Casual Sundays with Mr Curry
|Jay was on the road with his team (March sadness) so I knew I wasn't gonna get much sleep this week. Fortunately, Zack loaded up my Netflix queue before he left town.
This week I watched a bunch of movies I've never heard of. The first was called Moonrise Kingdom.
The synopsis on the envelope sounded ridiculous. Two twelve year olds run away in 1965.
But it was starring Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton and it was weird and charming and funny.
Best line in the movie was Bruce Willis (Sheriff on this tiny east coast island) telling one of the run aways "I can't argue with a single thing you've said. The good news is I don't have to; you're twelve years old."
That's the sort of authority American adults have abdicated since '65. Now, we seem to have bought into the idea that life experience counts for nothing.
The next movie was Guilt Trip, starring Seth Rogan and Barbra Streisand as a mother and son driving cross country. Most of the movie is simply conversation between the two and the entire thing is very funny and again; charming.
The chemistry between the two leads is great; they totally seem like mother and son. One of my beefs with TV and movies is the way parents and children usually come across; as total strangers. Seth (Andy) and Joyce (Barbara) may not have a Veronica/Keith relationship but they work on it. The relationship between them grows and deepens in a perfectly natural way during the course of their road trip. Barbra S. is wonderful as the widowed mother of an only child who raised him, put all her energy into him and stood bravely by as he went off to school and a career on the opposite side of the country. Every word she said and thing she did was hilarious to me because not only could I easily hear my own mother say those things, I could easily hear MYSELF saying them. There were several laugh out loud moments but the script never veered into slap stick.
Then I watched Gangster Squad. That one, I had actually heard of. Sean Penn played Mickey Cohen, the mobster who ruled LA back in the late 40s. It was very violent, which I don't have a problem with and kind of predictable, which I do have a problem with. But it was supposed to be based on real history so maybe that's just how it went down, I don't know. The movie was snappy and beautiful so I wasn't bored. I'd never watch it again.
Speaking of never watching a movie again, Jay and I saw The Dallas Buyers Club.
I went online to see what it was about and my reaction to the synopsis was "Yuuuuuuck! I don't want another movie about AIDS."
I'm so over movies about AIDS. I feel like Kate Winslet, talking about Holocaust movies in Extras; "We get it. It was grim."
At this stage of my life, I want to be entertained. I know life is a bitch, why would I want to waste precious hours of it watching fictional tragedy? Or even real tragedy?
My stand lasted twenty four hours. Then both McConaughey and Leto won Oscars and I changed my mind.
What? It's a movie, not a core value.
My take on it? It was every bit as tedious as I was afraid it would be. Yes, the performances were excellent but I didn't care. The story was bleh. The one thing I totally enjoyed was the depiction of the FDA as the bloated, self important bureaucracy that it is. When people are dying, they should be allowed to try anything. I know people buy the argument that the FDA keeps us safe but I'm not one of them. No one knows how many lives have been lost because it takes so long to get a new treatment or drug approved by these suits in D.C. And how good a job do they do? Remember Fen Phen?
The FDA is like every other bureaucracy; it's ripe for corruption hiding under the mantel of the public good. It's my opinion that the free market and word of mouth would protect more people than the FDA does regarding the discovery and development of new drugs and treatments. It's our own health we're talking about; we should be allowed to govern it ourselves.
Matthew McConaughey has joined Renee Zellweger, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman in the Beautiful Actors who won Oscars by Going Ugly. Jared Leto pulled off a nice trick; he went pretty. Prettier.
I liked American Hustle much more. I haven't seen 12 Years a Slave.
Another movie about slavery?
Betty is dead.
She lived a long, wonderful life and from what I knew of her, enjoyed every minute of it.
I began designing needlepoint canvases when I was barely out of Junior High. The two sisters who owned the shop were friends of my parents. They taught me to stitch and made me a professional painter when my other job was babysitting.
Betty was there from the beginning.
She was not only a great customer but a great friend of both the sisters. Back when I began painting, forty years ago, Betty probably didn't stitch quite as much as she did in later years; she still had teenaged kids at home. But in her golden years, she picked up the pace. In fact, she set a pace no one I've ever known could match.
She stitched so much, so fast that she needed to meet with her personal designer not once, but twice a week to keep her in fresh canvases. I was privileged to be that designer.
Betty stitched Christmas stockings for every member of her family, which included her kids, their spouses, her grandkids, their spouses and her growing cadre of great grandkids. Most stitchers can barely finish a single Christmas stocking in a year. Betty did a stocking or two every year, along with a personalized ornament for every member of the family, a twelve inch, stand up Nutcracker for every one of her male descendants, purses, jewelry boxes, or stand up Santa Claus's for all of her female descendants, pillows, upholstery and accessories for herself and any friend or family member she thought might like it and needlepoint gifts for all the ladies she played bridge with twice a week.
She did that every year.
She put great thought into every project she undertook. Each ornament, belt, purse, stocking etc. was personalized to the Nth degree. Nothing was off the rack for Betty.
She was so much fun to work with! If all my customers were as creative and resourceful as she was, my job would be almost too easy. It's pretty easy anyway but you can imagine my chagrin when a person comes to me and says "I don't know...something wonderful."
Betty was always thinking up new ways to impress her family with needlepoint. She found hand woven baskets a few years ago; big, round baskets with wooden bases. Perfect for keeping mail, or toys, dried flowers, cards, books, magazines...anything you might need a basket for. She had me design a strip two or three inches deep that went around the top of the basket; tied with a bow so as to be interchangeable with the seasons. It turned out so beautifully that every branch of her family wanted one of their own and so did dozens of other customers who happened to see Betty's baskets before she picked them up. I lost track of how many baskets I've designed for over the years. That number would have been zero if Betty hadn't had one of her great ideas.
She came in every Tuesday morning because she knew that's when I'd be there. She always brought a list of what she wanted to do. The list was always packed with new ideas for ornaments, nutcrackers and decorative pieces.
I would paint as fast as I could and drop off a few things on Friday because almost invariably, she stitched so fast she'd need a new infusion of canvases to get her through the weekend.
In all the years I knew her, I never saw her cross, grumpy or short tempered.
She was delightful.
In addition to stitching, she was quite a cook. Every Christmas she gave all of us who worked at (or for) the shop a jar of home made strawberry preserves. It was so good that when he was ten, my son Zack told me, while eating it on toast "I don't know who this Betty is but I think I'd like to marry her."
I had my last meeting with Betty about a month ago. As usual, she had a long list of ideas for me. We had no idea that it would be our last meeting. Later that week, she began feeling poorly. The next two Tuesdays she canceled at the last minute but it wasn't until two weeks ago that we found out her health was not going to improve.
Then she died, with most of her extended family around her.
At the church, her sons had set up an honor guard for her; over fifty of the nutcrackers she'd stitched for them over the years stood in silent rows, gazing back at the mourners. They represented milestones in the lives of her sons and grandsons; dressed in school colors, wearing sports uniforms, camp decals and business logos and dressed for all sorts of different hobbies from nordic skiing to golf. They also represented a mere fraction of the nutcrackers she stitched over the years.
In his eulogy, her son said that in the last week of her life, he went around her house trying to estimate the number of stitches she set in her prolific career. Based on the canvases he knew about, he figured she had set 22,500,000 stitches. Those of us at the shop knew that number could easily be tripled, as Betty gave away far more of her work than she ever kept. 66 million stitches is a hell of a legacy.
At the reception after the funeral, her kids had hung the family Christmas stockings on the help desk. They also set up a Christmas tree, covered in ornaments by Betty. The hundred or so ornaments on the tree were maybe a tenth of the total she had made.
One of the ladies who had come to the shop with her for years was kind enough to introduce me to a number of Betty's kids and grandkids. I just wanted to put some faces to the names I'd been designing for all these years.
As I told three of her grandsons; "I know what vacations you've taken, what shows you've seen, where you went to school, when you graduated, your birthdays, weddings...it seems wrong that we've never met."
"Oh my God!" One of them said, giving me a hug "You know what cars we drive, when we got our first Iphones and what our houses look like!"
They treated me like a rock star because I designed the needlepoint their grandma made for them.
It was really nice.
The thing about art is that one rarely gets to see the finished pieces. You can sell a painting but you don't get to see where the buyer hangs it. Is it in the living room for the world to see? Is it in their office where they can enjoy it alone? Did they hang that watercolor you poured your soul into in direct sunlight so it's faded away? Did they sell that oil painting you slaved over at a garage sale for $10? With needlepoint, I paint the canvas but have no control over the threads used or the quality of the stitching; I have no say in how the piece is finished. I've seen customers choose colors just different enough from the way I painted a piece so as throw off the whole palette.
One of my favorite pieces ever was an ottoman I designed. It was big and round, about 3 feet in diameter with a leather top and the needlepoint was a 12" deep gusset that went around it. I painted a western panorama inspired by Charlie Russell and N.C. Wyeth. I chose a palette based on the silk and ivory threads to give the whole thing a soft, water color look.
It was immediately purchased by a man who worked it in metallics and added a leather fringe all around it in finishing. It went from being my cowboy footstool to being this cowboy's footstool in the blink of an eye and there was nothing I could do about it.
My point is it was really fun for me to find out that the people I had been designing for all these years have loved the things their grandma and I came up with. I'm not talking "oh, how nice." loved, I'm talking squeals and hugs and jumping up and down love. They told me that anticipation of the new ornaments and nutcrackers was the highlight of their Christmases. That each new baby born into the family meant a new stocking added to the enormous family stash. That every time Betty had given one a special gift for any occasion turned into every other member of the family begging for one of their own.
It's really kind of funny. In order to be successful, an artist has to be blessed with the right personality. No amount of talent would be enough if the artist couldn't handle and in fact, didn't crave large amounts of time alone to work. Being a natural hermit is a necessary ingredient to producing art. So it's really weird to find out that I've been an integral part of Christmas for a family I've never met.
We produce these things and put them out there with no idea of the ripple effect we cause. That's not just art; that's everything.
Because of the preserves she made, a little boy who never met her loved Betty. Because she loved to needlepoint, Betty will be remembered by all her friends and family whenever they see her work. Great grandchildren yet to be born will know her because the history of the family is written on their Christmas trees.
Again; a hell of a legacy.
Tournament time has begun, which is always a huge deal at our house. It's our version of awards season for Hollywood. But we have to actually fight for our hardware. Actually, if all the actors who had been up for awards had been put into a ring to duke it out in a winner takes all cage match, I may have watched the Oscars. That would be some good television!
Friday night, we hosted our first playoff game. We played very well and won by about 15.
Friday night, Josie also came back into town to hang out with her brother in the last few days before he moved to the mountains. Katie also came over so when I got home from the game, they were all eating Kwan's and enjoying Ghostbusters, in a farewell to Harold Ramis.
The great Mr. Ramis passed away this week. I think he was one of the most under rated comic minds of his era. Everyone knows Bill Murray was great in Stripes, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day but not everyone realizes that Harold R. Was the comic genius behind those masterworks.
Stripes is far and away the funniest Cold War movie and Groundhog Day is simply one of the best movies ever written.
Saturday, Josie, like every other college student home for the weekend, wanted me to take her shopping. So, like every other mom of a college student, I did. She's been working out a lot and needed new gym clothes. We went to TJ Maxx and bought $300.00 worth of stuff for $73.00 I got a velvet top for next Christmas. It's Ralph Lauren, retails for $159.00 I got it off the clearance rack for $7.00.
Ya gotta love TJ Maxx!
Then we bought a car.
Not me and Josie; me and Jay. We gave the van to Zack. Of all our kids, he's the one who has cost us the least amount of money; no car insurance as a teen, no student loans...he even bailed himself out that one time! We figured the least we could do was give him our old, decrepit, rattle trap of a van.
But that left us with a car deficit.
We did not get a new van. For the first time in twenty years, we don't have a van. We had five, over the years. There was the red one with wood paneling, two green ones, a silver one and the blue one. Some of those were used, some were leases. We leased the blue when it was fresh of the factory floor. It had three miles on it. After a couple of years we bought it because the payments were actually less than a new lease. It's the only vehicle we bought new and paid off. It was great having no car payments for a couple of years and I had fully intended to drive that thing into the ground but I'm happy to let Zack take it; he needs the space. I no longer do.
Watch; next week I'll find an antique English sideboard I simply have to have and it won't fit in my car.
Saturday night, we had lasagna for dinner, as per Zack's request. Katie came over as well, to wish her brother farewell. She had a party to go to later so we planned on eating at 6. That worked out just great except for the part where I accidentally turned the oven off when I put the lasagna in so it wasn't actually ready until 7. Sitting in a cooling oven for an hour didn't hurt the lasagna; it was delicious. But Katie didn't' get any.
It was fun to see her, anyway.
Early Sunday morning, Zack hit the road. He had two buddies driving out with him. There was another winter storm warning but it was south of his destination so he arrived safe and ahead of schedule.
Jay's team hosted their championship game at two. Josie had to catch her bus back to school at 4 so I couldn't make it to the game, which we lost. March sadness.
But! We got into the next round of playoffs anyway, due to our magnificent season record. Madness!
Josie and I hung out all afternoon and then a friend who was riding the same bus picked her up for the station.
I had a funeral to go to at that point.
Much later, I forgot all about the Oscars and watched four episodes of Veronica Mars instead. I'm power watching the show again, in preparation for the Veronica Mars movie, which opens in TEN DAYS.
We who are fans are in an agony of suspense. THe show ended in a way that left us all traumatized and we're torn between giddy with happiness that the movie is finally happening (seven years after cancelation) and terrified that it won't give us what we want. I'm fairly sure we'll get what we want but I have my own reasons for agony.
Even if I'd remembered the Oscars, I wouldn't have watched. I don't' care for award shows. I'd much rather skip the broadcast and rely on the play by play from my sister, who loves them but is far more entertaining than Ellen, Billy or Ricky could ever be. Imagine my delight to discover that this year, everyone can enjoy Katie's Oscar Experience!
It's about time Katie got some national exposure.
Monday, with Josie back at school and Zack having moved to another state, Jay and I are officially empty nesters.
I'm not completely sure how I feel about this but I think I like it.
|If I were organized, I'd post something here every day. But then, if I were organized, I'd be a completely different person. I'd rule the world but I wouldn't recognized myself. Not a worthwhile trade off in my book. I think only idiots want to rule this silly, nonsensical world.
But it would be nice to carve out time to do everything I'd like to do in a day.
I've decided to buy the explanation that creative energy is just like physical energy; you only have so much before you're exhausted. I have found many ways to keep my axe sharp but they take some time. Also, when I'm in the clutches of one of my many muses, I don't notice the passing of time. I'm not just talking "Oh, it's one in the morning, I'd better get to bed" here: I'm not even talking "Oops, it's March already" either. No, I'm talking "Holy crap, did you say it's 2014? What happened to 2011??"
Um...you blinked and missed it.
I used to be able to remember every past Olympic venue. Now I can't remember the last one, even though it now seems to me like the Olympics happen every six weeks. Maybe that's the problem; the time between flies by so fast that the venues have piled up like dry leaves in a corner. Really, by now doesn't it seem like every two bit nation on earth has it's own Olympic village?
The Sochi Olympics will go down in my memory as the Whiny Games. First it was the American speed skaters, trying to foist the blame for their lousy performance on their Underarmor Suits. Even if true, it's classless to do so. Then, we get South Korea threatening to sue over their girl not getting gold in figure skating. Here's the problem; for decades, we've all assumed that figure skating is fixed. We've seen year after year where the favorites all win even though they skate uninspired programs. Then this year, all the attention was on the reigning Olympic champ (So Korea), the fifteen year old phenom (Russia) and the American champ (USA). Out of nowhere, a Russian has-been skates the program of her life, twice and steals the gold from the favorite. In other words, exactly the sort of thing we watch sports to see happens and the favorite cries foul. Hey, Figure Skating; you're not doing your integrity any favors when an upset makes you throw a hissy fit. You may as well come right out and say you expect the judges you bought to stay bought.
In all fairness, the favorite did skate beautifully and she didn't fall down. But the Russian Has Been skated better this week.
And that Russian Has Been? She's 17. She's won the Russian crown like, four times. The only reason she wasn't a huge favorite in this Olympics is because an even younger Russian woman (15) seemed like a better story to the sports reporters. Can you imagine being last year's news at 17? What is this, Chinese gymnastics?
And how would you like to be Bode Miller? The big story on him this week was that some girl reporter made him cry. He does not want to be remembered that way.
And the men's hockey team...just because you're out of the running for gold doesn't mean you play dead in the bronze game. Big babies.
Run faster, jump higher, go further...that's been the motto of the Olympics, not blame faster, cry harder and fall down. Thank goodness for our alpine skiers and snow boarders. Even when they didn't win, they attacked those mountains like champs. And a lot of them did win.
The legendary Shawn White didn't even medal but I didn't see a single story of him blaming his board, his pants or the judges.
We probably should have known this was going to be a weird set of games when NBC let the Eye Of Sauron host the first few days.
I still enjoyed all of it. But next time I'd like to remind the athletes; do your crying in the locker room, not in front of a camera. We don't watch because we want to know that even Olympic athletes have feelings; we watch because we want to be reminded that people can achieve marvelous things.
Now I'm taking a deep breath for the next wave; March Madness is here, baby!
|It's always tricky when Hollywood tries to turn beloved books into movies. Occasionally, the resulting film turns out to be a work of art in its own right (Gone with the Wind, Mary Poppins, The Lord of the Rings) but most of the time we'd settle for a movie that just doesn't shame the book (Harry Potter and the Hunger Games series). Usually we wind up with an abomination that has nothing to do with the literary inspiration and that's why for years, I refused to see movies based on books that I loved. I don't know why I lifted that moratorium on myself. I guess I can blame Peter Jackson. In the last decade or so, I've seen too many movies make undigestible hash out of books that I thoroughly enjoyed. I'm thinking The Other Boleyn Girl and the Time Traveler's Wife in particular.
One of the problems is that Hollywood thinks it can squeeze an epic novel into a two hour theatrical release. Peter Jackson takes 12 to 16 hours to properly tell the Lord of the Rings and he left out some huge bits. His reasons for doing so make perfect sense but the Scouring of the Shire could be it's own movie.
The best book adaptations have been as mini series; Rich Man, Poor Man, Lonesome Dove, Pride and Prejudice and Game of Thrones spring to mind. Personally, I think HBOs version of GoT is better than the books because I don't have to slog through ten pages of descriptions and family trees just to see a character get beheaded.
Mark Helprin's "Winter's Tale" is one of my favorite books. I first read it immediately after my daughter Katie was born. It made me laugh really hard, which is not something you want to do with fresh stitches in sensitive areas but I loved the book anyway. Appropriately enough, the moment she was old enough to read, Katie read Winter's Tale and it is one of her favorite books as well.
So last night, we went and saw the Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell movie "Winter's Tale".
The book is an picaresque saga of romance, mythical mystery and magical realism, featuring hilarious and fully formed characters as they move through time and space, their adventures spanning the continent and a century. We knew going in that you can't do that in one movie. We expected a severely truncated version of only one aspect of events.
Here's what we got; Colin Farrell, a theif, is on the outs with his boss, Russell Crowe.
Crowe: "We're gonna kill ya."
Farrell: "Not if I fly away on my cartoon horse."
Farrell (to Lady Sibyl from Downton Abbey): "I'm Pete. I love you."
Lady Sibyl: "I love you too! Let's f--"
Farrell: "Ly around on my cartoon horse? Okay!"
Lady Sibyl: "I'm hot and I don't want to die a virgin."
Farrell: "Score! Hey, are you dead? Argh."
Crowe: "Turns out I'm a demon and Will Smith is Lucifer!"
MLP: "That wasn't in the book."
Hollywood: "Shut up."
Farrell: "For no reason whatsoever its 97 years later and I haven't aged a day because I have amnesia. Hope the audience buys that explanation cuz it's all I got."
Crowe: "I still wanna kill ya."
Random Character who shows up out of nowhere, played with appropriate confusion by Jennifer Connolly who has never been worse ( she's never been better, either): "I always give my address to homeless nutbags the minute I meet them."
Farrell: "I love chicken! Hey, I bet I can save your dying daughter by flying her around on my cartoon horse!"
Random character: "My daughter has red hair."
Farrell: "I lived forever just so I could cure this kid! Yay!"
Lady Sibyl from beyond the grave: "Haha! Not really."
Katie: "You know what would be nice? A movie based on any aspect of Winter's Tale."
Mark Helprin: "That was based on a book I wrote?"
Long, puzzled pause.
|The Olympics are here!
I LOVE the Olympics. Like 1,000,000,000 other people in the developed world, I just love watching foreigners try to beat Americans at strange sports.
I'm sure that when you're actually at the events, its much more egalatarian than that. After all, its not like Americans even care about sports like curling or skeleton. I'm not sure that the idea that Americans even care about winning isn't a cold war relic. But I'm watching the events on American television and the story there is all about US.
As it should be. After all, if Shaun White were snow boarding for Mauritania, would there be lucrative endorsement contracts at stake? No. Therefore, being good at sports is more important to Americans.
And why else would all the signage in Sochi (Russia) be in Russian and English? You think that's a shout out to the Queen? In my mind's eye, QEII is watching the games on a 27" tube TV with bunny ears. She's sitting on a folding chair. Wearing a hat with her purse clutched in her gloved hands. Weird.
I love the Olympics. Summer, winter, all of it. First of all, we sit through the overproduced bore that is the opening ceremony just to see the parade of athletes. It's so worth it to put up with ten thousand whirling dervishes in the dark to be able to watch the best looking, most fit, most accomplished athletes of sports we'd never watch bounce into the stadium as excited as little kids at Christmas. Seeing all those athletes in one place really demonstrates that there are all kinds of people who look like everything imaginable and that beauty comes in every size, shape and color there is. It highlights the stupidity of racial prejudice. I understand some people love the opening ceremonies. I don't but I'll admit that there have been some moments worth watching. I was impressed by the figures that lit up across the dome of the arena. Timed to match the music, it was like watching constellations dance across the sky. That was very cool. I told Jay that it explained why only second tier software designers were available to work on the Obamacare website; all the good ones were in Russia, working on that. Of course, then they killed the effect with overuse. I guess "always leave the audience wanting more" doesn't translate to Russian. Or perhaps the State (reset!) Department misstated it as "always beat the audience to death". Putin looks like he wants to beat someone to death.
Whatever. Politics have no place at the Olympics!
Right. Politics are what made the Olympics so great during the cold war. Without the context of the US/Soviet stare down, the hockey win in 1980 was just another game. And this year, everyone is spooked by the threat of terrorism. Iran and Libya aren't good at sports and that fact has them majorly pissed off. So lets not pretend politics don't have their place at the games.
Lets just concentrate on the gorgeous tapestry of humanity in all its diversity! From every corner of the globe, folks of all sizes, shapes and colors have converged to participate in death defying sports, proving that one thing we all have in common is our love of watching others do things we wouldn't do on a bet. The point is that we couldn't do them even if we really, really wanted to. Which we don't.
Some of the events highlight the stupidity of humanity! For instance; alpine skiing. The contestants race down an icy mountain at 80 mph. On purpose.
Or how about moguls? There, the contestants bounce down a hill to see who can do it while breaking the least number of vertebrae.
Or bobsled. Hmmm. Lets pack ourselves into a tube and flush it down a pipe. Whoever emerges at the bottom with their heads intact wins!
Or nordic skiing. Lets all go ski for a really...really....long......time.
God, I love it all. After all, in great stupidity lies great...GREATNESS.
If it weren't for stupid, no cowboy ever would have hopped on the back of a brahmin and then wouldn't rodeos be dull?
I'm really looking forward to seeing the Flying Tomato tonight. For years, he was so much better than anyone else that it really was no contest. Now he's 27, which is approximately three years past the age of immortality. Last year he suffered a prodigious wipe out that put him in the hospital. You can bounce back from that stuff at 19. Not so much at 27. He has become the old wolf that all the kids are gunning for. To demonstrate his new maturity, he cut his hair. That signature mane of bright red waves no longer flies behind him like Superman's cape. He looks like a man. Well, a puppet of a man. Well, he looks just like Howdy Doody but that's beside the point. I'm fairly confident that Shaun will show the world one more time why he's the legend he is. Time for retirement later, right now it's the Olympics; nothing like a threepeat to cement your place in history!
Like everyone, I love the figure skating. It's the winter games counterpart to gymnastics, that quadannual ritual where prepubescent girls compete to see who's bendiest.
Only with skating there are no pits to land on. In fact, ice is pretty much the complete opposite of a landing pit; one is deep, soft and designed not to kill while the other is hard, cold and flat. Like death. OH, and in skating there are blades.
I was watching short track speed skating last night (watching teenaged boys skate in circles, fast. It's riveting.) I don't know how they keep from slicing each others fingers off on the curves.
The real competition in figure skating hasn't started yet. Yeah, there was that new team competition but no one took it seriously. I think the Russians won. Of course they did, all the other teams just thought they were practicing. I'm pretty sure I heard someone off camera ask why the Ruskies got a medal for practice.
Before the games started there was a lot of concern about safety at these games. That's been a big worry ever since the '72 Olympics in Munich, the most controversial of the games because Pre didn't medal. He did inspire his coach to invent Nike shoes, proving that with a little luck, you can get a thirty foot statue of yourself erected at a multi billion dollar international corporation's headquarters while Jared Leto and Billy Crudup play you in the movies, even without winning Olympic gold. Provided you die in an untimely yet spectacular manner. It's funny; Billy Mills actually won gold and all he got was Robby Benson. Nobody ever said Hollywood was fair.
Sochi looks spectacular. Perched between the mountains and the Black Sea, I think it would be a gorgeous place to visit but only if there weren't any people there.
I like every part of the Olympics but I must say that what I'm enjoying the most and I think we can all agree here; is watching Bob Costas' eyes rot right out of his head.
|I can't get enough of Sherlock and there are only nine episodes, so I thought I'd give the American update of Sherlock Holmes a spin.
Elementary is like Sherlock in that there's a character named Sherlock Holmes.
The writing is dull, the dialogue lame, the acting worse and the plots are as tired as a ninety year old carrying a toddler up six flights of stairs. Watching the ninety year old try to get the toddler up the stairs would be far more entertaining that this unimaginative retread of a detective drama. Watching the first two episodes was like watching the failed auditions of some third rate CSI rip off.
The consulting detective did not come across as a genius or even as someone very smart, just an idiot savant with a crime fetish.
Dr. Joan Watson is a patronizing pill. Lucy Liu plays her as the sort of female character who gives chicks a bad name. Her idea of a quick riposte is "you are so full of it."
Compare that to "Don't think, Anderson; when you try, you lower the IQ of the entire block."
Not much of a comparison, is there?
One of the best elements of Sherlock is the relationship between Holmes and Watson. The very first episode established one of the great screen friendships of all time; think Doc and Wyatt, Frodo and Sam, Mal and Zoe, Wallace and Veronica.
The relationship between the two lead characters in Elementary is rancid. There's no chemistry at all. They don't like each other and who can blame them? She's a bitter scold and he's a charmless lump who comes across not as a 'high functioning sociopath' but an attention starved clod.
The flambouyant, irresistable arrogance of B. Cumberbatch is replaced with a presense so weak you get the impression he says obnoxious things just so people will notice him. And the things he says don't even rise to the level of obnoxious, they're just irritating. You actually want him to shut his yap. His deductions are retarded. OH, the Doctor had a band of pale skin where he removed his wedding ring? AFFAIR! Really? Who wouldn't have seen that?
It's not exactly telling Watson his family history from a ten second peek at his cell phone, is it?
The actor who plays this 'Sherlock Holmes' is awful. Simply awful. It's not only that the writing is so bad he never gets a line that's worth saying. Cumberbatch can say "He fell out a window." and make it laugh out loud funny. This guy's voice is so flat he sounds like one of those telephone recordings with the day and time spliced in. His face may as well be a mask. I can NOT describe how bad he is. He obviously slept with someone to get this part. Or perhaps no good actors wanted it; it's possible.
Due to the complete lack of brilliance from this Holmes, the NYPD is merely being lazy as hell by letting this bore in on crime scenes.
In short, Elementary is what happens when people of average intelligence try to write a character who's a genius.
There is no Mycroft. At least, not in the first two episodes. God, I hope there's no Mycroft; I shudder to think what this writing crew would do to that character. Oh, hell. No.
Psych is actually a much better American version of the Holmes/Watson dynamic, although that show is all original characters.
Elementary is to Sherlock as Barbara Cartland is to Georgette Heyer.
|I didn't realize the new month had started because I was really busy. Busy with a project I had promised my daughter I'd finish by mid January.
But she's the one who didn't tell me until a week ago that she wanted it in full color!
That actually changes things quite a bit, you know.
Things like paper, medium and order of rendering.
A very wise teacher told me years and years ago that an artist needs two things to create a masterpiece; inspiration to get started and someone to shoot him when he's done.
My Dad has been working on his memoir for a couple of years now and every time the publisher asks him if the manuscript is ready, he finds something new to rewrite. Just let it go, Dad; it's perfect.
Katie called me yesterday morning asking when she could pick up the art I'm doing. I told her it wasn't quite finished. She came over to look at the color sketches I'd done in my search for the perfect combo of paper, color and ink application.
She looked the samples over very carefully and said "They all look the same. Get it done."
So I did. I used watercolor on vellum Bristol paper, with watercolor pencil to punch up the tiny details, then applied the ink outline with a pen instead of a brush. I love doing ink with brush but it's a very specific look and didn't work so well with this particular design. I had it done by lunch so Katie could take it and do with it what she will.
It turned out pretty well but I'm just grateful to be done with it. It was fun, which is dangerous. If I have too much fun, I don't make any money.
While she was here, we talked about one of our many mutual obsessions. The Veronica Mars movie opens in less than six weeks. We're excited!
After she left, I did 35 minutes of Pilates, then went out and cleared the ice off my roof and out of my gutters. It's a great excuse to be outside in this weather. It wasn't that cold; well above zero! After my shower, I opened up another project I've put on hold and posted a new chapter of my online novel for the first time in seven months. My fan will be thrilled.
After dinner, MJ called. She was at our sister Kate's house and they were planning on going to Isles to see the luminaries that are part of the Loppet. This is the Nordic ski festival that's been going on here in town for a dozen years or so. We've always been aware of it but we've never gone down.
It was FANTASTIC!!
On our way around Lake Calhoun, MJ spotted the moon, low and huge, a thin orange slice hanging over the Minikahda club like the Cheshire cat's grin. We arrived at Lake of the Isles just before 8:00. It was dark, cold and clear; the stars looked like they were about ten feet over our heads. The parkway was bumper to bumper and we couldn't see much of the lake because the drifts were too high. We found a place to park very quickly, climbed over the drift and found ourselves at an immense, outdoor party! The lake was covered with ice carved luminaries holding votive candles. The luminaries outlined the ski track, upon which hundreds of hearty Minnesotans were shushing along in the dark. Also outlined in icy light were the walk tracks for the spectators, huge circles in which different types of entertainments were offered; we watched some fire jugglers for awhile. There were icy igloos lit from within, plenty of bonfires and tents in which we assumed hot drinks and refreshments were being offered. It was getting colder by the second and a slight wind didn't help but the thousands of folks on the ice were all having as much fun as we were! We wandered around until our feet were numb, then headed back to the car. On the way back, Katie decided it was time to knock me and MJ into a snow bank. We buried Kate a few times before she was able to knock us down but we all went into the snow before we reached the car. Lake of the Isles is the only one of the chain of lakes that isn't round; you can't see the whole lake from any part of the shore. We drove half way around and had to park again. We saw Icehenge which was very cool, despite the lack of dancing dwarves, thousands of tiny lanterns hung in the trees, dozens of ice castles, all lit with votives and thousands of people, both on skis and off, enjoying tromping through the snow beneath the lights. One bunch of skiers had finished their race and were pulling beers out of their pockets as they relaxed on a park bench. MJ wanted to make friends with them but Katie was frozen again, so it was time to hike back to the car.
It was the coolest, most fun thing I've seen in the winter since...ever.
We're going again next year but we'll dress warmer so we can stay longer.
I may have to take up cross country skiing again. I loved it when I was in high school.
After freezing our faces off in the night not once but twice, we drove back to Katie's house, stopping only to try to snap some photos of the view of the downtown skyline over the lake. In one of those weird, atmospheric tricks that sometimes occur, downtown looked HUGE. It seriously looked like the buildings were right behind the trees; all lit up and wonderful in the background, with the lake covered in luminaries and people having fun in the dark in the foreground. The photos didn't do the scene justice. The camera only captures how a thing is, not necessarily how it looks.
We had cocoa at Katie's to warm up.
It was a fabulous way to start the worst month of the year. I mean, really; February? Bleh.
But winter is like anything else; adjusting one's attitude can make it wonderful! I love it! Snow, cold, wind, cold, cocoa, cold!
Our fair city forgot how cold it gets here in Minnesota this year. Anyone would think it never gets into double digit below zero around here, the way we're behaving. It's true, we've had a couple of relatively mild years but not enough for us to have forgotten where we are.
We've had four or five days off from school due to the cold.
Yes, 20-30 degrees below zero is extremely cold.
But here in Minnesota, we really ought to be able to live our lives when it's -35.
Most of us do!
So when Jay had yet another day off, due to the schools being closed, due to people being pussies, we went to the movies.
Yes, the movies, malls and stores were all open. Full of kids who had a free day off because it was too cold to go to school.
We saw Lone Survivor.
It was great.
The best war movie since Saving Private Ryan and unlike Private Ryan, Lone Survivor is based on real people and events that actually happened. Like Private Ryan, it showed the situation in brutally, horrifying reality.
The four Navy Seals whose mission is compromised go through hell before three of die and the last only survives due to the championship and heroism of the villagers who find him and protect him from the Taliban at great personal cost.
Several elements of the plot hit me like a fist to the gut.
The first was the scene in which the SEALs realized the mission is toast. One of the realities they have to worry about is how it will be portrayed on CNN if they take the only action that will guarantee their survival.
The only person I know with first hand experience of what we're doing in Afghanistan told me years ago that if the US military were operating under the Rules of Engagement of WWII, we'd have finished up there in six months. Our current RoE have us fighting with two arms and one leg tied behind our backs. Thanks for nothing, President Bush.
Don't get me wrong; I think the Seals made the right choice, morally. I just wish they hadn't had to take CNN and a prison term into consideration. It strikes me as horrible that we send men out to do these terrible jobs, then second guess them and punish them severely for doing whatever it takes to survive. It's war. Terrible things happen. General Sherman was correct when he said war is Hell. It isn't hellish, it is Hell itself. The only way through it is as quickly as possible. It is foolish beyond words to believe you can win a war by making friends with your enemies. Human history has proven repeatedly that the only way to make friends out of enemies is to completely defeat them first. People will continue to fight as long as they think they can win. To commit troops to war without the political will to allow them to do what is necessary to win is not just callous, disastrous, expensive and stupid; it is evil.
Which brings me to my next point; the villagers whose bravery and heroism saved Marcus Luttrell. These are the people we went over there to save from the scourge of the Taliban. Yes, 9/11 is what prodded us into doing so, it isn't a humanitarian endeavor, it's self defense. But the Taliban is a hateful, violent and merciless sect, ruling over Afghanistan in the traditional way of dictators. We drove them out, thanks to to help of brave men like Mohammed Gulab.
Mohammed Gulab put himself, his family and his entire village at risk to save one stranger. The Taliban swore to take revenge on all of them.
What do you think will happen to that village now that we've pulled out and allowed the Taliban to flood back over Afghanistan?
Just like South Vietnam forty years ago, we've abandoned our allies and left them far worse off than if we'd never come to 'help'.
Only a fool would trust the USA these days.
Our president is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Services. We've always had this civilian leadership over the military. But our political class has devolved into the worst combination of incompetence and arrogance. Lone Survivor demonstrates that our military and the men who serve are still the most lethal fighting force the world has ever seen but no one can win if their own leaders won't let them.
What chance will the Broncos have tomorrow if the head office commands that Peyton Manning must play blindfolded?
A lot of the violence in Afghanistan today is the so called green on blue attacks, whereby our Afghan allies turn on our troops and gun them down.
They know we're leaving.
The moment we're gone, the Taliban will return.
These men are trying to make their bones so that their families and villages will escape the wrath the Taliban will wreak on all those who helped us.
The idiots in Washington are yammering about immigration again. They want to be let off the hook for their inaction in securing our borders in the thirteen years since we were attacked. They want to make it easier for people who sneaked in illegally to become citizens.
Yet we won't issue green cards to the heroic men in Iraq and Afghanistan who put their entire families at risk to help us over there.
We didn't lift a finger to protect or rescue our own ambassador in Libya.
The Taliban has no fears that we will lift a finger to protect men like Mohammed Gulab.
Lone Survivor is a great story and a fine movie. It reminds us that America still produces men who are strong, moral, selfless and heroic.
We should try to elect some of them to office.
|I've already been having way too much fun in 2014.
Jay is having the time of his life at his new job. Best coaching position he's ever had, he says.
It's different, that's for sure. For starters, lots of people come to the games. There are cheerleaders and a danceline. The gym is state of the art and it actually has several sections with folding chairs that are comfortable! The only part that's similar to what I've become used to is that we win. A lot. By large margins, most of the time.
That's the way I like it.
For years, Jay's hang out was the Green Mill. Now it's a new place. The new place is very nice and no farther from home. It's where Jay's boss (head coach) likes it.
I tagged along after a game a week or two ago. Jay had been a Tommie for months and I still hadn't met the rest of the staff. It's not that I didn't want to meet them, it's that I don't kid myself into believing that anyone sits around wishing they'd met me. But I've discovered an unlooked for bonus in staying incognito.
Several times in the last few years, I've met people who refer to me as "The Great Mary Louise".
I kind of like that.
Of course, that only happens when your husband is really crazy about you and I'm very lucky that mine is. He refers to me as 'great' and I refer to him as 'legendary'. It's not just me. I don't write all his press reviews. If I did, I'd make sure to use a more flattering picture. He's really very cute.
We had a really good time after that game, hanging out with the staff and taking the game apart. There was singing. It wasn't very good but it was loud.
The food was excellent.
So I know exactly where Jay is after a game; who he's with and what he's doing and I don't worry about him.
Still, I sleep better when he's home.
My sister Margy came to town last week. She and her oldest son, BJ, planned a quick little winter trip just for fun. BJ hadn't been able to come in the summer for a while due to work. He's the one who postponed his wedding last July but Jay, Zack and I decided to visit them all anyway. We had a blast!
BJ surprised us all with the news that he and his fiance, Maura, had eloped to San Diego a week earlier! So BJ's married!
Welcome to the family, Maura!!
My Mom can now claim 29 grandkids (she can include grand daughters in law.)
So I got very little work done last week; too busy hanging out with Margy. The weather this January has been frantic. We've been having three or four days in a row of double digit sub zero temps, followed by a day of over 30. We've made the 50 degree swing several times. Very strange. Schools (even the U) have closed due to the extreme cold. Today is the third or fourth day this month of closures. I don't really understand the logic in it. We're Minnesota, don't we have the proper wardrobe for living in this climate? The excuse is school kids standing at the bus stop for too long. I don't buy it. How long do these kids stand around? 20 minutes? An hour? This just tells me our system is deeply flawed.
Whatever. I don't have school kids anymore so it's not my problem, right?
Last Wednesday, Margy and BJ wanted to do something fun so a bunch of us headed down to the Minneapolis Art Institute. We love that place! It's free, beautiful, and educational. I used to take my kids there fairly often when they were little. It was always fun. Right now, all the paintings have been moved to galleries on the third floor, so we had a lot of artifacts to see first. The tapestries, ceramics and tools were set up according to geographic and cultural locations. It was really fascinating to look at galleries filled with ancient Chinese tools, weapons, furniture, clothing and pottery, then move onto the same utensils from the middle east, Africa, South America, etc. There is a gallery filled with Judaica. Beautiful, wonderful things, with explanations as to the meaning of it all. It's awe inspiring to see how different cultures solved the design problems of all the things they needed and how the geography and resources of the land came into use.
Because I wanted to hang out with Margy, I didn't go to the basketball game that night. I gave our passes to Zack and BJ, Marg and I joined Mom, Dad, MJ and the girls and we went up to Frankie's for dinner. I love Frankies! Kent has opened up a whole new restaurant and bar and it's really nice. The place was hopping, despite the -12 degree weather. Of course, Wednesday is trivia night so we decided to play. We got off to a slow start because none of us knew who stars in the Robocop remake. ( Seriously, why remake perfection?) But we had taken a commanding lead by the end of the second round. At that point, our ace in the hole (Dad) was tired, so we retired from the field, leaving the amateurs to finish.
I don't like to brag (that's not true; I love to brag) but Mom, Dad and pretty much any combination of my sisters and brothers (or kids) are a pretty hard team to beat at trivia. We're a treasure trove of useless knowledge. If Zack had been there...fuggedaboudit.
We went back to Mom's house, watched the pilot of Sherlock (got to get Mom and Dad hooked) and waited for the boys to come home from the basketball game.
The Tommies won, Zack and I headed home, I cleaned up the kitchen and got the house locked down for the night and went to bed just after 1 a.m.
Then I heard Jay come home. Great. I thought as I drifted off. he's home, I can sleep.
He was talking. That's not unusual; he's usually on his phone. Basketball coaches do not sleep during the season. What was unusual was that I heard someone answer him.
Now, as I said, I know where he'd been and who he was with. So I decided to get up and say 'hi'.
I found Jay, his boss and another friend in the kitchen. All of whom work for schools and had just found out that due to the cold, all had an unexpected day off the next day.
So we broke out the wine and scotch and had a party.
It started at 1 and went till 4 a.m.
I had to work the next day.
Oddly enough, I didn't get much done.
I woke up in time to go back up to Frankie's for lunch.
That's just a taste of what I've been up to in the last two weeks but I have to go to work now. Maybe later I'll write about my fancy, fancy fund raiser hanging out with this guy.