Love Is

Love is.

Love wants not to be defined.

Love defies explanations.

Love is feeling, knowing without interpretation nor clarification.

The more you try to imprison love in walls of words, the faster it will run away from you.

Trust is the food of love.

Trust! You will know love when you have it, will know when it is given to you.

Acknowledge it when it comes to you, then share it. Bestow it freely, in joyous abundance.

Love given away will never deplete  the love you have.

Love grows when you give it away.

Love is sharing, not saving.

Love thrives in light, withers in darkness.

There is but one kind of love. Its expressions vary, but love itself does not.

Vote for the Brains

The Thinking Man sculpture at Musée Rodin in Paris

Someone asked me to write about whether or not I wish I’d acted less from my brain and more from my heart in relationships.

Au contraire, my friends. I fervently wish I’d used more brain and less of everything else.When I look at the big picture, I’m not sure there was any difference between “thinking with my heart” and not thinking at all.

Men are accused of being in thrall  to lust, but women are no less irrational when chemistry takes over. Women’s behavior may be more subtle (or not), but sexual attraction — old-fashioned lust — remains the root of many of our most horrible choices. I suspect women are somewhat more inclined to marry their mistakes which doesn’t improve anything and usually sets the stage for lots of drama in the future. Maybe that is changing, but cultural conditioning goes deep. It’s a lot harder to escape your conditioning than you imagine. Just when you think you’re free, you discover you’re doing exactly what you swore you’d never do.

Through a combination of a lust, loneliness and more than a little hubris, I achieved a hormonally induced prefrontal lobotomy. Staying determinedly stupid,  I wound up married to the wrongest possible person in a country where women can’t initiate divorce. Good show Marilyn!

It took years and a lot of blood under the bridge to get my life back. It was ugly, expensive and painful — and completely avoidable. I made a moronic decision against all advice. Even many years later, I have trouble believing I did that.

Some people need to loosen up. Others need to tighten up. I’ve been on both sides at different times in my life … and my conclusion? There is a very good reason our heads are at the top of our bodies. The brain is supposed to be the boss.

You’re going to get in a lot less trouble with your brain at the helm. If your head is saying “Whoa, pal … don’t do that!” you really should listen.

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An Oscar Weekend in Connecticut

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It was a visit worthy of Jane Austin. We were fed and fed again. Entertained, charmed, chatted and entertained some more. I took pictures of the house, the land, the snow, the stream.

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We watched the Oscars, and we saw almost all the movies that had been nominated (except the ones we didn’t want to see and Les Mis, which we didn’t get to).

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We had already seen Lincoln in the movies. We watched Argo, Skyfall, The Hobbit, Flight, Ted (not nominated, but after Flight, we needed a comedy) and Life of Pi. A veritable movie banquet.

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And OH the food. Such good food. Our host and hostess cooked up a storm. It was movie maven and gourmet heaven, not to mention a great house and land perfect for photography.

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Good friends, good food, great movies, beautiful scenery … It was an award-winning weekend.

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Snowy Woods and Stream

Late winter snow in a Connecticut woods. The frozen stream waits for a bit of sunshine. 

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melting snow

Melting snow runs down from high peaks, into creeks,
over flowing waters, carry off layers of the forest floor,
nutrients, twigs, leafs and insects are all swept clean,
little creeks bulge into violent streams, and mighty rivers
churning, tumbling, and roaring down waves, into the ocean’s mouth.

Melting snow on the forest floor uncovers chains of small islands,
spreading under pines and oaks and elms, low lands and high lands,
contrasting, the dark colored ground against the white melting snow,
the season of change calls to awaken the forest floor,
with a splash of melting snow, and a degree of heat,
natures cycle is complete.

michael andrew
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A few hours later, the stream is flowing. Sluggishly, still a bit icy but moving, the little waterfall flows down the rocks between still snowy banks.

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Melting

The big snow from early this month is melting. It’s good because that’s what has to happen, especially is the weather is not finished with us. If more snow is to come, better there be less snow and ice on the ground when if does.

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Melt-off is messy. It seeps into foundations and basements, makes the rivers and streams overflow. Everything and everyone feels damp. Old bones ache in sympathy. The world is sodden and chilly.

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Today, though the rain is falling heavily accompanied by wind and occasional dollops of sleet, we have to drive home. Like it or not, we’ve been away longer than we intended and it’s time to go home. Here in central Connecticut, the stream that was frozen when we arrived last Sunday has broken free of winter’s grip.

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It’s flowing enthusiastically … more so with each passing hour as I watch it from the windows here in the kitchen. Spring will come. Soon or sooner, but it will come.

All taken with the Canon Powershot S100. It’s the only camera I brought with me and it has done the job splendidly.

 

FLYPAPER (2011): A PLEASANT SURPRISE

A while ago, Garry and I watched what is I am sure among the lowest grossing movies of all time. I don’t say this lightly. In its theatrical run, it grossed exactly (according to both Wikipedia and IMDB) $1100, which even in our world is not a huge amount of money. No, there aren’t any zeroes missing. That’s the real number.

This is not the lowest grossing movie ever. The 2012 movie  Playback cost $7.5 million to film but only grossed $264 — the lowest-grossing film of 2012. And 2006’s Zyzzx Road, starring Katherine Heigl grossed $30

Flypaper only cost $5,000,000 to make, so they only lost $4,998,900 which, for a Hollywood bomb, is small potatoes. The movie was universally panned, opened in just one movie house (where?) on two screens, then disappeared, never to be heard from again until it popped up the other night on one of our cable movie channels.

Garry didn’t recognize it, so he recorded it on the bedroom DVR. A couple of nights ago, while I was reading in bed (my favorite indulgence), I noticed the bed was shaking. He was laughing. Really laughing. Garry doesn’t normally lay in bed laughing. He told me that he was going to save this one because he thought I’d like it. As a rule, there are a lot of things I find funny that he doesn’t think are amusing, but never has the reverse been true. If he thinks its funny, it’s funny.

Flypaper  is actually a good little comedy. It’s a spoof and a farce, a parody of bank heist movies plus a good deal of slapstick, technobabble, and a few good explosions. The dialogue is rather witty.

The cast features Ashley Judd and Patrick Dempsey. It’s directed by Rob Minkoff. The writers were the same guys who created the characters from The Hangover. Rob Minkoff is known for co-directing The Lion King. So they’ve got their bona fides in order.

My first thought, as the credits were rolling, was that it reminded me of the credits for the Pink Panther. And, it turns out, the movie reminded me of the Pink Panther too, minus Inspector Clouseau. The same sort of “What else could go wrong” humor. It’s not a great movie, but it is fun. I would normally not write about it, but it’s gotten a bum rap: horrible reviews and no support from the studio. Showing it for one week in one movie theater on two screens, with no advertising or PR is not exactly a big opening. It deserved better.

The writeups in both IMDB and Wikipedia demonstrate that whoever wrote them never watched the movie. The descriptions are wildly inaccurate. Shame on whoever wrote them. I guess anonymity is not always a bad thing. I wouldn’t sign my name to that drivel either. Then again, I wouldn’t write about something I’d never watched. Call me old-fashioned, but it bothers me.

When I read movie reviews, I frequently wonder if the reviewer watched the same movie I did. Or watched any movie at all. They heap praise on movies that are boring and sometimes much worse than that. They pan movies that are creative, unique and interesting. They apparently take special pleasure in negative reviews, the more vicious the better. Meanwhile, they glorify obscure movies in which no one could possibly be interested.

Back in 1999, Garry and I were visiting friends in Michigan. Our group consisted of a lawyer, an engineer, a TV journalist, and a writer. We decided to rent the latest movie on which critics were heaping praise. It was the must-see  movie of the year: American Beauty.

Touted as a masterpiece, there were barely enough adjectives in the English language to say how wonderful it was. It was beloved of critics and grossed more than $350 million, won Best PictureBest DirectorBest Actor (for Spacey), Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography.

It stunk. It was affectedartsy, pretentious and incoherent. Did I forget annoying and dull?

Take this “interpretation” from Wikipedia as an example of just how thrilling it was:

Academics have offered many possible readings of American Beauty; film critics are similarly divided, not so much about the quality of the film as their interpretations of it. Described by many as about “the meaning of life” or “gender identification” or “the hollow existence of the American suburbs”, the film has defied categorization by even the filmmakers. Mendes is indecisive, saying the script seemed to be about something different each time he read it: “a mystery story, a kaleidoscopic journey through American suburbia, a series of love stories … it was about imprisonment … loneliness [and] beauty. It was funny; it was angry, sad.” (Translation: Mendes, the director, didn’t have a clue what the script was about.)

In essence, no one knew what, if anything, the movie was about, but it was so “au courant” no one was would admit they didn’t get it. After the fad ended, the movie disappeared. No one shows it on cable, no one rents it. It’s out of print. Because it was crap. Like in the story of the Emperor’s new clothing, no one wanted to be the first to point out the king was bare-ass naked.

About half an hour into the movie, our little group of well-read individualists looked at each other and briefly conferred. Was anyone enjoying it? No? Then why were we watching it?  We promptly popped the movie out of the machine and moved on with our evening. Pop corn goes well with conversation, too.

It reminds me of the Woody Allen movie Hollywood Ending. In it, a formerly prestigious director is broke and desperate for a movie project. He gets an offer to direct a big movie in New York. Because the offer comes from his former wife (Téa Leoni) and her current boyfriend (Treat Williams), he is reluctant to take the assignment, even though he needs the money and something to get his career on track.

He finally agrees to do it and is immediately struck blind by some kind of psychosomatic ailment probably induced by anxiety. The production hasn’t even started yet, but he decides to fake it.  It costs $60 million and flops. But, there is a “Hollywood ending.” The movie becomes a huge hit in France. He happily proclaims, “Thank God the French exist.” He knows the movie is awful, the worst thing he’s ever done. He had no idea what he was doing, but the French read all kinds of deep meaning into it. There will always be people to love things that don’t make sense because they figure it must be full of secret meaning. I went to school with these people. Didn’t we all?

My point is simple: Unless we are utterly lacking in critical judgment, I doubt the critics actually watched Flypaper. Maybe one guy watched it, didn’t like it, told the others who all followed his leader.

Flypaper is funny. We enjoyed it. It’s up there with some of the Zucker brothers nuttier comedies and a few of Mel Brooks’ later efforts. It’s as good as I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) and the same genre.

We laughed. A comedy should make you laugh. This does.

Flypaper is every bank heist movie you’ve seen with Murphy’s Law running rampant. Absolutely everything that can go wrong does so in the most spectacular way. Parts of the film remind me of Wily Coyote cartoons. You know something’s going to happen, but it doesn’t spoil the joke. The bomb is going to blow everyone to kingdom come. The fancy electronic computer gadgets won’t work. The money in the vault will be drachma, not dollars. You don’t care. The pacing is appropriately frantic, the actors manage to keep straight faces. The dialogue is funny and well-delivered. You have to listen because good lines are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention.

Our favorite bit of dialogue is between two of the older bank robbers complaining that they miss the good old days when all you needed was a gun and a brown paper bag. This in the midst of what could only be called the most catastrophically unsuccessful bank heist ever attempted.

The ending is predictable … or maybe not. It depends how your mind works. If you bump into it on cable or somewhere, give it a look. It’s pretty good. Really. I’m not kidding. I did watch it, including the credits.

Available from Amazon on DVD, Blu-ray, and download, most people who actually watched it liked it. I’m still trying to figure out why the critics were so negative.

The more time I spend writing about movies, the less I understand critics.

The Hobbit With BONUS Middle Earth Flowcharts

Ian McKellen as Gandalf in Peter Jackson's liv...

Ian McKellen as Gandalf

Cate Blanchett portrays Galadriel in The Lord ...

Today I saw The Hobbit. I loved it. I’ve read a lot of complaints about it online and I’m more baffled after seeing it than I was before.

I don’t understand what the problem is. Too long? Too much detail? Really?

Do they really want a shorter movie with less detail? I’m willing to bet that if they got what they wanted, the same people would start bitching about how it’s too short and lacks detail.

There are too many people who aren’t satisfied unless they are complaining about something.

Ignore the whiners for whom nothing will ever be true enough to the book. They should not go to the movies and just reread the book. They don’t get the difference between literature and film as art forms. And don’t even bother to read professional critics. They never like anything really good anyhow. They are on a campaign to remove the fun from film and replace it with pretentious boring stuff that’s closer to torture than entertainment.

If you are a Tolkien fan, go see it. You won’t be disappointed. This recommendation comes from one of the people who invented Fall of Sauron Day and celebrated it faithfully for 20 years without thinking there was anything odd about it.

The Hobbit is a cool movie and you’ll enjoy  it. It’s faithful to the book, beautifully mounted, excellently performed, has some fine renditions of the old Tolkien songbook as well as a couple of new songs … and the magic of Peter Jackson to create a world we wish we could live in.

In the meanwhile, if the plot confuses you, this handy chart can help you understand the chain of events that led to the downfall of Sauron and the saving of (tada) the world.

Emil Johansson of the Lord of the Rings Project has created Gandalf Problem Solving, a humorous flowchart showing various options that Gandalf the wizard had for fixing problems during both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings film series.

You may also remember Emil’s great Dwarves Cheat Sheet. No? Well …

Daily Prompt: The Glacier Quarter – 2011

The Prompt: Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

The question was intriguing. I took up the challenge. I don’t usually bother with daily prompts (this is the first time). I publish too much stuff already and more seems a bit of overkill. Still, this one caught my attention and I wondered what my search would unearth.

My desk yielded nothing useful. The first purse was equally coin-free.  Finally, at the bottom of my bag, a quarter emerged.

It took 10 minutes to read the date on it. It turns out my eyes no long feel inclined to interpret tiny numbers.  The coin — a shiny quarter — celebrates a glacier. It says glacier on it, so I know that much. Which glacier? I felt lucky to decipher the date. Anything more would be pressing my luck. My strained eyes draw a line in the sand at extracting any more information. I wondered where my magnifying glass had gone. It used to be on top of the  desk … maybe it’s buried under several pounds of paper. Time may bring it to the surface. Or not.

Mumford Dam in Uxbridge

Autumn at the Mumford Dam, October 2011

A digression: I grew up in Queens, New York. One of the two or three major east-west arteries in the borough is Hillside Avenue. Even when I was growing up, it was a very busy road, full of cars, trucks and buses. I crossed twice every day, on my way to school and back again. I was hit by a small truck the corner of Hillside and 191st Street when I was 15. We didn’t have cell phones, so I had to beg the grumpy shopkeeper to let me call home so I wouldn’t have to limp up the long hill. I was obviously not going to die, but I was banged up. The driver had stayed around long enough to see me get up off the ground. I wasn’t dead, so he took off. Basic hit and run.

When my father got there, he wanted to know if I’d gotten the license plate number. I said no, I was lying on the ground, not a good angle. Dad was seriously pissed off that I didn’t get the number because, he said, I could have gone to college on the proceeds of a lawsuit. He never asked me how I felt or if I wanted to see a doctor. My mother — who never went to doctor for any reason at all — deduced that I hadn’t broken anything. Good enough, I guess. I limped off to take a bath, vaguely feeling there was something wrong with this picture.

That was in 1962. I was still in High School.

Glacier factoid: Hillside Avenue is where the foreward movement of the glacier that covered the region during the last ice age stopped. Was it a red light?  Hillside Avenue, with its shops, bus stops and endless traffic was also, it would seem, a significant geological and archeological marker. Whenever something is being built along the road, the archeologists and other scientific hunters get to explore it first. They’ve found all kinds of artifact, bones of extinct ice age animals, other stuff. I haven’t heard about any mammoths, but I might have missed it. Just a quarter-mile from home. Weird.

2011: I wasn’t doing much. I’d had cancer the previous year. 2011 was a recovery year. I had a slough of despond from which to emerge and a lot of physical issues to deal with. I also had to come to grips with a significantly changed body. I took a lot of photographs that year and read a lot of books. That pretty much sums up that year. I only remember the pictures because it was a colorful autumn and I have pictures, some of my best foliage shots.

Summing up 2011: If I were going to give the year a title, I’d call it the year I didn’t die. That’ll do.

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Glacial Moraine in Jamaica, Queens

Long Island and Staten Island are products of the last Ice Age when a continental glacier moved south bringing massive amounts of debris from New England. When the ice melted — at Hillside Avenue — the debris was left in huge piles. The hilly southern edge of the pile we call the terminal glacial moraine. Further south (below Hillside Avenue) the land becomes completely flat derived from smaller particles washed of the moraine. The plain was frequently flooded. Between these features, at the foot of the glacier, land is mostly flat but water is still channeled.

Streets like Hillside Avenue and Jamaica Avenue in Queens, and Hyland Blvd. in Staten Island became natural transportation corridors because the lay of the land made it natural.

My elementary school was on Jamaica Avenue. Mammoth bones anyone?

There’s Music In the Air

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I grew up playing the piano. My brother started lessons, but it was obvious he didn’t have an ear for music. I was four. When he finished a lesson, I would sit down and play it with 2 fingers. My mother let Matt go out to play and gave me lessons.

I was pretty good, but never good enough. I got to that frustrating place in the classical music world where I was “almost concert quality.” Almost is surprisingly far from “good enough.”

For my first 18 years, classical music was my world. I played it, hummed it, studied it, listened to it. My friends played instruments, we talked music and went to concerts. When finally knew I would never bridge the gap between concert and “playing well,” I stopped playing at all. For a long time, I just listened to the music of my generation and it was good. The 1960s, the years of Baez and Dylan, the Stones, Beatles, Woodstock … A great time to be young and I joined the party.

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Decades passed. Sometimes I had a piano and would start to practice, get my hands back. I would remember how much I had loved classical music. Then life would close in and more years passed. One day, I heard in my mind’s ear a melody. A theme. Where did I remember that? Oh, I know … that’s the second movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. I bought a boxed set of the symphonies. But didn’t get to listen except in the car. The television was always on, no time for music … and I can’t listen to symphonies while driving. They sweep me away.

Music was tucked away again until last autumn, I got my new Kindle Fire HD. For $6.99 (and I had discount coupons too, so thank you Amazon) with instant delivery by WiFi, I got all of Beethoven‘s symphonies. Every night since, I have drifted off to sleep to the infinitely perfect harmonies of that symphony, floating with the swelling of the orchestra and becoming part of the music. Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. Just click on the video and listen. You might just like it.

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