Sunday, January 31, 2010

Yes, it's the first snowfall I've experienced this year--left for California just before the big one in December. Not sure, but we may have gotten about 2 to 3 inches.
Yesterday, did various and sundry chores and continued on my great project of clean-up, clear-out. I'm putting the discards (but relatively good stuff) on the dining room table and will later decide whether to take it to the thrift store or save it for the flea market we're supposed to have in May.
Guess I'll skip our walk this morning. Susan and I are both bitter-enders, but I'm leery about slippery-ness. Think I'll stay in.
Later: Susan knocked shortly after I finished the above and we walked after all. Glad we did; it's powdery snow, easy to negotiate, and it was very pretty.
WIDER: A headline from the Daily Telegraph (UK) via Common Dreams.Org:
Thousands Protest in Tokyo Against U.S. Military Presence in Japan
the article goes on to say that the protest was aimed at the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan--WHAT?!? Forty-seven THOUSAND? That's alotta troops. I tried in vain to find the story in the NYTimes today, but there isn't any. There is, however, an editorial advising both sides to compromise. In its typical complacent way, the paper doesn't, of course, examine why there should be even one hired killer in a foreign country. After all, there are 700 U.S. bases around the world and it's in the natural order of things for us to be there, whether the citizens of the country like it or not.
I hate to tell the Japanese, but thousands protested the Iraqi invasion and they can see where that got us.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Finally, at long last, I think I've plowed through the last of the paper in the study closet. Went to the bank and rooted inconsequential items out of the safety deposit box, so could then cram in the rest. Won't need a larger box after all.
Tried on a few things at Kohl's and bought a sweater with the gift card Mike and Paula gave me for Christmas.
Speaking of Mikey, was happy to get a Skype call from him last night. Saw the little sweethearts, Vivian rushing to show me several pair of new shoes, for her, Violet, and Daddy. I was amazed to learn Violet, at 18 months, is already putting words together: "My shoes," "let's go," "I'm done." Vivian showed me her book and Violet tried to grab it, saying "book, book!" Mike was planning to take them to the zoo, along with Vivian's little friend. They leave for holiday in Malaysia next week.
WIDER: Jonathan Swartz,in his "A Tiny Revolution," mentions this quote from Howard Zinn:
"The events of my life, growing up poor, working in a shipyard, being in a war, had nurtured an indignation against the bullies of the world, who used wealth or military might or social status to keep others down."
Jon adds, "That's not a manifesto about democracy, freedom, the means of production blah blah blah. It's just a simple perspective that anyone can understand: bullies are bad. I agree, and I think that's pretty much all there is to say about politics and life. Bullies are bad, from the ones who make fun of the smelly kid in third grade to the ones who douse mideast villages with white phosphorus. People of the world unite: you have nothing to lose but all those bullies."
Yes, that says it all.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Finally got the top of the study closet cleared. I threw away--reluctantly--a lot of saved correspondence from 1.) members of my postcard club; 2.) my cousin, Judy, who died about 10 years ago; 3.) others. I got bogged down, of course, in re-reading a lot of it and reliving those days. I don't know whey I ever kept this stuff. I have "memorabilia" coming out of my ears, including a ton of pictures I need to go through and sort. As it is, I have twelve photo albums--from the days there were photo albums--of various trips and events ("Our Trip to Florida, 1989," "Joel's 5th Birthday") and they're fun to look through, but only every decade or so. Did I throw them out? Don't be funny: I transferred them to the top shelf in the guest room.
Rehearsal last night. It's really coming together--without my active participation at this point--but I'm going to hang in there and hope for some kind of change. Ellen asked me to come over to read her lines with her--she plays "Ouiser"--and I accepted with pleasure. I'll enjoy it and maybe can also pick up a southern accent, the only prospect that concerns me about the "Clairee" role that I'm hoping against hope I can step into.
(And the old English major rears up: "No! It should be '...into which I'm hoping to step,' nincompoop!")
Wider: So quickly, one after th eother, we've lost Howard Zinn and J.D. Salinger. As a blog commenter sadly wrote: "Zinn and Salinger: My political soul and my poetic one." Zinn was indeed a resident of the "political soul." Here is one of his essays from Common Dreams. It was written nine years ago, but is relevant today:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cleared out the hall closet, assembling an array of winter hats, scarfs, gloves, and mittens for the thrift store. Added a number of Pat's baseball hats and dropped all off. Called to see how Bill's doing and talked to Regina. Happily, the surgery on Tuesday went well and I was told he came through it well, too. If he's up to it, I'll visit him on Friday.
Went on to BJ's and a few other stores to pick up supplies. Believe it or not, those few errands just about filled the day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Took a car-full of priceless objects--uh, valuable antiques--uh, junk--to the thrift store. Drove over to the cemetery, then continued on to Mays Landing. Was going to buy sweats (I hate cold weather), but lost interest before I got there, so just turned around and went home.
I was sorry to hear that Pat's brother, Bill--the only one left of that family of nine--in in the hospital and was operated on yesterday.
Went to rehearsal last night. Damn, I wish I had been around to audition for Clairee.
Heard from Mike, who extended an intriguing invitation to join him and his family in September, when they go to Hawaii. I'm very tempted, and will think it over. Maybe it would be better to simply visit them in Singapore. They're going to Malaysia next week on holiday--after all, it's been several weeks since they had a vacation.
Got the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, about Dr. Paul Farmer and his founding of Partners In Health. It's enthralling and, coincidentally, I saw a video of him being interviewed in Haiti. A secular saint.
WIDER: A cheery little note from that needs no comment:
Price of US Wars: $1 Trillion and Rising

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yes, I saw Network yesterday on the recommendation of a blog-writer I read. Saw the whole thing on YouTube, in two parts. I was surprised that, although it was made 34 years ago, it didn't seem dated (aside from the absence of computers and wireless phones). Certainly the themes didn't: the tenacious hold television has on the public, the consistent dumbing down of same, and the stranglehold corporations retain throughout the world.
I found it interesting that Fay Dunaway got top billing, even though William Holden (looking pretty creased and haggard at 58) had a major part. Dunaway was stunningly beautiful at the time, but looked substantially different--younger, in fact--than she did in one of my faves, Chinatown, made two years before. I thought some of the actors, notably Peter Finch, went way over the top in hamminess, but he got an academy award for the role, so what do I know?
Anyhoo, I missed it the first time around, in 1976 and it was interesting to see. As for the day otherwise, the less said the better. It rained in sheets and buckets, was cloudy after that, and I lazed around a lot, my least favorite way to spend my time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A quiet Sunday. Continued the study closet, this time trying to be ruthless in getting rid of things. Still have to go through the two big boxes full of documents--some should be in the safe deposit box, some tossed.
Went to Santori's for feta, lettuce, squash, and other goodies, but skipped anyplace else.
Talked to Ellen on the old-fashioned instrument called "phone," as her computer is acting up. Otherwise, nothing going on, which is okay once in a while.
Wider: From "A Tiny Revolution," a blog I read daily, this eye-popping info:
1.Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are now global corporations; only 49 are countries.
2.The combined sales of the world's Top 200 corporations are far greater than a quarter of the world's economic activity.
3.The Top 200 corporations' combined sales are bigger than the combined economies of all countries minus the biggest 9; that is they surpass the combined economies of 182 countries.
4.The Top 200 have almost twice the economic clout of the poorest four-fifths of humanity.
In light of the recent Supreme Thwart (thanks, Jonathan S.!) decision, this should land on the psyche like a ton of bricks. However, because of the insanity of designating corporations as "human beings" and citing "free speech," I guess that doesn't matter--we're screwed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Had a terrific time visiting Mary Ellen. Tara picked me up at 10:20, then Rosalie at her son's Carvel Ice Cream store in Tuckerton. We got to ME's a bit after noon.
Mary Ellen has a large home on the bay in Barnegat Light, but is recuperating after a knee replacement at her condo in Philadelphia. The neighborhood is vibrant and exciting, surrounded as it is by good restaurants, theatres, and historic buildings.
The condo is so comfortable and attractive, with two bedrooms, two baths, a nice-sized kitchen, and a balcony overlooking the Philadelphia Academy of Music. It's freshly painted and beautifully modernized, with stone and marble in the kitchen and baths. Mary Ellen has decorated it with Asian pieces, including some of her beautiful kimono collection. She has a breath-taking gold one displayed in the dining area and others in the bedrooms.
ME's good friend, Carol from Connecticut, is staying with her until she's able to be on her own, and the five of us gabbed and gabbed and gabbed, of course. Tara and Carol went out to get lunch after we all decided on Italian. They came back with a great spread of arugula/feta/artichokes, chicken breasts with a lemon/caper sauce, and ziti with additions. We polished off the white wine from Renault that I had taken along, then cracked open another bottle. T. and C. then went out to a fabulous French pastry shop and brought back an assortment delectable pastries--oh, joy!
Another friend of Mary Ellen's makes jewelry and we examined, tried on, and admired a large array of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings she had made. These are not ordinary trinkets, but beautiful one-of-a-kind works of art, made of crystal and stones from various parts of the world. What fun!
Got home a bit after 8:30 after a wonderfully fulfilling day, thanks to interesting companions, good food, and great talk. What more could anyone ask?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The less said about yesterday, the better. I had a horrendous time getting through the study closet, and will have to tackle it again. There was an enormous amount of paper, and it was a mess. Documents I should keep in the safety deposit box were all mixed up with old bank recipts and other junk. In addition, I had a lot of empty boxes and other packing material, as well as containers full of pens, paint brushes (why?), and key rings. I took a lot of the discarded paper to the curb, as yesterday was recycle day. Soon got a phone call from neighbor, Bob, who informed me the stuff was blowing down the street. Ran out and secured it and it finally got picked up. And to think--I STILL have the master bedroom walk-in closet to go through!
There was some good news, though. Got an e-mail from son Mike that he'll be in NYC the end of February and will be able to come down for a few days. Yay!
Going to Philly today with Tara and Rosalie from the acting club to visit Mary Ellen (ditto), who just had a knee replacement.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Still slogging through my clean-up, clear-up campaign, I finished the drawers and cabinets in the master bath. Went to The Home Depot and got a new step stool, plus six containers for when I tackle the study closet.
Stopped over next door to see Barb D. and offer my condolences on the death of her cousin in Houston. He took his own life at the age of 71. She's an only child and her aunts, uncles, and cousins mean a lot to her. (And how odd only-childhood seems to this fortunate member of an eight-person immediate family and huge extended one.) We had a nice chat over coffee, though.
Other than that, nothing much went on.
Wider: the decision of the Supreme Court to allow unlimited campaign "contributions" (read "bribes" or "pay for service") to candidates just seems to put the lid on the whole "democracy" thing. We are owned by corporate America and it might as well be blatant. Reading The NYTimes on line this morning, I clicked on a video of Steve Jobs unveiling Apples's new super-thin laptop. First, I had to see an ad, this involuntary viewing instituted by the Times a year or so ago, then a reporter introduced the spot and conducted a short interview with Jobs. I was annoyed that a good eighth or so of the bottom of the screen was covered by three banners proclaiming that the piece was from CNBC, then something else, then an out-and-out OTHER ad, containing something like "First In News." This prevented the viewer from seeing the bottom of the new laptop, which Jobs was holding. Annoying--but then it occurred to me that, in truth, the whole piece was an ad--for the new Apple laptop.
It seems impossible to get away from the shills, what with television now in supermarkets and other stores, doctors' offices, and every other venue. As time goes on, they get more and more sophisticated, more and more intrusive, and more and more universal. How long will it be before our home sets will stay on, so the central government can monitor us at all times?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Had a thoroughly delightful lunch with Ellen V. Went to Applebee's and I noticed some welcome touches: For one, although it was crowded, our orders were taken within about 5 minutes and we were served quickly. Two, the music wasn't so loud we couldn't talk in normal tones. Three, I had a spinach salad with shrimp and both were nicely tender. Four, I was served a frosted glass with my Coors Light. To top it off (five), the entrees at least, were fairly inexpensive.
We stayed for almost three hours, sharing our personal and acting "back stories" (that's real theatre talk, folks). Ellen is a good conversationalist and has had an interesting life. She wants to direct "Blithe Spirit," which I've looked up on the 'net. Saw part of the movie on YouTube and I'm very much interested in playing "Madame (Somebody)," the Margaret Rutherford role. It's a major character role, though, and I'm not sure that 1. I'd get the part and 2. I could handle it. Well, it wouldn't be put on until the fall and Ellen wasn't sure she can get permission to stage it anyway, so all that could be moot.
Didn't get home until 4:30. Stopped at the library, then spent a quiet evening at home.
Rehearsal for tonight is cancelled--just as well, as I'll veg out after turning my wandering attention to my clear-out/clean-up campaign. Must finish the master, then tackle the big ones: the closets in study and master bedroom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Went to creepy Comcast in Manahawkin and had to wait in line for roughly 25 minutes simply to exchange the defective remote. Big C (yes, it's a cancer on society--ha!) operates out of a tiny, cramped space--the converted foyer of a split level house--and there's no place to sit. Here, they do all Comcast transactions, including disputes about a bill, turning in equipment, and for all I know, arranging play dates. Two harried women take care of annoyed, irate "customers," who pay an arm and a leg for increasingly complicated electronics, mysterious glitches, and indifferent service. It's really weird that they sit behind what seems to be bullet-proof Plexiglas and when you need to turn in or get equipment, there's a kind of box that opens both ways. For cryin' out loud, are they afraid somebody will be so pissed at having missed "Lost" that they'll come in shooting? Crazy world.
Yes, I still hate Comcast with a passion, but it's the only game in town.
Earlier, I stopped at SOCH thrift store to drop off some of the gleanings from the closets. Enjoyed Scrabble group at Pat's later and attended rehearsal last night, Today, I'm meeting acting buddy, Ellen for lunch; she plays Ouiser in "Magnolias."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Continued in the master bath and cleared out all three drawers. It's amazing how much I have that I couldn't find, so bought more. That includes four pairs of tweezers and four toenail clippers, as well as a lot of things like bobby pins that I no longer use. Haven't finshed, but will today, along with clearing out the cabinets under th sink.
After a phone call to Comcast, I found out I can't use my new remote, and have to get a new one of theirs. Drove to their place in Manahawkin, but they were closed, presumably for MLK Day. Will go back today.
Rented "Michael Clayton" and picked up "Changeling" from the library and--unusual for me--watched them both starting in the late afternoon. First was good (although somber and cynical), but second boring. A style note: Angelina Jolie has had so much surpery on her lips, she looks like Donald Duck, especially in profile.
Enjoyed a call from brother Jim. Made lentil stew (or soup, take your choice) in the crockpot. Have Sqrabble group today and will attend rehearsal tonight.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Two outings yesterday, lunch with Leslie first. We ventured out during an icy rain and went to The Grapevine. Ordered chicken-topped salad and--as has happened before there--got an unsatisfactory meal. The chicken was so tough we couldn't eat it and the salad was nothing to brag about. Whoever made it simply dumped uncut grape tomatoes, canned artichoke pieces, thick slices of cucumber, and stalks of celery onto packaged spring mix. Along with the inedible chicken, which certainly went directly from the freezer to the microwave, it made for a lousy lunch. We complained and got what I guess is the standing offer of dessert on the house; declined that and ended up getting ten bucks off the bill. Okay, but I'll think twice before suggesting the place again. Far more enjoyable than the meal, of course, was our long talk together--we had a lot of catching up to do.
Dinner was a whole 'nother story, as the kids say (do they still separate "another" into two?); it was great. Went with Susan and Walter to the "Dine Around" group's monthly dinner, wine in tow. It was at 217 Main Street next to Lizzie Rose Gift Shoppe, joining a nice, convivial group of about thirty. I had escargot for an appetizer,t hen a salad, then a superb rainbow trout, topped off with coffee and "profiterole of house-baked scone with ice cream and chocolate sauce." Just reading that puts on five pounds, but it was oh-so-yummy-good.
Got home to enjoy a Skype call with Ellen, who survived her first week back at school pretty well. I think I've finally gotten over my insomnia, as I've slept well the last few nights.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Went to the cemetery and found Pat's niece, Donna, there. I hadn't realized that yesterday was the fifth anniversary of her mother's death. We talked for awhile, and shed some tears, but that was okay.
I somehow managed to screw up the television by attempting to program a new remote. Now there's nothing but snow on the tube. For my daily 45-minute viewing, I had to sit in the guest room, but I'm not too upset by that.
Spoke to Marge and Betty. Mary Ellen e-mailed me directions to her condo in Philly and I hope to get up there, maybe tomorrow after my Food Bank stint.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Continuing my clear-out, clean-up campaign, I dealt with the guest room closet yesterday. Now, that was a worst chore than the linen closet or laundry room because of the mountain of pictures and other memorabilia I had stored there. Have stored there, I'm afraid, as I was unable to get rid of most of it. Must steel myself to do that one of these days (she said, as they carefully tucked them away again).
Made a date with Leslie to spend tomorrow together--lunch, then we'll visit the NJ Maritime Museum in Beach Haven. Will attend the "Dine Around" dinner after that, with Susan and Walter. Also agreed to meet Ellen V. for lunch on Wednesday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ran a lot of errands early in the day and just more or less lazed around later. Attended the "Magnolias" rehearsal in the evening. It was good to be back with the acting group, and I was greeted warmly, but GEE, I wish I had been here to audition. I know I could have nailed the part of Claree. As it is, I'm understudying two parts and will help out as needed.
Leslie asked if I'd help at the Food Pantry on Monday morning, which I'll be glad to do.
Am thrilled and overjoyed that the peppermint oil continues to repel my little (ugh!) unwanted furry guests--again, no sign of mice in the house.
WIDER: According to the NYTimes, O. has pledged $100 million to help the people of Haiti. I've always been lousy at math, so I don't know how to figure out what percentage of the proposed 2010 "defense" budget this is, but a comparison looks like this:
$100 MILLION VERSUS $663.8 BILLION (I got that amount right off the DOD web site.)
Of course, the proposed "defense" budget includes necessities for slaughter, such as the "50 (new) Predator-class unmanned aerial orbits by 2011...," which have been "in high demand in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will now be permanently funded...."
O. did say that initial aid would be followed by more--we'll have to see just how committed he is to that. The article in The Times also noted that
"The moves put an American stamp on the global relief effort. American forces on Thursday secured the airport in Port-au-Prince and started an airlift of medicine, water and other needed items...." So, yeah, it's all about the United States, I guess.
Further supporting what seems to be the universal government belief that somebody died and left us boss, Secretary of State Clinton said, "The United States is providing a lot of the glue that is keeping people communicating and working together as we try to assert authority, reinstate the government and begin to do what governments have to do to rebuild and reconstruct this damaged country,”
Geez, could self-aggrandizement be any more to the fore? In the meantime, thousands--or, I hope, millions--of ordinary citizens are donating to Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, and (my choice for no particular reason), Partners In Health.
We don't think it's about us at all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Back in the social whirl, went out to dinner with three couples I'm lucky enough to have as good friends. I was disappointed, though, when I had to turn down Leslie's later invitation to join her and Dennis. They had invited Frank, too, as Barb is at a funeral out of state. However, it worked out okay because after dinner at Scojo's, I was home by 7:00 and stopped over to have a glass of wine with the three of them. Greatly enjoyed talk of the big snow while I was gone (we got 19 inches) and news of neighbors; home by 8:30.
Heard from friend Vivian and we made a date for dinner next week. Friend Jack B. called and so did brother Larry. During dinner, got a call from Mary Ellen M., who just had a knee replaced and is recuperating at her condo in Philly. She's cast as M'Lynn in "Steel Magnolias," the rehearsal for which I'll attend tonight.
Earlier in the day, I cleaned out and cleared up the laundry room, leaving peppermint oil soaked cotton balls here and there. This actually seems to work, thank heavens; I checked this morning and could find no evidence of the little varmints.
WIDER: As so many Americans are doing, I donated to an organization (Partners In Health) active in helping people in Haiti. How strange and weird it is that we rush to the aid of those fellow humans, yet allow--or even applaud--the slaughter of others simply because they're labelled "enemies." Are they not our brothers and sisters, too?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Put on my cleaner hat and spent several hours clearing out the large linen closet in the master bath. Drove to Atlantic County to finally find peppermint oil. Put it on cotton balls and in drawers and here and there, as the omnisipent Internet instructed me to do to repel the mice. I'm going to concentrate next on the pantry and laundry room.
Was invited to dinner tonight by Ray and Barb, along with Susan and Walter, and the L.'s, who go out together every Wesnesday. Accepted with pleasure. I do want to be very careful about what I eat now, as I've gained quite a bit--I think I'm up about 20 pounds--while I was away.
Have a doctor's appointment at 9:15 today, just for a BP check.
Drove to the monument company in Egg Harbor to check on the gravestone. Was told I should be getting the mock-up around the end of the month.
Brr, it's cold!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Well, it's official: I've turned into a west coast bimbo, what with neglecting my blog and and sleeping until 7:00 am, as I did this morning. Will resume tomorrow. Just lots of errands, washing, and frantically looking for oil of peppermint in two counties. Finally found it and I put it on cotton balls all over the house.
Okay, it's supposed to repel mice--that's a clue as to what I've been doing since I got home...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back in the frozen north. A. picked me up and got me home about 10:00. Stayed up for my popcorn and wine, then to bed. Slept until 8:30, practically the middle of the afternoon for me, but want to resume my morning walk with Susan tomorrow.
Such a terrific, fabulous vacation--and now I want to turn my attention to other things, notably "Steel Magnolias."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Yesterday, we had a wonderful final day in Ojai. We went to Bart's Books, which bills itself as the largest used book store in--California? The World? Not sure which--and has book-filled shelves both inside and out. Ellen bought several books, but regretfully, I didn't, as I'm already overloaded for my trip home.
After browsing for an hour or so at Bart's, we went to a small cafe for lunch. We sat outside* in the back courtyard and I had one of the best hamburgers ever,** along with an ice cold Coors. After strolling down Main Street and stopping in several little shops (think New Hope, PA, Carmel, CA, and for all I know, Upper Japip, AR), we went to the Ojai Museum, a rather sparse, peculiar one, but interesting.
Home for dinner, we had leftovers, then indulged in some goodies and watched a documentary on "The Kidnapping Of Patty Hearst," topical for us, considering our recent excursions to San Simeon.
Now it's a bit after 6:00 am and this is my last day at Ellen's and in California. We'll be leaving in an hour or so for my 11:05 flight from LAX. What a wonderful vacation I've had, thanks to my children--all of them. P. and N. kept in close touch from Tokyo; A. ferried me to Philly and will pick me up today; Mike so generously treated me to a fabulous vacation-within-a-vacation up in the mountains....
And Ellen, my darling daughter, my friend, my traveling companion, my hostess, my partner in crime (oranges, avocados!)--how can I ever thank her enough for all she's done? I can't, but I can appreciate how lucky I am to have her. This has been the best excursion of my life and has allowed me to forget the events of the past, disregard contemplation of the future, and just enjoy the present.
Thank you, my dear girl.
*One of the many, many great things about California is that you can be outside--even eat out--without swarms of bugs gathering, as they do, I'm afraid, in Jersey. Of course, in January in Jersey, you wouldn't be eating outside anyway.
**When I ask for my hamburger very rare, I've so often gotten the canned response that "the health department doesn't allow us to cook it rare." I've received this malarky in three states and it's hogwash. The truth is, these places get their hamburger already shaped and formed into flat pieces of cardboard that CAN'T be cooked rare. Okay, okay, I suppose there's some health reason to be careful about hamburger, but IF it's properly stored, refrigerated, and handled, it shouldn't be a problem--and I like my hamburger rare!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I hope nobody believes "Avatar" is an anti-war film, despite its subtle-as-a-sledge-hammer story line. It's actually one of those easy pieces where viewers can relax and are not expected to confront the hubris of our present-day military. The "enemy" are beautiful children of nature, and their way of living (bows and arrows, horse-type steeds, feathers in their hair) strongly suggests native Americanship. Because the Indian Wars are so far in the past, we can be comfortable when we recognize the U.S. invaders' murderous aggression, but our present-day hubris is a lot more dicey. If THAT were featured, it could cut into ticket sales, so keep it comfy, Cameron. As for the adventure/love story part of the movie, it was totally predictable, with the characters and story line so broadly drawn a ten-year-old could have written it.
But hey, Mikey, I liked it! The special effects were, of course, dazzling, and it was worth going just for that. The actors were okay--there was nothing challenging for them not to be okay on--and the sets and so on were in keeping.
All in all, it was worth seeing. However, when it comes to the two movies I've seen out here in the wild west, I enjoyed "Up In The Air" far more. Call me shallow--well, I'm afraid I am--but a good, cynical, present-day movie with George Clooney trumps a sci-fi film set in 2154 any day. After all, I saw "Air" twice, didn't I?
Today, my last full one in California (sob!) , we'll probably go back to Ojai for another hike up the mountains. Maybe this time, I can make it up the final, open and unfenced part of the path.
(Hmm, could that last be symbolic of something else? Nah.)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Am happily continuing my fabulous visit. After two days in San Simeon, Ellen dropped me off at sister Betty's in Santa Barbara and I stayed over at her place Tuesday and Wednesday nights. We met her friend for lunch, then repaired to Santa Barbara's small art museum. This is nothing like the Getty, but is very nice. We then saw "Up In The Air," the second time in a week for me, but I loved the movie, so was glad to go. Ate out several times--one of my favorite activities--and saw niece Carolyn and her family. Betty drove me back to my west coast home (at Ellen's) yesterday and E. and I immediately repaired to Pacific Palisades, about an hour away, to the Getty Villa. (We had invited Betty, but she had a lot to do, so declined.)
The Villa is very different from the huge Getty Center in L.A., but is enthralling in its own right. It contains Getty's antiquities collection and was built in the style of a Roman villa of early history. The buildings, the art, and the grounds are exquisite and even the amenities--for tours, they provide individual speakers, so you never miss what the guide is saying--are great. There are plenty of places to sit, the bathrooms are clean, the employees attentive, and what's more, the food is great. I had a Greek sandwich chicken wrap with a glass of delicious white wine and Ellen had grilled eggplant in panini, also very good. True, it's a bit pricey, but considering there's no charge to get in either Getty museum ($15 to park) and the great experience, it's well worth it.
Didn't get home until 7:00. Saw and spoke to Mike, Vivian, and Violet on Skype and ate our Trader Joe dinners--I had sushi--in front of the t.v. watching "L.A. Confidential."
Today, we decided to see "Avatar"; will have a review tomorrow.
WIDER: Here's "Bob In Pacifica" on the difference between dems and repubs:
"The political machinery is incapable of doing much more than fetching for their masters. 'Go get me more FISA powers. Give me a tax break. Bail us out. We need to send a billion in spare parts to Georgia. We need a trade agreement with Colombia. Send troops to support a regime over there.'
Now occasionally the Dems and Repubs will argue over how hard a boss can cane his employee, with the Repubs justifying hard whacks based on Biblical quotations and free market theories and the Dems will argue back with... not much. That's the difference, and the show would go on with or without Obama or any other specific personality on the stage."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Back to Hearst's Castle yesterday for tour number 2, and loved it. First, we drove a few miles down the coast to view the elephant seal colony. There were dozens of them resting--or something--on the beach and what ugly creatures they are. I was amazed at the racket they made, not just barking, but making sounds like honking, roaring, and burping. Interesting, and I'm glad I went, but that was about enough of elephant or any other kinds of seal to last me for--oh, say, the rest of my life.
Got back to the motel about 4:00 and we immediately changed and went to the pool and hot tub. The air was a bit chilly, but the tub wonderful. Was pleased to meet a husband/wife team who both teach theatre arts at city colleges.
After getting back into dry clothes, we went down to one of the three "bonfires" (actually, blazing wood fires in large concrete fireplaces) to toast ourselves in the moonlight on the beach. Met some nice fellow travelers from northern California and chatted.
After a time, we walked down to a restaurant that billed itself as serving "New Mexican Mexican cuisine" We both had margaritas and I ordered talipia. Boy, was it good--the whole fish scored and broiled--very, very fresh and tasty.
Went back to our own rooms about 8:30 and relaxed. Slept like a log. Will go back south today and to Betty's, where I'll stay over.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Hi there, fellas and girls! Am coming to you from the beach at San Simeon, where we checked in yesterday at the Best Western. Lovely setting: We sat in the hot tub in the late afternoon (pool was supposed to be heated, but wasn't) and enjoyed a bonfire a few yards from the Pacific after dinner. Today, we'll take "the second tour" at Hearst Castle. We decided to stay over tonight, too, as there's lots to see. Weather is perfect, sunny and warm, with not a cloud in the sky. Hey, there's a reason people flock to California, budget woes or not.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

What a fabulous day! We went to the Getty Museum high in the hills over L.A. and it was just magical. I've been there several times before, but never on such a perfectly beautiful day. The sun shone brilliantly, the sky was the dreamiest blue, and you can see the city spread out below and a broad swath of the Pacific Ocean surprisingly nearby. The combination of natural wonders--the green hills, the sky and the sea--with the architectual harmony and, not least, gardens and water features, meant that everywhere you look there are vistas of breath-taking beauty.
There were thousands of visitors, naturally, on a Saturday, and you could hear a multitude of different languages spoken. We never had a feeling of being crowded, though, as the place is so huge, both inside and out, and whoever it seems to have an uncanny sense of how to manage so many people.
There are lots of places to have lunch, including hot dog stands, and we went to the cafe. There were lots of people there, but we got our meals quickly. I had a wonderful salad (already made up, but very fresh) of tuna tartare, spring mix, beets, and other fixings, along with a cold Corona, and we sat outside on one of the many patios.
Well, okay, it is a museum and we saw lots of art. There's a special exhibit on drawings of Rembrandt and his pupils, and how scholars tell the difference. That was absorbing, and so was the exhibit of the photographs (on people in trades) by Irving Penn. We also saw many of my favorites, the 18th century portrait paintings by English, Dutch, and other European artists. I especially like the family groups; there's one, absolutely charming, of a high-born lady and gentleman having breakfast with their three childen. The father smilingly shakes his finger at his little girl as she reaches for an illicit biscuit, while the mother allows another child to climb on her lap and the third pulls a toy horse into the scene.
We left about 4:30, which seemed to be when all ten million of the other visitors did, too, and it took an age to get on the tram that takes you down the hill, and then to get out of the parking garage. Didn't get home until after 7:00, and to bed until after 10:00--late for me.
Today, more adventure--we're going back to Hearst Castle and staying overnight! Okay, not at the castle, but at the Best Western nearby.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Went to Ojai yesterday and immediately climbed the mile-long, high-winding trail around the mountain. (Californians call it "a hill," but hey, to this native of flat and pokey Jersey, that sucker is a mountain.) I was fine most of the way when there was a fence before the sheer drop, but couldn't make the last 500 yards or so when there was nothing between me and the abyss. (I love nature, but at a distance.) Ellen was okay with that and we turned back, then went to a nice little park nearby to eat the lunches we had packed earlier.
Now for a confession from the dark side: Along the fence next to the trail and hanging over alluringly, are orange and avocado trees--hundreds of them, in fact, and abundantly fruited. Somehow, Ellen and I happened to stretch up our arms, and we got our hands tangled in the branches, and twisted our wrists around the fruit a little and two oranges and three avocados dropped right off!
Okay, we stole them, but gee, it wasn't worth it. I felt so guilty, I was compelled to take off my sweater and wrap them in it, lest other hikers see. I realize the magnitude of the crime was different, but hey, it was just as much stealing as that of the jackels on Wall Street and there's no way to pretend otherwise.
Howsomever...I ate one of the oranges for dessert at the park and it was oh, so juicy and delicious. Maybe stolen goods taste better than the kind you pay for.
Got back after 5:00 and we went to Mimi's Cafe for dinner. Had a modest meal of salmon and asparagus, then we spent an enjoyable evening watching "I Am Legend," with Will Smith. It was a million times better than the idioic "District 9," which just goes to show...well, that some movies are better than others.

Friday, January 01, 2010

First day of the new year and the new decade--guess I should feel all philosophical and melancholy and wistful or something, but I don't and the hell with that stuff.
Spent a quiet, but pleasant day. Ellen slept late and I went for a walk. Later, we stopped at a stand and bought lots of vegetables and fruit right from the grower. Only a few minutes from Ellen's home are fields planted with spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, and a multitude of other goodies, not to mention the dozens of orchards with oranges, lemons, limes,and avocados--what a bonanza. When we got home, I made a big salad and cooked spaghetti squash which, along with Ellen's wonderful lentil soup, we had for dinner.
We rented movies and spent the evening watching the futuristic "District 9." Really, really lousy and non-engaging. Also rented "Steel Magnolias," as I want to start studying the parts I'm going to back up, but we haven't looked at it yet.
P. and N. called on Skype to wish us happy new year. I noticed that lots of people wrote on Facebook they hadn't had a good 2009 and they hope 2010 will be better. Well, of course, I feel the same way for obvious reasons. For now, though, I'm doing all right.
(Darn! I wasn't going to comment on the old or new year or the turn of the decade, or whatever! Can't believe that two minutes later, I did....)
The big news: We're planning to pack a picnic lunch and go to Ojai today.
WIDER: If you never read anything else about the 2000s, read this by Robert Freeman, published today in