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15
Oct

Why I Love “Clueless”

Well, is it because I love Jane Austen, and Clueless is an insanely-dead-on riff on Jane Austen’s Emma?  Yyeah, in part, but mostly because I’m a huge fan of Amy Heckerling’s movies (she directed Fast Times At Ridgemont High), and Clueless is a brilliant addition to the Heckerling ouvre.

And it’s so funny.  Austen is the patron saint of funny, but Clueless takes it a step further, imagining Austen’s heroine (Emma) as a Beverly Hills teen named Cher, obsessed with clothes, shopping, hanging out at high school, and (especially) re-arranging everyone’s love lifes.

Cher re-negiates her grades, helping teacher after teacher understand how the grade she was originally given wasn’t the actual grade she deserved — and receives plaudits from her father (a lawyer, a litigator) –“You re-negotiated your grades?”  Well done!

But finally, as it happens in Emma, Cher is dreadfully wrong in her matchmaking career — she fails to notice how Travis Birkenstock (love that name!) is the perfect match for her friend,

 

 

13
Oct

Post Secret

It’s a Website, one I look at regularly, described as follows by its founder, Frank Warren:

PostSecret is an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren, in whch people mail their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. Selected secrets are then posted on the PostSecret website, or used for PostSecret’s books or museum exhibits.

New secrets are posted on Sunday, and I usually look at them on Sunday.  Sometimes the secrets speak of, or reveal, severe mental health issues, and thankfully the site has a suicide prevention aspect, a link to suicide hotlines, etc.

That’s not where the fascination is for me, though; it’s the sharing of secrets that are, first, something never share before, and second, true (no way of assessing either of these, but for me and I imagine, most Post Secret fans, if it’s plausible, then it’s true, and as far as never been shared before, who knows?)

The address is http://postsecret.com, and here’s a picture:

Post Secret

Post Secret

6
Oct

Thornebrook Arts Festival

In the medium-sized city in which I live (Gainesville, FL, about 85,000 people, plus 65,000 college students), there are 3 art festivals each year.  The biggest one, the Spring Arts Festival sponsored by Santa Fe College, is difficult for artists to enter (they have to submit slides, and the entry fee is around $200), happens in early March, and typically draws a crowd of around 100,000.  The next-biggest one, the Downtown Arts Festival, happens in the Fall and takes place in the Downtown area, as its name suggests.  Easier to get in for artists, but a very high-quality show, garnering awards from whatever organization rates shows.

The smallest festival, the newest one, and the one I attended yesterday as well as today, is the Thornebrook Arts Festival.  Thornebrook is a collection of shops and restaurants, just a few blocks from my house, and I frequent it a good bit (breakfast at Bageland with my group on Fridays, my framing done by Thornebrook Gallery, ice cream cones from TCBY, etc.).

So I went to the arts festival yesterday.  Here is a picture:

Thornebrook Arts Festival

Thornebrook Arts Festival

There are artists’ booths, live music, food trucks, and lots of people (some of whom I know, some of whom I see once a year at the Thornebrook Arts Festival).  I talked to my friend Julie, with whom I went to grad school and worked with many years at Santa Fe College.  I bought a painting from her at last year’s festival.  She also writes novels, including one in progress that I did some editing on last year.

And I bought a painting from my friend Roxanne, a sample of whose work is here:

 

Green French Woman

Green French Woman

If you look hard at the bottom right, you see a “Sold” sign.  Well, Roxanne sold something on

the order of 20 paintings, an amazing number.  No one sells 20 paintings at a

festival, but somehow she did.  Part of it is that her paintings are fun, but another part of it

is her $25-40 pricing.  Festival-goers wander around looking to buy something, seeing all

sorts of things they’d like to have, but the prices are $250-2,000.  So when they see

something they like for an affordable price, they’re all over it.

 

I’ve worked as a volunteer for the Spring Arts Festival many times over the years, and that’s

what I base the observations above on.   Jewelry makers benefit also from their relatively

low prices — can’t buy that beautiful $800 painting, but I can afford that $75 necklace.

 

Here’s a picture of the Roxanne painting I actually bought, gardenias in a vase, which now graces my

living room.

Gardenias

Gardenias

3
Oct

Gone Girl — the Movie

There are a few spoilers here, so be alert (but if you’ve read the book, you already know them).  Went to see Gone Girl this afternoon at its opening performance in my local cineplex, and it did not disappoint the hi expectations I had for it, based on the excellent novel by Gillian Flynn (read it twice!), who also wrote the screenplay. I’m a big fan of Gone Girl director David Fincher, who has Fight Club, Seven, The Panic Room, and Zodiac among his credits.

First off, the movie is visually beautiful, not that such a thing is important, but anyway.  And Flynn\Fincher handle the various stories and different times\places very smoothly.  We start with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck, very good) talking to his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon, pretty unknown in movies but excellent) about his 5th wedding anniversary and what do do for his wife.  Nick goes home to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike– remember her name) gone and impossible to locate, which leads to a massive search and much police attention on the less-than-suitably-distraught husband, Nick.  (One of my movie favorites, Kim Dickens, expertly plays the detective who’s investigating the Dunne disappearance (or is it homicide?)).

Black Widow

Black Widow

Rosamund Pike gives one of the great Black Widow performances in my recollection, and there have been many, with plans in the works for Scarlett Johanssen to play the Avengers Black Widow character in an upcoming movie.   In the movies, a black widow character is a woman who kills, betrays, or otherwise engages in illegal\immoral\unpalatable behavior to advance her nefarious ends.  Pike essentially has to play two characters, the Amy who is married to Nick and fiendishly plans both her disappearance as well as the appearance that Nick had all sorts of motives to kill her; and she also plays the disguised Amy character who goes on the run the day she becomes “gone girl.”

Rosamund Pike & Ben Affleck

Rosamund Pike & Ben Affleck

A lot has been written about both book and movie, with likely more to come, as we parse whether or not the book\movie are misogynist, misandrist, or other.  My view is that Nick deserves to get his life pretty much ruined by Amy, though the last part of the movie (like the book) leaves in doubt what the new terms of their arrangement will be.  Best comment I’ve read noted that the movies shows just how close “marital detente” is to “homicidal rage.”   I predict Oscar nominations for Pike and Fincher, and it seems to me that Gillian Flynn is a mortal lock for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar- – but who knows what I’ve missed and what will happen in movies by the end of 2014?

1
Oct

Program Jargon (Jargon & Buzzwords in General)

I spent much of my teaching career doing Technical Communication, which is a rather non-theoretical discipline — very nuts-and-bolts, the specifics of workplace writing.  The take-home message is, we’re busy people here at BigCorp (for instance), so tell us what you need to tell us clearly and simply, with no extra words.  And please, no buzzwords or jargon.  (We often referred to a book called Why Business People Talk Like Idiots: and How To Stop Them.  There’s a Website by Ranker, here: http://www.ranker.com/list/the-most-annoying-corporate-buzzwords/analise.dubner.)
Why Business People Speak Like Idiots

Why Business People Speak Like Idiots

 On the subject of my longstanding and ongoing war against jargon, a meeting the other day sort of vexed me (SORT OF!  I
   was punching walls and swearing all afternoon, but I got over it.)
   I was vexed because:
     1. We had a speaker, who was good for the first 15-20 minutes but then rambled on for maybe 15-20 more.  I wish people
     who agree to be speakers would have a little respect and prepare themselves.  (This is off the topic of buzzwords and
     jargon, but one important thing about buzzwords and jargon is that it’s lazy to use them, in the sense that the speaker or
     writer can’t be bothered to be clear and speak in a language we all share.  And can’t be bothered to be a good steward of
     other people’s time and attention.
     2. In the discussion that followed (brief — speaker went on too long), the jargon was flying.  For instance, people said “went out,” “picked up,”
      or “took my will back.”  The first two are vague and euphemistic — don’t say “picked up” to me; say, “drank” or “got drunk.”  (I can pick up all
      day, but there’s no problem until I drink it.)
Don’t say “went out”; say “drank,” “got drunk,” or even “relapsed.”
And please please please don’t say “took my will back”;  tell me specifically what happened– “took my will back” could mean about 19 things (maybe 20, maybe 200).
OK, that was the ranting portion of the evening; now it’s time for serenity and compassion.  Yes, I get it why people pick up the jargon of groups they’re a part of — people want to be comfortable, want to be part of something, and using group jargon is a way to achieve those things.  To an extent it’s not deliberate, just automatic — seems as if the group jargon is the way things like, say, drinking or relapsing are expressed.  So it’s not malicious or stupid to use jargon.   However, jargon can move people away from speaking the truth in their own words, which to me is always what we’re looking for in communication.
At last Friday’s Free To Be meeting, a friend of mine told us that she’d had a bad and stressful week, and added, “I drank last Sunday.”  Four words, no jargon (she didn’t “take my will back” or “pick up”); we all knew exactly what she meant.  I was so proud of her.

 

25
Sep

New Kayak

I needed a new kayak — my chipped, dented, and leak-repaired 9-foot Heritage was no longer doing the job.

Rhythm 11

Rhythm 11

So I went to the nearest Dick’s Sporting Goods (love any sporting goods store!) and purchased  a Perception Rhythm 11 (it’s 11 feet long), pictured here:

Drove down to Ocala (about 40 miles) on Tuesday and found the boat.  But it was raining heavily, and Dick’s Sporting Goods doesn’t have a warehouse or any kind of overhang, so I left the boat there for later.  Which later turned out to be Wednesday (yesterday).  When I got home, however, I took a better look at the boat and started to have the sinking feeling that I’d been given the wrong boat — it looked just like the boat at the left, but it was 13 feet long, not 11 (and had an additional storage bin in the front).

So, lucky me!  I got 2 feet more boat than I’d paid for.  But that wasn’t going to work since there were reasons I wanted to 11-foot boat — it’s that much lighter and easier for me to get on and off the roof racks by myself.  Probably the 13-foot boat would have been too much for a geezer like me.

So this morning I woke up and about 4:30 A.M. and realized that I had to drive back down to Dick’s and see about switching boats.  So I did, arriving right around 9:00 A.A. when they opened.  No problem, they switched them right out, and by 9:20 I was back on the road.

Can’t wait to get my new boat wet — maybe tomorrow, though the weather report (just watched Mr. Weather Guy Bill Quinlan on the local news) calls for drastic rainstorms, maybe starting before it gets light.  So Saturday?  No, busy busy day.  Maybe the usual kayak day, next Wednesday, when Sam and I typically visit the Santa Fe River, or Lake Santa Fe, or maybe in future the Suwannee River.

A new boat is major excitement for me.

2
Sep

God’s Hotel (the Book)

Been reading Victoria Sweet’s book, God’s Hotel.  It’s about her stint (over) as a doctor at a God’s Hotel, a hotel Dieu, an almshouse, which originally meant a hospital for poor people.  It’s a tradition of caring for the sick that started in the Middle Ages and was mostly operated by monasteries.  Dr. Sweet worked at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, perhaps the last “almshouse” in the U.S.

Laguna Honda Hospital

Laguna Honda Hospital

Laguna Honda seemed to practice both modern and old-fashioned medicine — the doctors and nurses had machines for tests and surgery, but they also tended to look at the patients, talk to them, become part of their lives.  And Sweet develops along the way an appreciation for not only the medieval almshouse but for how medicine was practiced in the Middle Ages.  She ends up devoting herself to study (in addition to working as a doctor) getting a Ph.D. in history, specifically medieval history, focusing on Hildegarde of Bingen, who was both mystic and healer.

This M.D.\Ph.D thing (such highly, richly, and diversely educated people are a rarity), her decision to forgo riches and fame in practicing medicine elsewhere, and the way she writes about her patients makes me think that Victoria Sweet is perhaps the coolest person in the world.  I wish she were my doctor, though I’m in no way dissatisfied with my own doc.

Another Laguna Honda Hospital Picture

Another Laguna Honda Hospital Picture

Dr. Sweet explores the meaning of terms such as “hospital” and “charity” (from the root words for “hospitality” and “host” and for “caring,” respectively).  But what inspires me is how she writes about her patients with such love. Reading God’s Hotel gives me new hope that people are good.  As Uncle Monroe used to say, whenever I saw him and asked how he was doing, “Life is great.  People are wonderful.”

And maybe it is — despite the unending onslaught of addiction and illness, despite financial problems, despite loss (Sweet’s patients, not me).

1
Sep

A.A. Promises (the Realistic Version)

My friend J was sharing tonight at a meeting that her response to some of the A.A. Promises was, “Are you kidding me”?  Her specific example was the one that says, “Fear of economic insecurity will leave you.”  Well, she shared that currently she’s a little bit bordering on indigent, so the fear hasn’t and probably won’t leave her.

Maybe a more realistic promise would be, “Fear of economic insecurity will no longer stun me as if I just got Tasered.”

And about the one that says, “You will intuitively handle situations that used to baffle you.”  Maybe it could more realistically be phrased: “If you’re extremely mindful, you just might be able to thread your way carefully through situations that used to baffle you.  Or, if situations like that continue to baffle you, be patient– it does, after say that the promises will “materialize…sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.”

And then the final promise: “You will suddenly realize that God is doing for you what you could not do for yourself.” I’d like a reboot of that one that says: “You will realize that God sometimes, or even often, leaves you on your own to meet life’s challenges like an adult, but He always loves you dearly.  And searches for you, always.”

Finally, the A.A. Promises end with a rhetorical question, “Are these extravagant promises”?  The answer in the Big Book, and the rote answer most people recite at meetings is, “We think not.”  I suggest a new answer to “Are these extravagant promises?”  That would be: “Not any more.  Now they’re fairly realistic.”

Glad we had this little talk.

23
Aug

Footloose, the (Somewhat Unnecessary) Sequel

So, at times I’m not immune to random channel-surfing, and even worse, watching the stuff  I surf up.  Which is why, this afternoon, I turned up the 2011 version of Footloose, which up ’til today I didn’t know existed.

Tuned in, with severe reservations, in that the Kevin Bacon\Lori Singer\John Lithgow Footloose is damn near perfect and has no apparent need of a sequel.  But I came around as I watched.

Number One: Today’s movie audience of teens and those in their twenties (Millenials) needs a version of Footloose that doesn’t star dinosaurs like Kevin Bacon (though I’d be gratified no end if today’s teens liked and admired the movie, or even more so were Kevin Bacon fans — maybe they’d seen The Following, in which he’s great.

The new Footloose stars Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough.  Yes, we’ll pause while you say, wtf?  Well, Kenny and Julianne are up to the task — turns out he’s a professional dancer (which Bacon wasn’t), toured with Justin Timberlake, etc.  Hough has pretty good professional credits, too, and she’s hot enough and more to play the slutty minister’s-daughter Ariel.

 

Footlose, 2011

Footlose, 2011

Another thing I liked is that the filmmakers decided not to do a shot-for-shot transcription of the original, though they stay close to it.  Ren’s solo dance sequence in the warehouse is and is not like Bacon’s; there’s a country line-dancing scene in which both Ren and Ariel come off well.  And best of all, there’s a scene in which 8-year-old girls sing “Let’s Hear It For the Boy,” in which Ren teaches his friend Willard to dance, much like and also unlike the original scene with Bacon and Christopher Penn.

Turns out that if I give something a chance and evaluate it fairly, maybe I’ll have an enjoyable experience.  Who knew?  (Well, I knew ever since I read Carl Wilson’s amazing book Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste.  Some people call it the Celine Dionne book, and the whole world loves it.  I blogged about it here on May 5, 2014.)

17
Aug

My Chat With Matthew McConaughey

No, not really, just thinking about Richard Linklater’s current movie Boyhood, his earlier movie Dazed and Confused, which featured McConaughey, and my imagined conversation with Matt about his recent Oscar and the huge u-turn in his career.

For years, McConaughey played the same guy, a surfer dude (even made a movie called Surfer, Dude), beach bum, or boat bum — he was charming and went shirtless a lot, and that was pretty much it.  Waste of a lot of talent, but no doubt it kept him in tacos, Cervezas, and BMW’s.

Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey

Then the turn-around, recently called a McConnaissance (which I’ve heard is his own coined word).  He starred in The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe (directed by The Exorcist and The French Connection genius William Friedkin).  Then appeared in Mud, in which he played not a beach bum but a genuine hermit, on the run from the law and living on an island, discovered by curious kids, and which also starred the great Reese Witherspoon.  He’s the co-star of the current HBO series True Detective, with Woody Harrelson — two state cops, working on a 15-year-old serial murder and turning up other crimes as they go along.  (More on that below.)

The jewel in the crown of the McConnaissance is his Oscar-winning performance last year as real-life AIDS victim ____ in Dallas Buyers Club.

Technically, as I was telling Matt in the conversation I had with him in my head, you win the Oscar for a given performance — but you really win for a series of performances that are notable that your fellow actors shake their heads and say, “gotta give that guy and Oscar soon.”   And maybe they’ll just wait until you play a person with a disease or disability, which seems to be a mortal lock on an Oscar nod.

Take Al Pacino — certainly he deserved the Oscar for Best Actor in The Godfather, or Dog Day Afternoon, etc., but didn’t win until Scent of a Woman, in which he played a blind guy.  Or Dustin Hoffman — should have won for Tootsie (even Ben Kingsley, that year’s winner for Ghandhi, said so).  C’mon, Hoffman played two parts, one of which was a woman (and he’d also won the previous year for Kramer vs.Kramer). The he won again won for Rainman, playing an autistic guy.  Tom Cruise should have won — he played the hard part, he was in every scene, and his character has to actually change (I’ll ask Hoffman if he agrees when I have my chat with him).*** Read more »

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