Tuesday, March 19, 2013

spring break to-do list

Spring break is more fun when the temperature raises above 50 degrees, but alas, that does not seem to be in the cards this week.  Since bike-rides and runs at the track will not be on the docket this break, what shall I do?

My spring break to-do list:

  • hang out with friends
  • sew, sew, sew!
  • plant my garden (inside): tomatoes, (black raspberries), sugar snap peas, and.... ??
  • think about buying a second apple tree because clearly no one else in my neighborhood has one
  • do laundry and pack up winter clothes
  • Lesson plan the rest of the school year
  • Have a pup play date

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Admittedly, I'm late to the party. Newsroom has been getting a lot of acclaim from critics and fans alike, and yet it was only last night I saw my first episode.  I love much of Aaron Sorkin's, work (the West Wing is one of my top 10 favorite shows of all time), but after watching the pitiful Studio 66 on the Sunset Strip and re-watching SportsNight about a year ago only to find that it did not hold up, I was afraid my love for Aaron Sorkin might be forever tarnished if Newsroom fell flat.Would it meet and exceed the perfection of The West Wing? Or, would Sorkin revert to his SportsNight laziness?  I feared the worst. I resisted the show. I didn't have HBO.  So, I'm late to the party.

Whoa, did she just say SportsNight  was lazy and did not hold up?  Why, yes, I did. I love everyone on that show, but when I re-watched it, I noticed a huge problem:  any of the rousing speeches spoken in the show could have been said by any character at any time. These speeches were never written in the voice of the characters who said them. It was almost as if when a speech full of righteous indignation was written, the character to say it was picked out of a hat.  Perhaps I'm being overly harsh, but I challenge you to watch SportsNight marathon style and not agree with me.

With the West Wing, Sorkin had fixed this problem.  Yes, at one time or another all the main characters gave their best shot at leaving their opponents speechless, but they all did so in their own way, using the tone, humor, language of that character's personality.

My verdict: I love Newsroom. It certainly doesn't hit West Wing perfection (a tall order), but it does seem to be the show that SportsNight should have been. The characters are all developed, and when they get mad as hell and they aren't going to take it anymore, they do so in a way that make sense.

Newsroom is a win in my book. I love it!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Movie Review: The Master

Last night I watched The Master, and I was pretty excited to see a thinly veiled look into Scientology.  It stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jaoquin Pheonix, and Amy Adams (all of whom earned Oscar nominations) and was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

When the movie ended, I asked my companions, "So, what what the point? What was the story? Who and what were we supposed to care about?."  I asked because I really did not know, and they had no answer for me either. It's not that the movie was confusing - it was not. It's not that the movie was complicated - it was not. It's that the movie had no actual story, and what the writer clearly intended the story to be was neither developed nor interesting.

Because of previews,  NPR stories, and the title, I thought the story was going to be about the guy who created Scientology: how he gained his followers, what he taught, and how the people around him were affected.  Sadly, this is not what it was about.

A major shortcoming of the film is that far too much time was spent with the Jaoquin Pheonix character (Freddie), a WWII veteran psychologically disturbed alcoholic. The first 30 minutes or so is spent following Freddie for reasons unknown, as he is perhaps the most uninteresting character in the film.  When he finally finds himself in the presence of the Master, I start to hope the movie is going to pick up. Unfortunately it doesn't. While we catch glimpses into the motives of the title character, we never get any deeper into that story, and instead, Anderson focuses on the relationship between the Master and Freddie. That might be fine, but neither the characters nor the relationship between the two evolve, hence, no there is no story. This film is, as I said on FB, "long, boring, pointless."

One thing I found maddening was that there were so many hints that interesting things were happening all around the main story, but we never got to learn about them.  Here are some examples:
  • The Master & his wife. How did they come up with "the cause"? What are their motives in trying to obtain followers. What drives them? 
  • The master's son. Mid-movie he tells Freddie his father is "making it up as he goes along."  We never see the son's struggle with how to fit in to the family without buying into the message. Then, most interestingly, at the end of the movie, the son seems on-board with "the cause."  How did that happen? Why did we not follow this character?
  • The people who follow The Master.  Why are they drawn to him? What about "the cause" speaks to them. How do their families deal with the fact that they are following what some described as "a cult"? To be fair, Anderson may have thought he was writing this story through Freddie. His mistake was picking a character that is rather one dimensional and doesn't grow. Additionally,  he a character that never seems to 100% buy into the cause. The Laura Dern character - who is a true believer for much of the film- would have been a better choice. She has a pivotal moment with the Master in which she questions something and he yells at her. What happened next? Did she grapple with this? Did she accept it? We don't know. This great and powerful scene happened, and then... nothing.
And while many say how great the acting was, rest assured the acting is good despite the fact that the characters are all static. We have no clue what drives these characters and none of their stories are followed in a way that allows us to get any more than a 1 dimensional view of most of them.

The movie was a terrible disappointment. I cannot recommend anyone see it. I spent 2 1/2 hours wondering where the interesting movie shown in the previews was hiding.

Monday, March 04, 2013

yellow dog project

People with friendly outgoing, dogs often don't understand that some dogs shouldn't be approached.  Take my pup, for instance: when a dog approaches us while we are on a walk, Cooper often barks ferociously and lunges towards the dog. The vet says he is trying to protect me, but it's hard to explain that to the dog-owner glaring at me and my dog. Incidentally, it's also hard to explain to Cooper that his protection against the neighbor's Yorkie is not necessary.  This can also be surprising to people who know my dog: he is very sweet and submissive to people, kids, and babies & even has some dog friends. But, he on a walk, he needs space.

I recently learned of this organization - the Yellow Dog Project-  and how they are getting the word out that it should not be assumed that all dogs love to be approached by other dogs and/or people, and I think that is fantastic! If you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on him/his leash, then please do not approach this dog, at least not with out permission. This can help make all dogs & people much safer, but it only works with awareness, so spread the word!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

puppy play date

Cooper is sometimes uneasy around other dogs (which is usually displayed on walks when he's attached to me; the vet says he's protecting me), but he enjoys other pups off-leash. Unfortunately, he hasn't had much opportunity to play with other dogs, so when he does, he is often that kid on the playground that doesn't know any of the schoolyard rules.  I'm trying to fix this, and since my sis-in-law has a new puppy, it seems this is the perfect time to try socializing Cooper a bit more.  So... puppy play date!

My sis-in-law actually brought 2 pups - Connie (hers) and DeMaris (foster pup) for Cooper's 2nd play date with them.. Although Cooper spent a lot of time ignoring the pups, he did interact with them more than he did during play date #1, and he let them play with his toys. All in all, it was a great morning!

 Cooper supervises DeMaris chewing on the bone
 Connie & Cooper check each other out

running around, chasing each other (happily)