Tag Archives: fun

Monday Musings: 29 Years Ago This Weekend

Wedding Day Photo 1 It’s Memorial Day – and, it seems to me, a particularly somber one at that – and so I won’t write too much for today’s Musings.

But this is also a very significant weekend in my life. Twenty-nine years ago, on Memorial Day weekend 1991, Nancy and I were married. (Our anniversary is actually tomorrow, the 26th.)

To this day, memories of our wedding, and all the festivities surrounding it, warm me and comfort me and bring a huge smile to my face. We lived in California at the time – Mountain View, in the Bay Area, to be precise. We were graduate students at Stanford, Nancy in biology, me in history. The tradition, of course, is that the bride’s family pays for the wedding, but Nancy’s folks ran a small family farm, and even with our modest plans for the ceremony and reception, a Bay Area wedding was beyond their budget. They helped us out, and so did my parents.

Wedding Day Photo 2But we did everything we could to keep costs down. Because we were students at the school, Stanford allowed us to marry in the Rodin Sculpture Garden, near the university museum, for something like $200. It was a gorgeous venue — we have joked since that we were married in front of the Gates of Hell, because, well, we were. We had our reception at a reasonable local restaurant – part of a Bay Area chain called, I kid you not, the Velvet Turtle. Not amazing, but decent food and lots of it. We hosted a party the night before the wedding at our apartment, and then did the same for brunch the day after the wedding. Our big activity? On Saturday afternoon, after the rehearsal lunch, we had a softball game for the entire guest list – whoever wanted to play. (We played a lot of softball in grad school – her bio lab had an intramural team.) The game was bride’s team against the groom’s team (randomly selected). I have no idea who won. But the two key rules were, 1) Nancy didn’t have to play in the field, and 2) she got to bat whenever she wanted, no matter which team was up. She would just announce, “Bride’s turn to hit!” and then she would…

Mostly, we spent the weekend catching up with family and dear friends from near and far. And, of course, celebrating our love. That sounds like the worst sort of cliché, but I honestly don’t care. It’s the truth. From start to finish it was about the joining of our lives, the bringing together of nearly all the people in the world whom each of us loved most, so that they could be with us when we declared our intention to build a life together.

Yes, the memories are bittersweet. We have lost too many of the people who stood with us that day. Nancy’s sister and one of her brothers, one of my brothers, my parents, other relatives and friends… As I say, too many. And I won’t stand here and try to claim that the entire weekend went smoothly, that there were no conflicts or problems or logistical issues. There were. Some were truly comical, others just annoying.

Overall, though, it was wonderful – the perfect kickoff to what has been an amazing 29 years.

Across the country this Memorial Day, young couples are dealing with wedding plans that look nothing like what they hoped for, or that have been postponed until who-knows-when? It’s not something we hear about often – such disappointments are overshadowed by the breathtaking scope of this tragedy. For those affected, though, it must come as a terrible blow. I can say in all honesty that it’s the love that matters, the bond these couples mean to celebrate. I can also say, with equal candor, that this would have brought me small comfort had we lost out on our big weekend all those years ago.

I wish I had more to offer by way of wisdom and solace for those whose plans have been ruined by the pandemic. I will spare you sappy declarations of my love for Nancy (except to say that I honestly do love her even more today than I did back then, which I wouldn’t have thought possible). Part of the point of Monday Musings is to share with you where my thoughts have wandered over the weekend.

This weekend, they were in a sculpture garden two thousand miles from here.

Wishing you a great week.

Monday Musings: Movie Favorites!!

Last week, I wrote a Monday Musings post about my rock and roll favorites. I meant it as a diversion, something fun to write (and, I hope, to read) that had nothing to do with the pandemic or politics or any of the other stuff that makes the news so fraught right now.

This week, I thought I would take on my cinematic favorites in a variety of categories. Some of those categories are “serious.” Others, as you’ll see, are pretty goofy. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Again, as with last week, these are MY favorites, and are not in any way meant to be statements of what is “best.” This is meant to be fun. I’m not looking for arguments, though I welcome other opinions offered in the same spirit of amusement and sharing.

That said, and without further ado….

My Favorite Drama: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This is a movie that can tick a lot of boxes. Some might call it a comedy – there are a lot of laughs here. Somehow, though, when both your heroes die at the end in a hail of bullets… well, not so much a comedy in my view. This is also my favorite Western of all time, and my favorite Buddy Movie of all time. Stars Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Katherine Ross. Directed by George Roy Hill.

My Favorite Comedy/RomCom: High Fidelity. Based on the novel of the same title by Nick Hornby. If you’re a music lover, you should see this movie. Wonderful. I know John Cusack is a bit of a wacko, but he’s great in this (he’s great in everything, actually). Stars John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Joan Cusack. Directed by Stephen Frears.

My Favorite Oldie Drama: Casablanca. Yeah, not really going out on a limb here. But good lord, what a movie. Intrigue, forbidden romance, Nazis to hate, ex-Pat mysterious Americans to love. It’s got it all. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Dooley Wilson, Claude Raines, Peter Lorre. Directed by Michael Curtiz.

My Favorite Oldie Comedy: Philadelphia Story. Charming love triangle farce with a stellar cast. Really a fun movie once you get by the upper crust, high society classism of the thing. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Ruth Hussey. Directed by George Kukor.

Movie that Makes Me Cry. Every. Single. Time: Field of Dreams. It’s not just the Dad-son thing, though yeah, that turns me into a puddle. But also that moment when Moonlight Graham has to choose between baseball and being a doctor. Damn. Got something in my eye just writing about it…. Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Burt Lancaster. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson.

Movie I Can’t Help But Watch Every Time It’s On: Tie – The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II. Brilliant movie making, spectacular casts, utterly compelling. The first movie is probably the best adaptation of any novel ever. And the second is probably the best sequel ever made. Al Pacino, Marlon Brando (I), Robert DeNiro (II) James Caan (I), Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, John Cazale. Directed (both) by Francis Ford Coppola.

My Favorite Movie That Led Directly to My Favorite Television Show: The American President. Written by Aaron Sorkin, this is the movie that basically gave us The West Wing. Similar themes, similar quality, in a really delightful romantic comedy/political drama. Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, Richard Dreyfus, Anna Devere Smith. Directed by Rob Reiner.

My Favorite Animated Movie: Monsters, Inc. As a dad, I have sat through my share of terrible movies and TV shows. I have also been treated to some wonderful movies from the folks at Pixar and Dreamworks. This one is so funny, so touching, so exciting. Voiced by Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Mary Gibbs, Jennifer Tilly, James Coburn, Rob Peterson. Directed by Pete Docter.

My Favorite SF Movie: Blade Runner. Let me say first (and I know this is not a widely shared opinion) that I LOVE the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek franchise. I think those movies are marvelous. And I love, love, love Guardians of the Galaxy. But this movie is so atmospheric, so thoughtful, and weird, and noir. Love it. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, Edward James Olmos. Directed by Ridley Scott.

My Favorite Fantasy Movie: Excalibur. Similar to the SF films. I love the LOTR films, and also several of the Harry Potters, but this treatment of the King Arthur legend is an underrated gem. Nigel Terry, Nicol Williamson, Helen Mirren, Cherie Lunghi, and a host of young future stars (Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Patrick Stewart). Directed by John Boorman.

My Favorite Caper Film: The Sting. Redford and Newman together again in a movie that won seven academy awards. The plot is complex, at times almost impossible to follow. But it is so, so good. Redford, Newman, Robert Shaw, Eileen Brennan.

Two Movies That Convinced Me Steven Spielberg is a Freaking Genius: On June 9, 1993, just in time for summer blockbuster season, Spielberg premiered Jurassic Park, which went on to become the highest grossing movie Hollywood had ever seen (to that point). Less than six months later, on November 30 of that same year, he premiered Schindler’s List, which went on to win seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. That combination of achievements in a single year is, I am certain, unequaled in cinematic history.

Best Movie I’ve Seen In the Last Six Months: Just Mercy. This was screened at the university here just before the pandemic, and followed by a lengthy community discussion. Fantastic, devastating film. Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Tim Blake Nelson, Rob Morgan. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

My Favorite Actor: This is hard. Let’s go with a list – Pacino, Denzel, Redford, Bogie, James Earl Jones, Jimmy Stewart, Dustin Hoffman.

My Favorite Actress: Cate Blanchett, Katharine Hepburn, Zoë Saldana, Ingrid Bergman, Meryl Streep, Octavia Spencer, Emma Thompson.

Actor (and Role) Who Might Make Me Re-Think My Sexual Orientation: Robert Redford as Sundance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I mean, get real. He’s gorgeous.

Actress (and Role) Who Might Make Me Leave My Happy Home: Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa in Casablanca. She is luminous, strong but also vulnerable, and simply exquisite.

And there you go! Hope you enjoyed this. Have a great week!

Super Bowl Sunday

Today, of course, is Super Bowl Sunday, the most bizarre, quintessentially American “holiday” of the year. It is, I believe, the anti-Thanksgiving. It is to Thanksgiving what evil Willow is to normal Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, what Mirror Universe Spock is to Federation Spock in the original Star Trek. Other than the presence of a football game in the middle of the festivities, Super Bowl Sunday and Thanksgiving Thursday have nothing in common.

Let me be clear: I’ll be watching today’s game. I always watch the Super Bowl. And yes, I’ll also be paying close attention to the ads, as I do every year. I make no claims to being holier than any of thou. But let’s face it, America: Super Bowl Sunday is a celebration of controlled culturally (and economically) sanctioned violence, interspersed with frenzied expressions of consumerism and gluttony. It is an excuse (as if we needed one) to gorge ourselves on fast food and mediocre beer while watching commercials for still more fast food and mediocre beer. On Thanksgiving we pause to express our appreciation for the wonders that we are so privileged to enjoy: freedom and security, family and friendship, shelter and sustenance. On Super Bowl Sunday we sit in front unspeakably large televisions (or else we rue the fact that we don’t own unspeakably large televisions) and consume stuff that those who were present at the very first Thanksgiving so many centuries ago would scarcely recognize as food.

And the ads! Did you know that this year advertisers will be paying $4.5 million for each thirty second spot? NBC expects to pull in about $360 million in ad revenue tonight, which is, like, a lot of money. All so that we can watch a game that has, more often than not in the forty-nine year history of the Super Bowl, proven to be a rather anti-climactic end to the football season. Way more than half the Super Bowl games played over the years have been one-sided — thirty of forty-eight have been decided by 10 points or more, and many of those have been true blow-outs.

Of course, we don’t really care. If the ads are good, and we eat enough chips and drink enough beer, the game ceases to be of much importance. It’s kind of like Thanksgiving that way, only really not.

New Hobby, Old Liver . . .

I’m 51 years old — nearly 52 — and I have never made a Martini. I’ve drunk a few. More than a few, if I’m going to be honest. But I’ve never made one. I don’t know how. I know what’s involved — gin, vermouth, olives, Aston Martins — but I don’t know the exact recipe. For that matter, I also don’t know how to make a Manhattan, a Mojito, or a Mai Tai.

I think it’s about time I learned. My wife agrees. And so, inspired by a purchase I made over the holidays for my nephew, I have recently purchased a bartender’s recipe book. It’s a nice one — well-illustrated, pretty comprehensive, and cheap, because it was used. It has just arrived.

I have some studying to do.

A Pair of Posts Up Today

Today on the unofficial Spell Blind Winter 2014-15 Blog Tour, I have two posts up. The first can be found at the Magical Words blogsite. It’s a pretty light-hearted post  — a list of holiday superlatives (best holiday movie, best gift I’ve ever received and given — that sort of thing).  It’s meant to be fun and will, I hope, prompt others to offer similar lists in the comments section. The Magical Words post can be found here.

The second post is at the SFNovelists blogsite and it is about the new series I have coming out from Baen — the Case Files of Justis Fearsson. The Fearsson books are the first that I have set in the contemporary world, and writing in this world is quite different from setting a novel in a created world, or even a historical setting. The SFNovelists post touches on some of those differences and can be found here.

I hope you enjoy them both, and I wish all of you a wonderful holiday and a happy and successful 2015.