Tuesday, September 30, 2014

still watching the voice ...

... Or, I should say, more accurately, once again tuning in. I got really bored over the past few runs. The Blake/Adam bro-love was piling on bit thick. The only thing that made me want to check it out again was the presence of wunderkind Pharrell, and some curiosity about how Gwen Stefani might stack up as a coach.

It's only a few episodes in, but it is clear that both new coaches are more than just a needed breath of fresh air. Both musician's more down-to-earth attitudes are having an effect on the contestants and the Blake & Adam show. It is fun to see Blake and Adam watch aspiring singer after aspiring singer responding so positively to the newcomers. The good ol' boys are going to have to ramp up their routines, or maybe, get re-invested in the show.

Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams

In the meantime, it's just fun to watch the positivity shooting back and forth between former (and current) collaborators Pharrell and Gwen, and their refreshing honesty. Gwen said on camera that if the show had been around when she was starting out she never would have been selected, and Pharrell agreed with her. They both seem to be taking their potential star-making roles very seriously, and are even sharing advice and encouragement with contestants they don't select or who don't choose them. Viewers the season may find themselves as invested in the two coaches as they are all the aspiring hopefuls.

Monday, September 29, 2014

palmcon: small, but fun for comic and sic-fi fans

Comics and sci-fi are not just for kids anymore. They haven't been for a long time. Everyone has heard about ComicCon, which is such a big deal every year on the west coast. But comic book enthusiasts don't have to wait a year or travel  far from home these days. there are smaller conventions popping up all over. South Florida is home to many conventions and one of the newest, PalmCon, held its second annual convention in the Palm Beach area last weekend.

It may have been a small-scale event, but the crowds were enthusiastic, and there were plenty of fun collectibles, a cosplay costume contest,  and special guests in attendance. Also on hand were replicas of the Tardis from Doctor Who, complete with some cast signatures, and the Batmobile. All in all a fun day. We'll definitely be back next year.

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Checking out the Tardis

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Signatures inside the Tardis

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The Batmobile

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Impressive Hulk cosplay

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Our haul was pretty impressive, too.

Friday, September 26, 2014

favorite song friday: jessie j's bang bang

Pop music production has become so systematic. Jessie J, who appeared during awards season on a Fashion Police show with Joan Rivers told the group how her song, "Bang Bang," was created. She wrote it and recorded it, and then the producer brought in Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj to add their parts. Jessie J never even met the other two ladies until the video shoot. And the trio performed the song live for the first time at the recent MTV Video Music Awards. That's how the music biz works these days. While it may not make for a true collaboration, the end result is still a fun song.

British singer and songwriter Jessie J on the set of the "Bang Bang" video


Singer/songwriter Jessie J has written songs for Chris Brown ("I Need This"), Miley Cyrus ("Party in the U.S.A."), Britney Spears ("Hold It Against Me"). She can also do a mean cover of other stars' megabits. Here she does a wonderful rendition of Rihanna's "We Found Love."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

inspector manara: fun and sexy detecting, italian-style

MHz has released another international series on DVD, Inspector Manara (Il Comisario Manara). Part police procedural, part romantic comedy, it is a very engaging show with likable characters that American audiences should take to immediately.

Set in a small Tuscan town by the seaside, Inspector Manara features Guido Caprino as Luca Manara, who has been transferred from his beloved and fast-paced Milan to be the new police commissioner of what he thinks is a tiny, boring, crime-free town. He will soon learn that murder is as frequent an occurrence here as in some other mythical television hamlets like Cabot Cove and Midsomer. Luca has no intentions of staying, and doest hesitate to declare so at every opportunity, but his transfer was a disciplinary measure - the result of his getting too cozy with his former superior's wife. His current boss, Casadio (Luis Molteni), has no intention of granting his transfer request until he can prove himself. Casadio also isn't too pleased that his own wife (and just about every lady in the vicinity) are immediately charmed by the handsome Inspector. Come bello.


Luca (Guido Caprino) and Lara (Roberta Giarrusso) on a case
...

There are many charms to Inspector Manara besides its main character's sexy '70's vibe. Crimes of passion are certainly more common in this particular burg than premeditated murder. Italophiles will be interested in the series' beautiful locations, which were filmed near the small village of Trevignano Romano, which is not too far outside of Rome. After watching a few episodes, viewers will not only get pulled in by the recurring cast of characters, but the rhythms of life in their small and picturesque town. Everyone actually seems to go home at the end of the day (who's minding the police station?) to try and spend family time and eat some fabulous homemade food. This idyllic pace is of course a recurring joke on poor Manara, who yearns for some activity, some nightlife.

You can read my entire review on Cinema Sentries

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

dolphin tale 2

The kid loved the first movie, which was sweet and cute, and its sequel was just about as cute and as sweet, so i didn't object when she suggested we check it out last weekend. The main cast is back, and continuing the mostly true story of Winter, an injured dolphin rescued by a young boy named Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick, Jr.) of the Clearwater Marine Hospital. In the first film a prosthetic tail was designed by Dr. Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) to help the endangered mammal. It's a testament to its straightforward family fare aims that the movie just added the number "2" to the title and didn't try to add a second tag line, like Dolphin Tale 2, The Return, or some other such nonsense.

When "2" opens, Sawyer is now an integral part of the Aquarium staff, and Winter has lost her only female dolphin friend, the elderly Panama. Most of the film deals with the conflict of the aquarium needing to find a new friend for Winter or risk losing her, and whether Sawyer will take advantage of a educational opportunity that will take him away from his family and Winter (for a whole three months).

Sawyer (Nathan Gamble) and Winter go for a swim

The old-fashioned film has the feeling of the sort of nature adventures that used to show up on The Wide World of Disney, and that is actually a good thing.  It's engaging for the kiddies. It is lso fun for the adults who may have been dragged along with their kids to the movies to see Ashley Judd, who plays Sawyer's mom, hanging out with Morgan Freeman and looking like they are having a good time, and not in danger of having to track down a serial killer like in their previous team-ups, Kiss the Girls (1997) and High Crimes (2002).

There was a recent (and typically snarky) article on Gawker condemning Florida, and specifically, the uber-rich who choose to live on its shores, which are (supposedly) all doomed to sink in the sea. Florida does spend a lot of money rebuiding its beaches, as well as have its fair share of part-time residents, and many of them are affluent, but there are plenty of year-rounders, too. A film like Dolphin Tale 2 not only highlights coastal year-round living, which is far from jet-setting, but another, big reason that people choose to live in Florida, and near its miles and miles of coastline — its magnificent wildlife. There are many places in the world where it is possible to live in harmony with nature, but the proximity of the ocean and the ever-present flora and fauna certainly make that goal a daily occurrence in the Sunshine State.

Director Charles Martin Smith (who also directed the first film) keeps his camera focused on the kids and the marine animals, including an intrepid sea turtle named Mavis; and he also shows up in a small part as a USDA agent. While some of the plot elements of Dolphin Tale 2 may seem at first a little forced, news footage at the end of the film shows that Winter's need for a dolphin companion, and all of the animal characters in the film were actually based on real animals and events. Especially touching is the footage of people, particularly children, who have lost a limb and make a journey to see Winter. The dolphin continues to be an inspiration to many. With positive reviews and audience impact, unsurprisingly there is already a third film rumored to be in the works. Keep up the good work, Winter and friends.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

gotham

The new Fall show with the most hype has undoubtedly been Gotham, which aired last night. So does it live up to the hype?


Gotham is filled with lots of close-ups and saturated colors which suggest its comic book origins without being too overt an homage. Show creator Bruno Heller (Rome, The Mentalist) is definitely going for a more noir than Comic-con vibe. It was stylish and held my interest. It was fun seeing characters I grew up with (mostly the villains, of course — Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), and Poison Ivy (Clare Foley) — before they became famous. Jada Pinkett Smith played a new character, Fish Mooney, the local (and incredibly stylish and violent) gang boss.

The first episode opened with a young pickpocket Catwoman scaling a tenement fire escape and witnessing the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, as well as Gotham's newest detective, James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his slightly shady partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) at the crime scene. As in other interpretations, Gotham is a city you might not want to visit and definitely never live there. The mostly dark episode did have a few humorous moments and was intriguing enough to make me try it again next week. I guess that's all any television show can ask.

Monday, September 22, 2014

calm seas

Trying to start the week off with a peaceful, calm sea ...

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... Goodbye summer. Well, at least technically. It's still in the 90s around here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

favorite song friday: secrets

It's impossible not to love Mary Lambert's new song, "Secrets." I'm so glad my daughter is having as much fun singing along to it as I am. Great message, funny lyrics, and the music video is as fun and infectious as the song.



"I've got bi-polar disorder
My shit's not in order
I'm overweight
I'm always late
I've got too many things to say
I rock mom jeans, cat earrings
Extrapolate my feelings
My family is dysfunctional
But we have a good time killing each other

They tell us from the time we're young
To hide the things that we don't like about ourselves
Inside ourselves
I know I'm not the only one who spent so long attempting to be someone else
Well I'm over it

I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are)
I don't care if the world knows what my secrets are (secrets are) So-o-o-o-o what ..."
— Mary Lambert, Eric Rosse, Benny Cassette, MoZella

Thursday, September 18, 2014

throwback thursday: hatsume festival

It was just a few short years ago that we attended the Hatsume Festival at the Morikami ...

Posing in the garden

Checking out some cool vendors

Child and mother both look suspiciously at the photographer. Hmmm ...

Catbus!

Cute toothless smile

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

happy food

While I was having a massage yesterday my masseuse suggested that I should eat some "happy food."

"What's that?" I asked.

"Berries!" She answered.

"Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries. They are all good, keep the blood flowing."

Sounds good to me. Smoothies, here I come. And berries, are also supposed to be the least inflammatory fruit you can eat, so double bonus.

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"Berries" by jchatoff from venice beach, usa - berries
Uploaded by hike395. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

donna detective: ci vediamo

Donna Detective is one of the latest offerings from MHz Networks, which releases international television shows on DVD. ...

Although some of situations in Donna Detective are far from fresh - the new boss who must prove herself, perceptions of women in the work force, how hard it is to juggle career and family - it is still fascinating and most importantly, entertaining, to watch Lisa (Lucrezia Lante Della Rovere) face each obstacle at home and at work. Maybe because the show originated in Italy, there is also a soap opera aspect to some of the "crimes of passion" that Lisa and her squad are up against, but the episodes are far from boring. As the series progresses, each crime that Lisa and her team investigate also sheds light on their characters and what is happening in their lives. There is also an ongoing series story arc involving Lisa's husband Michele, who has been accused of murdering a female colleague, which has a major impact on their marriage, and could even threaten Lisa's career, as she tries to clear her husband. ...

Lisa (Lucrezia Lante Della Rovere) and Nanni (Flavio Montrucchio) on a case

It may seem impossible to American viewers to take Lisa seriously when when watching her switch gears so quickly, to whipping up a frittata for her hungry family when she returns home from a long day of busting perps, but that is exactly the charm at the center of Donna Detective. It is refreshing to watch a cop show that is as interested in its characters and their motivations - as well as what they want to eat and drink - as it is in solving the crime of the week. The great soundtrack by Savio Riccardi and the backdrop of the eternal city of Rome just add to the experience. Donna Detective is good-looking, too, with cinematography a step above typical crime dramas. ...

Read my complete review on Cinema Sentries ...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

favorite song friday: little numbers

Taking a lead from my Hairpin horoscope, here is a lovely little song from the Swiss/German duo BOY, called "Little Numbers":

Sonja Glass and Valeska Steiner of BOY

Thursday, September 11, 2014

throwback thursday: birthday girl

It's funny, but I can only find some birthday pix from childhood birthdays. I know I celebrated my birthday in my teens and twenties (and beyond), too. I guess I was too busy celebrating to take a photo ...

Birthday girl

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

birthday month

Being it's birthday week, I have been paying a little extra attention to horoscopes. The Hairpin had a quite delightful one the other day:

Virgo — In Greek lore, you were once a goddess named Astraea, last of the immortals to live in the Golden Age. As the Iron Age came on and Pandora’s box crept open, you fled to the heavens—up and away from the monstrosity of mortal life— and became the constellation Virgo. Legend states that one day you will return and bring with you the Golden Age you represented. I have no idea what that Golden Age would look like in this century but Virgo, I do know that this world is ready for you so come back.

There is nothing on Earth that you can’t face, nothing you have to be afraid of. Let this be your year of disillusionment, of staying present and asking for exactly what you need. Here is a beautiful song by BOY. Play it for me?

Happy Birthday Bright Star. When you return, from wherever you’ve been, there will already be a table set in your honor. You don’t need a costume or even an offering. Your arrival, your truest self, will be all we’ve been waiting for.

I like the Galactic Rabbit's horoscope so much, I found myself reading all the month's horoscopes. I may have to read them every month from now on, regardless of my birthday.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

city girl no more

Continuing my country mouse, city mouse theme ...

I have lived at least half of my life in cities. Big ones. But I am finally learning that you can take the girl out of the country (or away from the beach), but you can't take the beach out of the girl.

As we planned our recent summer vacation to the Jersey Shore I had fully intended to spend a few hours in New York, either on the way in, or the way out, or both. But on our ride out from the airport, it quickly became clear that wasn't going to happen. Not only did it take forever to get the rental car and get the hell out of town (note to self — when going to Jersey, never fly into to La Guardia again), but that trip through town was more than enough of a taste of New York for me and my daughter.

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The best thing about flying into LaGuardia is definitely the view

It's amazing how quickly the hectic pace can get under your skin. The traffic was (not surprisingly) horrendous, but it also gave me the opportunity to stop and gawk like a tourist and see what had changed. Driving through midtown we got some fabulous views of the Empire State Building. And also of Times Square. I have spent some time in New York since last I lived there — we spent Thanksgiving in midtown about five years ago — but this time all of the Blade Runner-esque video screens really made me feel like I was in the middle of some hectic soda commercial. Not a feeling I am really looking to experience.

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Approaching the Empire State Building

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Stuck in traffic, below - but we got a great shot

Our relaxed time at the beach was so wonderful that I couldn't even imagine cutting it short to battle for a few hours with the crowds and pace of the city. The drive back confirmed that feeling. Our rental car, which had behaved perfectly for ten days while I tooled up and down the Jersey Shore, to Long Beach Island and back again, started to give me an error message and red overheating signal as we idled in blistering midtown traffic. It was like a scene from a movie, with a red bar increasing on the control panel and the countdown to the shutting down of the car in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 ...

I turned the whole car off, and luckily, a traffic cop had us sit through two lights while he allowed pedestrians to navigate Times Square. When he finally motioned us forward, I tentatively started up the engine and the red signal was, thankfully, gone. We made it safely to the airport, although it was a nerve-racking drive, and reported the mishap. Freak occurrence? Omen? I'm not sure.

Will I ever vacation in New York again? I'm sure I will. But I definitely got the message loud and clear as to what I want from my life (and maybe always have). A more relaxed pace. Near the water. And with as few red signals and dramatic countdowns as possible.

Monday, September 08, 2014

jersey girl

Although it's been over three weeks since we returned from our Jersey Shore vacation, I haven't had a lot of time to process it all yet. We've been adjusting to going back to school, and getting our first colds of the school year (I seemed to get it worse than the kid, go figure).

I grew up at the Shore, and there is always an element of nostalgia in coming back. I was afraid that might be the only thing pulling me there, and was presently surprised that wasn't the case. Yes, it is always fun to drive around and see what has survived since my childhood days and be disappointed in what hasn't (this year's big heartbreak — Freedman's Bakery is no more.) But there is something else going on, too. Going home isn't just about memories, it's also about physically connecting to a place. I live by the ocean in Florida, but it is still renewing and refreshing to dip my toes in the cold Atlantic of New Jersey, the ocean of my childhood. Maybe it's in my DNA.

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There is also something about the pace that I love. I grew up in a vacation spot. I seem to have always wanted to live where everyone, i.e., tourists, want to come and visit, whether it be the beach, or a major city like New York or Washington, D.C.

As much as I enjoyed my time in those urban metropolises, the other thing that seemed crystal clear to me on this recent vacation was how much I love the beach lifestyle. Ron Jon's anyone? I may never have learned to surf, but I completely connect with a slower, more relaxed vibe. Like the "salt life" stickers you see on cars everywhere down here, I connect to the ocean, the salt air, the sand in my toes.

Where we live now, Palm Beach, can be a bit fancy sometimes, but that's not what I'm about, and it's not why I'm here. It's the ocean, across the road, that calls me. And I can't help but answer, "Hello, old friend."

Friday, September 05, 2014

favorite song friday: all about that bass

I'm loving Meghan Trainor's song, “All About That Bass,” these days. It has a great, retro vibe and has something to say, too:




I see the magazine workin' that Photoshop
We know that shit ain't real
C'mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise 'em up
'Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top 
Yeah, my mama she told me don't worry about your size
She says, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night."
You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that's what you're into then go ahead and move along

The video is just as fun as the song. Her voice and the rhythm of the song bring to mind Amy Winehouse, too. Good message, good music. I'm interested to hear what else she has to say.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

throwback thursday: country mouse, city mouse

planning
At Parsons, taking a break. I'm wearing boat shoes (!)
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At Jones Beach, with Steven and Eduardo and bomb pops

Pencil drawing by Mary Elizabeth Winship Periale
In New Jersey, knitting - I was around 8 at the time.
At MoMA
At MoMA, frolicking with the kid.
Elizabeth on the beach
On the beach, in Spring Lake, NJ.
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With BFFs at Vero Beach



Wednesday, September 03, 2014

trying to age gracefully in an ungraceful (and ungrateful) age

There is an interesting interview with Ellen Barkin on Violet Grey, The Violet Files, centering on the star turning the big six-oh and how she refused to have her photographs retouched for the accompanying photoshoot.

Barkin has a lot of positive things to say about getting older, and how women should embrace their age, and individual beauty. She looks great in the photos, but, not so unexpectedly, they are rendered in black and white.


She is to be applauded for putting herself out there, recent pixie-cut and all.

"It was a direct response to watching the Oscars alone in my bed and saying, “You know what? I’m done.” As women age, they start hiding their faces more with their hair. So the bangs get longer and you see like this much of their face. I am taking everything off of my face, and I am going to say, this is what it looks like, nothing is hidden, you can see my forehead, my jawline, my neck, this is it. And ladies, it’s not so bad."

As much as I applaud Barkin and hope that other women also choose to own their own style more and more, lets keep in mind how much easier it might be for her to go "au naturale" than the rest of us. She claims no plastic surgery, but owns up to lots (and lots) of laser work to present a less-wrinkled visage to the camera.

"I feel strongly about retouching. ... I have not been under the knife. I laser. And I’ve tried every type of laser out there. Now I’m into the Ulthera Laser. I do it once a year. It’s extremely painful. You don’t have any downtime at all. And I am religious about my Fraxels. It gets rid of discoloration and smooths out the surface of your skin. I still have hardly any pores on my face."

A quick web search confirms that those two procedures are far from cheap. But as Barkin points out, if you can, why not take advantage of technology? We can definitely use more and more photoshoots and articles that don't rely on retouching and Photoshop. Especially ones that feature folks older than thirty. Barkin is an example of someone who is using her assets, personal and monetary, to be her best self.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

the illusion of privacy and the reality of theft

All of the recent buzz about the latest phone hacking scandal has got me thinking about the internet and privacy. It seems to be common knowledge that anything posted online, or on a device that has online access, might be fair game for a hacker, yet we seem to be constantly surprised when something like this happens. And it keeps happening more and more often.

I think everyone has been looking at this situation the wrong way. Many people are sharing their unasked-for opinions that if the hacked celebrities involved didn't want their nude selfies shared with the world they never should have taken them to begin with. Thank you, Captain Obvious, but apart from that being textbook victim-shaming and blaming, it misses the point. The victims involved had items that belonged to them stolen. This argument is about as nonsensical as saying if you didn't want your car stolen, you never should have had one to begin with. Hacking is a crime, pure and simple.


There are countless know-it-all articles popping up on how to super-encrypt your email and Facebook so that this sort of thing couldn't happen to you. But after trying to double-authenticate my email I couldn't get in the next day via my phone, no matter how many times I tried the new code. How many people are going to go through all those extra steps to just check email (numerous times a day) on their phones, iPads, laptops, etc.?

Six years ago, after I had my daughter, I knew I wanted to have an expressive outlet, and toyed with starting a blog. But I was concerned about the privacy issue. A colleague who worked in the IT department told me that if anyone really wanted to get information about me, they could, blog or no blog. I decided to go for it, and I don't regret having an online presence, but I also don't kid myself that I can preserve any true sense of anonymity.

Regarding the morality of this particular situation, I can't help but feel for Jennifer Lawrence and all of the other celebrities. Not only are they going through the embarrassment of having intimate photos stolen and then shared, against their will, with the world, but they have been subject to the false morality and criticism of the same people who are eagerly viewing said photos while clutching their strands of pearls. There is nothing wrong with someone taking a nude photo of themselves, for themselves, or with the intention of sharing with a loved one. But having a bunch of them stolen and then posted on the web is another matter.

It's interesting to note that in the same week a member of a teen boy band, Calum Hood, of Five Seconds of Summer, had his own mini-scandal when he posted a video of his privates to a female fan on Snapchat, who then promptly uploaded it for the world to see. There is a big difference here, as he at least chose at first to share (if not overshare) his nude body, but the results are the same. Someone thought they were sharing an intimate photo with one person, and soon the whole world was the audience.

I have no doubt that Lawrence and others will weather this storm just fine. But it does call into question the morality of the internet and the hacker(s). This is not a Julian Assange sort of hacking. If one wants to peruse naked boobs and butts on the internet there are many, many sites that cater to those desires. But to grab photos of a famous person, against their will — there can be no other reason to do this except as a trophy or humiliation.

Monday, September 01, 2014

happy labor day

Happy Labor Day! Enjoy your day at the beach, or however you choose to relax ...