Thursday, September 22, 2005


First the music:

If you know me, you know I am also a singer/songwriter in the contemporary folk genre. Naturally I am a fan of female singer/songwriters and I have a new love. Kasey Chambers' CD, "Wayward Angel" is the kind of new record I just don't want to stop playing. Remember when you were young and you would get a new album and you would listen to it everyday, over and over, until you knew all the words and could sing along with every song? That is what happened to me with this CD. Then my husband stole it out of my car and I had to fight to get it back.

I don't know anything about the artist and I almost don't want to, because now I have my own idea about her from the songs. She has one of those voices which can go from thin, little girl to soulful to rockin' to warm and sensitive. The styles are contemporary, country, bluegrass, folk and even a hot, sexy blues. Lots of angel imagery, some angst, love, family and just fun. Hot musicians, including the incredible Steuart Smith on electric guitar. Kasey wrote all the songs and the recording was done in Australia.

I don't care. It is just great music.

Rodney Crowell: one of my songwriting heros. I even mention him in my song, "Solstice". Last night we saw him live at The Mint in Los Angeles. His band was amazing with Will Kimbrough and Jed Hughes on guitars. They did a bunch of songs from his new CD, "the outsider" plus many of my favorites from earlier albums. The sound was the usual atrocious mix that The Mint is infamous for. Rodney even stopped the second song and tried to communicate with the soundman. Then he accepted what he obviously had to work with and rocked on.

I haven't seen a band have so much fun performing in a long time. He also did Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone", complete with singalong and we all knew all the words and lost our voices. In between verses he introduced the band, they did blistering solos and oh my god. It was fabulous. Then I bought the new CD and got him to autograph it. What a night!

On to the movies: Two weekends ago we saw "The Four Brothers"; me, my husband and my son. It is set in Detroit, where we are all from, so that was great right there. The "brothers" are foster kids who were adopted by their foster mom. Two are black, two are white, they are now grown and pretty much hoodlums but as their mom says, you should have seen them before she got them. They reunite at their mom's home after she is shot to death in a convenience store in the neighborhood and decide to avenge her death.

Naturally a whole can of worms is opened and it gets to be a crime thriller with plenty of gratuitous violence and blood, but these brothers are so fearless and cool with each other and it is so exciting right up to the end, that I wasn't bothered by it. Plus these boys just really love their mom. Under all that bravado and toughness they are softhearted mama's boys. Charming really. If you aren't afraid of blood, I highly recommend it.

"Word Wars" is an amazing documentary about Scrabble. Made in 2004, it follows four obsessed Scrabble players on the way to and participating in the ultimate Scrabble tournament in San Diego, CA, sponsored by Hasbro who makes the board game. I mean, we play Scrabble fairly often and feel good if we get over 100 points. These guys study the official Scrabble dictionary and memorize hundreds of words (using flash cards!) and get over 400 points regularly. Each one is a special kind of geek. I wouldn't want to be one of them, but I could appreciate the obsession, because I am like that about reading. If I was offered a hugely paying job that would take away my reading time, I would no way take that job.

I've been working my way through all the movies in which Jessica Lange plays a part, from earliest to current. (What would I do without Netflix?) Finally got to 1995 and saw "Losing Isaiah". It has a very young Halle Berry, who was a great actress even then. I thought the screenplay was weak and somewhat unrealistic. Halle plays a crack-addicted teen who has a baby and leaves him in a trash can, finds a fix, passes out, etc. Isaiah is the baby. Jessica Lange plays a social worker who adopts him. The druggie Mom goes through rehab and wants her baby back. Big drama.

Finally I saw "Spanglish" with Adam Sandler and an actress who is famous in Mexico and who reminded me of Penelope Cruz. It is a look at a Mexican single mom in LA, who takes a job as a maid with a rich family and almost loses her daughter to them. Hm. Similar theme to "Losing Isaiah" in a way. The acting is really very good and the daughter gets the best of both worlds because of her mother's commitment to her values and the exposure to the American Way which speeds up her assimilation. Probably not very realistic, in fact very idealistic, but entertaining and not bad, as movies go.


Now I see that my post from two days ago is there plus a new one I wrote tonight, both about the same book. Well I just have to get over being embarassed about not knowing squat and move on. It is an interesting study in how I can write about the same thing on two different days and it comes out differently. You, my faithful readers, get to observe the phenomenon.

Yes, I can do it. I am moving on.


OK, so I haven't posted for a while due to many things. I know one person noticed because she sent me an email about it. If anyone else has been checking for new stuff, thank you for your patience.

I have been reading and have lots of books to write about. I tried a post two nights ago but blogger was having personal problems and it didn't show up on the blog. To their credit, I sent a help (!!!) email to blogger and they answered with their apologies.

On to the books:

About A Boy, by Nick Hornby, was made into a funny, heartwarming movie with Hugh Grant playing the main character, Will. I've seen the movie twice and liked it very well, recommended it to others, but the book is so much better.

As I began reading it, I kept seeing Hugh Grant, which is why I hate seeing a movie before I've read the book. It actually took about 100 pages before I was really in the book and not the movie. In the book, Will's childhood and the reasons for his being the shallow guy he is are explained. Marcus' mom is not such an over the top character but a believable person. Hornby does an excellent job of portraying Marcus as a pre-teen boy who is emerging from the world of his parents and finding his own identity and views. Will does actually grow and change as a character into a guy who is facing real life. It happens because someone needs him and he is able to be of use. That also happens in the movie, but the emotional impact of the book is so much stronger and deeper. And it doesn't have that stupid school talent show stuff AT ALL. Who was the screenwriter and what was he thinking?

Now I have realized that I need to read High Fidelity, because I liked that movie a lot also, but maybe there is more in store for me in the book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I am back home in Los Angeles. I am no longer sick. I have started a new job as a teacher of at risk kids in a very cool private school, just 10 miles from my house (in LA, this is huge. No long freeway drives to get to work.) So that is just to fill in the missing weeks. Meanwhile I was, of course, reading and have lots of books to blog about. I don't know if anyone is reading this because I have not had a comment in a while. If you are reading, please at least say HI.

So About A Boy, by Nick Hornby was made into a successful movie, which I liked very much. ( I am a sucker for stories about people who help messed up kids, because that is my profession. ) I must say though that the book is so much better than the movie. At first, as I was reading, I kept seeing the movie in my head, with Hugh Grant featuring in my mental image pictures. The movie follows the book pretty faithfully at first, with all of Will's sick tactics for getting women, all his shallow ways, etc. But once we meet Marcus's mother, it all veers into a much better and more real vein. The portrayal of Marcus as a pre-teen who is emerging from the world of his parents and finding his own identity is so well done. Will also does actually grow and change as a character into a guy who is facing real life.

The emotional impact of the book is stronger and deeper than the movie. It does not have that really stupid thing with the school talent show at all. Amazing what they do in Hollywood. I am glad I read the book and must give a shout out to the lone male in one of my reading groups who recommended the book.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


I have been silent here for far too long. I have excuses. August was the month from hell for me. I took on way too much work, the most upsetting aspect of which was that I hardly got to read at all.

Then on August 18, my birthday, I got the flu and was in bed for two days. After that, all I could do was go do the tutoring I had booked and go back to bed. That went on for a week. This was all preceded by taking on first a geometry student and then an algebra student, both of whom were in summer school and going at triple speed. I was completely rusty on geometry and not that swift on algebra either, so every minute I wasn't tutoring I was crash coursing myself thru a highschool geometry and then algebra text.

There was a rather amazing outcome for me after all that math study. Usually as I am falling asleep at night, I think about the book I am reading. Sometimes the characters are in my dreams and doing things that they don't do in the book. (Does that sound like it is really time for me to write a novel myself? I think so.) Other times I have realizations about life and people and society. Well, after studying theorems or linear equations or whatever for hours and doing the problems, I started having blinding realizations about life and people and society that looked like advanced math problems applied to life. It was kind of weird. I wondered if that is how the mind of a genius works. The only thing I did wrong is not getting up and writing them down.

On August 26, still coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose, I boarded an airplane and flew to Cincinnati, OH, to visit my son, his wife and my three grandchildren. But my trials and tribulations were not over. Hurricane Katrina was headed for the Ohio River last Monday plus some bonehead had left a tanker car full of styrene (the chemical that is used to make styrofoam) on a siding east of Cincinnati. It went past its use-by date and started venting styrene into the atmosphere. (Highly toxic and carcinogenic and prone to exploding is styrene.) So we were faced with possible evacuation orders. My very sensible son turned to me and said, "Maybe you should just go to Michigan tonight."

The rest of my family lives outside Ann Arbor, MI, so I headed to my Mom's house that night, two days ahead of my scheduled plan. It was for the best. She let me sleep all I wanted, put no demands on me and cooked all kinds of great food. We had fresh tomatoes, zucchini, peppers from the garden and lovely cool weather. I finished getting better.

Tomorrow I fly home and start a new teaching job on Tuesday. It is all good. I will teach at a very small private school which takes kids who have fallen behind grade level and brings them back up where they should be. I will have a class of 10 students of all different ages, just like the one room schoolhouse teachers I used to read about when I was a young girl dreaming of being a teacher someday. And after a 5 hour day, I can go home and READ!!! And then post on my blog. Best of all, they are going to give the geometry and algebra kids to the other teacher. Whew.

So check back soon. I will have more book reviews plus my musings about movies and music. Whatever you do, don't get the flu. Take your vitamins, get enough sleep and think good thoughts. If you used to live in New Orleans, my prayers go out to you.