Saturday, November 30, 2013

I'm sorry, but . . .


I was listening recently to a movie critic review a recent release Twelve Years a Slave.   The virtues of this film was extolled and the words 'Oscar buzz' were suggested but what caught my attention amid the praise was the description of this film as being difficult to watch.  This from a film critic who has seen all manner of crime, horror and suspense films.   It reminded me of the description of a Mel Gibson Film, The Passion of Christ.   A critic ventured that the extreme violence obscured the message.   I heard someone describe it as watching someone be tortured for an hour.  

Sorry, not for me.   I'm not sure if I am meant to feel guilty for sparing myself this distressing experience.    It would be more suitable for perpetrators of such actions to be forced to watched these films, the theory being that they would be remorseful and amend their behaviours.  But since I never have or ever could treat another human being in that way I can't see that any benefit would accrue to me.   Can I go back and change what happened?   Should I abandon my present life and devote myself to eradicating injustice in the world?   Like many, I try to contribute small acts of kindness.

 I feel certain I would not be entertained by the film.  

I am aware that others, many others perhaps, find films like this meaningful, life altering even, and I don't intend to denigrate their point of view at all, only express my own.   I will venture to consider that, like books, there are movies for all kinds of tastes.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013



I've discovered that once I started writing novels I began developing an inner critic as to plot, dialogue and resolutions in other media as well as writing.   That's not entirely true, because as a teacher I seem to have always had an invisible red pencil in my hand.   This dubious talent comes to play even when I'm viewing television shows and I must confess it does impinge slightly on my enjoyment.

I watch the television drama show NCIS quite regularly.   Recently a popular character, Ziva David, recently left the show.   When I heard she was being written out of the program, I found myself thinking this would be a loss and inevitably this led my writer mind to trying to figure out what made this character  unique and intriguing.  What was the key to this character's value?   She was foreign born (Chilean) and played a character from Israel.   She came across as exotic.   She was attractive but didn't seem to care that much about her appearance except that she wanted to stay in good shape physically.   But that was not so that she could be appealing to men, it was so she would be effective in her job and in top form as far as self-defense was concerned.   I have a theory that there is a longing for strong female characters amongst readers and viewers.   She was vulnerable but didn't babble on about her issues.

There was the same under wraps, often hinted but never spoken, love interest with one of the other characters, Tony.   I found this similar to the relationship between Muldar and Scully, the protagonists in the X-files.    Viewers couldn't stop wondering if anything was there or if anything would develop since these two good looking people were in such close, almost intimate, contact in many of the storylines.    In an era where romantic relationships seem to initiate, develop, consummate and conclude in a day, this prolonged semi-courtship but not quite phase seemed at first quaint and ultimately tantalizing.

There's a new female character on NCIS and I found myself considering her with my critical inner eye. My conclusion?   She is too much like the quirky Abby and seems gawky and immature.  But perhaps I'm too harsh.   

I have a theory, though,  that the main  key to NCIS' success is the introduction and development of one-of-a kind characters.   And I'm sticking to it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Simplify . . . but you go first.


We love our stuff.  It doesn't help that it is so easy to accumulate it; the shopping opportunities are everywhere.  Holidays are well established gift giving occasions.   We hope it shows our love.   And for some perverse reason, many things are slow to wear out.   Think about it:   When was the last time you actually wore something out besides socks, which seem prone to developing holes or disappearing in the dryer.  The other  exception would be that dryer and other large appliances which these days seem to have a lifespan of under five years. Socks and large appliances are not so much fun to buy though.

When we move house is usually when we especially notice how many possessions we are responsible for.   It is relatively easy to move the mattresses and sofas--assuming there are several people with sufficient muscles for the task.   But moving the contents of your junk drawer from the built in shelving unit, packing your clothes or worst of all, your kitchen dishes and utensils are onerous tasks.   

We curse, we complain, we blame whoever gave it to us ten Christmases ago.  Sometimes we think about the last time we used it . . . maybe never.   We agonize over whether to keep it or donate it.   We contemplate organizing a garage sale--now there's a task to make you cringe.   But no sooner do we downsize than the urge to upscale our lifestyle and acquire additional accoutrements looms large.  What's the solution?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Travel Light


I like to travel light, in fact carry-on, but this this post on Salon is beyond compare.   I read with fascination how a couple in the very early days of their relationship decided to travel with no luggage whatsoever for twenty-one days, starting in Istanbul.   The absolute essentials included a passport, bank card and, I was relieved to read, deodorant and a toothbrush.   The couple had no particular plans, no travel guide and no change of clothes.   I suspect you need to have youthful stamina to pull it off but there's no doubt that it is a good test of a potential relationship.   They also relied, as Tennessee Williams, in A Streetcar named Desire,  put it so eloquently, on the kindness of strangers.

Saturday, November 16, 2013



From a Writers' Group Prompt  (post title)

"You know, little girl,"   my grandfather started, in that voice he used when he was about to pontificate on this point or that event.   "We're on this earth for a limited time only."

Grandpa leaned back in his chair, tucked his left thumb under his suspender strap and took his pipe out of his mouth with his other hand.  This would usually have been my cue to invent some task or errand that my mother had set on me that I had, until then, forgotten.  But it was just too darn hot in the middle of this July afternoon to think about moving.

"Yessiree,"   he went on,  "it's easy  for you young folks to think you have all the time in the world ahead of you but let me tell you -- you don't."

Grandpa's pipe must have gone out because he leaned forward in his rocker far enough to tap its side on the old Players Tobacco tin that he kept within arms' reach just for that purpose.  Sometimes when he droned on I would sit in frozen fascination, waiting for the rocker to knock the can over and spill a month's worth of ashes on my mother's Persian rug.   It wasn't really Persian, of course, and had been relegated to the front porch when the tasselled ends became unattractively frayed.   But my mother was the type who liked to elevate the standing of her possessions and mention them regularly in conversation like her one Royal Doulton figurine.

I tuned into Grandpa again when I heard him mention the name 'Jeremy', thinking it was the good looking fellow who delivered our town newspaper twice a week.   I could see his  tanned arms flexing as he tossed the paper in a graceful overhead arc, onto the neighbour's porch, four houses down.

"Jeremy and I spent six weeks in basic training . . ." Grandpa was saying.

Oh.   Another Jeremy.

But Grandpa was right about one thing.  Jeremy, who was new to our neighbourhood having moved here at the end of June would be available for a limited time only, especially to an only medium good looking girl.  Once school started in September at Elmwood High, one of the snooty girls in Eloise's gang would be sure to notice his good looks and consider him a suitable candidate.

I stirred myself when Grandpa paused for breath and got a word in edgewise as a headed down the front steps.

"You're so right, Grandpa.   There's only a limited time."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Synonym or antonym or snip it out?



In this post on The Passive Voice, a blog aimed at writers and readers, the writer postulates that the flood of soft core or hardcore erotica or porn (the descriptor depending upon your point of view) has screeched to a halt.  I suspect that is an exaggeration.   There will always be a market, just the size will vary.

 Some writers like to write to the current trend, assuming large profits await and for others it is their preferred genre.    I usually feel like a bit of a voyeur if I happened across a graphic scene in a novel and tend to skim over it.   Especially if the scene goes for for pages, I can't help but wonder how it adds to the plot or character development.   It would/might be pertinent that the couple moved their relationship to a different level but the second by second description seems unnecessary.  

In accordance with my thesis that writers (at least this writer) tend to write what they like to read, be warned there is nothing graphic  in any of my books whatsoever, much as the characters are real people (again, at least to this writer) and hopefully also to my readers.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

This is amusing, but . . .


This won't be a long-winded diatribe on the attack on our personal freedoms caused by the multitude of laws and regulations in place in most countries around the world.   Sometimes humour is the best approach.   You might find this amusing, as I did:  This might be next.  (sorry about the ad at the start--must be another law!)    Bess, it's really beneath you!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Canine non grata?

The title of this post is my attempt at a play on words on the phrase 'personna non grata' -- an unwelcome person or undesirable guest or acquaintance.   Or maybe the title should be:  Love me, love my dog!  What I find annoying is some of the ways that man (or woman's) best friend is treated by various bureaucracies if you attempt to bring your pet to your vacation home, for example.

I recently looked into what is involved in bringing a dog to Panama.    If you looked at a picture of the Panama skyline:


you might think it is Miami but it isn't, it's Panama City.   However, the way the country deals with its canine population is behind its architectural development.  There are many stray, unneutered dogs prowling through garbage on the streets and highways.   There are dog corpses lying in ditches and the sides of highways at times.   The organization Spay Panama has done much work to neuter and spay cats and dogs throughout Panama and has treated thousands of animals with limited resources, dependent entirely on donations.  

But this apathy seems at odds with the requirements to bring to Panama a dog or cat from the U. S. or Canada.   This website The Gringo Guide to Panama has this to say: 

Preparing to move your pet by yourself involves concentrated, almost full-time focus in the weeks prior to your actual move. Most paperwork must be completed within 21 days prior to your departure. If you screw this up, your pet will not be able to go with you, so pay attention!

The writer goes on to give details of the necessary action involving both the office of the Secretary of State (for Americans), the Department of Health and the Panamanian Embassy.  But I must not pick on one country.   Guatemala, for some reason, requires:

Certificate of pedigree legalized by the Guatemalan Consulate at origin.  The certificate expires 30 days from the date of issue.  The pet must enter Guatemala at least 5 days before the expiration date. More details here.

I can't decide if  the situation is laughable or embarrassing.  I can't imagine what difference the pedigree makes.   What if the dog is what used to be called a Heinz 57?

On the other hand, the United Kingdom's requirements can  all be met with one vet visit:

PART A Entry to the UK from other EU Member States and

approved non-EU countries:

For your pet to enter the UK from these countries, you must answer ‘yes’ to the following questions: • Is it microchipped1? • Is it currently vaccinated against rabies?

• Was it vaccinated after it was microchipped and was the rabies vaccination administered as per the vaccine manufacturer’s data sheet?
*    Have you got an EU Pet Passport or Official Veterinary Health Certificate2 from your vet certifying the microchip and vaccination?

 Have at least 21 days passed since it was vaccinated?

 • Are you travelling into the UK with your pet on an approved route with an approved      transport company?    

 Has a vet treated your dog for tapeworm 1-5 days before its arrival in the UK and recorded   the treatment (with exact times) in the passport or Official Health Certificate?

  I wonder  how many pets are left home with friends or relatives or kennels.  Look at this sad face: 


Saturday, November 2, 2013



I consider small cities to be more livable than large ones.   I grew up in a small one, unfortunately now of a large size,  and probably didn't appreciate it enough at the time.   There was a downtown core, easily accessible by bus or car with free or almost free parking.   

Big cities today have a certain qualities in common and generally I don't find them to be positive ones.   The traffic can be horrendous both within and upon approach.   The number of vehicles seeking to enter the city containing commuters on their way to work is in excess of the carrying capacity.   Invariably  the roads have not been added to nor increased in number or width.   Transit has not kept up with the demand for access to the city by the outlying suburbs.

Big cities in Europe tend to get a lot of tourists, especially in the summer.   It is easy for local residents to get fed up or at least frustrated with the added congestion.   Expats moving to foreign cities can also have the effect of driving up real estate prices beyond the reach of the local population.   I was surprised to see a recent segment on a television program called International House Hunters wherein the price of an albeit large condo near the beach in Puerto Vallarta was close to $800,000.00 U.S.D.  The average salary for a Mexico worker is, according to my brief research, around $400 to $500 a month.   Of course, there is considerable variation with airline pilots being the highest paid employees and Mexico City workers are  more highly compensated as are employees of foreign companies.   But my point is that these beach side condos tend to be built for an overseas market.

I've read recently that housing in London, a city that I do like,  has gone up ten to twenty percent in price in the past year as people consider a house or apartment there a better investment than a bank account.   Meanwhile, the workers needed in the City can't afford to live there.   

Livability is an issue around the world it seems.