Saturday, July 21, 2012

JUST TAKE ME BACK TO BRAMASOLE

“I had the urge to examine my life in another culture and move beyond what I knew.” ― Frances MayesUnder the Tuscan Sun

Usually, I try to read the book before I see the movie. "The Godfather," "Heartburn," "Rosemary's Baby" were all great books which added to my enjoyment of the movies. I must have seen  "Under the Tuscan Sun" at least fifteen times on TV, not to mention all the times I popped in the DVD. At some point during all those viewings, I  was honestly surprised to learn that the movie was loosely based on Frances Mayes' memoir, that Bramasole really exists!

I've always been a slow reader, so I set myself a goal for 2012: I was going to read, on average, a book each week.  Murder mysteries and thrillers are my favorites. But like Frances, I thought it was time that I "move beyond what I knew." So I read the first couple of sentences on Amazon:
I am about to buy a house in a foreign country. A house with the beautiful name of Bramasole.
And that's when I bought the book.

The book's 280 pages are deceptively long, partly due to the font size, which seemed smaller than I'm used to. Watching the movie first actually improved my interest in the book. Since the book is literary, I doubt I would have bought it without having seen the movie first. 


The book is about Bramasole and Tuscany, about restoring the villa, about cooking -- she's included quite a few recipes -- and it's about gardening. After reading about wasps in her book I may never eat another Fig Newton:
"[T]he fig flower is inside the fruit.  To pull one open is to look into a complex, primitive, infinitely sophisticated life cycle tableau.  Fig pollination takes place through an interaction with a particular kind of wasp about one eighth of an inch long.  The female bores into the developing flower inside the fig. Once in, she delves with her oviposter, a curved needle nose, into the female flower's ovary, depositing her own eggs.  If her oviposter can't reach the ovary (some of the flowers have long styles), she still fertilizes the fig flower with the pollen she collected from her travels.  Either way, one half of this symbiotic system is served--the wasp larvae develop if she has left her eggs or the pollinated fig flower produces seed.  If reincarnation is true, let me not come back as a fig wasp.  If the female can't find a suitable nest for her eggs, she usually dies of exhaustion inside the fig.  If she can, the wasps hatch inside the fig and all the males are born without wings.  Their sole, brief function is sex.  They get up and fertilize the females, then help them tunnel out of the fruit.  Then they die.  The females fly out, carrying enough sperm from the tryst to fertilize all their eggs.  Is this appetizing, to know that however luscious figs taste, each one is actually a little graveyard of wingless male wasps?  Or maybe the sensuality of the fruit comes from some flavor they dissolve into after short, sweet lives."
There are differences between the book and the movie. The biggest difference deals with Ed, an American. Ed is not the Italian Marcello in the movie. Ed and Frances both teach in universities in San Francisco. They are together in the beginning; there was no chance meeting of Ed in the book, like the impetuous fling when movie Francis met Marcello. I never learn from the book if they were married or not. I'm not even sure if Frances alone bought Bramasole or if she and Ed bought it together. In fact, there are few personal details about Frances in her memoir.  


I learned more about Frances in this interview . Like how her readers clamor to hear about Ed. (Were they expecting Marcello?) "Under the Tuscan Sun" may lack personal anecdotes, however Frances did open up in the interview and related this hilarious story:
She and Ed get married, and when her own daughter marries, she's embarrassed to relate, she has changed so much that she doesn't even recognize her ex-husband at the wedding. "I'm Frances, Ashley's mother,'' she says to him. Assuming she's joking, he replies that he is Ashley's father
I loved reading about the villa's restoration, but when Frances decided to take us on a 50-page tour of Tuscany, I almost shelved the book right then and there. Good, Lord, Frances, just take me back to Bramasole! I had googled Bramasole and discovered you can rent it. I wanted to find out how that happened -- Did she sell Bramasole? Did she turn it into a B&B or a hotel? -- so I skipped 'the tour' completely, jumping over those 50 pages, and finished the book. Frances never mentioned anything about renting it out. Instead, I did learn some of what has happened to Bramasole, since the book was published, at a site called Hooked on Houses: "Under the Tuscan Sun": The Real-Life Renovated Villa. I'm fairly certain Frances and Ed Mayes still own Bramasole, and I suspect they rent it out when they're staying at their other home in San Francisco. Apparently, lots of villa owners everywhere do that.

I gave the book 4 stars on Goodreads. I would have given it 5 stars had it not been for the Tuscany tour. 

P.S. Oh, and by the way, I've read 30 books in 29 weeks :~)


...



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"THE FIRST DAY I DID NOT THINK IT WAS FUNNY"


The first day I did not think it was funny. I didn't think it was funny the third day either, but I managed to make a little joke about it. "The most unfair thing about this whole business," I said, "is that I can't even date." Well, you had to be there, as they say, because when I put it down on paper it doesn't sound funny. But what made it funny (trust me) is the word 'date,' which when you say it out loud at the end of a sentence has a wonderful teenage quality, and since I am not a teenager (okay, I'm thirty-eight), and since the reason I was hardly in a position to date on first learning that my second husband had taken a lover was that I was seven months pregnant, I got a laugh on it... 

So begins Nora Ephron's book Heartburn. I read the book before I saw the movie. In fact, when I saw the previews for the 1986 movie, I decided to read the book first. After all these years, and after reading hundreds of books, that beginning remains the best beginning I have ever read. 

"Heartburn" was based on her marriage to Carl Bernstein, whom she described in the book as a man  "capable of having sex with a Venetian blind."  (I've often wondered if that boosted Carl's love life?) Nora is Rachel Samstat in the book (played by Meryl Streep in the movie) and Carl is Mark Forman (Jack Nicholson).

When Rachel confided in her friend, Julie, that Mark was cheating on her, Julie tells Rachael how she coped with her own husband's infidelity: "Every time he got on a plane, I would imagine the plane crash, and the funeral . . . and flirting at the funeral, and how soon I could start dating after the funeral..." I wonder if that's a true quote from one of Nora's friends or another great bit of writing? 

The Net is loaded with Nora Ephron articles about her life. She was a staunch Leftie whose anti-Right jabs have generated lots of bitter comments from conservatives. I'm a conservative, and while I hate her politics, I still love her writing. She was a talented writer who has been one of my inspirations. I prefer to avoid and/or overlook her political barbs -- there aren't that many in what I've read -- and enjoy her stories. Nora Ephron was that good a writer.

My sympathies to her family, especially Nicholas Pileggi, with whom she found true happiness. I doubt he's thinking of flirting at the funeral.

...

Take Two...

In this interview, Nora Ephron talks about how her parents didn't want to hear her "sad story." They told her, "Everything is copy. Everything is material,"  which she incorporated later into "Heartburn":

Arthur Siegal (Richard Masur): What can I say? I've always been terrible with colors. It comes from having grown up with the single-row box of crayons, instead of the big box. If I had had the big box, I would now know taupe and cerise and ecru. Instead, all I know is burnt sienna.
 Mark Forman (Jack Nicholson): I think there's a column in this.
 Arthur: Oh, God, Forman, every time I say something, it ends up in your column.
...


Take Three...

John Podhortz remembers Nora with Nora Ephron: A great NY dameNora Ephron, who died last night at the age of 71, may have been the quintessential Manhattanite of her time. The island was her muse, and she its great romanticizer.


...





Saturday, June 2, 2012

I COME TO PRAISE KINDLE, NOT TO BURY IT (HONESTLY)

When Kindle was being touted as the latest/greatest electronic gadget, I couldn't have cared less. Janet Reid couldn't stop gushing about hers and listed 10 Things I Love About My New Kindle, all of which make sense -- for Janet Reid. And, of course, her suck-up squad gushed right along with her. Personally, I just couldn't imagine snuggling up with an electronic device to read. 

I like books. I like the feel of books, the artwork, even the pages. I like flipping through books to find something. I've idled away hours browsing through bookstores. 

My process of picking a book is as follows: 
  1. If the title catches my attention, then
  2. I check the cover. If I like the cover, then
  3. I read the first page. If I like what I read, then
  4. I buy the book.

The cover artwork is more important to me than the title. One time in 2006, I bought a book just for its cover, The Right Madness, by James Crumley. It's a very evocative picture. Unfortunately, the cover had raised my expectations too high, because I just couldn't get into the story. So I donated the book to our library but kept the cover, which I still have. 

Amid all the Kindle hoopla, my husband asked me what I thought. Do you think you'd like a Kindle? To which I gave him my stock reply: No, because I can't imagine snuggling up with an electronic device to read.

Obviously he paid no attention to what I said because he gave me a Kindle for Christmas in 2010. I spent the rest of the day figuring out how to use it. Not that it was all that difficult; it's just that I find any written directions to be extremely 'challenging.' And I do mean extremely. 

The cost of Kindle books seemed a bit pricey to me, and let's face it, the freebies are old and boring. But I had to buy something, so I ended up with a cozy for $0.88. I don't really care for cozies so I've yet to read it. Several days later, I broke down and bought A Long Stone's Throw, by Alphie McCourt, and it was worth every penny of its $7.99 price. I can buy from my Kindle or from the Amazon site. It's quick and easy. A bit too easy. Just click! and the book is there in my Kindle. Just like that.

The novelty of Kindle was tarnished by my January VISA bill. A click! here and a click! there and pretty soon we're talking real money. I still prefer books, real books. Most of my real books are used copies, the majority of which were under $1. Many were just $0.01. Besides the cost, there are disadvantages to the Kindle.
  1. I can't thumb through a Kindle. As many times as I've used my Kindle, I keep trying to place a bookmark in the thing.
  2. Which reminds me: Locating a certain phrase or passage is not easy.
  3. I can't pass a good book on to a friend after I've enjoyed it.
  4. Sometimes I forget the title of what I'm reading. Normally, I'd just close the book and check the cover, but that's not easy. Don't laugh, but I've lost my place doing that.
  5. I miss looking at the book cover.

The one really good advantage about the Kindle is its speed in delivering your book. It's the one feature which causes me to click! In fact, it's addictive. 

...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

WET SOGGY MOLDY DAY

That's a great photo; I found it here when I googled for a "rainy day" image. It's not exactly rainy today. More like a soggy day. It's in the 60s, but the humidity level makes 'comfortable' impossible. 

It reminds me of the people I know who have moved down south because they can't stand winter. 

You should come down. You'd love it!
But what about the humidity? 
You'll get used to it. It takes about a year to acclimate.
Oh yeah? Well I've lived my whole life in NYS and I haven't acclimated yet to the damned humidity here!

These are the same people who can't live without AC. 

...

Friday, February 17, 2012

DALLIANCE IN A BLUE DRESS

I thought about titling this post DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS. Monica Lewinsky might have tempted Bill Clinton with her thongs, but she was not the devil in that sordid bit of history. Naive, most definitely. Stupid, possibly. What she was in 1998 was a twenty-something White House intern who was "desperately in love" with The President of the United States. No, it was Slick Willy who was the devil in that duo while she was nothing more than just another dalliance to him. 

Next Monday and Tuesday, February 20th and 21st, PBS is airing a biography of Bill Clinton, for which they interviewed Lucianne Goldberg

It's a fascinating interview in which Lucianne discusses her limited association with Linda Tripp
 I only saw her twice in my life, you know. I never, never-- was not her friend, and suddenly I'm thrown out there as her very best friend forever.
and her role as Tripp's literary agent. 
You know, I wanted the story to get out because I'm selling a book. You have to understand that. It was that as much as it was a political thing. It was nice that it was a political thing, because I didn't happen to agree with the Clinton administration. But I wasn't doing it for that reason. I was doing it because I was selling a book. I was representing a client.
and Linda Tripp's reason for writing the book
she was dedicated, she was serious about her job, and she was horrified about the Clintons. She was just appalled, and she wanted to write about it.
{snip} 
She was upset about his behavior with women, cause Monica was not the only one.
And, of course, Lucianne mentioned the blue dress:
Linda said she had been to the apartment and Monica had shown her a dress that had been stained, and she said she was gonna give it to her mother and have it dry cleaned. And Linda said, "Don't do that. Keep that dress." And she said, "Why?" And she said, "Because that's proof that the two of you had a relat- and if you ever, you know, if you're gonna get in trouble and you're gonna have to testify and you're gonna get charged with perjury and you're gonna this and you're gonna- you've got that dress."
Lucianne's association with Linda Tripp was short-lived
Goldberg: …Linda saying, "I can't talk, we're going down to get something to eat, and the, and the FBI is with me." And that was-- click, boom, that's it.
Producer: That was the last you ever you spoke to her?
Goldberg: That was the last I ever spoke to her.
and the book was never written.

The Clinton White House, which had long known of Bill's bimbo eruptions, kicked into high gear to keep their guy in office. Bill, of course, denied it, but few believed him. Not even Time magazine. Larry Flynt, of Hustler magazine, cooked up a scam to help refocus the public's attention:
HUSTLER magazine tricked conservative former House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston into thinking it had proof of his extramarital affairs in 1998, forcing him to resign and taking the heat off then-sex-scandal-beleaguered President Bill Clinton.
Things got so desperate that right before the Monica story broke, Bill and Hillary put on their swimsuits and had their picture taken -- supposedly without their knowledge (wink wink nudge nudge) -- while dancing on the beach -- to no music (a'hem).

Where are Linda and Monica now?

Linda Tripp got married, and she and her husband own a Christmas store in Middleburg, VA.
She appears to have higher esteem for President-elect Barack Obama than for his Democratic predecessor. Tracked down at her store by the website wowOwow.com in the days following the election, she wrote in an email: "I believe President-elect Obama possesses an instantly recognizable purity of soul that, coupled with his brilliance, and, of course, his eloquence, brought quite unimaginable and long-awaited magic to the country, transforming red and blue states, quite literally, into 'The Color Purple.'"
I wonder if Linda still feels the same way about Obama?

Monica has pretty much shunned publicity and tried to get on with her life.
In 2005, she left the U.S. and moved to London, attending the London School of Economics and graduating with a masters in social psychology in 2006.While she has given interviews on the subject, most notably in an HBO special titled “Monica in Black and White,” she has kept an extremely low profile.
Bill and Hillary are making oodles of money, which seems only fitting because  Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, is reportedly in talks over becoming the new president of the World Bank, after Robert Zoellick confirmed he is to step down.

~~~

Thursday, February 16, 2012

WHAT'S SARAH PALIN UP TO NOW? (tee hee hee)

Remember when Her Royal Clintoness started wearing that pin of a phoenix on a pearl? It was dubbed the Illuminati Pin. Then some of her friends and associates began showing up wearing one, too, like Slick Willie's personal secretary, Bettie Currie. Then-Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, wore one in a print ad for milk. There's even a picture of Cindy McCain wearing one.  That pin fostered a lot of juicy conspiracy theories. Personally, I think it's just a phoenix on a pearl, but who am I to disparage the tinfoil hats?

Today when I saw Sarah Palin doing this interview, I noticed her HOOAH pin. Later, when asked, she said the pin was meant as support for our troops. But consider the conspiracy theories that could crop up with Sarah Palin wearing that pin. Especially if we all sport one ;~)

So, if you're interested, you can get one through Amazon or at The Patriot Post Shop. Or if you're really out for fun, try a pair of Hooah! Military Shorts.

UPDATE: And I thought I was the only one who spotted that pin. Silly me. The Hill noticed and and Zimbio and Linda Dean. 
~~~

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO D.C.

That's Congressman Eric Massa (D - NY). He's from Corning, NY, and was our representative here in NYS's 29th district from January 2009 until he resigned in utter disgrace in March 2010. 

I was reminded of Massa yesterday when Rush referenced a new study which concluded electric cars may be more harmful than gasoline cars

Eric Massa putting HR 676 on the front burner. Eric Massa made a name for himself by carrying a dogeared copy of the then healthcare bill and claiming he was the only member who had read the massive bill from cover to cover. Within less than a week of being sworn in as our new Congressman, he proudly informed Rep. John Conyers that he will co-sponsor HR676.  

But I'll bet you had forgotten all that. I'll bet other things come to mind when you think of Eric Massa , things like tickle parties, "Massa massages," "inappropriate" behavior, and men accusing Massa of sexual harassment:
"He wakes up to Massa undoing his pants trying to snorkel him," Clarke said, adding no one complained for fear of retaliation.
          {snip}
"The harassment is probably much worse than we've heard," Sloan said, noting how quick Democratic leaders were to demand he leave.
He was given the entire hour on Glenn Beck's TV show on March 9, 2010, the day after he resigned. Beck had hyped the show after having met with Massa, believing Massa would talk about the corruption in DC. Instead, Massa, who sounded and looked remarkably like Joe Pesci's character in My Cousin Vinny, played the sympathy card saying how he couldn't fight the White House, the Democratic Party, the ethics charges and cancer simultaneously. All of which caused Beck to say: I think this is the first time I have wasted an hour of your time.

But back to that picture. It was taken the day Massa was driving to DC for his swearing in ceremony. Being the good Progressive that he is, and realizing a fabulous photo opportunity, he announced he would drive a Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle to DC to be sworn in. Except there was a problem:

“The range of the Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle is about 200 miles, according to G.M., and the distance from Corning to Washington is roughly 280 miles, which means Mr. Massa would have had to refill the tank with hydrogen somewhere along the way — but there are no hydrogen stations on the most direct route from Corning to Washington.

The solution: two Equinoxes.Carolyn Markey, a G.M. spokeswoman, said Mr. Massa drove one Equinox from Corning to Harrisburg, Pa., where a second Equinox was waiting for him. He then drove it to Washington, where the above photo was snapped.In order to deliver and retrieve the Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles, Ms. Markey said, two Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid S.U.V.’s were used as tow vehicles: one to tow the first Equinox back up to Honeoye Falls, and another to tow the second Equinox, which originated in Washington, up to Harrisburg for the trip back down. So essentially, the entire 280-mile trip was also made by a Tahoe Hybrid, which gets about 20 miles a gallon on the highway. Towing another S.U.V. lowers that gas mileage.”
If only it was a parody and not real.

You knew this would happen:  someone gave that picture a new caption. Instead of becoming a champion for single-payer healthcare (which I oppose), Eric Massa became a dirty joke. I think there are a lot of dirty jokes in DC -- on both sides of the aisle. 
~~~




Monday, February 6, 2012

TOO MANY ROOMS

There's a scene in Dr. Zhivago in which Yuri Zhivago returns  from the war to his home in Moscow. During his absence it had been confiscated. Whole families now lived in single rooms. As a result, the once-magnificent mansion had obviously deteriorated. Yuri was met by the angry residents and informed that the house was now home to thirteen families. 

I was reminded of that when I read UK elderly are “wasting too many bedrooms” London, England - In yet another outrageous piece of social engineering from our coalition government, pensioners will be encouraged to downsize to smaller properties allowing local councils to rent their homes out as council houses and manage the tenancy.


How long before we're told we have too many rooms?

~~~

Friday, January 27, 2012

AN ECONOMIC PLAN WIMPY COULD LOVE


H/t  ZeroHedge for the following...

Here is a dummies guide to what went wrong in Europe:
{snip}
Word gets around about Helga's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Helga's bar.




~~~

"AND THAT,” SAID FATHER O’ROURKE, “IS GOSSIP!”

I learned in my RCIA class recently that gossip is a mortal sin, as in #9: Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Our class had a rousing discussion on the subject and decided that gossip might also be covered in #8: Thou shall not steal. Steal, as in robbing someone of their good character. 
Remember Richard Jewell? He was wrongly identified as the 1996 Olympic Park bomber. For years his life was made hell. When he was finally cleared in 2005 he asked, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?"
One of my RCIA classmates said the sermon in the movie "Doubt," with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, was the best illustration of gossip. "And that," said Father O'Rourke, "is gossip!" 




And now for something completely different...

> I'll bet you can't guess what Ozzy Osbourne's secret fantasy is. I kid you not.


~~~

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ANOTHER BOOK TO ADD TO THE LIST

I first heard of Gianrico Carofiglio's books last fall while reading Janet Reid's blog:
Previously available only at Bitter Lemon Press in the UK (one of my favorite publishing company names of all time), I'm a devoted fan of this writer.
I had to agree with her about the name Bitter Lemon Press. Love that name. I ordered his first book, Involuntary Witness and loved it, so I ordered the second book, A Walk in the DarkI enjoyed his second book more than the first.

Carofiglio has a unique style of writing, fairly simple and leisurely, like an Italian siesta. He spares the reader much of the descriptive garbage other writers feel is so friggin' necessary, although God only knows why they do. While there is an element of mystery, I'd hardly describe either of these two books as "thrillers," as the New Yorker did in the back cover blurb of this one. And, yet, I did race to finish each book. When I have the money, I'll order his third book, Reasonable Doubts.

~~~

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"YOU HAVE AN IDEA, YOU WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WANNA SAY"

Bill Peschel's posts are always fascinating, loaded with trivia about famous people. He wrote a book called Writers Gone Wild (I bought 2 copies and gave one to a friend):

"If you’ve imagined famous writers to be desk-bound drudge, think again. Writers Gone Wild rips back the (book) covers and reveals the seamy underside of the writing life." 

I found that picture of Marilyn Monroe, by Eve Arnold, via a link in Peschel's sidebar. Click on the picture and you'll notice the book is "Ulysses," by James Joyce. Somehow I doubt Marilyn actually read the book. I lived in a college town when I was in high school, and I was always trying to impress the college boys with my brains. So, I would prominently carry some snobbish literary doorstop in public, something I'd never read, of course. Eventually, it occurred to me that college boys were not interested in girls' brains. I wonder how many men noticed the title of the book Marilyn's holding? I looked, but then I'm a woman.

But I digress...

In Peschel's latest post, he ponders Why successful writers are doing more than you (and me) :
"If you’re thinking about why you’re not a success, it’s because you’re thinking about why you’re not a success. 
In other words, self-reflective people, people who think about things, start farther behind the success curve as people who don’t think about such things."
I've never wondered why I'm not a 'successful' writer; I know why. I've written a few things, and I've actually sold two pieces. I was paid $125 for a guest op-ed in USA Today back in 1992, and I sold  a short story for $5In fact I write so little that I can hardly refer to myself as a 'writer.' But I love it when an idea clicks, because even though the writing can be stressful at times, there's nothing like a creative high. So, I began blogging again just to kick-start my brain and get those dusty synapses firing again.

But Peschel does have a point.

There's a great scene in the movie "Get Shorty" in which Chili Palmer (John Travolta) and Bo Catlett (Delroy Lindo) discuss writing a movie script.
CHILI: You know how to write one of these? 
BO CATLETT: There's nothin' to know. You have an idea, you write down what you wanna say. Then you get somebody to add in the commas and shit where they belong, if you aren't positive yourself. Maybe fix up the spelling where you have some tricky words . . . although I've seen scripts where I know words weren't spelled right and there was hardly any commas in it at all. So I don't think it's too important. Anyway, you come to the last page you write in 'Fade out' and that's the end, you're done. 
CHILI: That's all there is to it, huh? 
BO CATLETT: That's all.
Nothing "self-reflective" about Bo. Just write down what you wanna say. That's it. Y'gotta love the simplicity. I'm sure there are writers who can do exactly that: just write. I'm not that kind of writer. I think too much about details before I ever type one letter -- punctuation, back story, names, even script format sometimes -- and it trips me up every time. I don't know how to "just write." And lately the ideas have dried up. I'm hoping blogging will prime the pump.

Btw, I know the conventional wisdom is that Travolta re-energized his career with "Pulp Fiction," but I say it was doing Get Shorty. It's one of the funniest movies ever. And who can ever forget Dennis Farina: "I'm Ray Barboni from Miami"  “They say the fucking smog is the fucking reason you have such beautiful fucking sunsets.”
~~~

Friday, January 13, 2012

SNOW

It doesn't look like much, but we had enough snow to put schools on a 2-hr. delay this morning. Then again, this was the first real amount of snow we've had this winter. It rained last night and then turned to snow, but not before icing everything in the process. So while town roads were okay, I can imagine that back roads were a mess. To make matters worse, it was snowing heavily early this morning. I took that picture at 1:00 P.M. -- just a little while ago -- after the road was plowed and salted.

We have enough snow to make this Infiniti Commercial "Snowball" 


> 5:00 P.M. IDIOTS ON PARADE... I sat in Little M's elementary school parking lot this afternoon observing the kids as they filed out and headed home. So many of them were inadequately dressed for the weather. It was a blustery 24* and snowing steadily, yet there were a number of kids whose jackets were open and flapping in the wind. Some didn't even wear jackets. Most of the kids wore no hats, and almost all wore no gloves or boots. There was a woman janitor who was talking on her cell phone as she was salting the walks. She was wearing sneakers, jeans and a thin t-shirt. None of these people lack the funds for winter clothing; they simply chose not to wear it. When I was a kid, even the poorest kids had winter clothing. No one thought it looked 'cool' to go outside without a winter coat. The kids these days are idiots.

~~~

Thursday, January 12, 2012

THE REDEMPTION OF WORK

I've been reading "The King of Lies" by John Hart. I didn't take to the main character, a lawyer nicknamed Work, and not because he's a lawyer but because he made such stupid choices. He was full of angst, constantly lamenting over problems that would do Oprah proud. I wanted to b-slap him upside the head and yell, SNAP OUT OF IT! GROW A PAIR! Also, Hart likes to lard his story with unnecessary description and back story which slows the reader. However, when the story finally kicked into gear, it moved along at a decent clip. In fact, I rushed to finish the last third of the book last night, and I wasn't disappointed. I thought I knew who the murderer was and I was wrong, although I never care if I figure it out or not. Yesterday, I wrote what I didn't like about it; now I'll tell you what I did like.

I liked the body count. Most of the murder mysteries I read begin with one murder victim, and at some point, the bodies begin piling up. I figure the writer begins to kill off people in order to ratchet up suspense or confusion, or maybe just to fill up space. Unless the killer is a serial killer, piling up bodies is simply implausible, especially when the story takes place in a small town or country setting. Seriously, when does that ever happen? Certainly not in the village where I live. Great characters can overcome high body counts. Still, too many bodies can easily spoil a good story. "The King of Lies" has one murder victim. Just one.

The ending was believable. In fact, the entire story was believable. Some people may not buy Work's decision concerning his inheritance, but I did.

For all the complaints I had yesterday about the main character -- "He drinks to oblivion and then acts, he cheats on his wife, and he's spineless." --  Work eventually redeemed himself.

~~~

In other news...

iPhone ringer stops symphonyDuring the last movement of the monumental and emotional 82-minute work, an iPhone ringtone went off in the front row. “It simply didn’t stop,” a gobsmacked concert attendee told Page Six.

> OH. MY. GOSH. Say it ain't so! Maker of Twinkies, Wonder Bread files for bankruptcy

> You can always visit the beach with Southampton's Coopers Beach live stream video webcam

~~~

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

THIS LAWYER IS A PIECE OF WORK

Have you ever read a book and didn't like the main character? That's the problem I'm having with The King of Lies by John Hart. Jackson Workman Pickens, known as "Work," is a lawyer who makes idiotic choices. He drinks to oblivion and then acts, he cheats on his wife, and he's spineless.

As an adult, he didn't stand up to his bastard of a father to help protect his sister and their mother. One night the father backhands the mother, knocking her down a flight of stairs, killing her in the process. The father disappears the same night and turns up murdered eighteen months later.

What does Work do? Well, he didn't man up when needed. Not that I blame him for his father's actions. His despicable father clearly killed the mother, whether "accidentally" or not. But Work could have stood up to his father and done something to help protect his emotionally battered sister and mother, and he didn't. Then the father extracts Work's co-operation:
"It was an accident, boy. You see that, don't you, son?"
I looked into his eyes, saw for the first time that he needed me, and felt myself nod; it was an irrevocable step." 
Good boy," he said. 
Then the ground fell away and I tumbled into the deep well of self-loathing. 
I have yet to find its bottom.
When the father's body was discovered with two bullets in his head, leaving a $40 million estate, the police naturally want to speak with all concerned. So what does Work, the lawyer, do? He once again drinks to oblivion, uses his long-suffering girlfriend for comfort, and misses one appointment after another with Detective Mills. When Work finally meets with Det. Mills, he lies.

I get the impression John Hart wants me to sympathize with Work, but I don't. I can't, because the character, as written, is an idiot. In fact, I find Hart's ploy insulting.

And while I'm at it, I've got one more criticism, and it's a biggie. The sex scenes are not only gratuitous, they're horrible. To be fair, most writers simply cannot write sex scenes. Hart obviously relishes writing about sex. One scene involves the rape of a teenage girl. Hart went into unnecessary details, larding the passage with far too much description, so much so that I skipped over half of it. I could almost picture Hart salivating over his keyboard. So far, the only writer who has a talent for writing about sex (in my opinion) is Janet Evanovich in her Stephanie Plum books. The scenes are pithy and fit the narrative, and they leave enough to the imagination to tingle my expectations without delving into syrupy, sloppy passages. (I've read the first ten books, or so, in the series.)

If the story was a dud, I would have ditched "The King of Lies" long before now. I'm about a third of the way into the book, and the story is finally picking up. I want to find out what happens. It's a shame that Work is such a spineless, unlikable character. So far, the only character I do like is Det. Mills.

"A STRIKING NEW TALENT"?  Yes, I'd agree John Hart does have talent.

"READS LIKE A BOOK ON FIRE"?  Not quite. The sloppy sections extinguish any flames.

"EXCEPTIONALLY DEEP AND COMPLEX"? Hardly.

~~~

In other news...


Man wears ‘crack jacket’ to court:  A man accused of drug trafficking showed up for court Friday in Fort Lauderdale sporting a jacket that bore a cartoon-style recipe for cooking crack cocaine.

Greece Bank Run Shows No Sign Of Stopping: Deposit OutflowsContinue In November: The year is not over yet, and already Greece's banks have lost €36.7 billion of their deposit base in 2011, and a whopping €64.6 billion since the beginning of 2010, which is down from €233 billion to €173 billion in under two years.



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Friday, January 6, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

DIVINE DECADENCE, DARLING!

Two stories today which I find just incredible.

Just days before the divorce was finalized, Joanne startled Corzine by suddenly insisting on keeping the Sagaponack house. Corzine had hoped it would become a gathering place for their children and a way to rebuild his ties to them. But Joanne insisted, and he gave in, valuing the house at roughly $9 million. That might have been the end of the story, except that Joanne has what one friend calls ‘a real nose for real estate.’ In 2010, after renting the house for a stunning $900,000 for a single summer, she sold it for $44 million. The buyer was none other than David Tepper. Corzine, friends say, was apoplectic. One suspects he grew even angrier when Tepper tore down the house to build one of his own. ‘That was just a massive fuck-you to Jon,’ recalls a friend.”

The guy paid $44 MILLION DOLLAR$ for a mansion only to tear it down to build another? Unbelievable. And he wasn't the only one.

Elin Nordegren is a human wrecking machine ... who just LEVELED her brand new $12 MILLION Florida mansion ... because, well, she can afford it. {snip} We're told Nordegren has hired a high-priced architect to build her dream home…

 Money money money money...

~~~

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I FINALLY MEET TESS MONAGHAN

When I still had some available discretionary funds, I bought stacks of books, mostly used. Last year alone I ordered 84 books through Amazon. I also ordered 40 DVDs. I figured when the economy takes its last gasp, I'll at least have books to read and movies to watch. So I stockpiled books (and movies) the way some people stockpile canned goods. 

I like murder mysteries and thrillers, and I prefer male protagonists. I rarely meet a female protagonist I like. The one exception is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, the spunky bounty hunter from Joy-zee. I read the first ten books in the series, maybe a couple more, and absolutely loved them. Then I chickened out, afraid the writing would read as though it had been phoned in, the stories redundant. 

As protagonists go,  Stephanie Plum is the exception, not the rule. 

Enter The Girl in the Green Raincoat, by Laura Lippman. It's a Tess Monaghan novel, the 11th in the series, but my first. I usually try to read a series in order, from first onward. I'm sure I looked at the previous books in the series, but obviously something just didn't click. Maybe because it was a Tess and not a Tom. And then I saw that luscious emerald green cover on Amazon and read the first page, and I was sold. 

It's a breezy read, both in length -- it's a mere 158 pages -- and in style. I loved the Rear Window set-up. In fact, I'm pea-green with envy it's now been done and not by me. Tess Monahagn is no Stephanie Plum. I can relate more to Stephanie than I can relate to Tess, but I'd like to try the first Tess book, Baltimore Blues. Once in a while a breezy read is refreshing. 
~~~

In other news...

> Just 9* this morning when I taxied grandchildren to school and 18* when I picked up Little M this afternoon.

> I discovered the "OFF" button will not, I repeat, will NOT turn on a curling iron no matter how many times you frantically hit the button. Amazingly enough, swearing doesn't help, either.

~~~

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

NOT QUITE VARYKINO

Christmas vacation is officially over and schools are back in session,  which means I'm back in the saddle again.

The mild weather is history, as well. You can identify the older windows in our home by the iced panes. My car was caked with globs of ice, and it was 15* when I picked up the grandchildren to cart them off to school. It was 18* when I picked up Little M, the third-grader, and took him home.  

Not quite Varykino, still, winter has arrived.





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Monday, January 2, 2012

"PRIDEFULLY IGNORANT" OR JUST NOSTALGIC?


One afternoon while my mother was next door with Granny Harris, rocking and chatting with her on her front porch, Granny’s telephone rang. The call was for my mother. Mrs. Goodier, the telephone operator, could see from her switchboard directly across the street that the reason my mother wasn't answering her own phone was because she was next door with Granny Harris. So Mrs. Goodier rang Granny's number to get in touch with my mother (a.k.a. call forwarding).

The time was the mid-1950s, when women were known as Mrs. or Miss, a time when a small town's informational superhighway was nothing more than a lady with a headset and a memory for details. 

In the village where I grew up, there was no Ma Bell conglomerate, just the Dimmock Hollow Telephone Company situated in the living room of a home on Main Street. Owing to the low population, the phone numbers were just three digits. Ours was 112 and my grandparents' was 290. But it really wasn't necessary to know anyone's number since the operator knew everyone anyway.  That picture is of Mrs. CA Bruning, switchboard operator and German translator, in Iowa,  but it looks pretty much the way I remember the Dimmock Hollow Telephone Company back in the mid-1950s.

On one particularly nasty winter's morning, my mother had trouble driving to work because the roads had not yet been sanded. When my mother called her boss -- which meant, of course, going through Mrs. Goodier first -- he advised my mother not to bother until the roads were safe. Later that morning, Mrs. Goodier rang my mother to inform her that the roads had been plowed and sanded.

There were no cell phones or beepers in the 50s, just the switchboard operator. Doctors made house-calls back then, and should you need to contact him while he was making his rounds, the operator knew exactly where to reach him. You could always count on the operator during any emergency -- fire, accident or whatever. Best of all, the operator was the first one to learn when school was closed for a snow day.


What generated this flood of memories was The Attack of the Pridefully Ignorant: "I pointed out that we were in the Information Age and that practically everyone who communicated did so using digital tools. About five seconds into my response, I just changed the subject; I am not prepared to argue with the pridefully ignorant." 

I'm not a Luddite; I'm not one to thwart progress. We have one PC and two laptops at home. I readily admit cell phones are indispensable. Each of our four grandchildren has one. They master technology long before I ever do. They can txt ms and tweet and type their stream-of-consciousness into their FB pages with ease. But suggest they write a letter...? Which is why in this reach-out-and-touch-y'all society, we seem to communicate less on a personal level. I'm from an age when there used to be an informational highway without much of the fuss. It has been my experience that for the acquisition and dissemination of data, you couldn’t beat the switchboard operator.

Speaking of cell phones... My butt just hung up on you.

~~~

On to today's news...
We have our first snowfall of the season. It's a blustery 30*, with a wind chill of 16*. Tonight the mercury will dip to 4*.  This should please our neighbors, a young couple from Florida who have been anxious to see snow for the first time.


Since New Year's was on a Sunday, today is a legal holiday. Of course. I'm waiting for tomorrow when life should kick into gear again, when the mailman is back on his route and Rush is back on the air and all's right with the world.

~~~

Sunday, January 1, 2012

NEW YEAR'S: IT'S NOTHING SPECIAL

I asked my 10-year-old grandson, Little H, if he stayed up to watch the ball drop last night. 
Nah. I've stayed up before and seen it, and let me tell'ya, it's nothing special. We watched it on the news this morning, instead. 
He's ten and he's already figured it out. I took him to mass at St. Vincent's this morning, and he sat there quietly devising a new way to surreptitiously display his middle finger. Like I said, he's ten.

The day began bright and sunny, in the mid-40s -- more like Easter Sunday instead of New Year's Day -- and by midday it morphed into dreary and dismal, which I wouldn't mind if I had that fireplace.

~~~