Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dog and people strolling in Sierra Madre, CA

Temperature in the mid-70's -  brilliant blue cloudless sky - helicopter circling foothills - day workers slumped hopefully on park benches - mothers and grandparents pushing strollers - (lots of infant twins in this town) - and dogs large and small trotting down the boulevard.

Along comes a plump woman, short in stature, zealous in wardrobe - snug cap, winter coat,  dress striped and polkadotted, white furry boots, rouged cheeks, penciled eyebrows, with a comment: "I need a dog to walk in this town."

I'm wearing shorts, the doodles are thirsty - no time to stop to see Neil the pig.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Soloing - at the movies and in the sky

More years ago than I can recall, I was the only passenger in a two engine commercial plane on a flight from San Francisco to Monterey, California.  Long ago enough that I was met at the gate by an attendant who escorted me to an exit, down a flight of stairs, across the tarmac to the plane. (no security screening, no shoe removing, no patting down)  Outnumbered by the crew of three, I enjoyed luxuriating in the fantasy of owning my own jet during the short, low altitude flight.  Landing in Monterey, alighting with no passengers following me down the steps, walking to the terminal to meet a childhood friend hosting a long-anticipated reunion - all in the lap of pseudo luxury.

And, yesterday I had another almost-solo experience - at the movies.  I decided it was time to remove my name from the few who had not yet seen "The King's Speech." I chose the 11:20am screening at the Krikorian in Monrovia, where, in magnificent stadium seating, I sat alone - wondering momentarily just how safe it was to be all by myself -  when two more people entered the vacuum.  But, three we were - and only three, for the entire time - trailers, ads, and the feature.  I found the film enjoyable, but with almost too many closeups of Colin Firth aka George VI trying his best to release words stuck firmly in his mouth.  I enjoyed the aging of his wife - creatively stuffed bosom as she aged.  Helena Bonham Carter is a force unto herself - as always,  terrific!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

British accents and BBC attitudes

I've been a subscriber to Netflix for almost as many years as its existence. However, I am not finding as many new Hollywood releases with the appeal of previous years.  Instead, I have enjoyed a host of foreign films, British comedies and dramas, and lately some British action series - among them several seasons of MI-5 -the British equivalent of our CIA.

The MI-5 portrayal of the CIA is amusingly lopsided.  Gum-chewing top-level administrators, agents with jarring fake American accents, and almost always a mole or traitor in their midst.

It's the accents I have the most issue with (or should I write "with which I have the most issue"?)
Seems that when some British actors try to create a genu-ine American accent it will sound nasal, stilted and stiff.  Just can't overcome the high-falutin' English upper class tongue.  Not to mention some of the dialogue written for the Americans!  Do our lovers nowadays call each other "honey"?

Some British actors can create a standard American accent without flaw - witness Matthew Rhys in the series "Brothers and Sisters" or Australian Rachel Griffiths in the same series.

Note: in the interest of accuracy - the reference to "American" in this post refers to so-called standard non-regional English spoken in the United States.  This used to be the only speech permitted on radio and television - nothing with even a tinge of southern, accented, slangy.

Lisa See -author with a terrific sense of humor

On Saturday, February 12, Friends of the Sierra Madre Library sponsored a talk by Lisa See, author of On Gold Mountain, our one-book one-city selection for 2011.  Terrific turnout, delightful speaker, with a wicked sense of humor.  On Gold Mountain was published 15 years ago, and remains a perennial favorite.

Winner of several awards, writer of best-sellers, and member of the famous Chinese family of multiple Sees, which includes her mother, the author Carolyn See, Lisa See exhibited standup comedic skills.
Among her topics: her great grandparents' manufacture and sale of crotchless panties for brothels,
her grandfather's fondness for pornography, the eccentricities of her always-barefoot anthropologist father, the whispers about ancestral polygamy.

An audience question led to observations about the Chinese antique shop Suie One, on Colorado Blvd.
in Pasadena - filled with enormous idols, furniture, temples in their entirety, which the proprietors  make certain are never  purchased-- by keeping the shop closed most of the time.  Many of the pieces are more than one hundred years old, imported en masse from China by See ancestors with an acquisitive eye, but no plan to sell.

More than twenty years ago I stepped into the cavernous musty interior of Suie One,  where I was met by two women dressed in long, loose-fitting dark clothing, tall and vaguely disinterested in having to deal with a 'customer.'  Now that I know the back story, I understand.

There were no price tags on any of the merchandise.  A 'if you have to ask,  it's not for sale' contrarian attitude. One of the women told me that most of the artifacts were for loan to movie studios, and never for sale.  I inquired about a small paper-covered decorative chest, and was told that I could telephone in a day or two to find out if it was available, and what the price would be.   There was an excuse about its being on hold for someone, and my follow-up led nowhere, as I recall.  That was during my Asian-artifact phase.  Around that time I attended my first-ever auction, where I bid on a Japanese tansu, lost to a higher bidder, and then bid on and won another.  When I learned that my first bid had been against a dealer I was impressed with my discerning eye, disappointed in not going higher.

After hearing Lisa See, and enjoying an audio version of Shanghai Girls (sequel coming in May, 2011 -Dreams of Joy) I read  Carolyn See's book on writing, which contained a tip mentioned by Lisa -
write 1,000 words a day - just four pages, but five days a week - always.

I am about to decide that blogging will be my daily stint.