Tuesday, July 31, 2007

31 in 31

I can't believe I did it. I actually managed to blog every single day this month. Okay, so some of them were little more than place holders but I showed up. Could this be the beginning of the ever-elusive discipline I've been seeking or is it just a fluke?

Today's quote goes out to a very good friend (and she'll know it's for her the second she reads it):

I tell my student you have an absolute right to write about people you know and love. You do. But the kicker is you have a responsibility to make the characters large enough that you will not have sinned against them.
--Dorothy Allison

Writing about real people is a tough one. We've all done it, whether deliberately or inadvertently. You hear something, you observe something else, you live through various experiences with people you love (or maybe don't), and your cells absorb it all then tuck it away in some secret part of your brain, the place where stories grow, until one day it spills back out again in a different form. You know where it came from. You can see the framework that supports the fiction and you hope nobody else sees quite that clearly.

I'm here to tell you that people are strange. The few times I've blatantly based a character on a family member I knew and loved, s/he didn't make the connection at all. Not even a suspicion. But the times when a fictional character was exactly that, an utterly fictional creation, the same people saw themselves in every strength and flaw. Go figure.

Fiction comes from fact. It comes from pure imagination. It comes from observation, experience, redistribution. And, if you're lucky, sometimes it comes from a place closer to real magic than you ever thought you'd reach in this lifetime.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Seen in Passing

We're driving south on Route 206 earlier this morning and get stopped by a light near a small medical arts building. I do what I usually do, scan the cars around us for interesting faces then cast my gaze farther afield to the sidewalk, parking lots, whatever.

That's when I see them: a young couple (maybe early 30s) standing in front of the door to the medical offices. She is crying hard. He wraps his arms around her in the driving rain and she buries her face against his shoulder and sobs against him. Her whole body is convulsed by those sobs and I feel a knot of recognition in the pit of my stomach.

I don't know what terrible news she received inside that dark and scary building but I know exactly how she feels. I've been there myself and the shadow never quite goes away.

Twelve hours later I'm still thinking about her and wondering how her story will turn out.

* * *

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
--Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Little House in Central NJ

We were without power for a few hours this afternoon. A humongous thunder/lightning extravaganza blew in and all hell broke loose out there. About ten minutes into the excitement the lights flickered, sputtered, then died and with them went the a/c, the computes, the tv, all the things that make modern life what it is. I was in the middle of knitting the last few rows on the second sleeve of a baby sweater I've been working on and I wasn't about to let a little thing like fried electronics stop me.

How quiet the world is without the hum of electricity in the background. Our house was utterly silent. The only thing you could hear was the gentle click of my knitting needles. You never really think about or notice the white noise electricity provides until it's gone, a faint, almost inaudible hum that's been part of the soundtrack to our lives for so long that you feel vaguely unsettled without it.

At least I did. I loved the pure silence but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being very glad when the power was restored.

Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat.
--John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Shore Lights Winners . . . and a quote

Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.
--Carl Zwanzig

I swear there wasn't anything my mother couldn't do with duct tape. Repair pipes. Seal leaky packages of food. Emergency backing for a damaged handmade rug. And other, scarier uses!

It's Saturday and, as promised, we have ten winners. Watch your inbox for a note from me.

1. katiegq
2. Miranda S
3. JudyAtNight
4. Karen Dougherty
5. cspalumbo@XXXXXXX.net
6. Jessica Zimmerman
7. Nurani Monoarfa
8. Kathleen Nitsch
9. Shonda Shupe
10. Carol (nicholsXXXX@XXXXX.com)


Friday, July 27, 2007

One of my all-time favorites

This one still makes me laugh out loud.

My job is not all that difficult, but I do have to know the entire alphabet.
--Vanna White

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More Hepburn

Another favorite Katharine Hepburn quote for you:

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.
--Katharine Hepburn

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I love quotes. I've loved them since I was a little kid, copying quotes and song lyrics and scraps of overheard conversations into marble notebooks. For me, quotes are like daily horoscopes or a great fortune cookie: they can provide unexpected direction or send your imagination bursting through locked doors and into rooms filled with new ideas.

It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.
--Tallulah Bankhead

Guess what? I kept a diary.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quote, New Contest, and Miscellanea

You may or may not know that I run two daily (now there's a joke for you) quote groups on Yahoo! -- Writers Daily Quote and He Said She Said. I've often wanted to start one for those more general quotes but I seem to have enough trouble juggling what's already in motion. This might be exactly what I've been looking for.

Never complain. Never explain.
--Katharine Hepburn

Good in theory but I'm not certain it's sustainable in the real world of hurt feelings and long memories.

How about a new contest? Ten winners, ten copies of Shore Lights -- winners chosen on Saturday night same as always. Please enter! I need shelf space desperately. Send an email to me at barbarabretton AT earthlink DOT net with SHORE LIGHTS in the subject header.

Hmm. I put miscellanea in the title, didn't I? I'm trying to think of something miscellanea-y enough to qualify but I'm coming up blank. Weather: good. Air conditioner: working. Writing: not bad. Knitting: going well.

I went to the mall today for the first time in quite a few years. I kind of fell out of the mall habit. Too much everything, if you know what I mean. Especially when it comes to choosing gifts for special people. I find myself wanting to get the process over with as quickly as possible when I'm trapped in a crowded mall. When I shop through catalogs or on-line, I take my time. I think deeply about the person I'm buying for, thumb through the brochures, click from site to site, take my time finding exactly the right thing to make the giftee happy. You won't be surpried if I tell you that the fall clothes are out, will you? I didn't think so. Oh, how I used to look forward to the August edition of Seventeen Magazine, the big glossy back-to-school issue filled with color photos of pretty teenaged models in plaid skirts and knees socks and shiny straight hair and big smiles. Sigh. I was a Catholic schoolgirl with a uniform and saddle shoes and curly hair that did what it wanted to do whenever it wanted to do it.

How I loved that magazine and those models. If you were a teenager in the 60s you might remember Colleen Corby and Terri Reno. They were our Gisele and Kate. Many years later I did some freelance writing for Seventeen. You can't imagine how happy it made the fifteen year old girl who still hides deep inside.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Quick Quote of the Day

This comes to you via a wireless connection in an unexpected place. A real post tomorrow, I promise.

There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
--Zora Neale Hurston

For me, this is an asking year. Which is it for you?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Time to Rethink

So I'm sitting here getting ready to start work. I pop a CD into the player to keep me company and the requisite Big Scary Warning from the FBI about what terrible things will happen to me if I copy the CD pops up on screen. "Severe punishment" will befall me, it said. The FBI will track me down and hurt me.

And that's when it hit me: where is the Big Scary Warning on the milk cartons that bear the faces of kids who have vanished into the shadows? Shouldn't there be a warning that says severe punishment will befall anyone who harms a single hair on those kids' heads?

Seems to me our priorities could use a little tweaking.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I promised ten winners on Saturday night and it's Saturday night so here we go:

1. Penny Krout
2. Trishy
3. Lori of Lori's Light Extemporanea
4. Deb Andrews
5. Lucile
6. Camry60
7. Crystal Broyles
8. Patricia Sanchez
9. Kenyetta Davis
10.Minna Puustinen from Finland!

Congratulations, everybody! All I need is your snail mail address and I'll ship your books right out. Watch for an email from me this evening.

And watch for another contest starting Tuesday.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Queen of Time Management

As far as I can tell I've managed to remain both upright and conscious all day but, despite that, it seems I haven't accomplished one single thing worth noting. I made a Caesar salad. We went to Cost Co. We popped a Cost Co pizza into the oven, took it out when it was done, then ate it while watching an Everybody Loves Raymond rerun on TBS. I knitted quite a few rows on a baby sweater I'm working on. I stared off into space and daydreamed.

Do I know how to manage my time or what??

Photo of a pile of peppers on the kitchen counter courtesy of yours truly

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Don't forget there's a contest going on. Scroll down for info!

Words Fail Me

What is there left to say except I hope the girl's wearing a costume . . .

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sometimes It Just Works

I've been publishing in book length fiction for almost twenty-five years now. Most sane people would assume a writer with that background might have learned a thing or two along the way. Maybe even learned to understand the business.

Okay. Forget that one. Nobody understands the business I'm in. Publishing is one-half 19th century procedures and one-half Millennium we'll-take-all-rights-into-perpetuity-for-publishing-methods-not-yet-invented.

But the creative part of the equation. Wouldn't you think I'd have acquired at least a passing understanding of how it works? I mean, we all know that inspiration isn't enough. Inspiration is a great starting point but without discipline and a skin thick enough to withstand the constant criticism from sources both likely and unlikely the odds are you won't see your name in print any time soon.

I get that. I believe that. Yet I know there's something missing in that equation. Maybe inspiration isn't the right word. Inspiration sounds a wee bit magical, doesn't it? Magic has its place in the writing process (an enormous place we'll take about another day) but I'm wondering if maybe we don't create our own magic some of the time without realizing it. (Which makes recreating the magic tougher than it should be.)

I'm thinking about Labor Day Weekend 2006. It wasn't anyone's idea of a terrific holiday weekend: rainy, a little cold, definitely grey. Maybe I should amend that last sentence since to me the weekend was just about perfect. Rainy, cold, and grey call to me. Rainy, cold, and grey make me want to sit down and write. Rainy, cold, and grey does something mysterious to my neural pathways that somehow explodes onto my computer screen in a storm of words. I'd been simmering an idea in my subconscious file cabinet for a long time. It made me laugh. It combined elements I loved (fantasy/paranormal, knitting, New England.) But I hadn't a clue where it could possibly go or how I would get it there.

But that weekend I suddenly knew. I curled up with my laptop and let the words pour out. I couldn't have stopped them if I tried. Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Pages. I knew names of characters who hadn't existed a nanosecond before they leaped onto the screen alive and ready to go. I knew the town, the people, the situation, the tone of voice, the danger, the romance, the whole nine yards. No second guessing. (Rare for me.) No rewriting. This one blessed time I got it right the first time.

Even better, the idea sold first time out and became a two-book contract with my publisher. There's enthusiasm for it in house and even greater enthusiasm for it right here in my house. I've been slowly reacquainting myself with the proposal the last few weeks (I wrote another full book between Labor Day and April -- Just Desserts which will be out in February '08) and wondering where that elusive burst of almost other-worldly creative connection had disappeared when it came back. Late last night I swear to you I could almost hear it open the door to some of the unused portion of my tired brain and start to fill up the empty space with ideas and enthusiasm and, even better, the confidence that I'll know what to do with those ideas and that enthusiasm.

Why did it happen? I don't know. Why then? Beats me. How long will it last? I haven't a clue. Is it inspiration, the Muse, the product of years of discipline? Your guess is as good as mine.

You see what I mean? All these years and the whole process still makes me by surprise.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Psst! How About Another Contest??

Last night was crazy. I don't know what was the matter with me. We went up to bed around 1:30. I was exhausted. I was sure I'd drop right off to sleep. I was also dead wrong. The second my head hit the pillow, my eyes popped open and my brain shifted into overdrive. I gave up around 3:00 and went downstairs to eat an English muffin and fiddle around at the computer or maybe knit a few rows.

That was the plan. What actually happened was I sprawled on the sofa in the family room and watched Sex and The City reruns until I fell asleep around 7:30.

Guess what? The phone rang at 9:02 a.m. The air conditioner guy wanted to know if he could come early. Sure, I said, as long as you don't mind pajamas . . .

Anyway add a fun-filled trip to the post office, the Town Hall, and Pathmark into the mix and you have an action-packed day here in central NJ.

Personally I think I need another contest to wake me up. (Contests, I find, are better than caffeine.)

I have ten copies of A Wedding in Paris to give away to ten lucky (I hope!) winners on Saturday July 21. All you have to do is send me an email with Paris in the subject header and I'll do the rest.

Good luck!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Our Lady of Atlantic City

I'm not sure when or exactly how it happened, but Monday has become our Date Day. Sometimes we jump in the car and play the Left/Right game. We'll hit an intersection or a fork in the road and Roy will say to me, "Left or right?" and head in whichever direction I choose. It's led to some interesting adventures in the past, many of which have ended up in books. (We ended up in Stockton on the Delaware River about ten years ago and that found its way into Once Around.)

Today, however, we had a plan. We were heading down to Cape May, one of our favorite places on the planet and a frequent destination. Okay, so it was just a plan. We meant well but somehow we ended up in Atlantic City (I love A.C.; don't tell anybody but I do) and stumbled into a free buffet at Harrah's.

This, my friends, is people-watching paradise. Our booth looked out on the pool area and I got to watch many fascinating comings and goings. Let's just say the human body comes in some amazing shapes and sizes. Victoria's Secret is missing out on an untapped demographic: I saw enough man-boobs to justify a whole new line of lingerie. (Kramer had the right idea.) I not only saw visible panty lines, I saw what the panties were trying to hide. I saw a man in pale peach shorts and an open lacy shirt which didn't look all that strange in a seaside resort town until you noted the floral totebag slung over his shoulders and the fact that he had French manicured his toenails! He was around forty or so, drop dead gorgeous: tall, tanned, incredibly fit. His hair was thick, shimmering shades of grey and white, impeccably barbered and styled. The other team is lucky to have him . . .
Now I'm a lapsed Catholic (very lapsed) with 12 years of parochial school under my slightly neurotic belt, so you know I say this with love and bemusement: I saw the Infant of Prague propped up on a Wheel of Fortune progressive. I tried to get a photo but I guess I wasn't quite as unobtrusive as I'd hoped because the Infant of Prague's gambling pal shot me a look that left me quaking in my sandals. I turned to leave and I swear to you I hadn't walked more than twenty feet away when I spied the Archangel Gabriel hanging out at a Slingo machine. Take a close look at the photo I snapped with my phone. See the woman on the left? Look at the top of her head, slightly left and just below the Slingo screen. Yep. That's Gabriel.
Hey, whatever works! I'm the woman who thinks there are stories hidden in her new laptop and she needs to dangle blue topazes and chocolate chip cookies over it to lure them out.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Last Living Grecian Hairdo Found in Captivity

We were crossing the parking lot when I saw her. She was part of a crowd of shoppers exiting Target. She carried a leather shoulder bag and four plastic shopping bags filled with goodies. She also wore turquoise blue capri pants, a raspberry t-shirt, and espadrilles. She was somewhere between forty and sixty, one of those women whose age is all blurred . . . but in a good way. Her pale blond hair was styled in an upsweep which wouldn't be all that weird in itself except for the nest of Grecian curls.

How many of you remember Grecian curls? They were de rigeur for prom night when I was in high school (that's me in the photo, prom night 1967, 2 days before I turned 17) (between the heels and the hair I must've topped out at 6'2" that night!) but the last time I saw a woman wearing Grecian curls was on a Braniff Airlines flight from DFW to Las Vegas in May 1985 and it was a hairstyle flashback then.

Talk about a trip down Memory Lane . . .

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Contest Winners!

It's Saturday which means it's time to announce the winners.

10. Georg
9. Brandy Jones
8. Cynthia Dillon
7. Shayla Hawkins
6. Paront1222
5. Nadine Wods
4. Atomic Pagan
3. JK695
2. M Stevenson

and our Grand Prize Winner

1. Phyllis Schmitz

Congratulations, everyone! I've sent out email requests for your snail mail addresses and promise to ship the books on Monday morning.

Watch this space for another contest next week.

Thanks for entering.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Overheard at Borders in Bridgewater

So I'm sitting in the cafe, corner table, thumbing through knitting magazines and sipping iced tea when I hear a middle-aged woman say this:

"I have morals but I'm not a prude!"

Which immediately made me turn around (discreetly) to see who she was talking to. The man was between fifty and sixty, full head of grey hair, grey beard, wire-rimmed glasses, cup of coffee in front of him.

When was the last time you heard someone use the word "prude"? I don't think I've used "prude" in a sentence since 1967.

They went on to discuss The Little Rascals/Our Gang, a comic serial from the 1930s which most of you probably never heard of. I saw them on television when I was a little girl and grew fond of Spanky and Alfalfa and Farina. Darla got on my nerves. However, Darla was I'm-not-a-prude's favorite character. Second was Buckwheat. She seriously disliked someone named Chubby who must've slipped past my five year old radar because I don't remember him at all.

Eavesdropping can be very dangerous because sometimes you forget you're not part of the conversation and find yourself about to add your own (unwelcome) two cents into the mix. Being the student of worthless pop culture that I am, I wanted to add some information about the teacher Miss Crabtree but good sense (and common decency) reined me back in before I embarrassed myself and annoyed the daylights out of them.

And this I heard from the man sitting behind me. He was reading a newspaper and talking on his cell phone when he said:

"We used to do things together like go to theme parks but she doesn't want to be with me much any more."

He looked around fifty, too. Very tired. Very sad.

Is Borders in Bridgewater the new hangout for the fifty-something set in central NJ?

I'll investigate and get back to you.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Focus Group That Got It Right

Ask any working writer what he or she thinks about focus groups and it's likely the air around you will turn bright blue in a nanosecond. Focus groups are bane to the creative soul. Focus groups suck the oxygen right out of a project. Focus groups only care about the bottom line which, for publishers, means money.

Well, yesterday I read about a focus group that actually got it right. I was reading Michael Ausiello's column in TV Guide online and he mentioned a Grey's Anatomy focus group that came down hard on the repulsive George & Izzie pairing. Otherwise known as (ugh) Gizzie. Apparently the viewers whose opinions were at the heart of this focus group came down 95% against Gizzie. My only surprise is what the *#(@ is wrong with the other 5%?

Why don't I like Gizzie? How about the fact that there's no chemistry there. Zip. None at all. And what about this big best-friends thing they keep yapping about? I didn't see any evidence of it and I've all but memorized every frame of seasons 1 and 2. Friends, yeah. But to-the-death best friends? Sorry, I don't buy it. Alex showed more love and compassion toward Izzie when Denny (yuk; sorry I couldn't stand him) died than George did. Alex scooped her up into his arms and held her while she cried. George just stood there looking like George.

Okay, so I like George with Callie, even though I think Callie deserves a hell of a lot better than a guy who married her on the grief rebound and cheated on her before the first six months were up. I like Izzie with . . . oh, I don't know. The unemployment line, maybe?

Don't get me started. Once I launch into my "What's Wrong With Grey's Anatomy" rant I'll never stop.

I'll save part two for tomorrow. Consider that a warning.

Grey's fans, please please don't hesitate to comment even if you disagree. Especially if you disagree!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Contest Reminder

I figured Liam just might get your attention.
If you haven't already entered my Just Like Heaven contest, there's still time. All you have to do is send me an email with CONTEST in the subject header and you're in. I'll draw the ten winners on Saturday. The grand prize winner will also receive a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com.
I know. I had you going there for a second, didn't I? You probably figured the grand prize winner would be awarded a night with Liam Neeson . . . or maybe dinner with Liam and his wife Natasha. Nope, Liam is making a guest appearance here as a shameless self-promotional ploy . . . and a pretty good one, if I do say so myself!
Good luck!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Overheard at the Seville Diner

Writers are great eavesdroppers. Set us down in the middle of a crowd and we're bound to walk away with at least five juicy tidbits drawn from conversations around us.

I found this one in an old notebook this afternoon.

Overheard at the Seville Diner on Route 18 in East Brunswick on Friday afternoon, May 23, 1997:

Woman #1: He called and asked Denise to fly over on Sunday for the French Open.
Woman #2: Oh my God, he didn’t! What did she say?
Woman #1: She told him no.
Woman #2: What is she, crazy? We’re talking France!
Woman #1: Her hair appointment wasn’t until Monday.
Woman #2: And he couldn't wait???

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Monday, July 9, 2007

I Have Now Officially Seen It All

So there I was in my car, waiting innocently on line to use one of the bank's drive-up windows when I saw her in the car next to me.

Her windows were open. Her radio was blaring oldies from one of central NJ's FM stations. The faint scent of tobacco wafted across on a hot, humid breeze. Just another average middle-aged woman biding her time while she waited her turn at the drive-up window.

Wait. What's going on? She's leaning forward, peering at herself in her rear view mirror. Her face is contorted. She lifts her hand and sunlight bounces off a slender metal object in her fingers.


She's plucking chin hairs with a pair of tweezers.

In public. In broad daylight. While I watched.

I thought I'd seen it all the day the kilt-clad bagpipe player materialized in front of me outside of King Kullen in West Islip but I hadn't.

Now I have.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Good Advice

I found this on Diane Patterson's wonderful blog Nobody Knows Anything. (Diane [and William Goldman] are right: nobody does. Especially not in publishing.)

"Via Theater Ideas, here is Ben Cameron’s excellent advice offered as he left TCG (Theater Communications Group?):

* Do not assume that you have to have some prescribed conditions to do your best work.
* Do not wait.
* Do not wait for enough time or money to accomplish what you think you have in mind.
* Work with what you have right now.
* Work with the people around you right now.
* Work with the architecture you see around you right now.
* Do not wait for what you assume is the appropriate, stress-free environment in which to generate expression.
* Do not wait for maturity or insight or wisdom.
* Do not wait till you are sure that you know what you are doing.
* Do not wait until you have enough technique.
* What you do now, what you make of your present circumstances will determine the quality and scope of your future endeavors."

In other words, what the hell are you waiting for?

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

WOW! (and a contest)

Every few weeks or so I make a point to check my blog stats. I'm not quite sure why I do it; probably for the same reason writers check their Amazon ranking and the best seller lists. It's just another way to drive yourself completely insane without leaving the privacy of your home.

Well, this afternoon I clicked on the blog stat link, checked my traffic, then decided to click on the World Map feature and let out a whoop of excitement.

Yes, a whoop. I didn't know I was capable of whooping until that moment but it turns out I am a very talented whooper.

I know this is going to mark me as hopelessly unsophisticated but there is something deeply exciting about seeing that list of countries represented. I guess I'm still the tiniest bit in awe of the power of the Internet and the fact that we can literally reach across the globe without our words and touch each other is downright mindblowing if you stop typing long enough to really think about the concept.

So I want to issue an official welcome to my wonderful visitors from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korean, Taiwan, Canada, Phillipines, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, the U.K., Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and my home base United States of America.

I'm so delighted I can barely type this post! In fact, I think this deserves a contest. Send me an email at this address and I'll pick ten winners who will all receive signed copies of Just Like Heaven.

I'm so glad you're here, all of you!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Sex and the City: The Movie?

They say it's a done deal but I've heard that song before. Apparently Kim Cattrall has decided making Disney ice skating films isn't quite the follow-up to her iconic role on Sex and The City that she had hoped it would be and has fallen in line with the other actors who signed on to make SATC: The Movie. Rumor has it shooting begins in late summer or early fall. I'm hoping this won't turn out to be a case of too little, too late.

Rumor also has it that the story will pick up a few years down the road, in real time, in deference to the "slight aging" of the actresses. Three years makes a difference? Come on. Actresses don't age in real time. Everyone knows that. And even in the brutal light of reality it's highly unlikely your face will fall apart in three short years. (Okay, so that's a hot button for me. It isn't easy being the only woman on the planet who'll be going to the grave with the same face she started out with.)

The big question, though, is where do they go from here? Happily-ever-after endings for everyone just don't seem likely to me. Samantha and Smith walking off hand-in-hand into the forever sunset? Sorry, I just don't buy it. I don't buy Carrie and Big either, come ot think of it. Charlotte and Harry? Yes, absolutely. Miranda and Steve? I loved them together from the start.

Considering the fact that SATC ran six wonderful seasons without ever once utilizing the characters' back stories, this should be interesting.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Why Do I love CostCo So Much?

It's dingy. The lighting stinks. The floors are scuffed linoleum. The products are just shoved out there on pallets or arranged on top of metal tables. It smells like warehouse mingled with whatever samples are being cooked for shoppers' delectation that particular day.

And I love it. I'd take it over Nordstrom or Saks or Neiman any day. I love pushing my gigantic cart up and down the aisles. I love pawing over the discounted books and DVDs. I love staring at 10 gallon cans of Lindsay black olives. I love wondering what anyone could possibly do with a vat of melted American cheese sauce and live to talk about. I love mountains of socks, giant bags of shelled walnuts, tractor lawn mowers pushed right up against the display of fresh shrimp and salmon.

CostCo has no style, no flash, no nuthin' but good prices, great quality, and a no-nonsense ambience that I have to admit I've come to love.

Yes, we spent the afternoon at CostCo. We are $157 poorer but if you ever need the world's biggest jar of roasted red peppers, call me. I might be able to help.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July

One of the airlines ran a great commercial during the height of the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976: Ben Franklin and George Washington peer out the window of an airliner in flight and gaze down at the country they helped create.

Back then I wondered what they would think about how we handled things. I'm still wondering.

Let's raise a glass to the men and women who, two hundred thirty-one years ago, made us possible and toast better days ahead.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Movie Recommendations

My 3 favorite movies of the year so far:

1. The Queen (the amazing Helen Mirren won an Oscar for the title role)

2. Notes on a Scandal (breathtaking performances from Dame Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett)

3. Kinky Boots (Joel Edgerton and Chiwetel Ejiofor -- wonderful!)

I love British movies. I love British books. I love British television. It must be genetic: I had an English grandmother and a Anglophile mother.

God bless BBC America!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Battle of the Brians

I was rummaging around looking for a blank videotape so I could record some Food Channel for a friend when I found a tape from way back in 1988 that turned out to be pure gold.

The men's short and long programs from the Winter Olympics in Calgary! I have the real, unedited, absolutely fabulous Battle of the Brians on tape and I'm here to tell you it was every bit as wonderful as my memory has painted it over the years. A young Viktor Petrenko! Christopher Bowman pre (or was it post?) Betty Ford Center. The terrific Paul Wylie. Kurt Browning. (I'm hoping I dig up the Battle of the Carmens somewhere so I can watch Debi Thomas battle Katarina Witt for the Gold.)

I said it in 1988 and I'll say it again: Boitano's two performances at the 1988 Winter Olympics was the single best skating exhibition I'd ever seen to that point and today, 19 years later, it still is. I mean, I know how it all turns out and I was still on the edge of my seat. I still get goosebumps during the short program when he takes the "snow" from his skate blade and tosses it exuberantly over his shoulder. I still burst into tears when he finishes his long program and looks up toward heaven.

I still love Brian Boitano but I have to say Brian Orser was better than I remembered. I just now Googled him and found out he's coaching up in Canada. So hard to believe these beautiful young men are now in their forties. Where did the time go?

I know competitive figure skating is an imperfect beast. You'll never be able to separate the objective components from the subjective ones when it comes to judging. And God knows there will always be national biases to skew things. You can't help feeling a little extra something for the hometown guy but for me that quickly passes when the skaters hit the center of the ice. The lights dim. The music starts. The program begins and suddenly all that matters to me is the beauty and atheticism and downright artistry. I call it the Goosebump Factor. When it's good, it's good. It defies borders and boundaries, language and culture.

Which is why the Battle of the Brians at Calgary in 1988 was so special. It isn't often that a skater perfomers the skate of his (or her) life at the exact moment he needs to do it. (Remember Scotty Hamilton in 1984 and how disappointed he was to win the Gold with a less than stellar performance?) Brian Boitano gave the skate of his life that night and so did Brian Orser. Skating just doesn't get any better than that.

YIKES! I was typing up impressions on my Alphasmart while I watched the tape and cut-and-pasted them to this post! Talk about embarrassing. However, in the interest of honest reportage, I'll leave some of it intact. Be kind . . .

Can you imagine how it felt to be out there on the ice the cool air the way your muscles feel the sound of the blades on the ce the crowd the energy the lights I'll bet he wasn't aware of anythig but muscle memory and

ahis line was exquisite every movement balletic extensions the martial music the most amazig thing of all was the spread eagle the line of his body the angle breathtaking the midair splits

brian orser you could see it in his eyes after hi performance the elation that was in bb wasn't in orsers it was almost like he knew

what memories
debi thomas watching paul wylie christopher bowman whatever happened to christopher bowman

God love google. I'm going to go find out.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Congratulations to Kim H, winner of the Lion Brand Contest!

drawing courtesy yours truly

New Vista(s)

Meet my new Dell Inspiron 1505. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I now have a pink argyle laptop. (Hey, I'm a pink kind of girl who loves to knit.)

Don't worry. Dell hasn't suddenly begun manufacturing argyle laptops. That's a really cool removable laptop skin and I love every single silly inch of it.

Of course the arrival of an innocent new laptop is a bittersweet event. The poor thing doesn't know its days are numbered. I was thinking of hosting a contest (Pick The Day The Laptop Dies! Win Great Prizes!) but I couldn't bring myself to jest about her inevitable demise.

I've decided to keep this one off the internet. It's a dangerous world out there and I want to keep her safe from harm. (I'd better keep her away from parrots too, come to think of it.) (I can't tell you how many parrot-instigated computer disasters I've been through over the years.) (The great tuna salad incident, the time Squirt opened his cage door, flew over to the laptop, and popped off all the keys, iced tea on the keyboard, chewed cords, the list goes on.)

I hereby declare this laptop an Internet Free Zone. It will be used only for writing and other solitary pursuits.

This is my first experience with the Vista OS. It seems pretty good but some things take a little adjustment. I couldn't stand the fact that they hid the RUN feature so I Googled, discovered how to pop it onto the start menu and now I'm a lot happier. Personally I can't see why they abandoned XP. I thought that was pretty close to perfect. God knows it seemed stable, I liked the way it looked, blah blah blah. But for some strange reason Microsoft never pays any attention to my opinion. Go figure.

And don't get me started on the way Microsoft treats you like a common criminal when you foolishly attempt to reinstall Word on a newly installed hard drive and the error messages start popping up. YOU DON'T OWN THIS! YOU CAN'T REGISTER IT! THOSE NUMBERS ARE INVALID! CALL US! BEG FOR FORGIVENESS, LOWLY FOOLISH GIRL WRITER!

I did call. I tried to rein in my testiness but it was there just the same. No, I didn't pirate the software. Yes, it belongs to me. Yes, it's the SAME COMPUTER IT WAS ORIGINALLY ON. The hard drive died, people. I replaced it. Gimme a break, will you? I have the feeling this is a pro forma thing they put you through to put the fear of Bill Gates in you but that's just a guess.

Anyway the Argyle Laptop has come to stay. Here's to a long, happy, and productive life!

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