Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

TV: Louie Season 4  For those of us who like sitcoms, the ground is a bit thin these days. It used to be the glory days of tv. But now cop and zombie shows rule the roost instead. So thankfully, Louie C.K. came along. He has been doing great work straight across the board, whether on tv, live in standup, in movies, comedy albums--you name it, he's done it in entertainment. This show, much like Seinfeld, uses the grist of his personal and professional life to showcase the comedy of being Louie C.K. a beset every man who happens to be a standup comic with two small girls to raise.

There is one big difference between Louie and Seinfeld and an even earlier inspiration, Woody Allen: Louie was raised Catholic, not Jewish, and, of course, is not much of one these days. So we get a very different slant on his own peculiar kind of moral and ethical code from these other comics.

Like all sitcom males, Louie is a disaster with women and he is a great disaster to watch on the dating or relationship scene.

Charles Grodin plays a doctor in this season and he is as funny as ever. It is so great to see him on a series show. When Grodin is onscreen, no one can touch him comedically, not even Louie. Ellen Burstyn also does a nice turn as an aged Hungarian woman in Louie's apartment building.

I can tell no quality difference between season 4 and the prior three seasons. They are all excellent. It took me about three episodes of season 1 to warm up to him but once I did, I was a hard core fan.

Netflix, Amazon and iTunes all carry Louie. However, Netflix only carries the first three seasons. You'll need Amazon or iTunes to pick up Season 4. You really would be best off seeing the series in order, starting off with season 1. 
I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Film: The Fortune Cookie (1966)
The Golden Triangle of Talent: Wilder, Lemmon and Matthau

Billy Wilder's film stars Jack Lemmon as a photographer who is injured slightly and temporarily at a Cleveland Browns football game. He has one weakness, his ex-wife, whom he would like to get back. Other than that, he is an honest and upright person. He sees his relative, Whiplash Willie (Walter Matthau who won the supporting Oscar for this). WW is an attorney. He seems like a terrible one at first but when he breaks into his arguments, he is rather convincing. He also will do anything to win the case. 

WW plays on Lemmon's weakness by getting in touch with his ex. He tells her about all the money Lemmon could win in a lawsuit against the Browns for personal injury. The ex-wife comes back to town to do her part and WW is off and running with his lawsuit. Lemmon, meanwhile, more the straight man in this film, starts having serious second thoughts because the football player who hit him is taking it badly. But getting back the ex-wife seriously clouds his judgment. This is a great pairing of Matthau and Lemmon, who always shine under Wilder's direction. Far from feeling dated, you will finish this film thinking you haven't seen anything this fresh and original for ages...and you will be right!

Walter Matthau is at his absolute hilarious best in this film. He came close ever afterwards but this is his crowning role.

This film is available on dvd currently. 
I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Novel: The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Tom Perrotta is interested in the bizarre ways religions figure in American life. His last novel, The Abstinence Teacher, was a tour de force involving born again Christians. This time his aim is broader. He is after anyone who reads the Bible. A portion of the Bible contains the Rapture where people are taken (removed from earth) by God shortly before the End of the World. Perrotta turns this belief right on its head by having lots of people disappear, just as foretold, but it is all of the wrong people. The ones taken are just a random hodge podge of people with no saintly characteristics whatsoever.

This off kilter Rapture turns society into chaos for awhile and then as life moves on for the ones left over (or left behind), there are enduring and often hilarious changes in the surviving culture. For example, one minister has a nervous breakdown because he can't handle the fact that he wasn't among those taken. Ultimately, he spends his days investigating scandals involving those who were taken and then publishing those scandals in his mini tabloid which he hawks from street corners.

A new sect pops up called the Guilty Remnant. They don't believe in trying to pick up and continue life as before the unRapture. They believe that the end is nigh and everyone should fatalistically accept that fact, abolish all hope and drive and just wait for the final axe to fall as surely it will any day. The practices of this sect took an incredible amount of wicked wit on Perrotta's part. For one, members of this sect are required to always be smoking a cigarette, even if they hate cigarettes. For another, they don't speak except that electronic communication is ok. You can IM and email but you can't speak in non virtual life. They travel in pairs, like nuns, and shadow the left overs so that they can spoil their attempts to keep on living. Romances in particular propel them into action as hope and joy are taboo.

I could go on and on but I don't want to ruin this for anyone. If any of the above intrigues you, just read it!

This novel is available everywhere in all formats. It airs as a miniseries on HBO starting June 29, 2014. 
I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Music: Consolers of the Lonely by The Raconteurs

I got this album because Jack White became one of the Raconteurs. I expected to only like Jack White. Much to my surprise, I really like the Raconteurs and especially this album. Although Jack's Carolina Drama end tune on this album became my top favorite almost immediately, I soon found that I also was listening to Brendan's Fade to Black quite often. This song made it onto the NPR listeners' top 25 songs for 2008. Then I found that I really like the first track, then the third track, especially with the piano opening and close and so on. Now I listen to all of them and so I am hooked.

This album is available for immediate download at Amazon and iTunes.  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Wild, Wild Senior Memorial Day Weekend

The police barged in here Sunday night-early Monday, after midnight, ready to arrest us for domestic violence. That we had been sound asleep for several hours cut no ice with them nor did the fact that our unit was dark and silent when they approached it. The complainant had called up to report us so we must be guilty was their prevailing mantra. 

They had the wrong condo unit which we managed to establish after twenty minutes of Q&A.  And they went away and some time later left with a woman from a neighboring unit in their squad car.

What worked on getting them out of here? Putting them on the defensive. And I do not mean ranting and swearing at them or threatening them.  I mean buzz words which would cause creeping uneasiness in them: 

"I am 65 years old. I am a cancer patient, hearing impaired, blind in one eye, arthritic.  I am elderly and handicapped and you are making my conditions worse."

"I consider this intrusion as very close to being police harassment."

The next sentence I heard was "We are going to leave now." This was repeated several times as they backed out of our unit and minutes later they found the correct unit. Jim watched the whole thing play out in our front window whereas I was so disgusted that I stayed in bed. 

What has stayed with me since then is how certain they were that we were criminals and how their entire mode of behavior was slanted towards we must be guilty, without even a scintilla of doubt in their demeanor. That is what is frightening. I cannot imagine being so certain about anything.  The world is rife with human error and human maliciousness. What makes a report over the phone in the middle of the night subject to such unwavering belief in its authenticity, validity and veracity? 

While Jim went back to bed, I got onto Google, found the name and email addy of the police chief for our township and sent him an email detailing what had happened. This was not the first call that had been made in our development about this neighbor and I doubted it would be the last. The one thing I could make sure was that the chief would make sure his personnel understood the future consequences of a repeat of this event. Due to the wonder of the internet, I filed a complaint with the police chief within one hour of our police state level intrusion into our private lives and home.

The Chief has investigated and discovered that the numbers were transposed in the dispatch. That does not surprise me but all the more reason the officers should not have taken the report as gospel truth. As I pointed out to the chief:

Your police officers banged on our condo door, waking both my husband and me. We were both asleep. They had the wrong unit for a reported domestic disturbance. They failed to exercise due care to make sure they had the right apartment. They could have verified this with the complainant but they failed to do this. They could have examined the perimeter of the property and noted our unit was both dark and silent.  They failed to do this. They could have checked their records and seen that the complainant has called against the neighbor beneath her more than once. It was this neighbor who was the rightful party. They failed to do this. The police found the right apartment after scaring us half to death and being utterly negligent in finding the correct unit.

There are torts, civil wrongs, covering false arrest and false imprisonment. These torts are worth money damages to the injured victims (us). Thus, injured parties can sue the complainant and the police for these torts and be awarded monetary damages for their distress. Fortunately, this event never went that far. But what if I had been carried away in the squad car and then ended up in a jail cell? 

Personally, I think it would be a lot smarter to approach the problem from the stance of condominium law. Condominiums are much more restrictive in personal ownership rights, uses and abuses. Extensive documentation in the Declarations and By-Laws cover the numerous ways one can be considered in violation and legal action can be taken against the offender on those bases. By contrast, involving the police rarely solves these domestic problems yet can hugely damage innocent third parties caught in the crossfire.

How would you feel if you were a juror on such a case? I would expect jurors to be thinking this could have happened to me and even more so if they were senior citizen jurors evaluating the ordeal of a fellow senior citizen victim. And they would be right too. If it happened to us, they could well be next. That is why none of us can idly stand by when our rights and protections are in jeopardy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Losing One's Head in Versailles

I have been imagining over this long wedding weekend which union might be more doomed, the union of Kim Kardashian & Kanye West or the earlier one of  King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette. Both were enshrined in an obscene amount of glitz at Versailles, which is what links them in my mind. 

I imagine that Kimye (their new combined name) will at least have intact heads which is better than Louis and Marie did but it is hard to see why anyone likes them better. Louis and Marie were reviled for their extravagant lifestyles paid for by the people. One could say Kimye is paid by the people too but one must admit then that it is the people acting as complete fools which makes this lifestyle possible. Of their own free will, people watch, buy or listen to things which make Kimye possible. By contrast, Louis and Marie's followers were forced to do so because of the prevailing doctrine of the day, the divine right of kings. Of course they were illiterate peasants who had never been educated. What is today's Kimye fan's excuse?

Kimye's rehearsal dinner was held at Versailles even though the wedding was in Florence, Italy. This was the opening of festivities below at Versailles for them. 

Kim set the tone of things by having a fight with her brother about he weighed too much for her wedding. This sent him jetting back to the states. Meanwhile, Kanye used both evenings to take to the mike so he could address the wedding guests about his grievances. His tirade went on for at least half an hour at each about how unfairly they are portrayed in the press. 

He particularly resents the skits on Saturday Night Live which make fun of the two of them and especially Kim's complete lack of talent. And to think that historians often describe Louis XVI as oblivious to the seriousness of the events swirling around him. Maybe Versailles has that effect on personalities who have easily inflatable egos.  Kanye also celebrated the empire of the Kardashians. Louis likewise was happy about Marie's relations in the Austrian Empire, whom his people hated. This also helped part his head from his shoulders.

These are Kanye West's exact words from his wedding speech:

They feel like it's okay to put you on the tabloid covers to sell your image, to use you in an SNL spoof. We don't negotiate. We're not like that. We're not stupid.

The Kardashians are an industry!
We are warriors! There is not one person at this table that has not had to defend us at some point or another. At this table ... the combination of powers ... can make the world a better place.
[Kim is the] ideal celebrity...the ideal art.

end of extract, Kanye West speech.

The below is from Saturday Night Live showing the two cast members who play Kimye. These are among the most hilarious sketches SNL has ever done.

Here is one of those sketches for you to go see now here.

To see more of these sketches go here

Interestingly, Kanye performed on this season of SNL. One of his numbers was "I Am A God".  And he wonders why these comics are poking fun at him? This is what the Paste magazine review had to say about his album:

"The low-point on Yeezus, Kanye West’s sixth album, is “I Am A God,” a rhythmically rote electro-buzz that inflates Kanye’s legendary ego to (literally) biblical proportions. That Kanye’s anointed himself as Jesus’ BFF isn’t surprising: After a decade of hip-hop domination and high-profile media spectacles, the dude’s made plenty of enemies—Jesus may be the final person he hasn’t totally pissed off. The song’s (unintentional?) punchline is its underlying paradox: Kanye worships God; Kanye is God; therefore, Kanye worships Kanye. Which sounds about right. "

That Kimye has absolutely no sense of humor or the absurd helps fuel the fire. They take themselves so seriously that they fail to notice the rest of the world and their absurd places in it.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Senior as Daredevil Extraordinaire

At an earlier age milestone, I posed to my lifelong childhood friend Mary the idea that when we were presented with the ultimate bad news by some doctor, end news as it were, we could then take up all the dangerous thrill pursuits we had always avoided. This was my vision of the ultimate loop hole. She understood immediately why I'd come up with this idea. We'd both gone to the same Catholic schools right through high school and there would be no Dr. Kevorkian clone for either of us as suicide is taboo to Catholics (even though I have been lapsed since age 19).

Mary just emailed me about her bum hip. My sister is about to have her throat slit in neck surgery. I am running behind on medical appointments not from lack of diligence but simply because I have so many conditions that I can't keep up with all of them plus the screenings and tests for catching something else early.

So I thought it was time to revisit the idea. If one of these medical hotshots tells me I have Alzheimer's or the cancer reoccurs in say a stage IV, what hobby could I take up which might kill me with a lot more panache? Timing, as they say, is everything. Instead of a pathetic exit, I could have a positively pyrotechnical one!

Thus, it was back to trusty Google to do searches on the ultimate hobby for such a situation. One big help is that the life insurance companies have listed all sports and hobbies which will void your life insurance because they are considered too risky. I immediately found a totally insane sport, Heli-skiing, which qualifies. I didn't even know it existed!

This sport seems to have it all. I am a lousy skier. I can do it but I am terrible and that was before I had bad knees. The minute I set off down the mountain, I would undoubtedly set the avalanche off. I see one potential problem though. If that helicopter can't set down and instead I am expected to be dropped from the plane to the mountain, my fear of heights will make it impossible for me to do so. Short of someone's throwing me out of the helicopter, I will be paralyzed with vertigo.

Big Wave surfing is the next possibility. There are actually people who travel around the world searching for these big waves so as to surf them. On the plus side, I am a good swimmer so I might be able to get out to the wave. Unfortunately, I do not know how to surf and with my bad knees I am a terrible candidate for learning how to surf. I doubt I would even be able to stand up on the board in the water. But talk about panache, this looks great!

Bull Running

In this potentially fatal sport, my knees would actually be working for me as I would not be able to outrun the bulls. However, I imagine a bull goring is extremely painful.  If it did not kill you, the surgery, pain and recovery would be an unbelievable hell.

I then looked at the list as a whole:

Cheerleading? We don't have football or hockey on the list but instead cheerleading?! What in the hell...... I return to Google searching and learn this:

Need I state the obvious? No one is going to recruit me to a cheerleading squad.

This is really beginning to seem hopeless. I give Google one more chance to show me the way. What I uncover gives me pause, for it seems the most likely way for me to die in an accident is in a car crash and increasingly death by cell phone user. Oh, the irony of it!

I read further that Transportation Engineers estimate that 120 die daily in America from vehicle related crashes. This is the equivalent of having four major airline disasters a week.

I guess I better table this idea. Everything I unearth is actually worse than being given the bad medical news in the first place. But it sure would have been great being a daredevil for once, when it no longer mattered. But now I have a far worse prospect ahead of me than dreaded medical pronouncements: my eulogy could actually have as its most salient point that I was killed by my most sworn deadly enemy: a cell phone abuser.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

Music: Stop Making Sense (both audio and video versions) 
David Byrne and the Talking Heads, Jonathan Demme

Seeing this extraordinary concert film of the Talking Heads in performance in 1983, when it first came out, sent me rushing to the record stores where I bought every CD of the Talking Heads ever made, including this one! The two most significant people behind this event were David Byrne, the front man and songwriter for the group, and director Jonathan Demme, who would go on and on to ever bigger heights in the film industry. Byrne crafted some of the most amazing offbeat lyrics with music of vast appeal to those who see themselves as Outsiders. Additionally, the numbers are all sung by the one person capable of delivering these strange new sounds: himself. Byrne also has extraordinary stage presence, which hits its crowning moment when he appears in the "Big Suit." 

If Byrne were a visual artist instead (and he was when he was studying at the Rhode Island School of Design where he met the rest of the band), you would call his work Absurdist and Minimalistic. He makes it all work and with Demme filming the show, it is all caught perfectly. There are other fans who appreciate the other Talking Heads (3 members of the band) as much but it always seemed to me that there were many other musicians who could have filled their shoes. Byrne has continued to grow as a musician and a composer in the years since the band broke up. He quit the rock scene as a younger man's game and went on to compose soundtracks and then expand into other musical genres as well, including music inspired from cultures all over the world.

This album and video is available for instant downloading at Amazon and iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Film: Wild Orchid (1990)

Mickey Rourke, the last of his super sexy movies; ELECTRIC!

Mickey Rourke is a very talented actor and he also used to be very good looking and sexy. His looks crashed due to boxing, plastic surgery and age. But his talent remained intact. This is one of the very last of his movies where he was super sexy and good looking. He pulls off the seemingly impossible here by playing an impotent rich guy in the tropics, who can only watch others, who is ultimately awakened anew by love. In real life, he was in love with the leading lady, Carrie Otis. Their attraction to one another in this film is absolutely electric. In a tropical land, amidst all sorts of shenanigans with the law, these two come together. I believe it was NC17 rated when I saw it. It absolutely sizzles plus is totally romantic. He and Otis were married briefly in real life and then his life headed into a downward spiral. But while it lasted, they were something.

This film is available for instant viewing at Amazon and iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

TV:  Everybody Loves Raymond
terrific sitcom about in laws & family life with fantastic cast

I did not watch this when it was first on tv. I've been watching it now on Amazon Prime Instant Video. I was very surprised at how good it was. The reason for its success is that it is not about just the nuclear family. It puts a very comic spin on the nuclear family by putting his utterly crazy family of father, brother, and mother, right across the street from this family. So they can never get away from the in-laws and they are up to one crazy thing after another. Patricia Heaton as Ray's wife Debra is the voice of sanity (the straight woman) in this show whereas Ray and his family are the comics. They are utterly zany. The brother cop is my personal favorite and the late Peter Boyle as Ray's father is simply outstanding. Ray Romano is an excellent comic and he delivers his comic lines perfectly episode after episode. This was a huge hit when it was on the air and I can see why. As an aside, having been raised in an Italian American family, that aspect of this show hits the bull's eye every time with the particular insanity of life inside such a family. 

This tv series is available for instant viewing at Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Novel: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Classic, Wonderful Sci-Fi Novel-Writing & Narrating Equally Excellent

I listened to this as an audiobook and it was outstanding. This novel won every major award in the science fiction category and rightfully so. Ender Wiggins is sent away to military school at a very early age. He is among other special recruits who are also the only hope for the planet to survive the next war against the aliens. Ender was picked over his siblings by the school despite his also having very talented siblings. Ender is a little boy who should be in early elementary school. This makes it all the more astounding that he engages in daily warfare with his classmates, all of the same age, while also tackling massive academic challenges. 

Meanwhile, his siblings become secret journalists writing for opposite political sides, with one another's knowledge and cooperation, to make their marks on the planet. The story builds towards the inevitable showdown with the aliens. This is beautifully narrated by more than one narrator. I enjoyed the audiobook immensely. There is not an extra word in this novel. This is so refreshing as so many of the newer books seem to lack a real good editing job.

This is available for instant download as an ebook or audiobook at Amazon, iTunes, Audible and the Overdrive Public Library App.  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Seniors Using eBay, Etsy & Amazon

I rarely sell on eBay, Amazon or Etsy today but I still frequently buy there. When we were getting rid of tons of stuff to go into smaller housing, I sold a lot of that stuff on eBay. I've been on all of these entities since the beginning and all of them have changed a great deal. If you too want to be a buyer, there are just a few safety precautions to keep in mind, all of which the sites themselves will send frequent warnings concerning. If you want to sell stuff, it is more complicated but easier than when these places first opened online.  This entry is meant as an overview, not a How-To. There are tons of books and videos to show you the How-To on any of them and I will cite some of those references at the end. This is my second blog entry on this topic, which expands upon my first, which can be read here.

As to the array of goods: eBay sells just about everything all over the world; Etsy sells mainly handmade crafts or their supplies and vintage items; Amazon sells a wide array of goods but you can only sell in Amazon Market Place as an alternative to a good Amazon already has listed for sale (thus requiring no pictures from you as it already has the item listed with picture).

Apps for Mobiles vs. Laptop  For buying on any of these there are excellent free apps for your mobile devices. Selling ones have also been developed but they are often not free and vary in quality. I use the Etsy and eBay apps on my iPad all the time for buying. To set up a sale, however,  I use a laptop on the website via the Chrome browser.

Buying   Basically the only things you need to buy on any of these entities is a source of payment and a street address for delivery. The safest form of payment to use is to set up a PayPal account for using Etsy and eBay. This is tied into your checking account and/or a credit/debit card. For Amazon you need to put a credit or debit card on file. One huge advantage to using PayPal is that whenever I have wanted my money back, I just file a complaint with PayPal, PayPal investigates and thereafter I typically get my money back. The most frequent reason for this is not getting the item or getting a intrinsically flawed item. This happens very infrequently and at no greater rate than it would with any store one uses in the real world. A big bonus has taken place in recent years: now a huge amount of other stores all over the online world also accept PayPal so I rarely have to leave my credit/debit card info anywhere else.

Are the deals good for a buyer? Yes. With just a few exceptions, you can get excellent discounts on most goods. My number one exception to this is electronics. My best electronic buying experiences have been using either the Apple store online or getting into my car and driving to a store and buying the item in person. This covers everything electronic, from tv sets to computers to mobile devices. That is now the only way I buy electronics. I have better luck, for example, going to Walmart in person and buying electronics there than I do buying any electronic item online, except at Apple.

I have recently reached that same point with appliances. I have had such bad luck buying appliances online that this category as well is now in the get in my car and drive there category. I have otherwise bought, at huge discounts, clothing for Jim and me, dishes, art work, art supplies, including fabric and beads, and a wide array of other consumer goods at all three of these etailers. Some of the very best deals are if you are willing to buy outside the USA, from say Thailand or China directly. Any such seller who is on American ebay files everything in English so there is no language barrier and no currency barrier because of PayPal.

Selling: I've sold at all of these and the main way this is profitable is if you have a brand name item which is no longer for sale. Thus, I sold very quickly and at very good prices: Lenox dishes which Lenox no longer sold; a Mosaic jazz recording set which collectors want which is no longer in retail existence; clothing items from designers which would be considered desirable vintage (this actually resells quite well) such as Missoni and Miyake; high quality vintage musical instruments, etc.,. The list goes on but these are things which are easy to sell because lots of people are looking for them. They even set up search alerts so as to be informed instantly when such an item comes on the market. Selling becomes a lot harder and less profitable with most other items.

One also needed, once upon a time, a lot of computer skills in order to sell goods at any of these venues. However, this has become easier and easier so that today the main skill one needs is the ability to take good digital pictures of one's goods. I've taken such pictures with just the camera on an iPhone or iPad so no separate camera is needed.

How To: Your best bet for learning how to sell is by viewing the videos at Lynda. It also has buying videos but buying is a lot simpler. However, if you want to take every safety precaution for buying, then go view those videos too. There are tons of books for sale on using eBay, Etsy and/or Amazon. Amazon carries all of them but so does your OverDrive Library app for free. Libraries have been very good about stocking these ebooks for online library use. These books all have their merits but my number one test is that the book needs to be as current as possible. These sites change so rapidly that materials which are dated by even a few years are hopelessly obsolete.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Inspirational Person of the Month, Renoir

The remarkable thing to me is that though Pierre Auguste Renoir was a very great painter and quite obsessed with his art, he was not a monster to his children as so many great men, much less artists, are. 
Renoir was conscientious with his children. His son Pierre Renoir was an actor and another son, Claude Renoir, was a ceramic artist. 

His most well known son, Jean Renoir, after WWI, would go on to become one of the greatest film directors of the twentieth century, especially for his films Grand Illusion (1937) and Rules of the Game (1939). He would also write a loving biography of his father, Renoir, My Father (1962), in his own older age and then be buried with him.  His father's painting of him as a boy is to the left.

During his own career, Jean had to sell some of his father's paintings to fund his career and he did so without a qualm as his father had perfectly understood his need to find his own muse. The father had earlier tried to help him find a medium, starting him off in ceramics. Jean had also recovered from his injuries in the war at his father's country home in the last years of his life at Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, while his father kept painting all the while. Jean's own son, Alain Renoir, was a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley and a scholar of medieval English literature.

The second thing to admire about the elder Renoir was his utter tenacity in painting despite being afflicted with terrible health and in his hands, no less. In the end part of his life, his rheumatoid arthritis was entirely unrelieved all over his body. Medicine and doctors could do virtually nothing for him from the earlier 1900s till his death in 1919. Few such patients today are in such physical torment as he was. However, he kept painting throughout, even though he was usually in a wheelchair and with his hands wrapped in bandages. His famous nudes in the countryside come from that period as they bathe and frolic in the sun and water of southern France. He cocooned himself among his art, his family and his retainers in southern France and just kept painting. Although he was 78 when he died, he seemed much older because he was so crippled and with such misshapen hands.

Of course the main thing we admire about him is that he was an extraordinary painter and one that is accessible to just about everyone. If an art museum visitor cannot even warm up to a Renoir Impressionist painting, such a person is usually a lost cause for being an art lover. He handled light beautifully and he was one of the few painters to handle women of all sizes. The nudes in those later paintings are all quite Rubenesque.

What got me thinking about Renoir was all the new material being released about painter Lucian Freud who died not long ago at age 88. He was a constant womanizer, begat 14 children with varied women, divorced two women and was a terrible father and husband. Was he a great painter? Yes. Was he better than Renoir? No, plus he was not in constant pain either or a veritable cripple. Freud's model of behavior unfortunately was and is the one more frequently followed. Picasso was downright cruel to his family members as was Chaplin, O'Neill and the vast majority of those in the pantheon of the arts. Renoir broke the mould in all respects as a human being in the arts.

There was a beautiful film made in 2013 about Pierre Auguste Renoir in the end years of his life. It is French language, English subtitles, simply called Renoir

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

Novel: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Edgar mystery winner and rightly so!!!

The Edgar is the biggest award in the mystery genre, as awarded by the Mystery Writers of America. The big winner of the award this year is this novel. It reminds me a lot of To Kill a Mockingbird. This is because it is narrated by a man now grown looking back to the summer of 1961 when he was a kid in the flatlands of the Minnesota River. He was a minister's son whose father was an extraordinary man. He'd been a lawyer before he'd been in WWII and returned wanting to be a minister. His congregation is a small town. He has a wife raised in a rich family who thought she was marrying a lawyer, not a minister, and two sons and one daughter. Back in that summer of 1961, a number of people died. 

But the author is not simply concerned with murders. This is a masterful depiction of fascinating characters in a distinctive part of America. The Minnesota flatlands are small town America with many citizens of mixed Indian and white blood. They still have small town musicales and everyone knows one another and hangs out at the swimming hole during the hot days. But one death after another begins to intrude into this family's and the town's life that summer and it makes for a fascinating story. 

Really, this is not just the best mystery of the year, this is the best book of the year. It is almost a disservice to call it a mystery. The author is well known for writing a mystery series involving a PI who was formerly the sheriff in this same Minnesota country. This, by contrast, is a stand alone novel. The Edgars' awards list is here. All of the nominees are worth reading.

This is available for instant download as an ebook or audiobook at Amazon, iTunes, Audible and the Overdrive Public Library App.  I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

TV: Midsomer Murders BBC Mystery
Excels at juxtaposing bucolic serenity with outright mayhem and murder!

This show does something particularly british. While America has always been known for its noir like mysteries and resulting film noir, the British have always excelled at making one comfortable, cozy and serene, sipping tea in a beautiful garden, and then unleashing murder and mayhem onto that scene. This is so british that no other country even tries copying it as a genre. This show exemplifies what is best in this genre and, best of all, puts satire, farce and humor over the whole rendition. Veteran actors play the detectives to perfection.

Case in Point: one of the episodes turns on a custom from centuries past when the gene pool got too inbred in these English villages. Thus, there would be a stag night when the men would go to another village to have a night with the women there to inject new life into the gene pool. Our intrepid detectives have to solve a case where this practice still occurs and the lead villain wears a stag head--it is an image you will never forget!

Another episode involves a convent and another image which will stay with you always is the younger detective dressed up like a nun to solve a murder at the convent.

I've watched all seasons of this show. They are all fabulous and all hilarious while also being legitimate mysteries. I also read the handful of novels upon which the series is based. They were also quite good but there are only a few of them.

This tv series is available for instant viewing at Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Film: Crime D'Amour aka Love Crime (2010) 
French language with English subtitles

This was such a wonderful viewing experience. The French do such a marvelous job on film, getting nuances down to a story unlike any other country seems able to do. The film is in a business setting with two female executives. The top one is played by Kristin Scott-Thomas, the brunette. She is taking credit for the work of the number two executive, the blonde French actress on the box, Sagnier. When number two starts taking credit for her own work, number one starts fighting dirty, including using a man against her with whom they have both been sleeping. What is number two to do? The answer to this is absolutely fascinating and you will be unable to move away from the screen as the rest of the film unfolds. I just loved this film. If you've had a tough day and need a marvelous escape for the evening, this is the film to watch.

This film is available for instant viewing at Netflix, Amazon and iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Music: Body Heat Soundtrack

I've always loved the film "Body Heat" so I was delighted to buy the soundtrack when it came back on the market in this re-recorded version. It brings the film back into your mind completely as you listen to it. Its main refrain throughout is sultry seduction in the Florida heat via saxophone, piano, violins and so forth, all via the London Symphony Orchestra. It is entirely instrumental. 

I must make one distinction though. Listening to a soundtrack is generally not like listening to a powerhouse soloist who absolutely knocks you out. I love listening to soundtracks but they are quite different from listening to the album of one of the top 100 solo singers or musicians in the world. 

Soundtracks make better mood and background music than theatrical music typically does. This is because the mood and tone remain consistent throughout whereas a live theater show can change pace, tone and mood rapidly. "Body Heat" fits exactly within what one can reasonably expect when buying and listening to a really fine soundtrack. 

If you want to discover whether you even like listening to soundtracks, this would be a good one for you to try as a sample. 

This album is available for instant downloading at Amazon and iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

60 As the New 40 & Me

We recently realized that we have turned into our parents and most especially Jim's parents. It really shouldn't have surprised us but it did.  No one wants to make this discovery after all. It was rather insidious in the way it crept up on us.

Perhaps the reason this really stood out to us was that we are now spending our seniors years in the very same condo where they spent theirs. So when we move around the condo development with our gray hair and lesser stamina levels, we can really see ourselves as them. Frankly, they were in better shape than we are at the same ages and we used to think they were aged and ill a lot! Ha!

We also used to think they spent an inordinate amount of time in doctors' offices. What a joke that seems now as I feel as if I've taken out a lease or an easement in such offices compared to their doctors' visits. 

Jim's parents used to take walks around here and they did quite well together on them. (barn to left is on that walk). However, Jim hates walking with me because I am a slow walker so he bikes and I swim. We both do less exercise than they did. They also were the gardeners in chief here at the condo, year after year churning out the top winning garden of the year. Jim is making a garden this year but it is a lot more modest in scope and size. It is hard to imagine how his folks found the energy to make their masterpiece garden every summer. They also knew everyone who lived here and socialized constantly. We know Rebecca and get together for cocktails every week or so and travel to Trader Joe's together. They did aqua-size in the pool with all of the other seniors plus traveled all over with them.  I get exhausted just thinking about all of it.

Some of their stories from these senior outings were hilarious. I wish my senior time had these moments of hilarity. I could use the comic relief. One of these was an Amtrak journey with the group across the desert with a stop in Las Vegas, among others. Do you think they talked about the wonders of the Grand Canyon when they got back?  Nope, for years all I heard about was the great Las Vegas floor show Nudes On Ice and that it really was tasteful.

On another trip to Myrtle Beach, they all saw Richard Gere and Debra Winger in An Officer & Gentleman. The woman who ran the tour was so outraged by the steaminess of the movie that she got up and left with the bus! The senior group had to finish the movie on their own and then get her on the horn to bring the bus back so they could get back to the motel. I thought what she had done was outrageous but the group didn't even get mad at her.  They just got her to bring the bus back.

So when someone says to me, "Oh, don't you feel so much younger than your mother or grandmother did? Haven't you heard that 60 is the new 40?", I feel as if my head is about to rocket off my body. First, I want to clunk this person over the head with something but I restrain myself. Second, I have had more medical problems at 65 than my mother, Jim's mother and my grandmother rolled into one.  They were all balls of energy at 65 with hardly a day of sickness to keep them down, much less cancer and other maladies. 

So, no, I do not believe that people in their 60s now are more like people used to be decades ago in their 40s. Evolution does not change people in the space of several decades. Yes, more people are living longer but that does not mean we are an improved species! Evolution is a much, much slower process. Although I do like the above illustration which shows man with his cell phone may be moving backwards, as he becomes once again more ape like.

The only consolation I have is that my sister, who is seven years younger than I, is spending even more time in doctors' offices than I am.

It is now a weekly event for the two of us to trade medical news. Last week I emailed my sister my colonoscopy polyp report while she emailed me a YouTube video of her upcoming neck surgery. First, her surgeons will literally slit her throat, as if they are murderers, and then they will converge on her like a bunch of welders to fuse a new piece to the neck portion of her spine. If you want to see the animated illustrated neck surgery movie go here

For my part, I may go back to being 12 and just resume reading my comic books but with a medical slant, hoping for a super hero or heroine to save the day or that I will become such a creature. This plan certainly is not any less idiotic than stumbling around here with my bad knees informing all and sundry that I am the new 40.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Free Movies & TV Available Online

Late Breaking News: Those of us on Apple mobile devices have long been enjoying free streaming video on Amazon Instant video due to our Prime memberships. Now there is a way for those of you with android mobiles to access Amazon Instant Video, which is explained here.

Today's Entry: Are you spending a fortune on your entertainment? Would you like to take your movie/tv cost down either substantially or to zero? I've got a way and it is one that is growing by leaps and bounds.

I just spent awhile browsing through my Clevnet online movies and the selection was incredibly better from when I had looked a mere month ago. I am not a resident of Cleveland so thereby seemingly not eligible for using our best regional library, the Cleveland Public Library. But because it joined a consortium of libraries in northern Ohio, I became eligible because of member libraries of Summit County, where I am a resident. So you too may be eligible for a much better library system than you are currently using because you have not checked out library consortiums in your region. I also belong to other library systems but this is my default one because the selection is so extensive for all materials.

My friend and neighbor Rebecca was using the far less robust Summit County library until I told her that the sleepy little library in Peninsula, nestled in the national park adjacent to us, was a member of the Clevnet consortium.  Do not judge a library by its building!

I have already published a blog entry on the overdrive application for your laptop, desktop or mobile device here. So this entry will not focus on how to use that feature. If you are still having set up problems, go to your library and have a librarian help you set it up. Take in your laptop or mobile device with you for direct assistance on it. Once you are set up, the rest should be easy.

Okay, so now let's take a look as to what is actually there as movies/tv and how to find other movies/tv to watch. I will revisit this topic so we will just cover some aspects today so as not to overwhelm you.

The most important page is the opening page, above, of all of the library's newest items and I can spot winners right away. Solitary Man, for one, is a terrific movie starring Michael Douglas. I want to see the David Rakoff one, I Am Bad, so on my own screen I will press the bookmark underneath it to put it onto my Lists of items to rent. This opening page leads you into the rest of the new video collection. On the far right are the words View More. Click on that and you are taken to the complete new video collection.

We now have a series of filters, above, offered on the left. I choose subject by clicking the plus sign next to it. The subject box opens and inside of it, I select Thriller.

Above is the start of my 57 Thriller choices as movies or tv shows which are among New Videos. Note the word Thriller in the upper left column as the Applied Filter to my search.

Later, when I have left Thriller and am back in the New Streaming Video Collection, I also notice a picture of Inspector Morse. I explain what I do to find more Morse below this image.

We need to follow my arrows on the above image. On the top left, we start off on the new video page on Clevnet's opening Overdrive page. I notice that it now has the UK's Inspector Morse tv series. I click on one of them and the arrow takes me to the bottom left image. There I can go ahead and check out that Morse episode right away or I could instead (follow arrow pointing to right) click on Inspector Morse. I do the second choice and the clickable link to Inspector Morse brings up everything that Clevnet has available on Inspector Morse. There are many more video episodes as well as Morse ebooks and audiobooks. These Morse items are also for a price available on Amazon, iTunes and Netflix Streaming but now you have a free alternative.

As I find things which interest me, I press the little bookmark underneath each item. Those items are filed in Lists under my Account.  So I click on Account (on top of every page) and this is what I see, below.

Above is my account, the Lists section. By putting them in here I am doing a My List like I use in Netflix or Wishlist on Amazon Instant Video. When I check these out, I have 7 days to view them. I do not have to worry about its eating up space on my mobile device to watch as the item will stream.  Thus I do need a broadband internet connection in order to watch. With the ebooks and audiobooks I download so that I do not need a connection once I have them on my device.

The next time I revisit this topic we will discover how to find the entire video collection at Clevnet. I noticed Clevnet has a substantial help section for its digital materials. You may want to see if your library has the same, see below.