Saturday, February 23, 2013

the picture of Ginger Rogers

In case I neglected to mention it...I probably didn't. It always seems premature when I say I'm writing a book, because I've never finished one yet. I start, and never continue.

So, I'm writing a book. It's a memoir, told in little chunks, and I'm getting the feeling it won't go father than age 20, if that much.

Anyway, I was writing about how my father wallpapered the bathroom in old Playbill covers, and how I was struck by the picture of Ginger Rogers in Hello Dolly. Rather than picturing her as Dolly, they used an older picture of her which was absolutely stunning, not movie-star glam but wholesome and lovely.

After I finished writing the section, I did a web search, out of curiosity, to see if I could find the image, which I haven't seen in forty years. And here it is:


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

now we're talking tablet

After consulting with Tamsir, Cnet, Ebay, and a cheap-computer site called, I've decided that if I'm going to buy a new device, it should probably be a tablet. I was really sold on the Nexus 7, but too many consumers said that the screen break very easily. So I decided that a used Galaxy Tab was the way to go, 7", 8.9", 10.1", 8 or 16 gig storage - whatever was affordable. Cowboom had a lot of decent used goods but most were without chargers or manuals, though they did have cheap warranties. Ebay's prices were a little steep compared to Cowboom. And then I walked into an electronics store near my office, where they have the Galaxy Tab 7, 8 GB, refurb, for $175 - complete with all accessories, 90 day store warranty, and one-year manufacturer's warranty. It's also the kind of place where I can probably walk in with $150 cash and make a deal. So all I'd need to do is buy a case.

For Valentine's Day, Barry is going to give me some money toward the purchase, so I will have a decent chunk of money left over from the $200 I allocated, even after buying a case. I believe I will buy myself a bottle of cologne, and some other girl things like new eyeshadow primer and re-up on the Phillip Thomas Roth face bar I love so much.

Hey, stupid spammers! Blogger is BLOCKING YOU - your comments are not being posted to this blog. So why don't you leave me the hell alone?

Oh...and I wrote four pages of my book tonight. When I complained to my analyst about not being able to focus my creative energy, and mentioned that I'd always wanted to write a book, she said, "Why don't you go ahead and do it?" After some more thinking aloud, I decided on a memoir. After thinking about it for a week, I decided to go with little segments on particular topics, more or less chronological. Three sections into it, about an hour's work, it wasn't really painful and I think I'll go back to it.

I used to meet with my favorite writing teacher, the late Bill Decker, and tell him all kinds of story ideas. He'd say, "Write it. It doesn't exist until you write it, and you can't make it any better until you do."

PILES of spam

It seems this blog has somehow become a target for lots of spam comments - typically an off-topic comment on an old entry, ending with, "hey, come see my website" and a link. Blogger seems to have the good sense to segregate and not publish them.

Why anyone should hit on my blog is a total mystery. I have a teeny-weeny readership, and my topics are not terribly sexy.

The spammers are totally screwing up my stats. Stats say I had 60 hits yesterday on a two-year-old post. I know those were spamaroos, not a big group of people suddenly fascinated by whatever the topic was, my getting this job almost two years ago or whatever. Sigh. I wish they were real readers. No one's left me a real comment since I said I disliked fantasy books.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

ebooks and ebook readers

My Kindle 3 finally croaked, after about three years. The Kindle was my constant companion, always in my purse for a subway ride or a wait at a doctor's office. And if I finished a book in mid-trip, there was always another one.

What's been tiding me over for the past week or so is an app called Cool Reader that I downloaded to my smartphone. Cool Reader has the benefit of reading both epub (Nook) and mobi (Kindle) formats.

It's probably no great secret that like movies and music, I download a lot of ebooks without paying for them. I've only hinted at it in this blog, because I find it a little embarrassing and am afraid of being judged harshly. Plus, it's not legal. But I don't begin to have the means to feed my book, music and movie habits, and libraries very often don't have what I want, except for books; I do occasionally reserve new books, though I confess I hate lugging around a hardcover after mostly using my ultra-light Kindle.

Amazon offered me discounts on a couple of refurbed Kindle Touches, both discontinued models with ads, for $74 and $104.

I figured that if I was going to spend that kind of money, maybe I should do more investigating and shopping.

I started to think about tablets - in particular, about getting an Android tablet onto which I could download Cool Reader. The Nexus 7 sounded really good, but a lot of users complained about the easily cracked screen.

Then I realized that I really don't need most of what a tablet offers. I don't really need a device to web-browse or send email; I can do it with my phone, although frankly the time I would want to use it is on the subway, which is a no-go. I have computer access at home and at work, and that seems to be plenty.

What I really wanted was something to read books and maybe watch movies - something for subway rides, bus trips, train trips, and waiting rooms. So, back to ebook readers.

Ebay had a lot of used Kindle readers, the plain-jane kind I had and the Touch, for very cheap prices. But then I was stuck with the epub/mobi problem. I've made some use of this online converter for epub to mobi, but it only converts one book at a time. So I took another look at Calibre. I had downloaded it some time ago, found it a hassle, and removed it. But it now seems a lot more powerful and user-friendly. It also will download and convert newspapers and magazines, which made me think again about getting a color device.

I looked into the movie formats the Kindle Fire plays, which is basically one proprietary software (V8 or something), and mp4. Most of my movies are in avi. But that online converter will convert video to mp4.

So I believe the solution is going to be a used Kindle Fire, Calibre, and the online converter for movies. Friday is payday. I had allocated $200 for a new reader, which will be way more than I need for a used first-gen Fire. Any excess money will most likely go to some new cologne, since I am entirely out of any of the good brands I like to wear (Bellodgia, Coco, Mitsouko, Rush). And maybe, you know, some makeup and nail polish. I love stretching a buck for everyday luxuries.

And for those of you who also enjoy stretching a buck, the bittorrent client I use to keep myself fully stocked in entertainment material is Vuze. Some of the bittorrent tech is over my head, but I've managed to figure out how to do what I need - well, want - to do.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

recommended reading

I've been reading so promiscuously over the past couple of years that I really haven't been tracking new work by some of my favorite authors. But I've recently bumped up against a couple of new ones I want to mention.

I just finished reading Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe, which was a very enjoyable reminder of how much I enjoy reading pretty much anything he writes. This one is set in Miami and its themes are race relations, the art world, law enforcement, money and social climbing, and so on. Wolfe always seems to swirl big topics in with available characters and a lot of wit; somewhere along the way, you realize you've been reading social commentary, and it's gone down pretty easy. I would say it has a similar tone and scope to his '80s novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities.

There is also a new John Irving book, In One Person, which is next on my list after I gobble up the Kenneth Swalanski bio of J.D. Salinger. I don't think I've read Irving's last book, Last Night in Twisted River, so that's on my list, too.

I've also had a strong recommendation of Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, so that's in the queue as well.

My Kindle croaked for good about a week ago, so I'm using the Cool Reader app on my phone until I decide what to do next. I get paid on the 15th, and Amazon has offered a discount on a couple of refurbed Kindle Touch'es, though as always I am eying better models. My phone will do a lot of things that an e-reader will, and an e-reader will do a lot of things that a tablet will, so I have to figure this all out. All suggestions and advice will be appreciated.

Monday, February 4, 2013

stuff girls put on themselves

I recently discovered a makeup blog by the great cartoonist Natalie Dee. It's called Stuff I Put On Myself. As someone who grew up hippie-ish and makeup-less, I find myself still learning how to use the stuff right. And like Natalie, who was a lifelong nail-biter, I overcame my lifelong nail-picking to become a very serious consumer of nail polish. (Though Natalie has gone so far as to create her own line, Super Black; the winter line will be available shortly.

I'm a cheapskate about makeup but I have expensive tastes. I spend the money when I need to, and have been known to look for discontinued and out-of-season colors on Ebay. When I can, I buy from ELF, which has great/cheap powder eyeshadow kits and some nice lipsticks - although their online swatches bear only a faint resemblance to the actual colors. Their nail polishes used to be great, but then they changed the formula and became way too thick. Some nail polish thinner helps.

I'm still looking for the perfect day cream (something very moisturizing with a 15 SPF) and the right foundation (never wore the stuff until recently...I'm starting to see a little discoloration from times past spent in the sun) and the best-ever mascara (I'm sticking with Maybelline Great Lash for the time being).

I've been a fan of Urban Decay for a long time, although they keep discontinuing stuff I like. Their old nail polishes were awesome, as was a metallic (not glitter) liquid eyeliner and a gloss called Lip Gunk. Now they do some no-good polish in sets. And recently, they discontinued my all-time favorite eye shadow, Lounge, which is a reddish brown with a green sheen. I bought an extra before they vanished.

There is no doubt that I've become a girlier girl over the past few years...the makeup and clothes are catching up with the jewelry, it seems.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

less and more often

I decided to see if I can write more frequent entries into this blog, posting a little more often and at less length.

I saw two very different movies this week.

One was the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie, The Master (2012). I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in this, although it's worth seeing for the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. This story about a Scientology-like cult was marred by the casting of Joaquin Phoenix as a troubled man going in and out of the cult. There's been a odd aura about Phoenix since his dropping out of films and making that weird documentary about being a rapper; instead of seeing a troubled ex-soldier, I was seeing weird Joaquin Phoenix. And I'm not sure if this was an acting or writing deficit, but some of his comings and goings from the cult were not clear or understandable; the passage of time was also murky. Amy Adams, playing Hoffman's wife, was pregnant for a very long time early in the film (that is, way more time than it seemed phoenix's initial indoctrination took); later, she's no longer pregnant, but there's no sign or mention of a baby. The character of Hoffman's son (played by Jesse Plemons of the TV fave Saturday Night Lights) was sketchy: early in the film, he's dubious about what his father does, and later, he's clearly on the time, but has no story line other than that. Anderson usually does beautiful work with period settings, but they didn't jump out at me in this film (the way they did in, say, Boogie Nights). This wasn't the film I wanted to see.

On the other hand, I watched the Indian film God Tussi Great Ho (2007) the other night, expected little, and was surprisingly pleased. Yet another unauthorized Indian remake, this time of the Jim Carrey film Bruce Almighty, all of the silliness carries a very good comic performance by Salman Khan. And of course, there was only one person to stunt-cast as God: Amitabh Bachchan. The movie was corny and the special effects horrendous, but it was really, really entertaining. There was also one great song - I'll have to sniff it out on YouTube.