Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Ar an Ard - Deireadh Mó Siúcra



That is Gaelic for "The Gift of Gourmet Sugar". I am the biggest sugar junkie you will ever meet. I don't drink alcohol, I don't inhale anything, I don't engage in the use of illegal drugs. The drugs I take legally, I dislike intensely. I don't eat fried foods of any kind. I don't care for cake, cookies (unless it is raw sugar-cookie dough - I like my raw cookie dough unencumbered with chocolate chips), heavy desserts. But man, I love, beyond all imagining, candy!

Unlike my mother and many, many others, I am not a chocholic. I tolerate chocolate, and occasionally like it as a part of something specific (chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate covered pretzels). I will never eat a Hersey's Bar for two big reasons: it is shit chocolate and it is heartlessly boring. Any true chocolate connoisseur thumb his or her nose at the Hershey franchise, followed by almost on the supermarket shelf names. Chocolates that are of intermediate quality would be in the Cadbury range. Your better chocolates are Lindt, for example. Godiva? Yawn...

But my specialty is the serious cane. Chewy, hard, soft, whatever, I love that. My favourites include Smarties, Wacky Wafers (which I miss), Starburst, things like that. I try as many different ones as I can. I enjoy sweet flavours and I enjoy sour, as well. But of all the candies out there, none can compare with the wonderful, gourmet world of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans.

Yu may poo-poo the idea of gourmet jelly beans but if you do, then it is terribly apparent that you have not tried Jelly Bellies. When I say gourmet, I mean it. Imagine the pear Jelly Belly. One tiny perfect pale green bean with small grey/black spots that weighs less than an ounce gives your mouth the perfect bite of an Anjou pear with excellent, mouth-watering flavour.

Think of how good a truly foamy, strong cup of cappuccino tastes; eat the cappuccino Jelly Belly, and you in the café of your choice, sipping that strong coffee.

Imagine yourself at the movies, strapping on the ol' feedbag of richly buttered popcorn. How about a beautifully ripe banana or a pink grapefruit for breakfast? Maybe a mix to truly bring out the best flavours:

Put together a boysenberry or strawberry jam with a peanut butter Jelly Belly (back when they still had the peanut butter flavour) and you just created the peanut butter sandwich. Or a good mix of the piña coladapineapple and coconut for that perfect tropical drink. And banana with vanilla and strawberry cheesecake and chocolate pudding is a Banana Split!

When is the last time you could do that with any other jelly bean? Of course not! Jelly beans were never much until Jelly Bellies dame along!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Big Hero 6: A Review



Here it is, my post for today - just under the wire, but I made it! (Gasp, wheeze, cough!)

Today Luis and I went to the movies. He really wanted to see Mocking Something or Other, but the seating in the Cinema Suites were filled. So we saw Big Hero 6 in the Fork & Screen theatres. We love the Cinema Suites the most: full meals, seating that is above and beyond anything one could want, no kids allowed! No one under 21, due to the alcohol they serve there. In the Fork & Screen portion of Cinema Suites, any age is allowed. The full meals are still there, the seating is above average, but in the Suites, the super-comfortable full length reclining chairs allow you to be supine if you want. Nothing beats this. As a result, we only go there, not the "theatres of the masses" with the bubblegum on the seats, disgusting bathrooms and loudmouthed morons.

If you are going to the movies, do it right!

Since there was no seeing the latest Hunger Games release for Luis and I have no interest whatsoever in the franchise, we went for the animated film instead: Big Hero 6. I had read a positive review for it in People Magazine, my one guilty pleasure, and we were both interested in seeing it, although it is always chancy seeing a kids movie. Kids almost always make the worst viewers under a certain age. However, we lucked out: only two other families were in the theatre and this made it very pleasurable.

What did I think of the film? On a scale of ten, it gets an 8.5! This is no mean feat, for me. I don't rate very many films a ten. I don't rate very many films a one, either. That means I was subjected to a film that wasn't really for me. That isn't fair to rate a movie that isn't my type in general. Animated films are an entirely different animal. I love them, especially the more modern and clearly made for adult ones, such as all Pixar films, the Shrek films, many of the newer DreamWorks, SKG. (How to Train Your Dragon) and Sony Animation films (Hotel Transylvania). I love them and try them all out. In fact, there was a preview for an upcoming Pixar film, Inside Out, with the following description:

"Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley's main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school."

I'm counting down the days to either 19 or 22 June... Pixar's Website gives the 19th as the release date, the preview gave 22 June. Go figure! I freely admit, I don't recognise a single actor/actress there, but voices are not something to poo-poo - whatever bad choices they may have made as actors (say, by appearing in a sitcom), they redeem themselves as masters to a craft in vocal performances, for me. Anything, everything, can be forgiven in this light.

Back to this, Big Hero 6, I loved it. It was fun, well-made, had a few well-known voices and many new, but all excellent. The known voices: Damon Wayans, Jr. (as a charming OCD-ridden nerd, no longer a hopelessly dopey actor), Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph, Stan Lee and my personal favourite, the 6', 6", impressive, amazing James Cromwell, one of my all-time favourite actors (Secretariat, I, Robot, M*A*S*H)! The artwork and effort put into the animation was of the highest caliber. But that is all very well, and not the true measure of the greatness of a film. What is the true measure, that amazing quality that gives a film the power to get you?

The amount of emotional investment one gives it.

I laughed, I cried, I was furious, I was frightened, I was joyous. It was one of those movies, where you are a part of the story, where you feel for the good guys, want to hurt the antagonist and slap the protagonist. When I am throughly immersed in the emotional side of the film, then it is a huge success. And I was totally sucked in.

The other true mark (especially frequenting the Cinema Suites as we do) is whether or not I can remain awake through all of it. Luis and I saw The Judge, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall. It was fairly good, but all told, I drifted off three times, for about five to seven minutes each time. If a movie is that slow, it happens. And it is staggering how much one can miss in those short bits: one key comment, one chance remark. We also saw If I Stay, and while an emotional movie, it was much too long and slow enough that both of us drifted off. That rates a "Yikes". A number would not be adequate.

Dolphin Tale 2 is the mark of great film, just as the first one was. Both drew not only very high marks and a complete emotional investment, but also a standing ovation. They were both lovely films.

Interstellar was good, but it had a running time of two hours, forty-nine minutes, which is asking a lot of me, especially with the intensity at which it moved - very little slow time. It was not terribly emotionally tiring, so it lost marks there. I give that film a 5.75. Some of the characters were surprising and for those undying fans of Matt Damon, well, they were undoubtedly crushed - he must have been in it for all of 15 to 20 minutes. Heh, heh, heh. I like him well enough, but not in that way. (Want to see Matt in something great? Try the all-time amazing film The Adjustment Bureau. I loved it, and wished I'd gone with Luis to see it in the movies. That is my 11th all-time favourite film.)

How to Train Your Dragon 2, Rio 2, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier were the other films I saw this year (I wanted to see Maleficent, but missed it due to poor health); I liked How to Train Your Dragon 2, although it wasn't up to the level of the first. That is standard, although some do break that mould in the world of animated films. I could have been perfectly fine without Captain America, as it was two plus hours of my life that I will never get back.

Big Hero 6 is not a kids film, right up there with the Shrek films and so many others. It is a Disney movie, but it is not the gushy, overly musical ones - I ploughed through Frozen and promise you that it can air until the end of time, but I will never be able to sit through that again. Musicals are generally too much for me. Movies with the wretched Peabo Bryson song or Whitney Houston (for example - I can't think if one of hers made it into a Disney film...it seems all too likely, though) are missing the better tunes. Take Aladdin, for example; take "Arabian Nights" (Bruce Adler), "One Jump Ahead" (Brad Kane), and "Friend Like Me" (Robin Williams) and what do you get? Me, singing along with them, having a great time! What do you get with "A Whole New World" (Peabo Bryson (!) and Regina Belle)? Nausea.

Music is terribly important in films, but too much and/or the wrong ones is an issue for me.  Big Hero 6 had plenty of loud, moving, movie music, but considering the action in it, it was fitting. I couldn't say I would run out and buy the soundtrack, even though Nick Glennie-Smith was involved - I will, however, for him, listen to it again, and possibly revise my opinion. That is very unusual for me: I take my music scores and soundtrack music very, very seriously (my favourites? The unbelievably young Ramin Djawadi [Person of Interest, Clash of the Titans, and Iron Man I] and the truly masterful Nick Glennie-Smith [Secretariat - if anyone has this music, I will pay you handsomely for it!]). My only one true complaint about the film was the sudden elevation of all the characters from nerd to superhero status. However, in animated movies, the impossible is easily possible, and so while it takes the 1.5 points from a 10, it is an easily overlooked crime.

A special thank you goes to one of the titans of the animated film world, my favourite and belovèd producer, John Lassiter - a million thanks! You brought the magic of Pixar to us and we love you for it! (I did look for other Pixar-famous names, but to no avail - and believe you me, I watch all the credits, all the time, every first time I watch a film, regardless of where - all those people put their hearts, souls and lives into it, and it behooves us to look at ALL of the credits to give them their due. I also like to cheer for Human Resources, always listed in animated movies as well as the sheer numbers of production babies!)

I would never make it in the critic business - no one wants that much honesty!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Sitcoms Are Disappearing - HOORAH!




You need to understand this from my shoes; my very sarcastic but right-on-the-nose shoes. My shoes that feel this is the worst kind of telly viewing.

First, please read my cousin's Web page: 

Then, my comments:

"Well, well. I was very surprised - pleasantly - to read this. I know you love sitcoms and I feel they should all burn in effigy, but this was an honest appraisal. I myself have only ever submitted to two sitcoms and the first one took on more strong subjects for its time than most and the second... well... I just could not keep up with it. I did try Bad Judge but had to give up - it had a few too many dopey moments for me, as much as I might have liked it.

I did enjoy Suburgatory its first two seasons but tired quickly of the idiot with the robot voice, zero I.Q. and terrible shoes and make up. I can't even recall her name. The main character, Tessa, was wonderful, but I knew far too many self-absorbed (yes, to THAT degree) people in my high school days and found I hadn't the taste to go through it again. Some things carry lasting affects.

My reasoning for hating The Office is not what you might think. Well, not JUST what you might think. I spent a lifetime doing Human Resources, the only job I ever loved, completely gave of myself to do. That and being a volunteer EMT, one of my best efforts as well. To have this idiot's show come and do more harm than good to my life's work was more than I could bear. The sad and hideous fact is that watching the telly can have a fairly lasting impact and damage more than it helps. This show was exactly that: people immediately became wary of seeing their HR person. I was that person. You have no idea how much this hurt all of my efforts. Now, granted, some companies do have the worst sorts of people in their HR departments, but the bulk of us are NOT like that. And we bust our butts to be advocates for our employees, so often to no avail (more due to the company's mentality of "eve money at all costs" than us). we certainly did not need help from that source. Does that at least give some insight to why I felt so bitter about this particular show? I know I don't always give the whole story, but here it is.

The primary sitcom that I ever watched every single episode was M*A*S*H. That is it. The rest have exactly what you described: the tired laugh-track, the poor jokes, shows to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I'm sorry for that, you know I don't mean you or Luis, but let's be honest. The majority of viewers these days are the least educated and it is for them these shows are aired."

Which probably has you, dear readers, wondering what, if anything, I DO watch. Well, yes, I do watch the telly, probably two much (maybe two hours per day) - but let's be honest - give me books over television anytime! But, no, I will share what telly shows I do watch:

The Blacklist
Persons of Interest (yeah, I really find Jim Caviezel smoking' hot! But that is not enough...)
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Las Vegas)
Bones
Scorpions (I read about Walter O'Brien - quite the person)
Outlander (whoofah! Talk about "HOT")
Castle (starting to see a theme here, are ya'?)
How to Get Away with Murder
Elementary
Perception (also a favorite - Eric McCormack as a man with bipolar disease who teaches brain mechanics for college students and solves crimes in his own unique way)
Drop Dead Diva

Are you wondering, then, if I'm such a tough stick with movies? Better believe it, baby. It is had to get past my more fussy and exacting standards for films. For example: I could never make it through Something About Mary or Airplane or worst, Blazing Saddles. But I loved Dave, which has its dopey moments but is a sufficiently charming film. So for you, my top ten films:

10. Gravity
9. The Bird Cage
8. M*A*S*H
7. It's a Mad, Ma, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
6. Captain Phillips
5. LadyHawke
4. Escape Plan
3. Ratatouille
2. Brave
1. The Shawshank Redemption

And my upcoming posts will have an entire post dedicated to The Shawshank Redemption. It would not be right to tell not that story.

Ready to Resume Writing!/Thank You for Inspiration!

In the blogging world, November is the Month of NaBloPoMo, or a sort of "a blog a day" contest, writing, exposè, whatever. I like the concept and did some looking at a blogging site BlogHer (www.blogher.com) and immediately realised that while I won't have any problem trying my hand at posting every day for a month come November 2015, that this is not how I want to get back into blogging right now.

The other difference I twigged onto immediately is that everyone engaged in this site is into blogging as a way to make money. I will never blog for that reason. I know that there are the odd cases out there of one-hit wonders and over-night successes in the blogging world and that maybe, just maybe, mine could suddenly come into some sort of big, very short-term, momentary fame. If it happens? Well, one thing I know is that while it may seem like a blessing at first, it will all-too-quickly pall. And it will truly ruin writing for me. I am not looking to supplement my income, I'm not looking in any way, shape, or form for fame. If anything, fame is the last thing I would want. I know that the personalities that often getting into the performing arts of any kind are those that would bask in the accolades, but I like having the choice to make my life as private - or as not - as I wish. And I certainly don't want to ruin what is essentially a healthy outlet for different things: the usual mishmash of kudos, compliments, complaints, etc..

Here my relationship with my cousin Renée comes to the fore again, as many, many years ago, she showed me what a blog is. We were at my aunt Toby's house and she logged into her page on their computer and showed me hers on the blog site WordPress. So in 2002 (I think) I saw my first blog.

I will admit that a long time when by before I decided to accept my fate as a blogger and finally created my own blogger, through Blogger.com, in the autumn of 2005. What tripped it? An article in People Magazine, about a forty-year-old virgin. I was incensed at the way she viewed the world, people, women who are sexually active (and I especially take offence to the idea that as an 18-year-old, I was far too "young" to become sexually active. Have you met high- and middle school girls lately? Or even in my day, the mid-80s? Shit, honey, there were girls whom I knew were sexually active at age 14, something I could never wrap my head around. And here is this fossil saying I'm lacking in morals for trying out something I was fully prepared and ready for!). We all have something that pushes us to try the new, strange, or unknown and that was mine.

So it was ironic that I called her via FaceTime on her husband Alex' computer (hello, Alex!) just a couple of days ago and she was stressing about being so busy. I was shire her days of taking classes were over, so I asked what was keeping her so busy now? She has a (new) blog and is making a go of more professional writing. And here I will say something I rarely admit to anyone - both because it is truly a gift to be able to write, and who wants to create the swelled ego that can destroy so delightful a talent: SHE IS AN EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT WRITER!

Am I envious?

There was a time when I would have been and envy just about destroyed me. I was 19 when I learned, through very bitter experience, just how hurtful envy is to the bearer of it. And it took about a full year of working hard on excising those negative and destructive emotions, but thank you only 1,000,000,000 times to Sean Dwyer, who warned me verbally but it went through me, about this, to work it out. Ask Luis if I am the "jealous type". He will laugh and tell you he wishes I might be even a teensy bit that way. But I am not at all that way.

(Some day I will give the full text on this. Self-awareness demands it.)

Renée wrote a post on three women in high school who had an appearance on Queen Latifah's morning show (another woman I think very highly of), entitled They're Not Teens, They're Women ; Get Lit (http://geek-adjacent.com/2014/11/14/theyre-teens-theyre-women-get-lit). I read it, watched the video and commented on it: "Now, this... this required a few times of reading and watching it. They are truly incredible, wonderful, amazing women. (Yes, there is no question they are women and have been longer than most.) And to put that out - it is exceptional and needs to be shared. It is scary to think that there is a need to increase literacy, as we in this family are all avid readers, but clearly there is that need and it is out there.

I think we were more self-aware than others at our respective ages (two and a half years apart) because we were the abused in school. It made us tempered and different, even more so from our "peers", if one could truly consider them to be so. It gave us an earlier perspective on what it is to be belittled, spit on, looked down on. I went through a full three years of staggering abuse from the others - 8th grade through 10th - but came out clean on the other side, like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption (one of my most favourite movies). while nothing can remove the pain that we went through during those times, I know - know - we left that part of our lives behind 10,000 times stronger than we went in to them.

Also, I see in myself that mild amount of Asperger's (as well any true Geek, and Geek-Adjacent) well knows. Look into it and see if you don't recognise yourself, but especially Luis (!) in there. I did immediately - although NOT from reading about it, but during a long conversation with Tom, my closet friend, whose son has severe Asperger's Syndrome. We may not be severe, but we had enough of it to make us stand out in the way we did. You were very lucky - I would have loved to go to your high school! Was it perfect? Who looks back on High School and thinks that?! No one. But was it better? Hell, yes.

Actually, you told me that story. On the subway. I've never forgotten it (given how disturbing it was, who would?). I will be interested to read that, too.

I love this post, too. Again, it is not easy to look back at these things. And it is easy to think we weren't self-aware, but I think we were, just not about all the things these women are."

Some things need to be put out there. Some things need to be known.

Thank you, Cuz, for putting this out there!

Living in Books (Or, Turning Over a New Leaf)

There are many things that I want to say at any given time on any given day at any given moment: a complaint, a compliment, a kudos, a thanks, and far too often, many, many unhappy remarks about my current situation of not working. Of being disabled. Of not having my health, the one thing I would trade nearly anything to have. (Except my soul, should the Devil suddenly show up with an offer... but he hasn't yet, and frankly, I don't expect such a high personage to stop by for a visit. Although, if he did (or is it correctly He, as in the way Catholics capitalise the word for God?), I find an interview (for this, my belovèd blog) would definitely vein order. I should think He would like the free publicity.

That aside, again, not expecting so august a diety, there are a great many comments bursting out of me at any time. The usual, well, you all know. The new is what you don't. And yes, the answer is it has taken me all this time to arrive at the knowledge that will lad, swift and true, to a much overlong needed realignment to see what I actually have rather than what I had perceived as lost.

First, some people to thank, for without whom, real or imagined, this could not have happened:

1. My father, who has made the best of some truly heinous situations, and came out clean on the other side.
2. My cousin, Renée, who always keeps a sunny attitude through it all.
3. My husband, Luis, of almost twenty-five years; you are my lover, my confidante, my best friend, my soulmate.
4. David and Dorita Reyen, who keep the darkness at bay.
5. Kevin Vitale, who was always my biggest fan and has had many notes written in my head but never sent. My support and love always for giving me the last, best job ever. Everyone should end that way, career-wise: happy. Also, all of those who were there with me - I love you all.
6. All my friends who have given me years worth of love, new knowledge, a different way of seeing the same problems, and still love my bossy, overly opinionated self!

Are you still here? Wow. All waiting breathlessly for that new leaf, eh?

The new leaf is this: I'm bloody lucky!

And suddenly I can hear all this exhalation of air while at first, disappointment reigns supreme. What were you expecting, the key to all life? How to stay young but live to be 3,000 years old? The cure to cancer? Well, in a way this IS the cure to cancer: my own personal cancer. You are scratching your heads and thinking, "So what?"

No, now back it up a moment. What had I written about primarily since ceasing to work? (Don't say everything, because we both know that is not true. And don't say that it has just been Old Farmer's Almanac, as that is copying, not true writing, or giving of oneself. But I know what theme has come time and again: my condition. My not working. This complaint, that complaint, all centred around the same issues. And what did that do for me? I guess the truly charitable could say that it allowed me to work out all my issues on this forum, but really, did it? It's one thing to suddenly reach critical mass and throw up your hands and cry out, "Oh, Lord, what have I done to deserve this?!" But if you do it over and over again, the best you could ever hope for is the Lord to open one irritable eye and reply, "Have you not yet tired of making demands where none will be tolerated? Grow up! Suck it up! These things happen!"

So this is the new leaf. I am no longer as sad about not working. (Will I always be that way? No, and it is not reasonable to expect it. We all have our moments of crawling back into the abyss, of wrapping our misery like a warm cloak about ourselves and revealing in depression. But I have been revelling in it far too much of late and it needs to stop.) This is the bright, shinier, happier me. I need this very badly and as I said, it has been very long overdue.

Oddly enough, the thing I am most grateful for in this different life is the time and need to read. Many others may look at reading as a chore, but not me, I consider it a need, and one I will never outgrow or put away. When people would say to me, "Wow, you read while still working full-time and riding on the ambulance full-time? How can you do that? I can never make the time!"

Well, with that attitude, I wonder how you find your shoes every morning? No love, no enthusiasm. I can't think of anything worse than not doing a job you love. but at least love to be good at your job. It is something for which you are bartering: your product or work in exchange for all those things one needs: money, benefits, etc.. Not doing your best is criminal; being lazy won't give you more. I know Luis gets frustrated when I don't make the effort to get up and do things around the house or out-of doors. He just doesn't want me staying all bed all day.

The best part here truly is the reading. I saw a film with Luis called "About Time" with some guy who finds out he has talent to go back in time by going into a closet or a loo and thinking of a period of time, and squeezing his eyes and hands, makes the journey there. It is interesting because the father found a way to make enough money to retire at ago fifty so he can read all of his books. In effect, this is how I am viewing this. I have all the time in the world to read and so, unsurprisingly, I do. I would never be able to pass up reading.

My next favourite activity? Writing, naturally. And so, dear friend, take my hand and let us take that plunge into the wonderful world of writing!