Wednesday, December 31, 2014

it's been quite a year ...

As with any year there have been difficult times and fun ones. It's amazing that my mom is doing (relatively) well and still hanging in there, after her fall of over a year ago, but it is also very hard at times to see how narrow her life has become.

Xmas with Grandma

My daughter continues to grow and flourish and is amazing.

Sand sculpture

The kid

My journey to get strong and healthy continues. I have changed a lot this year — what and how I eat, and continue to try and do things that will keep us thriving. Apart from my yearly mammogram I haven't had any other scans of that sort this year, which is a major accomplishment, considering what I went through the previous year.

What a view

I am trying to appreciate  our lovely surroundings - our home, our environment. That may seem a no-brainer for some, but coming to Florida, although something I did voluntarily, also had a lot of guilt attached to it, especially after my mom fell. here we still are in her lovely home and she is in a nursing home just a few minutes away. I know, I know ... but I am just finally starting to feel like I belong here and I am sure that will get better as time goes on.

We never stop learning or growing. Here's wishing you all a wondrous 2015.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

horns: daniel radcliffe can still talk to snakes

Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) met the love of his life, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), when they were just children, and the two fell in love and shared everything together. Their romance seemed idyllic, until one night when Merrin is found dead, the victim of a brutal rape and murder. Ig finds himself the prime suspect, his town, friends, and even most of his family shunning him. The heartbroken Ig maintains his innocence, to deaf ears. And then, as the opening line of the novel by Joe Hill states, after he "spent the night drunk and doing terrible things," Ig wakes up to discover that two small horns have sprouted through his forehead. The horns are growing, and he doesn't seem to be able to remove them. They also seem to have a peculiar effect on other people — they bring out one's deepest and darkest desires.

Horns, directed by Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D , Mirrors, The Hills Have Eyes) is at times quite great to look at. But exactly who is the movie for? It is not strictly horror. It has a quasi-religious subtext, although it doesn't go too far (or far enough) in that direction. It begins as a young/adult romance, but also includes a brutal rape/murder. It's not exactly a murder mystery, although the last third of the film mostly goes down that path. There are some clever biblical-themed in-jokes — check out the license plates on different character's cars, the diner Ig frequents is called "Eve's" — but the movie dances around a bit with its good/evil themes, too.

You can read the rest of my review on Cinema Sentries ...

Monday, December 29, 2014

into the woods, magical, musical

Even better than I imagined, Into the Woods is the perfect holiday film. Full of wonderful music by Stephen Sondheim, a cast that is not only stellar, but can sing well, and enough joy and gloom to balance out the roller-coaster emotional terrain that accompanies the holiday season. And if there was any doubt that the movie was a hit with my ten year-old daughter, the evidence was her singing the songs in the car on the ride home, and her ultimate thrill when looking up the lyrics on the internet to discover that I had downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes for her continued enjoyment. How cool is that?

The movie, directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha), is great to look at, and uses its CGI to wonderful effect, just to add a little magic when needed. Hollywood, take note, CGI should be used as a tool, not an excuse for a whole movie. But what really enchants are the songs. The original fairytale mash-up, Into the Woods loosely follows the stories of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone) and Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), while introducing a couple that yearns for a child, The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt), who, may see their wish to become parents granted if they can help reverse a curse by the local witch (Meryl Streep).

Meryl Streep makes a wonderful Witch

Emily Blunt is a stand-out, her performance shining whether she is singing or speaking. Johnny Depp delivers an (appropriate for a change) over-the-top cameo as The Big Bad Wolf ("Hello Little Girl"). But Streep is also wonderful, and aces all of her songs, especially "Children Will Listen." She brings a touching quality to her Witch, who is not quite wicked, if not entirely nice, either.

Everyone in the cast shines. An especially fun surprise is Chris Pine as Cinderella's prince, who states, in maybe his only honest moment, "I was raised to be charming, not sincere." He takes preening and posing to a whole new level, to hilarious effect. His duet mid-way, with his equally humble-brag brother (Billy Magnussen, who has eyes for Rapunzel), "Agony," energizes the film and provides the first clue to the uninitiated that this won't be a completely traditional take on fairy tales. The kid sang "Agony," her favorite number, as we walked out of the theater — for quite a while before asking me what "agony" meant. "Oh! That makes sense!"
[Cinderella's Prince]
Did I abuse her
Or show her disdain?
Why does she run from me?
If I should lose her,
How shall I regain
The heart she has won from me?
Beyond power of speech,
When the one thing you want
Is the only thing out of your reach.

[Rapunzel's Prince]
High in her tower,
She sits by the hour,
Maintaining her hair.
Blithe and becoming and frequently humming
A lighthearted air:

Far more painful than yours,
When you know she would go with you
If there only were doors.

The Baker and his wife bargain with Jack for his cow

Parenthood, especially motherhood, is a theme that twines through the story, from the Witch's strange interpretation of a doting parent - kidnap a beautiful child and lock her up in a tower away from the world — to The Baker and his Wife being willing to do anything to become parents — to Jack's abusive mom (Tracey Ullman) and the few fleeting moments he feels of love in a Giantess's embrace, as he tells the Baker in "Giants in the Sky."
A big tall terrible Giant at the door,
A big tall terrible lady Giant
sweeping the floor.
And she gives you food
And she gives you rest
And she draws you close
To her Giant breast,
And you know things now
that you never knew before,
Not till the sky.
There are many wonderful set pieces, from Cinderella's freeze-frame number "On the Steps of the Palace" to the cast singing "No One is Alone" and the title song. But it is Blunt's Baker's Wife who touched me most deeply, especially in "Moments in the Woods."
Just a moment,
One peculiar passing moment...
Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always "or"?
Is it never "and"?
That's what woods are for:
For those moments in the woods...
I have yet to see the play in live performance, but I have seen a filmed version, featuring original Broadway cast members Bernadette Peters (Witch) and Joanna Gleason (Baker's Wife), which was aired originally in 1991 on American Playhouse. It was very good, and I loved the music, but I found it a bit more sarcastic in tone and the characters not as sympathetic. Big screen close-ups probably help create a more intimate atmosphere in this current version, as do a few judicial trims of reprises, etc. that would work well on stage, but not necessarily on film.

Red on her way to Grandmother's house ...

The woods are a magical place, where anything, good or bad, can happen to these characters, and to the lucky audience. Can't wait to see Into the Woods again.

Friday, December 26, 2014

holiday music recap

Well, there it goes. No more "White Christmas" or "Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer" for another year. And that's O.K. Let's face it, a lot of holiday music is a bit much to take, even when one is in the cheeriest of moods. There are undeniable classics, sung by the best of the best, especially by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. But what I think I'll miss the most of all is the chance to hear music by people who I never get a chance to hear any other time of the year, like Eartha Kitt, Dean Martin, and The Kinks. It's a shame that most of these artists have disappeared from the airwaves, but at least the holiday season brings them front and center once again, if only for a little while.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

merry christmas!

Last night, Christmas Eve, not a creature was stirring ...


This morning, the aftermath ...


The best and most creative gift I received ... a little Lego gift box full of treasures ...


Happy Holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

i believe in father christmas - redux

Here's a throwback post from 2011, which still has meaning for me, especially today ...

My almost eight year-old has been asking me all month long about Santa. She was bugged that some of the kids at school were trying to convince her that he doesn't exist. A lot of her friends still believe, but she has asked me if I do, too. I answered unhesitatingly in the affirmative. And I'm not lying. That doesn't mean that I believe that a jolly man in a red suit will be coming down our non-existent chimney tonight. But I do believe that Santa, something magical, does exist in the world, most definitely in my daughter's world. When kids grow up and become parents they become Santa. They make magic for their kids. They pass the baton, so that their children can share in that same feeling that they remember from their childhood — a mixture of hope, anticipation, faith and disbelief — could it really be? And then the presents are there in the morning — magic!

I don't blame the playground kids. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs or disbeliefs. I first covered this topic two Xmas eves ago and still feel exactly the same way:
The whole world is magical to kids. They want to believe in Santa, Rudolph, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. Kids don't live in a bubble. At five my daughter and her friends are already deeply discussing whether Santa, etc. exists. Some are trying to convince her otherwise, like kids tried back in 1897 to Virginia O'Hanlon. I'm in the "He's real" camp until she shows signs of not wanting to believe anymore. Kids can be cruel and just plain silly, but the "There is no Santa" schoolyard discussions seem to me less an attempt to blow a hole in the magic bubble, but an attempt to appear smarter, more knowledgeable of the oh-so-attractive grown-up world. Kids, if you only had the merest glimpse of the mundanity of many aspects of what it is to be "grown-up," you'd relax and settle back and bask in fantasies like Santa as long as possible.

I also think it is worth reprinting some words of Santa wisdom from one of my favorite authors, Alexander McCall Smith (originally printed in Parade):
Myths help us to get by. The day they all die and we tell our children exactly how things are, the world will be a poorer, less enchanted place. So don’t be ashamed to clap your hands at Peter Pan or act as if Santa exists. He stands for kindness and generosity, and those things are alive and will continue to be alive—as long as we believe in them.
I have some cookies to decorate for Santa — Merry Christmas!
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

xmas tree hats ...

... were apparently once a thing.

Monday, December 22, 2014

we're on ho-ho-holiday

School's out for two plus weeks for the holidays ... what trouble can we get into ...

Friday, December 19, 2014

favorite song friday: ho ho holiday songs

Here's a throwback post, from 2011, of some of my favorite holiday music:

It's so hard to avoid holiday music. Three local radio stations are currently playing tunes around the clock. Do we really need three? Or even one, considering that every retail establishment is also pumping out the nonstop tunes? Instead of driving myself mad when I hear the umpteenth version of Silver Bells, I decided to remind myself of some holiday music that I actually like and look forward to hearing — just once a year.

 Ray Charles — Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Dean Martin's version is also good ("Rudy the red-beaked reindeer"), but nothing can beat Ray Charles's delivery. His entire Christmas album is great, including a version of Baby, It's Cold Outside with Betty Carter.

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl — Fairytale of New York

An amazing song from an amazing band.

"Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it's our last."

Judy Garland — Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

The very best rendition of this song, from a great movie that is sentimental in the best way. A classic.

Thurl Ravenscroft — You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch

Ravenscroft had such a wonderful voice and his delivery of Dr. Seuss's lyrics have let people indulge in their inner Grinch for decades.

The three words that best describe you,
Are as follows, and I quote,
"Stink! Stank! Stunk!"

Bruce Springsteen — Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town

You can't beat Bruce for pure exuberance, and his version of this "kiddie" song manages to rock out, be fun, and let people know why he and the E Street Band have been such a hot ticket all these years.

Barenaked Ladies (with Sarah McLachlan) — God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings 

This version is not afraid to play with a more traditional Christmas carol. Its casual vibe captures the mood of caroling and eggnog and Christmas cheer.

John Denver and the Muppets — We Wish You A Merry Christmas

This is just too much fun, from a television special Kermit and the gang did with John Denver in 1979.

There is a ton of holiday music out there. Some other favorites include:

Feliz Navidad  Jose Feliciano

Little Drummer Boy  Bing Crosby and David Bowie

Holiday Christmas: War is Over  John Lennon

The Christmas Song — Nat King Cole

I'll be Home for Christmas — the Carpenters

Santa Baby — Eartha Kitt

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Johnny Mathis

And of course,

White Christmas — Bing Crosby

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

klara kristalova: childhood dreams and nightmares

I am loving a current exhibit at the Norton Museum of Art so much - Klara Kristalova: Turning into Stone. The Czechoslovakian-born artist, who is based in Sweden, makes clay and porcelain sculptures which conjure the world of fairy tales, childhood, fantasy, and at times, horror films. Her show at the Norton, which is part of the RAW (Recognition of Art by Women) initiative, is both dreamy and creepy. Whimsical animal creatures surround a sleeping girl, which suggests childhood dreams, while other pieces are more nightmarish. Her watercolors, which are also included in the show, are interesting, but it is her work in sculpture that really impresses.





"When you're a child the reality and the fantasy mixes up."

Happily, her work is on exhibit until March 29, 2015, so I will be able to visit and revisit it many times.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

back to the museum i go ...

I am currently in the docent training program at our local art museum, the Norton Museum of Art. I have been taking part since October, and have been enjoying it immensely. It's actually quite a rigorous program, but that is one of the things about it that I like the most. We have been learning the collection, and reading lots of articles on museum education.

It's like going back to art school and it couldn't have come at a better time for me in my life right now. I have been a little out to sea since my mother took a fall a year ago. Transitioning from a full-time caretaker who also was trying to work on her own creative writing to a part-time — what, exactly? Between shuttling between my mom at the nursing home and daughter's schedule and my own quest for personal improvement, mentally and physically — I wasn't exactly concentrating on any creative projects.

My first "practice tour stop" was on this exquisite jade carving from the museum's Chinese art collection,  "Figure of Mulan on Horseback."


Adding the Norton to my schedule should have pushed my over the edge, but actually, I think being back in a museum environment and looking at art and talking about it with like-minded people has actually helped my focus even more on my own work and health. At least I hope so. Change is hard, but I have always believed that it is good. And getting to immerse myself in art and ideas for me is beyond good.

Monday, December 15, 2014

visiting hours

I've been thinking lately that I need to stop worrying about my mother. Every time I go to see her she seems happy. Happy to see me. Content with her surroundings.

Maybe she isn't really suffering. I am.

I am he one holding onto the pain, the grief, mourning the woman that I've lost, while she is still here.

I have lost a lot. I can no longer have long talks with my mom. or arguments. We can't go out to eat, or to the movies, or museums. But we can still smile at each other and spend some time together. We can even watch TV together. We can laugh and make faces at each other.

That's actually quite a lot.





Friday, December 12, 2014

favorite song friday: a dean martin holiday

Dean Martin does Christmas music like no one else.
Is he serious?
Does it matter?
He's just fun, fun, fun.

As adorable as he is singing "A Marshmallow World," his rendition of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" is my favorite:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

throwback (holiday) thursday - seeing santa

At the Flagler Museum holiday celebration, 2010.

With Santa

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

palm beach santa

We are trying t hit all the fun holiday outdoor events these days and went to the tree lighting on Worth venue in Palm Beach last week. Santa, as might be expected, arrived in style, in a Lambourghini, no less. Trading reindeer for horsepower, I guess.


There was Lambourghini police escort, too.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

favorite films this year

It's December, so it's a good time for some summing up and list-making, right? I watch a fair share of movies, but the very best that I've seen this year were not necessarily first-run in theaters. I also caught up with some titles on cable, streaming, or Blu-rays from the library.

Here is my list of the movies I liked the best, would love to see again (and again). There are links to longer reviews. The list is in the order that I saw them. Looking at it I see that there are a few trends. There are quite a few two-person movies. The fantasy films all feature a central, larger-than-life character, with a sense of humor. The comedies are all pretty quirky, and on the quiet side, as opposed to the current gross-out trend. Three of my favorite actors, who are no longer with us, all turn up on the list - Robin Williams, James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman. They will be missed.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Ben Stiller takes a thoughtful, beautifully filmed journey to find himself.

Pirate Radio - Philip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful as a renegade DJ on a floating radio station in the '60s.

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Pirate Radio

James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in Enough Said

Enough Said - James Gandolfini and Julia-Louis Dreyfuss are a wonderful pair of would-be lovers in this clever, quiet film about second chances.

The Way Way Back - Sam Rockwell is an irreverent but kind boss and quasi spirit guide to young Duncan (Liam James) during a summer on the Cape.

The Lego Movie - Everything is awesome, really, in this wonderfully clever animated adventure.

Rear Window - Hitchcock's classic about love and what really happens behind our neighbors drawn curtains.

Annie Hall - Diane Keaton is the subject of this comic love story, both a tribute and a spoof, from Woody Allen.

Lovers Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) and Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) in The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel - Another stylish (and hilarious) film from Wes Anderson, starring Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton.

The Humphrey Bogart Film Festival - I was lucky enough to attend this annual festival, where I was treated to screenings of Bogie classics like Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep and Key Largo.

Maleficent - Angelina Jolie, her beauty chiseled and CGI-ed to perfection, has a blast with her role as Sleeping Beauty's nemesis.

The Birdcage - One of my all-time favorite films. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are adorable and funny as hell, and just manage to stop Hank Azaria from stealing the picture from them.

Hercules - Dwayne Johnson leads a merry crew in this fun, raucous take on the Hercules legend. Ian McShane steals every scene he's in and then some.

Guardians of the Galaxy - I am Groot. We all are Groot. And Guardians of the Galaxy is the best comic book movie of them all.

Our Idiot Brother - The movie is as laid back as its main character, played by Paul Rudd, and that is a good, and very funny, thing.

Gone Girl - Rosamund Pike is picture-perfect as Amy, in this cold-as-ice chiller-thriller.

Big Hero 6 - A very sweet animated film, with a layer of sadness that never quite goes away. Beautifully animated, too.

Philippe (Fran├žois Cluzet) and Driss (Omar Sy) go to the opera

The Intouchables - A twist on the buddy picture, this French hit features the beautiful friendship of odd couple Philippe (Fran├žois Cluzet) and Driss (Omar Sy).

Only Lovers Left Alive - A mesmerizing, beautiful love story from director Jim Jarmusch. About vampires. With Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. And John Hurt. I could just watch this over and over and over ...

Monday, December 08, 2014

more tree lighting fun

The kid and I went to see Sandi, the sand tree last week and it was a fun, light-filled event.

600 tons of sand

Fun at the mini-golf course

Phones out to record the light show

We hd a light show of our own

Friday, December 05, 2014

favorite song friday: the grinch

It's back ... the season of holiday music, in all its glory and horror. It only comes but once a year, and I have to admit that there are a few tines that I actually look forward to hearing again.

My all-time favorite Christmas special is without any doubt How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and it always makes me happy to hear the main song, "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch," sung by the wonderful Thurl Ravenscroft, pop up in the middle of all the "Santa Babys" and "Carol of the Bells."

Sing it, Thurl!

If you'd like to sing along ...

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel,
You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch,
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch,
Your heart's an empty hole,
Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch,
I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch,
Given a choice between the two of you'd take the seasick crocodile!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You're a nasty wasty skunk,
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch,
The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,
"Stink, stank, stunk"!

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch,
You're the king of sinful sots,
Your heart's a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch,
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful
assortment of rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled up knots!

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch,
With a nauseous super "naus"!,
You're a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Grinch,
You're a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

throwback (holiday) thursday

We picked up a live tree the day before Thanksgiving, but have been taking our sweet time decorating it, so no pix yet. But I couldn't help but think back to another holiday and another black kitty, who I still miss, who loved getting in the middle of the decorations and even the tree. Miss you, Harry.



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

i do my jump-roping at night ...

A variation on an '80s chestnut rolled through my mind while I watched the kid last night as we walked the dog. Apologies for the ear worm ...