Shh, interview in progress…

imagesJanuary 31, 2014 – It’s Friday, two days before the Super Bowl, and the last day in January. It is also the day to post something different, an idea sparked from this blog.

Here are 15 questions designed to interview yourself that allow readers a peek behind the curtain of the blogger. If you know me, maybe you’ll learn something new. If you don’t, you definitely will.

What do you do for a living?
I work as an internal communications specialist for a major software company.

Who do you love?
My family and friends, and the artists Vincent Van Gogh and Georgia O’Keeffe. I also love my son’s dog, Sunny, even though she isn’t with us any longer.

Do you have enough money?
I want to say no because I can be a little greedy, but I do have enough money to live a decent life.

Do you think you are a good person?
I have my moments when I doubt myself and feel I don’t do enough, but most of the time I believe I am a good person.

What is your childhood dream?
I wanted to take acting classes at the playhouse up the street from my childhood home because it seemed like such fun. My parents squashed that idea when they told me I was already dramatic enough.

How often do you laugh?
Thankfully, I am able to laugh several times a day. I feel fortunate to find even the stupid things funny.

What makes you smile? List at least 10 items.
It shouldn’t be hard to list 10 things that make me smile, right? Why am I drawing a blank? Let’s see: (1) My son when he shows compassion, (2) A beautiful day, (3) Finishing the cryptogram quickly in the Philadelphia Inquirer, (4) Babies laughing, (5) The wonderfully entertaining men in the garage where I park every day, (6) A sunset at the beach, (7) Hearing a song I love on the radio, (8) Someone who passes me on the street and offers a smile, (9) An old couple holding hands, (10) The first day of both spring and fall, (11) Snow days, (12) Photographs. Many more, as well, but these things came immediately to mind.

Do you think you are strong?
Sometimes when I feel insecure, I think I am weak, but most times an overwhelming YES!

Do you love yourself?
Not as much as I should, but I’m working on it.

What do you fear the most?
Someone finding out that perhaps I can’t write, after all.

Do you regret anything?
Yes. My only regret is a relationship I had when I was 19. I should have known better, and I still haven’t forgiven myself for it. I’d like to say I learned from it like the other mistakes I’ve made, but this particular time still haunts me.

Sum up your life if one sentence.
My life is mostly good, and when it’s not, I’m able to handle it.

What annoys you the most?
I am most annoyed by people who throw trash out of their car windows. I want to say something more profound, but that is the truth.

Do you have secrets?

Are you happy?
Most times, yes I am happy. Like everyone, I have my moments of unhappiness, but thankfully they are few.

Thanks for the music, Pete Seeger

seegerJanuary 29, 2014 – Singer songwriter Pete Seeger passed away on Monday at the age of 94.

Seeger was an icon of the folk music genre, the truest form of American music with roots dating back to the 19th century. It was music with a message that told stories about social injustice, and the struggles of the common man. He was born in Patterson, New York in 1919, and become a staple on nationwide radio in the 1940s. He was also a member of the folk group The Weavers in the 1950s.

Seeger wrote some best folk songs recorded, including “If I had a Hammer”, popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary, and Trini Lopez, “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”, recorded by The Highway Men, “Turn, Turn Turn”, a hit for The Byrds, and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”, made popular by The Kingston Trio.

Seeger is also famous for covering Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”, and “Little Boxes”, my favorite of all his songs, written by his friend Malvina Reynolds, and used as the theme song for the Showtime series “Weeds”.

I grew up loving folk music, and enjoyed listening to Seeger, and the more mainstream folk singers he paved the way for, such as Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary. The love of this genre led to my appreciation for many acoustic artists that followed, such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, and Dan Fogelberg.

It makes me sad to think this musical icon will no longer be able to introduce folk music to generations to come. Here is perhaps his last performance back in September 2013, at Farm Aid, where he performed “This Land is Your Land” with John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, and Neil Young.

And here’s Seeger version of “Little Boxes”.

Who won that Grammy?

ALeqM5ixXk_7j5NNmv9b1OLd5JevAVAs_QJanuary 27, 2014 – Congratulations to all of the artists who won Grammys last night, whoever they may be. I may not be familiar with their music or their names, but receiving a Grammy is an honor, and it should be celebrated.

There was a time not so long ago when I was gaga over any type of music award show. Music is my go to entertainment over any other form. Alas, I am a child of the 70s, and my musical tastes still swing that way. Yet, I can appreciate music outside of that decade and the variety of styles that gave us interesting folk/acoustic, classical, and the standards I grew up listening to at my parents’ parties, such as Sinatra, Bobby Darrin, Vaughn Monroe, and Harry Bellefonte, to name a few. I’m also a fan of music from the 80s and 90s, and even the 60s.

Much of today’s music pales in comparison. For instance, I never heard of one song nominated for Record of the Year, which included “Get Lucky” (Daft Punk), “Radioactive” (Imagine Dragons), “Royals” (Lorde), “Locked Out of Heaven” (Bruno Mars), and “Blurred Lines” (Robin Thicke). Same goes for Song of the Year and Album of the Year.

Looking back, Grammy and I have always had a love/hate relationship. Grammy voters overlooked the artists I listened to back in the day, so while I watched, I was often frustrated by the winners.

For example, The Beatles, the best selling band in history, are the recipients of 9 Grammys, which may sound like a lot for a band who recorded music for less than 10 years. When you consider several of those Grammys came in recent years for compilation albums and their Anthology stuff, it isn’t a lot. The Rolling Stones only have three Grammy wins, and one of them is a Lifetime Achievement Award. That’s a small amount for a band celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Many of the artists I consider my favorites never won a Grammy, and in many cases, never garnered a Grammy nomination. It’s not that they are less talented or celebrated than the prefab, pop, recording studio dubbed winners who nabbed the big prize. But that’s OK. Fans of the Emmys, Tonys and Oscars often say the same, and we live in a world when the best doesn’t always win.

It’s been more than 10 years now since I tuned into the Grammys. As a music lover it makes me sad, yet I still don’t feel like I missed a thing.

Fun with puns and alliteration

a-middle-eastern-eatery-photo-u1January 24, 2014 – Most people enjoy a good pun, the wordplay form that suggests more than one meaning of similar sounding words for a humorous effect. They can be madcap fun.

When you combine a passionate penchant for puns and a lingering love of lists — the alliteration part of this blog post — you end up with a set of data that is sure to entertain. Take a look at the “47 Best Funny Restaurant Puns” from, the crowd sourced list maker of topics both entertaining and practical, and I bet you’ll be entertained, too.

It’s clever, for instance, to name a wine shop Planet of the Grapes, and a coffee shop Brewed Awakening. It’s downright funny to name a deli Nin Com Soup, or a chicken restaurant Sam and Ella’s. I had to read some of the puns/names a few times before it clicked, and admit to still scratching my head at nos. 16, 28, 34, and 44, but it’s a list definitely worth a look.

Snow Day

January 22, 2014 – One of the benefits of my job is the ability to work from home. When the latest snowstorm blanketed Philadelphia yesterday, I sat at my desk by the window overlooking my neighbor’s home feeling warm and cozy, and sipping a mug of peppermint tea.

Working from home also provided an opportunity for a unique lunch break. I added a few warm layers, put on the boots, and I went out to play in the snow with my trusty Canon. No one had shoveled yet, so the snow lay on the sidewalks untouched, the way I like it best.

It’s silent when it snows; you don’t even hear the cars passing by. It’s also tricky; it may look light and fluffy but it is slick, proving it may be best to stay inside and enjoy a cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch instead.


Winter in the city

January 20, 2014 — I took a winter’s stroll through the woods across the street from my home early Saturday morning. It snowed like crazy for 10 minutes before the sun came out, and then it was gone.

I’ve never been much for poetry unless there’s music behind the words and it becomes a song, but I like the rhythm of a haiku. Here’s my humble attempt to capture that moment with a few photos and a haiku.

As the city slept
Snow fell soft and thick until
The sun erased it

I love trees. In the winter they look so strangely artistic standing naked in front of the world.
There is something artistic about naked trees.
I came upon a birdhouse during my stroll.
Along the way I found a bird house.
Nearly all the trees and bushes were bare, except for this one with a few green leaves clinging to life
The trees and bushes were bare, yet a few green leaves still clung to life.

Who is the better Jack Ryan?

284px-Jack_Ryan_(All_Characters)January 17, 2014 – The latest Jack Ryan thriller, “Shadow Recruit” hits theaters in Philadelphia today.

Like the James Bond character, several Hollywood actors, including Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford (twice), and Ben Affleck, have portrayed Ryan on the big screen. In the latest installment, Chris Pine steps into the role. He’s no stranger to taking on characters made famous by other actors, recently portraying Captain Kirk, a role originated by William Shatner in “Star Trek” in the 1960s.

Jack Ryan is author Tom Clancy’s marine turned CIA hero from his novels “The Hunt for Red October”, “Patriot Games”, “Clear and Present Danger”, and “The Sum of All Fears”. “Shadow Recruit” is considered a prequel to these novels, and takes place before Ryan becomes a CIA agent.

In “The Hunt for Red October”, the first in the series, Alec Baldwin plays Ryan. Kevin Costner and Harrison Ford turned down the role prior to Baldwin’s acceptance. Ford thought he was better suited to play the Russian submarine officer, but that role went to Sean Connery instead. The movie hit theaters almost 25 years ago, before Baldwin was a household name. The actor isn’t exactly known for his tough guy persona. More likely, you equate him with playing Meg Ryan’s love interest in “Prelude to a Kiss”, or as Jack Donaghy in “30 Rock”.

Two years later, Harrison Ford accepted the role as Ryan in “Patriot Games”. He also played Ryan two years after that in “Clear and Present Danger.” Ford’s Ryan was a gun carrying tough guy who used his brains and any ammo he could get his hands on to take down the enemy. It worked well because audiences are used to seeing Ford play the strong hero, a role he tackled it in many other films, including the Indiana Jones series.

In 2002’s “Sum of All Fears”, Ben Affleck became the third Jack Ryan. Like Baldwin, Affleck doesn’t radiate a tough guy or American hero image. He’s currently filming the lead role in the next Batman movie, but many fans voiced their opinion loudly when they said they couldn’t imagine him in the role. It doesn’t seem likely that Affleck could save the world from pending disaster.

Without seeing Chris Pine’s version of Ryan, my opinion is limited. However, based on his performances in other movies, such as “People Like Us” and “This Means War”, I believe he falls into the Baldwin, Affleck category.

Who was Tom Clancy’s favorite? He passed away in October, before he could see Chris Pine play the role, but he noted that he thought Ford was too old. He also said he appreciated Affleck’s attempt. Overall, he wasn’t a huge fan of any of the movie adaptations. “Giving your book to Hollywood is like turning your daughter over to a pimp,” he said.

Easily, my favorite Jack Ryan is Harrison Ford, so I will have to agree to disagree with the author. This is followed purely by acting ability with Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, and Chris Pine.

“Shadow Recruit” is directed by Kenneth Branagh. It also stars Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner.

Idioms and their origin: A top ten list

downloadJanuary 15, 2014 – You have heard them and may even use them, but might not know where they come from.

Idioms, words that stem from the Latin idioma meaning special feature, are phrases that have a figurative meaning separate from a literal meaning. Idioms occur in all languages; in English, they number over 25,000. I am barely scratching the surface, but here are 10 popular English idioms, and their interesting origins:

  1. Turn over a new leaf
    In the 16th Century, people referred to pages in a book as “leaves”. Turning over a new leaf meant turning to another page to begin again.
  2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
    The author of this particular sentiment remains unknown, but it first appeared in a book of French poems in 1602 (author unknown). Using it refers to lacking something increases the desire for it.
  3. Get sacked
    To get sacked means to be fired. We all know that. It is said to come from the 17th Century in England and France when tradesmen, who owned their work tools took them home in a bag or sack after losing their job.
  4. Can’t hold a candle to someone
    I couldn’t locate a year or place of origin for this common idiom, but it came from apprentices holding candles so their craftsmen could see as they worked; therefore, it had to be before electricity was commonly used. If you don’t perform as expected today, you may be told you can’t hold a handle to whoever performs well.
  5. Mad as a Hatter
    This idiom might be my favorite expression. We know it was used in “Alice in Wonderland”, but it originally it is said to come from 18th Century England when mercury was used when making hats, which caused hat makers to go mad. Today, we use it to describe someone we think is crazy.
  6. No dice
    This phrase is 100% made in America and comes from the early 1900s when gambling with dice was illegal. Gamblers went to great lengths to hide their dice back then; if the law couldn’t find the dice (no dice), they couldn’t convict. We use it indicate there is no chance for something happening.
  7. Get up on the wrong side of the bed
    In ancient Rome, people believed it was bad luck to get out of bed on the left side. If you dared, your day would likely not be a pleasant one. Today, getting up on the wrong side of the bed is used when someone is in a grumpy mood.
  8. Apple of my eye
    When we cherish someone above all others, we might say they are the apple of our eye. This idiom is biblical. Deuteronomy 32:10: “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye”. Shakespeare may have been the first to use it commonly, as he did in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1600.
  9. It’s Greek to me
    Another idiom that is attributed to Shakespeare, and “Julius Caesar” in 1599. It comes from “Graecum est; non legitur, or “It’s Greek, therefore it cannot be read”, which was used by monk scribes around the same time. In modern times, we use it if something complex is not easily understood.
  10. Close but no cigar
    The second “All American” idiom on the list, it is said to have originated in the 1935 script for the film “Annie Oakley”, which stated, “Close Colonel, but no cigar!” Today, we use it when we fall short of our expectations.

Movie review: Her

Her2013PosterJanuary 13, 2014 – I’m not keen on futuristic films; they always paint the landscape with dull gray and sadness. I’d rather look forward to the future than dread it.

“Her” opened this weekend in the Philadelphia area, and is set sometime in the near future. I knew that, yet I looked forward to it with excitement because it offered a different take. The Spike Jonze film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and the voice of Scarlett Johansson, looked promising in previews, and had the most original storyline I’ve seen in years.

Theodore (Phoenix) is a lonely man who works as a writer at a company known as He is unable to convey any emotion to his wife, who recently left him, but has no problem writing heartfelt notes for people he doesn’t know. When he downloads a new operating system for his computer, he’s told it is a new artificially intelligent system, and he’s given the choice of a male or female voice. He chooses female, and shortly after, they fall in love.

I wanted to like this film a lot more than I did because of its fresh, imaginative script. The pros were many; the film is well acted, the score is perfect, it makes you feel a lot of emotion (at least it did for me), Phoenix smiles more in it than I’ve ever seen the typically brooding actor smile before, and it had a few clever laughs.

However, there were cons. Much of the story takes place at night, when Theodore is in bed. The screen is often black in these scenes, perhaps a ploy to allow the audience to focus solely on the conversations between Theodore and Samantha (the OS), and they are compelling. However, the dark screen and interesting music and conversation, which at times reminded me of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, is enough to lull you to sleep – not because it bores you but because it relaxes you completely. I may have dozed if it wasn’t for the two elderly women in back of me who had no idea what was going on, and kept complaining it was the strangest movie they’d ever seen.

Another thing I noticed is the use of the color orange in the film. It’s used in clothes, buildings and objects, and it’s also mentioned when Theodore has a conversation with his god-daughter. I never figured out why.

“Her” is a depressing futuristic look at our society and where we are headed, and it makes a loud statement. Already we have the younger generation dependent on communicating with technology, which lacks feeling and emotion, and with the infusion of artificial intelligence, it’s easy to see how this could come to light.

It is critically acclaimed, won the Golden Globe last night for best screenplay, and probably will follow with a few Oscar nominations. Many critics saw in it much more than I did, and I still can’t recommend it to the general population. It didn’t live up to the promise of its previews to do that.

Need a good laugh? Here are six funny people to follow on Twitter if you’re not already doing so.

thCAJPS43TJanuary 10, 2014 – I may not be a Twitter genius, but as a blogger, I send a tiny URL linked to my site each time I post, giving me a fair amount of experience with the social media site.

On the receiving end, I’m also in the fair category, occasionally checking in on the 59 special individuals I follow. I appreciate funny tweets best, although it’s difficult to amuse in 140 characters or less. Here are the six people who manage to do that for me:

  1. Steve Carell – As Michael Scott on “The Office”, Steve Carell’s childish antics began to wear on me, but I missed him when he left. Now, he amuses me with his clever posts on Twitter. I enjoyed this one from last year – “Tomorrow I am going to start not growing a beard.”
  2. Steven Colbert – The political satirist is always a kick on “The Steven Colbert Show”, but it’s nice to get a little slice of humor on Twitter, too. Recently he shared his New Year’s resolution – “They say ‘the camera adds ten pounds’ which is why my New Year’s resolution was to fire two cameramen.”
  3. Ellen DeGeneres — I typically work during the day and don’t get to enjoy Ellen’s humor on her popular daily talk show. On Twitter, I can enjoy it whenever I want. Ellen had this to say about the return of a famous British show – “Amazing to think people lived the way they do on Downton Abbey. Portia was watching something else, so I watched in the servant’s quarters.”
  4. Jimmy Fallon – Mr. Late Night will take over the reins for Jay Leno next month, and it seems he’s gaining more popularity by the day. I knew something was special about him from his earlier SNL days. During the holidays, he tweeted this little gem – “One Thanksgiving my mom had to bail my sister’s boyfriend out of jail. At least we had something to talk about at dinner.”
  5. Hugh Laurie – Who knew the grim Dr. House could be so funny. Thanks to a nudge from my sister, I do now. His tweets are a bit sarcastic, and I love that – “Do you ever get the feeling you’re not being watched?”
  6. Steve Martin – I’ve followed Steve through his early “Let’s get small” stand-up days, and enjoyed his movie career, too. Now the banjo-playing comedian is a timely contributor to Twitter – “Just learned that the NSA has figured out how to log onto Twitter and read my feed.”

I’m sure there are more funny men and women that could brighten my day, so please send suggestions if you follow any. My funny bone thanks you.