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Monday, November 30, 2009


A week later, and the press is still obsessed with the state dinner party crashers. Why? It was a good story for a day, but why are they still dissecting it? Yawn.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jews and Christmas

A local acquaintance just announced her annual Christmas party. I wasn't invited, but that's fine, I wouldn't have gone anyway. I went last year and I thought it was awkward as hell - a room full of Jews celebrating Christmas. I grew up having a Christmas tree every year, and it didn't ultimately impact my Jewish identity. But it was my non- Jewish parent who instigated the festivities and my Jewish father just tolerated it. It is a bit odd that this woman, who is Jewish and is raising her kids Jewish, still insists on overtly celebrating Christmas. I suppose she can say that it's all for her husband and his family, but it's still her that's doing the decorating and such. And most of the guests, at least last year, were Jewish - it's not just a party for her non-Jewish friends and family. Whatever. Everyone makes their own choices, but I'm happy not to be involved. I'm so glad that my real friends don't do that, so I don't have to pretend that I'm fine with it.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

More movie chat

Watched several movies over the holiday weekend.

Uncross the Stars (2008) was my favorite. An offbeat story about a man who goes to visit his unconventional aunt after his wife dies. He gets involved in her "star-crossed" romance while enjoying the quirky characters that inhabit his aunt's world. Bonus - it was filmed in Apache Junction AZ, and makes excellent use of desert surroundings.

The Secret Life of Bees (2008) was very good also. I'm sorry I put off seeing it.

Henry Poole is Here (2008) was a bit disappointing - not very much "there" there. And so predictable - it happens exactly as you expect it to. Henry is glum; an image of Jesus appears on his house; he falls in love with his beautiful neighbor whose daughter is "cured" by the wall; then Henry is cured by the wall. The End

Hoot (2006) was entertaining enough and the earth-friendly message was couched in plenty of slapstick humor and kids triumphing over foolish adults. Not a waste of 90 minutes. Bonus - cameo appearance by Florida legend Jimmy Buffet as the science teacher.

2012 - Surprisingly, I liked this movie better than Larry, but that is explained purely by expectations - he had some and I didn't. It was ridiculous and contrived and went on too long, but it was adequate popcorn entertainment. Larry's complaint is that they could have made a much better movie, and he is right - some great ideas, a good cast, and some terrific set pieces, but overall, pretty dopey stuff. And very little reference to the Mayans - some backstory would have improved the movie quite a bit.

Planet 51 was excellent family entertainment with the usual (but always worthwhile) message of being true to yourself. Fun. Bonus - it got us out of the house on Thanksgiving while Larry and his mom argued about the food.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Trophy wives

I was a little, what - startled, disappointed, intrigued - when I was watching video of the state dinner at the White House, to see both Sanjay Gupta (the CNN doc) and Fareed Zakaria escorting their very blond wives into the festivities. I guess Indian Americans are just a suseptible as African Americans are to announcing that they've suceeded by marrying a very, very white woman.


Sunday, November 22, 2009


Watched two rather similar movies recently, both independents, both with good casts including a famous face or two, both romantic comedies with a twist, both trying to be more intelligent than the typical Hollywood fare. And both had rather mixed results.

Dream for an Insomniac (1996) had terrific dialogue and great secondary characters, both of which are sine qua non for a successful rom-com. But I don't think I have ever cared less if the designated Boy and Girl got together. The main female character, Frankie, played ably by Ione Skye, was especially annoying. Her single-minded pursuit of David was somewhat inexplicable and rather unattractive, considering he was engaged to someone else. I love the idea of soulmates as much as anyone, but somehow, the way this story played out, I just didn't buy that destiny decreed that these two be together. Mostly, I couldn't wait for the movie to be over, despite a good side story about Rob, Frankie's gay friend, who is struggling with coming out to his very Italian father (played by Seymour Cassel), and a nice comic turn by Jennifer Aniston, who had just found fame and fortune on Friends.

How You Look To Me (2005) is set in an English Literature graduate program at the University of Kentucky, and Bill, the main character, quotes from various classic works, creating a generally literate atmosphere. But othewise he's a rather unsympathetic character, even after he falls for the most substantial (and of course most attractive) female student in the program, Jane. There are poetry slams and scenes in classrooms, so that's a bonus. And a nice side story with Bill's best friend, who happens to be black. Frank Langella provides heft as the doomed professor. And Bill's family owns horses at Churchhill Downs, so it was fun to see places I visited myself just last year. But the emotional impact was less than intended, and it's not a movie that will stick with me, despite it's lofty themes.


Saturday, November 21, 2009


I almost cried when I heard that my friend Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer. She's had her lumpectomy and is awaiting news on follow-up treatments (originally they thought it wasn't in her lymph nodes, but it was, so now she needs chemo as well as radiation). Every time I talk to her, I just want to bang my head against a wall. It took me awhile to realize why I was so frustrated with her having this disease. I think it's because getting cancer is such a humbling experience and of all the people I know, she is the least in need of humbling. She's just so nice, so completely unobjectionable, which I can't say about too many people. Not that anyone deserves cancer, but some people deserve it less than others.

Friday, November 20, 2009

TV images

I enjoyed this column in the latest Newsweek about gay images on TV. An excerpt:

In the past year, however, the public-acceptance pendulum seems to have shifted back, at least for what is arguably the biggest test of equality. Two weeks ago, the people of Maine followed the people of California in reversing existing laws that had legalized gay marriage. In fact, when gay marriage has been put before the voters of any state, it has failed every time. Is TV to blame for this? Of course not. The mission of popular culture is to entertain, not to lecture. But if we accept that Will, Dawson's, and the rest once fostered acceptance, it's fair to ask if Glee may be hurting it, especially because the Kurt model is everywhere. There's Marc (Michael Urie), the flaming fashion assistant on Ugly Betty; Lloyd (Rex Lee), Ari's sassy receptionist on Entourage; the gay couple on Modern Family (one guy still pines for his ice-skating career; the other wears purple in every episode). The fey way extends to nonfiction, too, from the dozens of squealing contestants on Project Runwayto the two gayest words in the English language: Perez Hilton. Next week American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert's new album, For Your Entertainment, arrives: that's Lambert on the cover, wearing heavy mascara, black nail polish, and perfect lip gloss. Lesbians face a different problem. They are invariably played by gorgeous, curvy women straight out of a straight man's fantasy—Olivia Wilde on House, Sara Ramirez on Grey’s Anatomy, Evan Rachel Wood on True Blood—and they're usually bisexual. How convenient.
[ . . . ]
The problem with the Glee club is that Kurt and the rest are loud and proud, but their generation has turned down the volume. All this at a time when standing apart seems particularly counterproductive. Marriage (and the military) are sacred institutions, so it's not surprising that some heterosexuals will defend them against what they see as a radical alteration. But if you want to be invited to someone else's party, sometimes you have to dress the part. Is that a form of appeasement? Maybe. It's not that gay men and women should pretend to be straight, or file down all their fabulously spiky edges. But even Rachel Maddow wears lipstick on TV. The key is balance. There's so much more to the gay community than the people on TV (or at a gay-pride parade). We just want a chance to live and love like everybody else. Unfortunately, at the rate we're going, we won't get there until the post-post-gay generation.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

9-11 trial in NY

Weird to hear Attorney General Eric Holder say "acquittal is not an option" for KSM - then what's the point of having a trial? Then, on CNN this morning, a reporter said that exact thing and asked the legal analyst who was the guest to explain it. He noted that Holder talks like a prosecuter - that's just how they think of it, and that federal prosecutors don't bring cases unless they're likely to win. So that makes sense.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Healthcare redux

Glad that the Senate has presented their healthcare bill, which has some good elements, and I love the "BOTAX" - a 5% tax on elective cosmetic surgery - what a brilliant way to pay for additional healthcare for people who can't afford the basics!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sarah Palin in Newsweek

Excellent essay in the latest issue of Newsweek about Sarah Palin's political appeal by Christopher Hitchens (who's insufferable in person but is a terrific writer). This is my favorite paragraph, but the whole thing is very good (much better than the companion piece by Evan Thomas).

The Palin problem, then, might be that she cynically incites a crowd that she has no real intention of pleasing. If she were ever to get herself to the nation's capital, the teabaggers would be just as much on the outside as they are now, and would simply have been the instruments that helped get her elected. In my own not-all-that-humble opinion, duping the hicks is a degree or two worse than condescending to them. It's also much more dangerous, because it meanwhile involves giving a sort of respectability to ideas that were discredited when William Jennings Bryan was last on the stump. The Weekly Standard (itself not exactly a prairie-based publication) might want to think twice before flirting with popular delusions and resentments that are as impossible to satisfy as the demand for a silver standard or a ban on the teaching of Darwin, and are for that very reason hard to tamp down. Many of Palin's admirers seem to expect that, on receipt of the Republican Party nomination, she would immediately embark on a crusade against Wall Street and the banks. This notion is stupid to much the same degree that it is irresponsible.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goin' Rogue

Sarah Palin in on a book tour. Yawn. I'm annoyed, though, at Newsweek, which chose a previously published photo for their cover from Runner's World. On the cover of a news magazine, this photo is weird and inappropriate. Yes, she's hot, I think we're well aware. But if we want to have a serious, news-oriented discussion, why would we start it with this image?


Sunday, November 15, 2009


What an insane day - took the kids to Sunday school. Ran over to the JCC for the Israeli Artist Show. Ran back to Temple Concord for the book party for the audio book The Entertainer and the Dybbuk (I bought 2 copies). Went home and got Larry and went to Harvest Fest at the fairgrounds. Then back to the JCC to buy a gorgous wall hanging that I saw in the morning (see photo!); Larry eneded up getting jewlery for everyone - a necklace and bracelet for him, necklace for Caleb, and bracelet for Alana.

Then to the Verizon store to get my new phone (a Blackberry Storm - this is a photo of my actual phone, not clipart) and one for Matt (I have to overnight it to him tomorrow). Then raced home to drop off the kids and run to Carousel for the movie Pirate Radio (terrific)!


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Full and fun day

I went to the synagogue in the morning for Max Smeader's bar mitzvah - I was teary-eyed almost the whole time, thinking of Caleb up there in a few years. Then I ran home to get Alana from her playdate at Lily's and meet Betsy for a short visit. When she left (with her friend Luna), we went to the grocery store and ran several other errands (bought a new bathroom scale, dropped off library books, and finally bought grocery cards for the Board tzedakah). Then went home and watched Horton Hears a Who (which was much better than I had expected). Then we played Go Fish and 31. Caleb won both rounds of the former, but I crushed him in the latter. A wonderful day.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


I am so confused! When I first heard the recommendation to begin regular screenings at age 50 instead of 40, I thought, "o.k., whatever."

But then I watched CNN and listened to NPR, and I thought it was a plot by insurance companies to avoid paying for the test.

Then I watched more CNN and listened to more NPR, and now I'm (almost) convinced that it's appropriate. I'm torn though. It's true that to treat this statement: "mammograms reduce breast cancer deaths by 15% among women ages 40 to 49" as if it was insignificant is offensive.

However, it's also true that the types of cancer that young women get don't require mammograms because they are aggressive and typically detected in other ways. It's also true that regular screenings between 40 and 50 lead to false positives and many unnecessary biopsies and even unnecessary surgeries.

On the other hand, how can you weigh unnecessary medical procedures against death? Especially the death of relatively young and usually otherwise healthy women.

On the other hand (can I say that again, or have I already used both hands???), it's also true that healthcare costs are skyrocketing and part of the reason is unnecessary tests, AND, if we want to control costs, we have to eliminate unnecessary tests.

AND, if I support Evidence Based Medicine, which I do, then I have to accept that this panel considered the evidence and presented the science-based conclusion: regular mammograms prior to age 50 is not the best practice of medicine!

(These issues are summarized in an excellent column by Dr Susan Love on HuffingtonPost.)

Besides the pros and cons of science and evidence, the bottom line is that this is upsetting for me to contemplate - apparently the #1 fear of women my age is that they'll die and leave their children motherless. Check.

I guess the only reassuring thing in all this is that clearly it's stirred a lot of emotion in a lot of people (not just me) because it's all over the news (even Larry King had a segment tonight).


On my shuttle bus this morning, two women were talking about this and essentially dismissed the panel's recommendation for totally different reasons - one because she's been getting mammograms since she was 35 becasue that was her doctor's recommendation and one because she apparently never follows her doctor's advice anyway!

I was struck by the reported response of Dr Susan Love, who said we should be more concerned about the causes of breast cancer as opposed to fighting over when to begin routine mammograms. Hmmm.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gov's veto contains hidden message

I ignored this story about Schwarzenegger's "f-bomb" when I first heard it last week, but once I looked at the actual letter, I was somewhat amused. It's beyond absurd to suggest that the way the letters line up was a "coincidence" - both because analysis has suggested that such an outcome is a 10 million in 1 chance, but also because the wording is awkward enough to conclude that it was tweaked so that it worked as an acrostic.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oscar Bait

I finally checked out some movies that are opening in December and January (I haven't managed to see a single list in any magazines or newspapers, so I went to imdb.com). This is my Must See List:

Brothers with Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal & Tobey Maguire
Up in the Air with George Clooney
A Single Man with Colin Firth
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee with Robin Wright Penn
The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt
It's Complicated with Meryl Streep

There's lots of others that I would be willing to see, but these are the ones that seem most promising.

As a side note, I was a bit appalled by the stream of dreck that is coming, even during "Oscar season" - just an endless parade of the same stories and the same tired movie conventions. It's quite discouraging. How many vampire movies do we need? How many haunted houses, how many serial killers, how many revenge dramas? How many times does Matt Damon need to play a spy? Gag.


Monday, November 09, 2009

BD flowers times two!

Somehow Leo's flower order got mixed up and I got two arrangements from two different florists. Both are nice but I like the top one better.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Mad Men Season Finale

WOW! Wonderful way to set up the next season - the principles are starting their own agency and Joan is back. Now just get Sal on board and I'll be happy. Best scene was when Don came to Peggy's apartment (if he can't salvage his relationship with one woman, at least he can do so with another). Close second was Don and Betty on the phone . . . "I won't fight you Betts" - her facial expressions said more than a thousand words would have. Third is a tie - Don making up with Roger, and Don telling Pete why he likes him - a sincere Don is simply irresistible. Fourth is Roger and Don leaving the agency and Roger says "Don't bother[locking the door]" - as always, every line Roger utters is perfect and perfectly delivered. How will I live without them all???

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Pet lover extraordinaire

Wonderful photo of my friend Laura, from a recent article in the Jewish Forward, about her central Jersey animal shelter, called Seer Farms (one of her Board members is a rabbi - the article is really about her). The Asbury Park Press also ran a story about the farm, back in August.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Shabbat at Biennial

Me in Toronto with Pat Brakman (my fav of Burt and Bobbie's friends) who is the President of her temple Sisterhood (I don't know who the other woman is). The photo was taken by Sharon Steinhorn.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Fooled again

I had thought it was Hope Davis in those annoying "Oil or Creme" Reddi Whip ads - I'd seen them several times and I'm not usually wrong when identifying actors. I was a bit surprised that she would do an ad, but, hey, people have to pay their bills.

Then I happened to see the ad on the flat screen, in HD, and I realized it definitely wasn't Hope. I looked it up and found the suggestion that it's Anne Dudek, who happens to play Francine (the Drapers' neighbor) on Mad Men. I'm not surprised that I didn't recognize her, because she looks very different on the show, but I am surprised that I mistook her for Hope Davis - they generally look nothing alike.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Day After

Best news - Owens won the 23rd District in NY. Yahoo! I was worried about the race - I saw Hoffman's ads on TV every day and you can never underestimate the appeal of neanderathals. But it was not to be. I'm really thrilled about that - quite a defeat for the right wingers. Which is good, since the news elsewhere was BAD. NJ has a strongly conservative new governor. And what happened in Virginia is really scary.

I'm a bit surprised by Maine - I know the referendum on gay marriage was going to be close, but I thought sanity would prevail. Not good, but not permanent either - demographics is destiny and it is only a matter of time for that issue. At least Kalamazoo went the right way and we're still waiting to hear about Washington state.

Sadly my friend Donna O'Connor did not win a seat in the county legislature, but it was going to be a tough race. Of course everyone I voted for (in the 'burbs) lost (mostly county races), but that's to be expected - it's a solidly Republican area, sadly.

The other good news is the Stephanie Miner is the new mayor of Syracuse. Of course, she was likely to win, but it's a relief that it's official. Glad I could help her campaign, even if I couldn't vote for her!


Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Waited to vote until after I picked up the kids and I made sure they saw what I was doing as I marked my ballot and put it through the machine. Alana seemed more interested in the snacks on the poll workers' table!

I had heard that NY was finally getting new voting machines, but I was quite surprised when I was given a piece of paper and a pen to mark my ballot. Then I was completely shocked that I was expected to feed my paper into the scanning machine right in front of the poll workers - that is NOT a secret ballot! I WILL be calling the county election office to complain about this lack of privacy.


I wrote a comment about this privacy issue on a Facebook page about voting in CNY and was contacted by a Post Standard writer (Glenn Coin), so I might get quoted in his piece!


Monday, November 02, 2009

Mad Men - one episode left

My initial thoughts on the penultimate episode of the season:

I was thrilled that there was no scenes from next week at the end of the episode – very brave of AMC to keep us in the dark, wondering, without even a crumb to chew over – bravo!

Ouch! How are the mighty fallen. Don can be a real jerk, but I felt so bad for him. Betty is furious because he lied about his name and his past, not because he cheated on her a gazillion times. It’s so cold somehow: “I don’t love you anymore because you ruined the fantasy I’ve been living in.” Sheesh. There are so many places they can go in the next season – Don could woo her back (he’s good with a challenge), or he could call on the pretty teacher (Suzanne), or he could get himself a new flavor of the month. Or Weiner and company could do something I never even considered (most likely!). Whichever way they go, I CAN’T WAIT!

My favorite line tonight (though very hard to choose) was Don’s in the last scene with Peggy – she says, “Why are you here?” and he says, “The bars are closed.” I didn’t catch what he said at first, but then I laughed out loud when it sunk in – great to break the darkness and tension with that ultimate Don comment!

One odd thing – I was very surprised that we got no reaction shot of Sally in the second to last scene – the one where Don leaves the house in the morning. Sally is usually the one who “gets” what’s going on with the adults. Hmmm. But I LOVED the shot of Don almost hiding behind the wall, peering at his family – out of reach to him. Heartbreaking and brilliant.

All sorts of wonderful, insightful comments on the Lipp Sisters' blog, Basket of Kisses. And a few speculations that I think are absurd - Betty will be out of the series, Don will commit suicide. Weird how people think.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

What a day!

Holy mackeral! Thank goodness for the extra hour of sleep! Had to stop at Brugger's on the way in to the synagogue to get bagels for the Sisterhood meeting. Set up the food (Caleb helped) and introduced the speaker. He was terrific! Then went home, got everyone some lunch, took the dog for a walk in the park, and then headed out with Alana for her friend's BD party at the MOST. Ran over the ACTS meeting for an hour while she was at the party - just long enough to hold the Temple Concord sign in the parade of member organizations. (I loved that meeting - a room packed full of people who care about the same things that I do - I was choked up the whole time I was there!) Then went back to the MOST to grab Alana and drive home. Then jumped in Larry's mom's car to drive up to Watertown and meet Danny for dinner in Larry's TRH (first time we've seen him in 2 months - he lost 25 pounds and looks great; his deployment to Afghanistan, scheduled for January has been postponed - hurrah; but he may be reassigned to Ft Stewart in Georgia - yay for him, but boo for us). Now I'm home and just trying to stay awake long enough to watch Don Draper's world collapse a bit more on Mad Men.