Sunday, August 31, 2014

This is What Happens When Your Potassium Levels Go Up

So I am doing a bit of research on potassium levels. CPA Boy has recently started a new drug that elevates his potassium so I wanted to see what could be done to manage it. Off to WebMD I go!

Basically it's this: take in LESS potassium and pee out more of it (sometimes with the help of a diuretic --- oh goody, another possible medication). But that's not the fun part. Off to the side I see the list of the top 12 videos on WebMD:


In case you can't see the picture clearly, #8 says "Sperm Washing". Uh, WHAT?!?

I did NOT click the link so I am still mystified as to what this might be. (Nor am I going to do any sort of Web search on this. That way leads to porn sites. I assume.)

Is it a technique related to fertility treatments? (Probably the most likely answer.) Are men jealous of women because the vagina is self-cleansing? The title of an old Monty Python skit? Is it part of a an environmental responsibility article about cleaning whales? How does sperm get dirty? (Never mind! I do NOT want to know the answer to THAT question!)

I got questions but no answers.

[And now some poor person will search this term and end up at my (not even remotely pornographic) blog. Welcome, "Sperm Washing" searchers!]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More Movies!

I have really been trying to watch the movies recorded on the DVR. I am getting very close to getting them finished and then I keep adding more record! Anyway, here is the latest crop:
  • Stalag 17
    • William Holden, Otto Preminger, Peter Graves, Harvey Lembeck, directed by Billy Wilder
    • This was pretty good. The men are prisoners of war in a German camp and one of them is an informant. Everyone believes it's William Holden's character. But is it?
    • There are elements of comedy and drama. There was a lawsuit against the creators of "Hogan's Heroes" which is very similar and you can see why.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front
    • Lew Ayres, directed by Lewis Milestone
    • Another Best Picture Oscar winner for me to add to the list!
    • This movie, based on the book by Erich Marie Remarque, is told from the side of the German soldiers in World War I. It's interesting: you come to know the characters (there are several besides Lew Ayres but nobody you would have heard of) and when they fling themselves into battle you root for them and then you realize, they are the "bad guys". But as they point out in the film, the leaders decide to make wars and the soldiers are just cogs. Once they get over the excitement of going away to war they learn about the hunger, filth and death.
    • And it's almost especially sad because war will come again in just a few short years while the filmmakers and actors don't know that. But we do.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
    • I had watched the first film a few months ago and I really wanted to finish up the story. I've seen these films about a half a dozen times by now.
  • Vertigo
    • James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, directed by Alfred Hitchcock
    • This movie was interesting to watch for the views of 1958 San Francisco (and Pops would have loved all the old cars!) but that's about it. 
    • I understand that this movie has taken over "Citizen Kane" as the the best movie ever. I am assuming it's because of the film-making techniques because the story is not great. Some of it doesn't even make any sense. Barbara Bel Geddes totally disappears in the last 1/4 of the film.
    • But James Stewart is great as always and Kim Novak is beautiful (Barbara B is totally cute too).
  • The Letter
    • Jeanne Eagels, Herbert Marshall
    • This is a 1929 film based on the same Somerset Maugham play as the 1940 Bette Davis version.
    • Jeanne Eagels was the first person ever nominated posthumously for an Oscar for this role. She died shortly after making this movie of a probable heroin overdose. (Sigh. Some things never change.)
    • She was apparently a great dramatic actress on Broadway. It's really difficult to judge her performance in this film because it's only a couple of years into talkies and the acting style is still so broad compared to later. It seems to me that Jeanne Eagels did more "emoting" than acting (very typical of many actresses of the era). It's too bad she died so young because she might have had a chance to gauge her screen performances better (less stage-y). But she is most interesting to watch.
    • What's also interesting about this film is that there was no music score at all. There are a couple of times when characters sing but that's it for music. At the beginning during the credits and early scenes panning the crowded streets there is only silence. I guess Paramount had not yet figured out how to synchronize a movie score to the film. I need to pay attention to other really early talking films to see if this was usually the case.
    • For the record, I really like the Bette Davis version better even though it was changed to appease the production code of the time. Both films have what is pretty much the best line in almost any movie: "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed!" Classic!
  • Enough Said
    • Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini
    • Cute little movie. The two leads made a cute couple in a romantic comedy for the middle-age set. Hey! That means me!
  • Bombshell
    • Jean Harlow, Lee Tracy
    • A noisy Jean Harlow movie, somewhat based on the life of both Clara Bow and Jean Harlow's. It basically shows how the people around her take terrible advantage of her financial support and how she almost has no choice but to let them. It was nice to see Jean Harlow but it's not one of my favorites of hers. Lots of scenes with everyone yelling and making noise.
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
    • Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel
    • I liked this movie quite a bit. A bunch of retiree-age folk travel to India to the title retirement hotel and discover it's more of a dump than a hotel. But all ends well.
    • I especially loved Judi Dench. She is a most natural actress.
    • There will be a sequel next year.
  • 84 Charing Cross Road
    • Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench
    • I read the book this is based on a few years back. It is the true story of a New York woman who wrote to a London bookstore for out-of-print books she couldn't find in America.
    • I think it was well done. And more Judi Dench! (Her part is pretty small though.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
    • I took advantage of The Boy's job at the movie theater and went to see this for free. It's a cute superhero film from the Marvel people.
Except for Guardians of the Galaxy all the rest were recorded from TCM, HBO or Starz. I will really try to get to the theater to see more movies for free. But there's nothing else playing right now I want to see. Figures!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Scary Earthquake This Morning

Last night we didn't get to bed until about 1 a.m. because CPA Boy was streaming video on his iPad and I was finishing a movie on the DVR.

So I had been asleep for just over 2 hours and enjoying a good dream when CPA Boy started screaming in his sleep. He does this fairly often as he is susceptible to terrible nightmares. I guess the earthquake had impinged on his sleeping mind and he reacted as if he was having a nightmare.

I sleep with earplugs so it mutes the screaming but doesn't keep me from hearing it. I woke up and thought he was thrashing around because he was still in the throes of the nightmare. But no, the bed was moving because of the earthquake! I reached over to wake him and said, "It's an earthquake." (Thanks, Captain Obvious.)

It was 3:20 a.m. and very dark. I stumbled to the bedroom door as it was difficult to walk while the house was shaking. This particular quake lasted about 20 seconds for us. A couple of things fell down but that was it.  One of my shampoo bottles fell over and CPA Boy's bottom desk drawer rolled open. When I checked the pantry a package of cookie mix fell on the floor.

I talked to Pop this morning --- he lives a few blocks from us --- and he also had a couple of things fall. Something in the medicine cabinet fell over and a plastic Coke bottle fell off the refrigerator. Coke has a thing now where the bottles have names on them saying "Share a Coke with Kelly" (although I haven't actually found my name yet). I found both my brother's names and brought them to Pops so they could get them when they visit. One of them decided to take a dive from Pop's fridge!

The only other weird thing was that the light fixtures were all swinging but the one over the dining room table was really wild. It wasn't quite a 180-degree swing but close. I climbed up and grabbed it to make it stop.

We were up for about an hour checking TV, radio and the Internet but it was a long time before any information came out. So we headed back to bed but it took forever to get back to sleep.

As of this time we personally have felt no aftershocks. Here's a map of the area:


We live in Petaluma, just a little bit northeast from the final "a" in Petaluma. The quake was centered on the reddish circle just south of Napa, about 21 miles away as the crow flies. The quake was closer to the small town of American Canyon but both it and Napa bore the brunt of the damage. (San Francisco is about 50 miles south of Petaluma, not shown on the map, and Sacramento is to the northeast of Fairfield and Vacaville, also not shown.)

The thing with earthquakes is this: when one starts you react immediately because you never know if it's just a little one or the Big One. My instinct is to run and get to my son, even though he is now a grown man. (Notice this means I just abandoned CPA Boy, leaving him alone in our bed. Sorry, CPA Boy!)

I have felt several earthquakes in my life but I only remember a small handful of them:
  • I certainly recall the Loma Prieta quake of 1989. I was at work in Santa Rosa, really far away from the epicenter north of Santa Cruz. It felt pretty strong in Santa Rosa but I don't recall if there was structural damage. We did lose electricity at work though. 
    • CPA Boy was at work in Petaluma (we had just started dating a couple of months before and both worked for the same company in different cities) and felt it more strongly than I did.
    • My mother hated earthquakes and Pops, who was still at work, immediately picked up the phone to call her. All he said was, "I'm on my way."
  • There was a small quake when we lived at our last house, so maybe 14 or 15 years ago. The quake was not significant in any way but my reaction was to jump off the sofa and start to run upstairs to get The Boy. By the time I reached the first couple of steps it was over. (Need I add, I left CPA Boy by himself on the couch?)
  • During the summer of 1982 I was living at Kresge College at UC Santa Cruz. I was lying on my bed reading. Again, the quake itself was not significant but I remember it because I HEARD it before I FELT it. There was a rumbling sound that caught my attention and then a jolt. That was it.
And are we prepared for an earthquake? Um, no, not really. I really need to get on that!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Best Pictures Oscar Winners

In the past week by happenstance I have watched a couple of Best Picture Oscar winners: Wings and Gentleman's Agreement. Then I took a look at the whole list to make a count of how many I've seen.

My best friend Lady Chardonnay has made a point of watching every Oscar-winning Best Picture. She will need to correct me if I'm wrong but I'll bet she has seen every one of them by now with the exception of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. (The flaw is that she probably should watch the first two movies in the series first, and friends? She just doesn't wanna!)

Some facts:
  • There have been 86 Best Pictures.
    • I have seen 47 of them for a total of 54.7%. Pitiful.
    • I have one more recorded on my DVR (All Quiet on the Western Front).
  • CPA Boy's totals were 23 out of 86 but he has a 24th on his DVR ready to watch soon.
  • Going by decades, here are the totals watched:
    • 1920s/30s:6
    • 1940s: 7
    • 1950s: 8
    • 1960s: 5
    • 1970s: 4
    • 1980s: 6
    • 1990s: 5
    • 2000s: 3
    • 2010s: 3 (out of a possible 4)
    • I obviously prefer the earlier films!
I have seen all of these, listed in chronological order:
  • Wings
  • Cavalcade
  • Grand Hotel
  • It Happened One Night
  • You Can't Take it With You
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Rebecca
  • How Green Was My Valley
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • Casablanca
  • Going My Way
  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Gentleman's Agreement
  • All About Eve
  • An American in Paris
  • The Greatest Show on Earth
    • Not a great movie (except for James Stewart's performance and clown Emmett Kelly) but I love it anyway.
  • From Here to Eternity
  • On the Waterfront
  • Around the World in 80 Days
    • I saw this a s a kid so I probably didn't recognize any of the celebrity cameos. All I remember is Cantinflas. I will try to rewatch this one at some point.
  • Gigi
  • Ben-Hur
    • I read today that they are thinking about remaking this with Tom Hiddleston (whether this happens remain speculative for now). I'd like that. Ben-Hur from 1959 was a remake of an earlier 1925 silent version so it's not surprising that it's on the remake list yet again.
  • West Side Story
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • My Fair Lady
  • The Sound of Music
    • I saw this for the first time on a field trip in 5th or 6th grade in 1973. I don't know the name of the theater but it was one of the old-fashioned movie palaces in downtown New Orleans. I even remember the preview for "Camelot"!
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • The Sting
  • Rocky
  • Annie Hall
  • Kramer vs. Kramer
    • I read the book first. My brother Everest had already read it and told me not to skip ahead and read the last line, which explicitly told you how the story ended. (Maybe Ev had only read the last line, not the whole book?)
  • Ordinary People
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Terms of Endearment
  • Amadeus
  • Rain Man
  • Driving Miss Daisy
  • Dances with Wolves
    • I didn't like this movie. I found it dull.The only scene that stuck with me is the one where Kevin Costner's character comes upon the slaughtered buffalo.
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Forrest Gump
  • Titanic
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • Gladiator
  • Chicago
  • Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    • I love this movie and try to rewatch the whole series every year or two.
  • The King's Speech
  • The Artist
  • Argo
Here are ones I haven't watched, also in chronological order. The ones with the asterisk in front means I hope to watch them someday:
  • *The Broadway Melody
  • *All Quiet on the Western Front
    • This is on the DVR to watch soon.
  • *Cimarron
    • I've seen the last 10 minutes of it.
  • *Mutiny on the Bounty
  • *The Great Ziegfeld
  • *The Life of Emile Zola
    • Not excited about this one. Does anyone know who Emile Zola was anymore? I sure don't.
  • *The Lost Weekend
    • A good double feature with The Days of Wine & Roses?
  • Hamlet
    • I watched the first half hour a couple of years ago. So, so boring.
  • *All the King's Men
  • *Marty
  • *The Bridge on the River Kwai
    • I wonder things like, What if it were called The Bridge on the Kwai River? Because I never say things like "I was born a few blocks from the River Mississippi."
  • *The Apartment
  • *Tom Jones
  • *A Man for All Seasons
  • In the Heat of the Night
  • Oliver!
  • Patton
  • The French Connection
  • *The Godfather
  • *The Godfather Part II
  • *One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Gandhi
  • Out of Africa
  • Platoon
  • The Last Emperor
  • Unforgiven
  • *Schindler's List
  • Braveheart
  • The English Patient
    • Gotta say, that episode of "Seinfeld" where the characters diss this movie has made an impact. Not a shred of interest in watching it except for maybe Colin Firth.
  • American Beauty
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Crash
  • The Departed
  • No Country for Old Men
  • *Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Hurt Locker
  • 12 Years a Slave
There are some egregious omissions in my general film-watching history. I really need to watch both of The Godfather movies.

Unlike Lady Chardonnay I don't plan to see them all. And in some cases I have no DESIRE to watch some of them. I will just say no to these:
  • In the Heat of the Night
  • Oliver!
    • No!
    • I saw the last 20 minutes a few months back. That was enough.
  • The French Connection
    • I've seen the car chase scene a bunch of times. That's enough for me.
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Hamlet
    • Will never be not boring. I'm not a big Olivier fan but I do love Jean Simmons. I watched enough to see some of her Ophelia. My job is done here.
  • Patton
  • Platoon
    • Bleah. I've seen a part of it.
  • Gandhi
  • Out of Africa
    • I'm ambivalent. It IS Meryl Streep and Robert Reford after all!
  • The Last Emperor
  • Unforgiven
  • Braveheart
    • I used to love Mel Gibson. Times and tastes change.
  • The English Patient
    • All I can see is Elaine Benes in "Seinfeld" writhing with boredom and saying "Die, already" to the English Patient on the screen. Didn't she really want to see "Sack Lunch" instead?!
  • American Beauty
    • Definitely ambivalent about this. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening? Hard to ignore and yet it seems depressing. 
    • This is the one CPA Boy has recorded.
  • A Beautiful Mind
    • Love Geoffrey Rush so maybe? Ambivalent here too.
  • Million Dollar Baby
    • Hilary Swank and boxing? Double no.
  • Crash
    • My interest is expressed as follows: Meh.
  • The Departed
    • I could not tell you a single thing about this movie! Who's in it? I got nothing.
  • No Country for Old Men
    • Cormac McCarthy, writer of depressing fiction. Ugh.
  • The Hurt Locker
    • Jeremy Renner is a fine, fine specimen of mankind but no.
  • 12 Years a Slave
    • Would much rather read the source material, which I have on my Kindle, than watch the movie.
That leaves a bunch to catch, mostly films before the 1970s. I will start with the one on the DVR: All Quiet on the Western Front.Thank goodness for Turner Classic Movies!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oh, My Aching Feet!

So I seem to have developed Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot in the last couple of weeks. This means I have intense pain in my left heel when I get out of bed or stand up after sitting for a while.

Some of the risk factors?
  • Overweight? Check!
  • Ages 40-60? Check!
  • Go barefoot often? Check!
  • Wear shoes with inadequate support? Check!
Besides stretching and other exercises one way to help the pain is by wearing supportive shoes all the time (except sleeping, of course). Or at least use an orthotic in your shoes to add support for your arches.

I HATE wearing shoes in the house!! I go barefoot all the time. I will wear slippers (with inadequate support) when it's cold but that's it.

I bought some Dr Scholl's orthotic inserts and they help. These are basically cushy little pads you put into each shoe. But at home, where I am most of the time, I have been putting off wearing my shoes.

But the pain started ramping up again and so I put my shoes on. Voila! It helps. (Darn it.) So I need to follow through and wear them all the time. Since I generally sit on the sofa with my feet all curled up on the cushions I have decided that taking them off when I sit down is okay. I just put my shoes on every time I get up.

There are places to go to buy custom orthotics but so far the cheapies seem to be doing the job. There are also several shoe makers who make shoes with orthotics such as Vionic. I ordered a cute pair of shoes to try out. The shoes with orthotics are so expensive though! Vionic has a pair of slippers that cost $60!

Too many years of buying cheap, comfortable shoes is a hard habit to break.

But the big decision is this: cheap, unsupportive shoes and pain OR expensive, supportive shoes and pain-free?

Say, speaking of Dr. Scholl's, does anyone remember the exercise sandals? They were made of WOOD and were NOT very comfortable to wear. I had a red pair at some point during my college years but I don't think I wore them often. I walked a LOT during my college years and wearing shoes that made your shins ache constantly were not the way to go!

I just checked the Dr. Scholl's website and they still make them! A mere $78! (No thanks!)

Friday, August 15, 2014

If I'm Not Reading Books I Must Be Watching Movies

Sure beats housecleaning!

Reading books and watching movies are probably my two biggest hobbies. This would explain my tendency to write about these things so often!

  • Iron Man 3
    • I had seen the first movie but not the second one but I figured it probably didn't matter and I was right. By not watching Iron Man 2 you miss a little bit of the Tony Stark/Pepper Potts relationship but whoever the villain was in that movie has no bearing on this one.
    • Ben Kingsley is a hoot as the Mandarin, especially when he uses the Ringo Starr-type voice. I always think of him in relation to his Oscar-winning role as Gandhi (which I never saw) and assumed he was pretty old. Ha! He was in his late 30s when he played Gandhi.
      • I had the same issue with Bernie Kopell when I was a kid. He played Siegfried on "Get Smart" and he definitely looked older than Maxwell Smart. I was surprised that he looked so young when he was on "The Love Boat" 10 years later. Turns out he was only about 30 when he played Siegfried!
    • Anyway, this is your standard Marvel superhero movie. Not my favorite of the bunch but it's pretty good for a popcorn movie.
  • The Avengers
    • So since I was on a popcorn movie kick I continued with a rewatch of this one. Mostly because Tom Hiddleston as Loki is in it. ::swoon::
    • I really wish they would feature The Black Widow character in her own movie. It's hard to take your eyes off Scarlett Johansson when she's onscreen so I think she would have no problem carrying her own superhero movie.
  • Thor: The Dark World
    • More popcorn and more Tom Hiddleston.
    • Chris Hemsworth isn't too hard on the eyes either. And Chris Evans makes a really adorable cameo as Captain America.
    • Did I mention Tom Hiddleston is in it?
  • Wreck-It Ralph
    •  I LOVED this movie and watched it twice. The voice actors are great and it's really cute that the 4 main characters actually look like their voice artists too (John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman and Jack McBrayer). 
    • It takes place in the world of video arcades. Kind of like how the toys came alive in "Toy Story" only when no one was looking? Same thing here. The characters travel between games. 
    • I had CPA Boy watch this with me because he spent a chunk of his youth in video arcades. It's the reason he owns a Ms Pac-Man machine; he bought it from the mall arcade he hung out in in the early 80s.
  • Gravity
    • Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
    • Astronauts in distress! I knew how the story ended and thank goodness. It's one space crisis after another so you are constantly tense to see how each new disaster works out.
    • There's a scene in the movie when Sandra Bullock's character takes off her spacesuit and is just wearing an undershirt and underpants. It made me think: would George Clooney have been willing to film a scene where he strips down to his undies so he could float in zero-g? I cannot presume to speak for Mr. Clooney but I'll bet he wouldn't. 
      • Don't get me wrong. The shot of her floating weightlessly in the fetal position in her undies is beautifully shot and (I guess) symbolic. But I think that shot exists because she's a woman.
  • Frozen
    • I watch the TV show "Once Upon a Time" which features various fairy tale characters. The coming season will include several from this movie.
    • It is a cute movie with a few nice twists and good lord, that "Let It Go" song is catchy. No wonder kids love it. It got stuck in my head for days!
  • Random Harvest
    • Greer Garson and Ronald Colman. I adore this movie and have seen it a number of times. 
    • Ronald Colman plays a World War I soldier who loses his memory and falls in love with Greer Garson. Then his memory returns.
    • Colman is too old, really, to play the soldier. He was about 51 during filming and looks it. But check your disbelief at the door: This is a very romantic movie and well worth watching.
  • Kismet
    • Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Edward Arnold
    • I had high hopes for this one but I didn't like it. It takes place in Baghdad (or the MGM art director's idea of Baghdad). Cute but a trifle.
  • Pandora's Box
    • Louise Brooks and her famous flapper bobbed hair.
    • A silent movie that's interesting solely due to Louise Brooks.You may never have heard of her (she didn't make very many movies) but you will recognize her "look".
  • Emma
    • The great Marie Dressler!
    • By today's standards people would probably call Marie Dressler ugly.  Here she is with her "Min and Bill" Best Actress Oscar in 1931 (along with Best Actor winner Lionel Barrymore).
    • I don't think she is ugly at all but she had no actor's vanity so her characters could be frumpy or even ugly if the role called for it. (She's glamorous playing a retired stage actress in Dinner at Eight.)
    • This movie has nothing to do with Jane Austen's novel. Instead Marie Dressler plays a family's housekeeper and nanny. Then there's a death and a court case.
    • The role resulted in her second Oscar nomination. She was the biggest box office star in the early 1930s! She died in 1934 just as little Shirley Temple came along to wear the box office crown.
  • The Barefoot Contessa
    • Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Edmond O'Brien, Rossano Brazzi
    • Ava at her most gorgeous and she has a claim to being one of the most beautiful woman ever. Her costumes are stunning too.
    • Bogie is great as usual but you can tell he is not well. The Technicolor that enhances the beautiful Ava also enhances his grayish pallor. He would die of esophageal cancer just over 2 years later.
    • The best part of this movie was that Bogie was not Ava's love interest; he was her friend. That's kind of unusual in movies.
    • I didn't understand just what earned Edmond O'Brien the Supporting Actor Oscar for this film until I looked it up. Three of his competitors were in "On the Waterfront" which won almost every other major award on Oscar night. The 3 guys must have cancelled each other out.
    • But overall I don't think it was great. Too much voice-over describing things instead of showing them. Worth a look though, just for Ava and Bogie.
  • Laura
    • Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Judith Anderson, Vincent Price
    • I was curious as to how Gene Tierney would be in the movie because her character is murdered before the film even starts. Flashbacks!
    • This one had a bunch of twists and turns and concluded satisfyingly. Too bad it wasn't in color. Gene Tierney was another beauty who should be seen in color!
    • Vincent Price has the BEST voice. Just gorgeous.
  • Wings
    • Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Richard Arlen, Clara Bow, Gary Cooper
    • The first Best Picture Oscar winner, this was pretty entertaining. Not enough Clara Bow though. She was gorgeous as well as a marvelously expressive actress but because the focus of the film is often the airplane duels and trench warfare she disappears for long stretches.
  • Gentleman's Agreement
    • Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Anne Revere, Dean Stockwell and directed by Elia Kazan
    • Gregory Peck plays a journalist writing a series on anti-Semitism. He poses as a Jew and experiences all sorts of prejudice, overt and subtle.
    • Another Oscar-winning Best Picture. It's pretty good although the romantic plot is kind of ridiculous. They get engaged after knowing each other for about 3 days!
    • Celeste Holm is great in her part but just as her character gets the best scene she disappears for the rest of the movie.
    • The other acting standouts are John Garfield and Dean Stockwell.
    • It's hard to imagine that this level of institutionalized anti-Semitism existed. Clubs, summer camps, hotels, towns, neighborhoods, jobs, universities and many other things had restrictions against Jews. (It's hard to imagine the level of institutional bias against African-Americans or Asians but this is all part of our nation's history too.)
      • In Rona Jaffe's novel "Class Reunion" one of the characters attending Harvard-Radcliffe is a Jewish girl who gains admittance through a quota system.
    • I don't know if this film ever made a difference in reducing anti-Semitism. It opened just as the whole Communist witch hunts were beginning and apparently Jewishness was somehow conflated with Communism. I'm guessing it took until the 1960s for change to come. (Too detailed to go into here and not my area of expertise anyway.)
      • "Fun" fact: There were places known as "sunset towns" until the 1960s. Depending on the part of the country, if you were part of the proscribed minority you needed to get out of town by sunset or face the consequences.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ten Books, Volume 6

Here are the books I've read, numbers 51 through 60...

NON-FICTION
  • Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
    • Huguette Clark's father was W.A. Clark, a man who made his fortune in copper mines. She was his youngest daughter from his second marriage (he was 62, she was 23). He was one of the 50 richest Americans ever but somehow his fame has waned in comparison to the others like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and so on.
    • Clark County, Nevada is named for him because he built a railroad through the area using Las Vegas as a stop.
    • When he died at 86 his will divided his fortune into 5 parts among his surviving children. Huguette, born in 1906, lived in a Park Avenue apartment in New York City with her mother. She lived a reclusive life, keeping away from her family because she assumed they only were interested in her money. She eschewed any publicity so nobody really knew anything about her, including her family.
    • She developed skin cancer and was finally convinced to go to the hospital where she was treated and then lived for the rest of her life, 20 more years, dying at the age of 104. She never returned to her Fifth Avenue home, nor her other mansions although everything was kept as if she'd arrive at any moment.
    • The hospital didn't make her leave once she recovered from her skin cancer surgeries because they thought they could get considerable donations from her if she was on location for them to influence. While she was afraid family members were after her money (for the most part they all had their own inheritances) it turned out that everyone else was instead and she was a soft touch for any sob story. Her lawyer and accountant took enormous fees and gifts (and would also benefit as her executors). Her main nurse received over $30 million dollars over the 20 years in gifts and was a main beneficiary of the will.
    • Long story short, when Huguette died the will was contested and everything about Huguette's life came out to the public (she would've HATED that). The will was settled and her family got some money ($34 million for about 21 people), the nurse returned $5 million and gave up her claim to the estate and most of the money went to arts foundations.
    • It was fascinating story. The only flaw with the book is that it was published just before the outcome of the case of the contested will so I needed to look up the resolution online.
FICTION
  • No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz
  • No Easy Way Out by Dayna Lorentz
    • A young adult book series, of which these are the first two, about the release of a dirty bomb in a suburban mall.
    • The bomb releases a deadly flu virus. As many of the mall occupants are teenagers the story is told from their points of view.
    • At first things are fine. Supplies are sent into the quarantined mall and a sort of system is set up. Then the "Lord of the Flies" mentality of the teens kicks in and the whole story becomes apocalyptic. The flu is so deadly that there is talk of the government just bombing the mall into dust. This does not go over well.
    • Some of the characters are very likeable and some that you hope get the fate they richly deserve based on their anarchic, barbarian antics. (Spoiler alert: One main character actually murders people and comes out of the story with no repercussions.)
    • Having read the final book (it will be included in my next book entry) I didn't ultimately like the series but I think it would be a good movie concept.
  • The 100 by Kass Morgan
    • Due to a nuclear war in the past, Earth's remaining population live in spaceships overhead. To test if the Earth is ready to be recolonized they send 100 teens to the surface. Because spaceship supplies are dwindling people are being executed for even minor infractions. If the 100 don't go to Earth they would be executed too.
    • It's an intriguing premise. The next books aren't out yet so it will be at least a couple of years before the story finishes. I'm not sure if I will remember to pick up the sequels.
    • I wonder if the next books will be titled "The 82" or however many are left at the start of each book!
  • Echoes by Maeve Binchy
    • Rich boy David and working class Clare are your standard Maeve Binchy couple. Her books are usually fun to read because you learn about everyone in whatever small Irish town they are set. I think this one suffers in that the 2 main characters just aren't ultimately very sympathetic. Angela, the teacher who helps Clare in her studies to get ahead, was the best character.
    • Not one I will want to read again like some of Maeve Binchy's other books.
  • Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
  • The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
    • These two books conclude the story begun in A Discovery of Witches. These three books basically tell one long story. 
    • In Shadow of Night the main characters, witch Diana and vampire Matthew, go back in time to 1590 where they live for a while trying to find the mysterious manuscript that supposedly tells the secret of immortal life. Or something.
    • Oh but geez, this book was repetitive! LOTS of scenes with Diana and Matthew where he asks her not to interfere in a conversation. She interferes. He broods and gets angry at her. She apologizes. He apologizes. Then the cycle starts again until finally at the end of book 2 they share their hidden secrets with each other (using occult witch/vampire methods of course) and somehow this fixes THAT issue.
    • The character of Matthew has anger issues --- The Book of Life uses the phrase "blood rage" ad nauseum --- and cannot stand it when ANYBODY touches Diana, not even in a friendly way. WTF? Get over it, Jealous Vampire Guy.
    • Anyhoo, it turns out the volume they search for doesn't even really matter much and you never really learn about its formation other than it's made from the skin, blood and hair of witches, vampires and demons. Yeah, gross.
    • And in the last book a villain comes out of nowhere (he has blood rage too!), there is a quick final showdown and...the end.
    • There are parts of these books that are very, very good and parts that were not. The characters were mostly pretty good (loved Gallowglass especially) but I'm not a fan of the overbearing vampire male which is a trope writers use too frequently.
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
  • Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
    •  In another future dystopian series, Cia is a character in a very small outpost of the new country The United Commonwealth. To go to the (apparently only) university, characters are tested.
    • This book series is compared to The Hunger Games in that Cia's test is against fellow teens in an apocalyptic landscape. Naturally they resort to killing each other off except for Our Heroine whose moral code learned from her sainted parents is too ingrained for such things (because all the other parents raised THEIR kids to become bloodthirsty murderers).
    • Obviously she passes the testing or there wouldn't have been a book 2 or 3.
    • But then there are MORE tests to determine the students field of study. As the candidates fall it turns out that they are just killed off. Some people don't like this. So anarchy and rebellion naturally follow. Will Our Heroine succeed in bringing down the corrupt government officials? Duuuuhhh.
    • It always cracks me up how the main characters in these types of books manage to figure things out. Cia ALWAYS figures out the angle. For example, when you are given a task, do only that task and NO MORE. (Otherwise your testing device will explode and kill you!) Or the task is so laughably impossible we may as well give up because THAT is the solution. (Giving up is the sign of leadership brilliance apparently.)
    • I keep reading these types of books and I keep criticizing them. Perhaps I need to keep away from them for a while. I didn't love The Hunger Games books either for a lot of these same reasons. Katniss, Tris (from Divergent) and Cia are just too perfect to be true.
    • All that said though, I think the author of these books is pretty good. I would definitely check out her future books even if they are more heroines in dystopias.
    • So far my favorite of the dystopian book series has been those of Marie Lu. Her Legend series is very good and avoids a lot of the dystopian tropes.