Thursday, February 02, 2023

She's just the cutest

On really cold days, Connie can't get close enough to the heat. She's affectionate, alert, and seems to be feeling fine.

But she's not fine. She has a heart murmur and a tooth that needs extraction. Because she's a senior citizen -- about 10 years old -- these conditions can be worrisome. So she had a full battery of tests, both blood tests and an EKG. 

This was a nightmare for her. She never goes outside. (I could leave the front door open and she wouldn't go near it.) So to be confronted by strange smells and sounds, manhandled by strangers, stabbed with needles, shaved (for the EKG) was as bad as it gets. Yet the vet tech called her "one of the sweetest cats ever."*

All the test results are back. The heart murmur is considered "minor," which is very good news. Her kidneys aren't performing as efficiently as they should, but that's not unusual in a lady her age. 

So our next step is the tooth extraction and, if necessary, a biopsy of the tenacious sore inside her mouth. Or maybe not. The animal hospital my vet has referred me to specializes in this sort of thing and we're going to let them decide.

Because she's behaving normally and her test results were better than I expected, I'm going to schedule her for March. I have a trip to Tampa scheduled for the end of February (hello, Anthony Rizzo!) and I don't want to leave her when she's recovering.

I don't know how people with human children do it. These decisions are hard!


*The same vet tech never said that about my beige demon, Reynaldo. 😼

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #295

Thirteen "Crimes of the Century." I've been reading Vincent Bugliosi's dissection of the JFK Assassination and agree that murder was the most consequential crime of the 20th century. It changed everything about American life, from the amendment of our Constitution to ensure we always have a Vice President, to how news is covered, to how we mourn.

Yet the 1900's were filled with Crimes of the Century. Here are just 13 that were referred to that way by Time, Life, or Newsweek.

1. The Fatty Arbuckle Scandal (1920). A popular movie comedian was arrested for rape and murder. Fatty Arbuckle was tried three times (the first two ended in mistrials) and was ultimately acquitted, but his career was over.

2. Leopold and Loeb (1924). Two affluent students at the University of Chicago decided to commit the perfect crime. They didn't. Bobby Franks was reported missing on May 21. By May 31, the state's attorney announced to the press that both suspects had confessed. What made this shocking wasn't the crime as much as the motive. Two boys murdered a third ... just to see if they could. Legal genius Clarence Darrow successfully saved them from the death penalty. Not because they weren't guilty, but because Leopold and Loeb were teenagers at the time of the murder.

3. Lindbergh Kidnapping (1932). The infant child of American hero Charles Lindbergh was abducted from their home and found dead 11 days later. A carpenter was convicted and sentenced to death for murder. Later that year, a law was passed to make kidnapping a federal offense.

4. The Brink's Job (1950). Nearly $3 million (almost $35 million in today's dollars) was lifted from the Brink's building in Boston. This one went unsolved until just days before the statute of limitations expired and one of the crooks squealed on the others.

5. The Lana Turner Affair (1958). Johnny Stompanato, a well-known mobster, was found dead in his girlfriend's Los Angeles home. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal except his girlfriend was a movie star and he was stabbed by a 14-year-old girl. She was the daughter of sex symbol Lana Turner, who overheard a violent fight and took a knife from the kitchen to defend her mother. The girl was cleared of all charges, but you can imagine what a big freaking deal this was. And oh! The rumors! Lana really did it and her daughter took the rap ... it was a love triangle and Johnny was doing both mother and daughter ... Unlike Fatty Arbuckle, Lana Turner's career was revived by the scandal, enabling her to transition from sex symbol to "suffering mother" roles in big screen Technicolor melodramas.

6. Richard Speck (1966). A drifter broke in and held 9 student nurses captive for about four hours, raping and stabbing 8. He would have gotten away with it if the 9th, Corazon Amurao, hadn't slipped silently under a bed, listening in terror to the slaughter but then bravely leading Chicago police to capture Richard Speck. First she described him to authorities (right down to his "Born to Raise Hell" tattoo) and then she faced him and testified against him in court. I was only a little girl, but I recall thinking Corazon Amurao behaved as bravely as any soldier in battle. I'm happy to report that she became a nurse, had a long, successful career, and is a grandmother.

7. The Tate-Labianca Murders (1969). 7 people -- including actress Sharon Tate -- were killed in two incidents in August 1969. I bet you know the rest.

8. The Patty Hearst Kidnapping (1974). Self-styled terrorists broke in and kidnapped a 19-year-old girl at gunpoint and kept her in a closet for 8 weeks. I bet you know the rest.

9. The Son of Sam (1977). David Berkowitz committed 8 shootings, killing 6, using a .44 caliber handgun. He taunted New York police by sending letters to New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin. He is currently serving six consecutive life sentences.

10. John Wayne Gacy (1978). No one knows for sure how many boys John Gacy murdered because many of them were gay runaways and in the 1970s, parents weren't willing to come forward and cooperate with police because they were ashamed their sons were homosexual. (No, I'm not kidding.) The last boy he kidnapped was much-loved by his family and when the 15-year-old failed to come home from his after-school job, a police investigation led to Gacy's home in Norridge, IL. Authorities were shocked to find 26 boys buried under his crawlspace. 4 more were retrieved from Des Plaines River. 5 of the victims remain unidentified to this day. Gacy was put to death by the State of Illinois in 1994. I'm against the death penalty, but this sadistic SOB rapist murderer has given me pause. He was a monster.

11. America's Biggest Art Heist (1990). Two men dressed as police officers gained entry into a Boston art gallery after closing. They tied up the guards and left with 34 works of art (including Vermeer, Degas, and Rembrandt) worth between $300 and $500 million. Law enforcement was confused by the choice of paintings (and one vase), for while the ones snatched are valuable, better known and more expensive pieces were untouched. This crime remains unsolved, though the FBI seems pretty sure it was done by the mafia on the behest of a very, very well-to-do art collector who paid upfront for specific pieces for his personal enjoyment.

12. The OJ Simpson Case (1994). A retired running back was first found not guilty in criminal court but then found liable in civil court for the murder of his ex-wife and a young man in the courtyard of her home. I bet you know the rest.

13. The Columbine Massacre (1999). The first school shooting. Alas, not the last.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Sunday Stealing

STOLEN FROM PINTEREST

1. when did you last sing to yourself I sing to myself every morning along with the shower radio. This morning it was the Spinners' "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love."

2. if you’re male, would you ever rock black nail polish? if you’re female, would you ever rock really really short hair? I wear my hair short, but not Sinead O'Connor short. I wouldn't. My hair is my thing.

3. what is the greatest accomplishment of your life? I am pleased that my life has touched the lives of others in a meaningful way. You know, a la George Bailey.

4. what is the first happy memory that comes to mind, recent or otherwise? Recent: My cat Connie has spent a lot of time at the vet over the last week or so. It's been difficult for her because she's shy and doesn't understand what is happening. Strange people manhandling her! New smells! Dogs in close proximity! So it touched my heart and made me so happy to wake up to find her curled up asleep on the pillow beside me. She is happy to be home and trusts me.

5. if you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Of course. It's an overwhelming question so I don't have a quick answer, but I'm sure I would organize myself and make it easier to make each day count.

6. do you have a bucket list? if so, what are the top three things? I don't do the bucket list thing. It's  things you want to do before you kick the bucket, aka die. Why would I want to accomplish things that bring me closer to death?

7. how do you feel about tattoos and piercings? Everyone should do whatever they want.

8. do you feel you had a happy childhood? No. But it had happy moments.

8. when did you last cry in front of another person? Back in September. I was sick and scared and overwhelmed. It was memorable because I've been working since I was 17 and this was the only time I ever cried in a professional setting. I'll always remember how comforting my newest team member was. Rita kept saying, "I've got you, girlie." 

9. who in the world would you most like to receive a letter from and what would you want it to say? I have three friends that worry about almost constantly -- Henry, John and my oldest friend. I'd love to hear from any one of the three that they are happy and at peace.

10. what is your night time routine? I make sure that my Elvis/Graceland mug is full of water and right where I can reach it overnight. With my proclivity for kidney stones, I'm supposed to stay hydrated.

11. when was your last 3am conversation with someone, and who were they to you? It was probably my oldest friend because she lives in California, two hours earlier so it was only 1am for her.

12. if you were about to die, and you could only say one more sentence to one person, what would you say and to whom? I need more context. It would be different if I were falling from the sky in a plane crash than if I'm in a bed in assisted living.

13. what is your opinion on brown eyes? His are bottomless and beautiful.

14. pick a quote and describe what it means to you personally. JFK: "One person can make a difference, and everyone should try." We're all capable of kindness and making the right choices. Those kindnesses and choices reverberate. 

15. what would you title the autobiography of your life so far? What the Ever-Loving F? It's a phrase I find myself saying more and more often.



 

The cruelty is the point

Another conspiracy theory debunked. Paul Pelosi obviously wasn't embarrassed at home in a gay tryst. He was the victim of a violent attack at the hands of a home invader. It was an act of political violence, and everyone should be horrified.

Except we aren't. Some proud members of the GOP made fun of the attack. Others made the victim complicit. I doubt, though, that any of them are ashamed.

I remember a comment Mary Trump made about her famous uncle. "The cruelty is the point." Some MAGA folks equate cruelty with strength and strength with power. What galls me about them is that they uniformly claim to be Christian. Their behavior reflects what I learned in the schoolyard, not in Sunday School. 

Adam Kinzinger is a former representative with whom I agree on almost no policy issues. But I have never doubted that he is decent and has a moral compass. Maybe because he's a decorated veteran who flew missions in Afghanistan, he doesn't feel the need to prove his bravery by being bitchy at the keyboard. Anyway, I love his Twitter post.


See it on his feed here.

And I'll leave you with the wildly witty scion of the Trump family. .

 

The Republican party cast out Kinzinger and seems to embrace the Trumps. The GOP is the party of casual cruelty.



Friday, January 27, 2023

Saturday 9

 Saturday 9: On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe (1946)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
 
1) In this song, Judy Garland sings about the train whistle and wheels. What sounds make you happy? There's a ton of pleasure and comfort to be derived from a cat's purr.
 
2) She tells us that, since she loves dreaming of train travel, she must have "a little gypsy in her heart." How about you? Do you often dream of visiting faraway places? Yes. If I had unlimited funds (I don't) there are vacation spots I'd love to return to. Especially Colonial Williamsburg. I loved spending half my visit immersing myself in history, the other half "in pursuit of wellness" at the resort spa. Bliss!
 
The courtyard of the Col. Williamsburg Spa

3) Judy sings about a future when she's "old and gray and settled down." At what age do you consider a person is old? I am now 65 and consider myself old. Insurance companies predict I'll live another 15 years. I am grateful I still feel as good as I do. It's funny, but whenever I think about the passage of time and aging, this same moment pops into my head. I'm 9 years old, stretched out on the grass in the backyard, reading this book. I have no idea why this book or that moment are so indelible, but they are.

4) This song is from the movie, The Harvey Girls. Filming was a time of stress for Judy. She was appearing before the cameras by day (she sprained her ankle in a scene where slips down a hill), recording the soundtrack by night, and dealing with lawyers regarding her divorce from composer David Rose. Yet watching the movie, none of the tension shows. Do you work well under pressure? Yes. I have been known to fall apart a little in private afterward, but in the moment I handle pressure well.

5) Judy relaxed on the set by knitting and would make blankets and caps for the children of crew members. Do you knit? Nope.
 
6) Judy admitted she had a problem with tardiness. Do you strive to be prompt? Pretty much. It's the result of a life spent on public transportation, which runs (or attempts to run) on schedule.
 
7) In 1946, when this song was on the radio, cigarette cases were very popular. Since these metal cases were standard issue in the Army during WWII, many soldiers got into the habit of using them and continued to after the war ended. Women often carried fabric or leather cigarette cases that closed with a clasp like a coin purse. In the 1940s, elegant cigarette cases were a fashionable gift but today, they are largely forgotten. Did you ever carry one? Do you know anyone who did? My mom's mom had one that like this. It must have been real leather because she took good care of it, often wiping it with a napkin. I remember thinking she was trying to make a dirty habit pretty.

8) Also in 1946, bikinis appeared for the first time on runways in Paris. How often did you don swimwear during 2022? Not once.

9) Random question: Thinking of your past romantic involvements, were you truly in love with one of them, some of them, or all of them? I think I've been truly in love three times, which means my answer would be, "some of them."


 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #294

Thirteen facts about Truman Capote.
To me, Truman Capote is like Woody Allen. He was undeniably talented, so divinely gifted I'm convinced he could pull the sword from the stone. He was also morally bankrupt. I admit I find people like this fascinating. Why does God lavish such talent on schmucks? I'm a lovely person, but I don't have a soupcon of Truman's ability as a storyteller.

1. He was born Truman Streckfus Persons. His parents separated when he was just two years old and he was shuttled among relatives until his mother remarried. He was adopted by his stepfather and became Truman Garcia Capote.

2. He spent his early summers in Monroeville, AL, where he lived next door to Harper Lee. He was the model for Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird and the two authors remained friends throughout his life ... even though he was jealous that she won a Pulitzer, a prize that eluded him. He was quoted as saying that when it comes to Mockingbird, he didn't "know what the fuss is about."

3. Truman was a naturally talented writer who achieved greatness with only a 12th grade education. He  was very proud of this.

4. His third novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) elevated his profile and inspired Norman Mailer to call Truman "the most perfect writer of my generation." In the movie version, Audrey Hepburn played Holly Golightly and it became her signature role.

5. Highly versatile and productive between 1944 and 1965, he published novels, short stories, and essays. He completed a screenplay (Humphrey Bogart's 1953 film Beat the Devil) and collaborated on a Broadway musical, House of Flowers. Both Diahann Carroll and Barbra Streisand made popular recordings of "A Sleepin' Bee" from that show.

6. His 1966 book, In Cold Blood, was not only brilliant, it was highly successful. It was #1 on the New York Times best-seller list for three months, and today it's still the second most popular true crime novel of all time. (Helter Skelter about the Sharon Tate murders is #1.)  

7. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful book that concentrates on more than the details of a violent crime. It's the story of two Americas and what happened in 1959 when they collided. The Clutter family was well-respected and well-educated, murdered in their own home by a pair of loser repeat criminals, who were in turn put to death by the state.

8. Truman literally spent years visiting Kansas, learning about the Clutters and the impact of their deaths on the community of Holcomb, as well as getting the life stories of the two murderers. The result of his research was undoubtedly compelling, but his techniques remain controversial to this day. He flattered, wooed and perhaps even bribed prison officials to gain access to the accused. He then manipulated the murderers, leading them to believe that not only would his book be a sympathetic portrayal, he was looking for a high-powered New York attorney who could handle their appeal and keep them from facing the gallows. Neither was true. Do the ends justify the means? Does the creation of a timeless book mitigate the exploitation of the vulnerable?

9. In Cold Blood made Truman a celebrity. He threw what has been called the 20th century's most famous party, The Black and White Ball. He became a staple in gossip columns and often appeared with talk show hosts Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson. His long-time lover, Jack Dunphy, worried that life among The Beautiful People distracted Truman from his work. He was certainly less prolific as his fame increased. He was able to live for the rest of his life from the profits of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's, his share of the movie rights, and fees from speaking engagements ... and never finished another book.

10. Truman had many celebrity feuds during this period. He ended up in court when Gore Vidal sued him. His tempestuous relationships with his high society friends has inspired the next season of the Ryan Murphy's Feud series.

11. He used the secrets these famous women confided over decades of friendship to lead him out of writer's block. In magazine excerpts of his unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, it was obvious that names were changed but facts were not. He had gleefully told these famous women that he had the power to "break up any couple in New York." With Answered Prayers, it appeared he was trying to do so maliciously and for profit. These friends, who had no idea Truman was using them as fodder, retaliated by cutting him. Being banished from his social circle was more crushing to Truman than he'd anticipated. Being one of The Beautiful People had become his identity.

12. As his isolation increased, his drug use escalated and professional opportunities dwindled. Always a heavy smoker and drinker, he began regularly abusing cocaine and marijuana. He began spending less time with his long-time partner, Jack Dunphy. His speaking engagements dried up after he appeared on a New York talk show clearly intoxicated (he admitted to the interviewer, "If I don't quit drinking, I'll kill myself").

13. He died in the guestroom of his friend, Joanne Carson (ex-wife of Johnny). The coroner declared the cause of death liver disease "complicated by multiple drug intoxication." He was a month shy of his 60th birthday.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.


To brighten a snowy day

Over the weekend in Boca Raton, the mercury crept up around 80º. Anthony Rizzo hosted pediatric cancer patients for a day of fun at Boomers Park.




 Click here for more about the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, and how you can help.


WWW.WEDNESDAY

WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi. Buckle up, Buttercups! This is a deep dive, more than 1500 pages, into the JFK assassination. It's written by a lifetime lawyer, Vincent Bugliosi, best-known for convicting Charles Manson and his "family" after the Sharon Tate murders. In private practice, he successfully defended a high-profile murder suspect. What you need to know about Mr. Bugliosi is this: while he has enormous respect for the victims in his cases, he treats their murders as crimes. He assumes nothing and simply follows the evidence. The murder of the President may have been the crime of the century, but it was a homicide and a staggering amount of forensics point to only one man.

Lee Harvey Oswald did it, folks. He acted alone. The evidence is overwhelming. And even if all the evidence didn't point to Oswald, there is nothing credible that points to anyone else. Bugliosi takes each conspiracy theory and debunks it with verifiable facts.

Bugliosi maintains that conspiracy theorists are "patriotic kooks." I think he's too kind. There's nothing patriotic about distorting American history for your own amusement. Or about casting aspersions on the men of the Warren Commission or -- far worse -- Officer JD Tippit (tell me again how you "support the blue") or spewing QAnon drivel. Especially when a real-life conspiracy is unraveling before our eyes (the wife of a Supreme Court Justice admitted texting the White House Chief of Staff and called the 2020 election "a heist"; yeah, that's normal).

Whenever I see the Kennedys splattered by WWG1WGA mud, I'm reminded that Jackie referred to much of what had been written about her and her family as "the river of sludge that will go on and on." The lady herself died in 1994, long before this book was published. While I don't think she would have read it, I'm certain she would have appreciated it.
 
2. What did you recently finish reading? Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by MC Beaton. This is the second book I've read in this series about a successful London PR exec who retired to a quiet village in the country. She's bored and finds herself getting involved with the lives of her neighbors, people she tends to dismiss as bumpkins but is coming to care about, despite herself.
 
This book begins with her crushing on her neighbor, but he seems uninterested so she turns her attention to the handsome new vet. When the vet turns up dead, the police declare his death an unfortunate accident, but Agatha decides it's murder and sets out to prove it.

I enjoy spending time with Agatha in Cottswold. I especially like her platonic relationship with Det. Bill Wong, a young man with whom she appears to have nothing in common, yet they are frank with and fond of one another. The thing is, though, I'm not all that crazy about these mysteries as mysteries. The plotting is forgettable and more than a little lazy. This book ends with the killer tying up all the loose ends for us by confessing ... and confessing ... and confessing at a moment when s/he would most likely in real life use that time destroying evidence or getting away. God, that annoys me!

3. What will read next? I don't know.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Playing Let's Pretend

Constance MacKenzie is bright eyed and affectionate. A very good girl. Which is why it's hard for me to believe, contrary to the evidence, that she's ill.

But here's the thing: she has a sore in her mouth that isn't healing and she's lost a pound since November. When I took her in last Thursday, the vet detected a heart murmur. Blood was drawn, and as we await the test results, Connie is on a course of prednisone.

I still haven't heard back from the vet. There are three in the practice, and the one who treated Connie doesn't have hours every day. I could call and get the results, but I don't want to. I want to pretend she's OK.

My burying my head in the sand isn't costing her anything. The vet wants her to finish the prednisone and then she'll schedule an EKG to assess her heart condition. 

Connie ca 2014
When I first adopted her almost 9 years ago, I knew she was considered "special needs" and that our time together wouldn't be long. She was malnourished by a well-meaning but batty hoarder. Her gums were bloody, she was carrying a litter of dead kittens (a healthy cat would have miscarried), and her eyes were so light sensitive she could barely keep them open. I've done the best I can and I know she's happy. In fact, she's been so happy that it's been easy to forget that when I adopted her, she already had used up at a few of those legendary 9 lives.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Kiss (1986)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) In this week's song, Prince insists there's no particular sign he's more compatible with. Do you take astrology seriously? Not really. I have a Sagittarius necklace I wear occasionally because I bought it during happy times in Key West, not because I care about my sign.


2) He tells his prospective lover there's no need to be flirty. Are you a good flirt? Ha! No. I think it's because I am, as a male friend once pointed out to me, "completely unable to engage in small talk."

3) He refers to the nighttime soap opera Dynasty. Were you a fan? Nope. I preferred Dallas.

4) "Kiss" was recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood. Built by Walt Disney Studio, it's the studio where the soundtracks to Mary Poppins and 101 Dalmatians were recorded. When you think of Disney movies, what's the first song that comes to mind?

 

5) Prince said he was "obsessed" with Mozart and read everything he could find about the master. Do you often read biographies? If yes, who was the last one about? Yes. I recently finished Deliberate Cruelty, which was a dual biography of Truman Capote and socialite Ann Woodward, with a sharp focus on how his unfinished novel ruined both their lives. It's about wielding power, whether that power comes with wealth, status, or talent. I already knew the bare bones of the story, so kudos to author Roseanne Montillo for making this tale of two damaged people on a tragic collision course so compelling.

6) He loved snacking while watching a movie in the theater and would mix Goobers (chocolate-covered peanuts) with his popcorn. When you go to the movies, do you visit the concession counter? Always. First of all, because I know those over-priced snacks are part of how movie houses make money and I want to support my local theater. Also because it's just a tasty part of my movie-going experience.

7) In 1986, when this song was popular, Peewee's Playhouse premiered. While ostensibly for children, this show had many, many adult viewers. Do you ever watch kids' shows today? No.

8) Also in 1986, Sears shoppers were painting their interior walls with "Country Clover," a pale beige with a hint of pink. What color is the room you're in right now? Pale blue with a white ceiling.

9) Random question: Do you enjoy pressing the pedal to the metal and driving fast? I don't drive.



 

Friday, January 20, 2023

This one bothers me more than I expected

I think it's because there was such a horrible inevitability to Lisa Marie Presley's death at 54. I feel like the girl never had a chance, and I feel bad for her.

First of all, heart disease ran in the Presley family. Grandmother Gladys was an old-before-her-time 46 when she died of a heart attack. Elvis was 42 when his heart attack killed him. Grandfather Vernon was the last to go, dying of (say it with me) a heart attack at 63.

Then there's addiction. Gladys dealt with depression by turning to pills and alcohol. Elvis had codeine, Demerol and Valium in his bloodstream when he died. Priscilla Presley cited Lisa Marie's drug use when she petitioned for custody of Lisa Marie's twins (though in 2020, a judge commended Lisa Marie for overcoming her problem with drugs and alcohol when the girls were returned to her). Lisa Marie herself spoke openly about how much she hated cigarettes but found it a struggle to quit.

And heartache. I know, no one gets through life without pain. But not everyone goes through it with the world watching. She was home when her father died in the bathroom, and at 9 years old she became an heiress to his estate. Her unfortunate marriage to Michael Jackson took place as he began battling abuse allegations. Her son Ben committed suicide in 2020, and shortly before her own death she admitted the grief was "unrelenting."

That's a lot to endure in a short lifetime. I hope now her soul is finally at peace.

 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

My valentine to movies

I've been watching a lot of movies lately. A wide variety. Both at home and on the big screen at my local theater, and I've enjoyed every moment.

It's long been fashionable to say, "They don't make 'em like they used to." It's also incredibly lazy and elitist. For example, let's take a closer look at a popular 2022 movie that felt like a throwback to the classics I love.

Ticket to Paradise is a romantic comedy of errors starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. It's lightweight, the cinematic equivalent of a candy bar -- you enjoy it while you're consuming it, but you're not really going to remember it after it's over. 

There were a ton of such movies in Hollywood's Golden Age, and Clooney and Roberts remind me of the stars of those days. They are beautiful, charismatic, and as comfortable being elegant as ridiculous. 

Clooney reminds me of Cary Grant. Exquisite in a tux, but just as winning in a wig made from a horse's tail or swinging from a railway crossing gate (I Was a Male War Bride). And both men have made aging an artform.


Julia Roberts reminds me of Jean Arthur. A clotheshorse, a designer's dream. A smart cookie, able to succeed in a man's world without sacrificing her femininity. She's just as comfortable being the beauty who inspires love poems as she is the faux mobster mall who spins tall tales with a cigarette dangling from her lips (The Whole Town's Talking).


Here are other modern movies I've seen recently that I highly recommend. Each is more consequential and thought provoking than Ticket to Paradise.

The Fabelmans. Steven Spielberg's autobiographical look back at the disintgration of a family and the birth of an artist. Someone from my movie group snarked all over it, calling it "self indulgent." I thought it was honest and intimate.

The Whale. Brendan Fraser is a morbidly obese recluse who knows his life is slipping away and wants to make his life and relationships right before he goes. Fraser is magnificent. The movie felt exploitative to me, displaying and exposing him like a freak. But Fraser transcends the tawdry and touched my heart with just his eyes.

The Banshees of Inisheren. A tiny Irish island is populated by idiosyncratic characters, including Padraic, Colm and Siobhan. One day Colm decides to end his long friendship with Padraic. No incident sparked this; Colm just decides there's more to life than listening to Padraic (who is, if we're honest, rather thick). The end of a friendship can be as heartbreaking and confusing as the end of a romance. Siobhan is Padraic's sister, and as much as she loves her brother, she knows can't help him with this. This movie has been described as a dark comedy and there were moments that made me smile, but I don't think it's funny at all. 

A Man Called Otto. I loved this little movie. A widower (Tom Hanks) concludes everyone he meets is an idiot -- neighbors (especially), store keepers, customer service at the utilities, everyone. Marisol moves in across the street and she insists he engage with her and her family, helping him see the good in life.


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Thursday Thirteen #293

A dose of glamor on for a gray winter's day. When I was a kid, I thought Elizabeth Taylor was silly. Always with a cigarette and/or drink in hand, wearing loud caftans and gaudy jewelry, getting off planes or boarding yachts. Then I got into classic film and came to appreciate her as an actress, rather than a celebrity. I also understand now that much of the over-the-top public behavior she exhibited had to with addiction to pills and alcohol. Her much publicized trip to rehab may have saved lives. The same for her AIDS advocacy. And so I consider these 13 facts something of a tribute.

1. Her full name was Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Warner Fortensky. She was married 8 times, divorced 7, and widowed once. She outlived five of her seven husbands and had four children and 10 grandchildren.

2. While I'm an unabashed fan, it's true not everyone was. In the early 1960s, the Vatican denounced her for "erotic vagrancy."

3. She was 10 when she made her first movie, There's One Born Every Minute. She made more than 45 more. She was nominated for four Oscars and won two. 

My favorite Liz movie moment
4. Her first Oscar was for Butterfield 8, a movie she hated. I think she was fabulous in it. During the first 10 minutes, not a word is spoken. Her character, Gloria, wakes up in a strange bedroom. She wanders around in her slip, trying to remember how she got there. She comes upon her torn dress on the floor and is alternately disgusted and turned on by the memory of what she did last night. She's about to slip into a coat she finds in the closet so she can go home when she spots an envelope with her name on it. It's filled with cash and the note says, "Is this enough?" She's furious. Gloria may be a slut but she's no prostitute. She takes her lipstick and scrawls "NO SALE" on the bedroom mirror. We learn that Gloria is self destructive and has poor impulse control and makes bad decisions, just by watching her facial expressions, how she moves and what she does. No dialog. I believe Elizabeth Taylor was an underrated actress.

5. She became a published author at age 14. Nibbles and Me was about her pet chipmunk. She wrote it herself and in longhand.

6. She was the first actress to earn $1,000,000 for a single film. One million in 1961 would be $9.5 million today.

7. The money she made from her films was dwarfed by the profits made from her fragrances. The first actress to introduce her own perfume line, she was the most successful by far. One of her scents, White Diamonds, remained one of the world's best sellers for 20 years.

8. The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has donated nearly $40,000,000 to patients living with AIDS. Today, 25% of the profits her estate collects for her likeness goes to the foundation.

9. Before she started her own foundation, she worked extensively with AmFAR, an organization devoted to AIDS research and prevention. In 1990, she testified before Congress on behalf of the Ryan White CARE Act.

10. In 1992, she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair holding a condom. Today it looks quite tame, but at the time it was controversial. The press coverage it received got people talking about safe sex, which was exactly what she wanted.


11. She was born with an extra set of lashes and very thick eyebrows. Cinematographers attributed her beauty to those lush lashes and brows.

12. She helped get rid of pay toilets. She first encountered them while campaigning with then-husband, Sen. John Warner, in the late 1970s. When she learned they were quite common all over the country, more often in ladies room than mens, she convinced Warner to sponsor a law banning them in airports and bus and train stations.

13.  She began taking pain killers for chronic back pain in the 1950s when she was in her 20s. She went into the Betty Ford Clinic in 1983, where she admitted she was addicted to pills and alcohol. She was the first celebrity, after the former First Lady herself, to publicly discuss her rehab at length. In 1988, she relapsed and returned to the Center. She hoped her candor would help educate the public.

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.




WWW.WEDNESDAY

WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here

PS I can no longer participate in WWW.WEDNESDAY via that link because her blog won't accept Blogger comments. I mention this only to save you the frustration I experienced trying to link up.

1. What are you currently reading? Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet by MC Beaton. Agatha is a successful London PR exec who retired to a quiet village in the country. She's bored and lonely for romantic companionship. She has a crush on her neighbor, but he seems uninterested so she turns her attention to the handsome new vet. He's as strange as he is good looking, though. He's a vet who doesn't like cats or dogs. No one seems sorry when he turns up dead. The police declare his death an unfortunate accident, but Agatha decides it's murder and sets out to prove it.

Agatha is funny heroine for a cozy mystery in that there is nothing cozy about her. She is bossy and surly and, even though she made her living in public relations, has no talent for dealing with people. I'm enjoying my second outing with this lusty old girl.
 
2. What did you recently finish reading? Deliberate Cruelty by Roseanne Montillo. In the 1950s, Ann Woodward had it all. Blonde and beautiful, she married into one of New York's top banking families. She found herself in the world of the social register, with a showplace in Manhattan and a weekend place in Oyster Bay she whimsically called The Playhouse. Then, one awful night (Halloween weekend, no less) she found herself in a deadly scandal and she lost it all.

Truman Capote was extravagantly talented and prolific. He was writing short stories, novels and even a Broadway musical. His star was on the ascendant. He ran into Ann Woodward, no longer welcome in New York, in St. Moritz. They disliked one another on sight and exchanged heated words.
 
Twenty years later, when Ann was virtually forgotten and Truman's career had peaked, he needed material for his next "non-fiction novel." He made Ann the subject of his roman a clef. Terrified of renewed and very harsh public scrutiny, she committed suicide before the excerpts were published in Esquire.
 
Ann Woodward was not the only New York society woman Truman Capote exploited in his short story. Once Esquire hit the stands, his phone stopped ringing. In no time, he was a pariah, just as Ann had been. Losing his place in cafe society devastated him. He never finished the novel that was excerpted. In fact, he never published another book, finding refuge in drugs, drink and playing court jester at Studio 54. While it took him longer to kill himself, his end was just as final as Ann's.

This well-written book is about talent, money, and privilege. It's about dreamers who are willing to sacrifice to make their dreams come true. It's the tale of two tragedies, and I was riveted.

3. What will read next? I don't know.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

I know the signs

I don't like what I'm seeing from my oldest friend. When I try to call her, she doesn't pick up and my calls don't go to voicemail because the mailbox is full. I asked her about that and she said she just doesn't pick them up. There's no need, she explained. "I can look and see who called."

1) This means that she sees that I'm calling and just isn't picking up. Well, fuck you very much.

2) When this happened before it was because she was trying to evade calls from creditors. I don't imagine she has much in the way of credit cards anymore. This time I suspect it's her landlady. The landlady wants my friend -- who is on a month-to-month lease -- gone. The place could bring in more rent from a tenant who can afford to pay more. My friend knows she has to leave. She says she's looking for affordable housing farther south in California, closer to LA, nearer her cousin and her daughter.

The daughter I understand. The cousin? Not at all. Her cousin is not there for her on a reliable basis. Here's a post I found from more than a decade ago, and I still have the same gripes. Though with time, I think I understand that the problem may less be with the cousin than with my friend's idolatry of her. Maybe Sharon is just a tired 70-something who doesn't have the bandwidth to give my friend the support she needs, and maybe my oldest friend should recognize that their relationship is rather one-sided and move closer to her son, in Texas. After all, her son invited her.*

3) She spends all her free time answering questions on Quora. Yes, I'm snooping on her there because I'm worried about her. Fewer than 20% of her posts even get an upvote, much less a response. And some of the responses appear, at least to me, to be bots. Quora seems to have replaced her fan fiction, which she's abandoned after seven stories. Her early ones, about the Keanu Reeves character John Wick, grew quite a readership. One of them has been read 31,000 times! (Imagine that!) But her subsequent efforts have met with dwindling success and audience participation. I think this is a substitute for real friendship.

4) I know she's bipolar. I am afraid she's navigating treacherous waters these days without much support. I can't support her if she won't pick up the phone.

I feel very helpless.


 *One of her reasons for not joining her son was actually well though out. She's concerned that there isn't quality medical care nearby. That may be. I was heartened to hear that she was responding out of something more than Sharon worship.


I shouldn't have ordered the lasagna

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Warm, gooey goodness on a dreary day. Very little chewing involved for my still-sore jaw. I know I'm no longer supposed to have spinach (damn kidney stones) but I figured it's mostly pasta and cheese anyway, right? And just this once won't be so bad ...

It wasn't the spinach that got me. I thought I tasted a bit of pepper in there. If there's enough pepper for me to identify it, I'm usually in trouble. 

But still, she persisted.

Last night and this morning were distinctly unpleasant.

Oh well, at least I had a coupon! Next time I go there, I'll stick with the individual pizza.



Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sunday Stealing

THE QUESTION MEME

1. What is your favorite accent? I love Dick Van Dyke's accent in Mary Poppins. Apparently he's the only Englishman in the history of the empire to speak this way.


2. What is your favorite animal? My favorite wild animal is the okapi. They look like a magical mix of a zebra and a giraffe, but they don't have any zebras in their bloodline. They are related to the giraffe, though. They are quiet herbivores who can run very fast. I'm such a fan.


3. What is your favorite band? How I love the lads!


4. What is your favorite childhood book? The summer between first and second grade, my family visited Springfield to see where Lincoln lived and this was my souvenir. I remember reading it over and over on the long drive home.


5. What is your favorite color? Blue.

6. What is your favorite drink? Coca-cola.

7. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Mint chocolate chip.

8. What is your favorite place on the planet? Within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.


9. What is your favorite sandwich? A burger. I haven't had one in forever! Maybe I'll try one today.

10. What is your favorite swear word? Fuck

11. What is your favorite thing to wear? Jeans and a t-shirt

12. What is your favorite food to eat on a rainy day? Mac-and-cheese or clam chowder

13. What is your favorite food to eat on a sunny day? Hot dogs

14. What is your favorite number? 7

15. What is your favorite snack? This week I've been devouring donut holes at an alarming rate.