Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Middle-Aged Movie Maven Returns!

Hi there. I haven't weighed in on my blog in a while, but that doesn't mean I've stopped going to the movies. So here, for your edification (and to help you avoid the TOTAL clinkers at the cineplex), my latest thoughts:

Killers. Ashton Kutcher is adorable and sexy, and he has charisma, but Katherine Heigl has peaked. And both are apparently taking a page from the Jennifer Aniston movie playbook and only picking the WORST scripts they can find (I hated both Valentine's Day with Kutcher, although he was cute in it, and The Ugly Truth, with Heigl). The movie opens kind of cute, but is stupid and unbelievable, with cartoon characters. They're trying to emulate Mr and Mrs Smith, but have none of the chemistry, sex appeal, or clever banter of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They're tv stars, just like Aniston, and that's where they should stay. I didn't laugh once and even my nephew, who loves most movies, said it was too long!

Shrek 3. So-so...there are some good laughs, but overall I found it forgettable. The first two Shreks were all we needed.

Get Him to the Greek. This movie actually has some good moments. Yes, it's crass and silly, it veers kind of widely from outrageous behavior to serious moments, but if you liked The Hangover or Forgetting Sarah Marshall you might enjoy this one.

Sex and the City 2. Carrie is a big, spoiled baby crying because her sexy, rich husband doesn't want to go out on the town every night but rather wants to stay in and watch clever old movies with her. The real stinker in this movie is Samantha, though, who takes her crassness to new heights. Her behavior is HORRIBLY insulting to Muslims and not funny. The fashions are ridiculous. I was hoping to love it--especially since I liked the first movie and the series (and, I'll admit it, the book about Carrie's teen years called The Carrie Diaries). And at 2 1/2 hours, it is REALLY too long!

Iron Man 2: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this action flick. I loved the first one, but this one looked to be much darker. But I trust in Robert Downey Jr and he delivered--he's just as funny and fun as ever. The female characters are mere sexpots in tight skirts and high heels, but the plot wasn't half bad. I was quite entertained.

On my list of movies to see: The A Team (yes, I'll probably regret it but I do love that Bradley Cooper), Winter's Bone, The Kid's Are Alright, Eat Pray Love, Joan River's--A Piece of Work, Inception.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Hi there...it's been awhile. As I mentioned in my last post, I've been concentrating on the launch and publicity for my new ebook with Linda Peckel called Just What the Doctor Ordered: An Insider's Guide to Medical Writing.


If you've ever wondered what it takes to be a medical writer, please check it out. It's available at http://www.medicalwritingbook.com/ for just $16.95.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Arts Enclave blog about Asperger's and creativity

Even though I'm not posting myself right now, I want to call your attention to a special blog post about Asperger's syndrome (which is classified as a form of autism) and creativity on the Arts Enclave blog. If you have a child who thinks differently than other kids, you might want to read what Linda Peckel (my sister) has to say about how Asperger's and other quirky behavior/thinking patterns can be a gift rather than a disability...




The Human Spectrum: From Aspergers to Creativity

http://artsenclave.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/the-human-spectrum-from-aspergers-to-creativity/

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Styling...


In honor of National Crafts Month (March), I've decided to stop blogging for a while and start crafting more. (Oh, and I need to focus on publicizing my new ebook Just What the Doctor Ordered: An Insider's Guide to Medical Writing, which will be available in mid April.)

So, my last post for a while...

I've been thinking a lot about taste and style lately. Where does it come from? How do we judge it? How can one person's taste be good and another's bad? How can we say one woman has style and another doesn't? That one dresses badly (Ugly Betty comes to mind) and the other well?

My conclusion is that we can't judge it.

You like what you like...the colors, the patterns, the textures, the forms, the fit. You're born with certain proclivities, just like you're born with certain personality traits, and then they're polished by the impressions laid over you by your family, your culture, your school, your job, the time you're at in your life, the place you live. It's not something you have a lot of control over.

It just is.

What's more, style trends are arbitrary. They're just someone's opinion. For instance, although millions of women emulate the Sex and the City girls, I think most of Sarah Jessica Parker's outfits are outrageously...well, stupid. And what woman can handle tromping all over Manhattan in 4-inch stilettos?

It's not a competition: Whoever has the most style wins. We're just different. Let's embrace it!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Middle-Aged Movie Maven's Oscar Picks!




The Oscars doth approach. This Sunday in fact.

I can proudly boast to having seen all TEN, YES TEN, of the movies nominated for best picture this year. (Though it's no thanks to Netflix. I've had to rent elsewhere to catch all of the flicks, while my top requests sit in my queue week after week because they don't have enough copies. I've written three letters to the CEO Reed Hastings, called customer service twice, and downgraded my account all to no avail. They could care less about their customers. Their business model SUCKS! But I digress.)

Why am I such a cinephile? I guess because since I was a little girl movies have fed my imagination in a way nothing else could. They definitely spark my own creativity, too. And there's nothing more relaxing and, paradoxically, exciting to me than sitting in a darkened theatre watching a film on the big screen. If joy is what we're all looking for, for me it comes neatly packaged by the local cineplex!

Anyway, I know you're all waiting with baited breath for my Oscar picks (as trivial as all this movie stuff is in the scheme of things), so here you go:


Best Picture: Avatar--in 3D, an incredible ride, an incredible achievement.


Best Actor: Jeff Bridges--it's his turn for a career of great acting jobs (sorry Colin Firth).


Best Actress: Sandra Bullock--this character could have been a carictature and she made her real. I think it's her turn, too, cause everyone just likes her. (Meryl Streep could, and should on merit, edge Bullock out for her incredible portrayal of Julia Child, but I don't think she will.)


Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique in Precious. No question there. She was awesome.


Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds. He was scary hilarious.


Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow--girl power!



Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air--great comedy and very human drama.



Best Screenplay: Hurt Locker--tense.


Best Animated Film: Up--touching.


So? What do you think?!




Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Creative interviewing


Are you a Lost fan? Last week's episode featured John Locke applying for a job at an employment agency and being asked--much to his displeasure--"What kind of animal would you describe yourself as?"

Bizarre? Yes. But not uncommon during job interviews today. Prospective employees are regularly being asked:
  • If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?


  • If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?


  • If you were an item in the supermarket, what would you be?


  • If you had a theme song for when you walked into a room, what would it be? (Mine would be The Ramones "I Want to Be Sedated," but I don't think that would get me the job!)

So what's behind this trend toward the Barbara Walters' line of questioning? According to career coach Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio of Six Figure Start (www.sixfigurestart.com), employers are trying to schuss out if candidates will fit in with their corporate culture, and how confident and creative they are--the latter being an increasingly important quality in today's marketplace, where companies are seeking new and innovative solutions and products to get ahead and each prospective employee is up against five other applicants for every job.

Connie says there are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it is important to go with the flow in an interview and answer with a straight face (or at least a sense of humor!). Think about the company you're applying to and try to come up with solid answers--in advance--to potential interview questions. Make yourself stand out from the rest of the applicants by being thoughtful and unique. A little whimsy never hurt either!

For more on the subject, check out Connie's interview on NPR. Here's the link:

www.thetakeaway.org/people/connie-thanasoulis-cerrachio/









Monday, February 8, 2010

On Salinger, Books, Etc.


My sister, Linda Peckel, recently did a blog post on her “Arts Enclave Blog” (http://artsenclave.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/just-for-writers-rules-of-the-road/) about some unbreakable rules for writers. The post was inspired by the death of J.D. Salinger, who was a genius at one of those rules--a distinctive writing style or voice. No one else wrote the way he did. (By the way, if you haven’t checked out Linda’s blog, I urge you to do so—not only because she’s my sister, but because she’s pursued writing in one form or another for decades and knows what of she speaks!)

I’m no novelist, but I do love reading fiction. It doesn’t even have to be great. One of my greatest pleasures in life is spending a Saturday or Sunday morning reading in bed with my dog curled up beside me. Bliss! Currently, I’m excited by the stack of books I have on my beside table and my Kindle—Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River, Cathleen Schine’s The Weissmans of Westport, Kathryn Sockett’s The Help, and the newest, Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress. So many books, so little time!

And if you'll indulge me a little bit more, here’s a list of some of my favorite books. I’m not saying they’re all classics or the best-written, but they’re books that have stayed with me throughout time:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
Straight Man by Richard Russo
One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hunger Point by Jillian Medoff
About a Boy by Nick Hornby
Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Piccoult

Any favorites of your own to recommend?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Becoming Unstoppable!



You’ve heard the old saying “When the going gets tough, the tough getting going.” If you’re trying to get a job in the recovering economy, realize a long-held goal or dream, or simply evolve as a human being, there’s no better advice on persevering—or becoming unstoppable, in the parlance of motivational speaker Cynthia Kersey, president of Unstoppable Enterprises, Inc. (www.unstoppable.net). Although people typically think of unstoppable people as superhuman, Kersey has found through two decades of research that they’re just like everyone else. “They experience disappointment, rejection, and even failure,” she notes, “but they have the courage to take action toward their goal despite their circumstances or situation.”

According to Kersey, the unstoppable spirit—the one that propels us forward toward achieving our goals and forcing through barriers such as self-doubt and negativity—doesn’t need to be inborn. Luckily, this spirit can be cultivated. In fact, she’s identified seven characteristics of unstoppable people that she says anyone who has the will can find the way to develop. “The one common link among all unstoppable people is adversity—they struggled, tripped and stumbled, and had setbacks and failures, but they pulled themselves up and kept on going,” she writes in her book Unstoppable: 45 Powerful Stories of Perseverance and Triumph from People Just Like You (Sourcebooks). “The dream demanded their all and they gave it. With each trial, they emerged stronger, surer and more deserving of the dream itself.”

Here, then, Cynthia Kersey’s keys to becoming unstoppable.
• Devote yourself to your true purpose. Some know their purpose intuitively, while for others it takes some exploration. To discover your purpose in life, which relates to how you can be of service to others, think about how you want to be remembered after you die by your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and even the world. Write out the qualities, deeds, and characteristics that you want to live on as your legacy. This exercise will help you home in on your true values, says Kersey, and how you want to spend your time.
• Follow your heart’s passion. Your purpose will lead you to seek out activities you love—to really experience the pleasure that life has to offer rather than just enduring your time on earth. Kersey, for instance, discovered that her purpose in life was to inspire others. She could have chosen to pursue all sorts of activities that allowed her to realize that purpose—from joining the Peace Corps to becoming a nun, a hospital volunteer, a hot-line counselor, or a teacher. After she assessed her natural strengths, likes, and dislikes, however, she decided the best route to achieving her purpose was to become an author and motivational speaker, a choice she was passionate about and that energized her to the core.
• Believe in yourself and your ideas. “Belief is a prerequisite to becoming unstoppable,” reports Kersey. This requires being able to keep going even when others say it can’t be done, or that you’re being irresponsible or unrealistic. “There are always going to be people who try to protect us from our unrealistic fantasies,” she says. “They’re not trying to be cruel. They just don’t see that possibility for themselves, so they can’t see it for you. But the only opinion about your dream that really counts is yours.”
• Prepare for challenges. Most people don’t have a plan of action for their lives, and end up pursuing things that aren’t in line with their purpose and passion—for instance, a boring but steady job they took just because it was all they thought was available to them. Instead, Kersey advises envisioning what you hope to achieve, determining the skills you’ll need to achieve that goal, and then creating a plan of action to achieve it. “From the greatest achievements to the most personal accomplishments, preparation is essential to success,” she says. As a side benefit, preparation also helps to neutralize fear, which can inhibit you from following your passion and purpose.
• Ask for help and build a support team. “Behind every great achiever is another achiever,” says Kersey, so look for people who can serve as role models, mentors, coaches and cheerleaders. Network for team members at your company, professional associations, nonprofit organizations, clubs, in your neighborhood, and among your family and friends. Hire other team members as necessary. For Sharon, who used Kersey’s unstoppable techniques to lose 40 lbs. and realize her life-long goal of getting to a manageable weight, her team consisted of a personal trainer and professional weight consultant. “The personal trainer helped keep me accountable,” she recalls. “If I didn’t show up for a session, she would call me up and ask why I didn’t make it into the gym that day.”
• Seek creative solutions to problems you encounter. Focus on creating a series of “unstoppable moments,” which taken together will lead to an unstoppable life, according to Kersey. For instance, if you want to lose weight like Sharon, such a moment might be choosing to eat a grapefruit instead of a Twinkie, or figuring out how to fit exercise into every day—perhaps by watching one less television show. Be flexible and take a step-by-step approach to problem-solving. “You start with a small step toward your goal everyday,” says Sharon, “and then you go beyond that”—putting yourself on the path to achievement.
• Persevere, no matter what the challenges. Continuing on with your goal no matter what the roadblocks you encounter is the true key to being unstoppable. Cultivate a long-term mentality toward your goal, accept failures as learning experiences and ultimately, you’ll find that “perseverance rewards,” says Kersey. There can be no better example of this concept than Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who kept writing the first book in the series (long-hand, since she couldn’t afford a typewriter or computer) even though everyone told her that getting a children’s book published was a pipe dream. As a single mother who was grief-stricken over the recent death of her mother and the break-up of her marriage, she could barely make ends meet, but she still spent every spare moment on the project. When the manuscript was finally done, it took her six years and 12 rejections to find a publisher. Today, of course, her stories have captured the imagination of the world and she is the wealthiest and perhaps the most successful author of all time—all because she didn’t let a lack of money, divorce, or the doubts of others get in the way of pursuing her dream. “If you don’t give up, you simply cannot fail,” notes Kersey. In short, you become unstoppable!

Photo copyright of Dreamstime

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Your Creative Bucket List



Did you see the movie “The Bucket List” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? The movie wasn’t much, but the concept is great: What things do you really, truly want to do before you kick the bucket?

Well, my friend Amy just introduced me to the concept of a quilting bucket list! What are those quilts you absolutely, positively can’t die without doing first!? It’s kind of a wish list, Amy says. “Techniques, styles you've always been meaning to do, or an extra special project. My friends and I bring our list to shows and meetings so we can add to it as we see new things that just need to be on the list. It’s a great way to prioritize all those things we want to do and put some structure around it.” She’s starting a notebook of motivation, containing pictures of quilts and projects she likes. “It’s kind of cool and surprising how things seem when you commit them to writing.”

Makes you think, huh—and dig through your fabric and pattern stash for those lost projects!

If you’re not a quilter, well then broaden the concept to creativity in general. What creative projects do you want to pursue? What pieces of yourself do you want to leave behind…a scrapbook, a collage, a knitted sweater or scarf, an embroidered wall-hanging, a painting, a poem.

Now that we've rounded the corner of a new year (and, woo hoo, a new decade after a lousy, lousy one), what projects are you going to put on the top of your to-do list and resolve to finish this year?!


Cloud photo by Woo Bing Siew, Dreamstime

Friday, January 1, 2010

A sucky decade, but some good movies


The past decade may have sucked, but the movies didn't. My friend Connie challenged me today to make a list of my top 10 movies of the 2000s. Wow! Who can even remember that far back? But I Googled some other lists and films and here are my picks in no particular order. (By the way, if you haven’t seen It’s Complicated, you’ve gotta—especially if you’re middle-aged. It’s HILARIOUS!)

1. Almost Famous. Kate Hudson’s debut in a Cameron Crowe film about rock and roll—the bands, the groupies, the journalists, the fans. It was touching, it was funny, and it was evocative of an earlier, more innocent era.

2. Wonder Boys. Fantastic, funny, inventive adaptation of the equally great Michael Chabon book about a disheveled author, Michael Douglas, with major writer’s block and big life problems.

3. The Bourne Identity. Incredible action and Matt Damon is great as the amnesiac-assassin. In a word: Tense.

4. Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I could watch this one all day. Not only does it have Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as warring spouses (and they are hot, hot, hot together!), but the action scenes are fantastic (directed by the same guy who did The Bourne Identity) and it’s funny.

5. Lord of the Rings. I have to mention this one for the spectacle and Viggo Mortensen!

6. Lost in Translation. Bill Murray as a disaffected movie star connecting with a young woman, Scarlett Johansen, in Tokyo. Funny, touching, stays with you.

7. The Royal Tannenbaums. Wes Anderson’s quirky comedy about a strange but loving family. This was on TV last night and it’s still fun to watch. The pacing and dialogue are so unique. Angelica Huston, Gene Hackman, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, etc.

8. Wall-E: In a decade filled with great animated films (Ice Age, Bolt, Shrek, Up) this one stood out for me. Maybe it was the tune from Hello Dolly! in the beginning of the film…

9. Little Miss Sunshine. I’m partial to comedies, so I loved this bizarro film about a dysfunctional family that gets behind their little beauty queen. Greg Kinear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin (who won an Oscar).

10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This film is SO imaginative and engaging, and so are the performances by Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey. Imagine if we really could erase a broken heart…

Honorable Mentions
1. Memento: For the backwards plot.
2. Gladiator: For the spectacle and Joaquin Phoenix's crazy emperor.
3. Pan’s Labryinth: Disturbing, fascinating, fantastical.
4. Traffic: A great ensemble film, serious subject, interesting filmmaking.
5. 21 Grams A trio of performances--by Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, and Naomi Watts--make this film about a freak accident and intersecting lives a stunner.
6. 500 Days of Summer: A surprising and touching twist on the romantic comedy genre.
7. Up in the Air. My new favorite (I’ve seen it twice already) for George Clooney’s performance as an unattached man who travels over 200 days year firing people. His life gets upended by two women in this dark comedy: One, a fellow traveler who is truly his equal; the other, a young na├»ve woman who thinks she knows his business better than he does.
8. It’s Complicated. My other new favorite with Meryl Streep as a middle-aged divorcee whose ex-husband comes back for me. As I said up top, it’s hilarious!
9. Something’s Gotta Give. Fun, surprising comedy with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, plus a gorgeous Hampton’s home facing the beach.
10. The Hours. Lovely, affecting performances by Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, etc.