Southern Way

Southern Way

Sunday, July 26, 2015

On and Off the Bandwagon

According to Merrian-Webster, the definition of Gluten is: "a substance in wheat and flour that holds dough together".

Once again, my little mind is a bit confused. As a child and young adult I had many friends (and relatives), and knew folks from many other parts of the country, and I never heard of anyone suffering from the ill effects of "gluten". This, despite the fact we were raised reared on a diet of Cherrios, Wheaties, and Sunbeam Bread. God forbid I mention our consumption of coconut cake, biscuits, and fried chicken - all these are truly gluten possessed. 

It wasn't until I was in my late 40's when I first heard of a friend of mine's cousin's child suffered from Celiac Disease that I ever heard the term "gluten free". The disease, she explained to me was when digesting gluten triggered the body's immune system to damage the small finger like projections that line the small intestine that promote nutrient absorption. This would prevent nutrients from being absorbed properly into the body. In this case, the child was really ill and the mother had to learn a different way to shop and cook for him. 
I could not imagine such a fate. First having a child one had to protect from such a horrendous disease and learn how to rethink how to shop, cook, and eat wheat and flour free in our world of bread, breading, cakes, cookies, and pasta. Obviously this was before the birth of the Gluten Free market.

Suddenly we have "Gluten Free" aisles in the grocery stores. A good 20% of my friends are now convinced that Gluten is the cause of every digestive, intestinal, or weight  problem they have and have sworn off the evil stuff. There are articles stating "80% of those with Celiac Disease go un-diagnosed". According to an article on Healthy Living while there are those who suffer from Celiac Disease, more may just have a wheat allergy. My question is how many of those on the Gluten Free band wagon have been tested to know exactly what they have?

I'm not saying it is a passing fad. Giving the "Gluten Free" aisles in the grocery stores, it is a full fledged business now. However, if one looks closer they will see many of the Gluten Free products while free of Gluten are chocked full of fats, sugars, and carbs. Remembers the "Fat Free" diets of the early 1990's. I thought I was in nirvana. That was the diet for me. Once I found that I could eat an entire Entennman's Raspberry Danish Twist (all 5 servings) without a fat gram I was in heaven knowing I had not strayed from my diet. (Of course how I was going to lose weight given I had just consumed about 1500 calories was just a minor detail.) Also keep in mind that Kate Gosselin's haircut (the one that looked as if it were done by a drunk stylist with great ambition) was also a fad. But  digress.

I'm not saying that Gluten Free is all bad or that we may be carrying this a little far. Personally I'm not quite ready to swear off biscuits, fried chicken, and  whole grain bread - the real stuff not some GF alternative. All I am saying is, as a country we love band wagons and are quick to jump on. This all came to mind this morning in the shower when I noticed that on the front of both of my DH's shampoo and conditioner bottles it read "100% Vegan Free - Gluten Free". Seriously? Well, I'm just going watch this parade.

Mr. Holmes - A Movie Review

How can you go wrong making a movie around the character of the iconic Sherlock Holmes starring Ian McKellan and Laura Linney (both Oscar nominated actors)? Mr. Holmes, the film opens with scenery of Sussex. The landscape photography here alone with the smoke of the train engine the only thing breaking the solitude of the immense miles of the emerald English Countryside takes one in. We are off to a good start.

The story- no spoiler here if you have seen the trailers - takes place in 1947 when Mr. Holmes has retired to his Sussex country home some 35 years after his career as the world renown sleuth. He has become a curmudgeon. There is no love loss either with his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney). But her very bright and quite precocious son, Roger (Milo Parker) is quite curious about him.

Holmes is grappling with the issues of old age - the slowing of the body and one's memory. His last case 35 years prior still haunts him as unsolved. He cannot remember the details and will not rest until he can solve it.

The story runs and stumbles between points of keen interest when we learn of Holmes' background, when we see the interesting relationship between he and Mrs. Munro. The characters of the two are brought to the screen with a life one would expect of such seasoned actors. However, there are times the story lags. There are times you want to know more. There are times you feel you could have known less.

Linney plays the burdened sullen Mrs. Munro brilliantly, never showing any joy. And McKellan plays Holmes as if he were indeed the old man we loved so much in the books of Author Conan Doyle. But it is the brilliant work of Parker who pulls it all together and keeps the story going. His naive youthful curiosity and desire to help tugs and pulls Holmes along. He brings the twinkle back to his eye. Without Parker's questions, prodding, and support Holmes most likely would have floundered into his dotage, never having  the answer to his nagging question. Parker keeps the story afloat and is the string that ends up tying it into a nice package.

As we walked out of the theater, I was a bit disappointed. It was if I needed more or less. I'm not sure what, but something was afoot. McKellan's Holmes was superb, Linney played Munro bringing forth more unspoken dialogue from her character than script. Parker was a nice surprise, a sprite in the British gloom. The story was enjoyable. But it just stumbled through the 104 minutes as if looking for its footing.

I still enjoyed the film and recommend it. Just keep in mind, like Holmes in his older years, the film is also not in its prime.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It's Impossible

Ah, Perry Como . . .

"It's impossible, tell the sun to leave the sky - 
 It's just impossible"

I think at least 25 of all 68 people who have purchased one of my books, have made some comment to my DH. Examples have been: 

  • "Have you read them?"
  • "What did you think?"
  •  "Isn't she funny?"
  •  "Did you know she could write like that?"

Of course the answers are:

  •  "No"
  • "I don't know because I haven't read either one of them."
  •  "She can be."
  •  "No."

Then he has said to me that perhaps he should read one of them. After some thought - just a minute or less - he quickly says, "Or, maybe not." I am in total agreement here. In this case ignorance is bliss. I can pretty much assume my humor and look on life is going to be lost on someone who refers to all women's clothing as "costumes" (with the exception of technical outdoor wear sold at REI or LL Bean.)

So to maintain marital bliss I find it best to stick to the status quo. I may have possibly at some point in my life penned some sort of narrative that could have found its way to a publisher. But then who would believe anything I wrote. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I would not believe it had I not survived most of it and lived to tell about it. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Don't Confuse Fair Weather and Hell

Many a man has rued the day he assumed the southern charm of his fair maiden was barometer of the weakness of her character. How could something this sweet and delicate be bothered with serious issues. Well Hell hath no fury as a southern woman scorned. As I mentioned earlier, a lady may take to her room with the vapors to recover but under that delicate demeanor lies a force to be reckoned with.

Just saying.

Movie Review - Amy

Amy, is the story of Amy Whinehouse, a prime example of talent we lost way too early. Yes, we all read the tabloids about her personal issues with drugs and alcohol and how her family and friends tried to save her to no avail. And, how after her premature death her the family released a statement in which they talked about the gaping hole she left. Then the family gave Asif Kapadia, the director, their backing when he approached them about making a film on her life. After all, they were impressed with his earlier film "Selena".

What they discounted was that Kapadia was going to tell her life story - the good, the bad, and the ugly - using home movies, photographs, and often her own words.  The family were none too pleased with the final product. Yes, it showed this incredibly talented young woman with a voice that was reminiscent of Sara Vaughn and other great jazz vocalists, who was one of the most gifted female song writers of our time. 

But it also showed how her father, Mitch, who Amy stated was pretty much absent during her childhood, suddenly was there when she became successful and tried to control her success. Times when stress, drugs, and alcohol were taking a heavy toll on her, instead of cancelling dates to save her, he insisted the show go on. She worshiped her father and would do whatever he said. Any appeals from her friends for his help, went on deaf ears. She was his golden goose.

Once when it was clear she needed to go into rehab, and she needed help separate from her husband who had introduced her coke, crack, and heroin, he did not push for treatment. When she found peace on a long vacation in St. Lucia far from the stress of the public and the press, Mitch showed up with a camera crew, filming a show about himself. 

And when the downward spiral moved into warped speed there was no stopping it. It was only a matter of time. Once her derelict controlling husband was out of the way - thanks to a stint in jail and finally a divorce, her father still refused to hear Amy's silent cries for help and her friends screams to save her. It was just a matter of time.

The film tells the tragedy in a unique perspective of her rise and fall from a young girl to a successful world renown talent. The fact that there were cameras around her constantly - home movies, friends with cameras, the press, and TV clips is eerie. More haunting is her words on the screen. 

If you appreciated her talent and her music, it is well worth your time to understand the woman behind it all. It is the fateful story of  a young lady with so much talent, yet not a chance given those who only saw her as their ticket. And once she was gone, how dare you get upset that someone tells the story.

It is a film well made and 128 minutes starring all the characters as themselves.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Don't Know Why

And then there are life's unanswered questions, the mysteries of my universe:

Why did we have to grow up? I was doing just fine in Kindergarten. According Robert Fulgham's best selling book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" said it all.

How could I graduate from a respectable four year institution at the age of 22 and by the age of  41 become a blithering idiot (according my teenage daughter) only to regain my sanity and some wisdom by the age of 47?

If there is a god why didn't he let us have grandchildren first?  

If most of us are not engineers, mathematicians, or physicists, why are we constantly quoting Murphy's fourth law of thermodynamics? And who was this guy Murphy any way?

Why do our best thoughts come in the shower?

How is it that the statisticians and pundits who insist the unemployment rate is so low all have well paying secure jobs?

Does anyone else see an issue when our law makers, the members of Congress, promote marriage, chastise single parents, and frown upon cohabitation yet have enacted a tax code that includes a marriage penalty?

How can the cowards among us eschew Machiavelli, and still be surprised when our enemies lye?

Why is the sky blue after all? I'm still waiting for that answer, 51 years after I first asked it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Que Sera Sera

Folks have odd habits - or rather I should say funny little "rituals" to bring on good luck.  There are the old wive's tales of things one should avoid to prevent bad luck. A prime example is the obsessed fan who refuses to change his underwear as long as his team is winning. Or the single women who have tossed thousands of dollars in fountains in hopes of a man. (That made for a great movie in 1954, long before my time - I might add.)

Of course the Gullah culture had a whole issue with the haints (ghosts or lost souls) that they said lurked about. They would paint all the door and window frames of their houses blue to keep the haints out. For years you could still see houses with the blue around the doors and windows. Now they are all but gone - the blue windows that is, I cannot speak for the haints.

One of my Mama's favorite songs was "Que Sera Sera". Of course the irony there was my asking her what that meant.  

She used to tell me things like:

  • Warm hands, cold heart, Cold hands, warm heart
  • Washing a car will bring rain
  • It is bad luck to open an umbrella in the house
  • Lady bugs bring good luck
  • You must get out of bed on the same side you got in on or you will have bad luck
That last one was always confusing to me as a child, given I was constantly being told I had "gotten up on the wrong side of the bed" when I came down for breakfast in one of my more surly moods. But I digress.

I personally have found that everytime I get myself organized, my house in order, something major changes in my life. Some examples in my past have included the simple act of getting a new office set-up at work. At one of my earlier jobs, I had just gotten all the furniture installed and finally moved around as I liked, when I was offered a better job with another organization. 

When I was with the Judge we had extremely nice chambers. However given all the space we had, I had this very small desk. Finally after 14 years we remodeled the office. My junior size work space was replaced with this much larger (appropriately sized) desk that made my daily life so much better. I was able to reorganize and make my office more efficient. Naturally, it wasn't nine months before the Judge was diagnosed with early onset alzheimer's and I found myself closing the office and packing everything to be shipped off - including my nice desk.

Over the past several weeks I have gotten very industrious. I have cleaned out my orchid houses, thrown away dead and dying plants, repotted overgrown plants, and added a few new ones. I have reorganized all my photography files and made sure all my external back-ups (as well as cloud backups) are working. Yesterday, while in a store I saw some organizers I could use on the shelves in my office to finally make sense of the mess.

So this morning, I dismantled everything on top of my desk and cleared all the shelves. I went through and culled all the trash. I filed all the relevant random papers, notes, and bills that were scattered about and trashed the rest. I set-up the new organizing system on the book shelf. Then I put it all back together. After I had taken out the bags of trash and vacuumed the floor, I stood back and admired my work. Finally my office was nice, neat, and organized. I should have done this a year or two ago.

Now, does this mean a job is coming my way? Or am I close to winning the lottery? I dare think. Whatever the winds bring I will have an organized area to work in. So as long as I have cold hands, get out of bed on the same side every morning, don't open an umbrella in the house, and avoid the haints - life should be OK. 

"The future's not ours to see, . . . What will be, will be,"

On second thought, maybe I should go get some blue paint.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - a Movie Review

Chances are you will not see Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Chances are if you see it listed, you'll skip right over it, thinking it is an art house indie flick and move on to the big ticket show of the weekend. Well it is an indie film. It also is the Grand Jury as well as the Audience Award winner of the Sundance Film Festival (and that of many other well known indie film festivals.)

Here is the skinny - Greg is a shy senior in high school, the nice guy who blends into the wallpaper and no one really sees. He is an acquaintance with many but truly friends with no one. Well no one except Earl, his best friend and co-worker. (They make parodies of classic movies.)

Then Greg's terribly overbearing obnoxious mother insists that he befriend Rachel, a girl he barely knows from school, who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. The story is that of their friendship. Earl tags along and plays an integral role in the story. In a way it is a coming of age story. In a way it is the story of a devoted friendship. 

The film is chocked full of dysfunctional parents, teachers, and fellow students. There are so many interesting side characters that you often wonder whose imagination they came from. The films Greg and Earl make are lame but very creative. Their movies have titles such as "Vere'd He Go" (Vertigo),  "Hairy, Old, and Mod" (Harry and Maude), and "Anatomy of a Burger" (Anatomy of a Murder).  

But inside all the weird characters, odd movies, and typical high school angst, there are three teenagers trying to figure it out. Greg (Thomas Mann) finds that it is OK to be himself and let fellow students either like him or not. Rachel (Olivia Cooke) grapples with cancer her senior year in high school and handles it as well as possible. And Earl (RJ Cyler) is the emotional anchor, the silent sage - the calm quiet guy who is always there for Greg. 

Throughout the movie, Greg provides narration giving the audience insight, such as assuring us Rachel will not die and informing us, that no, the two of them will not fall in love.

The film is funny, touching, and sad. It is sweet without the sap. It is wise without preaching. It is clean with no clutter and flows well. Once again this is a film that will silently go into the night like many indie films that are lauded by their peers and ignored by the crowds. What a waste. But I am telling you, find the film and see it. The 105 minutes will be well worth your time.