Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Visit to Southbury

Jeff and I went to visit his parents today. We usually start by taking Spike to Southbury Dog Park. It wasn't hot today but remained horribly humid. Part of the park is on the Pomperaug River. Unfortunately, recent rains made the river so high that it rose up to the steps that we normally take down to the riverside. So, we walked in the shade.

Spike walked into a shallow stream and stood for a few minutes before he decided he needed to lie down to really cool off.





I wish I could have joined him. 





Saturday, June 29, 2013

Life is a Banquet...

and most poor suckers are starving to death.

Those are the immortal words of Mame Dennis as played by Rosalind Russell in the film Auntie Mame. I was flipping through channels this evening and found that this movie was on as part of TCM's program, The Essentials. It's been a long time since I've seen the movie and it's always a pleasure to catch it, especially when I see the whole movie.

Here's one of my favorite scenes from the movie.

Friday, June 28, 2013

George W. Bush, Painting and Creativity

A few months ago, I heard or read that former President George W. Bush had taken up painting. I think that's cool. It's only the second time I had a positive reaction to anything Bush said or did. (For the record, I also like that he was into baseball.)

It bothered me to hear someone (I think it was Jon Stewart) mocking him for choosing painting instead of the more worthy avocations of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. I prefer him painting than mucking around in politics again.

I recently came across this article from Utne Reader which sums it up beautifully. All of us, even George W. Bush, can be creative. It's the process that's important--the process is good for us. Julia Cameron has said you have to be willing to be bad to do your art (badly paraphrased but the gist is correct.) Even if you don't get "good"--it can be fun. Having fun is an end in itself.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mornings

We've had a few days of heat and humidity. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I took Spike to the dog park in lieu of morning walks around the neighborhood. Taylor Farm dog park is across the street from the beach and usually has a cool breeze. Plus it's more fun for Spike to be off leash.

I haven't done the morning dog park visit in a long time. I know people who go at 6 or 6:30, but we didn't get there until 9-9:30. On Tuesday, we walked through the woods, and before the mosquitoes discovered me, it was wonderful: cool and peaceful, redolent with honeysuckles. On Wednesday, Spike sat down in the shade before we made it one-quarter around the park. We moved to another shady spot with a picnic bench. At one point, we were the only ones at the park.

Today, I got up early and thought we could get to the dog park by 7:30-8:00. But it started pouring so that didn't work. Instead Spike and I had a short neighborhood walk (his choice, I would have gone farther.) I went to the gym and was home by 10.

The last few days got me thinking, re-thinking about my morning routine. Plus I read this article. Working out in the morning is not a revolutionary idea; if you work out first thing, you can't be derailed by other problems throughout the day.

I have no interest in doing a triathlon and I don't think it's necessary for me to start working out at  5:30. But. the gist of this particular article isn't about training for a triathlon; it's more of a if I can do it, so can you. That's not true for everyone (and I'm not going to get into it here.) But I am thinking about how this model can work  for me.  I can get up at 5:30, but I don't have to. If I can get up with alarm at 6:30 and be efficient, that will be enough.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Re-Watching and Blogging Firefly

I was thinking that I would start re-watching Veronica Mars, Season Two this week. But then I read that Rhiannon of Feminist Fiction was going to re-watch and blog about Firefly. I decided to re-watch Firefly first.

Jeff and I didn't watch Firefly during its original run. From what I read since then, it wasn't exactly promoted by Fox. We found it via Netflix instant streaming, quickly watched the whole series and the movie Serenity and loved it.

I found Feminist Fiction via a link from TWoP's Game of  Thrones forum. I've enjoyed her posts about Game of Thrones. I'm psyched to read her insights about Firefly. I don't intend to post about every episode but will play it by ear.

Rhiannon's post about the pilot is here. I thought the pilot did a great job setting up the technology, the political situation, and most importantly the characters. I liked all the characters except Jayne, (Spoiler alert: I never warmed up to Jayne.) Jayne is still a good character. I wondered if he would betray others in the crew.  I loved Zoe and Kaylee.  I agree with Rhiannon about Inara's sponge bath in this episode; that was just stupid. I didn't notice the lack of Asians because I didn't get that the world was supposed to be half-Chinese. I was intrigued by the big bad--the Reavers. We don't learn much about them in the pilot, but what we did hear was bad enough.

The second episode of the series is The Train Job. Rhiannon discusses it in this post. I didn't realize that this was a second  pilot when I watched it. I liked the scary villain of this episode (Spoiler Alert: he returns in a future episode) and loved that Mal returned the stolen medical goods. It didn't bother me that background was repeated; I see it often in new series.

Jeff and I also watched the third episode today: Bushwacked. We learned more about the Reavers. I won't say more at this time. I want to read Rhiannon's take first.

Monday, June 24, 2013

What I'm Reading

The story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII continues to fascinate--as demonstrated by the number of books about her. Natalie at On the Tudor Trail has a list of Anne Boleyn fiction books here. I have 15 Anne Boleyn books of my own (plus a few other Tudor-focused books.)

I finished Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel Saturday night. I didn't get the title. Wolf Hall is the home of the Seymour family, but is barely mentioned in the book. Thanks to wikipedia, I learned the title is an allusion to the saying, Man is wolf to man.

First, the good: it's brilliant to have Thomas Cromwell as the protagonist. I think my first memory of Cromwell was from the movie Anne of the Thousand Days. He was played by John Colicos, and was torturing poor Mark Smeaton. Cromwell is usually portrayed as ruthless, if not outright evil. In Wolf Hall, Cromwell is sympathetic. He's hard-working, intelligent and loving. It's a fascinating variation.

But I had problems with Wolf Hall. It was often difficult to figure out who was speaking in conversations. Mantel also had an annoying habit of writing things like: he, Cromwell... Why not just say Cromwell?

It took me a long time to finish the book. I'm not sure if I have the patience to read the sequel.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Netflix Movie Night: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

In a word: intriguing.

The film tells six inter-related stories spanning centuries (1849 to 2321--106 winters after the fall.)  It was well-acted and held my attention, even though I was a bit confused about how the stories were related.

It was intriguing to see a series of actors playing multiple roles (including Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant.) Sometimes, they were unrecognizable. But, I did not like the scenes when non-Asian actors were made up to look Asian. In most cases, they looked ridiculous, like Marlon Brando in The Teahouse of the August Moon back in 1956. The bad make-up took me out of the scenes.

Still, it's the kind of film that I'd like to watch a few more times.

Let's Go Mets!

Sometimes, I can't help myself; I still get excited about the Mets. Earlier this week, they won three out of five games in Atlanta.They beat the Phillies in the Friday night series opener. Yesterday, they made a valiant effort, coming back from a 7-1 deficit to tie the game, before the Phillies scored on a walk-off home run.

Today the Mets shut out the Phillies 8-0. And that's not all. Matt Harvey (7-1, 2.05 ERA) pitched six scoreless innings and became the first Mets starting pitcher to record two wins at Citizens Bank Park in a season. David Wright became only the ninth Met (the first since my beloved Edgardo Alfonso) to get four extra-base hits in a game (two doubles, a triple and a home run.)

The Mets hit a season-high 10 extra base hits to win their third shutout victory of the season. Finally, for the first time ever, the Mets won a series in Atlanta and in Philadelphia on the same road trip. Baseball stats can be so much fun.

I know the Mets are still 12 games under .500. It's a long way to get to a winning record. But I have hope.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Summer Saturday

It's a beautiful weekend for the beginning of summer. We decided to go out to lunch at Mama's Boy a newish restaurant in South Norwalk. We had tried to eat there about two weeks ago, but had Spike with us and all the outdoor tables were taken.

I enjoyed it. I started with a refreshing watermelon margarita (strangely named because it has vodka instead of tequila.) Jeff tried their version of iced tea. The food was good too: boiled peanuts, fried green tomatoes, southern caesar salad, fried chicken sandwich. The desserts sounded wonderful, but we figured we'd never go hiking if we tried them.

We then headed up to Lake Mohegan for a hike and a swim for Spike: a wonderful way to welcome the summer.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bring on the Endorphins

I've been to the gym three days in a row, working out for about an hour each day. Since my gym visits had been so sporadic recently, I took it slow. I only did weight work on major muscle groups and lowered some of the weight used.

I first went on Wednesday despite a dead battery. I was bummed when I woke up on Thursday with a sore back. But no such problem today. I also feel taller. And my mood has improved--I'm not sure if that is related to my gym visits, but I think so,

It also helps that yesterday I heard this song on the way home from the gym. It's been a long time.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mets Win

The Mets beat the Braves tonight 4-3. They prevailed despite losing starting pitcher Jon Niese in the fourth inning.

More importantly, today's win ensures that the Mets won the five-game series. This is the first series win for the Mets in Atlanta in two years. This is also the first home series that the Brave lost this year.

Meaningless? Maybe, but we need all the cheering we can get.

Midsummer Eve

Tomorrow is the first day of summer, Midsummer Day, the summer solstice.

Tonight is Midsummer Eve..

I never really thought of Midsummer Eve as a holiday until I read I Capture the Castle, my favorite book.

Midsummer Eve is Cassandra's favorite day. She holds rites every year: gathering wildflowers, lighting a nearfire, drinking wine and eating cake.

Bonfires are a traditional celebration. I'm not much of a bonfire kind of girl and have no place to build a bonfire. Instead I drank some wine and  lit a candle for the love chakra.

After all, Midsummer Eve is the night Cassandra fell in love.




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Plans Gone Awry

My gym routine has fallen apart this month. I've only been to the gym one time each week this month and I'm feeling it--my back aches when I don't work out.

I didn't feel well on Monday and Tuesday, so took it easy. Today was my day to get back in gear. I headed out to the gym but my car wouldn't start. Two hours and a new battery later, I made it back to the gym.

It's never a good time to need a car repair. I had no appointments or urgent to-do's for today, so it wasn't a big deal. It's just a reminder that problems can come up at any time and I need to make the best use of the time I have.

The Future is Now?

Last night, the Mets made up one of their many rescheduled games this season playing a double header against the Braves.

Mets ace Matt Harvey started game one. He flirted with a no-hitter through six innings and struck out a career-high 13. Tiring out in the 8th, Harvey left the game with the bases loaded. The Braves scored three, but the Mets ultimately prevailed 4-3.

Zach Wheeler made his major league debut in the night-cap. Despite a shaky start with many walks, Wheeler pitched six shut-out winnings. The Mets won 6-1.

Harvey has been the Mets story this season. That is the good story--bad Mets stories are all too easy to find.

I hope last night's wins are the shape of things to come. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Full of Stories

The other day I was searching for my keys and found a scrap of paper. It was from the end of this article. At a car graveyard, Neil Young says, "Every car is full of stories."

I love the thought.

I started to think about a car as a narrative device. Stephen Young wrote Christine as some kind of haunted car (I saw the movie, but don't think I read the book.)  I also heard about this film, The Yellow Rolls-Royce, in which the car is a way to link three stories of its owners.

I often try to imagine myself into situations. One time, I saw a couple in a red convertible drive past me. Where were we going? What did the wind feel like as it whipped through my hair? 

"Every car is full of stories."

Can we read them or are they lost forever?




True Blood: Season Six Begins

Episode One: Who Are You Really?

I enjoy True Blood; it's must-see TV for us. But I watched the season premiere twice and am ambivalent about it.

I'm intrigued by the human backlash against the vampires.
The governor looks like a good character (but why was the factory scene so long?)
I want to see Sookie meet Andy's girls.

On the other hand...

I like the idea of the werewolves better than the execution. They seem to be too easily addicted to V; how can they be formidable foes?  I hated Alicide biting into a hunk of JD's arm in human form. Nasty.  

Tara and Pam--I prefer to see them as friends rather than lovers.

Sam and Emma--I won't particularly miss Luna but have no interest in seeing Sam raise Emma. We already have a human and faery children, do we need a shifter and a werewolf child?  Maybe it's a way to get Sam and Alcide working together. I liked when they allied themselves against Marcus. In a preview scene,  Alcide speculates that humans will come after the other supes. Maybe that's what will get shifters and werewolves together.

I don't know what to  think about Bill? Is he a supervamp or something beyond that?  

Is there some kind of family theme this season? Bill and Jessica, new dads Andy and Sam and their kids, the wolf pack.

What about the Stackhouses? Is Rutger Hauer a long lost relative?

I hope to see more of the characters back in Bon Temps, going through the daily routines complicated by various supes--more like the first season which remains my favorite. 

I'll be watching next week.



Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thank you Doris Richards

Last week's issue of The New York Times magazine was devoted to innovation and expanded its regular "Who Made That?" feature. In addition to covering inventions such as the digital camera, the issue covered concepts such as gay marriage, glass ceiling and (drum roll please) dog park.

Doris Richards encouraged a group of neighbors to turn their neighborhood gathering space into a dog park. The dog park started as an experiment in 1979, was officially incorporated in 1986 and started a nation-wide trend.

Spike loves going to the dog park. It's fun for him to walk or run off-leash, to meet other dogs, to explore interesting scents. Dog park socializing has been fun for Jeff and me too.

It's such a simple idea, but such a good one.

Thank you Doris.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Game of Thrones Season Three Finale

As I write this post, I am re-watching Mhysa for the third time. I had no idea what would happen in this episode. I haven't re-read A Storm of Swords, and the show runners continue to make many changes from the books. I've read several comments on TWoP that this was a boring episode. I don't get it.

The episode opens with a scene of slaughter and fire outside the Twins. Arya regains consciousness just in time to see the desecration of her brother's body with Grey Wind's head sewed onto it. Tragic--Arya had been so hopeful just minutes before. If she had any innocence left after all she had been through, it is gone after that sight.

This is demonstrated a few scenes later: Arya hears a soldier bragging about  being one who helped sew the wolf's head onto Robb's body. Arya asks to warm herself by the fire and then kills the man. Her eyes are dead and she would be literally dead if the Hound had not assisted her by killing the other soldiers.

In King's Landing, Tyrion and Sansa have a friendly moment until Tyrion is called into a Small Council meeting. Joffrey is gleeful about Red Wedding news. Later he openly insults Tywin, who sends him to bed. Next, Tyrion enters Sansa's chambers; she has been crying. I'm disappointed that we don't see the scene in which Sansa learns about her family's deaths. We see Sansa's grief through Tyrion's eyes. I didn't mind that choice before (when we didn't see Sansa learning that she was to marry Tyrion, not Loras.) But I don't want to see Sansa's story through Tyrion.

In other subplots, John and Sam make it back to Castle Black; Bran and company make it through the wall. Dany is proclaimed Mother (Mhysa) of the Yunkai. Davos helps Gendry escape. And maybe, there is hope for Theon as Yara leaves Pyke for the Dreadfort. 

Not a boring episode by any means.

It's about nine months before Season Four begins. At least we go right into the sixth season of True Blood next week. That will help my GoT withdrawal, but I can't wait to return to Westeros.





Netflix Movie Night: The Hobbit

The Hobbit

I was ambivalent when I first heard about this film; I didn't like the idea of milking three movies out of the book.

It's a long film too--almost three hours. This easily could have been another film that took us three weeks to watch, but we got it on a day when the Mets were off, nothing much was on TV and we had an early dinner.

I thought the film was too long, especially the beginning scenes when the quirky dwarfs descend upon Bilbo. The action scenes and special effects were well-done but a little too "blockbustery" for my taste.

I've only read The Hobbit once and don't remember much of what happens except for scenes of the trolls, the wolves and Bilbo meeting Gollum (and of course for the showdown with Smaug). The first three scenes were in the first film.

Overall, a good film that could have been great.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Netflix Guilt: Finish What You Start

This post is inspired by a combination of three things:

keeping our last Netflix disk for three weeks

a conversation at the writing retreat about someone who's had a Netflix movie for over a year

my memory of this post about Netflix guilt.

My instinct is to finish things--but there's a point when you say--the hell with it--I don't like this movie or this book or whatever.

Sometimes, it's hard to even start a movie. A few years ago, we rented Hotel Rwanda. I like Don Cheadle, and we heard it was a good film. But we had to get ourselves in the right frame of mind to watch it.

Jeff stops us from keeping a film too long. After a few weeks, if we haven't gotten around to watching it, he returns the DVD. He was ready to return The Emperor and the Assassin, but we watched it during the Mets' first rain out.

I like Jeff's approach; I don't want to end up with a movie for weeks upon weeks. I also like to make the best the best of our Netflix membership.  Our membership level gives us one DVD at a time and online access. We had two DVD's at a time when Jeff was commuting into NYC; he liked to watch movies on the train.

A goal: never enter the realm of Netflix guilt or annual rentals.

Netflix Movie Night: The Emperor and the Assassin

The Emperor and the Assassin

We finally watched this movie after having it for three weeks. We had trouble finding the right time--watching Game of Thrones, Mets games and season finales such as Elementary. Plus it's a long film--two hours and forty minutes with subtitles.

The story focuses on Qín Shǐ Huáng, the King of Qin, and his attempt to conquer and unify China's seven kingdoms in the third century BC. He succeeded as China's first emperor, but his reign lasted only 15 years. Qín Shǐ Huáng may be best known for his tomb with the terra cotta warriors.

We enjoyed the film--but it's a bit too long. I would benefit from seeing it again but don't want to re-watch it right away and don't want to hold on to it for another three weeks or so.  Reading wikipedia entries and links, I found that this is also the basis for the film, Hero with Jet Li.

That would be a good double feature sometime.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

One Week Ago...

I began my writing retreat. In a way, I wish it were beginning now.

By this time, we had completed our opening meeting, and I had gone on a walk. The weekend was open, full of potential.

But if this were the weekend, things couldn't be the same for myriad reasons that I can only guess.

And the truth is that this weekend is also full of potential.

I need to find potential in small doses.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It's a Bad Day for a Red Wedding

Note: I wanted to re-read the Red Wedding scene, but haven't gotten to it yet, and don't want to wait any longer to write this post.

Episode Nine of Season Three, Game of Thrones. SPOILER ALERT (show and books.)

I had been looking forward to it, but dreading it at the same time. The Red Wedding is brutal and devastating.

I've always liked Robb, though he was a shadowy figure in the book and not a point of view character. I enjoyed seeing more of his story in the show, but absolutely hated his love story with Talisa. This is one instance in which aging the characters makes some actions annoying at best, infuriating at worst.

The Red Wedding plotters didn't just murder Robb and Catlyn. They murdered as many of the Stark forces that they could. A poster on TWoP had a good point about this. We didn't see any of Robb's bannermen other than Greatjohn Umber (in Season One) and later Roose Bolton and Rickard Karstark. I would have loved to see one of the Mormont women (good counterpoint to Brienne) and a few others with a few lines in earlier episodes. It would have made the massacre even more poignant to recognize another few of the victims.

What I liked: After the Tully/Stark contingent arrives, we see a welcoming scene when food is offered (though its significance is not explained in the show.) Walder Frey is sleazily creepy in his meet-and-greet, especially towards Talisa (why is she there anyway?)

It appears that bygones are bygones until...

Cat sees the doors being closed   
She hears the opening of "The Rains of Castamere"
She realizes Roose Bolton is wearing armor

Cat tries to warn Rob, but it's too late. The Freys stab Talisa repeatedly in the abdomen, fall Robb with crossbow bolts until Bolton moves in for the kill, and shoot Cat with crossbows, and later cut her throat.

Through the massacre, old Walder is drinking wine and clearly enjoying himself.

Meanwhile in the stables, Grey Wind is penned up. Arya had arrived at the Twins with the Hound, who planned to ransom her. For a brief moment, it looks that Arya may be able to free Grey Wind, but the Freys kill him before she can.

I want to recommend Rhiannon's post on this episode. I don't necessarily agree with her about Cat's clawing of her face, but I agree with most of her other comments.

One last thing about Talisa's death: Talisa was pregnant and her killers targeted her stomach. I can't do a full book/TV comparison here because I haven't re-read the wedding scene. But Talisa wasn't in the book, Robb's book-wife Jeyne wasn't at the wedding and apparently wasn't pregnant.

In light of our current political climate in which many conservatives value embryos and fetuses above the women who carry them, I'm distressed about this change. Is Game of Thrones saying that being killed along with your mother, friends and associates isn't bad enough? Do we really need to add a fetus to make it horrible?




Sunday, June 2, 2013

Writers Retreat Wrap-Up: Wisdom House 2013

I got back from the retreat this afternoon. It was a relatively productive weekend and I'm feeling pretty good about it.

The retreat offered four workshops, two critique sessions and two free-writes. I went to a yoga and writing workshop and one of the free-writes.

I wrote one new poem and five blog posts, and reworked a chapter from a crappy, unfinished nanowrimo novel into an essay.

I also did some shopping, wine tasting, walking and socializing.

Retreat getaways are important to me. Yes, I can schedule writing time, snatch moments here and there in my daily schedule. But it's a luxury to have a whole weekend to work and commune with other writers.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Happy Anniversary Johan and the New York Mets

On Friday, June 1, 2012, Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in New York Mets history. 

There had been several one-hitters for the Mets, but it took 8,020 games for this achievement. Finally, the long wait was over.

Thank you Johan. You will probably never pitch in a Mets uniform again but you'll always be in our hearts.