Saturday, November 17, 2007


From The Bravery's May 2007 "The Sun and The Moon," "Believe" is rich in sound, rhythm and lyrics. Guitar harmony flows through lilting synthesizer, supported by a drumbeat backbone, wrapped in vocals ranging from velvet to raw silk.

Visit to listen.

In concert November, 30 at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hils.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Up for Review -- A Twilight Zone Flashback: Insanity Escaped

It's National Blog Posting Month, and my little well of creativity is running dry, along with my little well of time. So for today's post, I give you this week's writing class assignment for your review and feedback. It's a review of a great little flick, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet."

A Twilight Zone Flashback: Insanity Escaped

Once mental illness was feared and hidden in darkness, its stigma so strong its revelation could be shocking, even dangerous. Insanity manifested was as scary a monster as any movie maker could conjure.

In the 1963 "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," directed by Richard Donner, mental illness was still scary, scary enough to be the focus of this episode of "The Twilight Zone." With light and shadow, silence and perception, Donner illuminates one man's struggle with insanity and his fear of its revelation to the world. The episode has a bumpy take-off with overacting and long dramatic pauses which are almost laughable until they prove to be part of the point of the story, highlighting perceptions of mental illness.

As the story begins, Bob Wilson and his wife Julia are flying home after his release from a mental institution. They and other passengers board the plane through a dimly lit entry, but once Bob and Julia are seated, the light on them is stark and bright. As they wait for take-off, his fear of a relapse shines through. He fumbles with a cigarette while eyeing the illuminated "No Smoking" sign.

Repeated close-ups reemphasize his facial expressions in response to anything that might cause him the slightest risk of cracking up, from not being able to smoke a cigarette, to taking off, to the announcement of a coming storm. Then, as if the fear is manifesting itself in physical form, a figure appears on the airplane wing. Shadowy and obscure at first, Bob struggles to see it. It vanishes then reappears, vanishes again, then suddenly appears, faced pressed against Bob's window in full revelatory light.

Is it Bob's insanity personified, or is it real? The question arises again and again, each time with more urgency, as the creature he dubs a "gremlin" begins to open the wing and rip out wires.

It's here that Donner's use of tight shots, long pauses and overacting finally make sense. It's all about perception, and that's what he showcases by refusing to rely on wide shots, dialogue or even great acting.

Bob's struggle is both internal and external. He knows that telling the crew may undermine a sanity that even he cannot be sure of, yet not telling may put them all in danger. So, he tells his wife and eventually the flight engineer and stewardess.
They contort their faces in such extreme reactions to his claims he sees a gremlin on the airplane wing that it's almost laughable. Bright light reveals every curve and line of their exaggerated expressions, though they say little. Initially it all seems overblown, but it proves to speak as much or more in the story as the actors.

They all know he is insane, and their over the top expressions in harsh black and white reveal what that means. His insanity is dangerous, much more dangerous than any gremlin. So they give him a sleeping pill to soothe his mind, and go about their business.

Despite their dismissal of his urgent pleas, Bob eventually finds the danger so overwhelming that he is forced to confront it. He does so in a way that puts his life and others in danger, but he sees no other choice. Does he rid himself of the gremlin? Does he conquer it? Was it real or a living embodiment of his fear of insanity? As always in “The Twilight Zone,” the final determination is left up to you. The story is presented in whole, laying out the facts, and you are invited to think, to examine, to decide.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

I won't be cooking a big bird. In fact, eating out is my idea of a festive Thanksgiving. How about you?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Welcome to Retroville: Holiday Shopping with Thrift Shop Style

Vintage cards, wrapping papers, and ephemera from the 1920's through the 1970's are some of my favorite inexpenisve treats for holiday decorating.

This box, which I purchased for $1 from a Salvation Army store, came filled with cards in excellent condition, including the one featuring Santa with Raggedy Ann as seen on the front of the box and here below.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Best Saddlebag a Gal Could Ever Have

The Skip*Hop Saddlebag, seen above in pink camo, is perfectly sized to fit diapers, wipes, cell phone, drivers license, and debit card for a quick jaunt out with two toddlers. Velcro straps on back fasten securely onto grocery carts and strollers, and an array of pockets allows easy access to essentials.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I won this one and liked it so much I purchased two Skip*Hop Dash diaper bags which double as very hip messenger bags.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Call Me the Queen of Easy

Frozen brownies in a box. Really. Seriously. Really.

And I love this, instruction number two on the back begins with "Remove brownies from cardboard box . . ." Target markets?

1) Those high enough to actually eat the box along with the brownies;

2) Incredibly inexperienced bakers unaware that cardboard boxes do not fare well inside ovens; and

3) Sleep-deprived mommies like me likely to toss the entire thing in the oven before reading the directions.

Step five troubles me though, "Allow to cool for about 5 minutes." Are you kidding me? Five whole minutes? By then I will have already filled up on Pop Tarts and Twinkies.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For Veterans Day, Holiday Parcels to Iraq

For all our armed forces do and sacrifice, Liv is organizing a parcel sending party to bring a little home for the holidays to our men and women in Iraq. Click here to visit her blog to learn more.

No Deal, Focusing on Corporate Greed

Bargain hunters are not to blame for the recent onslaught of dangerous toys in the American marketplace, despite suggestions otherwise. Parents didn't strike a deal to injure their children in return for ten dollar toys.

The decision to buy a cheaper product does not equal an implicit agreement to purchase harmful goods. The failure of US toy companies to ensure product safety reflects directly on corporate executives who more diligently protected their own stock options than children's safety.

Those who control profit margins, namely corporate executives, are responsible for setting prices and being good corporate citizens. This can be fairly interpreted as a responsibility to not injure consumers, regardless of the price of the product.

With millions of mainstream toys recalled, it's nearly impossible to believe that executives care as much about product safety as corporate profits. "That's not my job," doesn't seem to cover it when consumers of the products are children and executive salaries dwarf average American incomes.

Arguing US parents are getting what they deserve because they are somehow responsible for jobs going overseas, by buying cheaper toys, is sadly opportunistic. By the same logic, Americans agree to eat food unfit for consumption because much of it is imported. We agree for our identities to be stolen because major banks have outsourced call-centers, and we agree to ingest tainted prescription drugs because ingredients are often manufactured outside the country. We have bargained for this because corporate executives were forced by our greed to find a way to keep profit margins high, protecting their own compensation packages by keeping production costs low.

The issue is not so much consumer greed as it is corporate greed, as has been true in most product safety debacles, from cigarettes to snake oil. It's important that the distinction between the issues not be lost because, in order to solve the problem, the problem must first be accurately identified. Pointing to consumer greed lets toy companies and executives off far too easily.