Friday, September 30, 2011

No Escaping (Book Thoughts: Escape From The World Trade Center, Leslie Haskin)

This year was the 10th Anniversary of the WTC attacks and I was nowhere near NYC on that day.  I was in Copenhagen in the morning, enroute to London. Yet somehow I felt the energy of that day. I somehow felt close to the city where it happened. Days before, people were telling us that on television the coverage has been non-stop. Curiously, I never had the urge to turn the television on at the boat. I have already seen what I needed to see about this whole thing. Or so I thought. After reading "Escape From The World Trade Center," by Leslie Haskin, I felt like I was not only reliving that day, I felt I was seeing more of it through the eyes of Leslie Haskin. She wrote in harrowing detail the ordeal she went through as she took the stairs from the 36th floor of her office in Tower One to the World Financial Center to take the ferry to Hoboken. Much of it is heart wrenching, and for me, an eye-opener. I have heard all the stories, and each one is more powerful than the next. Each one is more harrowing, and as she writes, NYC has 8 million stories that day. I have one, too, but it is colorless and mild compared to what Ms. Haskin went through. As she wrote, if you have ever been inside the WTC, you are still in it. I remember in the late 80s when I was working in the Downtown area how I would take the train everyday to the Twin Towers, so I have a lto fo affinity and affection for it. Closing my eyes right now, I could still see the concourse - Alexander's Department Store, the various stores inside, I remember there was a huge Sephora by the escalators going to the PATH. I remember taking teh train to WTC teh first day the station there opened, and thing, realizing that those grounds are now sacred. They are no burial grounds. On September 11th this year, they opened some kind of memorial. I haven't been there yet, but I will go and pay my respects one of these days.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Regretfully (Scent Thoughts: "Not A Perfume," Juliette Has A Gun)

The concept is inviting, for sure. Romani Ricci, head ode of the niche line, Juliette Has A Gun, introduces a perfume for "non-perfume" lovers, called, "Not A Perfume." He brazenly concocts a scent using just one note, just one material : Ambrox, which is a sort-of dilluted version of Amber. I really don't know and cannot be trusted about the technicality of it all.  Months ago, I was at Luckyscent and spritzed myself this perfume....and fell in love with it there instantly. My initial reaction then: it smelled like a sophisticated version of the "Kleenex" smell. I thought it was interesting in its simplicity, even revolutionary. I normally like perfumes that are on the heavy side, I also like them to have character, I tend to gravitate the ones that are layered, texture, and that makes turns. When I saw a discounted bottle of this, I grabbed it.  I normally don't buy a bottle of anything until I have worn them properly; I have been burned a lot of times already. I should listen to my instincts strictly. I finally wore this for the whole day today, and while it is pleasant, and it did smell good, it is quite thin. I don't mind it being linear (I expect it to be, with just one note) but I felt it weak. It did not sustain my interest, and found myself bored with it an hour after. I think this will be great on a hot summer day, but then again, there may be too much alcohol in it that it may evaporate right away. As such, I don't know what to do with this now. I like it, but can't and don't see myself reaching for it. I'll try it again on a different day (maybe on a cold day) but as of right now, this falls under the category of regret.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ask Betty (Book Thoughts: If You Ask Me)

If you ask me, this book was kind of a waste. I have never read any of Betty White's books, and I think she has had a couple of them, but after breezing through "If You Ask Me," I asked myself: what was the point of this book? Supposedly written in longhand by Ms. White herself, it really does not say something. I did not buy this book, but had I paid good money for it, I would have been very upset. So, you ask, what exactly is in these pages? Well, shallow anecdotes about her stints in "Hot In Cleveland," where she gushes about her co-stars. She devotes a chapter to her hosting Saturday Night Live, which stemmed from a petition on Facebook. You would think that would be mine for a lot of  interesting stories, but she is timid and vague, and complimentary about everyone at SNL, which, I really find hard to believe considering the stress, pressure and ego that permeate at that kind of environment. Sure, we really shouldn't ask too much from an 89 year old star, but her publishers should. As a product, they have given us something thin and flimsy and not worth the paper to wrap fish in. 

BC 28

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When She's Good (Television Thoughts: The Good Wife)

I very rarely "follow" episodic crime shows,  but I keep an eye on "the Good Wife," because it just interests me. It appeals to me because it is that, but more than that. I want to say, for lack of a better term, that it is a soap opera, but it is also a family drama, a marital show, a crime mystery suspense one, too. It's all those things, and I think that's why I love it. Tonight's third season opener is a scorcher. It sets up the whole season, opens it wide for all the characters because of the multiple interactions that happen between them. Lawyers, Partners, Friends, Friends With Benefits, Mother, Daughter, it, there's a pairing out there. And then there's also Julianna Margulies, who week after week gives unpredictable performances which make her deserve her recent Emmy.  And she has the niftiest new hair do for the season. Actually, even Matt Czuchry has a new spiked hair cut that stole scenes in this episode. I know that other people complain abotu how trivial some of the cases are here, but they always interest me. This is hour-long drama at its best, and I look forward to spending time with them every Sunday night.

Just Jacob (Movie Thoughts: Abduction)

I don't know what compelled me to see "Abduction" at the movies. It really isn't my kind of movie, yet I was drawn into it for whatever reason. The word of mouth has been brutal, but, truly, it isn't that bad. I mean, it's not good at all, but it is somewhat entertaining if you are into that kind of thing. This movie was clearly built around Taylor Lautner (I saw his father's name as one of the Producers) and one would ask, is he ready for it. Physically, he is. He does a lot of the stunts himself, and I was kind of impressed. But his acting, oh my goodness. To call it "wooden" would give disservice to wood. He has the personality of a cardboard, and that voice - whenever he says something, a pearl somewhere in the ocean dies. As such, a lot of the already laughable plot becomes more comedic, and I don't really think it was meant that way. Perhaps that's why he was paired with Lily Collins (Phil's son, if you want to feel old) whose personality is even more cardboard than Lautner's. John Singleton keeps the movie spinning, and a semblance of suspense fuels the last fourth of the movie. But truly, it is nothing you have not seen before. Team Jacob fans will eat this up, I guess, but in terms of depth, Team Edward wins by a mile, as evidenced by Pattinson's better film role choices.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Red Could Be A Bore

"Real Women Wear Red" had all the makings of a book I would love, mainly because it is set in a cruise ship, and I am an unabashed fan of cruising. So when I saved the book to read while I was on my lat cruise. To put it in no uncertain terms: it just wasn't very good. The plots, and there are a few of them, are quite muddled, and I just couldn't suspend my disbelief about some of the situations. I was ready to overcome them, but I thought every single character was unlikeable, and their connections to each other forced. I found myself quite confused about some of the characters, as their characterizations were kind of sparse. Plus, she could have written about the settings more vividly, but as such, this novel could have been set in my backyard the way she described it. I try my best not to go too negative, but I just cannot recommend this book as there are thousands of titles out there that are so much better. Even the cover art is amateurish, like something done at a beginner computer graphics class. I wanted to like this book so much, but it almost ruined my vacation. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blend To Me, Stay With Me

Good 'ol Tony Bennett - he is still trudging along. Though he is not my favorite among his contemporaries, (I hate how he ends his songs the exact same way every single time) I certainly do respect him. He paid his dues, he is legendary, he is in his own terms an icon. I always thought he was the poor man's Sinatra - Ol Blue Eyes did his own Duet album series during his twilight years. Of course, the real stars of this album are his partners. I thought Bennett's singing here as pretty rote, myself. But, it's a good way to test-drive today's crop new crop of singers. Most of them have their own personality, and are not afraid to shy away from Tony. I loved John Meyer's bluesy vocals on "One For My Baby," and Alejandro Sanz is heartbreaking in "Yesterday I Heard The Rain." Both female country superstars Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood can't escape their  blandness; though. k.d. lang imbues more emotion in a single word than any of than both combined. Aretha Franklin's soulful take in the pensive "How Do You Keep The Music Playing" is embarrassing, and Bennett trying to out melisma her melisma towards the end of the song was laughable. (Compared to Aretha, Mariah in her duet here seems almost...restrained) Michael Buble and Josh Groban are both in their elements, though the latter's song choice is a bit odd. As much as I think Queen Latifah is more than competent, I can't help but feel she is holding back a part of her personality. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga has personality alright in "The Lady Is A Tramp," it's just too bad that it's a copy of Eydie Gorme. Really, now, does this woman have an original bone in her body. As everyone else have noted, though, the heartbreaking Amy Winehouse track is more than worth the price of whatever you will pay for this album. I will never forget that husky, heartbreaking voice.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Silver Turns To Gold

I finished “Silver Girl,” by Elin Silverbrand, while I was at my cruise last month. It seemed to be the quintessential beach read , and it’s even set at a beach (Nantucket)  But I thought this book had more layers than your average frothy novel.  Ms. Silverbrand knows how to weave a character pretty well, and she was in fine form when she created Meredith Martin, the heroine in here. This character was obviously inspired by Ruth Madoff, let’s not even pretend otherwise. She, as we all probably know, is the wife of Bernard Madoff, who pulled off one of the biggest Ponzi schemes.  Meredith Martin also has a husband who ran a company which ran a similar racket, and the story picks up right after Meredith’s husband has been sent to jail. Meredith, in the middle of the media frenzy, decides to stay at her friend Connie’s beach house.  We get to explore Meredith and Connie’s long, tortured and loving friendship, and that for me is when the novel is at its most vivid best.  Their friendship felt like a real friendship – how complex people get situated in complicated situations, and how we all act, and react, based on emotions, on how these actions affect us, and how we deal with all the effects impact our lives. I immediately found myself emotionally invested in these characters, flaws and all. The ending sort of fizzled out a bit, and some of the plot points in the “mystery” part were too predictable. But never mind about that, “Silver Girl” is a fantastic read. There’s a week left in the Summer of 2011, and I can’t think of a better book to end the season by. 


Friday, September 16, 2011

If You Believe

Visiting London and deciding what to watch on West End while I am there is always a major dramatic decision in itself. I wanted to see a current show, preferably a musical. But I found, frankly, the choices lacking. It's in between seasons, and a lot of the newer shows have yet to open. So I went with seeing "Ghost The Musical," at The Picadilly. I have read not-too-bad reviews of it, although I was wary of it. Yet another musicalization of a hit film, I thought to myself. which is becoming too be almost as tiresome as the jukebox musical. But I liked the movie fine, so I had some hope. As it turns out, I thoroughly enjoyed "Ghost The Musical." Some call it a guilty pleasure, but I am not too guilty about liking it. The production mostly succeeds because of the leads: Richard Fleeshman and Cassie Levy.  As the too-perfect young lovers, they have sizzling chemistry, and they sing like matching tunas. (At times, though. I felt like I was watching the wrong Swayze movie adaptation, since Levy look like Jennifer Grey.) Too bad, some of the songs they sing, courtesy of Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard (of Alanis Morissette and Wilson Phillips) are just bland pop songs.  But no matter, they infuse a lot of emotion and romance in them that I believed. Just like the tag line said, if you believe in love, you will believe in the show. Sharon D Clarke, playing Oda Mae Brown, is given the scenery-chewing role in here, and she has a great voice, but I felt like she was visiting from Sister Act The Musical, with her garish solo numbers, and it was very distracting. She even gets the 11:00 number, undeservedly so. But as I said before, I believe in love, and the love story here is the star of the show, and it's a powerful one. Listen to it like an unchained melody, and you will be rewarded.