Sunday, August 31, 2014

Film Review: THE GIVER

Meryl Streep as Anjelica Huston.
There are several things to know if you are planning to see The Giver, an earnest adaptation of the award-winning children's book by the same name now trying for an adult audience. First of all, the book was better; let's just get that off the table right away. Second, it's interesting to watch Meryl Streep be only mediocre in a role instead of ridiculously fabulous as usual, and looking exactly like Anjelica Huston in a fright wig while doing so. And last, no it is not your imagination--Jeff Bridges really does seem to have a mouth full of marbles. Consequently, he looks weird and sounds worse. (Both stars must have been paid a lot.)

The time is the distant future, when everything, including trees, sky and people, is either black, white or shades of grey since color was deemed too stimulating and thus eliminated. Ditto music, love, snow and dancing. There are neither people of color nor senior citizens. War is non-existent, as are pain, sorrow and comfortable furniture. Nobody is fat, which is nice, and everyone apologizes for the slightest infraction. Precision of language is quite important, which I found refreshing. Also, lying is against the Rules, another nice feature.

I was quite taken with their little Utopia, actually: No war, no killing, what's not to like? Except there is killing, and on a daily basis as it turns out, done for the "good of the community." Twins are strictly forbidden and that's all I will say about that.

The plot is so full of holes it's fun to watch, as Old Man Bridges turns over the forbidden memories from the past to the newly-chosen "Receiver of Memory" at a big ceremony where everyone claps using one hand on their thigh instead of two hands the way we do it now. (Apparently one-handed thigh clapping is one of the ways Man will evolve.)

Doesn't that tell you all you need to know? But stick around, since at the end when the credits roll there is a fabulous song playing called "Ordinary Human" by One Republic. Or else skip the movie and find the song on YouTube. And read the book, it's great.

(Try and Have a) Happy Holiday

The once esteemed and now merely grasping New York Times is delivered to our house every Sunday. In the time it takes to walk the paper back to my house from the end of the driveway I can get depressed if I make the mistake of looking down at the front page. I did that today and caught a glimpse of a lead story about how Democrats are going to further exploit the Ferguson, Missouri debacle in black churches and on black talk radio to "mobilize African-Americans" and "channel their anger" to drive them to the polls in November, expanding the already volatile hatred between our warring political parties and, of course, blacks and whites.

Looking away, I spied an article about how ISIS is recruiting Americans through their overwhelming command of contemporary messaging, such as video games and Twitter.

Once inside my house, I threw the whole paper in the trash and kept the magazine section, turning to the crossword puzzle on the next to the last page. After all, I am hoping to have a nice day.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Thankless Job

"You're why I have the moat, Mother."
I have always quit jobs once they become unrewarding. Even a high salary is no reward if the job sucks. But now I'm stuck in a job I can't quit, and even though the job itself is obsolete, I can't get out of it.

As you may have guessed, I am a Mother. That's fine and dandy when the thing you are mothering is an infant, toddler, tween, teen or young adult. But when it is a completely formed adult, it's just plain ridiculous.

Many women in my situation simply jump head first into being a Grandmother, never giving their adult children a backwards glance the minute that new baby shows up. But without grandchildren, you're lost at sea without a life jacket. You show up for work every day, only to be told your services are no longer required. It's a bad deal.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

It Takes All Kinds

What gives with some people? Like just now, a woman came into my shop and looked around, apparently dismayed. I asked if I could help and she said, "I thought this was a furniture store. I need a furniture store."

Pointing out the chairs, tables, benches, bookcase and one small hutch, I gave her a a quizzical look. "No, I need a furniture store," she reiterated.

I asked what she specifically was looking for, and she said, "Something to hold business cards, you know, a little thing that sits on top of a desk, a business-card holder."

Not technically furniture, I thought to myself. Not even un-technically, in fact, by no stretch of the imagination is a business-card holder a piece of furniture. Anyway, wanting to help, I directed her to the Staples office supply center roughly two towns down the road, maybe ten miles from here. She said, "What's Staples?"

Petty Bullshit, or Rather, Catshit

Yesterday I drove over to the dealership where I recently purchased a new car. The purpose of the visit was to have their unsightly logo/decal removed from the rear bumper, unless they wanted to pay me to advertise for them, which I offered to do. They did not.

In the car's trunk at the time was a 20-pound plastic jug of cat litter. I had left it in there when I was unloading groceries the day before, since it's sort of heavy and I didn't need it right then and knew where it was when I did need it. Eventually I did need it, and went to the trunk of my car and it was gone.

First I assumed I am losing my mind, since my mother died of Alzheimer's and it's still not known if the disease is genetic, even though technically she died of pneumonia and may not have even had Alzheimer's at all but another form of dementia, but still you see where I'm coming from. Then I thought maybe I had not bought the stuff in the first place, or did but stuck it somewhere odd, and so started searching all the odd corners of my home. That took awhile. Finally I started thinking my husband had removed it to save me the trouble, and that he put it in an odd place, but of course I don't know what he considers an odd place so I called him and asked and he was clueless. So then I started thinking they must have removed it at the car dealership.

I called and they laughed and said "why would we?" and I asked them to check and lo and behold it was there, although the guy I talked with said he had "no idea why it was removed from the trunk" and I could "come and get it anytime."

The dealership is 13 miles from my house. I could come and get it? Really? Drive over and pick up my stolen goods? Petty, but still. The car cost more than $40,000....geez.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Life's Mud Season

                                                                     Gordon Studer
Waking up this morning, soon enough it became clear that today was the day to rearrange the furniture. This happens to me, and probably you too, when things are stale, dull and unexciting. For some reason, having the couch over there and the chairs over there, with that table against the window instead of the other one and that rug right in the middle of things and not hidden underneath the coffee table, makes everything fresh and new. Well, at least the living room.

If only we could do that with ourselves, life would always be a precious jewel instead of a worn pair of slippers with a hole in the toe. Slogging away in our old routines, it's hard to remember that we have choices, that there are possibilities. We get stuck in our ruts and it's tough to get out.

Maybe I'll shave my head later.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Truth and Consequences

Honesty is not always the best policy. This is bad news for me since I suffer from truthenalia honestoliosis and, like someone with Parkinson's, have little to no control over my responses. Just today I blew a potential writing job because I told the truth. I had hooked a possible freelance gig, and after several amicable emails were exchanged, the person doing the hiring asked for my honest feedback regarding the website for which I would be writing. I said it was riddled with errors which I would be happy to fix, but in its present state the site was amateurish. He never wrote back.

This got me thinking about the whole honesty thing, and in a flash of insight I realized that honesty is for losers. No wonder I wasn't hired by L.L. Bean! When they asked me to name what I liked best about their store, I said that it was open 24 hours and I could go there if I had trouble sleeping. The other people all said things like they like the quality of the merchandise (ha) or they like the friendly return policy (it's stupid) or they appreciate the helpful sales staff (so not true).

Going out on a limb, I will state that most broken marriages would be intact if only those involved had lied more often and more convincingly. So as a public service for all you newlyweds out there, here's a bit of advice you should follow if you want to keep things together:

The following questions must always be answered with an emphatic "No!":
1. Do you think I've put on weight?
2. Should I have a facelift?
3. Is this outfit too young for me?
4. Should I take cooking lessons?
5. Are you sorry you married me?

The following questions must always be answered with a resounding "Yes!":
1. Do you still find me attractive?
2. Do you like my new haircut?
3. Did you pay that bill (mail that letter, make that appointment) I asked you to last week?
4. Did you remember to change the oil in my car?
5. Are you listening?

I have been married for 28 years, by the way.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Way Harder Than the Ice Bucket Challenge

The Internet is aglow from the tens of hundreds of videos of people wanting to be famous, to be seen, to be admired or envied or noticed or whatever the heck is behind their dumping buckets of ice water on themselves in record-breaking numbers, instead of just donating to a charity in dry clothes.

I don't mind boasting: My challenge is even more difficult than the one with the ice bucket. Here's how it goes:
1. Sit down at a table or desk.
2. Get comfortable.
3. Make sure that absolutely nobody is around.
4. Take out your checkbook and write a check for at least $100 to any charity.
5. Insert the check into an envelope, apply a stamp and go out and drop it in a mailbox.

The whole thing should take less than 15 minutes. Here's the hardest part: Don't tell anybody you did it!

Following are some other worthy organizations that could use your money, now that the one for ALS has received more than $38 million from people who wanted to be in a video.
American Cancer Society
St. Jude's Hospital for Children
Doctors Without Borders
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Central Union Mission
Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

What to Do With That Spare Benjamin

Admittedly, I don't get out much. This is by choice, since the lion's share of modern life freaks me out. What are people thinking? So, besides the occasional trip to Europe, my world consists of about a five-mile wide area, and that's just the way I like it. Similarly I tend to keep my online wandering to my Facebook page, my AOL mail inbox and this blog, although sometimes, concerned that my life may have become too cloistered since moving to Maine, I venture into new territory. 

I did that just now and ended up in a weird neighborhood where a "plus-size" model with hundreds of thousands of fans posted the advertisement shown below:

"August 30 & 31st I will be hosting my first ever beauty classes in Fort Worth Texas I'm going to teach my tricks: from how to apply false lashes, to the proper (& easiest) way to do cat eye liner and more- This is gonna be a FUN day for sure."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Film Review: "BOYHOOD"

From boy to man: See it happen before your very eyes.
Once in a great while a movie comes along that makes other movies look bad. "Boyhood" does that. In fact, after you see it you'll likely wonder just what the heck all those other movies were thinking with their silly car chases and their zombies running around eating people and those exploding space aliens in body armor, when really all they had to do was show us a life being lived that isn't ours and we'd be happy to sit there, rapt and enthralled, for two hours and forty-five minutes that go by in a blink of an eye. In that way too, "Boyhood" is just like life.

Alas, unlike most ordinary lives and most ordinary movies, there's a gimmick that's got everyone talking: Director Richard Linklater shot the film over a dozen years, using actors who showed up for a week of work despite whatever else was happening in their off-screen lives. So we see them aging authentically instead of just pretending to under a distracting layer of Hollywood makeup. Naturally it's quite convincing, being real.

Besides the boy of the title--who we see morph from an adorable, mop-topped six-year-old into a bearded 18-year-old starting college--his mom, dad, sister and a few chosen friends and relatives all get older too. There are no spinning classes or facelifts down at this level of society, where paying the bills and drinking too much are the biggest concerns. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke play the parents who had two children together but shared nothing else. He's a ne'er-do-well wannabe musician with a heart of gold and she's a struggling single mom who keeps marrying the wrong man as she tries to better herself while putting food on the table. It's hard to decide which one of them gives the more soul-baring performance.

There is not a false note anywhere. Linklater's script is flawless, with dialog by turns sad and funny and sometimes dull, just like real life. The soundtrack is a mix of songs we've all heard before. Over and over we see that our lives are not all so different one from another, yet one or two little tweaks here and there can make or break us: A poor marriage, a bad job decision, and the train is derailed. Then it's over. As Arquette bemoans in one of her finest scenes, "I thought there'd be more."

This is a movie that demands--and deserves-- repeated viewings. Personally, I can't wait.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Plea From a Non-Aging Boomer

I just received one of those Mocking Aging Baby Boomer emails. Even though I clearly am one, having been at Woodstock and having gotten maced at an anti-Vietnam war demonstration, I still did not find it funny in the least. The missive consisted of a poorly animated cartoon set to the old song, "Born to be Wild," and showing a husband and wife with all sorts of medical problems trying to recapture their spent youth on a treadmill and exercise bike. He's fat and takes Viagra, she's obnoxious and naggy and worried about his heart giving out.

Maybe it's not funny to me because I am not fat, have no artificial body parts, do not take a million different drugs and still smoke pot. I go to rock concerts, have never played golf, avoid bridge parties and have no idea where a catheter actually goes. While my breasts may have started to, my pelvic floor has not yet dropped, whatever that means. And having robbed the cradle, my husband--also a boomer though a decade younger--is still quite fit, is bald only by choice, is not yet retired, has never ridden on a golf cart and still thinks I'm a babe. (Okay, so maybe he needs glasses.)

So please-- don't send me any more of those videos.

When It Comes to Driving, You Can't be Too Careful

I picked up my new car from the dealership yesterday. As is always the case, the salesman spent some time with me inside the vehicle, explaining its most important safety features. His little talk focused on the Bluetooth telephone system, showing me how to synchronize my cell phone with the car and then call someone just by shouting out his or her name and talk without holding my phone, letting me eat a hamburger or what-have-you at the same time. Then he went over the GPS mapping system in case I can't figure out how to get where I'm going because I'm a complete idiot and did not plan that out ahead of time, and how to pre-set the radio buttons and where to load a CD because God forbid a million times I should ever just drive in silence and pay attention to the road and all the other drivers operating huge machinery that could kill me with one ill-timed sneeze.

Sadly my new car is only a 2014 model and lacks the back-up camera standard in newer models which would allow me to apply my make-up and still see what's behind me. This is a bummer, since now I will have to actually turn my head around when I'm backing up, which seems unfair and old-fashioned. I hope I don't hurt my neck or run over a kid playing in my driveway. The backup camera helps avoid that.

The salesman also showed me the secret spare key which I can keep in my wallet for when I lock my keys in the car putting the groceries in the trunk, something he says happens to so many people that they designed this special key. (That's understandable, what with people getting dumber all the time.) He also carefully went over the rubber vs. carpeted floor mat debate, imploring me not to use both at the same time like so many people do, causing an accident when the gas pedal gets stuck. If you think about it long enough you can see how that could happen.

The last thing he covered in our little tutorial was preparing me for the online survey I would soon receive, asking me to rate his performance. He said giving him all tens was the way to go or else he would get in trouble, and to make sure I understood he sent me home with a printout of the survey with the little boxes at the end of each question all filled in with tens, so I could study it in advance and know exactly what to do when the survey shows up. Those car people think of everything.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Time Waits for No Man

Things move pretty fast if you ask me. Too fast, in fact. It seems like only yesterday....well, you know. Everything seems like only yesterday. So it's perplexing to see evidence of society's rush to the future, when it's going to come
soon enough, and then be gone and "seem like only yesterday."

What's got me thinking this is that here it is only August 21, but yesterday (for real, not it seems like) I already experienced a Halloween sighting. At the market, right there in the candy and paper towel department (it's a small market) was a display of Halloween stuff: Monster teeth, ghoulish make-up kits and pumpkin carving sets. It gave me quite a jolt, and for a moment I worried that I had neglected to turn over a few pages in the calendar. With Halloween more than two months away, can't we just savor what's left of summer?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'd Rather Be Stoned Than Fat

The debate over whether or not to legalize marijuana, a plant that grows naturally, rages on, while many other things damaging to one's psyche, soul and physical well-being remain not only legal but are shoved down our throats every minute of every day. These include but are not limited to cigarettes, cigars, beer, vodka, scotch, bourbon, soda, pizza, cookies, candy, ice cream, muffins, chips, bagels, tacos, nachos, burgers, French fries, fried chicken, fried seafood and all-you-can-eat pasta at those all-you-can eat food emporiums across the nation.

Add to that the legal medications of every variety imaginable for every ailment possible, all which carry the same dire warnings of suicidal thoughts, suicidal actions, heart attack, loss of vision, difficulty breathing, stroke and death, not to mention those four-hour erections, that we are advised to consume from the minute we turn on the TV in the morning to the second we go to sleep at night, often after ingesting something made in a laboratory to help us sleep, and you can see why the debate is nothing short of comical.

As for me, I'd rather be stoned than fat. (Or dead.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What a Conundrum

Last Saturday night my husband and I went out to dinner at a nearby restaurant. I happened to pay the bill, so I know for sure I had my wallet. We left, went home and went to sleep shortly thereafter, as it was late and the day was done.

The next morning I went out to buy some cat stuff--they need their toys-- and discovered when it was time to pay that I had no wallet. It was not in my purse or on the floor of my car. It was not back home. Putting two and two together, I figured it was in the restaurant where we had been the night before, a restaurant that unfortunately would be closed until Tuesday afternoon at five.

Naturally I called the place and left a message, asking them to call if they had found my wallet. I left the same message on Monday and again on Tuesday. No calls back. I was mildly alarmed that perhaps my wallet had been stolen, or I had dropped it in the parking lot when we left the restaurant. Should I cancel credit cards? What to do? I settled on the usual: non-stop worrying. After all, my wallet has my entire life in it, just like yours. Plus the fact, it's a pretty nice wallet.

Let me now say that we are regulars at this place--have been for five years--since it is only two miles away from our home and we know we can make the trip even if we get stinking drunk, which we never have but might since it is a wine bar and a damn good one. The owner knows us, and with his business shrinking lately due to fresh competitors, you'd think he'd want to retain steady customers like us.

Anyway, today being Tuesday I called again, and the owner answered and said, "Yeah, we have it, in fact we found it Saturday night right after you left and expected to hear from you then, but when we didn't we just figured you'd call us sometime next week."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Concert Review: A Night to Remember

Unlike the good old days, last night the concert hall did not reek of marijuana. Instead it was filled with excitement, packed with the borderline rabid fans who love the performer like a mother loves her first-born. Jackson Browne, unlike any other musical act I've seen live in concert--and that's a whole lot-- drives audiences wild with adoration, and the crowd at Portland's Merrill Auditorium was no exception.

The Guitars.
Plaintive shouts of, "We love you Jackson!" rang out continually during the more than two solid hours of incredible music, punctuated by an occasional, "You're so cute!" and "Come to my house later!" from a quartet of middle-aged women behaving badly seated a few rows behind us.

Onstage, a line of 23--we counted--guitars stood at the ready, each one tuned and in key for a specific song. An eerie haze created by an overachieving fog machine and nine bright red and purple spotlights suspended from the ceiling upped the level of excitement and expectation to an almost fever pitch. When Browne walked onstage, promptly at 8 pm, the wild cheering from the fans--all instantly on their feet, clapping, hooting, whistling and hollering--went on full bore for what must have been five minutes. Browne was clearly touched by the overwhelming show of affection and thanked us all profusely, then grabbed a guitar and started singing. And as a mother's lullaby instantly calms a crying baby, everyone shut the hell up and listened.

The Performer.
At two months shy of 66, Browne has maintained his boyish charm, flowing locks and engaging personality. Joking easily with the audience like we were all just hanging out together, he chatted amiably between each number, often at length, explaining the song's significance or recounting a funny anecdote related to it. Those of us sitting very close to the the stage could see that he has indeed grown older, and at times the weird, almost ghoulish lighting showed him to be frankly worn and wrinkled. His voice too has aged, now tinged with a raspy quality not present in his youth. But the sounds emanating from his guitar and from the keyboard were as pure as ever, maybe even better, literally sounding like liquid gold filling your ears.

The Audience.
Shuffling back and forth between instruments, Browne joked about how he had not planned his set in advance and so was open to suggestions. The more raucous audience members greedily shouted out requests, and as often as not he obliged immediately.

As he himself said the last time I saw him in concert, it's not all that important what songs he plays or in what order, since "they all sound exactly the same." But last night one in particular--"In the Shape of a Heart"--was rendered so beautifully, his voice perfected by that point in the evening and his guitar so pure, with lyrics that could make a grown man sob, it seemed as if Jackson Browne might just be the greatest performer who ever lived.
In the Shape of a Heart
It was a ruby that she wore
On a chain around her neck
In the shape of a heart
In the shape of a heart
It was a time I won't forget
For the sorrow and regret
And the shape of a heart
And the shape of a heart
I guess I never knew
What she was talking about
I guess I never knew
What she was living without
People speak of love don't know what they're thinking of
Wait around for the one who fits just like a glove
Speak in terms of belief and belonging
Try to fit some name to their longing
There was a hole left in the wall
From some ancient fight
About the size of a fist
Or something thrown that had missed
And there were other holes as well
In the house where our nights fell
Far too many to repair
In the time that we were there
People speak of love don't know what they're thinking of
Reach out to each other though the push and shove
Speak in terms of a life and the learning
Try to think of a word for the burning
You keep it up
You try so hard
To keep a life from coming apart
And never know
What breaches and faults are concealed
In the shape of a heart
It was the ruby that she wore
On a stand beside the bed
In the hour before dawn
When I knew she was gone
And I held it in my hand
For a little while
And dropped it into the wall
Let it go, heard it fall
I guess I never knew
What she was talking about
I guess I never knew
What she was living without
People speak of love don't know what they're thinking of
Wait around for the one who fits just like a glove
Speak in terms of a life and the living
Try to find the word for forgiving
You keep it up
You try so hard
To keep a life from coming apart
And never know
The shallows and the unseen reefs
That are there from the start
In the shape of a heart

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'd Rather Be Gay Than Fat

Being gay is certainly newsworthy these days, and not in a good way. In just the last ten minutes I have come across the following stories online:

* A gay teen who committed suicide and was an organ donor had his eyes rejected because of a law against it, the concern being passing along HIV virus in the surrounding tissue. His mother calls this  law "outrageous and archaic" and wants it changed.
* A gay performance artist plans to have sex with a different man every day for a year, calling it his "art."

* Those Westboro Baptist Church weirdos are planning to picket the funeral of Robin Williams, calling him a "fag pimp" for playing the role of a homosexual in "The Birdcage" and for cross-dressing in "Mrs. Doubtfire."

It's too bad that sexual orientation is seen as fodder for sensationalism, since homosexuality is as old as the hills--older, perhaps--and hurts nobody. Personally I think there should be news stories about fatties who do wrong or get in trouble by behaving badly, since obesity is much more of a crime against humanity.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Favorite Subject

What I like to do best is write. To me it is like playing the piano. I sit down and start plinking away with no idea of what I will say, and next thing I know there's a whole paragraph, which leads to another and then another. It's getting started that's the problem, and once I do there is no stopping me.

The same is true of dieting, which by the way is my favorite subject about which to opine. I could go on and on, since I've been at it for about 56 years, give or take. My mother was skinny, my older sister was fat, and my father's side of the family was majorly obese. Dad was just chubby, and in fact when I was 19 he decided to lose his excess weight and so the two of us joined Weight Watchers and had a grand time together, weighing our food and going to the weekly meetings.

Anyway, the thing about diets is if you get started and stick to it long enough to actually lose three or four pounds, something happens where you like being on your diet more than being off it, and wild horses couldn't get you to cheat. That number on the scale going down and down makes your resolve go up and up.

It's fun. Really, anyone needing to lose a few should just get started and stick with it. Your insides will thank you.

My Latest Creation

"Arabia Crownband, 13"
Inspired by photographs of an art exhibit in a prestigious New York City gallery, consisting of such installations as wood scraps in a pile and a line of toy trucks snaking across the gallery floor, I have decided to abandon painting on canvas and take my art to the next level. Starting today, I will work in food.

Shown here is my first piece, which represents the disembodiment of Man from Nature and Other Men. It consists of twelve (12) blueberries huddled on a half-eaten English muffin which was first covered with 100% organic peanut butter. While most of the blueberries are touching, one or two stand alone. The entire grouping is arranged artfully on a fine china dish from Finland in the Crownband pattern. I call it "Arabia Crownband, 13."

The original is currently installed on my dining room table, where it will remain until somebody eats it or clears it away. High quality prints are available for $750; giclees on canvas, $500.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cops Not Funny

Years ago at the Improv comedy club in Washington, DC, I saw a Latino comedian who made a joke about ghetto kids, saying one of the key things they had to learn how to do was "run from the police." Sadly it's no joke, as the recent murder of an unarmed black teenager by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri reminds us. Basically, cops are nuts.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine was driving at night here in Maine, and noticed a cop car obviously following him. He found this unnerving, and smoked a cigarette to calm his nerves. Then, reflexively, he tossed the butt out the car window. Within seconds the siren was wailing and my friend was pulled over and given a citation for littering. It was for something like $130.

Oh please--there are cigarette butts all over the place! In fact, Maine is full of smokers, maybe more than anywhere I have ever lived. There is also no helmet law here for motorcyclists, which makes you think the whole state has a death wish. Anyway, watch out for the fuzz, they are often out for blood. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

FILM REVIEW: The Hundred-Foot Journey

A spoonful of Helen Mirren goes a long way.
Today I saw a good movie with a bad title. (I completely forgot the title even as it flashed on the screen, but looked it up when I got home.) The Hundred-Foot Journey -- who names a movie with a hyphen in it? -- stars Helen Mirren, an actress I could watch do absolutely nothing and feel like I got my money's worth. I didn't know anyone else in the cast; several were Indian actors and perhaps they are stars in India. The only other big names belong to the producers, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, who remained off-screen, one assumes counting their money.

The movie comes down to this: People love food. Going out to eat is the first thing everyone wants to do, and if they don't go out they stay home and have big dinner parties and barbecues. So filmmakers, no dummies, are picking up on that and producing more "watch us cook delicious food" movies, where you get to see delicacies you can't afford being prepared and eaten for the two hours you are not actually stuffing your own face. This is one of those.

The plot revolves around two rival restaurants, one French and one Indian, separated by only 100 feet as they are situated directly across the street from one another. This is preposterous but fun to watch in a fairy tale sort of way. It's all set in a dreamy French village where you'll want to move and live happily ever after the second you leave the theater.

There's a handsome, young Indian chef and a beautiful, young French sous-chef; right away you know those two will get together. There's a curmudgeonly Indian widower just perfect for Mirren's uppity French widow; right away you know those two will get together. There's comedy folded into drama and culinary arts whisked with romance--a perfect recipe for box office success. Throw in a few tearful moments telegraphing that this is a chick flick, and it's done!

Unless your man is the sensitive type, see it with a girlfriend. I did and we had a grand time.

Food for the Soul

My friend Melva is adorable in many ways, not just in looks, which she definitely is. But even cuter is that when her birthday month approaches, she calls it her "birthday area," announces it as such, and revels in anticipation for several weeks leading up to the special day. Following her lead, I will now declare that I am securely in my "Jackson Browne area," and thus nothing can bum me out. His upcoming concert this Sunday night will be awesome, inspirational, fun, exciting, exhilarating and just plain fabulous, I am sure of that.

When I bought the tickets months ago the agent asked where I'd like to sit, but since there was nothing available in his lap I went with Orchestra, third row center.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Local Border Wars

IT'S NO WONDER THE WHOLE WORLD IS AT WAR. Despite the widespread belief that Man is the most intelligent animal on the planet, I have hard evidence to the contrary.

Our newest next door neighbors arrived a year ago, maybe more, I forget. I have never met either one, or their baby or the nanny, or their new dog who barks loudly and often, literally disturbing the up-til-now peace. Despite having to walk the dog and thus appear in public, they are not doing a very good job. The wife may be agoraphobic, since by all reports she speaks to no one and is rarely outside on foot. The husband is seen only wheeling the garbage out to the street every Monday. They never nod or wave or acknowledge their own existence.

This morning I went out to the end of my driveway to get the morning paper, something I enjoy doing because it reminds me of Tony Soprano going out in his bathrobe to get his paper. (I still miss James Gandolfini, but that's another story.) Feeling very Tony-ish, and with the Sopranos theme in my head, I am always cheerful at that point in my day, and today was no exception--until I noticed the unknown neighbor approaching with his little child-- I still have no idea what gender it is-- and their rambunctious dog. They made a pretty picture, and as they neared I welcomed the chance for a friendly exchange of meaningless pleasantries, the glue of small-town life. Things like, "Nice morning" or "Looks like rain, don't you think?" Instead, the father stopped short and pulled the dog's leash back hard, halting their little procession and hiding behind a squat, bushy spruce until I had picked up my newspaper and started back inside.

This obvious slight pissed me off, and as I continued up the drive I said loud enough for him to hear, "I don't bite, you know." As the band of three continued their walk now that I was safely out of the way, it confirmed my suspicion that they had stopped to avoid interacting with me. That pissed me off further, prompting me to utter, again loud enough for them to hear, "Asshole."

My son insists this standoff exists because when the new neighbors moved in my husband brought over a post-hole digger and offered to help them plant their mailbox in the dirt. It had sat in a bucket of rocks, an eyesore, for several months since when they first arrived the ground was frozen. But weeks before that, Mitch had gone over with a lovely pineapple to welcome them to the neighborhood and had the door fairly slammed in his face by the resident female. (She took the pineapple.)

My son says the post-hole digger trumps the pineapple. I say it's no wonder Israel and Palestine can't get along, and it's a good thing we don't have any rockets. Perhaps I should check for tunnels.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Make A Wish

The recent suicide of yet another beloved celebrity has us all shocked, saddened and mystified. Yesterday comic Robin Williams, an admitted drug and alcohol addict, chose to leave the rest of us behind, joining the astounding and growing number of celebrities who, like him, were in possession of legendary talent, a loving family, an apparently infinite number of friends--at least judging from the outpouring of grief--and endless money to do anything imaginable in this world. It leads one to wonder: Just what do people want?

I wish I had no money concerns, could eat anything at all without fear of reprisal from my body, and could earn a living creating my art. Still, even lacking all that, I am content to stick around and see if maybe something great will happen. What about you?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Squirrels Have it Easy

Today was one of the worst I have ever had, and that includes surgery days, when at least there are nurses tending to your every need afterwards, if you live.  It started out fine. I went to the periodontist for my regular cleaning and nothing was worse, which is what I can expect from now on according to Stella. "Bone cannot grow back," she said, adding brightly that my pockets weren't any deeper, if you know what I mean, and if you don't you are damn lucky and someday you will, and then you'll think, oh, so that's what that meant.

That was a day at Disneyland compared to my next stop, a place I have not frequented in 40 years and never will again. I went to the laundromat. It was unavoidable, due to a peculiar set of circumstances resulting in three blankets and a queen-sized quilt all in desperate need of laundering, a task far exceeding the capabilities of our standard top-loading washer at home.

The laundromat, even one plopped down right in the middle of a decent neighborhood, is a pit of despair. Half the machines are broken. The soap dispenser is empty. Things are slick and icky. The people in there, waiting on a row of attached plastic chairs, are ugly and defeated. And by the time I left, at least two hours later, so was I. By the way, these days a wash costs $4.50 and the dryer is 50 cents to start and another 50 cents for four minutes, meaning I dropped almost twenty bucks in there.

On my way home I almost ran over a squirrel. As I slammed on the brakes, I realized I was jealous of the squirrel for not having to do laundry, for not having blankets or a big quilt, and for not having to go to the market and get something for dinner after having endured the horrors of the laundromat. I envied his little squirrel family with their acorns for dinner and their blankets of pine needles, all there for them with no trouble at all.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Start Your New Career Today!

I just saw something so funny I had to share it. It was a print ad with the headline "Learn Copywriting." Supposedly this particular "school" will teach you all the tricks of the trade. What tricks? As someone who worked in advertising years ago, I can tell you all you need to know; whatever you're selling, simply include the following:

     #1. The product or service or person you are selling is indispensable. 
     #2. One's life will be greatly enhanced using this product, service or person.
     #3. One will lose weight, have more sex, have better sex, have more friends, look younger, feel happier, sleep better and earn more money with this product, service or person.

Done. Now you are a copywriter. How's that for easy-peasy?

Your Little Secret

Challenging yourself is just about the most fun you can have for free. All you do is pick a goal--even a teeny one works--and then set about doing it. It works best when it's your little secret, since telling someone else puts undue pressure on you to come through, which eventually causes you to fail. (Don't ask me why, it just does.) But if you quietly chip away at it while nobody knows, when you accomplish it, it's the best feeling in the world.

Reaching any goal is easy. All you have to do is work towards it every day, in some way. This sage advice was given to me long ago by a previous employer. I confided in him that I wanted to move to Chicago and find a job there, even though I knew not a soul in that city. I was living in DC at the time and was up for a change. My boss, also a friend, advised, "Just do something every day related to it, whether it's a phone call or email or letter or visit, and it will happen." He was right, and eventually I did find a job in Chicago. (I found a better one in  California and so never went to Chicago, but still, you get the point.)

This trick works with anything: Losing weight, painting a house, getting in shape, running a 10K, learning to make chocolate mousse--you name it. Just pick something you want and go for it, and go for it every day. Seeing your goal get closer, even in tiny increments, is better than any therapy, and much better than key lime pie. The best part is when people start asking what's making you so happy, but remember--it's your little secret.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Last Taboo

It's funny the things we take for granted. For example, all I want to do right now is go to the bathroom. I know that is an icky subject for a blog post, but that's where my head is currently at.

Once a private matter between two consenting adults, these days you can talk about anything at all having to do with sex--in fact, the weirder the better--but constipation remains a taboo subject nobody ever discusses. Oddly enough, according to my recent findings constipation is the number one physical ailment affecting all adults. Unless you count tinnitus, which is also the number one physical ailment affecting all adults. Same with nearsightedness and arthritis. (Apparently anything wrong with me is the number one problem affecting adults. How is that possible?)

I am not suggesting we all sit around discussing our bowel movements, believe me. I am simply saying that watching a video of a baby chasing its shadow or a cute kitty squeezing into a shoebox or any of the hundreds of thousands of inane videos posted online is not all that amusing when one is constipated, whereas it might be when all systems are go. And so the next time you tell a joke and don't get a laugh, consider this: Maybe the joke is really funny but the listener is constipated. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Untold Story

My sister is not a chimpanzee.
In order to write the novel I want to write, everyone in my family and several of my good friends would need to be dead. Since that is not likely to occur unless there is a nuclear holocaust, in which case there would be few readers left and thus no advance from any publishers, it seems pointless.

A good friend of mine, who would definitely have to be one of the dead because her chapter is quite juicy, recently suggested I read a certain novel. I found a review of it online and learned that the plot revolves around two sisters, one of whom, owing to some government science experiment, was a chimpanzee. (I just skimmed it.) It sounded zany, in that good way reviewers intend, and quirky and eccentric, and anyway she got it published.

If were to write about my sister who is not a chimpanzee but nevertheless equally bizarre and vastly different from me, it would hurt her feelings. I couldn't do that. And if I were to divulge secrets about anyone else, like my husband and his family and even my own son, they would all shriek in horror at my depictions, revelations, disclosures and imaginings, fictionalized though they may be, despite the fact that my husband swears he would not care if I told the world about how it all boils down to his penis and that all men feel the same way.

So I am stuck with a fabulous novel buried deep inside me unless my entire family packs into a van that careens off the side of a mountain in a mudslide in Costa Rica and are all killed. Of course, if that terrible thing happened, I would probably write about that instead, and so my story wouldn't see the light of day anyway. Too bad, because it's a doozy.

The Ultimate Craigslist Ad

Wear Looking for you!

Are you looking to advance your career without going back to school? Here is the opportunity of a lifetime to work with leaders in the industry, learn tricks of the trade and increase your portfolio at the same time, even if you don't have a degree. Interested applicants should reply with a resume, one headshot and three writing samples, plus take our editing test, be familiar with The Oxford Standard Dictionary and The Chicago Manual of Style. Must be proficient at Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Photoshop, InDesign and all related software, have a Twitter account, be able to flip an omelet and understand the importance of social media.

Although this is currently an unpaid postion, qualified candidates will receive a byline, valid coupons for a free pizza once a month and a professional facial every so often. Once we get to where we think we are going, you will share in all profits. Specify area of expertise.

Only interested candidtaes need appky
PLEASE do not solicit other offers
No phone calls
Professional attire mandatory

Hurry Up and Wait

"The Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dali
I wish I were stranger. In fact, I am not strange in the least, which may be part of why I have never gotten very far in life. By "very far," I mean accomplishing something unique and exceptional for which I am rewarded with gobs of remuneration. Instead I have plodded along being quite normal and hiding out, opting for the least exposure to possible gunfire. Fortunately my husband is fearless and craves being in the middle of things, and so he makes all the money we need. Still, like everyone, I yearn for more than just the slow erosion of time.

Several paths are open to me, and while they seem appealing at first blush, after thoughtful consideration they all seem to lead to vast overgrown fields full of roots and ruts, ultimately requiring too much brush-hogging to be any fun.

I wonder if hoping for fun is holding me back. Is it over-rated? Anyway, maybe today....

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Martha Stewart's Sister

In just the past few weeks and including today, I have read articles about the deaths of the following women: Julia Robert's half-sister, Drew Barrymore's half-sister and Martha Stewart's sister. The first two committed suicide, and who could blame them? Even in death they were little but footnotes to their famous siblings. Did they have names? Or careers, or even other family members? Surely they must have, but the most exciting thing to the obit writers was their relation to a celebrity.

Fame is a weird thing. To get it, you've either got to be really good, really bad, or just plain lucky. You can get famous for living next door to a murderer (Kato Kaelin) or by being one yourself (Jeffrey Dahmer). The worst paths to fame are when you survive something horrendous (Anne Frank, Elizabeth Smart) or your child is murdered (John Walsh).

These days fame is out of control, with magazines like Us, InTouch and People and websites like TMZ offering nothing besides a gossipy peek into the lives of the famous. Even worse, little kids choose it as a career goal. Once children wanted to grow up to be firemen or doctors or cowboys; now they want to be famous. And what is fame, after all, but being recognized by people you don't know? That sounds nightmarish to me, since on some days I can barely handle being spotted by the people I do know.

I take comfort in the fact that my own sister is not famous. At least when I die, my obituary will be just about me.

Product Endsorsement

I love bread. It is said to be "the staff of life," whatever that means. I think it's from the Bible and while I have never read the Bible, still I hear things. Mostly from my husband who is a Bible freak--he loves it and is always quoting it, although often incorrectly. Anyway, I love bread.

The thing is, bread is a poor food choice if you want to lose weight, which I have wanted to do since age 12. Not that I'm fat, but I've never been thin, and so since that's a goal I usually steer away from carbohydrates like pasta, rice and potatoes. But bread--I simply cannot start the day without it. If I can't have my morning toast I don't want to live.  I gave up eating bagels and muffins years ago, but a decent piece of whole grain toast is something I can tell myself is healthy. It's  covered with something nutritious like almond butter which is loaded with fat, but I'm pretty sure the bread itself is the demon.

Recently I switched to something called Udi's Gluten Free Millet-Chia bread. It was an impulse purchase at the local health food market I cannot explain. I have never been one of those mung-bean people. Yes, I owned Birkenstocks long ago, but never wore those flowing, tie-dyed skirts or hippie beads. And God knows I have certainly never gone bra-less in public. Still, the bread jumped out at me and so I brought it home.

That was about a month ago. Since then I have had a slice of it every morning. I have also lost five pounds without changing anything else in my regular diet. Go figure. Besides its magical properties, it is delicious and toasts well.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Our Black Guy is Way Better Than Theirs

Republican Dr. Ben Carson is running for President in 2016. 

Ben Carson is a doctor and can actually administer health care. Barack Obama is a politician and can only promise the administration of health care, which as we all know, he did not deliver.

Carson was born in Detroit. Obama was born, of that much we are certain.

Carson is the father of three boys;  Obama has two girls. Draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

FILM REVIEW: "A Most Wanted Man"

I just watched a two-hour movie and besides knowing my popcorn was stale, I was clueless about what was happening the whole time. This was odd since the film was in English which is my native tongue. It starred my favorite actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who remains my favorite despite his being dead and despite him being not all that good in this film. In fact, this, one of his last films, may be what drove him to OD on heroin.

Robin Wright in her Hitler hair.
Dark, somber, and downright depressing at times, Hoffman's character, Gunther, a German spy or agent of some sort-- I am not sure for whom--spends almost all of his time either smoking cigarettes or drinking whiskey. It's either on the rocks or in his coffee or out of a flask, but whatever, it's definitely alcohol. That is the only thing I really knew for certain. Gunther, with a mild German accent that comes and goes, is tracking down a young Russian man who has arrived in the city of Hamburg via container ship, and that's never good. Apparently Hamburg was where the plotters of 9/11 did their plotting, and so the cops and all related law people are still paranoid and looking for anyone that smells like trouble. I think.

There's a rich Arab who might be supplying money to jihadists, or not. There's a pretty, young American lawyer (Rachel McAdams) who is helping the Russian guy get asylum so he won't be sent back to Russia where they tortured him, and he's got the scars to prove it.  Actress Robin Wright plays an American agent for someone. (My husband, who is very smart and saw the movie with me, said she was the Head of Spying.)  Wright looks rather mannish and sports a ridiculous black wig that looks like a giant Hitler's mustache plastered onto her head. Actor Willem Dafoe is mean and scary-looking but turns out to be a nice guy. Maybe.

There is no sex, no violence, and no action. There are no scenes involving food preparation or consumption. It's all quite drab and confusing. In fact, if you find this review confusing, I have done my job; now you know what seeing "A Most Wanted Man" is like. The ending is abrupt and answers nothing.

Two Hot Dogs, Hold the Relish

As everyone would agree, things are a mess. This can only be attributed to the basic truth that humans are dumb clucks. Unfortunately, animals must bear the brunt of our stupidity, although God only knows why they don't band together and start a revolution, one they would surely win. Dogs in cars, lions in zoos, dolphins at Sea World--it's all so humiliating for them. The real issue is why people think they have the right to mistreat animals in horrendous ways.

Recently I heard a loud barking coming through the walls of my art gallery. I went outside to check and found a car with two little black dachshunds inside, in a crate, barking to beat the band. It was a hot day and one window was opened just a teeny crack. Since the car was parked outside a restaurant, I went inside in search of the owner. This took mere seconds since as I started to describe the situation to the hostess, she said, "Oh yes, I know the owner, she comes here often. I'll send her right out."

"Right out" turned out to be 20 more minutes of frantic barking, during which I fantasized about all the horrible things I could do to the woman, none of which I did, including calling the police. Finally she sauntered out--I could see her through my front window--and in a chipper, baby-talk voice said, "Relax guys, Mommy is back."

As she drove away, the dogs still in their crate and no water offered to either one, I was sad, but at the very least happy that she was not my mommy.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Scare Yourself Silly

I certainly don't want to come down with the Ebola virus, or its cousin, Ebola hemorrhagic fever. To that end, I will not be traveling to Africa or even to Atlanta, where they are right now transporting two American health workers ill with the disease for treatment. (See, this is one of the reasons to keep up with the news.) Not only do I hate vomiting and diarrhea, but internal bleeding does not sound like any picnic I'd like to attend.

Hoffman sports rain gear from L.L. Bean, with antibiotic bag.
Fortunately I have zero chance of getting this disease since there are no fruit bats around here and no people who are currently sick with the illness. (Most of my neighbors never even leave Maine.) I've got my usual ailments which are so silly and minor it's a wonder I ever gave them a second thought; what's a little skin cancer, arthritis or high blood pressure compared to one's liver and kidneys bleeding out?

So today will be a day spent celebrating my good health and praying that the current outbreak does not turn into that 1995 movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and that weird Renee Russo who is sort of attractive except for her jaw is on crooked. Anyway, it was aptly entitled "Outbreak" and if you missed it you should find it on Netflix or somewhere because it is a hoot! And this is the perfect time to see it, just to up your paranoia about the current Ebola epidemic.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Higher You Bid, the More It's Worth

Alligator handbag with gold finish by Cartier: $27,000 People value strange things. Especially rich people. For example, a woman's ...