Thursday, January 31, 2013

Photography Post - Reflected Oak

A unique view of an oak tree. Here you have the reflection in the pond of the tree on the dyke with the Ashley River and the marsh (formerly rice fields) in the back ground.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

All You Need

I came across this old saying the other day : If you can't race it or take it to bed, you don't need it. That pretty much sums it up in my book. At this point in my life, a good horse, a fast car, or a multi-talented man are the  best things a woman can wish for. And, not necessarily in that order.  

Photography Post - Spring House

The Spring House, one of the surviving out buildings at Middleton Place Plantation.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Font or Not

OK, invitations should be easy. Amy Vanderbilt and Emily Post both tell you what to say "Mr. and Mrs. __ request the honour of your presence . . .. ", paper - ivory. (And, yes, "honour" is spelled with a "u".) But then we get to fonts. It used to be so simple but not any longer. And, does your font say something, or worse yet, does it not say something. 

Some of the fonts available:

(SG Balmoral) This is about as common as dirt.
SG Balmoral™ SH Regular

Zapfino, is a little modern, but then folks might think you're uppity.
Zapfino® One

As my Aunty would say, "This might be finer than frog's hair, but we still don't need it." (Parfurmerie)

The font is called "Diplomatic", but not formal enough in my book.
Diplomatic Regular

When I try to read this, I'm about as lost as last year's Easter Egg. (1880 Kurrentshrift)
1880 Kurrentshrift Normal

Looks a little too much like Aunt Kat wrote them by hand. (Dr. Carbfred) 

Dr Carbfred Regular

This is way above my raisin'. (Monsieur La Doulaise) Monsieur La Doulaise Regular

Definitely makes a statement. Way too commanding. (LDS)
LDS Script Italic sample

Well this is Forty going North, but I don't want the invitation to be mistaken for a Coca Cola ad on the back of a lunch counter menu. (Loki Cola)Loki Cola sample

If the wedding were going to be in New England in the 1700's, maybe.  (Linotext)  Next. 

Linotext® Regular

Folks get this and they'll swear they're three sheets to the wind and seeing double. (Aristocrat)Aristocrat™

(Park Avenue) Next. 
Park Avenue® Script Regular

Way to forward. (Inoxida)
Inoxida Regular

I like this, but not for a formal wedding. (Texas Hero)
Texas Hero Regular

It is a little pretentious. My Aunt Kat would tell me it was "Too big for my britches". But, I like it anyway. (Compendium)
Compendium Regular

The jury is still out.

Photography Post - Middleton Oak

This giant Live Oak tree known affectionately as the "Middleton Oak" is located on the edge of the famous landscaped gardens at Middleton Place Plantation. The tree is 10 feet in diameter and thought to be over 600 years old. The benches below it, give one some perspective to its size. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

I'll Never Know

Several years ago I developed a bad habit of listening to Sirius radio at night. I have a pillow speaker. (If you're unfamiliar with such, it is a small disc like object that slips between one's pillow and pillow case, allowing one to listen to the radio or their iPad without disturbing anyone else.) I keep the volume very low, so low if I move my head just two or three inches I cannot hear it. 

I find that I wake up during the night and just having something to listen to will lull me back to sleep, a much better alternative to lying there trying to solve all the problems of the world. Usually, I listen to CNN, BBC, CNBC or HLN. I know, who in the Hell wants to go to sleep listening to the "restful" sounds of pundits rattling on about the miserable news of our world, politics, and other incorrigible chatter. Well, in my defense, in the wee hours of the morning, especially on the weekends, there are bios of successful business people, true mystery- detective accounts, and in depth background stories of the day's news.

I realized this morning that my periods of being awake might be more frequent than I wish but they obviously don't last that long. As I was going to sleep I was listening to a story about a serial killer in Yonkers (just the thing for peaceful dreams right?). The next thing I knew the story line concerned a second wife in Phoenix, two step children, and a questionable will. What seemed like a minute or so later, Clark Howard was advising a lady to be weary of an offer of  four $69 airline tickets before she read the small print. 

When I awoke I wasn't so concerned about the number of times I was waking up but the main questions at hand: did they find the serial killer, did the father really intend to write his children out of his Will, and how did Clark Howard politely tell that lady she was an idiot? 

Photography Post - Swan

One would think he (or she) is admiring himself in the reflection in the water.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Hobbit and Django, Movie Reviews

Sometimes movies are like shoes in a window, they look great as you walk by, however when you try them on, they just don't quite fit. Last week, having seen everything worth seeing that was out, we were left with two choices: Django Unchained and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Both of us had found another alternative anytime either of those were suggested. But, the time had come. 

Given we are not Lord of the Rings fans, we did not know the lingo, and feared we would be lost in the prequel,  The Hobbit was out of our comfort zone. But, we had heard a lot about the movie so we went. About 35 minutes into the film my DH turned to me and said, "I don't think I can take another 2 hours of this." So we gathered our things and quietly exited the theater.

We were standing in the lobby of the multiplex looking at the marquis of shows to see if there were another we could "slip into" when one of the managers approached us. "Can I help you?" My DH answered (more candidly than I planned to), "Well, we just walked out of the Hobbit and were looking to see what else was playing that we could see." "Didn't like it, huh?" "No. Not my cup of tea." "Well you know when you don't like it." And, then she motioned for another manager to come over. "These folks just left The Hobbit, didn't care for it, and wanted to see something else."

By this time, I am thinking, what happened to just walking out of theater 11, walking down the hall and quietly going in number 3? I don't think we need a committee meeting. But the other manager came over and once again we explained the situation. Finally, after showing our tickets, as if the 1/2 gallon drinks we were holding were not enough to prove we had properly purchased tickets, the decision was made that we would see Django. It was only 10 minutes into the movie.

So down to number 3 we went, quietly slipped in, and settled back for 155 minutes of whatever. Fifteen minutes later we had witnessed four men being shot to death and two women being whipped. It made me wonder what I missed in the first 10 minutes, or not.

I'm not sure what genre Django is. There are some comedic lines, it tries to be a western, but it can easily be taken as a farce. The plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) was cast as ridiculous character dressed like Col. Sanders in his white suit. Then there was a female slave who would have easily passed for Butterfly McQueen's character in GWTW. (I was waiting for her to say something like "Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies".) 

And, it may have gotten better, it must have gotten better, given those yay whos in Hollywood have nominated it for so many awards. But I wouldn't know. Just as the two main characters were leaving their second scene of carnage, my DH and I also exited. 

So, I can say we started both films. I feel certain The Hobbit is an excellent film for those who worship the Lord of the Rings. Since, I am not of that following I cannot appreciate the tale. Django, on the other hand, (in the fifteen minutes we sat there) was everything that every review, positive and negative, had said about it. None of which I was willing to invest 165 155 minutes of life in.

Photography Post - Camelia

The Camellia japonica, the common Camellia. This one is past its peek and just before dropping its petals. But, since they bloom in the otherwise dreary months of December through March, they command an audience of those of us who clamor for any color among the dull brown and gray hue of winter.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weddings According to Amy

To keep from waking up in the middle of the night in sheer panic that I am going to the incorrectly word the invitations, I thought it best to seek advice from a higher authority, Amy Vanderbilt and her "Complete Book of Etiquette". I found weddings under the section entitled,"The Ceremonies of Life." Strumming down the page, looking for times for a wedding I found this golden nugget:

                   "No Catholic wedding takes place after seven at night, except in the case  of great emergency grave illness, perhaps, or possibly the sudden arrival of military orders for the groom-to-be."

Which begs to one to ask, what happens in the Catholic church after seven? But, we are not planning a Catholic wedding so I move on.

Ever question the eligibility for matrons of honor? According to Amy, a "[Bride] may have both maid and matron of honor- one could be her sister, the other a friend. The matron of honor may be a widow, but it is preferable that she not be a divorcee or considerably older than the bride at least not in a large formal wedding." Ladies, only the young and happily married need be considered.

But, the men do not escape her thorough remarks. In regards to the Best Man:

                  "Very occasionally, especially if he has no brother, the groom asks his father to be his best man. If the father is very young-looking this does not seem too incongruous, but it is best to keep the wedding party at the same age level as that of the bride and groom."

Older looking dads need not apply. 

I thought we had everything included in the budget, but, alas, we forgot the chauffeur and the cars. Alfred retired years ago, the Phantom is in the shop, we sold the Duesenberg  and the new Jaguar XJ Super V8Portfolio  is not scheduled for delivery until after the wedding. At least that is our story and we are sticking to it. However, according to Amy:

                  "The mother of the bride, riding alone or with one or two bridesmaids, leaves the house first, followed by the bridesmaids and maid or matron of honor in hired limousines or their own cars. The bride, with her father, always rides in a special car, whose driver, or chauffeur, wears a white boutonniere. The car's tires, if not white walled, are freshly whitewashed."

So I guess I best get busy whitewashing the tires.

Photography Post - Rice Mill

The Rice Mill at Middleton Place Plantation. It sits just below the south lake of the butterfly gardens. The fields in the background on the other side of the Ashley river were formerly rice fields. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Photography Post - Garden Path

One of the garden paths at Middleton Place Plantation. The gardens were planned so that there is something in bloom through out the year. In January, it is Camellias (some of their petals can be seen on the path here), Winter Daphne (with its intoxicating fragrance) and the Lenten Rose. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

In the 38%

You know an illness is serious when it has its own website, Of course, by the time I wanted to look at it, it was too late. Yes, I got my flu shot. Yes, I got it early - last fall. However, according to the CDC this year's flu shot is 62% effective. (And, they call it a good match.)  But, I doubt God endowed them with a crystal ball. They are shooting in the dark, or checking with the bookies in Las Vegas to game the odds on which variant of the flu bug to vaccinate against in any given year.  Who am I to question their expertise, I barely made it out of freshman biology.

According to The Daily News, "Chiropractors buck the trend by warning against flu shots." Well, since I would rather trust Minerva in the Bonaventure cemetery in Savannah, Georgia for medical knowledge than someone who got their degree from a school that advertised on the back of match book covers until Bic Lighters made their miniature billboards obsolete, I'll pass on their opinion. That said, last year I got my flu shot early and contracted the flu in January. 

Just this week, I started feeling lousy. I went online and saw the list of symptoms: Fever (afraid to take it but I feel hot), Body Aches (check), Tiredness (check), and a Cough (check). Damnation.

Photography Post - Oak Tree

This picture is a quintessential view of the low country - an ancient live oak, covered with Spanish moss on the edge of a tidal creek. In the background are the remnants of the antebellum rice fields. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Yankees on Tour

People from the Northern parts of these United States (ie Yankees) never cease to amaze me. And, they are most entertaining when they venture down South. 

I recently was visiting Middleton Place Plantation down by Charleston with my camera. This unbelievably beautiful place dates back to 1741 and has some of the most famous gardens in the country that date back to 1755. Middleton Place was originally a rice plantation (and later on Indigo) located on the Ashley river. It was home to four generations of Middletons, not only a very prosperous group of gentleman, but also a family of distinguished members of government including president of the First Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Ambassador to Russia, and a signer of the Ordinance of Secession.

There is not much left of the grand home. Originally it was a unique style with a main 3 story house in the middle with separate buildings on either side called "flankers". Only the South Flanker survived. However, it is the gardens most folks come to see. 

Usually when I am on some photographic expedition, I avoid any tour. Although, I am always very interested in the history and other facts about the location, I find the guides tedious and often I do not want to invest that much time. However, Middleton offered a 30 minute docent guided tour of the gardens that seemed reasonable to me, so I joined up.

It was a small group made up of a an older couple, a younger couple, a family, several miscellaneous souls, and me. The docent was this most pleasant grandmotherly type about 5 feet tall with a strong Charlestonian  accent. She started with the history of the house.

She described the house, with the North Flanker containing the ballroom, an extensive art collection, and large library, the main house being where the family lived , and the South Flanker being the guest house. "At the end of the Wah," she continued, "General Sherman made sure that his troops captured Middleton Place  in retaliation  for Williams Middleton signing the Ordinance of Secession. The result was the burning of the North Flanker, the Main House, and part of the South Flanker Therefore all those works of art and that library were lost."

The young boy with the family politely asked the docent, "Who was General Sherman?" "Why he was in charge of all the Union Troops during the Wah." He looked perplexed. Another gentleman on the tour added, "He was a Yankee." Then the boy turned to his father,"Why did the Yankee manager want to burn a house? Did they lose the game?" The docent politely moved us on through the garden gate.

As we walked by the reflection pool, someone asked with in a tone of trepidation, "We will see an alligator today?" The docent answered, "I doubt it. But we do have some here on the plantation." Given the temperatures that day was going to be in the high 40s, I think that guy was safe from a 'gator attack. 

When we got down to the water front, the docent explained that it was a tidal river and that boats carrying supplies and guests could only navigate the waters during high tides. That being the case, when guests arrived, their stay had to last at least until the next high tide. One lady on the tour exclaimed, "I just cannot imagine." The docent answered, "Well, that was part of life on a tidewater plantation." "But, then you had to entertain those people." The docent laughed, "Well,  the Middletons, like most of the planters here, were known for their hospitality and enjoyed having guests". 

Then the little boy piped up, "If they got bored, they could always play baseball with the Yankees."

Photography Post - Almost Gone

A red flower that has almost seen its best day.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty, a Movie Review

The first time I saw GWTW it was 3 hours and 40 Minutes (240 minutes) long. When you are small that has to be one Hell of a good movie to hold your attention - and it was. Also, they had the courtesy to have an intermission. 

Zero Dark Thirty is 157 minutes - the exact same length as Les Mis. Now, given I am older and the story keeps one's attention, I am still tired of these long movies. What happened to 97 minutes films? 

Jessica Chastain is intense and focused as Maya, the CIA agent who, for many years has no life other than hunting OBL (Osama Bin Laden). There is no spoiler here unless you have been in a cave for the past three years. But, I had a lot of questions. Although, obviously, I was never privy to the goings on of those trying to pursue Al Qaeda (And, contrary to what the media wants us to believe, I do not want to know such and believe that is why we have intelligence (secret) agents  to handle the country's business. But I digress.) 

There seemed to be a laser beam focus on just getting OBL. Now, I know he was the ultimate HVT, but the movie only touched on or eluded to all other terrorists activities, although many of them directly effected the characters themselves. 

Maya's character was so focused she seemed empty. I realize that professionals in this field want their man, but usually, there is more to the person, to the character than just the hunt. But, from what we see there is nothing, no life, no desires (other than getting Bin Laden), little happiness, and no joy - just an empty soul inside a beautiful woman. 

One thing, I did not realize until the end of the movie, there little music in it, and no musical score to speak of which made the reality that much more raw. And, I never heard the term "Zero-Dark-Thirty" ever mentioned in the movie or saw it referred to and neither did my DH. 

The movie was interesting from a historical perspective. If not technically accurate, it gave the general public an idea of what goes on within the intelligence community when trying to find their man. Jessica Chastain played the role of Maya well, however, it would have been a richer role had her character had a bit more depth. Personally, it is not Oscar winning material especially when up against the likes of Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Quvenzhané Wallis (Beast of the Southern Wild). If she beats those two, I will have lost all faith in the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences.

Photography Post - Buoys on a Fence

Net buoys hanging off a pier wall on Edisto Island, South Carolina.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hallelujah - There is a God, Maybe

I think I found my dress for the wedding. And, it meets the criteria: it doesn't make me look like I just left Sunday morning services, it isn't something my grandmother or my Aunt Kat, bless her heart, would ever wear, nor is it something my dear Aunty would don (although I hope to have a good time, none the less), it is a color that doesn't make look like Casper the Friendly ghost, and it is affordable. No. 7925362 - Voila!

So, I get down to the brass tacks. Let's order this puppy. As a wary consumer, the first thing I check is the Return Policy. One never knows what will arrive in that box the friendly UPS guy leaves at the door. Two things caught my eye. Listed under the FAQ's were: (taken directly from the website)
  • what should I pay attention to when return the item?
  • When do I received the refund?
  • Find a tailor in your town to make sure the dress perfectly fit your body.
There are some issues here, syntax, capitalization, "make sure the dress perfectly fit your body"?  Suddenly, I could hear the gentleman at our local Chinese restaurant shout, as he does to everyone who walks up to the counter and asks for Kung Poa Chicken,"Order by numbah!" That is all he ever says. Obviously,  because that is all the English he knows. 

The return policy was murky at best. But, in the top corner was the picture of a friendly lady offering "Live Chat". Yes, I could get my answer here (in English - I hope). So I logged in. Soon typed in English (not Cantonese as I feared) the screen said, "Hi, I'm Allison, how may I help?" So I explained my concern over the return policy. Suddenly a window opened showing the "Return Policy" I just tried to muddle through. I closed the window and went back to Allison. "I read that. It is not clear. Can I return my purchase for a full refund if I am not satisfied?" The same window popped up. Order by numbah!

Disappointed, but not willing to send my funds to Never Never Land, I went back to Google. I was in luck, I found the same dress, for the same price at a different site. There is a god. This site talked about each dress being custom made. I went to check the return policy. It was about the same as the earlier one. But, they had live chat - the same picture of the friendly lady. I did not want to talk to Allison again. The more I looked at the site, I realized it was an exact copy of the first one I saw, same fabric swatches, same lame wording, same dresses. What the heck?

I wanted something state side - domestic. So back to Google I went. Finally, I found a suitable dress at a company based in Ohio, the heartland of America. But, the fabric swatches looked eerily familiar, and the return policy - oh God, it was them again. Sure enough there was Allison's friendly face in the upper corner. Just out of curiosity, I did a search and, sure enough, there was the original dress (No. 7925362) I had found on the first sight.

Just for kicks and giggles, I continued looking for that dress and found seven websites set up as fronts for the same Chinese company. Everything was the same with exception of the home page. 

All, this fun aside, I am back to square one. No more "Order by numbah."

Photography Post - Red Orbs

Flowers in a field.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Compliment? Well Maybe?

 I was in Walmart yesterday buying essentials, like mouthwash. The checkout lady was very chatty and as I gathered up my eco-friendly bags, she commented, "You look so nice. You know you dress well. Your colors match." I thanked her and walked out of the store.

As I got in my car, I thought about that. "My colors  match." Maybe all that Garanimal orientation paid off after all. Then I came to my senses - of course my colors match you dimwit. I am not known to go out in public with purple polka dots, red stripes, and orange plaid - at the same time. I've never owned orange plaid in my life - that I can remember.

Now, I'll let my pocket book and the color of my shoes slide. I have quiet the collection of pocket books and am  insistent on color coordination with my attire in that department. I do not have a pair of shoes to match each of my pocket books like my Aunt Kat, bless her heart, and my late Mother-in-law did.

Was this cashier on fashion patrol? Or, did she think I matched particularly well. Or, horrors, did she think that was the nicest thing she could say about me? Damned by faint praise. That's akin to telling a young man his blind date is very good with her make-up. Or, the safest thing a husband may say when his wife asked if an outfit looks nice, and it is not something he wonders if she has seen herself in the mirror (ie if so, she should not want to be caught dead in it). His response, "Oh, honey, those colors bring out the blue in your eyes." Saved by the old blue eyes routine.

It all goes back to another one of my Daddy's old adages  "'Tis better to be silent and thought dumb than to speak and leave no doubt."  Why did that cashier feel the need, the urge, why did the spirit move her to have to say anything? I have spent way too many brain cells pondering this compliment (?) of hers. Though, I am not sure it was an encomium or a disparagement of my tastes.

Come to think about it, I should have hung around. The young lady behind me had a NASCAR t-shirt, dirty camouflage pants, and tattoos of barbed wire around her neck. And to complete her look, stringy bleached blond hair teased like a waitress in a John Travolta cowboy bar scene.

I wonder what accolade the cashier granted her? I know I shouldn't be so unappreciative of a stranger offering me unsolicited kind words. After all, the last time I made a fashion statement in Walmart, I had my red cowboy boots on and red necks were taking pictures of them with their phones. 

Photography Post - Over the Starboard Side

A view over the starboard side of a trawler as is heads out the creek.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Yes, I'm the MOB

You know you live in a small town when you go to Garden Club and most everyone starts congratulating you on your daughter's engagement. Now, I say this not because everyone shares in our excitement - they do. And, not because it was a secret - it wasn't. But, she has only been engaged 4 weeks, she doesn't live here, the wedding is not going to be in town, no one in the wedding party lives here, and none of my fellow garden club members are on the guest list. Oh, and I haven't seen or had the chance to talk or visit with any of these fine ladies since before Christmas and well before the engagement. 

In fact, I can distinctly remember being asked at the Christmas luncheon in early December, when I thought our daughter would get married. I laughed and, much to the dismay of the lady who asked me, said that I hoped she would elope. Being mother of the bride was not on my "Top Five Things I Want to Do Before I Die". 

Unlike so many southern mothers who start dreaming of that day from the moment their doctor said, "It's a girl", I had endured the trauma of two Deb Balls and I thought that should satisfy that check box on the motherhood list of life. 

I had already been through the anguish of not being able to find the "right" deb dress, the last minute decision on a date (two days before the names had to be turned into the newspaper), the hair dresser disaster two hours before the photo session, sewing shoulder straps on the ball gown in the ladies powder room fifteen minutes before the receiving line, and the sad sight of a father realizing that his little girl had grown up. Of course, the next morning when I took my daughter and her friends to breakfast, it was all worth it when she said, "Oh, Mama, if my wedding reception could only be as much fun as last night was, I will be so happy." In my mind, I thought, wedding reception? Ground hog day all over again. What was this, the playoffs? But, I digress.

Meanwhile back at garden club, yes, we live in a small town, but I do not run in big circles. Nor, is the wedding of my daughter high society news. Her wedding was not one, unlike others, that everyone awaited with bated breath to see the spectacle and be entertained for a season of parties, gifts, gowns, and a gala. We were small time, off the grid. 

When I commented to my daughter on the phone later that afternoon about everyone already knowing about the wedding and how odd I found it. Her reaction was, "Mama, did you forget where you live?" "Well no, but still." Then I remembered that where the rest of the universe enjoys six degrees of separation, down here we have three - at most. 

Phorography Post - Shrimp Boat at Edisto

The shrimp fleet waits to go out to sea for the next days catch.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Photography Post - Pegasus

The cast bronze statute of Colt Pegasus by Avard Fairbanks at Meadowbrook Hall in Rochester, Michigan, the former home of Matilda Doge Wilson. The statute is located in the formal "Breakfast Garden" because of its location off the Breakfast Room, however, today the garden is referred to as the "Pegasus Garden."

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Academy Awards - IMHO

The Academy Award Nominations were announced today and as always I have my favorites. Since we see many movies a year, I see myself as an arm chair expert. Sure I can tell you who I feel put on the best performance as the Actor in a Leading Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, etc. And, I can tell you my opinion of the year's Best Director (like I know what I am talking about). My criteria there is: if the movie was well done and the director in question didn't do something to totally P*$$ me off, I'll give him or her my vote.

Costume Design? I grew up in the decade of Edith Head. If she designed the costumes, she won the award. For years I thought she was the only competent Hollywood designer. She had 35 nominations and 8 awards. That will fill a mantle.

But there are those categories I am clueless on. What the heck is Sound Design or Sound Editing and how do they differ from Sound Mixing for that matter? 

I did some research and learned that Sound Design or Sound Editing (as it is now referred to) is granted to a film exhibiting the finest or most aesthetic sound editing which is the creative professional responsible for selecting and assembling sound recordings  in preparation for the final  sound mixing.

That brings us to the award for Sound Mixing that recognizes the finest or most euphonic (pleasing to the ear) sound mixing or recording, and is generally awarded to the production sound mixers and recording mixers of the winning film. 

All this is not to be confused with Best Original Score. This award is presented to the best substantial body of music in the form of dramatic underscoring written specifically for the film by the submitting composer. In years of 1995-1998, the Academy decided, in its great wisdom, to divide this award into two categories and award an Oscar for the Original Score for a Dramatic Film and a separate one for a Musical or Comedy. For some reason in 1999, they decided that was not such a good idea and went back to one award in the category.

Examples of winners for this award: In 1997 Titantic won the award for Best Original Score in a Dramatic Film and The Full Monty picked up the award in the Musical/Comedy category. In 2011, The Artist took home the award.

Then we come to Best Original Song which is presented to the songwriters who have composed the best original song written specifically for a film. The performers of a song are not credited with the Academy Award unless they contributed either to music, lyrics or both in their own right. Examples of past winners in this category are:

'42- White Christmas (Holiday Inn)

'47- Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah (Song of the South)

'54- Three Coins in a Fountain (Three Coins in a Fountain)

'61- Moon River (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

'73- The Way we Were (The Way we Were)

'88-Let the River Run (Working Girl)

Next there is the Academy Award for Best Production Design. This recognizes achievement in art direction on a film. (Wikipedia defines an Art Director as:"Various artists may create or develop specific parts of an art piece or scene; but it is the charge of a sole art director to supervise and unify the vision. In particular, the art director is in charge of the overall visual appearance and how it communicates visually, stimulates moods, contrasts features, and psychologically appeals to a target audience. The art director makes decisions about visual elements used, what artistic style to use, and when to use motion.") 

If this title does not sound familiar, it is because up until this year the category was called Best Art Direction, but was changed to its current name for the 85th Academy Awards. Recent winners of this award include Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, and Hugo.

The Oscar for Best Cinematography is awarded each year to a cinematographer for work in one particular motion picture. And, cinematography is "the art or technique of movie photography, including both the shooting and development of the film." Recent winners include Avatar, Inception, and Hugo.

And, as a trivial aside, why are the Academy Awards called "Oscars"? Well, to be honest, no one really knows. There are several theories.
  • Bette Davis claims that she named the Oscar after her first husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson;
  • One of the earliest mentions in print of the term Oscar dates back to a Time Magazine article about the 1934 6th Academy Awards;  
  • Walt Disney is also quoted as thanking the Academy for his Oscar as early as 1932;
  • Another claimed origin is that the Academy's Executive Secretary,  Margaret Herrick first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to the statuette's reminding her of her "Uncle Oscar" (a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce);
  • Columnist Sidney Skolsky was present during Herrick's naming and seized the name in his byline, "Employees have affectionately dubbed their famous statuette 'Oscar'";
  • Another legend reports that the Norwegian-American Eleanor Lilleberg, executive secretary to Louis B. Mayer, saw the first statuette and exclaimed, "It looks like King Oscar II!".
All in all, it boils down to: The trophy was officially dubbed the "Oscar" in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

As for today's nominations, not that anyone cares, I was personally miffed that Ben Aflack did not get a Best Director's nomination for his superb work in Argo. As you know, Master was not my favorite film but Joaquin Phonenix clearly deserves his nomination as Actor in a Leading Role. I did not review Beasts of the Southern Wild, but we saw it and it was unlike any film I have ever seen. It took me a day or two to absorb it. There were times, I actually thought it was done live. Quvenzhane Wallis is going to be hard to beat as an Actress in a Leading Role. (Who ever said never go onstage with children or animals is right.) However, of the adults, Jennifer Lawrence, would be my pick.

Any of the Actors in a Leading Role richly deserve to win. Anne Hathaway will probably win the Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar but Sally Field or Jackie Weaver deserve it. (Jackie Weaver's excellent performance has been sorely overlooked in my book.) 

I would hate to choose in the Actor in a Supporting Role category. I have seen all, with the exception of Django Unchained, and the rest are very strong performances. Although I think Don Cheadle was overlooked for his solid role in Flight.

Anna Karenina should pick up the Costumes Design Award. The frocks were breath taking and the film was overlooked every where else.

As for Best Picture, I'll leave that to the professionals, however personally I hope that Life of Pi and Les Mis do not fall in the top three or four. Buzz and publicity have nothing to do with substance and value.

But, as always, this is my humble opinion.

Photography Post - Day Lilies

Day lilies in a field outside Detroit.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It Just Can't Be

Have you ever had one of those moments when you sit up in bed, drenched in a cold sweat, and ask yourself, no it had to be a dream, didn't it?

Last night was just such a night. 

In preparing to sell my mother's house, we had cleaned everything out, thrown away what we deemed as trash, boxed up the rest, and moved it to storage. It took me a while to get over the guilt of making decisions over Mama's possessions, but soon exhaustion overtook any remorse I had. 

The couple buying the house wanted to see the house clean (ie without all the mess we had made with the boxes and trash sorting Mama's accumulated  personal possessions). However, we wanted to leave it furnished just in case they decided they were not interested after all.

So we had Mama's house totally clean and furnished, but empty of all her other possessions we had previously moved. One could walk in the house and it looked just like it did when she lived there - perfectly clean, pictures on the wall, nic nacs and coffee table books on the tables, etc. But, nothing was in the drawers, in the closets, under the beds, or in the many cubbie holes she had in various places through out the house.

I got to the house before the couple. As I walked in, there on the sofa, lying in repose, was my mother. My first thing that ran through my mind was - no, I have not been drinking. I walked over to her to pay my respects. As I leaned down, she opened her eyes.

"Oh, I'm back home," were her first words. This is a miracle, was my first thought. Holy shit, was my second thought. How was I going to explain to her that most of her prized possessions had been packed up and some had been discarded. OK, a lot had been discarded. And, her house was for sale.

As I started to say something, she said, "I didn't need all that stuff anyway. But I am happy to be home." Just then the front door opened. 

That was when I sat straight up in bed.  As Charles Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol, when Ebenezer Scrooge did not want to believe what he saw "..You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. . ."

Hopefully that was Christmas Past not Christmas Future!

Photography Post - Bicycle

A day at the beach.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Just Handle It

Another saying by Julia Child that gives me courage to attempt French cuisine is, "The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken." Now there is a woman who knows how to handle a situation with courage and conviction. And, to think I was concerned about my Boeuf Bourguignon. 

I wonder how she would handle a small intimate wedding? Probably with the same cool aplomb. I can hear her now, in that unique voice she had, "Well, first get a bottle of wine. A good red wine, but don't get the best one you have. You will need that one later."* 

The heck with Martha Stewart whom I personally think raises anxiety by simply walking in the room. And, that is the only thing she does simply. But I digress.

Maybe I could channel Mrs. Child's 6' 2'' imposing personality to come and handle all the wedding details. Somehow I feel like she would be efficient, make everyone - including the vendors - feel special, save all us angst, and produce a lovely wedding (most likely under budget). After all, how can one go wrong having someone in charge who advises, "Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you’ll have a marvelous time!"

*(Not that Julia Child ever said that - but it sounds like her.)

Photography Post - Flower Stand

A colorful flower stand on a street in Soho in New York City.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hyde Park on the Hudson, a Movie Review

The President
The First Lady

The King

The Queen
The Mother
The Mistress

The above came straight off the movie poster that I had seen for months and peaked my interest. First this is a charming movie and after the dreariness of Les Mis, the visual stimulation of Cirque, and the angst of Silver Linings I appreciated just being able to enjoy a story. Unlike the 3 hour epics so popular these days, personally, I found the 94 minutes extremely fulfilling.

The story mainly takes place around the famous weekend that the King and Queen of England (the first English monarchs ever to come to America) visit the President while he is staying at his home at Hyde Park. Much ado is made about the royal visit. 

Bill Murray plays a human Roosevelt with Olivia Williams playing a believable Eleanor, which is an extremely hard role. But it is Laura Linney playing Daisy, the mistress in the story, whom the movie is really about. Murray has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his role.

After seeing The Kings Speech, and understanding more about the King's personality (especially his stutter) Samuel West plays (what should be) an award winning King George (Bertie) who's role has been sorely overlooked by the nomination gods.

Another aspect that bothers me is the portrayal of Elizabeth (the Queen Mum) as being prudish. In the biographies I have read about her that was anything but true. Maybe her daughter (the current Queen) but not her. A quote of hers from one of her biographies is a favorite of mine   "Wouldn't it be horrible if you'd spent all your life doing everything you were supposed to do, didn't drink, didn't smoke, didn't eat things, took lot's of exercise, all the things you didn't want to do, and suddenly one day you were run over by a big red bus, and as the wheels were crunching into you you'd say 'Oh my God, I could have got so drunk last night!' That's the way you should live your life, as if tomorrow you'll be run over by a big red bus." 

Yes, I recommend the movie.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Go Ahead, Eat Like a Field Hand

One thing I have always had was a good appetite and a "healthy" body that showed its results. At 5'2" there isn't a good place to hide it. Not much of me is small with the exception of my height and my metabolism. When they were handing out metabolisms I must have not been paying attention.

Growing up, my Mama and my Daddy were constantly on me about my appetite and how much I ate, especially in front of people. I never could understand why I should not put as much on my plate as everyone else. What made me any different?

Mama would lecture me and, although her grammar was always correct, she sounded just like Mammy in GWTW, "Oh no you ain't! If you don't care what folks says about this family, I does. And I done told you and told you, you can always tell a lady by the way she eats in front of people like a bird. And I ain't aimin' to have you go over to Mista John Wilkes' house and eat like a field hand and gobble like a hog."

Now this was coming from a slight of a person 4'8" who never had a weight problem and did eat like a bird. Of course, I would put money on it that she  ate that way only because she did not want to be accused of ever eating like a field hand. After all, she had her image to maintain. Thank God white gloves went of style, and my rabbit hair muff was long since gone. 

Several years ago I lost a substantial amount of weight and have feared putting it back on ever since. However, to this day I am defensive of those poor souls who want to eat "like a field hand". Let them eat like a field hand, gobble like a hog, and enjoy every morsel. Hell, let them eat all the cake they want!

As a southerner, our food groups are butter, bacon,  bar-b-que, fried chicken, and biscuits. Somewhere in there we need to add our vegetables, collards and macaroni and cheese. (Yes, these are vegetables down here.)

I often go back to Julia Child's words of wisdom, because she approached food with a zest for living and enjoyment while teaching us a way to cook, few had ever imagined. And, few wanted to admit - the French knew what they were doing and had for a long time.

Three quotes of hers I love:

"If you're afraid of butter, use cream."

"With enough butter, anything is good."

"Everything in moderation… including moderation".

Bon Appétit, Y'all

Photography Post - Bucket of Flowers

A bucket of fresh picked flowers. (Taken in June)

Friday, January 4, 2013

It isn't Like it Was, If it ever Was Like That Anyway

I am tiring of a friend of mine complaining about our fair town not being progressive, the population being full of red necks, and the school system going to Hell. My suggestion to her was to move. Her response, "Why I can't do that. My family has lived here for generations.

Life here is not as romantic as the novels make it out to be. To most of us reality set in years ago. But, there are those, my friend included, who just want to stay on the plantation.  Not that she ever lived on one, her family ever had one, or I doubt, she has ever been on one. But, I digress.

This weekend, our town hosts the annual Grand American Coon Hunt. No doubt an event that really puts a bee in her bonnet. Whatever she thinks, it is a financial boost to our economy. And with that commerce comes hundreds of good ol' boys, their pick-up trucks, and their dogs. It is a package deal.

And, just as I thought, she called. "Oh, God. I forgot what weekend it was. I always plan to be out of town when all this is going on." "It's not that bad. I think it's entertaining." "Entertaining? It's ridiculous. Any everybody in the world laughs at us about it." "Let them laugh," I answered. Then she sighed, "I just wish it was like it was way back when."

Before I could stop myself, I replied, "Well, Miss Scarlett, I hate to tell you but the War is over, we lost, and the drapes don't fit."

Photography Post - Tobacco Barn

When I was a little girl these were a frequent site in the Pee Dee region in South Carolina. This is a barn where tobacco was cured. Many burned down as a casualty of the burners inside drying the tobacco leaves. Most others have fallen victim to time, weather, and encroachment of suburbia. To me, the few remaining bring back fond memories of my Granddaddy, summers I spent on the farm, and the wonderful smell of curing tobacco.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ah, The Dress

Wedding Planning

Second Stop - The Dress

Actually, I should say "The" Dress. Several years ago, our daughter found her dream wedding dress. Given she had yet to find her dream man, or even someone she had gone out with more than three or four times, we did not take her very seriously. But, she was in love with the dress. 

Six years later, with a wonderful man, an engagement ring, and an upcoming wedding, she needs a dress. And, she still has her heart set on that dress. Yes, that dress she fell in love with years ago. Most girls fall in love with the guy first. But, our oldest daughter fell head over heals with the dress and stayed loyal for years. 

The problem here is she did not fall in love with the cut or the design or the type of lace. She fell in love with a particular dress by a particular designer. Nothing close will do. She only wants the real thing.

If you are familiar with wedding dresses then you know the designs and trends change as often as a man with a remote control. And, that dress was many wedding dress design generations ago. But, that will not stop my daughter. Her heart is set on that dress. So the hunt is on.

Now, this bucks the trend my daughter has with dresses. For her Deb Ball, we looked at hundreds (seriously) of dresses and none would do. They were too white, too frilly, too plain, too fancy, too tight, too lacy, not lacy enough, had a train, did not have a train, the neck line was too low, or too high. 

I could have become a dress locator for anyone in the state. A mother or daughter could have described what they wanted in a full length white gown and chances were I could have told them where it was because I had seen it and my daughter had rejected it.

Finally in the hunt for the Deb dress, my daughter found a gown she liked. When she called me  with the news, without even seeing the dress, and it being slightly over budget, I gave the store my credit card number and said thanks to the gods for ending my pain and agony. The dress was gorgeous, my daughter was happy, and life was good. 

That was until she went to have it altered. As she tried it on for the seamstress the lady immediately looked at her and told my daughter she should never wear that dress. It did nothing for her. Mercifully, my daughter did not take her advice to heart but thanked her and brought the dress home. Undeterred, she found another lady to alter the dress, and life went on.

Back to our current crisis dilemma. Now, we know exactly what we want, and I fear it is no longer available. To tell the truth, I am not sure which scenario is worse. 

Photography Post - Boneyard Beach Bulls Island

A tree reflected in the surf on the beach on Bulls Island, South Carolina

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Les Misreables, a Movie Review

The day had finally come for me, too, to join the masses and see Les Miserables. I have had much trepidation over seeing this film. One reason - the story line did not thrill me. I go to the movies to escape. My life has enough misery, I have no desire to pay $10 and invest 2 hours (or in this case 3) for more. So, like another lemming, I fell in line. 

Russell Crowe is one of my favorite actors. In this case I will forgive him for singing. (I am sure he had no choice in this role.) I have always had great respect for Anne Hathaway as we have watched her grow up from the Princess, now as Fantine. (I was not aware, but she can sing.) And, this is by far the best role I have ever seen Hugh Jackman play. 

All the trailers I have seen for many months have showed Hathaway singing, I Dreamed a Dream, painfully getting her hair chopped off, Russell Crowe on his horse stoically looking over his troops, and Hugh Jackman just looking serious. Obviously, I was not expecting a Walt Disney musical. Although, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter lightened up the story with humorous character roles only they could play. (I did not recognize Cohen until I looked up the cast after seeing the film.)

All this said, I am sure everyone realizes this film, coming from years on the stage, is a true musical and there may be a total of 10 sentences spoken, not sung. The scenery, the direction, and the film editing are second to none. The costumes are some of the best I have seen in a movie and provide the only color (with the exception of the flags) against a dreary background. Well there are Cohen and Carter, who are especially colorful in every way, dress and otherwise.

All this said, for the epic size alone, I can see the four Golden Globe nominations (Best Song, Best Picture, Best Actor - Jackman, Best Supporting Actress - Hathaway) and the Oscar buzz  for the incredible technical arts, but I do not see a Best picture here. And, yes,  I know I am in the minority, but we live in a democracy. However, on a bright side, I was not miserable as I feared I would be. It was worth seeing for many reasons. Although, only once.