Sunday, January 27, 2013

Voting for Celebrities and Their Eye Glasses

Three years ago I wrote a post about my ill-fated attempt to copy Sarah Palin’s eyewear.  While I wasn’t a fan of her political views, I sure did like her rimless glasses.  My eye doctor had given me a new prescription.  He said I had the beginning of cataracts and needed prisms in the lenses and some sort of special film on them to improve my increasingly poor night-driving vision.

When I went to the optician and said, with some embarrassment, that I wanted glasses like Palin’s, he remained calm, although he later told me that opticians all over the country were then frantically contacting each other to track down that very thing.  He said that Sarah had provided a terrific boon for Kawasaki (“like the motorcycles”), the Japanese company that produces her eyewear. 

When he added up all the special stuff I needed, those glasses came to $465.  Ouch!  I soon posted the sad saga of how I took my glasses to an art class at night, got out in the middle of a blizzard and lost them. After searching in the parking lot for an hour I drove home with one eye shut and returned the next morning to find my chic new glasses had been crushed by a snow plow.
 Now once again a political woman and her glasses are making news.  Hillary Clinton is wearing dark-rimmed glasses, and we are told this is the result of the concussion and blood clot she suffered recently.  Like me, she has to have expensive prisms in her lenses to prevent her from seeing double. Many say the glasses give her increased gravitas and a more imposing air, but I feel her pain at having to give up her contacts.  We all know that men seldom make passes at  girls who wear glasses.

I empathize with Hillary’s plight.  With one very near-sighted eye and the other very far-sighted, the only way I can avoid seeing double is with ultra thick lenses, and even then I do a lot of praying while driving at night, because the glare of oncoming cars wipes out my vision of the road.  (I was born with a lazy eye and had to go to kindergarten wearing John-Lennon style granny glasses over an eye patch on my left eye!)
 Some celebrities, like Tina Fey and Meryl Streep, look good in their conservative. sexy-librarian glasses.  Other celebrities, like Elton John and Lady Gaga, choose to bite the bullet and flaunt the most outrageous specs they can find.  In fact, I believe Lady Gaga has designed a whole line of eyewear-- but I don’t think either Hillary or I will be wearing her creations any time soon.
 Last month I went back to my optician—the one who had suffered through the Palin glasses mania—with a brand new prescription for dark glasses, stronger than before, to correct my double vision while driving in the daytime.  I told him I was thinking of switching political parties and going for something sort of Jackie Kennedy.  (Back in the sixties, both Jackie and I lived in New York and bought our over-sized dark glasses from Meyrowitz.)
 He knew just was I meant. The price was painful, but the glasses were ready in time for our trip to Nicaragua, and I happily wore them everywhere, even in the pool.  (As you can see, it was very windy which scared granddaughter Amalia, especially when the wind blew the lounge chairs into the pool.)
I went back to thank my optician for putting up with my vacillating between political parties when it comes to my style in specs.   But he didn’t listen.  He  was distracted, worrying if he had enough stock to deal with the expected rush on Tom Ford Marko Aviator glasses like those worn by Daniel Craig in the latest James Bond movie Skyfall.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nicaragua: Silent Smiles, Hammocks & William Walker

Knowing that I am in Granada, Nicaragua with my husband, visiting daughter Eleni, her husband Emilio and their 16 month-old  daughter Amalia , my friend Evi Adams, who lives in Israel, sent me the following from the magazine Journeywoman:

CAFE OF SMILES IN GRANADA, NICARAGUA - Writes Regina in Cuenca, Ecuador - I recommend Café de las Sonrisas or Cafe of Smiles, a small restaurant behind the Hammock shop near the square in Granada, Nicaragua. It is run by a deaf and physically challenged staff. Adding to the serenity of the quiet courtyard restaurant lined with hammocks, is the fact that not a single word is spoken. In fact, not a single word will be spoken by your waiter for the entire time you're at the cafe because they can't speak. The Cafe de las Sonrisas is the first coffee shop in the Americas, and the 4th in the world to be run entirely by deaf people. You might think it would be difficult to communicate with a deaf mute waiter, but it's actually quite easy and educational. You're shown to your seat and your menu has an explanation of how things work, along with some helpful photo illustrations of a few commonly used phrases in sign language like "thank you," and "please," and "I would like. .. " If you're not up for the signing, you can just point to the photos in the menu; it's really that simple. And the coffee? It's great and the food is incredible.

So today Eleni, Amalia and I headed off this morning to Café de las Sonrisas, a short walk from their home.
 The sign outside the door promised “great coffee and an unforgettable experience” 
 One wall was lined with the hand signals for sign language. 
 Amalia was fascinated with the inner courtyard and all the hammocks 

  Each table had stickers to point to with useful phrases (like “bill” and “toilet”)
 The trees in the inner courtyard were hung with photos of smiles.

  Amalia and our waitress had no trouble communicating

She loved the banana pancakes and we loved the tropical juice drinks.
 She quickly made a friend – a girl of three who spoke both English and Spanish.
 There were child-sized hammocks too—but Amalia was wary. 
We looked in at the adjoining hammock wokshop.  Some of the workers had heir children with them because it’s school vacation time.

A tree was hung with doll-sized hammock.

 Besides the restaurant and hammock workshop, the building serves as a social center for people who have any difficulties such as deafness—helping them in four areas: education, health, infant and mother care and social interaction.   It’s called Tio Antonio.
On one wall leading to the restaurant is a mural illustrating the history of Granada.  A central figure is William Walker with the hangman’s noose around his neck.  He was an evil, colorful American adventurer who tried to take over Nicaragua (and several other countries)  as his private kingdom, importing his own mercenary soldiers.  His saga is worth looking up.  Here’s the first paragraph about him from Wikipedia:

William Walker (May 8, 1824 – September 12, 1860) was an American lawyer, journalist and adventurer, who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America, with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as "filibustering." Walker became president of the Republic of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled until 1857, when he was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies, principally Costa Rica's army. He was executed by the government of Honduras in 1860.

Walker wanted to re-introduce slavery to Nicaragua, for one thing.  Here’s more of his story from Wikipedia:

Walker took up residence in Granada and set himself up as President of Nicaragua, after conducting a fraudulent election. He was inaugurated on July 12, 1856, and soon launched an Americanization program, reinstating slavery, declaring English an official language and reorganizing currency and fiscal policy to encourage immigration from the United States. Realizing that his position was becoming precarious, he sought support from the Southerners in the U.S. by recasting his campaign as a fight to spread the institution of black slavery, which many American Southern businessmen saw as the basis of their agrarian economy. With this in mind, Walker revoked Nicaragua's emancipation edict of 1824. This move did increase Walker's popularity in the South and attracted the attention of Pierre Soulé, an influential New Orleans politician, who campaigned to raise support for Walker's war. Nevertheless, Walker's army, weakened by an epidemic of cholera and massive defections, was no match for the Central American coalition. On December 14, 1856 as Granada was surrounded by 4,000 Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan troops, Charles Frederick Henningsen, one of Walker's generals, ordered his men to set the city ablaze before escaping and fighting their way to Lake Nicaragua. An inscription on a lance reading Aquí fue Granada ("Here was Granada") was left behind at the smoking ruin of the ancient capital city.[12]

Granada’s Merced Church, which we pass every day, is an active church but still shows the scars of  Walker’s attempt to burn the city in 1856. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why I Won’t be Seeing the Oscar-Winning Movie this Year

 I love movies and I’m always thrilled when I read about a film made for adults.  It’s a sad fact of life that the big-budget productions, issued in the summer, all feature superheroes with super powers or Will Smith saving the universe –films intended to appeal to teenaged boys, unless they’re made to appeal to pre-teen girls with dreamy, pale-skinned vampires and pumped up wolfmen.

But by fall, the studios start bringing out serious films made for adults, because it’s the build-up to the Oscars. (The nominations will be announced on Thursday.) I liked last year’s surprise Best Picture “The Artist” (a black and white silent film set in the 1920s?!), and 2010’s winner—“The King’s Speech”. I absolutely loved 2008’s winner—“Slumdog Millionaire”, maybe more than most because I’d recently come back from India where I posted about the reality of the homeless beggar children in the cities. “Slumdog Millionaire” had a happy ending (boy gets girl and wins a million) and a big Bollywood dance number—how could anyone resist?

But this year it’s looking as if I won’t be buying tickets to most of the nominees for Best Picture, because I have this built-in protective mechanism which keeps me away from exceptionally violent films. And I’m not alone. I think most women don’t want to see strung-out scenes of violence and torture. But this year, all the “serious” films seem to be over the top for violence.

By the way, The New York Times reported yesterday: “A chain saw finally pried the inhabitants of Middle-earth out of first place at the North American box office…”Texas Chainsaw 3rd” (Lionsgate) beat projections and took in an estimated $23 million for No. 1 (‘Massacre’ was dropped from the title after the Colorado movie shootings.)  Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’…ended up second, selling about $20.1 million in tickets, for a two week total of $106.4 million.”

This year the top-rated (by the critics) films that will probably be nominated for Oscars have so much gore, violence and torture , I just don’t want to put myself through it.

I did see “Lincoln” which I liked—although I didn’t love it as much as “Slumdog Millionaire.”  But I definitely think Daniel Day-Lewis will get the Oscar for best actor, and he deserves it.  And “Les Miserables”, although it’s been criticized for the unrelenting suffering in extreme close-ups, is also a film I want to see.  I adore the Broadway sound track and tend to sing along at top voice when I’m driving –but only when I’m alone, because I wouldn’t want to submit anyone else to my singing. That would be another form of torture.

Which brings us to “Zero Dark Thirty” a film about the killing of Osama Bin Laden.   The subject fascinates me and I was eager to see it until I read that the first half hour of the film is devoted to scenes of torturing a man by waterboarding. I know that a half hour of torture is more than I can sit through. 

When I was seven years old in Minnesota , my very religious grandmother would  take me to Bible movies, which often involved torture—Samson and Delilah  among others.  During the torture scenes I would run out of the theater area and huddle in the foyer to the amusement of the lady selling tickets.

Next we have “Django Unchained” by Quentin Tarantino. I liked “Pulp Fiction” which had its moments of violence.  But all the critics say “Django” is way over the top. The latest New York Magazine said of the film, “Connoisseurs of ‘wet’ gore will be especially delighted, given that every bullet generates a whoopee-cushion’s worth of red sauce.  The only violence that’s not a kick is done unto slaves, who are whipped, torn to pieces by dogs, and, in a particularly ugly moment, driven to slaughter one another for sport….It’s manna for mayhem mavens.”

Does this make you want to rush out and buy a ticket?

I think that filmmakers believe that every time they make a movie they have to surpass the last one in shocking the audience, either with sex or violence.  Consider all the great films in which the sex happened off camera (and was much sexier because of that). And think of “Psycho”, which terrified a whole generation out of taking showers.  Nowhere in the shower scene of “Psycho” do you see knife slicing into flesh or even a naked body, and yet the murder is so much more terrifying because of what you DON’T see.

I saw the previews of “The Impossible” –based on a true story of a family caught in the terrible tsunami which ravaged Thailand in 2004. The New York Times review said in part: ’The Impossible’ is also, in its way, a horror film, with nature as the malevolent force threatening innocent lives. The dramatic emphasis is on the anguish of a mother and her son, who survive the waves and are separated from the rest of their family.”  Evidently much is made of the severe wounds the mother suffers, with lots of close ups.  People magazine said, “It could turn a sensitive viewer—and who isn’t in these troubling days—into a ball of anxiety.”

 I’m going to opt out of this one.
 A movie I would like to see, but probably won’t is “Amour”, the French-language film which many are calling the best of the year.  It tells the story of a devoted couple, married for decades, when the wife suffers a stroke and begins to fail while the husband looks after her.  “Her movement is restricted on one side, speech falters and dies to a moan; diapers are required.”  according to the New Yorker review. …”Even George’s resources are of no avail, and that is why he is forced to consider, at the last gasp, what love required him to do.  All amour is fou.”

I probably will force myself to go see this film, which is earning accolades, because, after all, my husband and I are in our seventies and have been married over forty years, and the next stage in our life is what this film is about, but I have a feeling that’s it’s not going to be a fun evening.

I’ve heard really good things about “Silver Linings Playbook”, including that it is both funny and uplifting, but as soon as I told my husband it’s about two people with mental health problems coming out of rehab, he vetoed going.  And then people are suggesting that “Life of Pi” is likely to be nominated for Best Picture.  I heard it’s beautiful to watch, and the trailer is stunning, but I read the book and at the end wondered why I had invested that much time in the story of a youth who gets stranded on the ocean in a small boat with a tiger.  I think the whole thing was a metaphor for something that I never figured out.

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” I’ve desperately wanted to see ever since I first read about it. Here’s a bit from The New York Times:

“One of the most striking aspects of ‘Beasts’, given its pedigree, is the way it blends realism and fantasy, allegory and observation. ‘Once there was a Hushpuppy,’ the narrator (herself the Hushpuppy in question, played by the remarkable Quvenzhané Wallis) informs us, and this 6-year-old girl, living in tough circumstances in a stretch of Louisiana bayou called the Bathtub, very much resembles the heroine of a fairy tale.”

I would love, love, love to see this film, starring a sassy six-year-old girl of rare courage, but it was so briefly in a local theater that I missed it because I was traveling.  Maybe it will come back after the Oscars if it wins enough statuettes.

I think I’m not alone in wishing that serious filmmakers, trying to make serious films, would not feel the need for explicit torture and gore to make their point.  We have enough of that in real life.  We’ll see on Sunday Feb. 24th if Oscar  voters agree with me.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Amalia Does Christmas 2012

Would you please tell him that I've been a perfect angel all year?

So then they said, "Let's go play in the snow with your new sled!"

I talked them out of that pretty fast.

Did you put out the milk and cookies?

I think I hear something on the roof!

Did you miss the part about "some assembly required"?

Never mind.  I'll go play with the box.

 So you put it together.  But how fast does it go from zero to sixty?

 I think we're going to need a two-car garage.

 Would you like to hear our specials for the day?

One egg, over easy, STAT.

 No Elmo, I would NOT like to have fun with numbers. 

If I have to dress like a grown-up, I should get a grown-up drink!

Big Bird says it was a very good year.

Wow, what was IN that drink?

Can't believe this guy still doesn't know who says "Moo"!

Best Christmas yet!  I made out like a bandit!