Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reason #548 Why I Love Digital

Back in the early to mid 80’s, Kodak had this little gem of a camera called The Disc. The commercials, which can still be seen on You Tube, really made it look fantastic! You only had to push one button and the flash would automatically know when you needed it and when you didn’t and the little camera would, again automatically, advance the film so you would never miss a shot! All in a tiny little camera the size of a shirt pocket.
One of my coworkers in the Air Force had one! We were all very impressed! Such an adorable little camera and we lived in Spain, for crying out loud, so there was a lot to photograph!
I wore a little blue skirt and pantyhose everyday which was part of my required uniform, and don’t forget my Pat and Leather heels! And, as always, I would sacrifice just about anything for a laugh.
So, I took Margery’s camera, placed it on the floor under my skirt and used one of my cute little P & L heels to press the one button on the disc that would make all the magic happen! I totally believed, in all honesty, that the picture would come out dark or blurry. In fact, I am not at all positive I gave the final outcome a thought at all. I just thought it would be funny for all my coworkers to see me take a picture up my skirt using the heel of my shoe to press the button!
And it was funny!
Really, I got a good laugh! So much so, that I’ve done variations of the gag over and over again since the original stunt when the camera was considered new not vintage.
What I didn’t count on, however, is that the little Kodak Disc really did take great pictures! Not only could you see the photograph clearly ... all the way up my legs to the cotton ventilated panel of my hosiery ... but you could also see my face looking down at the camera as well!
There was absolutely no denying what I had done when Margery went ahead and developed her film and shared it with a few dozen of my closest friends and colleagues!

Nice work, Kodak!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Farewell, Mister Newman

Like most girls of a certain age, I fell in love with Paul Newman over thirty five years ago when I saw him charming Katharine Ross on a bicycle in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I was only a small child when I saw that movie on television, so I was probably secretly wishing he was my dad, or something (a wish my mother would no doubt support!) and Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head really is a catchy little tune! My own imagination couldn’t invent a more attractive man, and even at that early stage in my life, I was readily drawn to a dry sense of humor.
Of course we came to love him time and again in such greats as The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, The Sting, The Towering Inferno, even Slapshot! As he grew older and amazingly more handsome, we came to know him for his vast charities and admired his long, loving marriage.
I was always impressed with his class and dignity, never hearing a scandalous word and certainly never seeing an unflattering story in the press.
Paul Newman was a beautiful man and role model and I will, along with all the gals, miss him dearly...

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

Suite Française is one novel by Irène Némirovsky, but is actually only two of what was supposed to be a series of five novels. Sadly, the author, who was arrested in July of 1942 as a Jew and did not survive Auschwitz, only finished the first two books in the series and never saw Suite Française in print. For her, they were only rough drafts of an idea that was never finished.
I think knowing this while reading these two stories of war and German occupied France, changed how I felt about them. She was actually very gracious, even kind, in describing the Germans and I found myself genuinely cheering for the relationship between Madame Lucile and the German commander, Bruno, who is billeted in her home.
I appreciated the irony and the bitter sweetness of life at war, although I don’t honestly know if I can say I enjoyed this book. I certainly didn’t dislike it, but I think I was so obsessed with the author’s fate, that I didn’t really appreciate the stories for their own value. That is my fault, not hers, so I guess I would still recommend the book. She was a clever writer with great descriptions and mild, ironic humor. I am more than willing to forgive the fact that I was left feeling empty in the end, due to the tragic loss of the author. I would have loved to read the entire series.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


If you are familiar with James’ Born of Frustration, then you know how those first few haunting notes will get stuck in your head and stay there. For sixteen years, if you’re at all like me.
On Thursday, my best blokes, Jerry & Rick, joined me at Nightclub 9:30 to finally see one of my longtime favorite bands live. We were not disillusioned! While we all thought it would probably be a pretty good show, we had no idea that we would be completely blown away!
Firstly, 9:30 Club is the only place to see a live show, in my opinion! I love the intimate setting, the accessibility of alcohol, the unpretentious crowd, and the impressively clean bathrooms. This was the first show I had the pleasure of viewing from the balcony, and it was absolutely perfect!
The opening act was Unkle Bob, from Glasgow. These adorable (and incredibly talented) boys discreetly took the stage and said to the sold-out crowd, “Hallo, we’re Unkle Bob.” He said it so matter-of-fact and sweetly that it sounded like much like it would sound if you casually passed the antichrist on the street and said, with an acknowledging nod, “Beelzebub.”
James could not have asked for a better supporting act. Unkle Bob were nothing short of amazing and we were all instantly smitten with these adorable youngsters.
Then came James.
I knew the lead singer was a freak show, but he did not disappoint! This is a terribly energetic and interestingly poetic bit of theatricality. There’s a lot going on with this band! Of the seven members and thrice as many instruments, I was especially impressed with the little pixie adorning the stage. He had amazing sprightliness, playing every instrument from guitars twice his size, the violin (with a little Rumpelstiltskin thing going on), the drums ... you name it! All with more energy than I can ever remember possessing.
The last song was Laid, of course, and the crowd went nuts! Although the new music is amazing and equally as infectious as the earlier stuff, everyone loves Laid. The crowd was dancing and laughing and, as I looked across the varied faces below me, everyone looked genuinely happy!
James played two encores, with the last song - the one that is still playing over and over in my head - being Born of Frustration. By that point, I was high-fiving the gaseous stranger next to me feeling more mirthful than I’ve felt in a very, very long time....

Brava, James, Brava!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Magic Act

Our wedding was special because we had so many personal touches. My best friend, Rick, is an extremely talented artist and musician. He not only wrote a song for the ceremony, but also played guitar and taught another friend the song. They performed the song beautifully together and it absolutely meant the world to me.
The evening of the rehearsal, Rick adjusted the sound system in the church so they would be able to sing without microphones and be heard throughout the sanctuary.
There was only one small problem.
The priest liked to wear a lapel mike, and we did not take that into consideration.
When the frazzled priest arrived slightly tardy to the rehearsal, he began speaking into his mike and was instantly irritated. “Who’s been messing with the sound system?!”, he demanded. Rick sheepishly raised his hand like a third grader, “I... “, he stammered. “I fixed it.”
“Oh you fixed it alright!”, the normally even-tempered priest retorted!
It was one of those horrifying moments one never forgets.
Later, my niece, Leigh, who fancied herself a bit of a magician at the time, entertained our guests with her little magic tricks, including but not limited to pulling quarters out of the guests’ ears. When she came to Rick, who has always been one of her favorite people, she proudly pulled the shiniest quarter from his ear with stars twinkling in her eyes and he said, “That’s pretty good, Leigh, now can you pull a priest out of my ass?”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Watch Your Posture!

I was going to try to tell a funny story about me being diagnosed with scoliosis when I was about 14 or 15, and how I cried and cried because I didn't want to have a back brace. I thought I would look like Joan Cusack in Sixteen Candles (although that movie hadn't even come out yet, when it did, her character was uncannily similar to what I imagined I would look like with a back brace.) And from then on, for some bizarre reason, whenever I hear The Pretenders' Brass in Pocket, I think of the hours following that unfortunate diagnosis in junior high gym class. Then I started thinking about how certain songs always remind me of certain events. Lay Down Sally always made me think of Clint Eastwood, in fact I thought it was Clint Eastwood, and now I still think of that when I hear it. And then I thought of how Whirlpool commercials always remind me of the time in kindergarten when I forgot to return Ferdinand the Bull to the library so I hid it under my bed.
But, frankly, that all seemed a little bit stupid. The fact is: this is just a funny picture. I found it when I was searching through my photos for pictures of Joan Cusack ....
... just kidding!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lessons from a Big Sister

“Have you ever smelled mothballs?” my big sister randomly asked me one day when I was about eight years old.
“Ummmm, nooooooooo....?”
And she skipped away without another word.
Now, I don’t know that she actually skipped away, but that’s the way the scenario plays out in my memory.
Years later (or perhaps months), I was playing with one of my friends in her family’s attic. I smelled something sickeningly putrid. “What is that godawful smell?!!” She explained mothballs to me and why we would use, in our homes, something that smelled so disgusting.
I was actually rather excited!
I walked home and found my sister making a tent in the backyard using sheets and the clothesline. I skipped - I really think I did - over to her and cried, “Robin! I smelled mothballs!”
Without missing a beat, as if all those many months (or years) hadn’t passed at all, she simply asked, “How’d you get between his legs?”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today and Everyday

I am proud, today and everyday, of my country and to be an American.
Please, do not forget what happened on this day .......

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

In 1977, when my mother was 35 years old, her parents gave her a book, The Silmarillion. I don’t believe she ever read it. I remember looking at the book with it’s strange cover. It was so gargantuan and the words miniscule, but I liked to look inside the cover where my grandparents had written: Imagination is the scissors of the mind, with which you trim and shape the material of reality - Love, Mom & Dad
Although long gone, that handwriting always looked so familiar and somehow comforting to me.
When I was in high school, I picked up the book a few times, but never did read it. At one point, it was on my sister’s bookshelves, although I don’t believe she ever read it, either. Eventually, without any memory as to how it happened, the book found it’s way to my bookshelves. From time to time I contemplated reading it, but only got as far as reading my grandparents’ inspirational words.
The same time my mother received The Silmarillion, my sister received The Early Diary of Anais Nin 1914-1920 with the inscription: Everyone’s life is a fairy tale, written by God’s finger - Love, Gram & Gramp
I loved their words even more than I loved Anais Nin’s which I finally read when I got out of the Air Force. My grandparents loved books and I loved that they loved books. I am not sure if my sister ever read her gift. We never talked about it.
The year my mother and sister received their books, I was given The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey. I loved mine best, because my grandparents actually wrote my name inside the cover: For Rebecca - May your imagination take wings and fly like the White Dragon - Love Gram & Gramp
I tried reading it on numerous occasions throughout my life and finally read it cover-to-cover last fall. It was a beautiful tale and I loved getting lost on Pern with the dragon riders and especially adored the little White Dragon and the gossipy fire lizards. I couldn’t believe I had never finished the book before! Maybe the timing was just finally right.
So, after thirty one years of seeing The Silmarillion on my bookshelves, I thought I should finally read it. I should trim my reality with the imagination scissors and see what class of artwork I may create.
I blew the dust from the cover, wiped the mold spores off the pages and put the moisture-plump book in my bag to carry on my commute. I settled into my seat on the Metro and read the Foreword ... and was lost. But I didn't give up there. I read the first section - all the way to page 22. The moldy pages made my eyes itch and water. Each time I tried to wipe them, my filthy fingers ground more mold into my irritated eyeballs and I began sneezing and wheezing.
The very first sentence was: There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Iluvatar; and he made the first Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of this thought, and they were with him before aught else was made.
So I give up.
I will not read The Silmarillion.
I feel like a failure. My grandparents are probably floating around my airspace disappointed with my lack of imagination. I am sorry for that! I am sure this is a charming, fanciful book, but it is not for me. My watery, itchy, allergy eyes and my untrimmed imagination will always cherish the book with my grandparents’ scratchy inscription and lovely, poetic wishes, but I think the most beautiful piece in the book lies no further than the front cover.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

I read The Year of Fog primarily on little planes jumping from Baltimore to Newark to Albany to Newark to Baltimore, and in little airports in between. It was a great book for that. Beautifully written, it read more like a journal or more like fact than fiction, which I liked. It captured my attention immediately and kept me interested and intrigued the whole time. It was very smart! I felt a kinship and compassion for the main character and became her champion from page one.
But, The Year of Fog is really a very sad book. I am not saying I need happy endings to define whether a book is good or bad. This is a very good book. But it's a good book like "We Were the Mulvaneys" was a good book. Well-written, beautifully staged, but just plain sad. Anti-climatically sad. The Year of Fog built so much hope and optimism and then just left me deflated. I just couldn't shake the overwhelming feeling of melancholy when I finished reading it. I closed the book and actually felt rather lonesome as I waited for my plane to taxi slowly back to the gate.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In the Woods by Tana French

You know what I wish? On an evening when I have not much to do, no reason to set the alarm in the morning, really nothing more pressing than the basic necessities for the next month or two (I should just end my wish there), I wish that some great story teller - David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs, Joseph Heller or Sylvia Plath, Burl Ives or hell, even Morag Joss (maybe she has an accent?!) - would sit down on the edge of my bed and whisper, “wanna hear a story?
I do!
You see, I haven’t been able to enjoy a good mystery for a long time. None of us can, really, because we’re just too smart. Even if I do fall for the little twists and turns, I know it’s not really the solution because I still have 172 pages left. Unless the author plans on just rehashing it all for the equivalent of another whole book, I know there’s going to be at least one more twist in the plot.
We all know it.
We all know that any movie that is under 90 minutes is pretty much a rip-off and anything over 2 hours is just plain ridiculous (I just drank a Diet Coke the size of my head, here, cut me some slack!), and we know there are precisely 12 minutes of trailers before the film begins, so we even know exactly how late we can arrive without missing anything!
We’re too smart for mysteries.
We always have been. Even when we were children, we knew that there was no way - - not Ponch nor Jon, not Starsky nor Hutch, not even Sabrina, Kelly and Jill put together were going to be able to wrap this thing up in the next seven minutes so we KNEW the truth of the situation. It was .... to be continued!
I didn’t dislike In the Woods, per se. I thought it was a decent book and I liked some of the ideas she threw at me, but I always knew it was a trick. At one point, the narrator gives me this little speech:
“I am intensely aware, by the way, that this story does not show me in a particularly flattering light. I am aware that, within an impressively short time of meeting me, (she) had me coming to heel like a well-trained dog ...
But before you you decide to despise me too thoroughly, consider this: she fooled you, too.”
No, she didn’t! I thought that character was schizo the first time I met her, so don’t you dare try to drag me down, Mr. Narrator, because I am smarter than that!
While reading it, although I was really beginning to loath this lead character, I thought I would just play along, collect my evidence and enjoy the ride. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t fall for any of the twists, no matter how hard I tried. (She did get me, once, I'll admit, because I thought there was no way it would be wrapped up at this point with so many pages left ... turns out, that was it.)
So, what I wish is that Ms. French would take me for a walk - why not? - into the woods. We would have our sleeping bags and a jug of wine, maybe a snack, and she would ask me in a soft, quiet voice, “wanna hear a story?”
And we would walk into the woods and find a place to camp. We’d light a fire and open the wine and she would simply tell me the story. Her voice would subtly change for each character and I would be able to feel her passion for the tale. I would not be aware of the time at all, so I would have no idea if the end was near! She would build tension and excitement! Each little crack or rustle in the trees around us would send me screaming and giggling until she could continue her narrative. And when she was finished, we would lie back in our sleeping bags, look at the stars in the sky, shudder as an owl cries out his mournful song, and I would say, “Good one, Tana. So, do you wanna hear a story....?”