Friday, August 30, 2013

Stanley Tucci Smile

I love me some Stanley Tucci.  Always have.  I think he's a smart actor and he usually makes really good choices ("Space Chimps 2", "Burlesque" and "Jack the Giant Slayer" notwithstanding).  I like him every time I see him.

Recently, The BF and I watched our copy of "The Hunger Games" in which Tucci plays Caesar Flickerman, the on-air personality that hosts and commentates on the games during their runs.  And when I saw Tucci in character during this movie, I kept wondering what was so different about his face from his normal, handsome mug.  I remember he discussed the use of "lifts", which are something like very strong pieces of tape used to pull the skin back and are then hidden under the wig.  And since I was already aware of that, I knew that wasn't it.  It puzzled me for a long time, and then it hit me:  his smile.  Or, rather, his smirk.

A quick Google image check of Tucci and you will notice that he rarely smiles showing his teeth.  He is a closed smiler (it's a real thing).  The website, She Knows Love, (don't ask how I know about it), says that men who are closed smilers could be men who don't like their teeth.  But to jank up the tabloid factor, SKL also says that closed smilers could be hiding something from you or just be  out-and-out lying about something.  But then, isn't that what actors do??

In the rare photo of Tucci smiling with teeth, it does look like his teeth are a little small, which I guess is what makes Flickerman's choppers seem so incredibly big on Tucci's face.

I'm looking forward to "Catching Fire" and the other projects with which Tucci is involved.  Teeth or no teeth, he remains one of my favorite living actors. 

Plus he's married to Emily Blunt's sister, so how cool is that!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Freedom Fries

The recent practice by gay bars of boycotting Stoli Vodka to protest Russia's anti-gay policies, despite the fact that Stoli has been a longtime supporter of gays and gay events across the country, caused me to  think back about 11 or 12 years ago when America was being... well, American... and doing what it does best:  protesting something we didn't completely think through beforehand.  I know there are lots of choices on this subject, but this time, I am speaking specifically about the issue that started in the Capitol cafeteria.  The concept stretched across the United States where businesses and communities were in opposition to France's opposition of the US's opposition to Iraq: changing the name of french fries to freedom fries.

This change in nomenclature was another in a string of hollow symbolic gestures performed by Americans to show how patriotic we are.  We purchased bottles of French wine and dumped them out, apparently harkening back to the idealism of the Boston Tea Party (despite the fact that the tea was actually stolen and not purchased).  French toast became freedom toast.  And the Paris Las Vegas Hotel, which was built to look like Paris, removed all France's flags for three months in protest (but they left the 540 foot Eiffel Tower in place - I guess you really can put a price on patriotism).

But what gets me are the fries.  In order to strike back at the French for not supporting our war in Iraq, we changed the name of a product that is grown in Idaho and was invented in Belgium.  We protested a country by taking a stand against something that had nothing to do with that country.  But since we were protesting France, not for their opposition to freedom but for their opposition to the war, shouldn't we have called them Terrorist Fries?  Or Weapons of Mass Destruction Fries?  Given the fat content and the fact that Americans are the most obese people of all first world countries per capita, WMD fries would probably be a very appropriate name.

I think a good assignment for any cub reporter today would be to do some research on those businesses that adamantly changed the name from french fries to freedom fries, and revisit those businesses to find out if they stuck with that name.  And if they didn't stick with it, find out when they changed the name back to french fries and, more importantly, why.  And find out if those businesses showed any real support for the troops by sending care packages or supplies to the troops, rather than just change the name of a side dish.

America, stop being stupid.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Honor Thy Mother and Thy Father

Just a shout out to my parents on their 52nd wedding anniversary today.  The following is the speech I gave at their 50th anniversary: 

This day was not supposed to come.   My upbringing didn’t prepare me for this day.  We were never supposed to celebrate Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary, because Dad wasn’t supposed to live long enough to see this day.  Now, that’s not me being mean or speaking out of turn.  The truth is that for all of Dad’s life, the odds were stacked against him – even from the very beginning.  He did not come into this world easily.  His mother was 15 years old when she gave birth to the first of her five children - a premature, underweight baby in a nowhere place called Deal, PA.  Dad was born a “Blue Baby”, a newborn whose blood is not oxygenated enough.  I don’t think we know how much Dad actually weighed at birth, or even how long he was . . . but his first bed was a sewing machine drawer.  Against all those odds, scrappy little Dad survived and grew.  But then, so did his obstacles.
He’s had more than a few scrapes in his life.  He once cut the end off of a finger.  He once didn’t duck fast enough while running through a low doorway and tore the top of his head open.  He once had surgical eye implants.  He once had two back-to-back surgeries – one quintuple bypass, the other on his intestines that had spent years turning gangrene.  And in case you didn’t know this, Dad’s been a bit of a smoker for more than the better part of his life.  See, he wasn’t supposed to live long enough to meet his first grandchild, let alone see the birth of his first great-grandchild 27 years later.  The point is, Dad has defied the odds his entire life and is here today to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his wedding date.  We threw them a party for their 25th Anniversary, because THIS day was not supposed to come.  We threw a party 10 years ago for their 40th Anniversary because this day was not supposed to come.   

On June 23rd of this year, Dad turned 74 years old.  Even though that’s still not THAT old, and despite everything, he’s outlived his father, who died at the age of 57, and has more than doubled the life span of his mother, who died at the age of 34.  He’s outlived both sets of grandparents and all 8 great-grandparents. 

But as impressive as this is, I do not totally credit Dad for this.  Because for more than 50 years, Dad has had Mom in his life, trying to make sure that despite his best efforts, he was as relatively healthy as he could be.   She’s been the brakes to his speeding car, the kill to his buzz, the pooper to his party.  She was the one who always knew when enough was enough.  

It’s never easy and rarely fun to always be the “responsible one”.  Every daredevil needs a soft place to land and who’s any softer than Mom? (Rim shot)  To him, she’s been the girl he wanted, the wife he needed, and the mother he no longer had.  I wonder who he would have been without her.  She’s kept him healthy and happy, and been possibly the best wife, mother, grandmother, and soon to be great-grandmother that God has placed on the planet.  She is the sun in the Troutman solar system, and we are merely planets orbiting around her.  

Now Mom, in sharp contrast to Dad, was not born to a teenager.  Her mother was a baby-making professional, having already given birth 6 times before Mom came along.  The 7th of 9 children, Mom grew up in a two-bedroom house: girls in one room, boys in the other, and her parents probably – if they were smart – slept in the car.  And despite a gall bladder surgery, giving birth a few times, and super-gluing her fingers together, Mom has lived a relatively healthy life, free from the more harsh obstacles that have plagued Dad. 

I’m not naive enough to think my parents’ marriage was perfect.  I doubt you can get married in your late teens and stay married for 50 years without some huge disappointments along the way.  But the real “perfection” is the fact that they worked through whatever those disappointments were, to only come out stronger on the other side. They started a journey, made promises to each other, and stayed together through better and worse, richer and poorer, and in Dad’s case – sickness and health.

I never thought I would be lucky enough to not only have both of my parents in my life for all of my 47 years, but for them to still be married and in love with each other.  I’m grateful to God for His blessing.  I’m grateful to Dad for hanging in there.  And I am grateful to Mom, who I truly believe made it all possible.  

This day was not supposed to come.  But I am humbly thankful that it did.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Titanic 2.0

So wait...

There's some rich dude in Australia who has nothing better to spend his money on than a full scale replica - furnished and all - of the RMS Titanic?  And I am just now hearing about it?

It seems dude (businessman Clive Palmer) has even created his own cruise line called Blue Star Line, a tip of the hat to the original Titanic's company, White Star Line.  The new version of the ship is being built in China and is scheduled to make its maiden voyage in April 2016, mirroring the same trek the original ocean liner made from Southampton to New York.  I'm not altogether sure how I feel about this.  It seems like it will be just one big, really expensive Disney ride.  The real joy of history is to "walk in the footsteps of". 

I'm personally not a fan of recreations.  If I am standing in a room where, I am told,  Washington or Lincoln once stood, I want to be sure I am looking at the same things they were, perhaps standing on the same floor if that's possible.  During a visit to Springfield, IL a few years ago, I paid a visit to the Old State Capitol in downtown.  I was standing in Representatives Hall, the room where Lincoln delivered his infamous "House Divided" speech; even being told by the guide where Lincoln had sat while he was a state representative.  It wasn't until a person on the tour asked about changes to the building that the guide admitted that while the original stone exterior was stored and rebuilt, the interior was completely reconstructed in 1966.  I instantly felt shafted.  I was not, after all, standing in the same room as Lincoln; that room had been demolished.  The authenticity was compromised.

So now I wonder how Titanic II is going work out.  I think it will only really work if everyone was told that they could only dress in period costumes for the duration of the cruise.  Something will be spoiled by being on the deck of the Titanic, surrounded by the images we've only ever seen in photographs, and seeing a teenager in a Bieber tee shirt texting on her iPhone.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Booth Cemetery Plot

During my recent trip back to Maryland, I made a quick sidestep into Baltimore to see the Booth Family plot in Green Mount Cemetery.  All who know me know of my fascination with Abraham Lincoln, specifically the event of his assassination and the days both leading up to and following.  For years, I have been absorbing as much information as possible: reading books, visiting locations, talking to other assassinationphiles.  The more I learn about the event, the more questions arise about more than meets the eye.  Lately, my interest has been re-piqued by a new blog I found called BoothieBarn.  The owner/author of the blog is a school teacher who believes that all of us who are interested in this topic should be known as "Boothies" after the assassin, John Wilkes Booth - said to be the most handsome man in America at the time.  The BoothieBarn site is chock full of information that I devoured in one afternoon.

But back to my trip to the cemetery.  Immediately after JWB's body was recovered and his autopsy complete, he was buried under a floor in the Old Washington Arsenal Penitentiary, a site now occupied by Fort McNair in SW Washington, DC.  Four years following the assassination, JWB's older brother, Edwin Booth, petitioned then-President Andrew Johnson in 1869 for the body so that it could be interred in the Booth family plot in Green Mount, a 20' x 30' plot of land which houses 4 generations of the Booth family.  Johnson, knowing he would not be re-elected to the presidency, permitted the transference.  JWB's body was buried in the middle of the night without fanfare of any kind in an unmarked section of the plot for fear of both retribution or celebration.

Most people erroneously believe that JWB is buried to the far lower left of the plot. Check out the photo and you will see a small, unmarked tombstone in the lower left corner of the plot, with flowers and some sardonic pennies sitting on top of it.  When I visited, there was even a note from someone placed at that stone - a note from a woman, forgiving JWB for his actions.  What these same people don't realize is that this particular stone is actually the footstone for JWB and Edwin's sister, Asia.  Each grave in this plot has a headstone and a footstone.  Asia's headstone is in the lower center with a cross.  To the right of her headstone are the footstones for Junius Brutus and MaryAnn Booth, the parents of the Booth children.  Others buried in this plot are children Rosalie Booth and Joseph Booth, and Joseph's wife Cora and son, Edwin (named after Joseph, Asia, and JWB's older brother).  Also here is Richard Booth, Junius' British father, and three Booth children who died of cholera, were previously buried on the family farm in Harford County, MD, but later moved here: Mary Ann, Elizabeth, and Frederick - all three in unmarked graves.

However, other assassination scholars, including information on BoothieBarn, will tell you that while JWB's name does appear on the Booth Family tombstone, his grave is actually not marked.  JWB is believed to be buried behind the obelisk in the patch of grass with no other form of acknowledgment.

And while I was standing in that space the other day, I experienced a feeling I never had in a cemetery before.  Now, I've been in LOTS of cemeteries.  I've been researching my dad's family tree for about 10 years and with the exception of court records, tombstones are the most reliable sources of names and dates.  But while standing in this space, I realized that as fictional or real John Wilkes Booth has always been to me, I was now standing just 6 or so feet away from him.  It struck me that despite him dying 99 years before I was even born, his body and mine were now only a few feet apart.  I had never had that realization before.

It was amazing. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Welcome To Miami!

Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing my opinions about Miami and what we have experienced since our relocation here on June 1st.  Today though, the 1972 Miami Dolphins team is visiting The White House for its official Super Bowl Congratulations, which brings up one such issue we have experienced here:  Miami Time.  The fact that accolades are being lauded to the Dolphins 40 years after their victory is demonstrative to how long it takes to get anything done in this town.  The word maƱana (Spanish for "tomorrow") is a very popular word here. 

There is absolutely no rush to get anything done here.  For example: I scheduled to have our cable and internet installed in our new apartment the same day we moved in.  I was very clear that it was an installation.  The technician arrived 4 hours late without any of the equipment he needed to perform the install - despite the appointment being an INSTALLATION.  He came back the next day to install as I was unpacking.  After he left, I realized the remote didn't work properly.  It took exactly 1 week to get another remote.  

I know, I know - first world problems!  But still...

It took The BF several days to get the key fob to properly work for the parking garage, despite him making several phone calls each day about the subject.  And last week, I got a call about a resume I submitted the first week of June.

There are many more examples of how no one here seems to think timely response of any kind is of value.  And it's almost as if Miamians think it's cute or something.  Because if you do complain about anything, you hear the infuriating retort, "Welcome to Miami!"

And we (The BF and I) are not the only ones who experience this.  My new doctor who hails from DC mentioned it to me in our appointment last week.  The pharmacist at CVS who moved to Miami from Chicago in January also finds it frustrating.  And The BF's boss, who moved here earlier this year from New York, is also baffled by how anything gets done here.  So if you are a transplant from any place else in the country, you'll most likely find Miami's schedule off by several days.   

I guess eventually we will adjust to it, perhaps sooner than later.  After all, I wrote this post last Wednesday and I am only getting around to posting it today.  

Welcome to Miami!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tie A Yellow Ribbon

This weekend, I am heading back to Maryland to see my family for the first time since March.  Since then, I
  • Saw the pre-Broadway runs of "Jekyll & Hyde" and "Big Fish", as well as the national tours of "Anything Goes", "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Catch Me If You Can"
  • Visited Miami for the first time
  • Fought the flu
  • Fired an employee and hired my replacement
  • Attended several Taco Tuesdays
  • Had an amazingly fun going away party at Mary's Attic
  • Saw the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of "Henry VIII"
  • Went to a Cubs Game
  • Attended my final Wish Ball
  • Went to Seattle
  • Went to Alaska on my first cruise
  • Bawled my eyes out when I left my job
  • Moved to Miami
  • Spent a week with the world's best dog in NYC
  • Visited Grant's Tomb
  • Got trapped in an elevator
  • Went to a strip club
  • Spent a weekend in Disney World
  • Made new friends
 I wonder what my family will want to talk about first?

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Good Doctor

One of the stresses of life, at least for me, is finding a new physician.  It's always a crap shoot as to what I'm going to find.  Whether I am moving to a new city or even if I develop a new ailment that requires a specialist, I am always concerned with finding the perfect doctor.  Because for me, it's more than finding a doctor who knows what he's doing; I also have to actually like the person.  My goal is for us to build a professional relationship, a partnership where we can both be my health advocate.  I need someone who is straight with me, honest with me, and not afraid to get in my face and hold me accountable.

I will say that I have been pretty fortunate in the doctor department.  There have been 5 physicians in my life who have helped get me through some difficult times:
  • Dr. Joel Taubin was my GP for the 10 years I lived in DC.
  • Dr. Mark Nelson was the cardiothoracic surgeon during my quadruple bypass in 2005.
  • Dr. Mark Stolar was my GP for the 8 years I lived in Chicago.
  • Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones remains my cardiologist since 2005.
  • Dr. John Hefferon was the orthopaedist during my shoulder arthroscopic surgery in 2011.
Whether it was something as trivial as a sore toe or as convoluted as a sternum infection, these physicians proved to me (whether quickly or not so) that they actually cared about ME, that we were partners in my good health, and that the responsibility of my continued good health was in my hands.

Don't get me wrong - this is a very short list from the unfortunately large group of doctors I have seen in my adult years.  For example, both of the cardiologists I had while living in DC sucked: one removed me from all medications once my health "seemed" to be improving (which then only caused more problems), while the other one completely misdiagnosed me with cardiomyopathy (which I've never had), telling me to prepare for a transplant (which I didn't need), and instructed me to never take an aspirin (which I do every day).

Why bring this up  now?  Because it is doctor time again in my life.  With my recent diagnoses of shingles, I needed to find a new GP in a new city with no one to ask for a reference and no real starting point.  It's tricky.  I am at the mercy of my insurance carrier's website and my own research.  It's the virtual version of opening up a phone book and just dropping my finger on a name.  

But I did find one here in Miami and had my first appointment with him this week.  In short, I like him.  He's originally from DC and is a relative newcomer to Miami, just like me.  This has already created a bond.  And he loves to communicate by email, which is something I have almost had to force some of my doctors into over the years.  The jury is certainly still out and time will tell, but it feels like we are off to a good start.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Saturday Night TV

Saturday nights as a kid were different than in my 'tween years.  Before the age of 10, Saturday night TV consisted of The Mary Tyler Moore Show at 9:00, The Bob Newhart Show at 9:30, and my beloved Carol Burnett Show at 10:00.  Sometimes at 9:30, we would switch channels to watch reruns of The Adventures of Superman series.  But mostly we kept it on CBS because I didn't want to miss a second of Carol Burnett.

God, how I loved that woman (and still do).  When her show went off the air in 1978, I remember it being one of the first, big disappointments of my life.  I used to copy all the characters they created on the show.  My family still, now and then, will let out a zinger we heard on the show ("Yoohoo, have you got any pretzels?");  stuff so good it sticks with you for years and years.   Mr. Tudball and Mrs. WigginsEunice, Ed and MamaStella Toddler.  Watch any of those clips and try not to laugh.  Better yet, catch a blooper reel and watch them laugh at themselves.  That's probably more fun.

After years of solid entertainment, all three of those shows would be off the air within a year of each other.  So what's a kid of 11 supposed to watch then?  Along comes "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island".  And I was not appeased.  Every Saturday night at 9PM, I'd be plopped in front of the TV set to make "another run" with the Gopher, Doc, Isaac, Julie and the Captain, as well as their guests on the Pacific Princess.  Same with Fantasy Island.  I could never invest myself in these shows.  Perhaps I was getting older and losing interest in Saturday night TV, but these shows just were not entertaining to me.  I didn't know the word shlock then, but if I had, I would have used it for these replacements.

What is interesting is that the first set of Saturday night shows were all originals, a comedy troupe based around one main person.  And they were excellent television.  The latter two shows were huge ensemble shows with relatively small casts who may or may not be involved in the show at any length.  Guest stars were the real attraction to these two.  What is also interesting is that both of the latter two shows were attempted to be revived in 1998, with "The Love Boat: The Next Wave" and "Fantasy Island" - both of which only last 1 year before cancellation.

Now on Saturday night, The BF and I spend most of our time channel hopping to find anything good to watch, or we switch over to Netflix or get a RedBox.  But I miss fun, scripted television with the same characters week after week.  I still love to sit in my jammies and watch TV on Saturday night.  I just wish Mary, Bob and especially Carol were there with me.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Shingles Suck!

So let's go ahead and add shingles to my already long list of medical issues.  What I thought were three spider/bug bites that popped up last week have turned out to be shingles, a painful skin rash that has formed on the right side of my abdomen, wrapping around my side to my back.  And like every other medical issue I've contracted, it most commonly shows up in older people.  Thus strengthening my argument that I have the insides of someone 30 years my senior.

If a person is under 50 years old with a relatively strong immune system (like me), there is really only one way for shingles to activate:  stress.  So let me reflect on the last year or so of my life:
  • Physically sought and moved a satellite office for my previous employer
  • Managed the relocation and set up of the new headquarters for my previous employer
  • Voluntarily left my job and relocated to Miami with The BF
  • Handled the relocation of our place and the set up of our new apartment
  • Continuing to look for new job in a new city
So after the last several months, this might be the most calm I have been, which might explain my defenses being lowered and shingles activating.  This is the explanation I am going with because it makes me understand it more. 

I will admit that it hurts to move, to sit, to walk, to everything.  Even a breeze blowing my shirt against my skin is excruciating. The pain subsides a bit when I lay down flat on my back - something I am never able to do for too long unless I am sleeping.  I understand that these occurences last a few weeks at a time.  I thought I would be able to go a few months without needing to find a new doctor in Miami.  Oh, well.

I'm still tan, though!

Friday, August 09, 2013

I'm Really Doing It This Time, I Swear!

I'm bringing blogging back.  Specifically, this here blog.  After more than a year hiatus (and even a few years before that), I've decided to bring back the blog for a few reasons:

1)  I have a lot - and I do mean a lot - of opinions.  And since I now live in a city where I know only 1 other person, I need some kind of outlet in which to share my thoughts.

2)  Said "only 1 other person" is the BF, who is no doubt tiring of being the sole ear to hear my rants.  The man deserves a vacay.

3)  This is a good way to stay connected, perhaps only 1-way, to my friends beyond the posts I put on Facebook.  I am going to try to no longer post personal opinion on there as those can sometimes trigger regretted exchanges. 

So feel free to check in and/or read on.  I'm really going to do it this time.

I swear.