Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two Reviews: MIB3 and Blue Man Group

Boy, has 3D come a long way! We saw MIB3 in 3D this week with glasses that looked like the ones the MIB agents wear. No more paper glasses with one red side and one green side (blue?). The technology is just amazing. One special thing I noticed is that some of the previews were also in 3D. We saw the new version of "Gatzby" in 3D. Now that effect is pretty amazing: watching a normal movie with no special effects in 3D. The characters really pop from the screen. I must try this next. I usually reserve 3D viewing for animation or Harry Potter-esque type films. I've been introduced to a new way of  viewing. I think it is so cool! I did hear that 3D television viewing has not really been perfected yet, though. I don't have one, so I can't offer a first-hand opinion. Can anyone else? For now, I'll stick to the big screen.

MIB3 is as good as the previous two. It is an emotional story and very touching. The "time jump" idea was just like that older movie when I first saw Hugh Jackman with Meg Ryan: Kate and Leopold. Go to a really high place and take a leap of faith. With Hugh Jackman it was an invisible time portal he jumped into. In MIB3, it was with a time-jump device in hand. Both ways to jump into the past were really cool.

I love Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. They have such great chemistry together. Josh Brolin does a great job playing a young "K". He really gets Tommy's Lee's character's mannerism and sayings down pat: "Slick" for one. Great portrayal and really fun to watch. The story as usual has great aliens, and the prime nemesis is particularly evil and awesome: Boris the Animal "Don't call me that! It's just Boris!", he growls each time he's called that name. Very funny. The relationahip between "J" and "K" is more developed and reveals some new information. "Don't ask questions you don't want the answer for", is said time and time again. The biggest question does get answered, though, and we just loved it.

Go see it. It's a good time.

Last night we saw Blue Man Group at the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia, SC. I've seen this event at the Charles Playhouse in Boston, MA three times and loved every show. I was very curious to see how the show had changed, if at all, and what a larger venue would be like. A YouTube video of setting up for the show at the Center intrigued me.

The show was just as entertaining as the one in Boston, with less "Pipes" music, which is my favorite. My friend, Judy, doesn't prefer techno performances, and this truly was one. It had the same marshmallow and paintball-catching picture-creating tricks, and taking a young man and woman out of the audience to use in skits. These skits were still entertaining. But this performance also had much more commentary about our "connectedness" through technology. Two lighted drawn characters are texting one another while standing side-by-side about their opinion of 2D life versus 3D living and having an actual conversation with a live person. It was funny.

And, instead of the much anticipated sing-a-long I longed for, there was a dance-a-long instead. I was very ready for this as the seats began to cut into the backs of my thighs and I was a little uncomfortable. So, being able to stand and shake my bootie was perfectly timed. Also, instead of the toilet paper rolls being unleashed into the crowd at the end, this performance had giant inflatable, lightup, balls that people popped up to one another with strings and inflatable tubes and other matter shot into the audience from the blue men on stage. The effect was just as good, and it was a fun show. I was just a little disappointed, and thought the Boston performance was better in general.

For those who have never seen a Blue Man Group show, they are all a must-see event. I still highly recommend this Columbia performance for my friends in the South. It is kid friendly, and they will love it. The shows are always a fun time, and still difficult to explain. They must just be experienced.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Changes in Attitudes

We have been at our lakehouse in South Carolina for over two weeks now. I got one walk in and one swim during that time, and a whole lotta guilt. After months of working with my personal trainer twice a week with walks in between plus cross-training machine time, I can't believe how easily the routine falls apart. I thought I was strong in my new life choice, but being down here changes everything. I didn't get it before. I never really understood how so many people remain unhealthy here and just don't exercise at all. Now I see how this can be. I'm not sure what creates the laziness here, but it feels pervasive.

Our property is very remote, in the woods and on a beautiful lake. As I write this, a fisherman is standing in his "Jon", small, flatbottom, boat tossing in a line along our shore. It is a gorgeous sunny day, about sixty-five degrees in the morning. The pups are barking their heads off at the fisherman and disturbing the peace of birdsong and lapping waves on the shore. It is quiet, calm and restful. It feels so restful, that I get very lazy. I just don't want to do anything or go anywhere. But, I sit so much, my ass hurts. It got to a point last week, that my hips hurt laying on my side in my bed. Once I reached the point of pain trying to sleep, I got that ass out of bed and finally checked out a gym close to home, about eight miles away, I found on the internet.

New Life Fitness World is new looking, clean and very nice. It's not a big as Gold's Gym, but much bigger than Four Corner Fitness in Tiverton, Rhode Island. The staff is friendly and for forty dollars cash, I can use the gym for the three weeks I'll be here as much as I want, including classes. The first floor is full of machines and free weights. I walked around and saw lots of familiar machines, but not some I'm used to using. I'll check those out soon. I looked up and there was a second floor "loft" surrounding the machine area. All the treadmills and cross-trainers were up there so you can overlook people working out below. Surrounding the machines is an indoor track. They have an indoor pool in which they offer aqua classes and a jacuzzi. There are lots of other non-water classes there as well. There was a good mix of ages and fitness levels working out, and seeing this always makes me feel more comfortable.

I chose a cross-trainer and worked out for ten minutes before I gave up. The electronic counters didn't work. I found one that did, and worked out another thirty minutes until I was dripping sweat. It would have been good to have my music and I'll remember to bring that next time. I walked the track to the stairway the long way around and downstairs, chose an inflatable ball to do seventy-five crunches in three sets, then three sets of waist-twists with a weighted ball before stretching out and leaving. I felt so good coming here and proud of myself. As I was walking out the door, I remembered I left my glasses upstairs on the machine, so I ran up the staircase, walked the full length of the track, retrieved my glasses, and finished the walk around the other side back down the stairs before sprinting out the door.

Before leaving, I asked the young man at the desk when the busiest times were on Saturday so I can avoid it. He said by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., I should be able to do anything because there are classes that can crowd the place. I didn't go, but may go today, just to get thirty minutes in on the cross-trainer. I'm determined to at least get my heart rate up. My knees hurt yesterday, and my arms hurt last night, but I think they just need some weight training today. I will probably lift a bit to get them back. They must be feeling the loss.

I'm so glad I went and look forward to going back. It made me remember how good working out can feel, and I like seeing my wet, red face in the rear view mirror as I leave the parking lot to head home. Once home, I had something to eat, then jumped in the lake to rinse off. Life is good.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

I stayed in all day yesterday and up most of the night last night finishing this engrossing book. It didn't take very long to get pulled into the story. I've discovered this year that I really love mystery stories. I've been a fan of romance, fantasy, science-fiction, and epic novels. My book club has introduced me to a whole new realm of reading pleasure, but I still enjoy some "Top 40"-type books like this one. I've also discovered since Harry Potter, that I enjoy reading the book before watching the movie. This morning, Larry and I did just that with "Dish On Demand".

The story is set in Sweden, and is extremely dark: not just the story, but the movie as well. It was difficult to see a lot of the scenes because they were shot at night or in dark old rooms. Larry asked, "Why are Swedish movies always so dark?" I don't believe this is a Swedish film, per se, because the director is from Colorado. However, the book was written by a Swedish author. But the scenery in the movie looked very much like I'd imagined it from reading the book: very, very cold.

Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara is a ward of the state because she was declared mentally incompetent. However, she is extremely intelligent with a photographic memory and exceptional computer hacking skills, as well as being skilled with anything mechanical. She is also tapped into a network of very clever techno-geeks whose skills prove very useful throughout this story of investigation on many levels. She is hired to produce a detailed report about a "disgraced journalist", Mikael Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig. This is the most subdued role I've seen Mr. Craig play to date. Very different from his "007" role or any other action-adventure character from his career. I did enjoy watching his vulnerable side.

Because of Lisbeth's societally documented mental state and violent behavior, she is permanently assigned a Legal Guardian. I guess in Sweden one is required to have a guardian even after reaching adult age in this situation. Her first, very lenient guardian dies (not in the movie), and she is assigned to another, very sadistic man, who sexually tortures her before granting her access to her allowance. She teaches him a very painful lesson and moves on. There is lots of sadistic sex in this story: very sick and demented stuff. The movie thankfully did not elaborate these scenes in graphic details.

Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger, played by Christopher Plummer, to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of his favorite niece. Vanger assumes she was murdered by a family member, and has been obsessed with her loss during much of his life. Blomkvist is tried in the courts for unsuccessfully proving that Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, a powerful billionaire, is a crook in an expose he published in the financial investigative magazine he started with his partner and part-time lover, the married Erika Berger, played by Robin Wright, called Millenium.. He is sentenced to pay a huge fine which drains his life savings, and goes to jail for three months. But jail-time does not come before he is hired by Vanger to investigate his niece's murder under the guise of writing a family biopic.

The story has many twist and turns and I found it difficult to put down. I loved the process of his investigation that lead to his requiring a research assistant. Vanger's attorney had the name of a good one: the one who investigated Blomkvist before Vanger proposed hiring him: Lisbeth Salander. Ms. Mara does an excellent job portraying this very strange and withdrawn young woman with intelligence beyond her years. I've never seen her in any other movie, but she was very convincing, and I enjoyed her performance very much. She and Craig have a palpable chemistry that I also enjoyed watching. Robin Wright's role as Berger was pretty thin and I thought maybe she really needed the work to accept this one. It was one that, in my opinion, did not use her talents well at all. The movie version of Erika was skimpy at best compared to the printed version.

The scenery of the movie was very pretty, but was not as complete as I would have liked. Much of the movie was shot indoors. However, the movie plot followed the book's pretty well until the end. I won't spoil it for any of you who read the book and plan to see the movie. I encourage you to see it. It's not as graphic as the book, and you won't have to cover your eyes at all. The move took a little bit of artistic liberty with the storyline, but it didn't spoil the overall entertainment value.  If for no other reason, you can see Daniel Craig's ass, which is very nice.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"With a song in my heart..."

Sunset over Mauna Kea, Big Island, HI
I joined the Greater Tiverton Community Chorus in January to meet new people in the community and to do something I have always loved: to sing. One of the perks of retirement is that I now have the time and the energy to pursue interests I put off until "someday". We rehearsed every Thursday night with a group of about seventy-five people, mostly my age or older. There are a couple of women in their twenties. One young woman, Nicole, sang a lovely introductory solo, representing Noah's wife, in "Ain't It Good" from the Broadway musical, Children of Eden. We happily completed two concerts this weekend of American Hymnity music "from Gospel to Broadway". It was one of the most moving and fun experiences of my life. I am so happy I joined!

Singing music I would never have been introduced to otherwise felt like such a growing experience for me. I was required to learn to read music all over again. The last time I sang professionally was in middle school with the All Newton Chorus, in Newton Massachusetts. Who knew there was so much information on a sheet of music? Now I know what those symbols mean: quiet, loud, fast slow; refrain. I used a pink highlighter to mark the Alto part I was to sing, as well as all the lyrics. Learning to follow the notes, words, and then have to watch our conductor, Beth, hurt my brain in the beginning; and my eyes all along. Doing those simultaneous movements was hard work, but so worth it. I screwed up a few songs, but in a large group, I learned to just sing softer. Beth had a keen ear, and could hear if even one person was out of tune. She never heard me, so I guess using the tricks other members shared with me really worked. Phew.

I have been singing since I was a child. My mother loved to sing and played piano, not professionally, but very competently. We always had an upright in our home growing up, and I loved listening to her play and sing. She made me take piano lessons from the second to fourth grade at St. Catherine's Elementary School in Norwood, Massachusetts. The nuns were very strict, and I hated the smell in the stairwells. It smelled like ether and ammonia. I will never forget it. I hated to practice, and after two years, I quit. I regret that decision to this day. I now have an electric keyboard with all the bells and whistles. I haven't played it yet, but since joining the Chorus, it helped me figure out the notes and was especially helpful when I had to shift from the Alto-2 part to Tenor in some of the songs. I am determined to learn to play it now, and am convinced the Chorus will guide me there. I'll keep you posted on my progress. All encouragement would be appreciated.

At St. Catherine's, we had music classes where we were taught to sing the Mass in Latin. I loved these classes the best. I found the music so inspirational and moving then, and I still feel that way about it now. I can't imagine a world without music. I use it for therapy and exercise; meditation and just for fun. It is so healing and fulfilling, that it pains me to realize our children won't have the opportunity to be introduced to this art form without paying through the nose. And, without music classes in school, there can be no introduction to other than "top 40" tunes. This knowledge makes me sad. But, not all children are so deprived, and I am determined to introduce my future grandchildren to every type of music there is. I have very eclectic taste in everything, including music.

I created a few musical highlights in my singing career along the way. The most memorable was the Holly Near song, "Strong", that I sang a ccappella at my brother, Paul's, funeral Mass in Newton. Singing in Mary Immaculate Catholic Church was so powerful for me, and such a moving experience for everyone in attendance. My late father told me afterwards that he never knew I could sing like that. This compliment made me very happy. On several other occasions, I was known for jumping up on stage in nightclubs if an invitation by the band was offered to sing with the lead vocalist or as backup. I also jumped in with a young band at a party given at the Natick Elks club during a rendition of the Rolling Stones song, "Honky Tonk Woman". They weren't harmonizing the chorus, and it made me crazy. I just jumped in front of the empty microphone next to the lead singer and finished the song with him. After, he told me how great that was and I could jump in anytime. It was so much fun. Also, I get requests for, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" by Crystal Gayle when I sing karaoke.

I pray I will always be able to sing. I have to admit, my throat hurts today, and I was "froggy" after each concert this weekend. But Beth, the conductor, gave me a tip when in a semi-panic at dress rehearsal I asked her for advice about soothing my ever-increasingly dry and irritated throat. She suggest cutting a big hunk of fresh ginger root into a pot of water and boiling it good. Then keep drinking it with a little honey and don't talk. The tea was wonderful, and I mostly didn't talk. It seemed to help during the concerts, so I'll keep making it whether I sing or not.

Straining my throat is going to hurt whether I find something soothing to drink or not. Now with a long road trip to look forward to later today, I'll get the chance to do just that. Not talk, and listen to music along the way. South Carolina Lakehouse: here we come! La, la, la...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"If you love them, let them go."

Letting go of people you love is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Walking away from a loved one is heartbreaking. But, sometimes, when a person in your life does not lift you up, doesn't accept or appreciate you for who you are, then that relationship is not healthy enough to continue. Those relationships are like alcohol to an alcoholic: so bad for you, but you just can't stop drinking.

As a single woman, I loved men who were either unavailable in one way or another, or who abused me emotionally or psychologically. They made me feel "less than", belittled and unworthy of a high priority in their lives; of any priority. I was in many cases a substitute for something or someone better they hoped would come along, or an after-thought. I settled for that "love" because I confused love with sex. I didn't feel worthy of healthy, supportive, nourishing love. I didn't love myself enough. I let go of all those men, painfully, and after too long a time hanging onto them. I thought nobody else would come along who would ever love me. I thought I was unlovable. I was wrong. Eventually, after much heartache and many headaches, I let them go. I cried an ocean of tears in my life letting them go, but I did. And, I'm glad I did. Because I found a love in my mature years that I didn't know existed. Had I not let them go, I never would have found what I have now. Had I not risked being alone, I never would have received the blessings I now cherish.

I also let go of people I called "friend" for the same reasons. I realized that many of my friendships were based on partying to an unhealthy level out of boredom or social expectation. One day, I realized an unhealthy friendship was just bringing me down, so I walked away. I let them know and hurt their feelings, but I left just the same. One friend let me go saying, "You make me feel so small. You are a shining star and I feel insignificant around you." I had no idea what to do with that, so I just told her she was shallow to hurt her in return. We still consider each other friends, and I still see other people from my past. We continue to love each other, but our relationships will never be the same. It became clear over time, that it was the right decision to leave because our paths in life were very different. Again, ending the friendship was in the best interest of both of us.

I share DNA with people who treat me the same way. I never thought you were supposed to let them go, but I find that I now must do just that. I love them, but our relationship is unhealthy. We only make each other feel badly about ourselves. My cheeks hurt from turning them so often, so now I must take the advice a good friend gave me. I am taking back my cheek. I am saving my precious cheek and letting it heal from all the slaps of humor at my expense or disappointment at thinking I mattered in their lives when I really am just someone to blame for the disappointment in theirs. I think more of myself to continue to suffer the abuse, even if they were "just kidding". I still feel the pain, and I've had enough.

People who love each other should work to try and accept the other just as they are. Nobody is perfect. But if a person demonstrates they are trying, then the relationship is worth keeping. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder, even if those actions are inconvenient. Communication is essential. Ignoring pain does not make it go away. Talking a problem or situation through is the only way to understand it, resolve it and move on in love. Sometimes resolution takes time and space. But love perseveres and heals. Isn't that what being in relationship is all about? A healthy relationship requires give AND take; ebb and flow, like the tides. If I can't be in the "flow" with someone, then I have to let them go and move onto someone else who can flow with me. Life is way too short to live in pain.