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Sunday, January 30, 2011


I just spent the last hour soaking in the tub while reading the latest edition of Entertainment Weekly from cover to cover.  It is the issue devoted to all things Oscar, that most coveted piece of American produced hardware; the ultimate trophy.  Every year at this time, my attention is riveted to Hollywood and all that glamour. Academy Award night is the one night a year where I watch television for six hours straight.  Don’t even try to call me; I won’t answer the phone.  I may tweet a bit or stop by Facebook to see what kind of snarky remarks my clever friends may make, but that’s it. Oscar and the fashion cavalcade command all my attention.

I must admit that the prognostication of winners by the entertainment writers and editors who probably have not seen all of the films seems a bit presumptuous to me. It clearly doesn’t stop any of the news outlets in fact, from having an opinion about the films and who deserves and will win. I can do just as good a job of judging that which I have not seen and so I will. 

For the purposes of brevity, I will only comment on the films nominated for best picture.  I will divulge to my readers which films I have seen or not and suggest that none of my commentary or evaluations be used for determining how to vote in your local Oscar pool if you are actually interested in winning.  My projections are for entertainment purposes only. 


To be clear, I don’t want to see this movie.  To see where someone has put their arms where it doesn’t belong will remind me too much of the times I put my mouth in places it doesn’t belong, as in – Oops! That just fell out of my mouth -- I shouldn’t have said that.  I also just don’t think this is going to win because Danny Boyle won last year for the fabulous Slumdog Millionaire and he’s not going to win with this one. It wasn’t even shot overseas.


A film about a bunch of crazy ladies makes me crazy and feels eerily familiar to me.  I like the idea of another ballerina based movie being recognized since The Turning Point with looney Shirley Maclaine and feisty Anne Bancroft was just annoying. Billy Elliot was about a young man so it doesn’t really count, but I don’t think it has the gravitas to win. 


For the spinning hallways and dizzying plot, this kaleidoscope of a film kept me guessing, mostly about how this movie could possibly end. The notion of invading dreams was a swell one. Avatar, or as we call it in our house, Dances with Wolves meets Pocahontas in Fern Gully, won three (Art Direction, Cinematography and Visual Effects), and I think this film should do at least as well. The director, grumpy Christopher Nolan, isn’t nominated so I don’t think it can take Best Picture. 


When Marky Mark became Mark Wahlberg and ditched his Calvin’s, he was making a very smart move. As a young man, Mr. Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder, pleaded guilty to assault, and was sentenced to two years in jail, of which he served 45 days. He’s obviously figured out how to channel all that aggression. I personally find Mark to be a very reliable actor. I even saw M.Night’s awful The Happening and while it was a really bad movie, Mark tried his best to make it work. Christian Bale is no softy either. It’s hard to believe he’s Australian after you see him in this movie. Melissa Leo has been a personal favorite of mine since her Homicide days. The big surprise in this cast is Amy Adams. But it’s another Boston Movie and the win for Scorcese’s The Departed was too recent for this to take Oscar home.  


There are lots of complaints this year about how there are no Academy Award nominees of color but what about Lesbians?  How long have they been neglected in Hollywood? 
Alternative families are all around me in my neighborhood so I think it’s great that Hollywood finally caught on. I loved this movie and wrote about it in a earlier blog entitled: Gene pool, Cesspool—The Kids are All Right.  I think Annette Bening should win for her performance but I don’t think the film has the technical or historical drama to carry the day. 

If you would like to read more about this film and then some, please go to:


Colin Firth is completely adorable and is the closest to being named my make believe boyfriend of all the film nominees (Sorry George, but you’re not in a nominated film this year.) and so it would be really terrific if this movie wins. Geoffrey Rush is always brilliant and Helena Bonham Carter is absolutely my favorite. She’s beautiful and wacky. If she knew me, we would be great friends. It has the-real-story historical-person-faced-with-personal-adversity going for it. Also, a British accent gives this movie points because it makes everyone sound so such much more intelligent than most Americans even when they stammer. 


I like playing on Facebook so I’m not all that surprised that someone decided it would make great fodder for a film.  Since this is the only movie nominated this year with a cast that includes minorities (How could you shoot at Harvard without Asians?) it gives this film, in an all white year, additional points.  Aaron Sorkin is as smart as David Mamet and then some so while I haven’t seen the movie yet, I think it’s a real contender. By the way, if you haven’t seen the South Park episode about Facebook, you should.  


I love Woody.  He’s the best male role model for young men out of Hollywood this year. He has heart, smarts and wears blue jeans without the sag. His buddy Buzz Lightyear shows how men can be friends without getting all soupy about it. It is a great celebration of Man-love of the highest order and the story and animation and performances are first rate. I’ve seen all three of these films and they just kept getting better and better, the opposite of most sequels (remember Godfather III?) and for that alone it should win something but since a friendship like this could only exist in cartoonland and Hollywood has never awarded an animated film the best picture award, the film makers will have to be content with best song -- because I love Randy Newman. 


The Coen brothers don’t want to win for this one so they won’t.  They don’t want to become part of the Hollywood mainstream and even though this film has made more money than any other of their films, it was also rated PG-13.  They seem to be more suited to R rated genre. I think they want to remain outside and edgy and we like them there. 


Since I live in the Northeast and have been snowed in and going stir crazy so there is no way I would vote for a film with Winter in the title.  Ask me about this in the Spring, maybe after I’ve actually seen the movie and we don't have all this snow.

So that’s my rundown for this year’s Oscar Best Picture nominations. Please feel free to submit your own projections. Everyone can and does do it. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I got Cabin Fever!!

Mommy is it summer yet?

My poor cat has cabin fever. In fact, she is so disoriented by the unnatural, glaring bright light of snow, that she sits at the doors leading to our great backyard and cries inconsolably. When a door is actually opened, she trots right up to the doorframe and she sees that  -- Nope, not summer here. Defeated, she falls down to her tummy and rolls on to her side in pitiful submission. She looks as sorrowful and disappointed as a cat possibly can. 

There is something both sad and hopeful in her behavior. Sad, because I don’t believe she really understands that we are going to be submerged in this snow for many more weeks. Even the seats of our backyard swings are hidden in the drifts and it’s only January. Yet it is hopeful too because she believes with all her little cat hopes, that one of us will soon open a door which leads to summer. She can then bask in the warmth of the sun in all her calico glory.  She heats up like a fuzzy hot water bottle and then hides in the cool grass playing ferocious tigress with the bugs. She has already given up on the birds. They’re too fast. She is a lazy queen and a vicious bug hunter. It’s an interesting duality.

This morning I languished in bed with the cat, half listening to the radio, basically avoiding facing another frozen day. When the alarm goes off at my home, you never know where in the conversation you may enter. It’s tuned into an NPR station so it may be political, philosophical, or pop culture musings. This morning it was someone talking about the value of asking a politician running for office, which of their opponent’s ideas or platforms they most agree with.  It was just a piece of the conversation that I arbitrarily entered but I’ve been walking around all day thinking about that snippet of audio. I am a big believer of things happening for a reason.  I was meant to hear that snippet. So, all day long I thought about how well we understand one another and how important that really is.

If we were to ask those seeking office where they saw commonality with their opponents; wouldn’t it be an interesting way of seeing how reflective and articulate, how negotiable, how open they might be to discussion and compromise?  Wouldn’t it also help us understand how well informed they were on their opponent’s position?

I do like the idea of knowing how far apart our leaders are --but I really like the idea of making sure our representatives really understand one another, at least as well as I understand my cat and her hopes for summer.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Our new obsession

It is a wondrous and curious thing to be part of a world where changes in technology dramatically and instantaneously impact how we live.  Sometimes I feel like whoever is in charge has their foot on the accelerator and we are traveling faster and faster into an unknown and unknowable future. How would I ever be able to explain a cell phone or the Internet to my long gone and very gregarious Nana Sophie (who I do hope to see again in the next world…) or the new eCigarettes to her brother, my Great Uncle Milton, who never was without his trusty aromatic cigars?

Consider this; we recently gave my 82 year old mother a MAC and an internet service so she could watch the exercise videos her bone specialist has posted for Seniors on his website, as well as weekly updates and advice.  This is, I would submit, the contemporary and future reconfiguration of paying house calls and providing rehabilitation services on-demand by the medical profession. It’s rather astonishing and efficient. Now if we could just get my mother to remember how to navigate to where we’ve put these bookmarks on her computer. It is clear that the Internet is for the young and more intellectually flexible. 

Young Person of the Year

As proof, Mr. Mark Zuckerberg, a very young man, wears the mantle of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year because of his electronic creation, Facebook.  Clearly this phenomenon has expanded and confounded the notion of friendship. Facebook friendships may or may not be with your closest friends. (I have several near and dear who continue to avoid this site like the plague.) Facebook friendships may or may not reconnect you with people from your past. It has made it easier to maintain and establish connections with others, with people you may remember fondly and with people who were a part of your life when you and they lived or worked nearby or together; even with the people next door. It’s all how you choose to play on the Facebook playground.

For example, a simple press of the button indicating you like something someone else has posted gives the recipient an acknowledgment, as in --you matter to me. A lovely and easy way to show --I value what you value; a what makes you feel good makes me happy – and I think that’s a good thing.  We generally don’t give ourselves enough pats on the back for what we accomplish.  Now we can provide them for others in an instant. 

"Poke your Grandma, Kyle"  Classic irreverent South Park
You have 0 friends  -- Season 12 Episode 12 
I also like the poking feature. It’s a way of playing tag on Facebook’s Playground, the most egalitarian game ever invented and you can play this kind of tag all day long and never get tired or winded. 

Danger Zone
For a while, I was really caught up playing Farmville, gifting my cyberneighbors with cows and trees and planting and harvesting crops to optimize their yield and value. Once I had amassed over $2 million Farmville dollars, it all become rather pointless to me. It stopped being fun spending money on virtual things. I abandoned my farm, but no animals were actually harmed in my doing so. 

I briefly waited tables and served up a bizarre menu of choices in Cafeville and then became part of Yo-ville, a real-time interactive social game where you can eventually inhabit a palatial estate, wear the hippest clothes and continuously redecorate your pad.  Along the way you can shop and tour the town, interacting with strangers and admiring their sense of style, visiting the homes of friends and in general just be an electronically social person. You could do all this while still sitting on your couch, wearing your pajamas. 

Help me, Dr. Drew
All of this pointless activity became the great black sinkhole of Facebook and I found myself fallen like Alice, into a new make-believe world from which there seemed no escape. Clearly I had to wean myself off of these games and find a more productive use of my electronic time. I had to admit to myself, I was addicted.  Could I possibly need to check in with Dr. Drew? (Would I get to meet the golden-throated Ted Williams, formerly homeless beggar, who has so much to come clean for, but appears destined to fail?) I have to confess, I am a visual junkie. If it moves, I’ll watch it. That’s not to say that I don’t have taste or a critical eye. I am selective, but initially easily seduced.  

The result of this withdrawal is what you see before you – this blog. I decided that I certainly might be a entertaining as earning a virtual cow or serving virtual spaghetti, at least I hope so! I’ve also learned to pepper my words with pictures that I hope provide my readers with respite from my ramblings.  Facebook now serves as one of the major portals to my very own imaginary electronic playspace. Thanks to you, my readers, who come week after week to play on my playground. 

Tag, you’re it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I is learning

Makes me think and laugh
I have not wanted to post a new blog this week because I’ve been too overwhelmed by the events in the world around me.  I felt the need to let things settle down a bit before I chose to be reflective, as is my wont.  Initially my dismay was local in nature but after this weekend the events in Arizona make the local crisis pale in comparison. It is just a very sad, senseless tragedy. I cannot possibly be as eloquent as John Stewart was on Monday evening’s broadcast so I direct my readers to his website to see for themselves. (As an added bonus, stay tuned for his interview with the wonderful Denis Leary.)

Makes me laugh and think

For those of you who reside beyond the parameters of Montclair New Jersey, this is perhaps not of immediate interest but I ask you to read on and have faith. This is about all of us and our future. My fellow townies may be as dismayed as I by the proposed (dare I utter it) closing of two schools in our district due to very real budget constraints.  The estimated shortfall in our town is in the $6 million range. The problem locally is compounded by problems in the state and our newly elected Governor Chris Christie. 

Before you stop reading here because you assume that left-of-center I will embark on a tirade lambasting Christie's policies, his politics, his vacation in Disneyworld, you may be surprised by my more measured and hopefully thoughtful response. Governor Christie has inherited the mess that is public education in New Jersey.

I would first say that I am greatly dismayed by the tone of the conversation this debate about public education has taken both locally and nationally. Civility please. But somehow it seems to be OK for the general population to be treated and spoken to as if we were ignoramuses, incapable of understanding the complexities of bureaucracies, the complexities of education. We are spoken to as though we will naively accept sound bites as panaceas to problems in public education that have existed for decades and require innovation, leadership, scholarship and an exposure to public scrutiny unparalleled in public education’s history.
                                                                                                             That is a big part of the problem. Most people, who work in the education world are unprepared for, even offended by those who dare to encroach on their playing field. Many believe the public cannot possibly understand what life in a classroom means. I understand their dismay. Those who are on the front line, the classroom teachers in particular, are being treated just like the poor and middle classes are being treated by our new Congress. They are being made powerless again. They are being held accountable for failures that begin at home, in a bloated, outmoded system they didn't create.                                                

One need look no further than the disastrous No Child Left Behind legislation, created with NOT one classroom teacher on the advisory committee.  This legislation written by a crew of Bush cronies in the Educational Publishing world wastes millions of taxpayer’s dollars every single year. There is no national standard or oversight. AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) is measured differently in each state.  An eighth grader in Texas performing at an advanced proficiency level in Language Arts is not performing at the same level as an advanced student in New Jersey; which has one of the most difficult tests. So what are we actually measuring? Is anyone paying attention?  How can we possibly suggest that this is somehow a measure of a classroom teacher’s performance?

Education is our Future, writ large.
Why should we have less than the best?

There’s also another way to look at this situation in the muddled state of New Jersey.  First let’s talk about the way the state public education is structured in this state. New Jersey is ranked 9th in population with, according to the 2010 Census, 8.4 million residents.  The 10th ranked state and closest to New Jersey’s count is Georgia with 8.2 million residents. Now consider this fact. The state of New Jersey has 601 School Districts, each with it’s own superintendent earning at least $125, 000 a year plus benefits. Our own earns over $200,000. Districts are basically towns so while Newark has a superintendent overseeing 39,440 public school students, a town like Essex Fells also has one with less than 1200 students, which is less than the number of student’s in Montclair High School. That represents $75,000,000 a year in salaries alone for just the superintendents. Georgia, with a slightly lower population, has 182 districts or about $23,000,000 in salaries to perform the same job that is done in New Jersey. Does it make sense that we spend at least $50,000,000 more for a overseeing comparable number of students?
                                                                                                                Yet the discussion locally as well as in the news about the state is the focused on the pension and salaries of teachers.  I understand that Christie recently fired 7 county superintendents, another layer on top of the district superintendents and that seems like a smart move to me. That decision represented another estimated $1,000,000 in salaries alone per year paid by taxpayers in New Jersey.
                                                                                                             We don’t need more layers; we need the best teachers in our classrooms being lead by the very best principals with smart and innovative superintendents. But do we really need three times as many Superintendents in this state as Georgia?
                                                                                                            The cost of public education does need to come down, property taxes are ridiculous in this state, but shouldn’t we be having conversations about the structure of the system in this state? If sacrifices and cuts are to be made, shouldn’t we examine the whole system from top to bottom?  I’m not singling anyone out in this. I’m not suggesting that Superintendents aren’t needed -- but at $50 MILLION dollars more per year than Georgia?  Really?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Baby it's Cold Outside

20 inches fell on my house. 

Welcome in the new decade and au revoir and good riddance to the last. To my readers on the Northeastern Shores, permit me to apologize. When I posted my previous blog, Let it (gasp!) Snow, it was not my intention to cause enough snow for an entire season to plop down upon us in one fell swoop.  Whoever is in charge of this, if you are reading my blog, up there or wherever you are, please don’t take my words so literally; a dusting, a lovely slender white blanket would have been sufficient. 

That said, the advantages of having a-stuck-at-home snowstorms are several. First, I had the chance to spend a ridiculous amount of time and money on iTunes and the Sony Music site.  Music is much too important to ignore. It’s a curious thing, selecting which songs and artists to focus on, which to preview, and which tunes are really critical to add to my repertoire.  I added over 75 songs but it hardly seems like enough. 

For my own listening pleasure, I added some John Legend, Beatles (!) and yes; I’ll admit it, some Glee renditions. Don’t hate me because I like Glee. I’m a Gleek. First, because I know every single song they sing on this show from today and yesterday. Music and especially their lyrics were always a passion of mine. In my next life, I’m coming back as a show tune lyricist. I’ve even written several potential Pop Culture ditties over the years.

This first sampling comes from an idea I have – 
Steve Jobs: The Musical

“Why do all computers only come in White?”

Why do all computers only come in white,
Doesn’t Apple understand my decorator’s plight? 
I’ve got Ivory in my living room 
and Ecru in the den --
White’s just too restrictive-- coordinating them.
My kitchen keeps it’s kitsch ware,
with my stove in Harvest Gold. 
How can I access Cooks dot com 
without my laptop there?  

Or my bow to the scandals that make Hollywood entitled – 

“Moguls on Moguls”
That's pronounced LAWN-JAY

It’s the latest, Hollywood, place to be 
On the slopes of the Rockies --- playing Jean-Claude Killy –
For it’s all of the things, that Hollywood, craves --
The fashion, the powder, even Claudine Longet*
Who high on the white stuff, blew her boyfriend away
For these Moguls -- on Moguls
Compete in a sport 
In which box office tallies – 
are what they report. 

*Actress/Singer Claudine Longet shot and accidently 
killed boyfriend  “Spider” Sabich in Aspen back in 1976. 
Google it for the alleged details.  

I have others as well – but I’ll save them for another blog. 

Back to Glee -- Second, the singers on Glee have great voices, many from the world of Broadway. I also think that while the characters are pretty one dimensional, Sue and Brittany have some of the funniest lines on TV. 

As a girl from New Jersey, music from the Garden State is one of the best things about it. For years I lived with the --“ Oh yeah?  What exit?” punch line  -- as in you live in New Jersey what exit? I never particularly took offense at this throwaway line because the pragmatic side of me knew that in fact, both the Turnpike and The Garden State Parkway stretch in large measure, from stem to stern, the bulk of the state.   The exit numbers indicated from either of these roadways does indeed provide a not imprecise indication of where in the state you may be heading or leaving. 

Further, if all the jokes gave the impression that New Jersey was a state full of highways and industrialized hotspots – so much the better for the rest of us who understood the gentle rolling hills and greener pastures that lay beyond. Stay away then and leave the good parts to us. 

But the Jersey-as-joke material cooled down significantly with the rise of the magnificent Springsteen.  Surely he embodied that all could not be wrong in this much-maligned state. The plaintive voice of this workingman’s travails with his ironed blue collar possessed a diction, intelligence and sound of the poet that has never been needed so much as now. I will even throw in Bon Jovi who while not (IMHO) in the same artistic league as Bruce, was the world’s top-earning concert act last year. He made half of his $200 million in ticket revenue from shows outside North America. Just another fine example of why music provides another perspective on us kids from Joisey.  

I say this as I move into harangue mode, this time directed at those who have chosen to ridicule my fellow inhabitants with shows like Jerseylicious, The Jersey Shore, and Housewives from New Jersey. The New Years stunt with little Pumpkin Spice, aka Snookie, in the hamster ball did not help things either. These tanning booth and big hair bimbos on parade are not real to me.  As a resident of this state for over 45 years I can honestly say that I don’t personally know anyone who resembles anyone in any way, shape, or form close to the characters on these shows.  They are completely foreign and exotic creatures to me.

Of course, the other thing to consider is that one of the most highbrow shows on television, the cerebral, yet stylish and violent Boardwalk Empire, takes place in New Jersey as well, albeit at another time.   It may not show my fellow Jerseyans in the best light, but it sure shows them in the best lighting.

So Ha ha ha, to all the naysayers. New Jersey rocks!  Stop picking on us and get that garbage off the air. 

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