Keep Calm and Get it Off Your Chest

A Grim Fairy Tale

So, I took a little break from TV and media, anything going on? 

Just kidding.

Blimey! And also, GOOD LORD!  What the fish-and-chips just happened??  We were all just going along, minding our own coronavirus/quarantine/vaccination-schedule business, and WHOOSH!  Our daily news cycle is completely taken over by a couple of rowdy outliers trying to take down the royal family! 

I thought those two were done with big, disruptive moves that get a lot of attention.  I thought they were looking for Privacy.  With a capital P.  But, it turns out there is a difference between Privacy and Security, plus they had a few things they really needed to get off their chests. And if you thought, like I did, that this was NOT essential viewing, and if you also thought, like I did, something along the lines of “Holy hell! Go away! The world is going through so much trauma and difficulty, the last thing we need is to hear from the privileged, self-serving likes of YOU!”, let me just say: you and I were both wrong. Turns out this was

The Interview of the Century

This television event was shocking, troubling, disruptive, and certainly audacious. It covered so much territory that I had to create a Venn Diagram to sort out my thoughts about it:

And do you see that teeny tiny little triangle in the middle of the diagram? Well that would say SKIN TONE, wouldn’t it? What we have here is A Grim Fairy Tale, with all the classic archetypes, except the Princes and Princesses are not “symbolic” or “representational”, they are ACTUAL Princes, etc! Who the characters are in this story depends on how you view this whole mishigas. But think about it: every single person falls into more than just ONE of these archetypes. Take a look:

  • The Hero – This one is quite clear, and I’m sorry, but if you can’t figure it out then your heart is a cold, hard, small thing. Like the Grinch.
  • The Villain – Depends who you ask. I think it rhymes with Marles. But that’s just me. There are quite a few to choose from actually.
  • The Damsel in Distress – Don’t cringe! See “Cinderella”, and even though “We’ve Come A Long Way Baby” and “Girl Power” and “You Go, Girl”, there are still distressed damsels out there.
  • The Ice Queen – I know, right?
  • The Trickster – Mischievous, and a rule-breaker or trouble-maker, who either aids the hero or messes with the hero’s head.
  • The Fairy Godmother – A nurturing, maternalistic presence and a wish-granter, with an interesting backstory of poverty and resentment.

And! There is a Situational Archetype as well: The Battle Between Good and Evil. Now, before I lose you completely, let me clarify that there is plenty of BAD/EVIL/WICKED to go around in this world. And plenty of GOOD/KIND/DECENT as well. It’s not as clear-cut as it is in fairy tales, and not as black-and-white. Pun intended. But there is no denying we are going through a global reckoning with race, right along with our global pandemic, and there is now a new awareness in every corner of every country. Consequently, a new standard is being set. I have certainly learned some stuff myself, and the royal family, that ancient and insular institution, is grappling with it too. They have failed on many levels, but there is always opportunity for change.

Most fairy tales have a “…and they lived happily ever after” ending. Do you think that will happen in this scenario? Is it possible? Hmm. I have a friend who says “Never say never, and never say always.” That may be the most realistic, as well as the most forgiving, view.

Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist (from the Broadway musical “Avenue Q”)

Everyone’s a little bit
Racist, sometimes.
Doesn’t mean we go around committing
Hate crimes.
Look around and
You will find,
No one’s really
Maybe it’s a fact
We all should face.
Everyone makes
Based on race.

If we all could
Just admit
That we are racist
A little bit,
Even though we all
Know that it’s wrong,
Maybe it would help
Us get along!

Everyone’s a little bit
Racist, it’s true.
But everyone is just about
As racist as you!
If we all could just admit
That we are racist a little bit,
And everyone
Stopped being so P.C.,
Maybe we could
Live in — harmony!


“…He said, “I know a cure for everything. Salt water.” “Salt water?” I asked him. “Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.” ~ Isak Dinesen


In the first few moments of the film “Roma”, while the opening credits are playing, there is an exquisite, relaxing scene of soapy water gently ebbing and flowing across a tile floor.  Rolling in… and rolling out, rolling in… and rolling out.  It was so hypnotic that I began to wonder whether I could find a way to play this footage on a loop, as a tool for meditation and relaxation.  It was just that lovely.  And then, reflected in the pool of water, the teeny tiny image of an airplane flying in the sky overhead…whoa!

The director now had my full attention.

And this was no small task, this stirring of my interest, because I’ve gotten a little lazy.  Dull, sluggish, apathetic, indifferent, and complacent.  I used to be the person to walk through a dreadful snowstorm to sit in a dank, old theater just to see a movie I was excited about.  I would stretch myself intellectually and emotionally, and I would seek out things to help me grow.  But I lived in New York City then, and that kind of effort is quite commonplace and pretty much required if you want to keep up.  Now I live on Hilton Head Island, which is nice and has its advantages, but I think you catch my drift.

So I almost missed out on seeing this wonderful movie that is currently streaming on Netflix, and here’s the main reason why:  Because I knew it had…SUBTITLES.  Eegads!!  Picture this:

Lying on my comfy couch with my Netflix Special Remote in my hand, I just didn’t know if I wanted to exert the energy to deal with subtitles.  (!)  However in my prone position, propped up by pillows, I kind of reluctantly selected the movie.  This was in part because Netflix was continually hounding me to do so (RECOMMENDED FOR YOU!), and also because I know this film has received major Oscar buzz.  (The Oscars are my Super Bowl…I tolerate all the hype and ridiculousness and petty controversies because, no matter what, I just love movies.)  And that’s when I realized:

It would have been a mistake to overlook this film.

“Roma”, written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, is filmed in black-and-white, and that is fine with me because if it is done with care there can be so many tones of silver, gray, and pearl as well.  It’s just stunning to look at.  But here’s the real deal:  the story itself, and the lead character.  It takes place in Mexico City in the early 1970s and is apparently autobiographical.  It definitely has the feeling of a memoir… really a full exploration of the director’s memory…of a specific time and place, and a series of events, as well as a person who made a lasting impression on him.

I won’t try to give a plot summary here, because that is just plain old insufficient.  I will merely say that there are a lot of different themes and ideas, and I was particularly struck by the theme of water.  Over and over again the director uses water very effectively to help tell his story:  It’s a tool, it’s an obstacle, and it’s a savior.

Since the Academy Awards are actually intended to honor “artistic achievement in film” I do hope this movie wins Best Picture this year.  But listen up my friends:  if the thought of sitting through a 2 hour black-and-white movie with subtitles by a Mexican filmmaker you’ve probably never heard of immediately sounds like torture to you, then don’t bother.  No worries!  Watch “Black Panther” instead, or better yet, “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  They are both awesome and much more popular and accessible.  However, if you do have a taste for high quality movies that are more personal and thoughtful, I encourage you to watch this one.  You can’t do better right now than “Roma”.





Phantom Thread

**This is a slightly dated post that I never published, but I think it still holds up so I went ahead and did it now…let me know if you ever saw this movie!

Well, it sure ain’t Star Wars!


When I started to type the title of the movie, Phantom Thread, into my search bar to check for showtimes, many many Star Wars things popped up first.  So just a head’s up:

Star Wars is an entertaining movie franchise that broke new ground when it started, continues to do well due to likable characters, entertaining adventures, clearly defined heroes and villains, and satisfying conclusions.  Pretty much everybody likes it.

Phantom Thread, on the other hand, is a weird movie about unlikable characters, where actually not much happens, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and the conclusion is just kinda like:  Huh.  Hmm.  Okay..?  And I don’t think that many people are gonna like it.  I’m talking about regular movie-going people, not professional film critics.

Oh listen, the critics are positively SWOONING!  They are falling all over themselves to praise the “attention to detail” and the “finely woven narrative” and “another committed performance by Daniel Day-Lewis”.  Phooey!!

Here’s the deal:  this director, Paul Thomas Anderson, positively takes the cake on narcissistic finicky-ness.  *bleah*  And all that attention to detail?  For what?

I r-e-e-a-l-l-y don’t like it when you feel like you need to go to Film School to understand a movie.  There’s a condescension inherent in that.  I love a sophisticated, educated director who has something to say.  But this guy!  You can positively feel the obsession of the filmmaker and it is stifling.  He spends what must have been countless hours poring over the details of place, period, and presentation.  But somehow he doesn’t deliver a movie with enough there to match.  This is truly style over substance.

What saves this movie, and gives it some weight, is of course Daniel Day-Lewis.  In this instance the director is one lucky duck.  As an actor Day-Lewis is wily, and subtle, and deep.  His performance as Mr. Woodcock doesn’t leap from the screen, it oozes and emanates and gradually permeates the entire theater.  He’s very skilled and deserves a full, rich script to work on, not this lame doodleybop.

The actresses are good too.  Vicky Krieps is perfectly cast as Alma, Woodcock’s muse, lover, nemesis, and lion tamer.  I have never seen her before, but I can’t imagine anyone else in that part.  She has a radiant quality that glows on screen.  She portrays Alma as entirely underestimated, and it was curiously heartening for me to see a female character who can give as good she gets.  In fact, that element of the movie is really the only satisfying thing!

Lesley Manville is so crisp and intelligent as Mr. Woodcock’s tough, clear-eyed sister/business manager that I could watch her all day.  For me, she is the true power center of this movie.

So I don’t know…if you admire Daniel Day-Lewis this movie is definitely worthwhile, especially since he says he is done with acting.  But otherwise be warned:  to paraphrase Darth Vader “the Force is not strong with this one”.


A Cinderella Story


I’ve just discovered something new.  Which is great actually because I’ve been going through, to put it mildly, a bit of a slump.  I won’t sugarcoat it:  it’s been a bad time.  And at my age I’m not sure you could even call it a middle-aged crisis anymore, which really sucks.  Life has felt small, mean, and tough.  And while I know that everyone has ups and downs in this life,  lately I sure did feel like screaming at the universe “HEY!!  Universe!  Throw me a frickin bone here!”  Then something entirely unexpected came along just to remind me that life is in fact interesting, inspiring, hilarious, and vast:  I got introduced to March Madness, and the whole crazy world of Sports Center, ESPN, etc.

I do realize this has been going on for quite a long time, I’m not a complete idiot and you certainly can’t entirely avoid the sports headlines, but frankly I always ignored it.  Gonzaga?  Oh really?  Is that a type of cheese?  Kansas State?  Ugh.  How boring.  Purdue?  Whatever.  Then my brother, who now lives in London but does love to follow his favorite American sports stuff, sent me a strange text out of the blue: “Be sure and fill out your March Madness bracket in time!  We are all in!!!“.  I was sure he sent this to the wrong person so I texted back “Huh??“.

What is this “Madness” of which my brother doth speak?


Anyway, to make a long story short, I enlisted the help of my friend Jeff who lives in Kentucky and definitely takes part in such foolishness and I FILLED OUT A BRACKET!!!  It’s easy!  Try it!  But then…well…I did set a small wager with my brother so I had to start watching the games and the updates and the backstories and the predictions and oh boy!  This. Is. Amazing. Life-Affirming.  Stuff.  Let me explain:

Generally speaking I’m more of a theater/literature/philosophy person, but let me tell you:  SHAKESPEARE HAS NOTHING ON SPORTS CENTER.  The feuds, the rivalries, the dramatic upsets!  The characters…villains, heroes, charlatans!!  How have I not known about this??  A few examples from just ONE episode of SC:

  • Alvin Gentry, coach of the New Orleans Pelicans:  OUTRAGE over bad calls that have gone on ALL SEASON!  His players have been PERSECUTED for God’s sake!!
  • Stan Van Gundy, coach of the Detroit Pistons:  also OUTRAGE at the way his players are being treated!!!  It’s absolutely DISGRACEFUL!  And he’s speaking up for the first time!!!
  • Leonard Hamilton, coach of Florida State:  Mature wisdom, calm reflection, and a virtuous modesty over an amazing and apparently quite unexpected victory.
  • The entire team from the University of Virginia:  Bitter tears, extreme frustration, and a RENDING of their uniforms at having lost to a NOTHING team whose mascot is a RETRIEVER for God’s sake!  “…the soul’s slow agonizing descent into a state of such loneliness and despair as to be finally indistinguishable from Hell.” ~ Macbeth


Ah yes indeed.  Who needs the classics when you can just turn on Channel 26 in the Time Warner cable line-up?

And then there’s this:  Isaac Haas, 7′ freak-of-nature who is the BMOC of Purdue’s team, has a sister with severe epilepsy.  He has been a loving and devoted brother, very personally affected by her increasingly devastating illness.  As his star has risen, he has not forgotten her:  he started a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to get her a seizure dog.  Oh my God.  Watching this story I cried like a baby…you would’ve thought it was a showing of The Notebook.  I was so proud of Isaac!  Gives one hope for the future of humanity!  I love college basketball!!

As for my bracket…well.  You see, I chose the NOBLE SPARTANS as this year’s champions…excellent record, superior athletes, good ranking.  Of course you know they lost in the 2nd round.  Everybody knows that.  And so, my bracket is now up in flames.

Thanks Spartans.


“Life … is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” ~ William Shakespeare

I disagree, Will.  You just need to make your picks and fill out your bracket.  It’ll cheer you up a lot.  I promise.



Some people learn the hard way.


I know I do…but is there really any other way?  How do you really know the depths of your integrity or the dimensions of your heart unless you bump up against life in a way that tests it?

Although her story is extreme, the experiences of Molly Bloom (the so-called “Poker Princess”) really started me thinking about lessons and motivations in my own life.  Well…that’s when you know you’ve seen a great movie, when it reaches in and gets you pondering like that.

Insanely well-written (by the great Aaron Sorkin) and barreling along at high speed, we follow the trajectory of a woman who was seemingly raised to train hard, push herself, achieve excellence, and go for the gold.  Literally.  And she ends up applying those skills in the dice-y arena of high stakes (VERY high stakes) poker.

Ah…but there’s more to the story.

Not just the “HOW?” but the “WHY?” is fully explored here, and I was reminded that there is a lot more going on in life than just the surface events.  Not everyone has a taste for these deeper motivations, but ya know what?  They are there, and they are RUNNING THINGS, whether you choose to examine them or not.

Every level of gambling is explored here:  financial, emotional, physical, spiritual, and of course, addiction.  You may start out risking just money, but at what point does it turn and you are wagering your very soul?  I’m not kidding.  It both captivated and scared the bejesus out of me.  (Some of the poker game scenes got me so nervous I wished I had one of those fidget spinner things to take the edge off.)

As the character of Molly, Jessica Chastain is on her best game (pun intended).  Whip-smart and intense and mesmerizing to watch, she is believable both as a sharp, opportunistic young woman who goes too far down the rabbit hole, and also one who painfully learns who her friends are, what she stands for, and where she draws the line.  She gets my vote for a Best Actress Oscar.  Especially this year, when women all over the country have been wrestling with much the same thing.  #metoo

Ultimately Molly must answer this question:  I may be able to gamble with and destroy my own life, but can I do that to others?  Under enormous pressure, she has to dig deep for the answer, and no bluffing this time.

When you leave the theater ask yourself, honestly, what would YOU do?



Reflections on a Life-Changing Introduction to Ziggy Stardust

I had certainly never seen anything like that in my little, sheltered, suburban life.  (Had you??)  I still remember vividly the exact first time I saw this creature…and it changed me forever.


OK look:  People don’t think of me as a rocker.  They never did, it always took them a bit by surprise.  To be fair, I have never looked the part, I’m pretty white-bread all-american non-threatening rule-following type of girl.  On the surface.  But that’s okay, nothing wrong with flying under the radar a little bit.  Let people think what they think.

A rocker underneath, and those who know that side, well, they KNOW.  And you know who you are.

Herewith is the story of how I got in touch with my INNER ROCKER and broke through the, like, dull, unenlightened, like, totally mid-western haze into GLAM ROCK:

I was at home in suburban Chicago, babysitting for my little brother.  I was 13 years old I think.  So, 1973.  Nothing had happened to me yet.  And nothing was going on.  Nothing.  Like, bummer.

Anyway, there I am watching TV.  It’s late.  I’m feeling bored, clicking through the channels, looking for something… not sure what.  I ended up on the Public Television station, (yes indeed, those were the days!) and there was this highly bizarre personage:  bright red mullet, emaciated sunken cheeks, rainbow eye make-up, skinny bone white appendages, and, I think, high heels.



Wow-wee!  I immediately knew… NOW something was going on.  At last!  Thank you Jesus!

Ziggy Stardust was such a freak!  Freak.  Freak!  Freak show!  And it went on and on.  The costume changes, the music, the challenging strut, and insolent yet seductive facial expressions.  Each one fn freakier than the next:


Zow-eee!  Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am!

It scared the SHIT out of me!

And I could not turn away.  I watched the whole thing, feeling vaguely awakened in some way that I wasn’t really in touch with, and a bit appalled, (actually quite a lot appalled cuz I was a goody-goody-type).  I honestly didn’t understand!  Especially the pink lip gloss, bodysuits, pale white thighs.

What was this madness??

By the end of the show I still didn’t really UNDERSTAND, but I knew I liked it.  A lot.  And I became just obsessed!  Such was my introduction to glam rock, and the end of a certain part of my childhood.

Let’s be clear:  when it comes to Ziggy Stardust and all that ambiguous posturing, you either get it or you don’t.  Am I right?  And do I really need to get into all the “CONTEXT STUFF”?  OK, here’s some context for you:  It sounds almost quaint now, to say that this outlandish character coming into our suburban Chicago living room through the TV screen that night, like, blew my friggin mind.  It just was so powerful.

Not just the outrageousness, but the talent, passion, and performance artistry.  Turned me right round, baby, right round.

Can you think of anything with that kind of impact now?  With 24/7 updates, and people seemingly willing to do anything in front of the camera?  And many things amazingly commonplace.

Lady Gaga anyone?  Marilyn Manson?  How about Caitlyn Jenner?

David Bowie was so brave, brilliant, sly, and ground-breaking.  Thanks David.  R.I.P.

Aladdin Sane

Aladdin Sane

Hey, I know I’m not alone in this, I’m sure many of you have amazing and compelling memories of David Bowie and his music, please take a moment and share them in the comments section… even just place/song/date!

“This is Major Tom to Ground Control

I’m stepping through the door

And I’m floating in a most peculiar way

And the stars look very different


Space Oddity, David Bowie