Thursday, December 3, 2009


I once stayed in a hotel room in Paris with a bathroom overlooking the major street in front of the hotel. The most noticeable feature of the bathroom was a window in the shower. It wasn't a frosted window and there were no curtains provided. The view from the hotel across the street was no doubt interesting as was the sidewalk view from across the street. Since the window opened and had a latch closing, I took a blue shopping bag, covered the window, closed and latched it so I could take a shower without becoming an x-rated peep show. I'm pretty sure I could never get a job stripping because who would want to see my poor body and pay for it, therefore, no one gets to see it for free either.

Years later, I saw an article in a magazine called "Voyeurism in Paris." Apparently, it is common practice in that city to walk the streets playing peeping tom and watching others go about their lives through their uncovered windows. Call me paranoid, but I don't see walking the streets in the dark, and peeking into other's homes as entertainment. To me, it borders on the criminal and if it isn't, it should be. One's home should be one's castle and if one wants to be observed, one can venture into recognized public arenas. Granted, "candid camera" is everywhere these days, and even more reason to be able to have privacy in one's own home or hotel room or bathroom. If I am going to be observed under lights, I expect to also observe anyone who is watching me. It brings to mind slasher films where a peeping tom observes from the dark exterior of the house, the vulnerable young, defenseless female, before entering the residence to slash her to bits and dismember her. Ever hear of Ted Bundy, Son of Sam, Hillside Strangler, Jeffrey Dahmer? None of them are fiction and sick people wander the streets every day.

I'm probably the only homeowner in my neighborhood who has drapes on all windows and closes them at night. Other houses have "window treatments" that consist of draping valance fabrics on the top fifteen inches of the windows, and otherwise having open views of the inside of their houses, night and day. Lights go on inside houses, and all activities and people are observable from the dark exterior. I don't go around the neighborhood looking into windows, but it is obvious to see when driving past from the street. It brings to mind the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright whose home designs featured curtainless windows.

I know someone who recently complained about having a home "intruder" but admitted they never lock their doors. In what century do they think they are living? Have they never heard of burglars, serial killers, drug abusers, or lunatics? One journalist put it well when she said, "If I leave my car unlocked, my purse on the front seat and you steal it, it makes you a thief and me a damned fool." Whatever happened to common sense? I like to think I am saving weak people from their baser inclinations rather than enabling their lack of self-control. I lock doors, have burglar alarms, and cover all windows at night. Yeah, I know, stuff happens, but it won't be because I invited it. Reality Check!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009



Ah, plagiarism, what a vice!
Good ideas are worth using twice.
No good ideas of your own?
Try another's to hone!

Let's drop a few names,
Lay claim to borrowed fame.
No one will ever know,
What deceptions we sow.

Who can read everything?
That's a delusion you might claim.
Until the likes of Google and Yahoo,
Reveal your stolen boo boo.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dusty Tomes

In the autumn of the year, in the Brandywine Valley, Chester County, Pennsylvania , when red and gold leaves pile in corners and blow across bare, newly-harvested fields, there is a chill in the air with a hint of the faint smell of wood-burning stoves. It is a reminder to me that this is the time of the year that I like to visit my favorite book store. It is a rare treasure in the Brandywine Valley and it is called Baldwin's Book Barn. The barn part of the name comes from the fact that it is housed in a five-story structure that used to be a dairy barn that was built in 1822 by a family called Darlington. It was acquired by the Baldwin family in 1946 and they turned it into a bookstore.

This isn't an advertisement, but a book lover's tribute to the originality and creativity of the concept. Unique hardly seems to be an adequate adjective to describe this establishment. It is five floors that are stacked from floor to ceiling with thousands of used, rare books, maps, paintings and a lot of interesting stuff. I have often searched there when I couldn't find an out-of-print book. Sometimes I reserve hours and browse the many,many shelves of used books in this bookstore/museum. I've been a lifelong bibliophile since the days that my mother would sit in her rocking chair and read aloud the library books that my older brother brought home from the school library while my two brothers and I crowded around her shoulders. Therefore, I like to haunt libraries and old, unique bookstores. I always bring tissues because it can be dusty, but that is part of its charm. Dusty tomes.

Baldwin's Book Barn is wood throughout and the floors echo as you walk through and up the tiny staircases. Corners have rocking chairs and wood-burning stoves. That is why I like it in the fall when leaves are burning in back yards, and pumpkins and cornstalks sit on porches. The Book Barn has online book sales available, but a visit to this clever piece of nostalgia shouldn't be missed by anyone within fifty miles. Their website has a great C-SPAN interview with the owner, the manager, and the rare books curator. If you don't live in our region, I recommend visiting their website and clicking on every possible link to get a hint of the charm of this wonderful place of the past. Such a feast for the eyes and the mind. It is incredible any time of the year, but October is my favorite time to visit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ideal Vacation

Probably the best vacation I have experienced was an unplanned, spur-of-the-moment day trip. We always had "staycations" in the post WWII years. When I was a teenager, we visited relatives who lived a few miles away. I went with my cousin, her cousin from another side of her family, and the cousin's teenage boyfriend on an afternoon excursion. His family owned a motorboat which we were allowed to use. Today, as a mom, I'm thinking red flags, four teenagers on a motorboat? It was a different era--maybe 1960. We went out in the boat on a lazy, summer afternoon. It was a clear, sunny day in Florida with a light breeze on the bay. We roamed about in the boat looking at the scenery and talking. With no particular destination in mind, we stopped at a small sand dune and walked about wading in the shallow water. We wore Bermuda shorts, but hadn't planned the trip and had no swim suits. We didn't have life jackets either, but we could swim and didn't worry about stuff like that as teenagers. We had no sunscreen, or hats and the only protection we each had was a pair of sunglasses.

During the course of the afternoon, we slowly motored around the huge aircraft carrier that was docked at the local navy base. We waved at the sailors and no one pointed guns at us or blew ship's horns, or used loud speakers to warn us away from a military vessel. It was the most enormous ship I had ever seen--the ship itself was very intimidating in its size and painted a steel gray color. We weren't the only small craft cruising around it. We were all sightseeing on a Sunday afternoon.Everyone waved at each other and it was a very friendly atmosphere. It was very much an in-the-moment feeling--no stress, no worries. It was everything one could want in an experience because it was stress-free time, away from daily thoughts that tend to dominate our lives. It was a new experience for me and sensory overload was like an out-of-body day. I had a new appreciation for hot, wet sand between my toes and screaming seagulls. I didn't care about the salt water smell in my hair or the wet blouse from sprays of passing boats. It dries quickly in a Florida sun. Whether on a vacation or a day trip, sand, sun, and surf still appeal to me.

After the boat trip, we stopped at the typical drive-in ice cream stand of the Sixties and had chocolate milkshakes. It was the most inexpensive, but most valuable vacation experience, as well as one of the most enjoyable. It set the stage for what I now like in vacations. I treasure looking for the unexpected, and sea shell collecting fits the bill as a requirement for any trip to the beach. Every vacation should provide that "ah ha" moment and the quest for a feeling of suspended time. I love that expression "no worries". That's what an ideal vacation is for me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Winding through chateau country (as people sometimes call it) in southeastern Pennsylvania flows a river/creek with the beautiful name of Brandywine. The origins of the name Brandywine has many stories and much speculation. The name is liberally used throughout the region of what is known as the Brandywine Valley in
southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware. We have the Brandywine Battlefield (Revolutionary War,1777), Brandywine River Museum (home of Wyeth art collections) and a lengthy list of Brandywine-named establishments listed in the Yellow Pages.

The Hagley Museum sits on the banks of the Brandywine in this region which is also known as DuPont country because the du Pont family settled from France on the Brandywine River in 1802 and built their gun powder mills that later became the DuPont Company (in French, du Pont). The early success of the company resulted in some fabulous estates owned by the family members, thus the name "chateau country".

Many estates have become museums such as Nemours(shares its grounds with world-renouned Alfred I.duPont Hospital for children), Winterthur, Rockwood, Longwood Gardens, Bellevue,and others. Many are still private estates. One such estate can be seen on a hilltop overlooking the Brandywine River, as well as one of the many Brandywine Bridges on a road called Smith's Bridge Road as it crosses into Delaware. You guessed it--this lovely bridge is called Smith's Bridge. It has changed appearances several times in its history, but this is my favorite version. I've lived in this region over forty years and it was always easy to see the potential of this bridge.

Thankfully, this 2002 restoration is much appreciated, photographed, and painted by many residents and visitors. Not only is the exterior very picturesque, the woodwork interior is extraordinary. It is a one-lane bridge so motorists on Smith's Bridge Road must sometimes wait for oncoming traffic to clear before driving across it. Form and function work well in this bridge because it is a much-needed, east-west route across the Brandywine. To take an alternate route, one must drive miles to the next bridge to cross the Brandywine.

The restoration was a joint Delaware State and grassroots effort to maintain a rustic, historic character of the bridge. Delaware also maintains several other beautiful covered bridges. No matter where a person lives, it is rewarding to appreciate the diamonds in our own back yards. There is much to enjoy in the Brandywine Valley.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Face of Evil

The city of Venice, Italy is a fabulous city of great beauty, but at the Hall of the Compass (Sala della Bussola), this structure in the wall is called the "mouth for secret accusations." During the history of the Venetian Republic, a single, anonymous accusation slipped into the open mouth of this imperious face, could lead to an arrest and imprisonment in the Doge's Palace jails. Trials were held in secret and attended only by The Council of Ten (Consiglio dei dieci), who voted on guilt or innocence. Only written statements from the accuser and the accused were read and the tribunal voted. Supposedly false accusations resulted in the accuser receiving the punishment for the crime. If it was an anonymous accusation, how was that enforced?

This is Justice? When I viewed the structure with slots in the wall and heard its history, it gave me chills to look at the carving and wonder how many lives had been destroyed in power struggles of the powerful Republic of Venice (late seventh century until the late eighteenth century). It's not surprising that Napoleon closed them, and was his methods an improvement?

It was the longest republican type system of government, but one has to wonder how far we've come in systems of justice. Even today, a prisoner can testify against another person and help send them to prison in exchange for leniency in his own case. Rewards are offered for anonymous information about crimes in today's systems of justice. The eternal truth seeking. Good luck with that, Diogenes (412 BC-323 BC).

From the Doge's Palace, there is another chilling structure that echoes with human tragedies. The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), is a passage built in the 17th century that links the Doge's Palace jails with the newer prisons. That bridge was crossed by offenders on their way to prison and possibly execution. It has openings with a last view of the Grand Canal and freedom. I had to wonder if anyone was ever exonerated from the charges. Did accusation automatically equal conviction?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009



--A movie of fearless, bold, reckless courage
--Action adventure
--Alpha male with "skills"
--High body count
--Justified cause
--Sanitized violence
--Fear factor
--Vulnerable families
--Stark realism views the seedy side of life
--Language not objectionably crude
--High suspense level
--Suitable conclusion

Friday, July 3, 2009

To Channel Music

I have learned to "channel" music, thanks to the albums of Yanni. Stifle that groan! Gone are the moustache and flying locks of the nineties, replaced by a trimmed, more conservative look, thank goodness. I'll forgive the theatrics, which were a bit over the top, after all, he is Greek and loves his music. Along with the new music comes an older, wiser mentor/conductor who has launched some spectacular new voices. The two male vocalists are very dramatic in their own way and the ladies make us jealous. Yanni calls Chloe "fearless" and who wouldn't be with her looks and talent? Wish I could move like that.

My favorite remains in the instrumentals of the earlier albums, especially "Live at the Acropolis". It is at the top of my playlist for the gym. It gets me through four miles of fast walking with a lot of energy that I didn't feel when I walked into the gym. The instruments seem to flow through the listener with such energy and pep that you just want to dance on a treadmill. If that doesn't get the laziest person moving, nothing will. I greatly enjoy the videos of his orchestras in concert on YouTube. The instrumental performers are absolute experts with those instruments. The violins are extraordinary and the rhythm of percussion is inspiring. So Yanni gets my vote and I don't give a hoot about how he looks, or what is in his personal life. I just channel his music. Bring it on! It's all about the music!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vertically Challenged

This is the euphemism I use to describe my 5'1" height. Just to indulge myself in my favorite rant, most of our man-made environment is generally designed for the "average" adult, which is usually described to be 5'8". That's wonderful if that is your height, which I'm not. I know tall people have special challenges too, but short people go through life feeling like a child, or as though they never quite made it to adulthood and must adjust like children.

Most chairs (doctor's offices, airports, park benches,office furniture,etc.) are too tall and my feet don't touch the floor which cuts off my leg circulation. On planes I have to be cautious about DVT. The American Institute of Architects produces the "Architectural Standards" manual on which furniture sizes are based and that is an average of 5'8", unless it is children's furniture which feels far more comfortable to me. Naturally, that reinforces the self-image of perpetual childhood. If that weren't already enough bad news, as we age, height diminishes even more. I used to be 5'2". Clothes, even petites, are too long for me so I sew a lot to hem skirts,and slacks. Whine, whine.

Supermarket shelves have two rows too tall for me to reach so they miss a sale if I can't reach their products. I need a stepstool to reach the top shelf in my kitchen cabinets. If I go to a movie or a theater event, people sitting in front of me block my view.

Want to be a model? Get over it, the world doesn't see short people as attractive. Studies also show that short people aren't taken seriously and generally earn less than taller people. Leadership positions seldom go to short people.

Naturally, the negativity police would say, "Stop complaining, already." At least I know why my aura is so "negative". I know why I am irritated when I feel irritated. I don't need the songs about short people, the jokes about short people, and the teasing about being a shortie. I am "in touch with my true self" so I don't need psychobabble. How do we fix a problem, if we can't identify the problem? My sympathies to all the tall people who must also compensate because they aren't 5'8" either. I feel your pain.

It is comforting to see that we shorties aren't alone. So how did that "average" of 5'8" get so high? Maybe there are a lot more tall people than short people, certainly feels like it. Short Support is a good site to read about issues important to the vertically challenged.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


This word "Whatever" has to be my favorite word. It appeals to my quirky sense of humor and my appreciation of the unique, or even the absurd. When I found the clock, naturally, I had to buy it. I placed it just inside my front door so that the minute people enter the front door, they see it and it brings a smile to their faces.

I laughed when I found a t-shirt with "Whatever" written on the front. What a conversation piece it is when I wear it! It always gets a giggle from people when they see it and they have to comment. "Great t-shirt," they say and they tell me about all of their favorite t-shirts.

The definitions submitted by readers for their perceptions of the word "Whatever" and posted in The Urban Dictionary are fun and revealing about their personalities. My favorite expression would have to be "Whatever floats your boat." It very succinctly sums up my philosophy combining: do whatever you like; think whatever you like; we should all tolerate our differences and maybe even celebrate them. A good synonym would be apathy. I'm definitely not a fanatic looking for a cause. I fear the negativity police would find "Whatever" to be insulting and dismissive. I think it is the new substitute for "have a good one" especially if one doesn't feel like saying "have a good day."

The word "Whatever" now appears not only on t-shirts, and clocks, but on throw pillows, mugs, stickers, posters, and calendars, etc. Perhaps people overuse the word, but I enjoy the humor in the products available to say "Whatever".

Cafe Press has 121,000 products that feature "Whatever". It's a very popular word.

I am fascinated to see how flexible and useful the word can be in the English language. It can be used to encompass whatever a person wishes to wrap into the word.

"Whatever you do, it will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." --Mahatma Gandhi

"Whatever you are, be a good one." --Abraham Lincoln

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Whatever you say, say it with conviction." --Mark Twain

Monday, June 22, 2009


This fascinating creature is such a magnet for my attention. I maintain four hummingbird feeders around my house and one is within my peripheral vision near my computer screen where my computer sits at large windows overlooking the woods. As much as I enjoy my computer, when Tinkerbell arrives at the feeder, nothing else matters. I love watching them hover over the feeders.

It is easy to see the proboscis in this picture and it seems to be as long as the beak. Naturally, I can't resist trying to take pictures of them, but my camera isn't up to the task. Far more sophisticated equipment is needed for the spectacular photos available at or in the book Hummingbirds by Crawford H. Greenewalt. Birds and Blooms magazine also publishes some spectacular pictures taken around the country by readers. I was amazed to learn that we are very privileged to be able to watch hummers since they are native only to the Western Hemisphere.

When I see a hummingbird, I call it Tinkerbell, because it reminds me of Peter Pan's pixie friend. I have watched them long enough to be able to recognize several individual birds by size and color or shape. The male is very distinctive with a ruby throat, hence the name ruby-throated hummingbird. Some of them seem to have more iridescent green on the body. This is the only species we see in the northeastern U.S.

Every year they arrive in April and migrate in October. When they arrive, I notice because they dance in front of my windows until I put out feeders. They put on a guilt trip as well as anyone. I am amused to see them zoom up to the feeder and hover before feeding which reminds me of the posture of a sea horse. If ants discover the feeder, the hummingbirds can behave very annoyed so they dart around the feeder, then hover in front of the windows. I've tried lots of solutions to keep ants away from the base of the shepherd's hook where the feeder hangs. Any preventative methods work briefly, but the ants are persistent. All summer, we struggle to keep the little guys fed. They are worth the effort for they entertain, amuse and amaze.

They sometimes engage in mid-air combat and swoop down to prevent each other from reaching the feeder. That explains the four feeders. I started with one feeder and took pity on them to try to prevent too much armed combat. I expanded to two, then to four which seems to keep them adequately supplied.

I've seen pictures of people hand feeding hummers by holding tiny feeders in their hands, which is tempting. They are so cute; I want to pet them or communicate with them. They are only interested in feeding, so there's no need to get too fanciful. They are astounding marvels of nature.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Plagiarism and Copyright

I once posted an article I had written on the internet and later found that the entire article had been re-posted on another person's blog, word for word without giving any credit to me, the original author. I was more than a little angry. I wrote the person a "comment" and thanked him for reprinting my article and included the original site where it was posted which naturally showed the date when I had written and posted my article first. At least, he then included my comment with my site listed.

Today's copyright laws indicate that the minute something is created, the producer owns its copyright and they do not have to get official copyright ownership from governmental entities. That includes materials created and produced first on the Internet.

Posting materials on the Internet can become a sticky wicket of legal issues involving plagiarism and copyrights. As a retired educator, I am highly sensitive to both after spending many years instructing students about giving credit where it is due for intellectual property. Finding something on the Internet does not necessarily make it in the "public domain" and automatically free to use.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary


--to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source.

--to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source."


--the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work)."

Copyright Infringement: According to the U.S. Copyright Office at

"Section 501 of the copyright law states that “anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner an infringer of the copyright or right of the author.”

Generally, under the law, one who engages in any of these activities without obtaining the copyright owner's permission may be liable for infringement."

Therefore, in summary, to display copyrighted work publicly, one must seek the copyright owner's permission. They may say yes, or no, or charge for the use of their intellectual property. One can be guilty of copyright infringement without being guilty of plagiarism. Giving credit where credit is due may not be enough if someone owns a copyright and doesn't agree to let others use their work either for free or for payment.

After having my original work freely used without giving me credit, makes me think twice about my blogs and web sites. It takes time and effort to get permission to use pictures or information from other sources, but I like to know that whatever I post is original content or that I have permission to reprint the works of others. I mention all of the above due to the previous posting that I wrote about the article I enjoyed in The New Yorker magazine about Nora Roberts. There was a striking illustration that I really liked in the magazine, so I contacted them to ask if I could use it in my blog because I thought it was probably copyright protected. They confirmed this and said it was "under embargo for 60 days" and I could not post it. I am more than happy to comply because I respect all copyrights.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How Nora Roberts became America’s most popular novelist:

How Nora Roberts became America’s most popular novelist:

Shared via AddThis

For those who like to put words to paper, or today's word processors, Nora Roberts is such an inspiration with a work ethic that many would find hard to match. She sums up her writing philosophy as "ass in the chair", which according to this article makes it possible for her to produce a book every 45 work days. Writing a hundred eighty-two novels since the early 1980's is pretty impressive as is this article in The New Yorker magazine. I had read bits and pieces of her story over the years in various places, but The New Yorker does the best job I've seen in this ten-page article by Lauren Collins in the June 22, 2009 issue. For a magazine of this quality to pay such a lengthy homage to the queen of romance is a great tribute. Even Stephen King salutes her works.
The art work in The New Yorker is very unique in style and Robert Risko is credited with a great illustration in the article.

The voracious reader that I've always been alternates between murder/mystery/spies/adventure genres and the romance genre; I've been a lover of romance novels since I discovered Gone With the Wind and the Flame and the Flower. Nora Roberts is one of my favorite authors after I discovered her MacGregor family series. One thing I love about her writing is that she throws rules out the window and writes whatever appeals to her with strong characters who seem as real as anyone I've ever known. She has never been a slave to what others think a novel should be. I know what appeals to me and her writing entertains me so I don't care about snobby rules either. I love a good story which she delivers without fail while she laughs all the way to the bank. I just finished her Vision in White so I am eager to read her next book in the series about four friends which she calls The Bride Quartet.

Her no nonsense lifestyle is appealing because how many of us would admit to not leaving the house for three weeks. I don't have a cook either. Her fans can look at their own daily grind and cheer up thinking that in Maryland, Nora is slaving away doing her research on Google rather than traveling to Italy to gather facts. The life of a writer is an unglamorous daily grind which few could tolerate. She seems to thrive and succeed, and she does it to perfection. Reminds me of Frank Sinatra's song "My Way". Nora is kool--you go girl!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lighthouses and Granddaughters

"Grandma, put down my baby brother and come play with me," said my granddaughter of the beautiful ringlets of hair. It had not occurred to me that I have such a passion for the beauty of lighthouses until my charming three-year-old granddaughter started guiding me around my house pointing out all the prints of lighthouses hanging on the walls and gathering all of the figurines of lighthouses that I have collected over the years. She didn't even spot all of the coffee table books in my collection of this obsession. I didn't realize I had gone off the deep end until she innocently began grouping them. Kids at that age do a lot of exercises in grouping similar items and observing patterns. I was thrilled to see that she was so keen about details, but anything my granddaughter does thrills me.

I have always loved the proud, regal appearance of a lighthouse--a beacon in a storm, a proclamation of safety, and a resilience as old as mankind. Any film about lighthouses will have my attention and PBS has some of the best. The architectural variety in designs of lighthouses is a constant wonder. The pictures of the ones I like most are those photographed with dramatic surf and crashing waves challenging their power to point the way. I took this picture of a very picturesque beacon called Peggy's Point Lighthouse in Nova Scotia, Canada. It is no surprise that it is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. Established in 1868, its history is not unlike other beautiful lighthouses in Nova Scotia. I like the interesting live view from this web cam of Peggy's Point.

I visited and photographed another favorite of mine at Barnagut Lighthouse, put into commission in 1835, in Long Beach Island, New Jersey.

As much as I am obsessed with lighthouses, it can't begin to compare with my other obsession. This little lady is my greatest obsession. What's not to love, with the pink sneakers, the pink baseball cap, the pink sunglasses, the pink Dora stroller, and the golden ringlets. Little granddaughters are even more beautiful than lighthouses. She is a treasure.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Comfort Food for the Mind

My family used to be servants to this beautiful black Labrador Retriever, who was the sweetest lady you could ever meet. One of her most endearing qualities was her affinity for creating habits, routines, "comfort food" of any event that we initiated. We had to be careful in choosing what we did with her because we knew it would become an expectation for her. Once, we tossed sticks on the driveway for her to retrieve on a Saturday morning after her walk. Thereafter, Saturday morning was stick day and she had great powers of communicating what she wanted. She expected that playtime every Saturday morning. Once we gave her the last bite of a banana and thereafter, she expected the last bite of any banana being consumed. It didn't take a dozen times for us to introduce a routine to her for her to consider the routine to be a habit and a requirement. Once was enough. Maybe she had OCD, but she was extraordinarily trainable.

Sometimes, I think people are similar to my favorite Labrador Retriever. When we find something we like, we immediately attach our minds to it, and incooperate it into our daily routine. I try to avoid thinking of food in a routine like that, because it spells disaster for my diet. I think of those comforting habits of the day as the way we center our universe--that morning cup of coffee, the newspaper, and the favorite morning show; the exercise routine, e-mail with our friends. Some TV shows can become a routine that tells us all is well with our world and comforts us in times of depression, sickness and grief. Note the disappointment expressed when some favorite TV shows ended--Sopranos, Jerry Seinfeld, Star Trek. We had to find new comfort foods for the mind.

Our pet Labrador has been gone for eleven years, but she provided great enrichment, entertainment and comfort to us for sixteen years. Like Obi Wan Kenobi from Star Wars said, "I will be with you always". In her absence, books have been and will always be my comfort food for the mind. A book in hand can be the best friend a person could ever want. Books are the only addiction I need.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I am unapologetically addicted to pop culture. I love books (mostly novels), movies and TV shows that are new and highly entertaining. I like to read a book the same way I watch a movie, start to finish, with very few interruptions. I do apologize to all those authors who work tirelessly to entertain me. I am a very fast reader and I finish in two days, a novel that has taken authors months of slavery to produce. I'm easy to please--entertain me and surprise me. I salute the authors who can do that and I greatly envy their ability to create an imaginary world that fascinates me. If everyone has a book inside them, mine would be filled with opinions and little creativity. I hesitate to claim a list of favorite books because there are many. I become very loyal to authors I enjoy, therefore I will read anything they write. I don't judge and compare their latest novel with their previous works. I take from it whatever appeals to me but I don't bother to remember the dimensions of a particular weapon or the routes to the best restaurants in New York. I was a literature major, and I won't name the dusty tomes that were required reading but I've read some dry stuff. It is probably true that education is wasted on the young; I failed to relate to the tragedy of the human condition found in some of those required novels at 21 innocent years of age. Perhaps I should re-read some of the classics to remind myself of those human truisms that qualified certain works as classics worthy of reading over and over. However, I probably wouldn't prefer War and Peace to Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher thriller called Gone Tomorrow. Lee Child never disappoints and I am eager to see the first movie. The Jack Reacher character brings to mind the James Bond series. I have enjoyed all of Lee Child's creations;he's a very talented contemporary author.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Up to Code?

The robins worked very hard building this nest and faithfully sit on it when I can resist the temptation to try to take pictures of it. I considered taking it down when it became obvious that they were nesting over my deck light. I have heard from others that removing the early efforts won't work because they will keep rebuilding it. So they will leave sooner if they are left to raise their young and abandon their efforts voluntarily. It is interesting to watch, but I prefer that they build nests away from the house so that I don't have to watch the predator birds trying to consume the nestlings. It is gruesome to watch. Of course, I feel obligated to rush outside to chase away blue jays.

In the few weeks it takes for the nestlings to fledge, I have to tiptoe around my own house. No cookouts for a few weeks. I should be grateful that I can open my front door this spring. In years past, birds have built nests on the grapevine door decoration. We had to knock on the front door before we could open it to warn the birds to vacate the nest. Nevertheless, they flew inside the house one day, which required us to leave all of the doors open for them to fly away. Birds out, bugs in. That was easier than hosting the bat that fell down the chimney. Coexisting with wildlife gets weird.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Planet Hollywood, The Lady Luck of Las Vegas

I can't get enough of Planet Hollywood and Las Vegas. Can you beat that view from the room! The fountains across the Strip sound like canons booming, no matter what time of the day we happen to stop back at our room. Our friends who meet us to visit several days have been upgraded to beautiful suites, but he is always the lucky one of the four of us. From huge, purple, fuzzy, stuffed elephants won at beach arcades, to video poker, he carries around a winner halo. Unfortunately, it hasn't rubbed off on me yet. I keep hoping I will be the lucky one next time we play the slots. I love staying in Planet Hollywood when we go to Vegas for easy access to the rest of the area attractions. I enjoyed the hotel when it was the mysterious Aladdin, but I find the glamorous renovations to Planet Hollywood to be invigorating. Pictures taken at the entrance really sparkle. Having the Miracle Mile shops joining the casino was a stroke of genius. We are off again to explore Vegas, the shows, and nearby Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon and Freemont Street. It is like coming home from a long day when we can take off our shoes in our room in Planet Hollywood.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Spielberg, the Great

Monday night, I decided to do something trivial and watch the Golden Globes Awards show on Television. It was very silly and full of frivolity for hours. There were times when the audience was table hopping and talking through the awards presentations so that some of the presenters had to tell them to be quiet and sit down. I decided to go to bed around 10 pm, but they were about give the Cecil B. DeMille award. After the film course I took in college, I have an appreciation of his work, and Martin Scorsese was introducing the award. He tried very hard to talk slowly enough and enunciate well, so I got hooked into it. He said the award went to Steven Spielberg and talked about their relationship. Then they ran a clip going through the body of Spielberg's work spanning decades with the biggies like Jurassic Park, Jaws, Shindler's List, Indiana Jones, E.T., Saving Private Ryan, and the list of big hits just went on and on. I was just totally impressed at the sheer volume and quality of his works and how significant it was. When the clip ended, the audience came to their feet and cheered. He had made many careers in that room and he got his due respect. I am always thrilled to see a tribute go to someone who actually has done something and has a record of contributions in a world of American Idol where all you have to do is breathe and do stupid stuff while people pour on the accolades--a little like the political world.

Spielberg came on stage and nobody said a word while he spoke. It was obvious that greatness was in the house. I noticed that those people weren't table hopping and talking over the speaker any more. They all sat down and listened while he talked extemporaneously for over ten minutes about his beginning in the business and how he was so impressed at six years of age by Cecil B. DeMille's movie he saw in Philly with his father--The Greatest Show on Earth. He talked about starting to make movies with a little home camera and wondered if he would get away with crashing his train set just to make a movie. He said every time he makes a movie he wonders if he will "get away with it". Then he talked about the people who mentored him and how he had acted to mentor people as well as who was a mentor for various famous people he named. It was extraordinary the way he explained all of it and how it influenced the business which is a major player in the country's economy. He has created more jobs and careers than anyone in Washington. I was amazed that all those big names—Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Shirley McClaine, etc. sat spell bound while he talked so insightfully about the art and the business of movies. It was the most fantastic speech of the evening and when it was over, everyone in the whole room rose to their feet and gave him another standing ovation. I hoped he wasn't sick because too often, they give out those things kind of like a precursor to their memorial service. I hope he has another forty years in the business because he is really a giant in the industry. Today, the media that I have looked at or listened to have greatly ignored the whole thing as though the best dressed/worst dressed was the only thing that was important. I really had to search to find a few articles about his great achievements. How shallow the media is. They just don't get it. There was an absolute hero that has influenced more lives than one could count and they act like it was next to nothing and hardly worth a footnote. I love to see someone honored who has actually done something and it makes me furious when the real movers and shakers are ignored.

Or even worse, it annoys me when much ado is made of someone who has done nothing worth mentioning. I suppose that is the thing that annoys me most about the current media darlings. I don't like to see anyone elevated to rock star status who has done nothing which is a valuable contribution to the world. I knew a long time ago the difference between real accomplishments and glitz and glitter. I am only impressed by people who actually produce something. "Where's the beef?" is a very profound insight.