Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who Was I?/Who Am I?

Dear George,

Back when I was teaching Social Psychology, I’d always ask people to do the “Who Am I?” test on the first day of class.  This is a commonly used self-concept measure.  Individuals are given a sheet of paper with twenty numbered lines and asked to give twenty answers to the question, “Who Am I?”  The task is very open-ended to allow people to describe themselves in their own unique terms.  [Note to the reader: You might enjoy trying out the Who Am I? test before reading further.  Results are often thought-provoking.] 

While students were completing the task in class, I’d do it for myself as well.  There was typically continuity from one year to the next, and there were also meaningful changes.  Last week I was thumbing through some old files, and I ran across a copy of a Who Am I? test that I filled out in 1997.  Before looking at it, I decided to try out the measure again. 

Some parts of one’s self, of course, remain quite stable over time. When I compared my Who Am I? responses in 1997 and 2014, half of my current statements were either identical to or very similar to those I made almost two decades ago.  Most of the stable responses referred to major social roles. “Husband” and “father” were among my initial responses in 1997, and they were among the first this time too. Both times I mentioned close friendships and other family ties. I described myself each time as having grown up in my hometown of Menominee, Michigan, and I said then and now that I was a resident of Clifton, our Cincinnati neighborhood.  In 1997 I said I was “a loner”; in 2014, “a shy person”. 

People frequently make some sort of age-related statement on the Who Am I? test.  In 1997 I said, “Getting older”.  This year I simply wrote down my actual age.  I no longer think of myself as “getting older”. Either I just don’t want to think about it, or, more likely, I’ve decided I’ve already arrived.

All the rest of my 2014 responses pointed to major changes in my picture of self.  In 1997 I was working full time, and the biggest cluster of my self-references were job–related. I described myself as a “Social psychologist”; as a “College prof. at UC”; as “Teacher of this class”; as “Grumpy and dissatisfied about work these days”; and as “Someone who hasn’t accomplished his goals.”  It’s clear that work was a big chunk of my personal identity.

Having been retired for five years, my image of self now takes on a whole new flavor.  This time I made only one job-related reference, and it was in the past tense: “former social psychologist.”  In its place I put down my new role of “retired person”.  And the biggest cluster of my statements referred to activities that I’ve taken up since retiring: “blog writer”, “photo guy”, “line dancer”, “OLLI member”.  I also identified myself by a family role that I didn’t have in 1997, i.e., “grandfather”.

I’m glad I re-did the Who Am I? test.  Sometimes I get anxious about being in a rut.  The results of this exercise, though, point not only to changes over time, but to new and satisfying parts of my life.  Sometimes researchers code Who Am I? responses as positive and negative, yielding a measure of overall life satisfaction.  When I did this, 70% of my 1997 responses were positive, and 30% were negative.  For 2014, 90% were positive and 10% were negative.  It looks like life is on the upswing.  I’ve always been skeptical of the notion of “The Golden Years.”  However, my “Who Am I?” portrait nowadays is more “golden” than I anticipated.

G-mail Comments
-Vicki L (1-29): Hi D,
I guess my first response would be "I'm jealous". Thing is, the scorers would misinterpret this as a 'negative' response. But being jealous of your relative contentment is actually a 'plus' for me - my growing capacity to feel uncomfortable feelings! I don't know....  Meantime, your blog was very interesting and entertaining. So far in my life, I've never been willing to openly take a shot at the question: "Who Are You"?.  We'll talk further in the gazebo. Love, Sis  
 -Ami G (1-28):  What is an Olli member?
-David L to Ami (1-29):  Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (courses for people over 50 at the university).  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Clifton in Verse (Part One)

Ludlow Avenue, Looking East in the Business District (my brother Peter’s photo)

Dear George,
We moved to a Clifton apartment in 1972, then bought our house on Ludlow Avenue around 1976.  I’ve been increasingly enamored with our neighborhood since we moved here. Clifton, about two square miles in size and with a population of 8600, is just north of the university and about three miles north of downtown.  There are lots of university faculty, med center people, other professionals, artists and writers, and young families who make up the community.  It has a certain bohemian air about it.  The neighborhood business district along Ludlow Ave. draws people from around the city with its dozens of shops, restaurants, bars, and a 6-screen movie theater.  All this, it seems to me, calls for a poetic tribute, so I’ve been busy putting various highlights of our street to verse.  This is Part One.  It covers selected places on the south side of Ludlow Avenue, starting at our house and moving eastward down the street through the business district.  More to come soon.

Our House

We’ve lived in our house more than thirty-six years
The shops are right down from our corner
Our life’s more exciting than first appears
We get all our kicks from Time-Warner 

US Bank

US Bank was once called the First National Bank
Then the Star Bank and then the Sun
I guess they’ve been trying to be more swank
Though we only care for our mon

CVS Pharmacy

CVS has over a million pills
With Extra Rewards you can save
It’s not that their pills give us that many thrills
But they do keep us out of the grave

Hansa Guild

Hansa Guild features ethnic clothes
They’re designed by Latin designers
There are skirts and hats and multi-colored hose
They’re great on chic adults and minors

The Clifton Public Library

Our library’s just the busiest place
People sit there and use the computers
Some complain that it’s lacking in space
But it’s three times as cultured as Hooters

The Proud Rooster

We lunch at Proud Rooster two days a week
I order fried chicken and fries
This restaurant ekes of a forties mystique
I just pray that they don’t glamorize

The Post Office

Our post office is kind of a pint-sized box
They’re closing these very small branches
Everyone thinks that our postmistress rocks
That gives them false hope for our chances

Ludlow Wine Shop

We used to be members of Ludlow Wine
A new bottle every four weeks
We’d share a glass each time that we’d dine
And record in a book our critiques

Dan’s Clifton Barbers

I used to go to the barber a lot
They gave me my first brush cut
Now Donna trims my hair for nought
I only miss Dan’s somewhat

Clifton Plaza

They demolished this building on Ludlow
Then some dreamer dreamed up a plaza
Local donors supplied all the dough
It’s now an Italian piazza

Toku Baru

Toku Baru has a funny name
It’s where I get toys for the kiddies
I always look for a yo-yo or game
Something that gives them the giddies

The China Kitchen

The China Kitchen has splendid meals
Our favorite is General Tso
The menu is full of remarkable deals
Though the octopi are only so-so 

Om Café

The Om Café seems a little eerie
The goings-on there are mysterious
The people inside appear to be cheery
But, who knows, they could be delirious

Kellers’ IGA

Our grocery looks like a bleak ghost town
It’s long been shuttered and dead
When people pass by they grimace and frown
Where will they buy their bread?

Arlin’s Bar

Arlins caters to all of the ages
They serve more than eight beers on draft
Beer was my preference in younger life stages
But now just two mugs and I’m daft

The Fire Station

At the age of eight our son J lit a match
We feared that our house was on fire
The fire fighters came with dispatch
J was shocked by his parents’ ire


So that’s my picture of Clifton today
We hang out in all of these places
It’s a swell location for work and for play
I’ll be back soon to cover more bases

G-mail Comments
-Vicki L (1-3):  Dear David,  Loved this blog - you're quite the ditty man. I'd say....take it down to your local Clifton ... Walreen's/Kinko's/i.e.copy  shop....and they'll make this into a little book (pics and text) for L** and V** ($30?).  They'd love it! Soon maybe it'll show up in the indie Clifton bookstore under "Local Authors". You're on a roll. Love, Vicki
-Donna D (1-25): David, this is really great, very creative and fun!  Donna

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Aunt Molly's Nose (A Story from Katja)*

Dear George,
Just about the time Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, and Stalin were attempting to change the political shape of the planet, my Aunt Molly was in the process of changing the size and shape of her nose. Both events were of tremendous importance to all concerned, especially to Molly.

At age seventeen, it became increasingly apparent that Molly was desperately unhappy with her breathing apparatus. In her view, her nose was increasing in size at an alarming rate, and it appeared to be moving off at an angle. To add to her fancied disfigurement, a small bump seemed to “pop up” on the bridge of her nose, the result of a sledding incident in childhood. This too was burgeoning in size.

Her dearth of “boy friends”, she surmised, was due to the “monster” growing out of her face. She became snappish, sullen, and morose.  She damned her ancestors for bestowing this “thing” on her face which she was sure would condemn her to spinsterhood. Her mother Judith (my grandmother) sympathized with her. She knew full well that the road to connubial bliss depended on, among other attributes, a pretty face -- certainly not one marred by an enlarged and crooked nose. What to do?

In the forties, plastic surgery in Philadelphia was becoming well-known, and there were a few practitioners in Philadelphia who performed their magic and received an inordinate amount of publicity. The movie magazines, Sunday supplements and gossip columns printed stories of movie queens who had had their noses bobbed, chins properly clefted, dimples inserted where nothing existed before, warts and moles removed.

Among the cosmetic surgeons who received the most publicity and adulation in Philadelphia newspapers was Dr. Scott Rubin. Fortunately, for Molly, Dr. Rubin had his residence and his surgery on the most prestigious street in the city – Delancey Place. News concerning the famous physician infiltrated Molly’s home via the news media, and soon Molly and her mother were debating strategy.

Money, of course, was an important consideration, but secrecy had a higher priority. The reason being, if potential boyfriends knew that Molly’s nose had been tampered with, they might shy away. It was extremely important that no one know that Molly had a “nose job”: a girl had to be a “natural beauty”. Anything that smacked of coming out of a bottle or being treated by a scalpel would not be considered acceptable in the least.

Molly was the youngest child in a family of five. It is a testament to her mother that her upcoming surgery was kept a total secret from family and neighbors until three days after the procedure. Everyone was told that Molly was in the hospital having a tonsillectomy. When she returned home a week later, she was swathed in bandages and tape along with large discolored patches under each eye. She remained in her bedroom for two weeks, waiting for the swelling and discoloration to subside. A return visit to Dr. Rubin resulted in bandages and tape being removed. According to my grandmother, a Mona Lisa smile appeared when Molly saw her new self for the first time.

Molly was ecstatic. Her mother was now sure that the boys would buzz around her newfound beauty.  Molly’s nose met everyone’s approval. It was shorter, straighter and had a lovely tilt at the end.

Each day, Molly’s nose assumed more normal proportions until at last she went out into the world. Her altered appearance no longer brought stares or curious looks from those who couldn’t quite put their finger on the change that had transformed the shy young girl who lived on the block into the smiling, bubbly seventeen year old who couldn’t stop talking. She was a joy to be around. She became relaxed and outgoing. She rarely bickered with other family members at the dinner table and there was a spirit of comraderie hitherto unknown in a family that rarely got along. All this because of a nose job! Incredible!

Mother and daughter turned out to be right. Soon, the boys started to notice the “born again” baby sister. The most promising of the lot was a fellow named Max. He was the most persistent. Unfortunately, he had been drafted and was about to leave for basic army training.  One night around the dinner table, the family noticed that Molly had a lovely engagement ring on her finger. Happiness reigned supreme. The family couldn’t believe that this was all the result of a shortened, straightened nose.

Max left shortly for the army. The couple was married six months later. After a brief honeymoon, they were separated for three years by the needs of the war effort.  Several months after Molly was married and had returned home to live with her family, an unusual series of events took place in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Record, a crusading local newspaper specializing in digging up political and social wrongs, reported the following shocker: Dr. Scott Rubin was a fake – an impostor who practiced medicine and plastic surgery without a license. He wasn’t an MD, a Chiropractor, a Podiatrist, or anything connected to health services. He had a diploma from a non-existent medical school as well as from a non-existent veterinary school in California!

The news created a sensation in the family. How was it possible for a charlatan to operate on hundreds of patients, including movie stars! Molly, the new bride, almost collapsed.  The family was stunned. Gradually, the brouhaha subsided. Molly and my grandmother went on the offensive. So what if he was a quack! He sure knew how to alter a misshapen nose. Molly became a living example and advocate of his skill. She lost no opportunity telling everyone what a wonderful surgeon he really was. All she had to do was point at her lovely nose!

After the war, Max finally returned home and learned for the first time about the strange affair of Molly’s nose. He took it very calmly and seemed unconcerned about her having altered her appearance. After all, he had never known her before “the alteration”. Years later, Molly and Max had four lovely daughters – all of whom were made more beautiful by having their noses undergo what had by that time become a family tradition.  And Molly and Max lived happily ever after. 

*Pseudonyms used in this story.  

G-Mail Comments
-Donna D (1-20):  how funny!  well done :)
-Gayle C-L (1-19):  David,  This is my kind of story...:)   Awesome!!   XX

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dog Pain

Winston lived to age 16

Dear George,
So far 2014 has been hazardous for dogs we’re acquainted with.  Marlene, our household helper/cleaning lady, told us that her beloved beagle, Alfie, had gotten out of the yard and run away on New Year’s Day.  Marlene is a dog person, and she’s been sharing stories about Alfie is for a long time.  They drove around their neighborhood for over an hour, but with no luck.  Marlene put an ad in the Cincinnati Enquirer, her daughter did the same on Craig’s list, and they tacked up signs on telephone poles.  No word to date.  Marlene, of course, is in a constant state of distress.

The next day I was bringing our sheepdogs home from a short walk when I heard somebody call out, “Mike and Duffy!”  It was a gray-haired man about my age who came up to us.  He petted both dogs and said he was glad to see them because he and his wife had recently lost Bandit, their family’s Old English Sheepdog.  I suddenly realized who he was.  His name is Peter.  We’d met Bandit with Peter or his daughters out on Ludlow Ave. multiple times over the years.  Bandit was bigger than Mike and Duffy and full of exuberance.  I said I was really sorry to hear that.  Peter said Bandit had become blind, deaf, and incontinent.  All their friends had told them they’d let Bandit go on much too long.  Peter said it was one of the most painful experiences of his life to have Bandit put down.  I recounted how we’d had to do the same thing with our Bedlington, Winston.  We shook hands.  Peter had a tear in his eye, and I did too.  He petted Mike and Duffy one more time, then headed off. 

Later in the week I was walking the dogs on Ludlow Ave. when we met a lady who lives down the street and regularly walks her dog, Edie, past our house.  Edie is a little cream-colored dog who, like lots of small dogs, yaps a lot when she encounters the sheepdogs.  Whenever we run into them, the woman always picks Edie up and tries to soothe her.  This time she took off the sunglasses she was wearing and revealed her black eye.  Not just black, but purple and yellow, extending all around her right eye and halfway down her cheek.  I asked what had happened.  Edie, it turns out, had bit her on the cheek.  She added, “It’s the third time it’s happened.”  She shook her head and frowned, but then gave Edie a hug.  She seemed determined to stick it out.

A couple of days later I was looking at an online website in which members of our neighborhood exchange community news, seek recommendations for  plumbers or hairdressers, sell hide-a-bed sofas, etc.  A member from the Raymond Apartments just down the street from us posted a message saying that a dog named Rufus who belongs to a friend had gotten out of the back door of the apartment house and disappeared.  The woman described the dog and gave a phone number to call in case anyone found it.  I knew Rufus very well, a little yellowish terrier who also barks loudly at Duffy and Mike.  The owner’s name is Ralph, a gentle older man who lives by himself.  We see him walking Rufus all the time, and we always stop to chat about dogs.  He raves about how wonderful Rufus is.  I couldn’t imagine him losing his companion.  I haven’t seen Ralph on the street since the message was posted, and I’m very sad for him.

Katja and I worry too.  Mike and Duffy turn twelve in April, and that’s old age for sheepdogs.  Mike’s had a couple of recent episodes of peeing on the carpet.  They tested his urine at the vet’s office, and there’s no sign of an infection.  The vet said this is a problem with older dogs and that we should take him out more frequently.  She was more concerned about Mike’s muscle loss and shakiness of his back legs, and she began giving him biweekly shots to try to alleviate his severe arthritis.  I don’t think a lot about Katja or I getting older, but the dogs’ aging is constantly on my mind.

Dogs are such a source of joy in our lives, it’s easy to forget that they also sources of pain and distress.  It’s pretty much like human love relationships.  When we invest strong emotions in another party, we open ourselves to the possibility of hurt, loss, and grief.  I remember when we enrolled the dogs for obedience training as puppies, the trainer cautioned us not to become emotionally tied to Mike because of his obvious hip problems.  Of course, we ignored her advice, and we’ve never regretted doing so.  Bad hips or not, Mike has had a happy life and has given pleasure to literally thousands of people.  Affection and bonding always carry risks.  With dogs, as with people, it’s well worth taking the chance.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Movies We Liked (and Didn't) in 2013

Dear George,
We go to the movies at least once a week, and I keep track by giving each one a letter grade. I think I like movies so much because they allow one to temporarily set aside their mundane everyday life and enter into worlds, events, and emotional states that they would never otherwise know: e.g., traveling in outer space, shootouts with gangsters, excursions to ancient China, romantic interludes, superheroes, even life tragedies.  Listed below are my favorite 15 movies that we saw in 2013, then a cluster of “runners up”, and finally my ten least favorites.  I should note that we only went to movies that got good reviews, so I actually liked all my “least favorites” too.  I’ve added Rotten Tomatoes ratings below as well.  All in all, 2013 was a pretty good year for movie-going. 

15 Favorites (in order)

(1) American Hustle.  Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper.  Loosely based on an actual happening, a con man and his seductive British partner are forced to work for a wild FBI agent who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.  A great ensemble cast, a solid mix of comedy and underlying tension, and a slam-bang ending.  Rotten Tomatoes: 94%; Blog: A.

(2) The Great Gatsby.  Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Toby Maguire.  In a cinema adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, set in Long Island in the 1920’s, a Midwesterner finds himself drawn to the lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor, only to conront obsession, madness, and tragedy.  The film creates an opulent jazz age world, tells a compelling tragic story, and provides Leonard DiCaprio with the vehicle for one of his best performances.  Rotten Tomatoes: 48%; Blog: A

(3) Blue Jasmine.  Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins.  After her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal, elegant New York socialite Jasmine heads to San Francisco, where she reconnects with her bumbling sister Ginger and struggles to pull herself back together again.  Woody Allen’s best in recent years, and, with her complex, layered portrait of an agonized Jasmine, Cate Blanchett is a top contender for the best actress Oscar.  Rotten Tomatoes: 89%; Blog: A.

(4) Dallas Buyers Club.  Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto.   A drug-taking, women loving, homophobic man is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and smuggles anti-viral medications from around the world, creating the Dallas Buyers Club to provide the illegal medications to paying members throughout the country.  A powerful, compelling story and a remarkable performance by McConaughey.  Rotten Tomatoes, 94%; Blog: A.

(5) Nebraska.  Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk.  An elderly father is convinced he has won a million dollar magazine sweepstakes, and his son grudgingly agrees to drive him to Nebraska to claim his winnings.  Having spent lots of time with a parent during their final years, I connected with this funny, tragic movie on many levels.  Rotten Tomatoes: 91%; Blog: A.

(6) The Grandmaster (Yi dai zong shi).  Tony Leung, Ziya Zhang.  An action feature inspired by the life and times of legendary martial arts master Ip Man, spanning the tumultuous Republican era that followed the fall of China’s last dynasty and that also was the golden age of Chinese martial arts.  The cinematography ranks among the most stunning we’ve ever seen, and the intertwining stories of Ip Man and his unconsummated love Gong Er are spellbinding.  Rotten Tomatoes: 72%; Blog: A.

(7) The Hunt (Jagten).  Mads Mikkelsen, Susse Wold.  A divorced former school teacher's life is shattered when a child’s lie throws his small community into a state of hysteria, and he is forced to fight a lonely fight for his life and dignity.  The Scandinavians are the masters of angst, and it all comes forth in this gut-wrenching tragic tale.  Rotten Tomatoes: 94%; Blog: A.

(8) Hyde Park on Hudson.  Bill Murray, Laura Linney.  The Roosevelts host the King and Queen of England for a weekend at Hyde Park, producing not only a special relationship between the nations but a deeper understanding of the mysteries of love, marriage, and friendship.  Warm, comic, intriguing, insightful, a superb cast – the critics got it all wrong.  Rotten Tomatoes: 38%; Blog: A.

(9) 20 Feet from Stardom.  (Documentary)  Darlene Love.  The true story of the backup singers beyond musical legends, e.g, Springsteen, Jagger, Sting, Stevie Wonder.  The music is terrific, the personal stories heartwarming and/or heartbreaking – not to be missed.  Rotten Tomatoes: 98%; Blog: A. 

(10) Wadjda. Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah.  A 10 year old girl living in a suburb of the capital of Saudi Arabia is determined to continue fighting for her dreams.  A compelling expose of the cultural oppression of Middle Eastern girls and women combined with a statement of hope for the future.  Rotten Tomatoes: 98%; Blog: A-. 

(11) Quartet.  Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon.   The home for retired musicians is about to host a new resident who turns out to be a famous quartet’s former singing partner whose career as a star soloist split up their friendship.  A sentimental tribute to music and the potential for the love of life to continue well into old age.  Rotten Tomatoes: 80%; Blog: B+. 

(12) Inside Llewyn Davis.  Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan.  Directed by Ethan and Joel Cohen.  A young folk singer struggles against seeming insurmountable odds to make it as a musician in the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961.  The film brings the character and his world to life effectively, but the bleak depiction of loneliness, rejection, harshness, and unrelenting pain is draining.  Rotten Tomatoes: 94%; Blog: B+.

(13) The Attack.  Ali Suliman.  An Israeli Palestinian surgeon's life is turned upside down after a suicide bombing which the police say his dead wife was responsible for.  A powerful, disturbing portrayal of the seemingly irresolvable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the assimilated Israeli Arab whose life is destroyed as a consequence.  Rotten Tomatoes: 93%; Blog: B+.

(14) The Angels' Share.  Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw.  Narrowly avoiding jail, new dad Robbie vows to turn over a new leaf and a visit to a whisky distillery inspires him and his mates to change their hopeless lives.  A successful mix of comedy and gritty realism that brings a tear to the eye and appreciation for the power of caring and support.  Rotten Tomatoes: 88%; Blog: B+. 

(15) The Gatekeepers (Shomerei Ha'saf).  (Documentary)  Five former heads of Israel's Secret Service reflect on their successes and failures to maintain security in the face of violence flaring up in the Gaza Strip.  Simultaneously engaging and depressing, the film offers a remarkable insider’s look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the complicated mission of anti-terrorism.  Rotten Tomatoes: 91%; Blog: B+.

The Runners-Up:  (16) The Lone Ranger; (17) Stories We Tell; (18) Man of Steel; (19) Brooklyn Castle; (20) A Royal Affair; (21) Philomena; (22) Saving Mr. Banks; (23) This is the End; (24) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; (25) Fruitvale Station; (26) Lee Daniel’s The Butler; (27) Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues; (28) Thor: The Dark World; (29) Rush; (30) Hitchcock; (31) Inequality for All; (32) Short Term 12; (33) Amour; (34) Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel; (35) Enough Said; (36) The Counselor; (37) Elysium; (38) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; (39) Frances Ha; (40) Ann Karenina; (41) 42; (43) Side Effects.            

My Least Favorites

(44) Prisoners.  Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal.  When a father's 6 year old daughter and her friend go missing and the police release the only suspect, the father decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands.  An emotionally intense mystery, but it’s dreary and depressing and one wonders what the moral of the story is.  Rotten Tomatoes: 82%; Blog: B-.

(45) Mud.  Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon.  Two boys find a man named Mud hiding out from bounty hunters on an island in the Mississippi and agree to help him escape with the love of his life, Juniper.  A slow-moving kids’ adventure story set in a bleak world with a barely promising message about life’s prospects. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%; Blog: B-.   

(46) On the Road.  Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart.  Based on Jack Kerouac's novel, Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty, and Dean's girlfriend Marylou travel cross-country on a personal quest for freedom from conformity.  Captures the tone of what was the bible of my college generation, though I’m not sure I’d want to pursue the life style as much as I did at age 20.  Rotten Tomatoes: 56%; Blog: B- .

(47) The Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima.  Wolverine’s adventures in Japan as he fights ninjas in the ceremonial garb of the samurai.  Hugh Jackman makes a splendid superhero, but the plot and presentation are awfully comic-bookish.  Rotten Tomatoes: 68%; Blog = C+. 
(48) Gangster Squad.  Sean Penn, Josh Brolin.  In 1949 L.A. mob king Mickey Cohen runs the show in town, intimating all except a secret crew of LAPD outsiders who come together to tear Cohen's world apart.  A styled, period action thriller which holds one’s attention, but the comic book flavor and ultra-violence leave little depth for the characters.  Rotten Tomatoes: 33%; Blog: C+. 

(49) Iron Man 3.  Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow.   When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by the terrorist Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.  Terrific special effects are countered by a boring and senseless plot.  Rotten Tomatoes: 84%; Blog: C.

(50) Gravity.  Sandra Bullock, George Clooney.  A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.  Special effects and cinematics are magnificent, but the lack of a story and any meaningful character development leave this flick in empty space.  Rotten Tomatoes: 98%; Blog: C.  (

(51) World War Z.  Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos.  U.N. employee Gerry Lane traverses the world to stop a zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and threatening to decimate humanity itself.  Hordes of disgusting zombies, one worse than the next, and it’s puzzling to figure out who they represent – maybe right-wing Republicans.  Rotten Tomatoes: 67%; Blog: C.

(52) The Impossible.  Naomi Watts, Ewen McGregor.  A family begin their winter vacation in Thailand when a terrifying roar rises from the center of the earth as a tsunami’s wall of black water races toward them.  Let’s you know what it’s like to live through a tsunami, though the problem with true stories is that they lack the fantasy that Hollywood is capable of.  Rotten Tomatoes: 78%; Blog: C.

(53) A Good Day to Die Hard.  Bruce Willis, Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  John McClane travels to Russia to help out his son, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working to prevent a nuclear-weapons heist.  This movie rates near the top for car and helicopter chases, explosions, and assault gun shootouts, but unfortunately that’s all there is.  Rotten Tomatoes: 16%; Blog: C-. 

G-mail Comments
-Linda C (1-10-14): Going to see " her" this weekend, did you see 
" the last quartet".  My fav of the year.   Hated Nebraska . I go about once a week with friends…  Love to both of you
Oh , blue jasmine one of my favorites too.