Happy New Year!

Posted December 31st, 2009

PS: I saw AVATAR and really liked it. Its a thrillingly beautiful trip to a fully realized imaginary world. Don’t let the wooden cliche driven dialog stop you from getting on board a really great amusement park.  ride.

Some Amusing Christmas thingies

Posted December 22nd, 2009

Well, this has been a weird Holiday Season for me so far. My brother got in to a car wreck so I went to Cincinnati for a few days to help out, etc. Upon arriving home yesterday,  I was perusing my local papers to see what if anything had happened while my back was turned, and came upon this very festive holiday greeting from the local septic tank pumper. My heart was instantly warmed because after all… how cold hearted would you have to be to not find yourself moved, at this time of year, by the emotional story of the little septic boy .septic boy

While I was in Cincinnati, Andy and I cooked dinner for some extended family. Not able to find much in the way of traditional  table decoration materials at my brother’s house, Andy made  little pine bough wreathes and then started looking around for something red to make them more Christmassy. My nephew Noah came out of the bathroom carrying the bottle that contained what became these cheery red pill decorations. I think , over all, these might be my favorite holiday centerpieces ever, (despite the fact that I only realized when I finally viewed the photos that no one bothered to remove the price tag from the candle.)  If only this were hundreds of years BC,  I believe that we would have had the essential ingredients for an annual religious rite.candlecloseup 2

And last but not least, here is a bright happy little video we made of a song that we, at my house, like to sing this time of year, though I think you’ll agree that its certainly appropriate any time of year. Happy holidays to everyone who  is reading this…Well, back to watching  the rest of my free movie screeners. If anyone is interested, I’ll update that blog with the details.

New category: Pretty but horrible

Posted December 13th, 2009
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My first two nominees:

1. Sarah Palinsarah palin. No explanation needed. She defines the category.

2. Rainbow Twizzlers

rainbow twizzlers

I bought a pack of these yesterday because I love Twizzlers. And I love rainbows. But, as they say here on the internet: Fail. Whatever flavor that is in the regular ones (a flavor I like to think of as RED) is the only acceptable Twizzler . The purple is especially wrong. And I refuse to dignify the green or yellow with a discussion. While I was taste testing the other colors, I thought to myself “Pretty. But horrible.” Then I thought of Sarah Palin. Now I will build the rest of the category as the content occurs to me.

289704683_3dd8ca6d653. Air pollution at sunset

petit fours

4. Weird little inedible widely hated cake petit fours.(Thank you Ellen.)

5. Graphics for Grand Theft AutoGraphics for Grand Theft Auto

6. The always grotesque Speidi (Thank you Barb and Laurie)

Contributing Photographer

sno balls7. Hostess Sno Balls. Thank you Laurie. Again. This is a perfect one. As a kid I wanted so badly to love these because they were so beautiful and so theoretically delicious. Then you take a big bite of that rubbery spongy coating and…well, you never fully recover. Its not just awful, it represents the death of hope. It SHOULD have been a dream come true

8. Copper mining damage.copper mine pollution

9.. Elizabeth Hasselbeckelizabeth hasselbeck

10. Staph bacteriastaph bacteria

11.Boots with 5 inch heels. I can’t last more than a short period of time in 3 inch heels. 31/2 are out of the question. Once, for a TV appearance, I bought a pair of Manolo Blahniks. They were very pretty. I made it from the backstage area to the guest seat. Period. But I had to find a chair during the wait for a table at the restaurant afterward. Even a few minutes of standing in them was unbearable. They were so painful and so expensive that I took them to a shoe repair and had  the heel shortened, understanding completely what kind of a sacrilege that is…and of course it wrecked the careful architecture of the shoes,so I’ve never warn them since.  But I couldn’t wear them before either.

Now all the shoes I like have 4 and 5 inch heels. I love how they look but…they certainly fit my qualifications for this list.  Pretty but horrible.5 inch heel

4 inch

12. Sheet cake. Always pretty. Always horrible.sheet cake Thank you Elayne.

13. Mel Gibsonmel-gibson-smile


A very Bob Dylan Christmas from me to you.

Posted December 12th, 2009
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Bob Dylan's Christmas Lights Bob Dylan has a new Christmas album out. Here is a link. Click on this:(  I’ll Be Home for Christmas) and let’s listen to him sing “I’ll be Home for Christmas” together as I tell you the heartwarming story of what Bob’s version of the song means to me.

Lets begin with Exhibit A…the photo above which I also use as my blog header. I’m that fond of it.

But first a little back story: I live in lovely Malibu by the sea; fabled in story and song.  I have a nice, kind of modest A framey home, but my neighborhood  also contains some private residences that look like The Pitti Palace .  And when the holidays roll around, some of the inhabitants of these homes spare no expense in terms of their decorating. They hire professional crews to  transform their grounds so that you  might easily confuse any of them  with the courtyard at The Helmsley plaza  or The Beverly Wilshire Hotel.  Their tree trunks and branches are evenly wrapped with mini lights. There are multitudes of inflatable  and electronic figures.

Down at the end of one of these streets , two years ago, I took the above picture of the Christmas lights out in front of the Bob Dylan residence. They were so casually tossed on to a vine out in front of the fence, almost at street level, that they made me laugh. As someone who grew up in awe of Bob Dylan (and my awe list is a very short one) I spent a lot of time that Christmas enjoying the idea of a drunken pissed off Bob begrudgingly trying to get those lights on to that hedge somehow to please someone or other , then getting frustrated and fed up because they were getting tangled and he couldn’t  make them look right, plus it was taking too much time, how much time was he supposed to waste on these damn things anyway? After all, he didn’t exactly know how  to fucking do it since he was raised Jewish and spent the other 364 days on the road , dammit.

(To be fair, I have no idea if Bob Dylan had a hand in putting them up. I know he owns a house that is hidden behind that fence. But all that is visible from the street are some old aquamarine dumpsters and a couple of rusting car corpses. I have no idea if he ever actually sets foot on these premises. That didn’t effect my enjoyment of his overall decorating prowess.)

Cut to 2009: Bob’s got the new Christmas album out. He’s Mr. Christmas now and its time to wrestle with the damn lights again. So  I went out tonight to see how he did. And I’ve got to give him some props. It looks to me like this year Bob apparently bought a ladder. The lights are higher up. They’re more evenly lined up,except in a few places. I think he’s definitely improving his over all decorating technique. I’m am very impressed, sort of.Bob Dylan #3Bob DYlan 2009 #1

Worried about health reform? Just relax.

Posted December 10th, 2009
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Perhaps you have also been fretting over the health care reform bill in its many and mysterious myriad mutations. I started out excited, especially about the public option and the idea of presenting a counter-punch  to those miserable insurance company behemoths,  their continually rising rates and their hideous unknowable opt-outs for pre-existing conditions etc. Then the public option started to blink on and off like a bunch of quantum dots and  the rest of the bill became more or less incomprehensible. So I decided to stop following the ongoing debate too closely.It was becoming too upsetting.

Today in the NYT I decided to take the bull by the horns and do some catching up on where it all stood. I would read the article entitled “Democrats See Room for Hope on Health Bill” with its sub-headline  “Obama Hails Deal- Details are Scanty.” I made it through the first sentence which is ” Senate Democrats said on Wednesday that they were not sure exactly what was in a deal that the majority leader said would surmount a disagreement over a proposed government health plan. But they voiced guarded optimism that it would ultimately help them pass major health care legislation.” Then it dawned on me “Well, if THEY don’t know what is in it,  why in the world am I getting myself upset because I don’t know?”

Its bad enough that for the last decade I have been co-dependent with the presidents.  During the 8 miserable years of the Bush administration, I was so filled with disgust and rage toward the president and vice president for their millions of arrogant amoral affronts to everything I held dear that I couldn’t even look at either of them when they appeared somewhere, let alone bring myself to listen to their public statements. It was just too upsetting. Now I have started to do the same thing with Barack Obama, but for the opposite reason. I like his intelligence and demeanor and analytical abilities so much and am so afraid that the quicksand  left behind by the Bush administration has put him in untenable situations to which there is no reasonable solution that once again I can’t watch. It is also  just too upsetting.

And then last night when I was walking around the market  in search of some comfort food that wasn’t too bad for me, I realized that all my worries about health care reform are for naught. Because as usual the wonderful 21st century world of American commerce and industry has stepped in to the void and is handling my health concerns for me.  Just like Milton Friedman predicted with his  free market economics. Even in the pre-packaged hot chocolate section there is more attention than ever to salubrity. (look it up.)Nestles Health drink


The Women’s Wellness version of Nestle’s Hot Chocolate. Why, its as if the marketing department at Nestle’s designed it just for me! I’m a woman! I’m health conscious!  And look..its not just a steamy foamy cup of hot chocolatey deliciousness. No!  It says right there on the front of the box that its also an excellent source of calcium, antioxidant vitamins A,C and E, B6 , B12 and Iron!!! Pinch me, I must me dreaming!! This is the very treat I have been looking for all my life. Now let’s see whats in it because it can’t taste very good and be that good for me, can it?ingredients

First ingredient: sugar. Second ingredient: Corn syrup solids and partially hydrogrenated coconut or palm kernel and hydrogenated soybean…

Wow. Those are the same first three ingredients in candy!

So hats off to Nestles. Somehow they managed to get sugar, corn syrup and hydrogenated oil reclassified as health food!

I’m  been waiting for this moment my whole friggin life! How long can it be til they throw a little b12 and calcium in to Marlboro Reds and Jack Daniels? I can’t wait.

I finally figured out why everyone is so goofy at my gym.

Posted December 8th, 2009
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fact reduction2
The place was never an institution of higher learning or anything but lately they started posting signs indicating they are selling additional services. Tonight I bothered to read the signs more closely. I don’t know what Hydrolipo Sculpting, Carboxy Therapy or Lymph Drainage are… But Mesotherapy for FACT REDUCTION? Sorry. I don’t want to seem judgmental.But judging from the looks of things around there, I doubt that its a good idea.fact reduction c.u.

My favorite holiday tradition:thirteen free movie screeners(updated)

Posted December 2nd, 2009
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Its the happ-happ-happiest time of the year for me. This is the time of the year where  all my union memberships finally pay off each time Fed Ex shows up unannounced in my driveway  to bestow upon me unexpected ‘for your consideration’ movie screeners. And generally the movies are all the ones I already put on my netflix queue;  the weird or smart indie films that were well reviewed and had light attendance. Yes, each screener comes complete with  an accompanying threatening message which sometimes go so far as to ask you to destroy the screener after you have partook. These warnings seem to get increasingly dire every year. I will not be surprised to get one this year that asks me to kill myself after I am done enjoying the film. But know what? It will be a small sacrifice to make considering how much I love getting these darn things delivered unasked for, for free. And last year this approach paid off for Slumdog Millionaire in spades. I don’t know how many people saw it before the free screeners went out. I know I didn’t. But I was instantly riveted by my free screener . In fact you can probably use that as a standard of comparison as to whether or not you agree with my taste/and/or recommendations. Some people had complaints with that movie. I watched it twice in a row and loved it.

So far this year I have gotten six seven ninethirteen free movies and spent the past few days watching some of them.

Here are my first six sevennine ten eleven reviews.

1. 500 Days of Summer: A better than I expected twenty-something dysfunctional romance full of nice performances, good writing, imaginative directing. Zoey Deschanel is appealing and believable as a commitment phobic girl (a nice twist on the usual marriage obsessed members of her gender in this kind of movie.) But I adore Joseph Gordon Levitt. He’s fantastic in everything. And he’s  great in this.

2. FUNNY PEOPLE: Zzzzzzz.  When it started I heard a voice in my head saying “Okay. I can hear structurally that the written intention here is humor. But since I am not finding it funny, per se, I will just pretend it is funny so that I can comprehend what happens when he…Zzzz.”

3. A SERIOUS MAN:  This movie is a Jew-centric re-telling of the Book of Job set in a 60’s suburbia by my beloved Coen brothers.  I LOVED it. If you are trying to gauge whether or not you would like it, you should know that I also REALLY loved Burn After Reading , one of last year’s free screeners  for which many did not share my enthusiasm . A Serious Man is very dark and really funny and full of the puzzling, hilariously detailed, eccentric egomaniacal characters  that fill me with delight and make me think the Coen brothers might be making these movies just for me.  I am their ideal audience.

4. PRECIOUS: Well, its dark. Its a tragic realistically told story about poverty, sadism, incest and dreaming big. It does have a kinda sorta happy ending. But its the tragedy that stays with you. You would never know Mo’nique was a comedian based on the impressive dramatic acting she offers in this movie. She was really great. But its a very dark story.

5.IT’S COMPLICATED: A very watchable if hard to believe woman’s fantasy film from Nancy Meyers,  a writer director who lately specializes in Geezer Rom Com and actually writes lines for men to speak to women over fifty like “Your age is the thing I like best about you.”. Meryl Streep stars as the  woman in question who begins having an affair with her ex-husband. And she is great. She actually makes being older look appealing. But then she makes everything she participates in look appealing. And the same can be said for Alec Baldwin as her ex husband who turns in a very sexy performance despite the fact that when he takes off his shirt, he appears to be in his second tri-mester. Nancy Meyers even somehow pulls  human performance  from Steve Martin, who, as an actor , in my opinion, usually looks like a Martian trying to mimic what the earthlings do when they experience those things they call “feelings”.  But the ending of the movie is really wrong and that ruined it for me. Still, this would probably be a good rental for women  over forty  who long to see physical evidence of the bright side of aging.

6.PUBLIC ENEMIES: Everyone in residence at my house was excited by the premise and fell asleep to this movie. Including my insomniac hyper active 20 year old fraternity boy nephew. So the producers are to be congratulated for that. Its hard to get Carey Markoe to go to sleep.

7.BRUNO: I didn’t go see this movie at the theater because after the massive publicity campaign that accompanied it, I had a feeling I was over Mr. Baron Cohen. I was wrong. I still love him. He is relentlessly silly and astonishingly brave. There’s a fair amount of male frontal nudity in this movie and a lot of things that probably will make some people very uncomfortable so if naked dicks are a problem for you, or squirming homophobes, then forget about this film right now. Maybe its a little long but when you watch it at home…not a problem! That said, it made me laugh over and over.The premise is just Mr. Cohen’s German narcissistic-exhibitionist gay fashionista character’s search for wider fame. Toward that end he does a lot of funny/uncomfortable stuff in the midst of scary people who rarely know he’s kidding.  One part I was particularly fond of  has him chatting with what appears to be an actual leader of The Al Aasa Martyrs Brigade as he pursues the goal of being kidnapped by terrorists.  ” I’m gonna say something to you that will get you so angry that if you have a gun, you’re gonna pull it out and shoot me:” he says to this unsmiling terrorist guy, ” You hair is sun damaged.”

Another scene has him trying to become straight by getting counseling in Alabama from someone who specializes in re-programming homosexuals. Here is a clip I pulled from this section of one of these guys discussing how Bruno might learn to better cope with women. I thought the reprogrammer guy’s spin on the good things  a woman can bring to a relationship with a man that make heterosexuality worth the effort was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. (There are also some extra scenes on the DVD that show Bruno acting seductive with that delightful Bush U.N. appointee John Boulton and getting on Pete Rose’s last nerve that are  worth sticking around for. No other movie in this or any other decade will ever contain footage of any one doing a booty dance in hot pants in front of the head of the department of homeland security. And when you think of it…who deserved it more!)

8. The  Lovely Bones:I loved the book. I loved the movie. Its riveting, it has great acting and its really beautiful to look at. Great. I love Peter Jackson.

9. CRAZY HEART;  Jeff Bridges is amazing as he totally inhabits the role of a Kris Kristofferson-like alcoholic country western singer song writer named Bad Blake who is broke at 57 and still out on the road performing in bowling alleys.  Seriously, he’s fantastic. And he can sing! And so can Colin Ferrel ( who is good as Blake’s former collaborator.) The original songs by T-Bone Burnett are almost a co-star. The whole score is just right. And its beautifully directed. In fact, I liked everything about the movie except the ending, which reeks of studio committee meetings and focus groups. I can not imagine that the ending that is in the movie right now was the original ending. So I am just going to pretend that I never saw it… thats how much I liked the movie. It has earned the right for viewers to make up a better ending. I am going to come up with a perfect one and then edit it  in my brain.

10. BROTHERS: ZZZZ. At least in the opinion of one hyperactive insomniac fraternity boy and one overly judgmental sort of cynical middle aged writer. We were both asleep by minute 15 ( which means it failed my ‘first 10 minutes’ test..a test that is rooted in good sense since the development process of a movie really forces the poor beleagured film makers to load up the first ten minutes with everything they’ve got.)

11. HURT LOCKER: Great. Insightful, engaging, absolutely riveting, and this from someone who doesn’t usually like war movies. Beautifully directed by the impressive Ms. Bigelow who I am proud to say used to be in my yoga class. (Or rather, I was in her’s . I’m the one who stopped going. Maybe she is still there.)

12. UP IN THE AIR:.I read so many glowing reviews of this movie that I saved it for Christmas Day. And…all five of us who watched were very disappointed. Its a great premise that goes all disjointed, hodge podge and even a little maudlin pretty quickly. Reflecting back on why we all hated it, I decided that it was missing all of what  I wanted it to have: motivation and back story for the Clooney character, and some involvement with the consequences of his actions. Instead it takes a dopey left turn in to a lecture about the value of family that  seems to have just been left over from some other movie . I could go on but I didn’t even like it well enough to want to write a well thought out piece of criticism for it. Also: the music was horrible.

13. JULIE AND JULIA: Its a great pleasure to watch Meryl Streep doing Julia Child in this film. I love cooking and I love Julia Child so I found it all very enjoyable. And Nora Ephron wrote a great funny script. My two nephews, however, had never heard of Julia Child until we watched this. It turns out they didn’t know she wasn’t a fictional character and so found the deadly accurate impression Meryl Streep is doing annoying. So I took them to clips from “The French Chef” on You Tube afterward. A few minutes later, my older nephew made an omelette the recommended French way. Apparently the movie can be of value even to twenty year old fraternity heathens.