Swabbing the Decks…

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So, as sometimes happens in life, things have become a little busy with work and life, and thus, I feel the need to swab the decks a bit, so to speak, and round up what I’ve been reading and doing etc.

Work tends to be rather busy during the Spring months with various projects coming due around the same time, so I’ve been occupied with getting those documents written, edited, approved (and then repeating the same process several times with several different authors). I’m making progress though so I’m satisfied with all that.

Life: we went to a Garth Brooks/Trisha Yearwood concert the other day when they arrived in town, and wow. That was a great concert (except for the opening act which was misogynistic in every song he chose to sing for us. The only way that this opening act could have made it on to the list must have been he’s a close family friend or Garth Brooks lost a bet.) However, Garth was excellent, Trisha was excellent, and Garth hung around the stage for an hour once the concert has officially “finished” and took requests from some of the 13,000 people who had filled the arena. This was truly one of the best concerts that I’ve been lucky to attend, and recommend you get tickets if they come through your area. Totally worth it (even if you’re not huge in C/W.)

Garth Brooks In Concert - New York, New York

Tonight, I’ve got tickets to see NYT best-selling author, Malcolm Gladwell, give a lecture in a town just west of here. It’s two hours’ drive each way, so it will be a long night, but Gladwell is worth it (I hope).

sunset_blvdMovies – the best movie I’ve seen in ages was the one we watched the other day called Sunset Boulevard (1950) which stars Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a has-been movie star but who’s not been told that her work is no longer wanted by directors. She had been a star in the silent movie era, and had not made the transition to the “talkies”, but to keep life easier, those who surround her have said nothing so she just keeps waiting for the phone call from the next director. A young writer down on his luck happens to break into her mansion during a big storm and a police chase, and thus the two people meet. She has drafted a new movie script and asks (commands) the young writer to put it together to pitch to the industry. The drama goes on from there… Lots of lovely melodrama, great fashion, and lines you’ll probably recognize…

(If you’ve seen Seinfeld on a fairly regular basis, you’ll recognize scenes from Sunset Boulevard from when Kramer moves to LA and lives in a run-down boarding house… and other small Easter eggs through the seasons.)

Reading – yes. I’ll update you with the goods in the next post!

“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up…”

Monday Check-In.

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Wow. Another week goes by and only one post up. Life is still keeping busy, my eye is still messing around (making reading tricky), and work continues on its crazy pace. I hope this slows down soon as I miss my reading, writing, and blogging. And you, of course.

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Limpets (of which I speak in this post.)

Of course, another part of all that no-blogging thing has been, naturally, the Olympics from Rio. The Olympics (or Limpets as my family would call them) have rather taken over my world since, as a former collegiate swimmer, I’m addicted to watching just how incredibly fast these new generations are. It’s amazing how the technology and techniques have evolved over the past *cough* thirty years, and it’s even more spectacular how fast the times have become. It’s also pretty darn cool to see the Great British team of swimmers doing great. (Naturally, I’m proud of the USA swimmers as well, but GBR has a lot of my heart.)

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Actually, I love watching all the aquatic events so am thinking that when coverage moves on to a different sport, my Limpet viewing will go down. So Limpet viewing along with really HOT temperatures outside has led to us being house hermits the past few days. (Got loads of stuff done IN the house though as there is a lot of fluff that goes along with TV coverage. It’s good fluff, but it’s fluff nonetheless. 🙂 )

(It’s also really convenient when we’re all in the same time zone for watching the coverage. Australia was a bit trickier (for us in US) but probably worked much better for some of you out in the global community!)

As I now hold an elected office on campus (go me!), I will be spending next Saturday in graduation ceremonies so preparing myself for that. It’s the first time I’ve been in the Stage Party (i.e. out in the open with the bigwigs up on stage) and since you are in view of the thousands of graduates and families, there’s no phone-playing allowed. Also no naps. There may be some undercover day-dreaming if it’s conducive to that but I think that, for most of the time, I will be looking proudly at each of the graduates who traipse across the stage. It’s a HUGE deal to have a graduating student for the majority of families who will be watching the ceremony, and I want and need to respect that. We have a lot of First-Generation students so the experience means an awful lot to an awful lot of people so I’m looking forward to seeing an awful lot of happy faces. 🙂

(Holding any elected office at all, even it’s dog-catcher, is totally outside my experience and comfort zone, but thought I’d try this time around. I won (weird) and it’s keeping me really busy, but it’s also really fun so far.)

I did actually finish up a book. (Woah. I know.) It was Mary Roach’s latest book and was, as usual, a witty and fascinating read. Review to come with that.

straight_outta_compton

And then saw the movie “Straight Outta Compton” about the early hip-hop movement. I don’t really have any/much knowledge of this music genre so it was fascinating learning about the early beginnings of this music and NWA. (Not a big fan of their lyrics, but in terms of music, their story is remarkable and led to much googling down various rabbit holes over the weekend.)

So – with the hot outside temperatures, we don’t really want to go outside much (we’ve had enough of the endless heat at this point of the summer), so there’s lots of indoor time. You won’t believe how clean my bathtub is now. 🙂

How’s your summer or winter coming along? Are you as sucked into the Olympics as we are in our household?

 

Catch-Up Time…

 

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So, thought I’d give you a looksee into the inner circle of the life of Just One More Page. It’s fascinating, let me tell you. 🙂

book372Finished up a quick (and must admit rather forgettable) read of “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. I remember it being hilarious when I read the first time, but this time, meh. (And that’s the risk you run with rereads, I think.)

So – ok read but no need to put it up on the TBR pile any more. Out the door with you, Bill.

 

 

 

Peaky_BlindersWe’ve been sucked into the fantastic BBC/Netflicks series called “Peaky Blinders”, a series that follows some Birmingham (UK) travelers who form an organized crime network that grows and grows and grows… The actors are great, but let me give a warning about the accents: Americans may well need subtitles until you get the hang of it. Truly – this is riveting stuff and it would be very very easy to binge-watch this series. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a summer TV series.

 

 

vivian_meierWhen my sis visited me, we ended up watching the documentary “Searching for Vivian Maier” which is truly an intriguing story about a young man who buys a box of negatives and photos in an auction. Opening the box, he finds some high-quality photographs so, curious to know more, he follows the clues to who the photography was. The journey leads to a nanny who took more than 100,000 street photos, but kept them all private. Who was this person and why did she keep the photos secret?

(Along with this detective trail, the question is also raised that since the nanny/photographer is now dead, do we actually have the right to show her photos without her permission? Interesting…) My sis and I are contemplating going to Arlington to see an exhibition there of her work…

Anyway, a fascinating look into a very private person…

And then I’ve been doing some cross-stitch. I had put it down for a while and then picked it up again. Sucked in as usual (which is rather fun)…What’s up in your world?

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Let’s have a little catch-up, shall we?

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Life has been calming down which means that I’ve been able to catch up on things, both blog-wise and life-wise. It’s been really nice, actually.

poetWe recently got tickets to a poetry reading by Juan Felipe Herrera who is the current U.S. poet laureate. Herrera was very funny, very laid back and had some great pieces that he read to the crowd. In fact, he had the same vibe as Billy Collins (also a previous U.S. Poet Laureate) and who gave a big reading here in town a couple of years ago. It seems that the position of Poet Laureate is going to more accessible poetry (and its writers) which I really appreciate. I love poetry that I can connect to. I enjoy other poetry as well but I find I have to work harder to find that appreciation sometimes. I know, shameful but there you go.

So that was a fun evening of culture (and you know how I likes a bit of culture every now and then).

interview-with-the-vampireScreen-time has also been fun lately. As a head-tip to upcoming Halloween, we watched the old (1994) Interview of the Vampire with baby Brad Pitt and baby Tom Cruise (before he was weird). Loved this – it had just the right amount of scary without being too much and was funny to boot. Recommend this even if you’re not into scary stuff. It’s a good flick.

Went to the movies to see The Martian (2015 with Matt Damon) which was really good. Not many movies really suck me in to the narrative, but this one did and continued to do so right up to the end. Damon does a great job acting as the abandoned scientist stuck on the rather inhospitable Mars and apparently it’s pretty accurate, scientifically speaking, for the most part. One of my favorite quotes was this one: “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this one.” Nerd humor.

KTXT-FM_LogoSpeaking of media, our local college radio station was having an outside broadcast promoting an event and the 80’s music (which I adore), so having been a college radio DJ in my younger years (about 30 years ago so it was all vinyl), I tootled over to where they were standing and ended up on live radio  talking about the old days. That was really fun, so now I’m getting back into music a bit more than I was.

And then back to books, I’m implementing a Book Buying Ban (similar to what I did last year). I’ve made the chart and now just actually have to keep to the ban. (It hasn’t gone well this week, but today’s another day!)

And reading-wise (re: books), I’ve been reading up a storm which has been great fun. Non-fiction on a childhood in the 1930’s northern England, a non-fiction of literary criticism and background on the Great Gatsby, and a collection of short stories published in the 1920s/1930s. (That last book of short stories was a thrift store find and I picked it up at random to read. Happily, I found out that the stories are some of the same time period as when F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing, so having learned more autobiographical stuff about Fitzgerald, it’s interesting to read some of his (and his peers) writing immediately after.

And then this weekend, I’m signed up to go to a Digital Story-Telling Workshop on campus. Not exactly sure what to expect, but I do know we need to take a DSLR camera and a flashdrive. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So it’s been fun.

fun-fun

Credit: (Just let me know. I’m happy to add text.)

 

Playing Catch-Up….

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So – time for a general catch-up with reading and life in general. Work continues at warp speed and so I’m still not quite back to full-tilt reading, but I’m reading when I can.

I’m in the middle of a fantastic read by Gerard Woodward (whose book August I loved and reviewed a while back). His publisher got in touch with me about his newer title, Vanishing, which is great and I am finding that I look forward to every moment that I can find to read that story. More in-depth review to come, but suffice to say, Woodward is a great author!

book450I wanted to read another classic (specifically by Dickens), so I picked his non-fiction travel writing about his first visit to America called (strangely enough) American Notes. Well, I’ve heard Dickens’ writing called a lot of things, but truth be told, this book is actually very very funny in parts and has frequently made me laugh out loud when I’m reading it at the gym. I had no idea that Dickens had this dry sly sense of humor, but he does and there’s plenty of it in this book. There are, I admit, a couple of chapters which are heavy-handed (typical Victorian) writing about the state of prisons in the U.S., prison reform, slavery and disability rights, but they’re not too long and he did have a point. (The prisons were dreadful at the time and Dickens was a big advocate for changing that – especially solitary confinement – and the justice system in general.) However, once he returns to the world of travel, the tone returns to very witty commentary about his journeys. (Honestly, if I was a betting person, I would bet that Bill Bryson has read this Dickens book at some point because they both take the same tone about traveling around. If you like Bryson, you’ll like this particular Dickens. Just don’t be put off by the prison reform bits. The rest of it is really pretty funny for the most part.) Anyway, longer review to follow, but this is a good travelogue of early American life. (WARNING: It’s not always complimentary towards America/Americans but it does have grains of truth to it.)

book451Did a quick read of the graphic novel bestseller called Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. Not one of my favorite reads as both of the two lead characters are hard to like, swear like sailors and have an extremely jaded approach at life. I know a lot of people really like this read of these two disaffected teenaged friends, but I rather wish that I could take that hour of reading time back to use on something else. But it’s good to know what people are talking about when they mention Ghost World now.

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When I haven’t been reading, we’ve caught a couple of really good movies. “This is Where I Leave You” is a movie adaptation of a novel of the same name by Jonathon Tropper (both good). (My book review is right here.) The plot focuses around a family of adult children and mother who all share close quarters for a week as was the final wish for their newly deceased father. It’s poignant and funny, and I think it’s one of the most honest representations of what life would probably be like if grown-up siblings were forced to spend a whole week together after years of having their own independent lives. Bitter-sweet and an overall really good movie.

movie2Another movie we viewed was an indie flick called “In a World”, fictional drama about the world of high-level voice-over artists vying for a gig doing the voice-over for the trailer of a huge blockbuster trailer about to be released. Again, grown-up siblings closely interacting, their lives not running according to plan (because whose does, really?) and some very sly humor. Not a comedy, but more of a poignant drama which was extremely satisfying and will be added to my list of top ten fav movies. (As will the Tropper movie above.)

Still watching the fantastic series, “The Wire” – wow. Talk about unpredictable plot twists and now we’re in Season Three, we’ve got a strong background in the characters and who they are etc., so it’s always a good watch. Good for when you want a serious hard-hitting drama and a nice replacement for House of Cards (although a very different take on the world).

And it’s been raining, raining, raining a lot for this semi-arid place we live in. It is the rainy season, that’s true, but this has been a chilly and wet start to summer for these parts. Next stop: Home Depot for ark-building materials. (Certainly not complaining about the rain though. We need the moisture in these here parts.)

www,photostock.am (Fotolia.com)

www,photostock.am (Fotolia.com)

Movie Talk…

movieWe’ve been watching a few movies lately and have fallen in love with the Alamo Theater (do go if you have one in your area – good fun). So, just to change things up, I thought I’d give a rundown of the movies that have crossed our eyes lately:

American_SniperAmerican Sniper – What to say? An interesting movie with a provocative message. Lots to think about on all sides of the issue.

boyhood

Boyhood – A movie that follows a 6-year old boy as he grows up over the next 12 years. Not a documentary, but could as well as have been. Loved how it showed how people evolved over time and yet they still found ways to stay together in a combination that worked for them. I thought that was a very optimistic message and it was good to watch a hopeful movie for a change.

paddington-posterPaddington the Bear – Yes, it’s a kids’ movie, but I happen to love Paddington so I went. I haven’t been to see a kids’ movie in years, and had forgotten what it was like to watch a movie with a theaterful of mostly under-8’s. (Very sweet and very similar to trying to follow a movie whilst sitting in a bucket of worms. Lots of fidgeting going on which I expected, but most kids were v. well behaved and just enthusiastic.) The movie – meh. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the best bits of the film. I think  it’s best to see if you’re a member of the under-8 crowd because they loved it.

Amira-And-SamAmira and Sam– Pretty under-the-radar indie film, but very good and really charming. (I was lucky to leave the cinema with my socks on!*) This is the story of a U.S. soldier who returns to the U.S. from Iraq and tracks down his friend, an Iraqi interpreter who helped his unit when they were in the war zone. Meeting his old friend, he happens to meet the friend’s niece who was staying there, an Iraqi young woman who is trying not to get deported by the immigration authorities. What follows on from that is a very good story of how their relationship develops. With an open Po-Mo ending, this was one of my favorite films I’ve seen this year and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a really good film about just two fairly normal people who want to have a happy ending. No bombs, no explosions (apart from a brief bit in Iraq), and a healthy relationship with a good sense of humor. Loved it. (Good date movie if you’re looking for one that everyone will probably like.)

And then we’re back to books…

* You know, because it charmed my socks off… 🙂

General Book Chat…

 

greatbooksI was going through a slight reader’s block a few weeks ago, and I really couldn’t find anything to read that was hitting the spot. So I picked up and put down quite a few titles and just floated around my book shelves for a while, and, in fact, even took a break from reading to see if I could uncover my reading mojo. (I became reacquainted with the joy of piddling around the house doing nothing in particular, and now have added it to my skill set. Any questions about how to piddle, just let me know. I’m happy to help.)

TV: During my reading break, we finished up watching the entire House of Cards series with Kevin Spacey, caught up with The Americans, and were happy to see the start of Orange is the New Black. (I’ve also been peer-pressured into watching the Ladies in London reality show about English high society women and American expats and how they fit in (or don’t as the case may be). It’s not as bad as I had expected and I’m not sure how many I’ll end up watching, but I seem to have a sort of horrified fascination with the show as it unfolds, rather like seeing a car crash in slow motion. We’ll see…

Movies: I just saw the movie Belle last night and really enjoyed it. Luscious costumes and unpredictable story along with some good acting – a good package. Recommend it if you like Downton Abbey or any other period dramas (although Belle is more eighteenth century).

belle

Books: And I was working my (slow) way through Fink’s Five Days at Memorial non-fiction about how one of the New Orleans hospitals react when Hurricane Katrina arrives. It’s one of those reads when it’s ok when you’re reading it, but it’s pretty easy to pick up and it’s pretty easy to put down (and stay down). I’ve been staying the course (about 2/3 through), but have finally decided to cut the cord and move on. Phew.

So – it’s been a time of change and all is good in my small world.

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Movie Madness

Going to the movies is quite rare with me most of the time. I’d rather read the book, and it has to be something special to get me to pay full price and spend all that time to watch it. However, recently, a good friend has introduced me to Half-Price Tuesdays, and that (along with a spate of good movies) has pulled me back onto the Movie Groove.

So what have I been seeing? Well, not blockbusters, I’ll tell you that. I am pretty picky about not getting a predictable story line, and with a lot of Hollywood writers, they love predictable. I know it’s going to be a flat story if I can forecast what will happen in the first 20 minutes – not because I am so great and perceptive, but only because the narrative is going to be so banal.

So – there have been some movies that have made the cut recently and they’ve been really good. As a change from books, I thought I’d do a movie post…

amourSo, first up:  Amour (French drama with subtitles, 2012). This was a moving and pretty serious movie about what happens to an elderly married couple when one of them has a serious medical event. Their lives are tested in ways that would test anyone, and although it’s not an easy movie to watch, it’s a good one. Another interesting factoid: there is absolutely no sound track to this – no background music at all, not even for the credits. Probably not the best idea for the cinema management to put it next door to another movie theater with loads of explosions and bass, but still – enjoyed the movie.

versaillesSecond up, The Queen of Versailles (documentary, 2012). This was a really interesting documentary which followed a family who started out incredibly wealthy, had more money than they knew what to do with (husband was in real estate/time-share), and then Wall Street crash hit. They had been in the process of building the biggest house in America, 90,000 square feet with something like 30 bathrooms. Why? Because they could. And then the crash. It was fascinating to watch the husband suddenly become more humble about things. He was insufferable before and then BAM. Not enough money (although they don’t sell their current huge mansion to cover costs). They downsize their staff and this shows their true colors – slobs (since used to someone cleaning up after them) and poor dog owners as dogs poop all over the house which no one picks up. Bleugh.  The reference to Versailles is that their new house under construction was influenced and based on Versailles in France. I tried not to have Schadenfreude but it was hard. This also reminds that the new version of The Great Gatsby will be coming out soon. Looking forward to seeing that as it actually looks better than the book (for once). Not a huge fan of Fitzgerald, as misguided as that may be.

quartetThird up, Quartet (English drama, 2012). This has some heavy hitters in it (Dame Maggie Smith for one) and revolved around a retirement home for former professional musicians. This was not as good as I had hoped for, but that might have been as I am not such a huge fan of opera (which is what this movie revolved around). Good character studies and lovely scenery though and I was impressed with Billy Connolly who has come a long way from being a shock comedian back in the day.

So – we’ll see how much more movie madness comes along. I’m not sure what’s out and who knows what’s coming out, so a little research is in order, methinks. It’s fun right now.