Thursday, September 30, 2010

gratuitous violence

I was only able to make it through the opening scene in Watchmen on-demand last night and half of the opening credits before I had to turn it off. My first thought was, "I must just be over gratuitous violence in movies." But that's not completely true. I really enjoyed Wanted, and its crazy over-the-top slo-mo bullet action. And not just because it featured my favorite kick-ass actress Angelina Jolie (I love what that girl stands for, and if by that your gossipy mind immediately leapt to husband-stealing then you've got to stop visiting those sites and think about other things.) I liked Wanted because it's silly plot was as twist-and-turny as its super bullets. It was fun.

I'm not squeamish, but I definitely had no use for the look and feel of Watchmen. The first few moments I thought, "Here we go again. I've seen this scene more times than I care to count." That may not be fair, may not be giving the movie a chance, but that's the instant decision culture I live in, so too bad. I had another thought—maybe I just wanted my violence a bit more in-the-world. The pilot of LOST is still some of the most riveting television I have ever seen. And quite violent. But not just a gratuitous body count. We've all been on a plane, made our silent prayers against crashing before take-off (at least I know I have.) Watching the survivors of flight 815 try to piece their lives together in the aftermath of the crash on that strange Island, coupled with the spooky, smoky, sci-fi elements—I was in heaven. But there were also plenty of avert-your-eyes moments. That wasn't Gilligan's island.

This is how I like my gratuitous violence. "Tis but a scratch."

The procedural shows that my mom likes to watch—CSI NY, Bones, The Closer, The Mentalist—I guess are the cream of a too-large television crop. A crop of shows with violence and death at the center of every episode, graphically depicted. Apart from Bones, however, I wouldn't seek them out. Kyra Sedgwick and Simon Baker at least use personality to drive their shows, rather than the CSI "how gory can we get the corpses of the week" template. I really hate the CSI franchise, can you tell? I'm sorry, Gary Sinise, I still love you and I'm sure you've got to get the kids through college. But I won't watch your show.

I guess like anything, gratuitous violence in television and film is a matter is taste. You would never see me at any of the Saw or similar gore-fests. I wasn't a Friday the 13th fan either. But I do love horror films and mystery novels, if the deaths are done "right." If they add meaning to the plot. If there is a plot. Substance as well as style. Watchmen styled me right out the door, and fast. It also didn't help its chances any when the HBO caveat of "violence, adult subject matter and rape" were listed as content before the movie started. It's unusual to see rape highlighted in that fashion. It's not exactly a selling point.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010


We are experiencing a tropical storm here. It's funny, I've been here visiting when there was an actual hurricane a few years ago and we had to sit in the shuttered apartment until it was over, feeling very isolated, but the atmosphere is still a bit more intense now that I'm living here full-time.


My first reaction when yesterday someone suggested that the area schools might close—you're kidding, right? It's just raining hard—was tempered by how far the palms were bending in the wind last night. School didn't end up being canceled today—guess they're saving those hurricane days for a real storm.


Looking outside, the sky is almost a yellow gray—the rain is so thick—just not over us at the moment. Hopefully it is passing through (sorry, Carolinas). Today was the first morning since my daughter started school that I really couldn't walk her there—we had to take the car. And I really missed my morning constitutional. But it's just rain. It's Florida. I don't want to buy into the general weather hysteria of the area, but I have to admit that I'm hoping hurricane season is on the wane, too.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the moon is outside my window again ...

... and Jupiter was hovering brightly, earlier. It's exactly the sort of moment I'd like to, I used to, share with my cousin Ann. She was enamored of all the wonders—animal, vegetable and mineral—the earth could offer. And now that we are transplanted here in Florida, so far from where we used to live, so close to her, in Washington, D.C., it would be a perfect way for us to connect—staring up at a shared sky.

I wish I could tell her. About the moon, the move, and everything else that's on my mind. But Ann died four months ago and the only way to hear her voice might be to try her old cell number. But they've probably disconnected that. I can hear her soft voice in my head if I try. And I can at least write down some of what I'd tell her, some of what I'm feeling, as I navigate this new, Ann-less world. I know she's listening.


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Monday, September 27, 2010

morning constitutional

As I get more and more used to my new routine and new Florida life, I am trying to work as much of the beautiful surroundings into my day as possible. After I drop off my daughter at school I take a walk, explore the neighborhood.

Pink Steps

Depending on what direction I take I can be strolling through either residential or commercial streets.
A recent walk on famous ritzy shopping destination Worth Avenue and its vias yielded lots of unexpected fun visuals, from sculpture...

Putto with grapes

... to ceramics ...


... to the immense current construction project, including the installation of some giant palm trees.

Palm Trees in waiting

It is interesting passing stores like Saks and Gucci, all closed. My walk is early in the day, before retail hours, and it is still early in the year, before "the season" has begun. But there are also a remarkable number of empty storefronts, "absolutely final sale" signs in the enormous plate glass windows. Times are tough all over, apparently, even on these fancy streets.

New things to see, new things to learn every day. Who knows where tomorrow will take me?
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

scenes from a weekend

Blowing bubbles with old friends.
Spilt ice cubes turned impromptu hockey game.
Kitten in the window.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

lord of the owls strike back at the nazi empire

“The crow wished everything was black, the owl, that every thing was white.”—William Blake

I guess they give us a clue when the first scene of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole shows a beautiful owl soar through the air and then deftly grab its prey, a cute little mouse, in 3D close-up—this is not your ordinary kid movie. In fact, after seeing the lushly animated movie I'm still puzzled exactly who is the audience for this movie. It is very dark, and there is ton of slow-mo fighting a la 300 (same director).

Hardly akin to the innocuous Happy Feet, as the poster tries to hard sell.

The animation is top-notch. The feathers on the owls are downy and fluffy and the settings are for the most part, beautiful. The personalities of the main characters are engaging, Aussie accents and all. In fact, all that needed to be done was shifting the focus to the "good" owls and a bit more comic relief. Although Geoffrey Rush tries valiantly to inject his wise old owl with wacky charm. It didn't need to become cutesy-fied, but there is too much time spent on the "bad" owls and their dungeon-like lair without ever satisfactorily explaining why they're bad and what exactly is their shiny secret weapon. Helen Mirren's Nyra does manage to come across as beautiful and deadly.

"The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note."—Edward Lear

The original series of fifteen books on which it is based was quite popular. It's completely set up as ready for a sequel, although only time and box-office receipts will tell. For me, the film had rather too obvious dashes of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Nazistoo referential for me to want to explore the books or read them to my daughter. I'm afraid that even with its drop-dead gorgeous animation the "owl movie" is only mildly diverting, with a little too much drop-dead-ing going on for comfort.

“He respects Owl, because you can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right.”—A. A. Milne
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Friday, September 24, 2010

forever eighties

Between the radio station that plays eighties music on the weekends (and the weekend starts on Friday) and some fun nostalgic photo tagging going on with friends on facebook (as opposed to facebook friends), I have had a variety of songs and images from that era in my head lately ... so why shouldn't you, too?

Situation ...


In the 80s even the cats were cool ...

Sowing the seeds of love ...

Elizabeth, Andy and Robin

... and life was an endless party.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

are you kidding me?

I just watched Katy and Elmo's risque Sesame Street performance on YouTube - with my six year old daughter. This isn't provocative. It didn't need to be pulled from broadcast. It's cute and silly. Just like Elmo, jut like Katy Perry.

I don't even have it in me to write a full-scale rant because the whole "issue" is so ridiculous. What does bother me is that there are "parents" who can censor public television. Luckily, the internet and YouTube are around, so it isn't truly censored. But shame on you, PBS for buckling under to a bunch of prudes who think they know better. By the way, Miss Piggy used to show WAY more cleavage than Katy Perry.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I just don't get the drivers here in South Florida. I can't believe I'm saying this, but they are truly the worst I've encountered. And that's saying a lot. I was born and bred in new Jersey and the term "Jersey Driver" wasn't coined for no reason. I saw some crazy things while I grew up on the roads of New Jersey. Maybe it's all the special U-turns and traffic circles. It does something to how a New Jerseyan practices road rules. Let's just say it was interesting place to learn to drive.

I thought I had seen it all until I moved to Brooklyn. Brooklyn drivers were way worse than Manhattan drivers, who basically have to give up driving altogether and just inch from light to light, block to block. Brooklyn drivers were—well the best word to use would be ... improvisational. Staying in lanes, using signals—these were all just suggestions to most Brooklyn drivers in my experience. Maybe being just a "drive through" for the bridge and tunnel crowd on the way from New Jersey to Manhattan or Staten Island or Long Island does something to a Brooklynite. At least, once they get behind the wheel.

And then I moved to Washington, D.C. The worst driving that I had seen yet. For some reason, the moment you cross the Potomac into Virginia the adrenaline levels of the drivers raise astronomically. It's a tooth and nail fight just to change lanes on 95. The Beltway isn't just an outer and inner loop of highway that surrounds D.C. It is an obsession. I can't tell you how many times a perfectly intelligent conversation would devolve into, "What route did so and so take to get there", "What route would they try to go home?" And everyone would chime in, with a favorite traffic/driving secret. I was never so bored by a topic in my life. These traffic symposiums hit their absolute nadir when I was pregnant. Helpful and wonderful people tried to assist me in plotting myriad routes to the hospital for "when the times comes." I put my foot down and told them I already planned on taking the simplest route, with the biggest streets. I didn't care if we could shave off another five minutes by their very special Georgetown shortcut. End of discussion.

That all seems child's play now, even entertaining, compared to the way people drive here. And it's not just the traditional "little old ladies from Pasadena," although they are admittedly a factor. Is it the fact that so many folks are here on vacation, or originally from other parts of the country, with different traffic patterns? Also maybe be a factor. But what is mostly bugging me is the poor quality of driving (I like to drive, in case you haven't already guessed.) It's the bobbing and weaving in traffic. The inconsistent driving—first too fast and then abruptly slowing down. The total disregard for traffic lights.

I've puzzled about what exactly is the problem, because the traffic and "rush hour" here is nothing compared to what I'm used to. And then I figured it out. These folks don't know what it is to encounter a real traffic jam, or god forbid, a presidential motorcade. But they drive like they think they know what city driving is like. Like they think they know what any driving is like. They're amateurs.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

palm beach hillbillies

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin' at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin' crude.

Now I'm not from West Virginny, but sometimes I feel a little like a fish out of water as I try  to navigate my new surroundings.

Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

At least today I found the local Starbucks, although it is practically hidden behind the designer clothing stores on a Worth Avenue via. But it's Chai, not Texas, tea for me.

Well the first thing you know ol' Jed's a millionaire,
Kinfolk said Jed move away from there
Said Californy is the place you ought to be
So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.
Hills, that is.

Far from a millionaire, but there are certainly plenty around to gawk at if I choose. No hills, unless you count sand dunes. Actually it's not all that different from living in Brooklyn, or New York or Washington, D.C. Well, maybe Brooklyn.

Swimmin' pools, movie stars.

Now a cement pond we got!


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jupiter, by jove!

Since we have moved to Florida, the night sky has been so much more visible than in our former city digs. I stayed up late and watched the Perseids last month and have been enjoying getting reacquainted with the night sky.

So I decided that one of my birthday presents to myself would be a telescope from Costco. It came with two lenses, one 25mm and the other 9mm. The past few nights have been a little windy (thanks to Hurricane Igor), almost too windy to keep the telescope steady, but I have been dragging it out onto the porch and catching some great glimpses of the moon.

But spurred on by the news of the proximity of the planet Jupiter to the moon this week, last night was a real treat. Thanks to my iPad Star Walk app I have been keeping track of the very visible Jupiter all month. But Monday night was really extraordinary. I was able to see a line on the planet when I put in the (larger magnification) 9mm lens as well as its four moons, all in a row.


Inspired by my dad, I then took my stargazing to the next level. My amateur astronomer father let us stay up late when we were kids to watch an eclipse or meteor shower on a telescope that he had constructed himself—well, actually my brother and I had already conked out on the couch, so he had to wake us up so we could see them. He also had a camera attachment for his telescope and took some amazing moon photos. i decided to give lunar photography a try myself. Carefully folding back the telescope lens's rubber eyepiece, I held my iPhone up to the lens and voila!

I was actually able to capture the largest planet (and its four moons), albeit tiny, in photos.

But where I was really pleasantly surprised was the quality of photos my iPhone took of the moon. The telescope can capture the ridges and shadows on the moons surface, but I never expected my iPhone to be able to as well.


I think it's safe to say that I'm over the moon at the moment ...
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Monday, September 20, 2010

on the boardwalk in Atlantic City ...

On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City
Life will be peaches & cream.
I'm originally from New Jersey, or more accurately, "da Shore." But I haven't always connected with how New Jersey has been depicted in popular culture. I got bored with The Sopranos after the first season. Springsteen, although born a Stone Poney's throw away from me, is O.K. in my book, but I don't even own an album. I haven't watched any of the Jersey Shore series, because those sort of botchagaloops drove me nuts when I lived in Jersey—why would I subject myself to their antics on T.V.—with commercials, even? But for some reason I wasn't going to miss Boardwalk Empire. Who am I kidding? There was a reason. Steve Buscemi. And he did not disappoint.

Now before the endless "Martin Scorsese is a genius" chorus starts, I'll just say that I just don't go crazy for gangsters, Scorsese's strong point. The ultimate gangster movie, The Godfather, I love, but as much for its stunning depiction of the New York Italian immigrant experience and the Italian-American concept of family as it's operatic story and Brando performance. Most folks probably view those aspects of the film as the backdrop of the story, with crime at the center. But The Godfather and its murderous set pieces have been so often imitated (yes, even by Scorsese) that the crime has become the backdrop for me and the other elements the deeper takeaway.

Scorsese is a good filmmaker, and with gangster drama he found his niche. Goodfellas, although I really never want to see it again, was great. As was Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, After Hours, etc. Even when he doesn't hit a home run, his movies are interesting—Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Age of Innocence. He is forever faithful to his muse and comfort zone, the streets of New York. But now he has traveled south to Jersey, about 120 miles out of his comfort zone—and happily, it works.

What I liked most about Boardwalk Empire so far, apart from the fantastic Buscemi, was the attention to detail—the capturing of the Boardwalk's split personality: viewed with your back to the beach it is pure honky tonk—bright and sleazy and tawdry and flashy and fun—even in broad daylight. Turn your back to the penny arcades and you can gaze at the sea—relentless and peaceful and contemplative. That aspect of Atlantic City's personality has always held true, from the time depicted in the series to my childhood, pre-casinos, when it had really gone downhill, to the post-casino era of today.
Cinderella you will find your fella
Someone waiting for you...

The young gangster wannabe, played by Michael Pitt, fresh from the trenches of World War I also helps set the 1920s context. As does the young Irish lass played by Kelly McDonald, set up to become very important to Buscemi, who, thank god, doesn't seem to be written as the typical "complex" bad guy. Buscemi, who is also out of his comfort zone with crime boss Nucky, is one of those actors who, whenever he shows up, no matter what type of character he's playing (and he's played some weaselly ones), you are happy to see him. Personal favorites include The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Reservoir Dogs and a bit in The Wedding Singer. He's also great in Ghost World, Miller's Crossing, Desperado—the list goes on and on.

So in other words, the show seems off to a good start and has definitely set up enough to make me want to come back for more. There is something about Boardwalk Empire that reminds me of the entertaining and good movie Ragtime, which, I think may end up being a good thing. Ragtime was a sprawling, episodic book with lots of characters—probably too sprawling to ever be turned into a great movie, along the lines of The Godfather, which had a sharper, honed-in narrative. But HBO, with the ability to tell an extended story, is the perfect venue for such a saga. Scorsese is also a producer of Boardwalk Empire and may return to do a few more episodes as director. As long as he continues to approach his comfort zone subject matter with fresh eyes I will be eager to see what he sees. He has gotten things off to a good start.
In romantic, enchantic,
Atlantic City...
Down by the old New Jersey shore!
"On the Boardwalk at Atlantic City" Lyrics by Mack Gordon

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

let's do the time warp again (again)

Children's television is interesting. Cartoons still rule, but there is a ton of variety for today's media-savvy and -saturated child. When I was little, I remember my brother and I creeping downstairs and turning the T.V. volume on low to watch Saturday morning cartoons, with Speed Racer and other Japanese animation, Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and Felix the Cat as top favorites. I've loaded the iPad with lots of Popeye and Felix cartoons, which are available via the Internet Archive for a similar purpose—getting me a little more me time on A Sunday morning.

Cartoons were something you waited for—a weekend treat. There was the occasional after-school kid programming too, like Batman and Underdog, but many afternoons dad got home early and then we had to switch the channel to—yuck—the news (booorrriiinnggg!) When we got a bit older, we also watched "family" programs in syndication that we might have missed first-run, like Lost in Space or The Brady Bunch.

I actually bought the Lost in Space DVDs for my daughter. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. The shows are a bit of fun nostalgia, and I got a kick out of her asking to see "Mish, Mish!" when she was a toddler. Translation: the appeal of the antics of Dr. Zachary Smith is apparently still strong. Or genetic.

Now kids don't have to wait until the weekend or after school for kiddie-fare, as these shows are available on 24-hour cable channels, run by commercial stations, or even PBS.  Not so sure that's a good thing, but that's how things are. My daughter has discovered Tom and Jerry, a cartoon I never really watched or liked when I was a kid, but do enjoy watching with her now. And of course there is my beloved Flintstones, along with the whole Hanna Barbera canon. And no child's education is ever complete without the benefit of Bugs Bunny.

It has been interesting to me that she is "discovering" so many cartoon characters from my childhood, as well as cartoons like the Smurfs and Snorks and kid shows like Teletubbies and Barney that were first seen by kids who are now in college. I don't necessarily want to hang out and watch with her as much when she opts for Barney, but as much as that show has been slammed by adults, I find it less obnoxious than Dora the Explorer. Barney may be beyond corny, but at least the show is gentle and soothing. I appreciate the snippets of Spanish that Dora may (or may not) be passing along to her young viewers, but what is with all the yelling? The show is shrill, at too high a pitch, and quickly goes from annoying to unwatchable for me. That goes for you too, Diego.

As much as children's programming is decried (and there is a lot of crap out there, without a doubt), I have been pleasantly surprised by quite a lot of the modern offerings. Some of our favorites correspond to great children's books: Angelina Ballerina is a funny and beautifully drawn program about a young mouse who is also an aspiring ballerina. Max and Ruby captures the collage-style of Rosemary Wells's original illustrations and the humor of the brother and sister bunnies. Little Bear is as charming as the classic Maurice Sendak stories. Babar manages to keep the spirit of the de Brunhoff books while sending Babar on further adventures. Rupert is a new discovery for us, but has wonderful fairy-tale-like stories and great animation, and Franklin is cute and fun to watch. Also good are Make Way for Noddy, Dragon Tales and in moderation, the inimitable Spongebob Squarepants. I have to admit a fondness for the 90s animated Batman, and the Avatar series, which we also watch, now that she's beyond toddler age

As she gets older she more and more wants to watch programs that feature actual kids. For a while, that meant the syndicated re-runs of 80s/90s Full House, fueled by cute Uncle Jesse and the twins. Lately, it's been the Disney channel. The Disney Channel has been brilliant in exploiting this childlike desire to watch other kids. My daughter especially likes the boys in The Suite Life. I have relented and let her watch these shows, but after a bunch in a row (followed by The Wizards of Waverly Place—yeah, right, that's a realistic downtown New York) and other equally inane sitcoms), I am starting to consider a moratorium. Apart from the broad slapstick and surprising amount of bodily function humor (I'm not grossed out by fart jokes, just surprised to find them on Disney), what I really can't stomach is the endless Disney-product shilling: for more unfunny comedies, DVDS, etc., etc. It's not like any of these shows actually tell a story. It's just mindless fluff. Oh well. I guess it's this generation's Brady Bunch. But my dad didn't let us watch that show endlessly. Moderation's the key, here, I think.

I grew up with T.V. and would never be one of those folks who "just watch PBS." I am just too fond of pop culture. I don't want television to substitute for reading or playing outside for my child, but there is no real danger of that. I admit that "Saturday morning T.V." buys me some time in bed on a weekend morning so that I can get a little extra relaxing time, much like my parents got to sleep in while we watched Speed Racer all those years ago. I find it funny, and I guess, a little bit reassuring, that a lot of the same characters, like the Pink Panther or Yogi Bear or Top Cat might be amusing my little one as I put off getting up and starting my weekend day—for just a little while, until the inevitable "Mooooooom ..."

Updated, reworked, re-written, from Associated Content ...
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

flipping Over Flipped

Previously published on Associated Content ...

A Really Sweet Movie—In A Good Way

We just watched Rob Reiner's Flipped and really loved it. My six year old daughter enjoys anything with kids in it, but this wasn't just a kid's movie. I have to admit that I have been gravitating towards movies with real actors in it lately for my daughter to watch, like Nanny McPhee Returns. I'm a little over-saturated with all the computer animation these days. And I certainly don't want to waste time or money on some crappily-drawn fare like Alpha and Omega.

Flipped tells the story of a junior high romance, first from the perspective of the boy, then flipping over to the girl. It's a touch Wonder Years, but it goes deeper. It's not just a period piece, but it is set in the early sixties. It reminded me a bit of Up, in that there are real issues simmering throughout the film that the grown-ups will catch and the kids won't, but it is still enjoyable for all.

It was also interesting to me that the "scariest" scene in the movie for my daughter involved an emotional scene that a mentally disabled adult (the girl's uncle) had in an ice cream parlor when he dropped his ice cream on the floor. Real emotions, real life, really uncomfortable for the characters and the audience. The scariest scene for me was the cold, thoughtless, nasty remarks made by the boy's father at a dinner with the two families. Again, real, casual, evil behavior. And completely believable in that this can happen any day to anyone. There is so much anger and stupidity beneath the surface of some of these characters. But there is also unexpected kindness and a realization of one's faults. We actually get to see some of the characters grow up.

The acting is great, especially Madeline Carroll as Juli, and Aidan Quinn as her father. But Anthony Edwards also does a great job as a not-too-attractive character and John Mahoney is great as an old man who is awakened by a young girl's spirit.

It seems a shame to me that the theater where we saw this was almost empty (even though it was kind of fun almost having our own private screening) and that no one seems to know that this film was even an option. I have to admit I only found it because I was in the mood to go to the movies and was really looking hard through area theater offerings for something that I could take my daughter to that I could also enjoy. I had no idea when I saw the title what it was and had to look it up on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm glad I did. And I urge anyone who's looking for a great story, with or without kids along, to check this out. It's a good story. You'll flip.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

sand in my toes

I took my first (solo) walk on the beach today after dropping the kid off at school. I'm not sure what took me so long. I think I have been denial about living in this beautiful location. I approached our move south as another job I have to do—settle my daughter in her new school, assess what's up with my mom and help where I can, take over the running of the house, etc.

I have been coming here since I was a teenager, first to visit my grandmother, and later, to visit my mom. It was always a vacation spot—something special—and even though in the back of my mind I always knew that I would someday end up here permananetly (barring hurricane or other natural disaster), I guess I just didn't think it would be so soon, or took in what that might really mean. That I really don't need all those blankets anymore. That the ocean is right there, to be enjoyed, whenever, wherever.

Maybe I'm just a born "city gal" by mentality. I lived in New York for over a decade and never went to the Statue of Liberty. I worked in the most famous museum in Washington D.C. and didn't go through every gallery. I don't exactly take these things for granted, but ... Am I treating the ocean like it's for the tourists?

Anyway, I broke out of whatever it is this morning and took a walk on the beach. It helped that it is cloudy and breezy, perfect weather for my pale skin, which doesn't feel the need to bake (burn) in the sun. There were a few intrepid cute dude swimmers and a handful of strollers like myself. I walked a little one way, then farther the other direction, and then headed back towards home. Getting my toes wet, figuratively and literally. Before I was about to head back up the beach, to the street, to home,  I paused to let the waves rinse off my toes and then ... a school of fish washed up around my feet.
There were tons of them, flopping desperately on the sand. Good morning, Florida. The waves came in and washed most of them back out again. I felt helpless, yet fascinated as I watched this cycle repeat a few times before the birds—sanderlings and western sandpipers (for once I didn't have the iPhone camera with me, but I looked it up in my trusty Audubon Florida guide when I got back home)—caught on. Breakfast! I'm pretty sure that the catch of  the day were Atlantic Thread Herrings (I had to use the internets to find them.)

All told, for the time I watched this little bit of nature and the food chain in action, only five or six herrings actually bit the dust. Most were lucky enough to flop their way down the sand until a wave washed them back out to sea. I'm not sure why such a large school of little fish would come in so close to shore. But I will be continuing my observations. And getting my toes wet.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

honey, let me tell you ...


Honey, let me tell you.
I love my cat.
My mom does too.
I really love my cat
Really really love my cat.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

happy birthday Agatha Christie!

I guess Google doesn't think Americans would "get" the Hercule Poirot "G" as so far this Google Doodle only seems to be available to Americans, according to Mashable ...

Today is Agatha Christie's 120th birthday. If you have been reading this blog, you'll know that I had my own "summer of Christie," spurred on by the excellent Masterpiece Mystery Poirots that were televised recently. Murder on the Orient Express was an especially lavish production, with David Suchet deepening his long-term portrayal of my favorite detective, M. Poirot.

I had a ton of books to chose from, as Christie's entire oeuvre (in paperback) seemed to be in the house. As I tried to decide which books to pick I noticed that many were English printings. Probably foreign airport vacation purchases. In fact, I know that one book I decided to read towards the end of my marathon, Hallowe'en Party, was purchased at either the hotel bookstore, or more likely Schiphol after a trip to Egypt—and I read it cover-to-cover on the plane ride home.

I decided to stick with Papa Poirot, and read The Big Four, The Clocks, The Hollow , Funerals are Fatal/After the Funeral,  the aforementioned Hallowe'en Party, and The Labours of Hercules. Whew! It was interesting. In The Clocks Poirot hardly makes an appearance, or only shows up at the end—presumably this was when Christie was tired of her master detective, but of course, the critics and the readers never were, and still aren't. Funerals are Fatal was the American title for After the Funeral. I'm sure marketing is a consideration, but I've never understood the seemingly random re-naming of books for an Amrican audence (Sorcerer's Stone, anyone?) Is it a dumbing-down, or just an attempt to make an English product more acceptable or understandable to an American audience? Is Funerals are Fatal more "American" then After the Funeral?

Other British/American renamings include:
The Sittaford Mystery/Murder at Hazelmoor
Lord Edgware Dies/Thirteen at Dinner
Murder on the Orient Express/Murder in the Calais Coach
1934 Why Didn't They Ask Evans?/Boomerang Clue
Three Act Tragedy/Murder in Three Acts
Death in the Clouds/Death in the Air
The A.B.C. Murders/The Alphabet Murders
Dumb Witness/Poirot Loses a Client
Hercule Poirot's Christmas/Murder for Christmas
also A Holiday for Murder
Murder is Easy/Easy to Kill
Ten Little Niggers/And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe/An Overdose of Death/The Patriotic Murders
Five Little Pigs/Murder in Retrospect
Sparkling Cyanide/Remembered Death
The Hollow/Murder After Hours
Taken at the Flood/There is a Tide...
They Do It with Mirrors/Murder with Mirrors
Destination Unknown/So Many Steps to Death
4.50 from Paddington/What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!

Nine times out of ten the British title seems better to me. The majority renamed seem to be Poirots, too, although there are quite a few Marples and others included.

Of the books I read this summer, The Labours of Hercules was perhaps the most unusual. Aside from the overlay of Hercule Poirot taking on twelve "final" cases before his retiring to perfect the cultivation of "vegetable marrows," the book also saw him traveling the globe and fighting, on more than one occasion, drug (cocaine) dealers in London. Probably my favorite short story from this collection would be "The Capture of Cerberus," where Poirot gets to indulge in a clinch with the Countess Vera Rossakoff, the only woman that we know of that he has ever cared for—his Irene Adler.

I'm taking a break from Poirot and Dame Agatha for a while, as there are plenty of other books I have been neglecting, but this has been a highly enjoyable diversion. And I am looking forward to Suchet filming the rest of the Poirot catalog. He and Christie never seem to go out of style.
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