If It’s Friday, It Must Mean Leftovers

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Elizabeth: The Golden Age (with Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen)

Best of List In No Particular Order

I just can’t put it together today cogently, so I’m doing something I’ve been thinking about doing: a Bests List. Feel free to tag me back with your bests if you want to play along.

Best Book:

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. The prose is beyond eloquent. Reading this book is akin to bathing in finely-scented oils: each time you read a beautiful passage, you think that nothing can possibly be any better than this, and then a few pages later, Ondaatje takes his words and lavishes them upon you until you feel utterly immersed in the exquisite way in which he mates his words to create something incredibly beautiful:

“New lovers are nervous and tender, but smash everything. For the heart is an organ of fire.” (Almaszy), or

“We die. We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we’ve entered and swum up like rivers. Fears we’ve hidden in—like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. Where the real countries are. Not boundaries drawn on maps with the names of powerful men. I know you’ll come carry me out to the Palace of Winds. That’s what I’ve wanted: to walk in such a place with you. With friends, on an earth without maps. The lamp has gone out and I’m writing in the darkness.” (Katharine Clifton)

Or this one: “He glares out, each eye a path, down the long bed at the end of which is Hana.  After she has bathed him she breaks the tip off an ampoule and turns to him with the morphine.  An effigy. A bed.  He rides the boat of morphine.  It races in him, imploding time and geography the way maps compress the world onto a two-dimensional sheet of paper.”

Best Character in a Movie:

This one was hard. I finally narrowed it to two characters: Henry the Fifth in Henry V,  starring Kenneth Branaugh. Henry V was one of England’s great king’s historically, and his depiction by William Shakespeare made him truly heroic and larger than life, a king men were willing to fight and die for. The St. Crispin’s Day speech delivered by King Henry before the battle is an incredible piece of oratory:

My other favorite movie character is William Wallace in Braveheart. Obviously, my choices have something in common. They are both men of valor, fighting for that in which they believe. Wallace is the less regal version of Henry.

Best Movie Soundtrack:

Hands down, for me it’s the soundtrack from Philadelphia. I know that the whole movie is incredibly sad, but the music on the soundtrack is, well, not quite as sad. But I think that it’s a wonderful compilation of artists and styles. Runner up would be the soundtrack from Hope Floats, which also features many unexpected artists and an eclectic fare. 

Best Coffee:

Starbucks Sumatra venti with half and half and sugar. Sumatra is a dark, bold coffee, which is the kind I prefer. I don’t like wimpy coffees, but I do like my half and half in my coffee. I’m trying to cut down on the sugar, though, since I just got the lab results back on my triglycerides (yikes!).

Best Song (five categories):

  • Rock n Roll: Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” tied with “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos
  • Country: “Amazed” by Lonestar
  • Classic: “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
  • Opera: Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” from the opera Turandot, especially as sung by Luciano Pavoratti
  • Classical: “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber

Again, this is a category that is very hard for me to pick just one Best of, so I thought that I would make it easier on myself by creating categories.


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Homicide: Life on the Street

Best Series No Longer on Television:

This one was easy: “Homicide: Life on the Street.” Set in Baltimore, this gritty cop show ran from 1993 to 1999 and featured one of the best ensemble casts ever. The only thing that I could never reconcile was the question posed in the first episode of the first season: Who killed Adena Watson?

Best Cable Series:

Again, no competition: ‘The Tudors” on Showtime. Admittedly, I never thought of Henry VIII as sexy before this finely-crafted show aired, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers changed my mind. Intrigue, deception, backstabbing, adultery, regal staging: almost American politics, but with better costuming.

Best News Show:

“Countdown With Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC. I love this guy. He appeals to my sardonic side in a way in which no other pundit ever has. He can also show emotion, such as on the night that Barack Obama was elected or on the night of Obama’s speech to the DNC. I like a human pundit who has wit and brains and a segment called “Worst Persons in the World.”

Best Ice Cream:

Edy’s Butter Pecan. Yummy. Nuf said.

Best Poem:

“The Olive-Wood Fire” by Galway Kinnell. I could name at least fifty others, but this poem has stuck with me for a while: a man, rocking his son to sleep by the fire, dozes off, and sees images of war in the fire. Awakens to the placid picture before him: his son on his arms before the olive-wood fire.

The Olive Wood Fire
Galway Kinnell

When Fergus woke crying at night.
I would carry him from his crib
to the rocking chair and sit holding him
before the fire of thousand-year-old olive wood.
Sometimes, for reasons I never knew
and he has forgotten, even after his bottle the big tears
would keep on rolling down his big cheeks
—the left cheek always more brilliant than the right—
and we would sit, some nights for hours, rocking
in the light eking itself out of the ancient wood,
and hold each other against the darkness,
his close behind and far away in the future,
mine I imagined all around.
One such time, fallen half-asleep myself,
I thought I heard a scream
—a flier crying out in horror
as he dropped fire on he didn’t know what or whom,
or else a child thus set aflame—
and sat up alert. The olive wood fire
had burned low. In my arms lay Fergus,
fast asleep, left cheek glowing, God

Best Karaoke Song for Me:

“I Will Remember You,” by Sarah McLachlan. Perfect key for my voice, and I feel a connection to this song.

Best Movie:

usual-suspectsThe Usual Suspects. The casting in this movie is pure perfection. The plot line is completely implausible, but it is a movie that I will come back to again and again. I have no idea how many times I have watched this movie.

 Best line spoken by character Verbal Kint (played beautifully by Kevin Spacey): “Keaton always said, ‘I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of him.’ Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.”

Runner up (and it was hard to choose) would have to be Lord of the Rings (I’m counting this as one long, nine-hour movie). I have read the trilogy once a year almost every year since I was an undergraduate. Peter Jackson managed to do what I thought no person would ever be able to do: He brought to life a set of books about which many people are fanatical, and in a way that is beyond description. I am still willing to relocate to New Zealand to be a gopher for Peter Jackson any time he calls.

Actually, now that I think of it, it has to be a tie.

Best Female Actor:

This is close, but I think that I have to go with Cate Blanchett, simply because I have never seen her in anything in which her performance was not superb; the movie may have been mediocre, but Blanchett is never mediocre. She has that chameleon-like ability that Meryl Streep has, but I like Blanchett’s body of work better.

Best Male Actor:

Okay, I am really not basing this on looks, but out of all of the actors working today, I particularly like Clive Owen for a lot of the same reasons that I like Kate Blanchett. Owen does not choose to do the same role over and over with just a different movie title. I loved him as Sir Walter Raleigh in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, but I also loved him as Theo in Children of Men, in which he is much more vulnerable and a victim of circumstances.

Best Tea:

Twining’s Darjeeling, hot, strong with sugar and cream. Wonderful alone or with ginger snaps.

Best Outfit Fall/Winter:

Levi’s jeans, black leather boots, turtle neck sweater, long earrings, clunky leather watch, full-length black leather coat, Calvin Klein’s Eternity, squooshy black leather Via Spiga bag.

Best Outfit Spring/Summer:

Bathing suit and sarong, or long sun dress, 4711 cologne, and Birkenstocks.

Best Book Series for Fun:

Harry Potter, all seven books. Best book of series, book 3, Prizoner of Azkaban.

Best Vacation:

Seven-day cruise to Western Caribbean, 2006. Just Corey and me: cave-tubing, swimming with stingrays, sailing on a catamaran. Great meals. No work. Wonderful.

Best Car:

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Black Calais. Loved that car. It had a great stereo; it was great on gas, drove smoothly, comfortable interior.  Killed it in an altercation at a stoplight when right front bumper turned into accordion after tapping metal bumper of full-sized Suburban. Damage to their car: dent in bumper. Damage to my car: totaled.  

Best Day That Cannot Be Repeated:

The day that Corey and I went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg with my Mom and Dad. I hadn’t been to a theme park with both of my parents since I was a child. We had a wonderful time, and had our picture taken on the log flume. My Dad would die from pancreatic cancer less than half a year later.

More later. Peace.

The New American Dream: Barack Obama’s Speech to the DNC

I watched the Democratic National Convention last week with a sense of nostalgia. I hadn’t seen the Dems this pumped since Clinton/Gore. For the first time in a long time, the party actually pulled it off: Hillary and Bill got on board; Kerry delivered the speech he should have delivered four years ago; Al Gore was polished, but he should have paused just a bit more. But Biden, Biden delivered big time for Barack Obama and set the stage for the Thursday night speech that ran 42 minutes and left this full-time cynic actually willing to believe again. More people tuned in to watch this man speak than watched the opening of the Olympics, and that alone should tell you something. The first outdoor acceptance speech since JFK was predicted to be light on substance and heavy on political rhetoric, in other words, dream-filled and abstract.

Obama’s speech was packed with proposed policy details, specifically the country’s current economic crisis. It was bold and liberal and unifying. His speech contained strong statements such as this: “We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don’t tell me that Democrats won’t defend this country. Don’t tell me that Democrats won’t keep us safe.” I actually got chills. Remarkable. In a less effective speaker’s hands, the words would not have had such a dramatic effect.

The man is a born orator, the kind this country hasn’t seen since JFK. He knows how to reach beyond rhetoric and touch the hearts of the common man and woman who are aching to hear something that will give them something to cling to. Like this: “America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this . . . We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.”

I know that I want to be part of a better country than the American of these last eight years. I know that I do not want another four years of the same, no matter how honorable McCain is as a person. We need more than a man who is respected by many people because of his past deeds but who believes that America is on the right track. And Obama was clearly aware of this difference by targeting McCain’s policies in his speech, but never attacking the man himself.

And for those who still want to believe in some type of American Dream, hold on to this:

“You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

“We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put away a little extra money at the end of each month so that you can someday watch your child receive her diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President – when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

……….

“And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once more the last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.”

The American Dream may have been lost for a while. We may have forgotten how to dream because we were so busy just trying to make do in this harsh reality that has been our lives–the lives in which milk costs $6 a gallon and bread almost $2 a loaf; health insurance is a luxury for many, and dental insurance is completely out of reach. City public schools have classroom sizes of up to 40. A college education without assistance for most families is not possible. The infant mortality rate for the U.S. still ranks with some third world countries. Some of our warriors are on their third tour of duty in Iraq. Foreclosures on homes continue to rise, as do the number of bankruptcies. Families in which both parents work, forcing more latchkey children, continue to become the necessity, not the exception. Three years after Katrina, we still have people who have not been helped. So tell me, is it any wonder that our dreams have taken a back seat? The have-nots far outnumber the haves, yet those who continue to live with platinum parachutes and bypass paying taxes through loopholes don’t have to wonder about the price of gas, bread, or milk, and health insurance is hardly a concern.

Yet the intrepid doers still hold on. We still put out our flags on Memorial Day and the 4th of July because something in us continues to believe in this country of ours. And with luck, perhaps more people than ever will exercise their right to vote this November, instead of taking that right for granted. I don’t care if they are voting because they don’t want a black man as president or a woman as vice president. At least they are participating in the process, and that is their right, whether or not I agree with their choice.

But dammit, at least they have that right, and with any luck, maybe they’ll have a taste of a new American Dream, or at least a remembrance of the old one. We deserve that. We all deserve that. It is not too much to hope for. I refuse to believe that.