. I still don't get some, but there are others I now understand.

Gail Rothschild's piece (unfortunately, I don't know its name) was the one that I appreciated the most. She uses archaic textiles as her subjects. Her paintings show the making and the unmaking of textiles, just as Penelope wove and unwove a burial shroud each night as she waited for the return of  Odysseus.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

You've Been Walking on the Edges of a Dream

I woke up with this song by Carly Simon in my head, especially the line that's the title of this post. It's such a great line and a beautiful image.

Sometimes I dream and I'm completely in that world. Other times, I have one foot firmly planted in my waking reality. If I have to apologize to or confront someone, I often dream about it before the fact: a kind of dress rehearsal. Recently, I was discussing Spike's real digestive problems with someone in a dream. Another time, I was procrastinating getting up for work, and dreamed I was in the shower washing my hair. I realized I was dreaming because I was using a shampoo that was no longer being made.

For a while, I kept a dream journal. I think I may try that again.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Baseball Blues (and Oranges)

About a week-and-a-half ago, I planned to write a post about the Mets. I'm not sure how I was distracted from writing the post, but I'm in a different place now.

It was April 24. The Mets beat the Dodgers in a spectacular fashion--a 10th inning walk-off grand slam by Jordany Valdespin, his first home run of the season, and the first walk-off grand slam for the Mets in 22 years. Valdespin also saved pitcher Matt Harvey from suffering his first loss of the season.

At that point, the Mets were 10-9 for the season; the Dodgers record was 9-11.  I felt a moment of hope and pride: the Mets were expected to be bad; the Dodgers had spent a fortune to bolster their chances--they should have been better.

I wish I had written that post.  After that, the Mets dropped the next six games.

As Ada Calhoun put it in her review of Mike Piazza's book, you can tell a Mets fan by the current aura of despair. But we're still true to the orange and blue.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Happy Spike de Mayo!

Spike turns 12-and-a-half today. He's so special that a birthday alone doesn't cut it. His half-way day is also a holiday. To celebrate, he had a frosty paw; Jeff and I had margaritas with fresh mango.

I haven't taken any pictures of Spike recently. But here few from the past year enjoying himself at the dog park.





Friday, May 3, 2013

A Second Life: The Resurrection of One Life to Live

I wrote an earlier post about the end of One Life to Live. ABC dumped it and All My Children, but there was a plan to migrate both shows to the Internet after their broadcasts ended.

I don't know why the original plan failed (and don't care enough to research it.) But ultimately, both shows began their Internet runs on Monday.

Each week consists of four 30-minute programs (including commercials.) A fifth episode is is a beyond-the-scenes look at the show.

I've watched most of all five OLTL episodes. I'm not sure what to make of it yet. It has my favorite characters: Blair, Dorian and Natalie. It also has my second tier of favorite characters: David, Bo, Nora, Clint and Viki. The first episode focuses on the opening of a new club, Shelter that Blair owns, and Dani overdosing at the club. Dani (and her mother Tea) are among my least favorite characters. New actors portray Matthew (the previous actor was one of the best teen actors) and Destiny (a short, chubby girl is now tall and willowy.) It's a little disconcerting, but I'll keep watching.

As for All My Children, I only watched the first episode. It's set five years after the last broadcast episode, so there's a lot of exposition required to catch viewers up and account for the sorased children/teenagers. It was hard for me to figure out all the characters and their relationships: I had given up on AMC long before it ended. I may watch more episodes because one of my favorite characters, Dr. David Hayward, is featured (upon his release from prison.)

Now,  I'm more optimistic about OLTL's future.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Party Prevention Patrol

Jeff, Spike and I are spending a few days in Ridgefield at Jeff's sister's home. In the past, when we've been here, we've been pet-sitting. But we lost Lolly last fall.

This weekend, we're staying with our nephew. We don't have to do anything; we just have to be here so kids won't be tempted to get the party started here.

I never thought of myself as the chaperon type. I guess that's a privilege of not being a parent myself.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Working Out by the Numbers

I joined my current gym in 2010. It was one of those things I procrastinated about until a special promotion waived the initiation fee.

I made a goal for 2013 to exercise at least a half hour every day. I knew I would never achieve this goal; this is clearly a stretch, an aspirational goal. I decided to start with gym visits weekly.

I got off to a slow start; I started exercising at home on January 7, then made my first trip to the gym the next day. Soon I got into the three weekly visits. I told myself that even if I missed a visit or two, I wouldn't skip weeks or months as I did last year. But then, Spike had a crisis.  Although that was only valid to miss a few days, or at most a week, it took me a month to get back to the gym.

As of April 30, I made as many visits to the gym in 2013 as I had made in 2012 or over 200 percent as many visits in the corresponding period last year. It doesn't sound as impressive as it could. My gym visits were pitiful last year.

I'm trying to switch things up by increasing my weights and using free weights more often.

Another work in progress.