Saturday, June 21, 2008

In praise of Thelma Ritter
One of the reasons why I love classic movies is because of all the wonderful character actors lurking in the background, thanks to the studio system. And my ultimate all-time most favoritest character actor of all time is the wonderful Thelma Ritter.

In every role she played, no matter how small, she was truly unforgettable. And it takes something to steal a scene from Bette Davis (All About Eve). She was one of those natural talents, both comedic and dramatic, that made every line she delivered seem utterly effortless and completely effective.

The one thing that makes me love her so much is that in all of her movies there's one moment -- one scene or one perfect line -- that you remember long after you see the film. In Pillow Talk it's her drinking Rock Hudson under the table. In the Fred Astaire/Leslie Caron musical Daddy Long Legs it's her nagging her boss into reading his ward's letters. And in the Hitchcock classic Rear Window it's as the bossy nurse telling Jimmy Stewart to stop spying on his neighbors.

She was too average looking to be a leading lady, but her talent was undeniable (6 Academy Award nominations) but her sassy, brassy, bossy wisecracking second banana roles were alone worth the price of admission.

They don't make 'em like that anymore. Pass the popcorn.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What's age got to do with it?
I was looking for some pure, unadulterated trash to read and I remembered an author mentioned by a dear friend (a.k.a. "the Lurker"), so I checked out the writer Jennifer Crusie. The book I picked up is called Anyone But You. It was nicely humorous, had a sexy hero, and had a dog as one of the main characters (a plus in my book). But there was one big problem with the book as far as I'm concerned: the issue keeping the heroine from jumping into the arms of the hero was the fact that he was 10 years younger than she.

Husband is 10 years younger than I and it never, for one moment, occurred to me that he was too young/I was too old. The heroine in the book (Nina) just turned 40 and the hunky young ER doctor downstairs just turned 30. That's pretty much exactly the ages Husband and I were when we started dating. Nina was all freaked out because she had 40-year old breasts and didn't want to date "a child." Am I really weird that this never bothered me?

Perhaps I'm dreadfully immature. Perhaps Husband is unusually mature (he is -- but still delightfully goofy). But I honestly never notice the age difference. Even now the only time we notice it is when we compare notes about childhood cartoons and songs that remind us of high school.

Husband is also of a different race than I. And from a completely different background. I'm the youngest of 5 of a typical mom and dad family, solidly middle class, thoroughly suburban. He was raised by a single mom with very little money in Philadelphia. On paper, it would seem unlikely for us to be friends, let alone spouses.

And yet he is perfect for me. I knew it on our first date when he knew all the words to I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal, You. That was also the day I found out that he was 10 years younger. And I experienced not one moment of "oh god, he's just a puppy!" Not for one minute did I hesitate to jump with both feet into wherever that crazily wonderful first date was leading.

So I just couldn't understand the heroine's angst about how young he was. It was completely foreign to me. I'm not sure if that makes me odd, well adjusted, or just not concerned about other people's opinion. (It was probably that last one ... I'm notorious for not caring what people think.) But it's also amusing, in a way, because the whole younger woman-older man thing is still more common and, therefore, more acceptable to society. But hey, if society wants to think I'm robbing the cradle, so be it. I don't mind. After all, I'm the one with the Husband who knows the Frankfurter Sandwiches song...
Book of Crap
It's hot. The kind of hot that makes watching National Treasure: Book of Secrets on pay-per-view seem like a good idea. Here's a's not. I blame the fact that we sat through the whole mess on the fact that we were too stupified by heat to hit the off button. Oh my lord is it bad.

The first National Secrets film we saw in a hotel room in Portland. (We're married, we don't have wild hotel sex anymore.) It was mildly amusing. The sequel was more than mildly annoying. The plot (such as it was) made no bloody sense at all. Especially Ed Harris as the bad guy. He spends a large chunk of the movie shooting at Nicholas Cage. (Oh if only his aim was better!) Then, at the end, he spends a large chunk of time saving Cage, Cage's sidekick, and Cage's love interest. For no apparent reason. Just saving them. Then he tries to kill them again. Again, for no apparent reason.

Cage breaks into the Queen's private study in Buckingham Palace and kidnaps the president, all so he can prove some dead ancestor of his was not part of the Lincoln assassination plot. Seems like a lot of felonies to go through just to show a completely couldn't-care-less world that Uncle Dead Guy was innocent. Oh, and how the hell did they get Helen Mirren to agree to be in this disaster? Do the producers have blackmail photos of her?

My favorite line of the movie was something like: "he's a professional mercenary and a dealer in antiquities." I told Husband I want that on a business card.

The scariest thing about the movie is that it completely set up National Treasure 3: Written by Baboons. If they actually make that film I think they can use it in Gitmo as a way of torturing suspected terrorists. Geneva Convention be damned!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Send my brother to Baghdad
Most people in Iraq are trying to get out. My brother is trying to get in.

I had lunch with him today and he told me of the friendships he'd struck up through the Adopt-a-Unit program. Regardless of your feelings (or mine) about the war, I think it's pretty cool of him to want to go. Actually, I'm jealous. I'd love to go myself but I look awful in a burka.

It was weird having lunch with my brother. In spite of my mother's delusional belief that we're The Waltons I find we're more like The Osbornes. (Or some other famously dysfunctional family. The Medicis? The Borgias?) OK, we've never poisoned anyone (and I can hear all those jokes about my mother's cooking) but we're still not all love and Hallmark. The brother I lunched with was estranged from our family for about 20 years. Nobody ever told me why. Now he's back. He's a pretty cool guy and I'm proud of him for being fire chief and all the other good stuff he does. It's just kind of strange to sit down with a relative stranger who is, in reality, a strange relative. (No, he's not strange I was just going for the interesting parallel construction.) I think I like him, though, which is good. I just hope we get to know each other better.

Sometimes I envy people who are really close with their family. I know The Lurker counts her sister as probably her best friend. And my friend H comes from a truly remarkable family that genuinely love and like each other. In my family....uh....not so much. Despite being the youngest of five I feel, in many ways, like an only child. An only child who kinda raised herself. By the time I came around (as one of those notorious Catholic accidents), my folks were pretty much over with being parents and spent a large chunk of my childhood going off on their own for weekend trips. My eldest sister and my eternally crabby grandmother would watch over me, but mostly I read and took care of myself. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't neglected -- just kinda not noticed.

It worked out in my favor in many ways. I'm more independent and stronger than my sisters and it made me really enjoy my own company. But when my four siblings get together it's like listening to an entire different family talk. I don't share their memories. I don't have the same stories in my history. They recall names that are unfamiliar to me and reminisce about times before I was born. On the flip side I have memories that no one shares. It makes for a sense of detachment when I'm around them. I feel duty but I'm not always sure I feel love. (This is beginning to sound like the summary of a Chick Lit book. I see myself in a cartoon sketch, on a pink cover, walking a white poodle.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm gonna bunny hop my way across America!

A 61-year old British grandmother has just spent the past 4 1/2 years running 20,000 around the world. Her reason? To "raise awareness about cancer after the death of her husband from prostate cancer." OK, noble. But I gotta ask....why???

What prompts people to do things like this? What weird gene kicks in that makes biking across Finland or circumnavigating New Zealand in an inflatable canoe seem like a smart thing to do? I mean when my best friend died of AIDS my first thought was not "I'm gonna publicize the AIDS epidemic by riding a yak across South America."

Do gesture like this really inspire people? Would you read this news story and think, "you know, I haven't had a mammogram this year." I don't. Mostly I read about such events and just shake my head. Perhaps I'm just not adventurous enough. I'm sure this woman met all sorts of interesting people (including some crazy guy with a blood-stained axe) and no doubt has a lifetime of stories to tell. ("Every hear about the time I was running across Siberia and all my fillings froze and cracked?") But this really does not appeal to me.

When my friend died, what I did do was volunteer at an AIDS organization where I helped train others to be caregivers. I thought that was a practical way of taking my pain and doing something positive with it. And while I know for certain that I did have an effect on others, should I wonder if I would have had more of an effect with the yak and South America? I was only able to help dozens of people -- the running lady was on The Martha Stewart Show. Well I can't compete with Martha. But again, does being sandwiched between a recipe for Foofyberry Tartlets and a feature on how to turn old cashmere sweaters into pot holders really make that big a difference in raising awareness about cancer?

And again, how much awareness do we need? Is there anyone who hasn't heard of cancer? (OK, maybe those natives in the Amazon they just terrorized with a helicopter.) Is there any woman who doesn't know she needs to get a mammogram? Any man who doesn't know about prostrate screening? Anybody who doesn't know that smoking is bad for you? So what, exactly, am I supposed to learn from a 61-year old woman who just ran around the world?

The only thing I've learned is that she's in much better shape than I.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Today is a wonderful day
I can't stop thinking about all the incredibly happy same-sex couples who have finally been allowed to get married in California. Those two handsome men are my best friend, Steve, and his partner, Stephen. Madly in love and never allowed to marry. It's too late for them. AIDS stole them from us more than 10 years ago. But they're looking down from gay heaven with two megawatt smiles on their faces.

I will always mourn the fact that I never got to be Steve's "Best Lady" when he married Stephen. I wanted to hold the ring, to stand by his side as he and the love of his life took their vows. So there's a bittersweet air to my celebration today. But then I look at all those wonderful photos in the paper and watch all that love on the news, and I cannot help but smile.

Ignoring all the brain-dead zealots who are protesting this "travesty of marriage," I find myself actually proud of my home state today. They have made so many people happy. So many families who for years have been bonded by heart are now finally, finally, bonded by law. Yes, there are still battles to be fought. And who knows what the conservative right will make of this (something awful, no doubt). But for now this is a historic day for all of us who are in favor of love, in whatever form it takes.

In many ways this is so monumental that it's hard to give it the awe it deserves. Marriage. For same-sex couples! It's something we hets take for granted. Hell, Pamela Anderson has been married 17 times in the past two weeks. But for two men or two women who love each other madly and who want to build a life together, it's always been a question of denial. I'm sorry, but Domestic Parter is separate and unequal. Nothing less that full marital equality is what's deserved of the thousands of same-sex couples in the US. And i hope this is the first step towards giving them the right to love.

Oh, and one more thing. I am fucking sick to death of all those conservative yahoos who say same-sex marriages aren't "real" because marriage exists solely for the procreation of children. To which I can only say: bullshit. Husband and I are straight. Husband and I are married. Husband and I have no intention of having children. We got married not so we could reproduce, but because we love each other and wanted to spend forever together. Does the fact that we're not going to have children completely invalidate a marriage? Should all intentionally childless straight couples be denied marriage? What about those wonderful couples you read about who get married in their 70s? They are obviously not going to be cranking out the kidlets, so why should we allow them to get married?

And I hate the phrase "starting a family." Husband and I started a family the day we got married. You don't need to add to the surplus population to consider yourself a family.

The best legs in the business
The beautiful, glorious, glamorous Cyd Charisse has died at the age of 86. I always thought she was stunning and, oh my god, those legs! In both Singing in the Rain and The Band Wagon she has moments of sheer jaw-dropping sexiness. (Husband will back me up on this.) But beyond that was her grace as a dancer and her underrated acting abilities. She was definitely of the old school of Hollywood and I am truly saddened by this news.
Love triumphs!
I cannot say anything more than I AM SO HAPPY!!!

Oh if only my beloved friends The Steves were around to see this. They would have been first in line. Oh frabjous day!

Monday, June 16, 2008

In praise of free speech
According to this BBC news story arrests of bloggers who dared criticize their governments or who exposed human rights abuses are at an all-time high. Which makes one (or at least it should make one) take the time to celebrate free speech.

Those of us who had the good fortune to have been born in America don't think about free speech much. We don't have to think twice before writing "George Bush is a poopy head" on our blogs. Just think for a moment of how amazing that is. We have the freedom to make statements that openly criticize the President, his entire administration, and government in general and don't have to be afraid of a knock on the door in the dead of night. However, with the so-called "Patriot Act" there are probably some things it's best not to say.

I'm not a real political person (to my shame.) Yeah, I hate the Bush administration. I think Gitmo is a crime. I think the war in Iraq is wrong. I think the past 8 years have done serious damage to the US, both internally and to our international reputation. But I hate that in the name of national security, some people have seen fit to tamper with our essential rights to free speech. I guess all I can do at the moment it continue to be a member of the ACLU and keep celebrating freedom by writing "our President is an idiot" with a big ol' smile on my face.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Great minds...
Today Husband and I celebrated 5 years of marriage. The only thing missing, according to Husband, was the plastic deer. (We got married at Ye Olde Wedding Chapel in Tahoe and they had plastic deer and bunnies in the garden. Very romantic.)

We didn't really do much, since poor Husband hasn't had a real day off since the Hoover administration. But we did go to our favorite used record store and our favorite book store. We exchanged cards, but not gifts, this morning and decided that while at the record store we would each pick up a present for the other.

You know how as some couples age they begin to look alike? Husband and I are just morphing into one taste in music.

While wandering through the World bins I picked up a classic CD by the delightfully named Sol Hoopi. He was a Hawaiian performer (singer and ukulele) in the 30s-50s. But I put it down because -- well, actually, I'm not sure why I put it down.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Husband picked up, and put down, some classic Ray Charles. So what did I buy for Husband's gift? Classic Ray Charles. And what was his gift to me? Sol Hoopi. Talk about weird coincidence. We each bought for the other something we had considered getting for ourself. I guess it's meant to be.

Then it was off to the bookstore where, for the first time in my life, I didn't buy anything! Really, I think someone should check my pulse. It wasn't that I didn't see anything I wanted it was just that everything I wanted was in hardcover. Really big, very heavy hardcover. I find that the older I get, the less likely I am to purchase hardcover books for the simmple reason that you can't read a hardcover comfortably in the bathtub. (My favorite place to read.) But there are a few exceptions. I just bout Jacqueline Winspear's latest "Maisie Dobbs" novel in hardcover because I just can't wait for it to come out in paperback. I'll also buy anything by Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels in hardcover. And, of course, Danielle Steele. (Yes, I'm lying about that last one. Ewww.)