Monthly Archives: January 2013

My Little Addiction

The ice storm cometh…or not. The roads are brined and people are (or were earlier) rushing to the grocery or convenience store to get those well known favorites of milk, bread and eggs, but the skies are just that flat gray. No wind that I can see, and the local weatherperson assures us that there will be warmer temps and rain later this afternoon. And tomorrow. No comfort in football playoffs either. The Superbowl is next week, and I’m pretty sure I missed the championship for US Ice Dancing, so what to do?
I have a list of chores waiting, but it’s a Sunday and I know they can wait until tomorrow. I’m in the middle of a really good read by Dana Stabenow. I like to savor her Kate Shugak stories, so that’s an option for later today with some great tea and a scone. Anticipation is a wonderful thing. So something more visual perhaps? Somewhere in my cabinet there must be a movie I can lose myself in. I can hear the people who know me laughing their heads off. My “cabinet” is more like three bookcases, the entire bottom shelf of the entertainment center, and a stack of box sets on the floor. I am a DVD junkie. If there were meetings (Hello, my name is Maryann and I am a video-holic) I’d have to go.
Blame growing up in an era that spawned “Dialing For Dollars” afternoon movies, free (or very cheap) Saturday movies (think those old serials…Perils of Pauline, Our Little Rascals) and no ratings. Classic movies, Sherlock Holmes on Saturday mornings, Sandra Dee and James Darren in Gidget, all available for the price of half my weekly allowance. Popcorn was a quarter, soft drinks a dime, refills were free. The movies of the thirties and forties were parceled out between TV commercials for local businesses; the current hits had no commercials at all unless you consider the “Let’s go out to the lobby” call to buy more goodies a commercial. And Disney had a new movie EVERY Christmas season. It was sad to know that once a movie was no longer shown on television it could disappear into a dark vault somewhere. God bless VHS!
Our first VCR was a monster, the second less so and more user friendly. We taped programs we couldn’t watch at their regular times, my favorite soap operas, and joined the local video rental store. As the technology became more affordable, more and more movies ended up on tape. And I had them. Still do, at least the ones that didn’t twist themselves into oblivion, break after repeated viewings, or get donated to the library. VHS evidently was not forever.
DVDs came along just as our VCR was hiccupping into old age. It was a slow start, but we still had that membership (now with Blockbuster) and rented more than we bought. Then the old movies came out on those shiny discs and I was hooked. It Happened One Night, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, all became part of my burgeoning addiction. New movies too. Guilty pleasures like Sleepless in Seattle, Brigadoon, and epics like Star Wars. Favorite movies I could rewatch without renting. Cool. I had it under control, or so I thought. Enter the age of BBC and TV Box sets. Everything from Are you Being Served to Zen, from NCIS to Rocky & Bullwinkle sits nicely placed in my bookcases, waiting for me to pick. And I do, some more than others depending on my mood.
So, the question is…what to watch? And the winner is… BBC’s North & South! ArmitageRichard Armitage is suitably flawed in this mini-series, the setting is the north of England (where the sun never seems to shine in stories like this one), and it never disappoints me. After that? Who knows? Now excuse me, please. I have to go find my remote.


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A Tolkien of My Affection

I want to be a Hobbit. No, I don’t have hairy feet nor do I have the semi-pointy ears sported by Bilbo Baggins and his kin. What I do have is a tendency to be overlooked, an affinity for mushrooms, and an appreciation for a rollicking good story. And I seem to be growing shorter each year. I blame it all on J.R.R. Tolkien.
I discovered Middle Earth during Winter Finals Week my junior year in college. One of my floor-mates had read Tolkien for her English class and handed me The Hobbit. “Take a break”, she said. I did, read it straight through, and was hooked.
Over the years, I’ve read all four books more times than I can remember. It is still a pleasure to slip into Tolkien’s world and follow the Baggins Boys on their quests. And each time I read, I seem to discover something previously unnoticed. It wasn’t until four reads in that I realized Aragorn was the mysterious stranger who slipped over the walls of Bree after Frodo and his band arrived on that dark, rainy night. Being of a certain age, I could see certain parallels drawn to 20th century events. Intended or not, those parallels started many a thought process.
When Peter Jackson announced his plans to film The Lord of the Rings, I wondered if he would be able to make Middle Earth a reality for Tolkien fans. For me, he did. Of course there were omissions…Tom Bombadil never made an appearance, although the Hobbit-eating Willow showed up in the forest of the Ents. Saruman was left in his tower to molder away, not murdered on the road to Hobbiton…but the best remained. Just my humble movie-goer opinion of course. I went back and read the books again, this time with visions of characters, places, and events nicely fleshed out in my mind.
I was impatient to see The Hobbit. You see, I think Bilbo’s story was simpler but every bit as important in the grand scheme. He was after all the one who found (although some say ‘stole’) the One Ring and set the rest of the story on its way. It was one prequel that needed to be visualized. And again, I was not disappointed. Of course, we’re only 1/3 of the way through Bilbo’s Adventure as conceived by Peter Jackson, but I had a wondrous time meeting a more carefree (at first) Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield and his crew, and seeing a bit more of the creatures of Middle Earth.
I thought about ‘why’ Jackson left The Hobbit for last and came up with enough reasons to fill a small pamphlet. In the end I decided the ‘why’ doesn’t matter as much as the fact that he gives us three more chances to journey along with Mr. Baggins and Gandalf. “In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit…” begins one of the greatest sagas I know.

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Sharing a Good Read

I may have mentioned that I’m a reader as well as a writer (as yet unpublished) of mysteries. I enjoy reading my favorites over again but also relish the thought of finding an author I’ve never read before. When I find a good one, I want to share. And I do.

“And She Was” is a song written by David Byrne of The Talking Heads in 1985. It’s also the title of a very intriguing mystery authored by Alison Gaylin. Gaylin’s protagonist Brenna Spector is a rarity in human beings. She is blessed with (or suffers from) Hyperthymestic Syndrome, sometimes called perfect autobiographical memory—being able to remember any date in her lifetime and relive it, complete with all five senses.
Brenna was young when her older sister Clea went missing. She remembers everything about that day, including the fact that Clea made her promise “not to tell”. Brenna still believes in her heart that Clea is alive and owes her choice of profession to that belief, becoming a private investigator specializing in locating people who have disappeared. One such case almost ends her life.
Iris Neff is a cold case on the books of the Tarry Ridge Police Department until a woman named Carol Wentz enters a Missing Persons chat room pretending to be her mother Lydia, asking for help after all these years. One of the women in the room, having used Brenna Spector to locate a missing husband, gives Carol Brenna’s contact information. Carol is found dead with that information still in her pocket. Through a series of phone calls, Brenna ends up working for Nelson Wentz, husband of Carol and prime suspect in her death. Brenna discovers secrets both kept from each other, including Carol’s obsession with Iris Neff and her panic after a late night phone call from a young girl. The police feel they have the killer, but Brenna sees loose ends that connect to the Neff case and convinces Detective Morasco to get involved as well in her quest to find out what really happened, not only to the Wentz family but to Iris and her mother Lydia, now also missing.
Alison Gaylin is particularly adept at weaving a compelling and complex tale; ordinary people with not so ordinary secrets and an investigator who battles her own memories to keep them from getting in the way of the present. There is not one nonessential character in this tale. Everyone has a reason for being where they are, and it is intriguing to ferret out their connections to each other just as Brenna does. “And She Was” is a wonderful way to start a series. I look forward to the second installment.

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Talkin’ About a Resolution

When I was a child, making New Year’s Resolutions was a thing that grown-ups did and it didn’t sound like fun. Lose ten pounds. Quit smoking. Go to church every Sunday. Get up ten minutes earlier and get to work on time. No adult of my limited acquaintance ever proposed to do something for which I would have sacrificed my allowance. Take a longer vacation. Play longer on sunny days. Take the kids to ball games or the zoo or the movies. Resolution-making seemed one part of adulthood I’d rather avoid. And I have. Until now.

Of course if someone asked me “What’s your New Year’s Resolution?” I might mumble about losing weight…because I DO try to do that, only not because it is New Year’s, so that doesn’t count. And I DID quit smoking, but not because of New Year’s. It was my wedding gift to my daughter. Making promises I end up breaking is not my style. I don’t like to fail, and I hate to feel guilty, so I try not to make promises at all unless they’re a done deal. When I do promise something, I do my best to make sure to make that promise happen. Again, that’s me, hopefully always a person of my word. But this year is different for several reasons.

I’m getting older. So are we all. But I know that I need to promise myself to take care of myself. Resolution #1. Walking, eating healthy, getting my rest, taking deep breaths.

Work is a necessity whether at home or ‘abroad’. My mind stays sharper. My attitude stays younger. Resolution #2. Stay active, keep a positive attitude as much as humanly possible, leave your work at work and your personal efforts where they belong.

Keeping the faith. It doesn’t matter what religion, if any, a person has. It matters that they adhere to basics and try to live their lives accordingly. Do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Resolution #3. Speak kindly, be slow to anger, and forgive as much as I can. No one is perfect. Not even me.

That matter of control. There’s a lot to be said about not worrying about those things we can’t control and focusing on those we can. Resolution #4. Work on fixing those things I can to the best of my ability. Ask for help when I need it. Do not ignore those uncontrollable things. Some of them can be fixed if we work together. Some.

Taking life one day at a time. None of us knows exactly what the future will bring, not even tomorrow in a lot of cases. Resolution #5. Don’t borrow trouble or spend time creating “what ifs” unless I’m also thinking of solutions. This one goes hand in hand with #4.

Last but not least, loving yourself. Loving yourself warts and all helps you to love others. Resolution #6. Judge people carefully. Get to know them for who they are. Treasure old friends, make new ones, and keep them close to your heart alongside family. Because in a way they are.

Not one of these resolutions will ever be truly completed but that’s not a bad thing. They’re works in progress. So am I. Happy 2013!

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