Tag Archives: movies

My Grandpa’s Flannel Shirt


(Uno) 1. Autumnal cleaning day – cleaned the house from top to bottom yesterday and it felt great! Today I enjoyed it, completely.

(Due) 2. Computer resurrection! My computer turned on, and I’m typing this post on it now. I have a visit to the Apple store at Centro Sicilia queued up for a post, and now it will have a happy ending!

(Tre) 3. Stumbling upon yet another mall in the Catania area, this one called Katane. I am not much of a mall person in general, but even I have to admit they make you feel good about shopping.

(Quattro) 4. Watching and loving Mulholland Drive. Nice work, David Lynch. Nice work.

(Cinque) 5. This is double using Mulholland Drive, but I was legitimately blown away by Naomi Watts‘ performance in a way I never had been before. As I watch the movie more and more (about once a year), I realize how she really makes the movie as awesome as it is.


Ask anyone who moves a lot, you end up moving the same things over and over and justify it by promising to use them! I cart around art supplies and my piano. I am not willing to give up these items, even as my use of them has decreased over the years. While I’m still figuring out how to fit arts activities into my schedule, I did manage to wear Grandpa Becker’s flannel shirt. Even when I could fit all of my belongings in my car, I still had Grandpa Becker’s shirt with me. Tonight, I’m snuggling into it happily.

Photo Gallery:

Today I’m sharing more Ottobrata Zafferanese pictures. I did not return today as I had planned to do, so I am reliving it with you in these pictures. See you next year, Ottobrata Zafferanese!

An overview of the festivities.

More views from a higher vantage point.

These next couple of shots feature a fried delicacy that I found pretty lacking in flavor and texture qualities. I was attracted to the vibrant color and the hope that it was a fried pickle, but then found out it is a crispy fried donut, flavored as pistachio (green) and fragola (strawberry – the red one). We didn’t even finish them.

Finally, we have a photo of one of the most delicious cheeses I have had in a…oh, well, that I had eaten THAT day. Since then I have had so many delicious cheeses here in Italy, that I lose track. That is charred ash on the outside and fresh ricotta inside. It was more firm than the ricotta you use in lasagna, or to stuff a canolo shell, and it was moist and delicioso! The block at the top shows a cross section.

Enjoy your Sunday!


Filed under 5-100, Awesomeness



Uno (1). Got my very first blogging award! Thank you, Logy Express!!! My duties with the award will be fulfilled by the week’s end.

Due (2). Completed even more data for my JOB! I’m so excited for the analyzing to begin…(yes, my job title is “Analyst”). I am about to test my admiration of the 9-5 lifestyle that plagues Logy Express. 😉

Tre (3). Sipping Tuscan wines with Hal, Anisette and Dave.

Quattro (4). Religulous. Anisette was excited to talk to us about it and luckily the Sigonella library had it on the shelf. Great movie, definitely thought provoking and hilariously produced.

Cinque (5). “Km 0” – this is a Slow Food idea of sourcing as many ingredients locally as possible. Several Tuscan restaurants highlighted “Km 0” items on their menus. It is a mix of the Eat Local movements in the U.S. and the idea of terroir (often credited to the French). In all, it is an agreement to focus on the value of food as community, art, and vocation. The phrase “Km 0” has an Italian history, so it is a fitting title for this practice.


Fagottini! What’s a fagottini? Trust me, you’ll know it when you see it! That doesn’t help you, does it? I was introduced to the fagottini in my former life as a server at Lombardino’s, and forgot all about it until last weekend. We were dining on a fabulous lunch in Sovana, at Ristorante dei Merli, and Dave ordered a fagottini for dessert. Fagottini is a “bundle” of something, and it looks like a purse or the satchel on the end of a hobo’s stick. They can be made savory or sweet. Here’s an Italian recipe, translated as “Bundle of Apples.”







Filed under 5-100, Food. Cibo.

Somewhere George Clooney is Looking Handsome


Uno (1). Getting word from my employer that I will start work in one to two weeks! Great news.

Due (2). Watching and mocking “Murder on the Orient Express.” An impressive genre and the heart of Agatha Christie territory, but not my favorite schtick, hence the mocking. Great performances by a cast of talented actors.

Tre (3). Yoga. Um, yes, I know I’ve told you a million and one times how much I love yoga; it bears repeating for me.

Quattro (4). Laughing. Some days are just funnier than others and yesterday was one of them. At one point, I started talking about a dress I like to wear dancing and somehow the conversation ended in jokes about strobe lights and porn music. Just one of those days.

Cinque (5). Bubblegum pink Cinquecento!!! Dave and I have been keeping our eyes peeled for Cinquecentos and we’re tracking new colors. This had to be a custom paint job. Unfortunately we were passing it in the car, so no chance for a pic.


There are few joyful moments you can count on in life: smelling cool rain on hot blacktop in the summer, squinting at the glare of the sun rising on freshly fallen snow, and seeing a giant George Clooney face in the mall. Yes, I am one of the few people who enjoy seeing a handsome face. Of course, I knew George Clooney is enamored with Italy, I just didn’t know Italy reciprocated the feelings. He is the cover model for an Ocean Sport advertising campaign. I spotted him while out shopping. His good looks transcend cultural differences. Enjoy.


Filed under 5-100

Movie Review: “Gates of Heaven” Errol Morris 1978


Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”):

Errol Morris made a huge impression on me when I watched “Fog of War” in the former theater at Midvale (Mall?) in Madison Wisconsin. The theater has since been torn down, but the memory lives on.

I have always been sensitive to animals. My mom grew up on a farm, so she was very sensible about animals, though perhaps more matter-of-fact that appealed to me. Though my allergies limited my pet access as I muddled through undergrad, traveled and domineered law school, I shortly thereafter indulged in pet ownership and have never looked back. Maki and Panther are a part of the family, and though I prefer cremation or another natural form of decomposition (as opposed to internment), they will be honored in death as they have been in life. I am grateful that I live in a time and society afforded such luxury.

When I met my husband, Dave, he loved Errol Morris and has been introducing me to his other work over time. The subject matter, a pet cemetery, intrigued me – more or less because I love my pets and because of my 80s fascination with Pet Semetary (remember the little boy, Gage?).  This movie is amazingly brilliant, with a simple and direct display of human understanding, emotion and complexity…ah, but now I’m slipping into review-mode. On we go!


*This is a pretty long review for the relative amount of content in the documentary. However, the bits I’ve included are just a small part of what makes this documentary amazing. For the best results, just rent it /buy it and watch it for yourself. If you still need further persuading, re what I’ve said below.

Errol Morris portrays opposing sides, a rendering company against a simple farmer animal-loving sensitive soul, Floyd “Mac” McClure.

But don’t be mistaken that Floyd is so animal friendly as to be vegetarian, or vegan. In one scene he bitterly describes how the fumes from the rendering company interfered in his dinner;

Then, we slowly watch the plans for McClure’s ideal pet cemetery disintegrate as the financial interests conflict with the sentimental ones. We also see the tensions arising between pet-owners in the community over the status of their pet graves.

One of the most interesting parts of watching this documentary is the way the characters bare their souls, largely without agenda. It is easy to see that even the businessmen are operating without an agenda, especially when the manager of the rendering plant admits they lie about rendering zoo animals. In this day and age of reality TV, it is refreshing to watch these characters. Don’t worry, there are still the eye-roll-inducing characters – like the sons of the California pet cemetery owners. Maybe it was less pathetic back then? Or maybe just less awareness of the way entitled children sound so pathetic? (btw, I actually adore the younger son, he is so earnest.)

Best Lines & Watch for’s:

Floyd “Mac” McClure:  North Dakota guy (with suspenders and red pen in his lapel, scales of justice visible behind him on his right side and the bronzed shoes behind him on the other side) “[That]…was the most beautiful piece of land, as far as I was concerned, in the whole valley. And boy, I knew what to do with it. Make it into a pet cemetary.”

Watch for: Guy with the Coors can and ashtray in front of him every time he’s featured in the documentary.

Rendering Industry Man: “Rendering is one of the oldest industries. It dates back to the time of the Egyptians.  They can trace it back this far. Rendering. In the bible, ya know, way back in the old testament, the guy cut off the sheep skin, right? And put it over’im. Put the lamb fat on’im ta keep ‘im warm. It could be the oldest industry in the world. It could be. It’s possible.” [Jill says: keep an ear out for this guy, all of his words are gems. Probably because of his sunglasses on his desk, his matter-of-fact demeanor, and the amused look on his face. Genius play, Mr. Morris.]

“I want my mama!” (Woman holding dog on lap, singing to prompt dog’s response).

“And the next day you go out, take flowers,  maybe meditate a little bit, think of how often, maybe, you cried into her fur. ” (Woman in green and white, with poodle portrait displayed behind her).

Watch for: Artistic depiction of putting one’s heart over the dollars in a project.

Floyd: “I was not only broke, but broken-hearted.”

Woman in pink apron over blue/brown print housedress: “But you know he (her son) should help me more, he’s all I got. He’s the one who brought me up here. And then put me here by myself among strangers. It’s terrible when you stop ‘n think about it.” [Watch this entire segment! Amazing.]

Successful pet cemetery owner, (Bubbling Well Church of Universal Love, Inc. 1977), in straw hat and blue button-up shirt: ” “I would say that the pill is largely more responsible for the pet explosion than any other factor…It’s very simple…today the husband and wife both work…when the young mother comes home, she has to have something to fondle, something to mother, something to love.”

Watch for: The “R2A2” formula and it’s red-phone poolside inventor.

There are so many other rich characters and moments that I have to pause now and recommend that, if you are hooked by now, you should just go ahead and rent the movie.

Wait! The Eagle trophy guy just said “People never really get negative and they never really get positive.” GEMS, people! I tell you, gems.

Watch for: Prickly pear cacti behind the yellow-shirted and orange-tank topped couple – just like in Sicily!

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077598/

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A Question for Readers – How do you celebrate?


  1. Check, check, check on the to-do list.
  2. Finished “South of Superior,” by Ellen Airgood. I really enjoyed this book, look for a review in the coming weeks. It takes place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Superior and I keep wishing I could read more about the characters.
  3. Set an appointment to schedule internet and local phone to our new home.
  4. Slogged through some paperwork related to my new job, policies, practices, and timesheets, oh my!
  5. Rounded out the evening by watching North by Northwest, with the wonderful Cary Grant at the helm and Eva Marie Saint joining him there for the last third of the movie.

I am 32 whopping years old and let me tell you, I am still pretty freaking young. However, my body seems to think it is allowed to morph and reshape. To dissuade it, I have agreed to eat more sensibly and my body has agreed to change more slowly. One way to eat more sensibly is by creating non-food rewards. For example, to celebrate my new job, my first instinct was to have prosecco or a special dinner. Instead, I hugged Dave til his eyes bugged out and called my family. What are the non-food rewards you look forward to?


Filed under 5-100, Adjusting



  1. Picked up DAVE from the airport!!! He had been at a training in the U.S. and then he visited some family (Hi MB, D, A and M!).
  2. Prior to that, I SIGNED THE LEASE on our condo! See photos with our landlord Filippo and real estate agent Salvo, below.
  3. Did I mention that Dave was back? We got caught up on sharing our news and such and took a sweet little nap. Although the time passed quickly, life is better with Dave in it.
  4. Had a productive skype session with my therapist B. B and I started working together in Madison, Wisconsin, and although I see her much less frequently now, she is invaluable for me when I’m coming up against a sticky emotional thread in my life. Luckily, technology is awesome and B is willing to skype with long-time clients when they move away. B is the best!
  5. Dave and I watched Zodiac. Er, Dave and I started watching Zodiac and then one of us fell asleep. I won’t tell you which one, just like I won’t tell you which one is the Zodiac.

Resiliency: ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity or the like; buoyancy. From the sixth grade on, I tried to choose experiences that would push me out of my comfort zone. A basketball coach had preached that “adaptability” was a great virtue. Since I admired this coach, and more importantly Grandma Smith agreed, so I bought in to the idea. The approach has served me well. However, the last few years of navigating post-graduate employment in an economic crisis was probably the most difficult experience, yet. And, my spirit was down; I was suffering. But, baby; now I’m back!


Lease Signing 2011

First, there was some paperwork that I had to sign. Then, Filippo and I took turns signing five originals of the lease agreement. He is a congenial guy, we’re so lucky to have him for our landlord!

Then we got a group shot before leaving the housing office. Salvo is on the left of me and Filippo is on the right. Guess what? They make jokes about “breaking the camera” in Italian, too. I almost thought the guys were seriously going to decline a picture, but you can see what good sports they are. Grazie Salvo e Filippo!  It was a happy day, only missing Dave, who  was still en route to Catania from his training expedition in the states.

Buona Giornata, people, I love ya!

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Movie Review: “The Open Road” Michael Meredith 2009

Jeff Bridges, Mary Steenburgen, Justin TimberlakeKate Mara

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this dvd”):

Let’s just say the selection in Sigonella, while robust and diverse, is still a small selection. I was shocked to see this cover, with such big names on it, and realized that I had never even heard of this movie. I was intrigued.

I also want to say upfront that the Cinquecento Project was started from a desire to embrace the positive in life and enjoy the ride (pun definitely intended). It is my intention to keep that perspective with this comical movie review. Did I think this movie sucked? Yes. Does it have any redeeming qualities? Very few. Yet, I know that the people involved took this project seriously and did their best to try and make it work. Sometimes, things just don’t work out, and this is one of them. In times like these, it is time to make movie-lemonade, maybe with a splash of vodka. Enjoy!


This is a movie for drinking with friends. Come up with a drinking game (or push-ups, or whatever would be fun for you) revolving around cameos (Ted Danson, Lyle Lovett, Harry Dean Stanton), lame lines (the list will be provided below), and silly plot developments (sort of the wild-card category). Some of the time you will blame the dialog, other times the direction, and more often than you think you’ll be groaning at the combination of the two.

What makes this movie ridiculous:

(1) A grown woman refuses some mysterious surgery and the family wants a court order to get her under the knife. Yet this oh-so-important part of the movie, you-know, the part that puts the whole “road trip” in motion is NEVER explained. Some random heart problem is the extent of the explanation. On top of that, there are no details about the initial relationship or subsequent break-up between Jeff Bridges and Mary Steenburgen. So, right away, we really have very little reason to understand or care whether she gets the surgery or whether Jeff Bridges goes anywhere.

(2) Complete lack of chemistry between Justin Timberlake and Kate Mara.There is no dialog to create a chemistry, so I can’t really blame the actors. They flirted their damnedest on screen, but there really wasn’t anything to work with. This relationship is further *Super-weird* when Mara’s absent fiancee is mentioned.

(3) Timberlake’s complete insecurity about EVERYTHING. I think this insecurity is supposed to support the idea that he is too insecure to believe in his hidden writing abilities (ahem, is this the screenwriter projecting?), and thus the insecurity is manifesting itself in bringing down his ball game. Yet, in the first half of the movie, he is so insecure that it is unbelievable he ever brushed his own teeth or tied his own shoelaces.

(4) Geography and Mara’s phantom teaching job. Geography problem – traveling from major city (Columbus, Ohio) to major city (Houston, Texas), but the car is always on 2-lane country roads. Mara teaching job problem – they “sorta” want her back by Wednesday, which, once mentioned, is never addressed again, ad the movie seems to span from Monday-Friday.

(5) Trying to be clever by making fun of the H3 Hummer? By calling it small? And making a lame “hummer” joke? Puh-lease.

(6) Theme attempt of father-son discord means Timberlake and Bridges “never talk” but then Bridges magically knows what is best for Timberlake and is insightful and recalls conversations to support his insights. Uh…I thought you guys never talk…where did these conversations come from?

(7) CREEPY ALERT: The scene in the hotel room when Mara is sleeping and Timberlake comes and lays down on her bed with her. Mara’s hand reaches 1/2 inch toward Timberlake and he takes her hand and grins. It doesn’t go further than this, but it has a very creepy feeling.

(8) Timberlake’s outrage at the one-hour mark. All of a sudden he’s so worried about his mom that he yells at Mara for not caring about getting back (who missed a week of work and left her supposed fiancee). Dumb.

Best Lines (mostly comical) & Saving Graces:

Coach (Ted Danson): “And, baseball players don’t say things like “eluding.” So pull it outta your ass and play some ball for me, will you please!”

Kyle Garrett (Jeff Bridges): “You’re prettier than a spotted heifer in a pansy patch.”

Timberlake:  “You’re the one who blushed when he called you a heifer.” <Pause> “A cow.”   Mara: “I know what a heifer is.”

Mara: “<Sigh> Huh. Sorry, was that me.” Timberlake: “Yea, what were you gonna say?” Mara: “Oh nothing. I was just tryin’ ta internally ponder something, but, the internal thing didn’t really work out.”

Bridges: “Well. I think I’m gonna go on in there and get some booze, get drunk. Do ya want anything?”

[Jill W: Dear reader, I recommend you do the same NOW]

Timberlake: “I just can’t believe it. I can’t believe any of this shit. Reeves is gonna take me out of the lineup if I don’t play well on Saturday. My mom is in a hospital bed convinced she’s about to die. And, and, this guy is just out with a barfly. Huh…I mean who does that? How could anybody do that?”

Steenburgen: “You mustn’t ever ignore the ride, honey.”

Mara (whose name in the movie is LUCY): “Okay. First of all, stop calling me Lucy. My whole life it’s been ‘honey’ or ‘baby’ or whatever and now all of a sudden it’s Lucy!!?”

Gas station attendant: “That gonna be it?” Timberlake: “Maybe just some cyanide.”

Bridges: “I’d kill a man to be 25 again.” Timberlake: “Huh, you would.”

Timberlake: “What are you drinking?” Bridges: “Tasty beverage.”

THE ENTIRE BAR SCENE WITH LYLE LOVETT. Terrible, terrible dialog.

Gas Station Attendant: “I’d rather watch the grass grow.”

Timberlake: (reaches across table to take Mara’s hand) “Look. I know that I’m gonna screw things up every now and then. And, I know, that things won’t be perfect. But give me one chance, I swear to God I’ll never hurt you again.”  [JW says: Hello! One chance? One? What is this “again” business if you’re asking for “one chance”? You already had it. That is just a semantics problem though, I think everyone deserves another chance in life. But the WORST part is that this is apparently all it takes for Mara to just fall over and come back to Timberlake. BARF!]

Saving Grace #1: Jeff Bridges! He is so golden that I actually watched the whole movie.

Saving Grace #2: Timberlake trying to pull the front bumper off of the H3 Hummer.

Saving Grace #3: Wrastling fight between Bridges and Timberlake. Great scene, actually. Both guys get into the fight just the right amount, well, Timberlake could’ve maybe been slightly more puffy, since he’s the younger one, but overall the scene really conveyed each man’s deep desire for connection with the other guy. We all just wanna be loved, of course, and here’s a scene that depicts the way that desire is manifested between father and son more often than mani-pedi dates. (I’m not knocking the mani-pedi, Dave and I enjoyed a duo mani-pedi date when he returned from Afghanistan and it was great!).


Who cares!?! And how did this movie get made??? Seriously, what kind of pull does Michael Meredith have, where did he get it, and how can I tap into that kind of persuasive power to try out my mediocre ideas?

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1007018/

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Movie Project: The Tim Gunn Movie Guide to Style

After reading Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney’s book and reviewing it, I am interested in following up on some of the books mentioned within, as well as attacking the list of “Films of Style” in the appendices. Netflix operates a little slower here (since mail takes about 2 weeks to go one-way), so it will be interesting to find these movies at the library, in Italian, or end up perhaps purchasing them.

Here’s the list.

Seen it, loved it, remember it.

  1. Doctor Zhivago (Thank you PBS!)
  2. Auntie Mame  (Thanks Uncle Michael)
  3. All About Eve  (Thanks Uncle Michael)
  4. Austin Powers
  5. The Devil Wears Prada (“loved it” is too strong for this one – it is slightly above “meh” for me, but it was really fun to watch!)

Seen it, or have I? Better re-watch it.

  1. Funny Face
  2. Dinner at Eight (hommage paid via a tv series and a movie short by the same name)
  3. Funny Girl

High priority prior to reading it on this list.

  1. The Philadelphia Story
  2. Valley of the Dolls
  3. Infamous (A movie whose content and title always remind me of this movie, that I remember watching in high school and really grasping how artist’s can reach out and grab your heart, and you don’t even see it coming.)
  4. Shampoo
  5. Grey Gardens (and of course, the well-received update by HBO)
  6. A Place in the Sun
  7. Cleopatra (ah, Elizabeth Taylor! There seem to be two recent remakes, one a tv series from 1999 with Billy Zane and the other coming out in 2013 starring Angelina Jolie.)

Never heard of it – hope it’s great!

  1. Blow-Up
  2. The Women (yikes! remade in 2008 with an all-star cast, but it looks terrible!)
  3. Dark Victory
  4. Persona
  5. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
  6. The Palm Beach Story
  7. The Fountainhead
  8. Sleeper
  9. L’Avventura
  10. Metropolitan
  11. The Draughtsman’s Contract
  12. The Go-Between (Julie Christie! I love her. She’s still got magic in this movie dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.)
  13. Prospero’s Books
  14. Mildred Pierce (ooh, there is a 2011 remake starring Kate Winslet, I wonder what Gunn will have to say about that?)
  15. Last Year at Marienbad
  16. Masculin Feminin
  17. Desk Set

And, that’s it! I’m not sure if they chose sufficient movie listings to fit the page dimensions, or if thirty-two holds some magical numerical significance, but here is the list of Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney’s top thirty-two Films of Style. I have rearranged the order of the movies to categorize the movies. The second category “Seen it, or have I? Better re-watch” is necessary for movies like “Shampoo” which sounds familiar, but I always confuse it with the movie/production of “Hair” – merely because of the title. The same goes for “Funny Face” and “Funny Girl” – totally different movies, but I have a difficult time remembering which is which – the titles trip me up.

It is evident from this list, and from Gunn’s prose in the book, that his influences are heavily French-based (even if they are an outlying French colony). I am disappointed not to see any other nationalities get so much coverage, surely there are stylistically beautiful films from film-prolific India, or Japan, too? Perhaps the editors trumped on this one and directed the list to be trimmed for the target audience of the book, maybe Gunn’s francophilia runs deeper than we know. Nonetheless this looks like a great list of movies to watch.

Which have you seen? Are any of your favorites on the list?

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Book Review: “A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style” by Tim Gunn with Kate Moloney

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”):

I picked up this book the day I found out I failed the interview. Okay, that doesn’t sound so positive, but it is the most active, efficient way to say it and it is true, after all. Although I was really disappointed, I have a lot of practice in keeping my chin up, so I did just that. After the follow-up phone call ended with the bad news, I sat for a moment and breathed hard. A few tears welled in my eyes and I took note of how the pit of my stomach felt intensely centered around the backs of my knees and my heart was pounding heavily, though not quickly. “So this is what disappointment feels like today.” I thought. After a minute or two, my breath returned to normal, along with my eyes and heart, though my stomach stayed out of whack the entire day (okay, okay, I cried again, too). Then, I picked myself up, returned to my daily to-do list and went along my less-merry-than-usual way.

I was still riding the subtly ebbing and flowing waves of disappointment when I got to the library. I was returning dvds and hadn’t intended to check out a book (what with a stack of blogging projects waiting for me at home). Yet, I craved a new distraction from the free time that might tempt me to engage in garbage talk about myself later that night (sort of a nasty habit I acquired in my early 20s, and I’ve been in rehab ever since). I have also been thinking about what role my clothes play in my self-expression lately. This thought arose from blog exploration that led to a whole community of fashion bloggers and consumeristas (as I call them). Could I be invested in a personal style without betraying my anti-consumerist soul? Would I be able to fit my personal outlook into a style of Tim Gunn’s approval?

There would be only one way to find out. I picked up the book, and with gleeful delight found that I adore Tim Gunn’s approach to style.


Gunn and his partner (sidekick?) Kate Moloney start by creating an atmosphere of open acceptance and genuine enthusiasm to share their belief that anyone can achieve the mantra of the book “Quality, Taste & Style,” no matter your heritage, socioeconomic status, philosophy, size, age, etc. – all of that makes you who you are. “Who you are” is the first chapter and it is Gunn and Moloney’s goal that you “be unflinchingly confident in who you are. Own that person. Own your look.” (30). Since I cracked open the book with a skeptic’s chip on my shoulder, I was pleasantly surprised by these beginnings. Still doubtful, I jumped ahead to scan the appendices in anticipation of a list of labels and brands out of my price range. Instead I met with a style guide that included a recommended film list, a literary section (!!!), AND a glossary, because “[f]ew activities are as delightful as learning new vocabulary.” (191). Za-zing! A book after my own heart. Maybe this book could help me uncover my sartorial sense of self.

As I pressed on, the book presented useful information, including a closet organizing section, a brief overview of fashion mentors and icons and rolled on into physical beauty in posture, before leading into the retail sector. Gunn and Moloney offer tips for exercising discretion when shopping, including advocating for shopping less, and also raise the issue of emotional shopping and how detrimental it can be. Accessories were given a thorough once-over, including the advice to sniff around your environs and assess your emotional reaction to certain smells; this will help you know what to look for in a fragrance. Finally, the book ended with directives for different special events (think black-tie attire, vacation attire, etc.).

Looking back on it, the only pieces missing from the book were how to shampoo your hair and that you should never wear seersucker! (Personal distaste of mine, Gunn does restrict it to the summer months and says it must go away after Labor Day). Though these types of rules are not part of the book, that is a good thing. Gunn and Moloney produced a starter course in how to present your physical self in a way that reflects your personality, beliefs and tastes. They do demand that one should dress appropriately for the weather, and thus incorporate a seasonality to your wardrobe, the way there is a seasonality to fruits and vegetables, and even menu offerings (at least, there should be). For example, lightweight cotton sweaters are great for September, but should be shelved in favor of a more dense fabric by December.

Perhaps the most valuable part of this book (and most surprising to me), along with the simple posture tips (see below), are the fashion, artistic, literary and film references Gunn and Moloney drop in the text, they sparkle like the subtle accessories endorsed throughout the book, just enough to attract interest without overwhelming the intention of the outfit, er book, in this case. Names like Anna Piaggi, Leontyne Price, and Chita Rivera; movies like Doctor Zhivago, Grey Gardens, and Il Grido; and books like “Death in Venice” (Thomas Mann), “Either/or” (Søren Kierkegaard), and “I Shock Myself” (Beatrice Wood), are scattered among discussions of the basic shoe requirements of every woman’s closet (two pairs of boots, one fancy, one casual; one pair of flats suitable for the office and jeans; one pair dress-up-to-the-nines evening shoes). And, all the while, pressing the mantra: silhouette, proportion, fit.

Speaking of women, the book focuses exclusively on fashion for women and is written with a female audience in mind, but it’s sage advice would hold true for men, as well. Gunn and Moloney point out that fragrances are not gender-specific, only the marketing of fragrances is. Maybe ballet flats and a suitable pair of evening heels don’t apply to most men, but one never knows. As Gunn would say to those of us creating and maintaining personal style: “Make it work!”

Best Excerpts:

“I find that often students who struggle with an assignment are inclined to abandon the struggle and begin again. This practice unnerves me, because it’s like playing roulette with one’s work. What assurance does one have that the next spin of the wheel will be successful? Important learning occurs when a struggle is examined and analyzed, diagnosed, and a prescription offered. Ergo, make it work.” p. 16.

“Who you are embraces everything about you, from your family’s origins to your predilections for particular films and music, to your fantasies and reveries, to your weekly routines. It’s also your size, shape, and proportions, and your coloring. And it’s the city or town in which you live, your home, and your friends and colleagues. It’s milieu.” p. 18.

“Allow yourself to make a distinction between what appeals to you and what works for you. (If you love chartreuse but it looks dreadful on you, get your chartreuse fix around the house: perhaps some throw pillows would do it.)” p. 22.

“If you wouldn’t want to run into an ex-lover, that’s a sure sign you could do better.” p. 59.

“Style requires a “like it or lump it” attitude toward one’s public. Your public includes husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, mothers, children, workmates, classmates, and the people who pass you on the street. You do not exist to win their approval.” p. 70.

“Focus on pulling the shoulders away from the ears. Imagine drawing the shoulder blades down the back and allowing the collarbone to be as open as possible without thrusting the breast forward. At no time should the shoulder blades be pinned together. This position makes keeping the head perfectly balanced on the neck far easier. This means you’ll sail through life and into old age with a limber body and not a trace of a dowager’s hump.” p. 95.

“There will always, always be something to fret over, and too often the fretting takes the place of actually taking care of oneself.” p. 104.

“Everyone with a good eye and a sensitive soul loves beauty. The ability to appreciate and feel joy when beholding something that speaks to you has nothing to do with your tax bracket.” p. 133.

“[Y]ou should never buy something on sale that you wouldn’t buy at full price.” p. 140.

ISBN: 0810992841

I couldn’t find a website for the book, so here is the amazon link.

I am thinking of incorporating some of the aspects of this book, particularly the closet organization, the shower routine, and the top ten shopping list. Once you check out the book, let me know what you think, and most importantly, whether you feel this book helped you become “unflinchingly confident in who you are.”


Filed under Book Review

Movie Review: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” Richard Brooks 1958

Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this dvd”):

It’s a classic. My Uncle Michael recommended this movie to me. I am recommending it to you. “Recommend” is an understatement in both instances; it is a must-see!


Based on the award winning play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, all you need to know about this movie is that the carefully crafted dialog is matched only by the fiery intensity brought to the screen by the stars. Elizabeth Taylor is stunning and effective in her role of “Maggie the Cat.” Paul Newman’s eyes have thirty different shades of blue as his character “Brick” thrashes around inside his youthful physique, daring time to move on to a world he no longer recognizes. Burl Ives commands your attention, if not your oddly placed affection, as “Big Daddy.” The supporting performances are dynamic as well. Judith Anderson holds the family together as “Big Momma,” and is the perfect complement to the tyrannical Big Daddy. Jack Carson and Madeleine Sherwood add color and tension as Brick’s brother “Gooper” and sister-in-law “Mae” or “Sister woman,” respectively.

As I watch this movie, I am mesmerized by Burl Ives. He is so lithe and transformative; at times he melts into the background, acting as the inner voice we wish would guide us more directly. At other times he is commanding and coarse, saying truths cruelly to his most beloved family members. His face displays such open vulnerability, but only in glimpses – the moment of his birthday cake delivery and when he reminisces about his father; yet he has drastically different reactions that follow each moment. Which Big Daddy is the truth? Can we be so multi-faceted and still live with integrity?

Lastly, I really enjoy Elizabeth Taylor and the role she carries. Maggie is a strong, determined woman who acts on what she believes she wants from life; love, a financially secure home, and family. She has a comically contradictory relationship with Gooper and Mae’s antagonizing children – watch for the scene where Maggie smears ice cream into a little girl’s face! Yet, Maggie does want children. For me this is significant because I am a woman who grew up during the third-wave-feminism backlash, and living in the current climate where all women are expected to love all children, it is refreshing to see a portrayal of a woman who wants her own children but doesn’t need to concede defeat to becoming a mother like the orderly, over-bearing mother Mae.

Best Lines:

Maggie: “I’m not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that’s all.”

Dr. Baugh, played by Larry Gates: “Sometimes I wish I had a pill to make people disappear.”

Big Daddy: “I wanna think clear. I wanna see everything and I wanna feel everything. Then I won’t mind goin’. I’ve got the guts to die, what I wanna know is if you’ve got the guts to live!”

Big Daddy (to Brick): “I’ll outlive you. I’ll bury you. I’ll buy your coffin!”

Maggie: “Oh I’m more determined than you think. I’ll win all right.” Brick: “Win what? What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?” Maggie: “Just stayin’ on it, I guess. Long as she can.”

Big Daddy: “But it’s always there in the morning, isn’t it? The Truth! And it’s here now.”

Maggie: “Not looking at a fire doesn’t put it out.”

Big Daddy: “Truth is Pain, and Sweat, and Paying bills, and Making love to a woman you don’t love anymore. The Truth is Dreams that don’t come true and nobody prints your name in the paper until you die.”

Big Daddy: “What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it Brick? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity?”

Big Daddy: “I hate sneakin’ and spyin’. It makes me PUKE!”


Personal Responsibility.


What is love – actions, intentions, feelings?

Truth v. Mendacity: who has control of the truth, how is the idea of truth manipulated. Pretenses and hypocrisy = staying with the same woman and going to church.

Grown-ups v. children.


Fashion of Elizabeth Taylor! No, seriously, she is gorgeous. Women and their figures are actually a theme, though. Also, the role of women in the family, to endure the cruelties of their husbands and all the while holding onto some sense of love. Big Daddy, Gooper and Brick each have at least once scene of significantly cruel dialog to his spouse, and the spouses each show her hurt, but each keeps fighting for her man, too. Pay attention to the scenes where the husband and wife have their backs to one another.

Use of Sound: Music, Children, Radio, Thunder.

Power and Locked Doors.

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051459/

See also:  http://www.filmsite.org/cato.html


Filed under Movie Review