Sunday, January 07, 2018

All Gone to Look for America (Part

Simon and Garfunkel's "America" came out in April, 1968. I always heard the chorus as "All gone to look for America." The Internet tells me I've heard that line wrong for nearly 50 years - it's really "All come to look for America." But, I think my mishearing is a better title for this series of blog posts on a trip back in 1968.

In 1968, our parents took our family plus Grandma on a major trip - a cross country trip mostly by train, returning eastward across Canada. It was an amazing few weeks and fueled my lifelong love of travel. It was also challenging at times for my folks who were traveling with 4 children under the age of 12 - I was 11, Carrie was 10, Jeff was 8 (had his 9th birthday on a train in Canada) and Terry was 3 (turned 4 not long after we got home). This was not the kind of trip middle class families made in the '60s but my grandfather had died in late '66 leaving some money for extras like this trip.

The main argument I had with Mom over this trip was her refusal to fly. She was phobic about flying, and this phobia extended to Dad (who occasionally had to fly on business) and her kids. Her stepmother would fly, but she traveled with us for most of the trip. She left us in Canada for a separate trip to Banff; don't remember if she flew home from there or not.

This story of our trip will be mostly lacking something important - photographs. I know Dad took a fair number of photos as he stored them in photo envelopes in his office drawer for decades. Over the last few years, both of my parents have died. One thing we have yet to find after two years of combing over their stuff - most of the photos from that trip. The one family picture I have from early that summer just before the trip is the single most ugly shot of the four of us, so horrifying in its utter dorkiness that one brother has begged me to never put it online and I agreed. How bad is that photo? Well, here's the picture of me from that photo, and, I agree, it is one of the worst photos of me ever.


Here's a travel shot of us taken in Canada in 1967 (we were all bigger by '68, me especially).


And our youngest brother looked roughly like this in 1968 (though smaller in this case)


And, finally, here's a photo of my parents, taken around the time of the big trip.


While most of the photos of that summer are probably still buried in a box somewhere, one thing we did unearth last fall was the itinerary.  My folks used a local travel agent who arranged the hotels and the like.  So I can tell you that we left Union Station, Worcester, MA on Friday August 2, 5:10pm and took the train to Chicago.  We had sleeper bunks in the train and got to Chicago the next morning.  We stayed at the Harrison Hotel (now the Travelodge on East Harrison St.).  I never had many memories of Chicago, other than it was the first huge city I'd ever been to.  I think we went to one of the museums and walked around. I think we took a sightseeing trip on Lake Michigan.  But the reason I have so few memories of Chicago from that trip is we were only there for about a day and a half.  By early Sunday evening, we were on a train, heading west for Flagstaff, Arizona.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Our Trip to Italy: Lessons Learned and Great Restaurants

[[Originally published on 11/12/2017 in Alien Cheese]]

We had a wonderful 2 1/2 weeks in Italy this fall. It's a trip we'd been planning for ages, and it was postponed from last spring after my father became terminally ill, so it was bittersweet in some ways.

While I do plan to share some of my 1,600 photos of familiar tourist sites online, I want to talk a little about the things the tourist guides and Websites manage to overlook.

Printed Maps Matter. Most of the traveling we've done over the last 20 years has been in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland and Australia. Online maps work well in those areas. However, Italy chews up and spits out online maps, especially when you're walking. We wasted a lot of time (and probably more money than we think on international roaming fees) because we thought the online map software would work fine in places like Venice and Rome. Nope. And what you don't realize until you're there is that street names change frequently. What we thought of as "Via Croce" in Naples had a different name about every 50 yards. Complicating things even more was that street signs on buildings are very erratic - non-existent, really faded and hard to read and sometimes the streets were inconsistently named. So we did a lot of walking while lost in Italy, particularly in Venice and Bologna. It was fun at times, but also very, very frustrating.

What we should have done, once we used online sources and books to figure out where we wanted to stay, was to buy some of the excellent detailed local maps, study them, make notes about places we planned to go and rely more on traditional printed maps than online maps. We found the Rick Steves pocket guides to the cities helpful, but studying detailed maps in advance would have saved us time, money and frustration. Before you go, pre-print all mass transit maps for your city. We never used mass transit in Florence as it was so walkable, but having more familiarity with mass transit for Rome and Naples would have been invaluable.

The hard lesson we especially learned in Bologna - never enter the name of a site in an online map site in Italy, only enter a street address. We were looking for a particular museum, entered the name into AppleMaps, and wound up walking miles away from where we'd intended.

Signs Matter. Signage in Italy is wildly, wildly erratic. Sometimes, signs were very helpful. You'll find many signs in Rome that will help you get to the Pantheon and the Collesium. But signs that should exist don't always. I'd thought there was a train between Rome's Termini train station and the FCO Airport. At Termini, we couldn't find any info on the train to the FCO airport. There isn't a central info booth in many places, like train stations. There were signs about the bus to the airport, but the signs often led to dead ends. It took over a half hour to find the bus to the airport. The next day, at the airport, we saw signs there about the train between the airport and Termini! Sigh.

Another place where signage was dreadful was for the Circumvesuviana line train from Naples to Pompeii. The Metro in Naples is clean, well-signed and inexpensive. However, the Circumvesuviana is a privately-run train system to the Naples suburbs and while it's inexpensive, it's a mess. We missed the one sign that partially explained what we needed to know. There are at least five lines on this train system and the right one for old Pompeii isn't obvious. Some local people helped us out - but we wound up on the "slightly wrong" train, the one the went to "new Pompeii" instead of "old Pompeii." And it was pouring rain when we reached new Pompeii. So we paid 15E to take a cab 3 km from the new station to the old station. Pompeii is still very much worth it - a highlight despite the pouring rain - but getting there was quite frustrating.

City Cards. Many cities have cards you can buy that might give you free admission to some places, discounts and some public transportation. The cost of these cards vary wildly from city to city. We bought a card for Venice and maybe lost a couple of Euros on the deal. But the Venice card included bus transit from the airport to the train station, though not the more direct Alilaguna from the airport to just outside of San Marco. The Florence card was particularly expensive so we didn't buy it. The Roma card wasn't too expensive, but we just didn't buy it. We wanted to buy the Naples card as it was a great deal, but when we went up to the National Archeological Museum, they were no longer selling it (even though official Naples Website said they were!).

"Skip the Line". In general, "skip the line" for attractions is not necessary, at least in late October/early November. We got into everything we wanted to except for climbing Il Duomo in Florence where the reservations fill up, especially on the weekends (it turns out I could not have done this anyway, and Jim probably wouldn't have). We did get a reservation for the Vatican Museum on a weekday which was necessary. The extra fee for dealing directly with the museum/attraction is 4E; you do not need to go through any tour company to skip the line (and you'll save lots of money if you make your own reservation). The longest lines we had anywhere were for St. Peters (in the rain) and for Pitti Palace in Florence - both about 45 minutes long. As we tended to go to places early, we had either no wait at all or about 10 minutes. Our main failure was to not go to the Vatican Museum in the morning - the crowds there in the afternoon are massive. The crowds in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence are large but not as large as for the Vatican Museum. There were almost no crowds at all in Ostia (ruins of an ancient trading down outside of Rome) or in the National Archeological Museum in Naples. After you do something that's hugely crowded, you'll do yourself a favor to then go to something quieter or just go back to your room for a siesta.

Rain Gear. The first 11 days of the trip were rain-free, but the last few days...no. Was reminded my jacket, while water-resistant, was not waterproof. Jim gloated as he did have a waterproof jacket. We should have brought our small umbrella (wound up buying a 5E umbrella while standing in line for St. Peter's Basilica) and baseball caps with the long front brims to keep the rain off our faces.

Restaurants. Most restaurants are pretty good and will treat you well. The only time we felt cheated was at a little restaurant just off of San Marco in Venice. We were jet-lagged and starved our first day in Venice, and the food was pretty good there. But this place said it didn't sell wine by the glass, so Jim bought a half-bottle of wine. And that bottle cost about 25E, an insane price we later learned. The vast majority of restaurants sell glasses of house wine for about 3-7E. Unlike at most American restaurants, house wine at Italian restaurants is usually pretty good.

We failed to make any restaurant reservations for dinner in advance, but that only bit us once - in Bologna. Always wanted to try a place with a Michelin star and there was one in Bologna with an intriguing menu wasn't terribly expensive. But when we checked with the restaurant, their only open spot was at 9:30 which was too late. But we had three fabulous meals in Venice, Florence and Rome in excellent restaurants by making reservations the same day for 7pm. We highly recommend these three restaurants for special meals in Italy:

  • Venice: Ristorante Antica Sacrestia - this is not very far from San Marco. Brick walls, very warm and inviting, lovely traditional food.
  • Florence: Ristorante Cibreo, Via dei Macci - hands down the best meal of the trip. Fixed price for each course (you don't need to have every course), extensive and interesting wine list. They don't have a menu, but they have about six choices for each course which they explain to you. They also gave you little dishes of kind of an experimental antipasto which was excellent. Cibreo also has a few less-expensive, related variants in the same area, but for the full experience, go to Ristorante Cibreo.
  • Rome: Taverna Trilussa, in the Trastavere neighborhood near Ponte Sisto (their Website is flakey so I'm linking to the TripAdvisor page instead) A fascinating restaurant with amazing cheese (and meat) plates, excellent pasta dishes.

Other recommendations: We had the full Tuscan steak experience in Florence at 4 Leoni, not far from Ponte Vecchio across the river from "downtown Florence." This does not need to be an expensive dinner and they have plenty of pasta dishes if you're not a carnivore. You can get great pizza and Italian craft been in Rome at Roma Beer Company, Campo Fiori. We had some of the best pizza in Naples at Pizzeria Trianon which is in an older part of the city not far from the train station. Jim had a seven cheese pizza which was fantastic. Had an interesting dinner our first night in Naples at Trattoria del Golfo, a fish/Genoese-style restaurant near Umberto Galleria. The Genoese pasta is a little like eating long-simmered onion soup with a little beef over pasta - YUM!

When you want to try out a restaurant in a city you don't know (and you don't want to use cabs to get there), scope out the restaurant by day to make sure you know how to get there. We generally stuck to restaurants that were within about a mile of our hotel or apartment.


Monday, October 02, 2017

Why Massacres Are ALWAYS Terrorist Act

[[Originally published on 10/2/2017 in Alien Cheese]]

Many people have a very narrow definition of terrorism -- it's always related to a political stance. So 9/11 was a terrorist act, as were the car attacks in France and Germany and the shooting massacres in Mumbai and Paris.

And it's interesting that all of those were related to Islamic terrorists. Because, in America, there is the common belief that terrorists have to be brown male Muslims to be "real terrorists."

I don't believe that.

I believe the act of a mass shooting, mass bombing or car attack by a disaffected person of any gender, race, religion, or ethnic background is a terrorist attack. Those random attacks on people they don't know are meant to inspire terror and fear. Anyone called a lone wolf, which which American mass murderers are typically called, is really a terrorist.

Yes, the Las Vegas massacre was a terrorist act, as was Pulse, as was Sandy Hook, as was Virginia Tech, as was Oklahoma City, as were the Unibomber bombings well, the list goes on.

So long as our government is only looking at the danger of Muslim terrorists, they will continue to ignore the murders enabled by our government's lenient view on the danger of guns, particularly the danger of semi-automatic and automatic weapons that some nutjobs are able to get and use.

Why do you think, in most terrorist acts in Europe in recent years, terrorists used knives and trucks and not guns? Guns are restricted in much of Europe, meaning gun deaths are not nearly as common there as they are here, whether by terrorists or everyday criminals. http://www.humanosphere.org/science/2016/06/visualizing-gun-deaths-comparing-u-s-rest-world/.

How many more massacres will we have in this country before the Congress and our state legislators stand up to the NRA and say enough is enough!

When you write about these massacres, never use the murderer's name and never care about their "rationale" for murder. Don't give them additional publicity. Only talk about the location of the murders, and what we must do to fight these terrorists - pass better gun and ammunition laws. And elect legislators with the guts to stand up to the NRA.

#LasVegasMassacre #ActForVegas #PassSaneGunLaws

Some folks on Twitter have done a good job in reminding us that, in some state law, there is no connection between the political/religions/ethnic beliefs of a person and terrorist murders like those committed in Las Vegas on 10/2/2017. Here is the definition of terrorism for in the laws of the state of Nevada:

More details on Nevada laws about terrorism.

US law definition of domestic terrorism:

More details on US laws about domestic terrorism.

The CIA view of terrorism is slightly different.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Confluence 2017 Restaurant Guide: Restaurants Between Robinson Township and the Airport

[Originally published on 7/17/2017 in Alien Cheese]

Most of the restaurants fall into three areas: Thorn Run Crossing near the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport at 1160 Thorn Run Rd (Area 1), University Blvd (Area 2) and Robinson Town Centre/The Pointe, the shopping area where Routes 22 and 60 intersect (Area 3).

Recommended Restaurants

  • Hyeholde Restaurant 1516 Coraopolis Heights Rd. (near Area 1), 412-264-3116, 4pm-9pm Mon-Thur, 5pm-10pm Sat: For an elegant meal out, great wine list hyeholde.com
  • Maxime’s Mediterranean 937 Beaver Grade Rd., Ste 5 (Area 1) 412-269-0111 11am-10pm sandwiches, salads maximesfresh.com
  • Eggs’N’At 8556 University Blvd. (Area 2), 412-262-2920, 7am-2pm: Eggs, burritos, apple strudel pancakes! eggsnat.com
  • Selma’s Texas BBQ 9155 University Blvd. (Area 2), 412-329-7003, 11am-8pm Mon-Sat, noon-6pm Sun: six kinds of BBQ, sides selmasbbq.com
  • Burgatory 300 McHolme Dr. (Area 3), 412-809-9400, 11am-10pm: Excellent burgers, snacks, drinks. burgatorybar.com
  • Papaya 210 McHolme, 412-494-3366, 11am-3:30pm 4:30pm-10pm M-F, noon-10pm Sat-Sun Excellent Thai papayathaicuisineandsushibar.com/30364
  • Industry Public House 140 Andrew Dr. (Area 3), 412-490-9080, 11am-2am: Brunch, gourmet popcorn, beer industrypgh.com
  • Ya Fei 1980 Park Manor Blvd., 412-788-9388, 11:30am-9pm Mon-Sat. 1pm-9pm Sun: Pan-Asian, sushi http://www.yafeipittsburgh.com/menu.aspx
  • DeLuca’s Diner 1110 Park Manor Blvd. (Area 3), 412-788-1007, 7am-3pm Mon-Sun: Massive breakfasts! delucasdiner.com
  • Bakd 6520 Steubenville (Area 3), 412-788-2253, 11am-mid F/Sat 11am-9pm Sun: Pizza, Italian food, beer, full bar bakdpizza.com
  • Mad Mex 2 Robinson Plaza (on Route 60 near Area 3), 412-494-5656, 11am-11pm: Huge burritos, great chips & salsa, beer madmex.com

All the rest of the Restaurants    

(Area 1):  Within a Half Mile of the Sheraton

Sheraton (Con Hotel)  Link@Sheraton Cafe breakfast, lunch, dinner and Starbucks Kiosk 6am-11pm  sheratonpittsburghairport.com

Casa Amigo 333 Rouser Rd, Bld 4, 412-264-0800, 11am-11pm Mon-Sun  Mexican/tequila casaamigospgh.com/contact

Take a left from hotel to Thorn Run Rd, walk past Post Office. Bruegger’s & back entrance to Thorn Run Crossing up street on left

  • Bruegger’s Bagels 1134 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-264-2243, 6am-6pm: Bagels & sandwiches of all kinds  brueggers.com
  • Kip’s Ice Cream, 1136 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-269-7457, noon-10pm:     facebook.com/kipshomemadeicecream/
  • Subway 1136 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-264-6655, 8am-9pm: Breakfast, sandwiches & salad subway.com
  • Hunan Chinese 1136 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-262-1322, 11am-10pm Fri, noon-10pm Sat, closed Sun: Chinese  hunanmoonpa.com
  • Pizza Bella 1136 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-299-1990, 10:30am-10pm, noon-10pm Sun: Pizza, wings, hoagies  moonpizzabella.com
  • Armstrong’s 1136 Thorn, 412-262-9355, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat, noon-8pm Sun: Italian allmenus.com/pa/moon/28744-armstrongs/menu

(Area 2):  Left on Beaver Grade Road, Moon Township

Take a left onto Thorn Run Rd, Ext, then another left in 1/4 mile onto Beaver Grade Rd.  After about 1.5 miles, you’ll intersect University.

  • Vocelli’s 935 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-269-1993, 11am-10pm Sun-Thur, 11am-mid Fri-Sat: Pizza carryout vocellipizza.com/moontwp_pa
  • Mario’s Italian 935 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-262-3020, 5pm-10pm Mon-Sat: Northern Italian, seafood  mariosfamilyrestaurant.com
  • Forgotten Taste Pierogies 910 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-269-9800, 11am-6pm Mon-Sat:  Eastern European carryout     forgottentaste.com
  • AJ Bambino Pizzeria 910 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-299-8590, 10am-3am Fri-Sat, noon-mid Sun:  Pizza, pasta, gyros   ajbambino.com
  • Dunkin' Donuts  830 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-474-3245, 5am-mid: Donuts, coffee, sandwiches   dunkindonuts.com

Starbucks, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, K-Mart, Kuhn’s groceries, Dollar Bank on right just before University Boulevard.

(Area 2):  Left on Beaver Grade Rd, Right on University Boulevard, Moon Township

  • Kiyoshi Bistro 6506 University Blvd., 11am-10:30pm, 412- 269-2677: Chinese special, sushi. bar  kiyoshibistro.com
  • Buford’s Kitchen 5980 University, 412-269-0644, 11am-10pm Mon-Fri, 8am-9pm Sat-Sun:  Southern food/burgers  bufordskitchen.com
  • Giant Eagle 5990 University, 412-264-3856, 7am-11pm: Groceries, pharmacy, beer, Pizza Roma, Brighton Hot Dog, Wine & Spirits
  • PNC Bank, Burger King, 6052 University Blvd. (parking lot of the Giant Eagle plaza)

(Area 2):  Left on Beaver Grade Rd, Left on University Boulevard, Moon Township

  • Bob Evans 8405 University Blvd., 412-269-0333, 6am-9pm: Great breakfasts, large portions, salads, sandwiches  bobevans.com
  • Pizza Hut 8609 University Blvd., 412-264-4423, 11am-11pm: Pizza, pasta, wings            pizzahut.com
  • Primanti Brothers 8651 University Blvd.,  412-865-2200. 11am-2am: Large sandwiches with fries & slaw, beer  primantibros.com
  • Wendy’s 8703 University Blvd., 412-264-4343, 10am-1am: Burgers, salads  wendys.com
  • Wings Suds & Spuds 8806 University, 412-264-1866, 11am-mid Tue-Sat, noon-10am Sun: wingssudsspuds.dev.dexhub.dexmedia.com
  • Arby’s 9100 University Blvd., 412-264-3830, 10am-mid: Roast beef sandwiches, milkshakes    arbys.com
  • Eat ’n' Park 9526 University Blvd., 412-264-7201, 24 hours:  Breakfast buffet      eatnpark.com
  • Hilton Garden Inn, 9600 University Blvd., 412-205-5400 Bar has some unique local beer     hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com/

When University Boulevard ends at the lights, take a left to go to The Pointe (Area 3) and, eventually, Pittsburgh.

(Area 3): 376 East, Right at top of Robinson Town Centre/Pointe/North Fayette Township Ramp

From Route 376, take the Robinson Town Centre/The Pointe exit, turn right at the end of the ramp to reach these restaurants:

  • Quaker Steak and Lube 110 Andrew Dr., 412-494-3344, 11am-11pm:  Award-winning wings, burgers, bar food. thelube.com
  • Tilted Kilt 120 Andrew Dr., 412-494-5458, 11am-11pm:  Steaks/burgers.     tiltedkilt.com/robinson    
  • Max & Erma’s 130 Andrew Dr., 412-787-7000, 11am-10pm:  Pub food, burgers, salads, good desserts.  maxandermas.com
  • Uncle Sam’s Classic Subs 225 Summit Park Dr., 412-788-4782, 10:30am-9pm: Philly cheesesteak  unclesamssubs.com    Starbucks   
  • Bravo! Cucina Italiana 211 Summit Park Dr., 412-809-9115, 11am-11pm: Italian food.    bravoitalian.com
  • Jimmy John’s 401 Home Dr., 412-809-8000: 11am-10pm: Sandwiches   jimmyjohns.com
  • Buffalo Wild Wings 480 Home Dr., 412-788-9464, 11am-mid Sun-Thu 11am-1am Fri-Sat: Appetizers NTN   buffalowildwings.com
  • El Campesino 460 Home Dr., 412-787-2225, 11am-10pm Mon-Sat noon-9pm Sun: Large Mexican menu elcampesinorestaurant.com

(Area 3): 376 East, Straight at top of Robinson Town Centre/Pointe/North Fayette Township Ramp

  • Cracker Barrel 200 Davis Blvd. (near Lowe’s), 412-788-1103, 6am-10pm:  Breakfast, lunch & dinner, loads of sides   crackerbarrel.com
  • Panera 250 McHolme Dr. (behind Pier One), 412-747-0460, 6:30am-9pm, Sun 8am-8pm: Pastries, soups, free WiFi      panera.com
  • Chipotle 300 McHolme Dr., 412-787-3227,  11am-10pm Mon-Fri/Sun, noon-10pm Sat:  Burritos, tacos   chipotle.com
  • Firehouse Subs  320 McHolme Dr., 412-788-4070, 10:30am-9pm: Subs          firehousesubs.com
  • Five Guys 324 McHolme Dr., 412-788-5777,  11am-10pm: Burgers, fries          fiveguys.com
(Area 3): 376 East, Left at top of Robinson Town Centre/Pointe/North Fayette Township Ramp
  • Chick-fil-a 121 Costco Dr, 412-490-0177, 6:30am-10pm, closed Sunday: Chicken sandwiches, salads, breakfast.  chick-fil-a.com
  • Costco 202 Costco Dr., 412-490-2204, open 10am: Great place to buy party supplies.  GFS Marketplace/Aldi’s nearby.
  • Plaza Azteca, 1000 Sutherland Dr., 412-787-8888, open 11am-10pm Mon-Sat, noon-9:30pm Sun:  Mexican  plazaazteca.com
  • International House of Pancakes 1002 Sutherland Dr.,  412-859-0282, 24 hours: Pancakes & more pancakes   ihop.com
  • The Mall at Robinson 100 Robinson Ctr. Dr., 412-788-0816 10am-9pm Mon-Sat, 11am-6pm Sun: Free WiFi, Little Tokyo
  • Buca di Beppo 6600 Robinson Ctr. Dr., 412-788-8444, 11am-10pm: Family-style Italian, lasagna, ravioli       bucadibeppo.com
  • Joe’s Crab Shack 6491 Robinson Ctr. Dr., 412-494-5444, 11am-11pm Sun-Thu, 11am-1am Fri-Sat:  Crabs & mallets  joescrabshack.com
  • Cold Stone Creamery 6509 Robinson Ctr. Dr., 412-788-8380, 11am-10pm: Variety of ice cream & yogurt  coldstonecreamery.com
  • Golden Corral, 900 Park Manor Blvd., 412-788-1776, breakfast 7:30-11, lunch/dinner 11-10:  Buffet restaurant  goldencorral.com
  • Beer - House of Brews 1928 Park Manor Blvd., 412-787-5070, 9:30am-9:30pm Mon-Sat, 11am-6pm Sun: twitter.com/houseofbrewspgh
  • Ichiban Hibachi Steakhouse 1160 Park Manor Blvd., 412-787-1999, 1pm-9pm Sat-Sun: Japanese      ichibanhibachisteakhouse.com

It’s less than a half hour to drive to Pittsburgh, now one of the best restaurant cities in America. Recommended:  Altius, Poros, City Beer Works, Eleven, Six Penn, Le Lyonnais, Soba, Gaucho Parole, Braddock’s American Brasserie, Spoon, Emporio, Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, Nine on Nine, and Butcher & the Rye are all worth the trip. tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g53449-Pittsburgh_Pennsylvania.html


Speculations on Game of Thrones [[Full of Spoilers]]

[Originally published 7/17/2017 in Alien Cheese]

While I'd been aware of George Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" for many years, I never read the books. I loved "Lord of the Rings" but generally didn't like epic fantasy.

I watched the first year of the series anyway and absolutely loved it, aside from the violence. It was much more grounded in European history as a model than I'd expected. I read all the books in the fall of 2011, giving up quickly on the sea king stuff which was really boring (and I'm so glad HBO left that subplot out).

From the very first episode, I felt it was a lie that Jon Snow was Ned Stark's bastard. I always felt Jon Snow was Lyanna & Robert's child, particularly late in season one when we kept hearing "The seed is strong." Jon looks more like a child of Robert's than a child of Ned's with his very dark, unruly hair, though he behaved more like a Stark with his stubbornness and love of honor. I'm still kind of annoyed that he's part Targaryean as he looks nothing like any Targaryean we've seen up 'til now.

I generally enjoyed the first episode of season seven. The only thing that struck me as kind of odd was the relative quietness of King's Landing. I think there would have been a revolt by the people who were left after the explosion at the Sept. The scenes showing Sam's tribulations went way, way too long. Loved the quiet scenes with Arya and the soldiers [Ed Sheeran was fine in that scene, and, frankly, after everything Masie Williams has been through on camera the last few years, give the girl a chance to flirt a little will ya?] and the Brotherhhood and the Hound. Loved the rallying cry of Lady Mormont about training the girls for war.

I'm still not sure who will wind up on the Iron Throne, but I don't think Cersei will be able to hold it for long. Not sure whether Tyrion or Jamie will ultimately kill her, since it is fortold she will be killed by a younger brother.

Other comments on some of the characters:

Arya: doomed, probably this year. It's one thing to murder Walter Frey & even his two sons, but taking out a whole hall of them (about half of Cersei's body count from blowing up the Sept) is bound to make people angry. I think it'll come down to John's sense of honor requiring him to execute her. Arya was my favorite character, but she's too dangerous to stay alive. She has great abilities but still very little discipline.

Bran: will probably live until a battle involving dragons. I think he'll be able to control a dragon, and he might help to win a war against the White Walkers. It almost looks like the Westeros intra-kingdom warfare will be concurrent with the war against the White Walkers and we won't know who will wind up on the Iron Throne until next year.]


Monday, June 05, 2017

The Wonder of Wonder Woman

Months ago, I had very mixed feelings about going to see the Wonder Woman movie. I was never a big Wonder Woman fan in the first place. I'd read the comics sometimes in the '60s, watched the amusing Lynda Carter show in the '70s but was never really into it. I was really sick to death of the current Marvel and DC comic movies - the Marvel movies were no longer very funny and the last good DC-related movie was probably Batman back in the late '80s.

I always liked heroic, smart and/or very inquisitive women. Give me someone like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, Harriet from the Harriet the Spy books, Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings, Princess Leia from the Star Wars movies, Ripley from the Alien movies (at least the first 2 movies), Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice, Marie Curie from history, Eleanor Roosevelt from history (who, on surface, was not overly heroic, but she really learned to be over time).

A few years ago, I'd run into some interesting info on Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (while I don't think I ever met her, her lovely Dad Frank had been my guidance counselor in high school so I've watched her career with interest). Fascinating that Wonder Woman had some real life inspiration from suffragettes and probably Margaret Sanger! Growing up, I'd found Wonder Woman kind of irritating for the overly brief costume and a bit much emphasis on her physic. But she was quite strong, even in the old days. The current brand of superhero movies were just getting too bombastic with no plot and very bloated and endless fight scenes. So I figured I'd give the new movie a pass.

And then I started seeing the trailer for the new Wonder Woman movie. It was an impressive two minutes. Interesting photography, athletic leaping about, some humor...maybe this would be good. I'd always hated the slow motion in movies like The Matrix but the use of slomo in the trailer made sense for Wonder Woman.

So I went on the first day. I went on about one hour of sleep, so during the first hour of the movie, i dozed off periodically and missed a few points. The theater wasn't terribly full for a 12:30 show, but it had more than the 10-20 you often see during the first show on a Friday. I did manage to stay awake through most of the second half and really enjoyed most of it. The scene where Wonder Woman rose out of the trenches and ran across the battlefield was extremely moving on many levels.

There were at least two backward-nods to "Great Famous Feminist Moments in Movies and/or Books." The scene I mentioned featuring Diana racing across "No Man's Land" just screamed the famous moment from Return of the King where Eowyn rips off her helmet, yells "I am no man!" and kills the Witch King (with help from another "non-man," Merry). The other moment was a little quieter and I missed it during it first time I saw the movie as I was sleeping. But I went again on Saturday with my family. There's that amusing scene when Diana and Steve talk on the boat, and she explains that she understands about pleasure seemed like a shout out to Teri Garr's famous comment in Tootsie "I'm responsible for my own orgasm."

The action scenes were all well-shot, and there was always enough character development and dialog to keep the movie interesting. Strong photography, effects, costumes, production development, acting, script - this is probably the best comic-based action movie I've ever seen, though I'm still debating between Wonder Woman and the '78 Superman. I ranked it an 8 on IMDB. Congratulations to Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot & the rest of the crew - you did a great job!!

MY ONE BIG QUIBBLE WITH THE MOVIE


I had such hope that maybe, just maybe, the 20 minutes of bloated fighting at the end of every action movie would not happen in Wonder Woman. When Diana killed the German general, I nearly stood up and cheered. But then she realized that even though she thought she'd killed Ares, the war was going on...because the war-mongering general was not Ares, but someone more behind-the-scenes was...which, after a few minutes of interesting discussion about how Ares worked, launched into about a 15 minute-long boated fight scene. Oh well, at least it seemed a little shorter than usual, and the bits that featured Steve added some real pathos to the ending.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Honeymooning with Wookiees - A Star Wars Story (sort of)


Originally Published in Collision (University of Pittsburgh), Spring 2001

While my husband, Jim, may be the only man in America who can recite his wedding anniversary date without any wifely intervention, he calculates the date in a truly unique manner: "Star Wars premiered on Wednesday, May 25, 1977. We got married three days before that; so, we must have gotten married on Sunday, May 22, 1977."

I am not making this up. My husband has always remembered the date of the Star Wars premiere more readily than that of his own wedding. It's very strange, because neither of us have generally paid attention to popular trends. We might have been in college during the '70s, but we hated disco passionately and anything else that was even marginally trendy.

We even met at the least trendy location of 1975 -- at a science fiction club meeting. When most people heard the term "sci-fi fan," they thought of pale, glassy-eyed, pimply adolescent boys with Mr. Spock pointy ears and a plastic pocket protector filled with ballpoints. Now, it's true that there was (and still is) a subset of fans who fit that description, though usually the ones with the plastic pocket protectors are generally not wearing Spock ears at the same time. But most of us, while pale and maybe pimply, wouldn't be caught dead with pointed ears or pocket protectors; we just read science fiction and talked incessantly. We loved the robots of Issac Asimov, the world-building of Frank Herbert, and gender-bending of Ursula K. Le Guin. We spent many hours in conversation over books, computer kits (back in the '70s, you had to mail order the pieces for a primitive computer and assemble it yourself), movies, getting to Mars by the end of the century, and getting to the next convention by the end of next month.

I met Jim when he was a junior at Carnegie Mellon University and I was a wide-eyed freshman. He was of medium height, medium weight, with a mass of black hair, hazel eyes, glasses and a moustache. He looked so Black-Irish I practically expected him to break out in "Oh Danny Boy," but any musical ability missed his branch of the family. Other than the glasses, we shared no physical characteristics at all, as I was more of a mushy Nordic type. He tended to be quiet and bookish -- one of the smartest people I'd ever met. No one has ever accused me of being quiet.

While Jim was quiet in groups of more than two, I had some great conversations with him alone. We started talking at club meetings and conventions. Eventually, we started having two-hour long phone conversations, ending only when one of Jim's younger brothers took the phone away by force. At first, we had nothing in common other than a mutual love of reading. Jim and I were from wholly different backgrounds, religious upbringings, and parts of the country. I was living on campus, and he was commuting to college from his home. But, the more we kept talking, the more we found we had in common. We both loved the films of Mel Brooks and Stanley Kubrick; in fact, going to see Barry Lyndon was our first real date. We both hated the Bee Gees (who later scored Saturday Night Fever) and Donna Summer (the "Disco Queen") and loved the Moody Blues and the Beatles. Within a few weeks, we realized it wasn't just the conversation we loved, it was each other. By the end of my freshman year, Jim and I were engaged and were planning to get married after Jim's graduation in May 1977.

So we bucked another '70s trend -- we planned to get married in our very early twenties without a job, a house, a car or even our own TV. To save money during the next school year, Jim continued living at home and I shared an apartment with three other women (one of whom is now known as the science fiction writer Brenda Clough). We never registered anywhere while we were engaged, because we needed everything, and we had high hopes of getting usefulhouse wares. We did not need or want a metal ice bucket with matching tongs or a fondue set; we got both anyway. Despite our anti-trendy natures, our honeymoon landed smack in the middle of one of the biggest fads of the late '70s. There was no way to avoid Star Wars, even if we wanted to.

Over Labor Day weekend of 1976, Jim and I went to Kansas City, MO to attend the World Science Fiction Convention. The Worldcon was, in the '70s, the largest SF con of the year. Nearly 3,000 science fiction fans, writers, artists and publishers invaded the city, just three weeks after the Republican National Convention had taken over the city to nominate Gerald Ford as its candidate for president. Downtown hadn't quite recovered from that onslaught of middle-aged, upper-middle class Americans yet. "Welcome, Republicans" signs still adorned many downtown shops and many of the exhausted hotel, shop and restaurant employees were on vacation.

No one confused us with Republicans though. We science fiction fans were mostly young and favored long hair, blue jeans and silly T-shirts. At three in the morning, the only open coffee shop in downtown was filled with fans, cops, and hookers -- cops mostly ignored us. The hookers, though, were decidedly unhappy with us. Turns out they got little business from us; we weren't a group that ever had to pay for sex (unlike the Republicans, apparently).

Jim and I wandered around the Muehlbach, the grand old hotel where the Worldcon took place. It was a scene of "cultural disconnect" -- people talking about L5 in '95 (a project promoting a large commercial space station at Lagrange point 5 by 1995) and about the future of space travel in function rooms decorated with velveteen wallpaper, electric candle sconces and faux Louis XIV furniture. We spent many hours in the book dealer's room, Jim's favorite convention haunt, where about 250 booksellers had thousands of new, used, and rare books for sale. I particularly enjoyed the art show, with its varied display of the science fiction and fantasy paintings.

"Hey, let's try to find the room with the movie exhibit," Jim suggested. "I think it's down this hallway over here."

We wandered into the out-of-the way ballroom and found about forty black and white photographs on the wall. "Who are these people?" I asked, looking at some of the pictures of the cast. "I've heard of Carrie Fisher -- her mom is Debbie Reynolds -- but who is Harrison Ford?"

"No idea... I've never heard of Mark Hamill either." It turned out Hamil was so anonymous in September 1976 that he was even at the Worldcon and no one noticed.

"He looks too short to be a space hero. And what's this giant bear with a laser?" I asked.

"Probably some alien."

"I know that, but a giant, furry bear? That just seems way too hokey. It looks like they don't take SF at all seriously. It looks like something out of Buck Rogers"

"Or Duck Dodgers." Jim laughed.

"Oh great. I just want a serious science fiction movie for a change. Not another Sleeper. Not another Young Frankenstein. Just something that's both science fictional and serious."

Jim zeroed in on the spaceship models, in clear plastic cubes in the center of the room. These models lacked the sleekness of typical movie spaceships. They had all kinds of indentations of protrusions. "The ships look pretty good though. Hollywood always forgets that ships in space can be any shape, they don't have to look like airplanes or rockets," he said.

"Yeah, but no one's done decent space ships or special effects since 2001, A Space Odyssey. Now that was a science fiction movie for adults. It wasn't silly. Star Wars looks like it's gonna be for kids."

Before we left the movie exhibit, a suited young man (obviously a studio flunky, no one else wore suits to SF cons) gave us copies of the preliminary poster. The initial poster was very purple, with characters fighting with shocking pink swords. Weird.

[Parenthetical remark from 2017 - This poster is showing up as a Star Wars poster from 1976 online. However this was not the poster they gave out at MidAmeriCon 76. There were definitely characters having a light saber fight in the background and Chewie was a bit more prominent. If anyone can supply a scan of the 1976 Star Wars poster that was distributed at MidAmeriCon, please send me one.]

I didn't hold out much hope that Star Wars would be any good. Not that I worried about it much. We were busy with school and planning our wedding -- not overly concerned about a movie whose premiere was a year away. But along about Thanksgiving, we started seeing posters for the movie in theaters. They were radically different from the poster we'd seen the previous summer. Skinny Mark Hamill had a pumped-up chest, biceps, and his shirt was split down to the navel. Short Carrie Fisher looked tall and willowy with her flowing white dress split almost up to the navel. Harrison Ford and the giant hairy bear were nowhere to be seen.


We stared at the poster in amazement. "I hate when the characters on the posters don't look anything the actors who played them. Marketing." I sighed.

"Oh, they're trying to sex-up the movie. Not that there's anything wrong with that," Jim smiled.

Finally, school was over, Jim was graduated, and we took the midnight train to my home in Massachusetts and tied the proverbial knot. Our wedding went off very well -- one of the few times in our lives when the "marketing" of the event actually lived up to the hype. It was sunny and very, very bright. So bright that it hit 96 degrees that afternoon, more beach weather than wedding weather. It felt strange to be well-dressed, among our very well-dressed family and friends. But, it felt wonderful to be married -- even without a job, a house, a car, or a TV. The ceremony was in a church, and the reception was in an estate with a blooming garden nearby. The pianist played classical music as a background to the eating, drinking and talking.

Everyone fully enjoyed themselves. For me, though, early married life turned out to be a little ragged around the edges. My wisdom teeth ached, so I grimaced a more than a bride normally does. On the morning after our wedding, we found that someone had tried to break into the car we had borrowed.

Once we got back to Pittsburgh, our honeymoon was spent moving into our first apartment. For $75, we bought furniture from a guy who had just been sent up for cocaine possession. I nervously checked the couch and chair cushions for "leftovers," not wanting to follow him to jail. I spent the next day in bed with the most horrific case of menstrual cramps I'd ever had, leaving Jim to move his books and clothing from his mother's apartment to ours alone. 'What a honeymoon!' I thought, as I curled up in fetal position.

The next day, I helped with the unpacking. Jim's uncle loaned us a little black and white TV, and I had it on in the background as I resumed arranging the bedroom. There was a constant bombardment of commercials for Star Wars.

We'd arranged to meet some friends from our science fiction club to go to see Star Wars for its premiere that night. After a long day of moving the last of the stuff into the apartment, we got cleaned up and drove out to the Brown Derby in the far east suburbs of Pittsburgh. During dinner, our friends presented us with a set of pots and pans -- the only practical cookware we had gotten from anybody. Another friend, who'd taken photos at the wedding, gave us with an album filled with photos, which we gleefully showed off. When we brought the cookware and album out to the car, we noticed the massive line outside the neighboring movie theater. It was for Star Wars.

We managed to get into the show, but it soon completely sold out. Ticket sellers gave all the people attending the first day's shows a button that said, "May the force be with you."

After nearly a year of just hearing about Star Wars, there it was in all its cinematic glory. The movie had come a long way from 40 black and white photographs and a couple of large spaceship models. We stayed still in our seats from the second those evocative words "Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away..." appeared on the screen, oblivious to the aroma of popcorn or the call of the restroom. Text crawled up and into the screen; text crawls hadn't appeared in a movie in over twenty five years, since the time of the Saturday afternoon serials. We saw a spaceship darting into the center of the screen, pursued by a much, much, MUCH bigger, obviously more dangerous, spaceship looming overhead. It was a jaw-dropping shot. We quickly lost any reservations about the movie. We were quite taken by the special effects, the cast, the music, and yes, even the wookiee. We were hooked. We even applauded at the end, even though we realized that George Lucas had half-manipulated us into doing so because an audience onscreen was also applauding at the end.

When we left the movie theater, there was an even more massive line for the later showings. On TV the next day, there was someone from the cast or crew talking about what an instant phenomenon this movie had become. When I went to the store, I heard random people having the following conversations:

"Have you seen Star Wars yet? Wasn't that great? Didn't you just love the droids? Weren't the Imperial Stormtroopers just awful shots?"

I was amazed.

"Wasn't the scene in the giant trash compacter gross? Do you think Ford and Hamill will ever learn to act? Weren't those spaceships neat?"

Americans had never gone to science fiction films in huge numbers, not even to the classic 2001. The top-grossing movies for two generations had been Gone with the Wind and The Sound of Music, until Jaws was launched on the American public two years before.

Within weeks, Star Wars was the top-grossing film of all time. Suddenly, science fiction was a fad. And, by virtue of being fans, we were...trendy. The slogan of science fiction fans had always been, "It is a sad and lonely thing to be a fan." How could science fiction, with its fandom ever comprised of outsiders, be smack in the middle of a cultural phenomenon?

Meanwhile, our mostly untraditional honeymoon was drawing to a close. We were finally doing something traditional -- we were going to take a short trip to Washington. Well, it wasn't strictly traditional honeymoon trip since we were going to attend a science fiction convention.

The conversation among fans at the convention was not much different than it had been among the general public.

"Have you seen Star Wars yet? Wasn't that great? Didn't you just love the droids? Weren't the Imperial Stormtroopers just awful shots? What about those matte paintings?!"

It was a rotten week to try to brag about your wedding or show off pictures, even to your fannish friends. If it didn't have spaceships and aliens, no one wanted to hear about it.

"Wasn't the scene in the giant trash compacter gross? Do you think Ford and Hamill will ever learn to act? Weren't those spaceships neat? No, the movie was ruined for me when I noticed the planets around Tattoine were within Roche's limit."

One of the few people in fandom who didn't like the movie complained bitterly about that obscure bit of astronomical trivia. He insisted, "The moons should have been rings since they were so close to the planet." And that ruined his enjoyment of the movie. Well, his was a different perspective; we'd admired the filmmaking so much we hadn't noticed that the science was a bit fluffy in places.

Almost no one in fandom openly enjoyed Star Wars as much as our friend Gardner. The movie hadn't been out for a week yet, but Gardner had already seen it three times. He particularly loved the wookiee, I suspect because Gardner was a wookiee -- he was very tall, very broad, had a very loud voice, and extremely long blond hair. We sat with Gardner and a bunch of other people at a party in a hotel room, talking about Star Wars. Between taking long drinks of beer, Gardner exploded with wookiee imitations. "WOOOHHHFF," he'd cry, threading his fingers together behind his head, then leaning his head back, self-satisfied. He made so much noise that people scurried in from the other room, expecting to see that someone had smuggled a noisy dog into the party.

"Do it again, Gardner," I'd giggle, leaning back on Jim's shoulder as Gardner kept up the noise.

"Now all we need is a holographic war game," Jim sighed.

"But we'd have to let the wookiee win."

Gardner leapt to his feet. "I think I'll go to the midnight show, you guys wanna come along?" he asked. It was not quite 10:00, but he knew what the lines were like.

Jim gave me a hug, "Not this time, Gardner. We are on our honeymoon after all."

I giggled again, "Yeah, and no one is going to believe that we spent our honeymoon with a wookiee."

Despite our honeymooning with wookiees, both real and cinematic, we're still married now, in the year of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, 2001.

Fandom has grayed since the '80s. Movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters and Alien helped get more people to read science fiction, and there was a real boom in convention attendance from the late '70s until the mid '80s. There are now multiple science fiction conventions every weekend around the world. The Worldcon tends to attract about 5,000 people these days, but there are movie-related conventions that attract tens of thousands more. However, instead of going to science fiction club meetings and conventions, today's young readers gravitate toward media conventions, online role-playing games and anime. Asimov and Herbert have both died, but Le Guin is still writing. A whole host of new writers are creating new worlds and speculating upon life in their fiction. And Gardner, the wookiee, has been the editor of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine for many years. Fandom has "let the wookiee win" many times by presenting him with an unprecedented number of Best Editor Hugo awards.

Jim and I have remained active in science fiction fandom ever since. We have raised our daughter in a household filled with books, TVs, pre-assembled computers and take periodic trips to science fiction conventions. We have spent most of our professional lives doing something long predicted by science fiction and something that's virtually trendy at the same time -- we've worked for computer companies.


Related blog post: "Carrie Fisher, Patty Duke & Me"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Leavetakings, Part II

In some ways, I'm still having trouble believing that I'm writing such a similar essay just a few months after writing about my mother's death.

Mom had been kind of frail for a long time, was diagnosed with terminal cancer February 2016 and died in late July 2016. During those months, I drove up from Pittsburgh five times to visit her. Would also visit my Dad (they were long divorced but friendly and he lived nearby). He was a little low about my mother's illness and had some minor memory lapses, but still lived on his own and hung out at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he'd worked for many years, as often as he could. Yes, he had a persistent cough but he had some tests and they kept telling him not cancer, which was great news. We spent a few hours together in mid-February just after Boskone, chatting and looking at some old photos.

So as older people often do, he wound up briefly in and out of the hospital a few times. We finally understood there was really nothing that could be done for him. He went to stay in my mother's old apartment (off the back of my brother and sister-in-law's house), where they took care of him. But it didn't sound immediately bad, and we thought he had months left. As sometimes happens with elderly people, even Energizer bunnies (as my other sister-in-law called him), things can go terribly wrong terribly fast. My brother messaged me on a Sunday morning to come up right away. I made the drive in 11 hours and found Dad asleep. I did get to talk to him very briefly Monday morning (and heard one last Tuna-ism "Beggers can't be choosers"), but later that day he slipped into a comatose state. He died early the following Saturday morning. He had amazing care from my brother and sister-in-law and Robin and Melissa and the Worcester Jewish Home Hospice. His body just quit after an interesting and active 87 years.

Other than his brother who's 90, Dad had lived longer that any of his family for at least 4 generations. In many ways he had characteristics of an SF fan - book collector (mostly mysteries but I found a copy of V in his library and he also had the first legit edition of Lord of the Rings published in the US), non-standard dresser (wore the same pair of casual shoes for over 40 years, eschewed shoe laces) and had over 200 t-shirts from various college events. He and Mom were married for 31 years, divorced for 31 years and died 8 months apart. I'd hoped he would die like Dave Kyle, in his 90s after attending one last party. But I'm glad he was playing cards with friends up until about a week ago and he died at home.

Dad, AKA Tuna, was a huge fixture at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The whole community really reached out. Especially on Facebook, people posted pictures and told funny stories. You can check his Facebook page (he last posted there 12 days before his death) - Tuna Trask, or check the support page some students set up for him - Bill "Tuna" Trask - Make him smile! Some students also organized a card signing which were delivered to the house and the family really appreciated all of these things. Over 200 hundred WPI students came to his funeral (which was on April Fool's Day--I suspect he would have been amused by that); the church was SRO. Dad's WPI obituary, and the newspaper obituary I wrote for him.

The best Tuna-ism now: "You only live once and you ain't coming back so you may as well live with all the gusto you have!" And he did.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Remember When 45 Said...

I did not write this, but I completely agree with it. We must keep track.

Remember when 45 said...

  • ...he was going to donate his salary? Well he just accepted his second paycheck
  • ...Mexico was going to pay for the wall? He has asked Congress to appropriate the $25 billion of taxpayer money to cover costs
  • ...he was going to divest from his businesses? Changed his mind
  • ...he was going to release his tax returns? Changed his mind
  • ...he wasn't going to go on vacation or play golf? 5 of the last 7 weekends he went on vacation and played golf, costing taxpayers $11.1 million
  • ...he was going to use American steel to build these dangerous pipelines? Russian steel arrived last week for the Keystone Pipeline XL
  • ...he said would defeat ISIS in 30 days? He still doesn't even have a plan
  • ...he said he was going to appropriate money to HBCUs? He lied to get a photo-op
  • ...he was going to drain the swamp of Washington insiders? His cabinet is filled with lobbyists, oil and Wall Street executives
  • ...he wasn't going to cut social security and Medicare? The Republican bill does just this
  • ...he said that nobody on his campaign has any communications with Russian govt? 7 of his people have now admitted they spoke and/or met with Russian officials, AFTER they lied and got caught
  • ...he said that the Obamacare replacement would cover more people at lower cost? The AHCA that the GOP and 45 are now pushing; they now admit will cover fewer people at a higher cost

Share so everyone can remember what a liar this so-called president (45) truly is. If you agree, please copy and paste this to your timeline or at least link to it.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

My 2017 Oscar Predictions

I'm running very late with this. I have seen most of the nominated movies (except for Hacksaw Ridge and Hell or High Water). I liked many movies I saw this year, but I didn't have the same "This is a classic!" response the way I did when I saw Spotlight last year.

So, quickly:

Film

Will win: LaLaLand
Should win: Moonlight
Winner:

My favorite movie of last year was Arrival, but it may have flown over the heads of many Oscar voters as it's intellectual science fiction. It's a brilliant piece of work, but the nominators also failed to even nominate Amy Adams. LaLaLand was pleasant but not great. Moonlight is an amazingly-good movie that I found quite moving and it just took a bunch of Independent Spirit Awards. I loved Hidden Figures but it may be a bit "movie of the week" to be an Oscar winner. Lion had great photography and a couple of great kid actors. Liked Fences very much. Manchester by the Sea has its moments but also wound up as a very overrated flick. In the "damaged men" trope for this year, Moonlight was the best; it was the movie that MBTS really wanted to be.

Leading Actor

Will win: Casey Affleck
Should win: Viggo Mortensen
Winner:

Viggo was brilliant in Captain Fantastic, and the casting of his kids was outstanding. Casey was good but not quite great. Denzel could also possibly pull this one out as he was very good and didn't get a Best Director nomination for Fences

Leading Actress

Will win: Emma Stone
Should win: Natalie Portman
Winner:
I've loved Emma Stone in almost everything she's done, but feel LaLaLand is quite overrated. Natalie Portman was perfect in Jackie. I did not see Elle.

Supporting Actor

Will win: Mahershala Ali
Should win: Mahershala Ali
Winner:
Ali was brilliant, but Lucas and Dev were also extreme good (didn't see Hell or Nocturnal)

Supporting Actress

Will win: Viola Davis
Should win: Viola Davis
Winner:
The women were great. I wouldn't be surprised if Naomie Harris won.

I don't have time to complete this today. Will be out most of the rest of today. But here's the rest of the list:



ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

=============================

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Arrival

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Silence

=============================

COSTUME DESIGN

Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

=============================

DIRECTING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

=============================

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

Fire at Sea

I Am Not Your Negro

Life, Animated

O.J.: Made in America

13th

=============================

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Extremis

4.1 Miles

Joe’s Violin

Watani: My Homeland

The White Helmets

=============================

FILM EDITING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

La La Land

Moonlight

=============================

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Land of Mine

A Man Called Ove

The Salesman

Tanna

Toni Erdmann

=============================

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

A Man Called Ove

Star Trek Beyond

Suicide Squad

=============================

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Jackie

La La Land

Lion

Moonlight

Passengers

=============================

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

"Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" from La La Land

Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

"Can’t Stop The Feeling" from Trolls

Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster

"City Of Stars" from La La Land

Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

"The Empty Chair" from Jim: The James Foley Story

Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

"How Far I’ll Go" from Moana

Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

=============================

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Arrival

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Passengers

=============================

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

Blind Vaysha

Borrowed Time

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Pearl

Piper

=============================

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

Ennemis Intérieurs

La Femme et le TGV

Silent Nights

Sing

Timecode

=============================

SOUND EDITING

Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Sully

=============================

SOUND MIXING

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

=============================

VISUAL EFFECTS

Deepwater Horizon

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Kubo and the Two Strings

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

=============================

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Arrival

Fences

Hidden Figures

Lion

Moonlight

=============================

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Hell or High Water

La La Land

The Lobster

Manchester by the Sea

20th Century Women

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Year in Statistics and Life Facts

Jim and I have been a couple for over 40 years. Wow, who'd've thought? ;->

We've been parents for 36 years and Leslie finally moved into her own apartment.

I walked 1500 miles (1505 after First Night). Really. I'm particularly proud of that. I've been trying to break walking 1000 miles in a year since 2013 and I finally did it. "House walking" in cold weather has been very helpful.

I lost 19 pounds. That's not a huge amount of weight, but for a post-menopausal woman who stress-eats (and this was an unbelievably stressful year), that's definitely in the right direction, even though I've gained and lost the same 5 pounds about 15 times since last June. Will go back to using the Always Hungry diet soon and hope to lose a little more weight.

I lost my mother, which made it a hard year, but I know I was lucky to have a mother until I was 59. My Aunt Jamen also died.

I lost some friends - David Hartwell, Morris Keesan, Kira Heston, Kate Yule. Also made it a tough year. And the parents of a number of friends died. We're just at that age.

Supported Hillary Clinton and am still a strong supporter of Democratic policies. While I accept the fact that Trump will be our next president, I do not believe he is capable of being president and expect he'll do something impeachable very quickly.

Continued to be the curator for Dead People Server, which was a little tougher this year as so many celebs I liked, like Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Patty Duke, Bill Nunn, Gwenn Ifill died youngish.

I edited the MidAmeriCon II newsletter

Worked on the Nebula Award Weekend which will be in Pittsburgh next May and the Smofcon bid for Boston in 2017 (which won).

Continued to volunteer for Global Links.

Joined the Renaissance City Choir.

Worked a few days as an extra, mostly for Outsiders season 2 which will have its season premiere on WGN starting on Tuesday, January 24.

Spent 7 days as security for the U.S. Open in Oakmont. Kind of fun, lovely weather, got to tell a bunch of people working for Fox Sports "Walk to your left!"

Traveled a lot, mostly between Pittsburgh and Massachusetts (many family trips this year), but also to Kansas City twice, Chicago, DC and North Carolina. Planned trips to New York City and Italy for 2017.

I broke a tooth and finally had the rest of it extracted almost 6 months later.

Still have fairly severe insomnia, but I think I'm finally back over 5 hours of sleep a night after sleeping less than that for much of the year.