Mel – what have you done with my Max?

I’m cringing because tonight I’m breaking my ban on Jay Leno and watching his show, because Mel Gibson is scheduled to be a guest.


Something about this latest rage-rant of his has been bumming me out.  (Do people still say that?  I do, so whatever…call me old – I am.)  Obviously the other scandalous rants were kinda horrifying, but I mean the bum-out has now gone to another level.  For decades I was a huge Mel fan – yes, my fellow female Mel-fan (okay, we were slightly obsessed) co-worker and I referred to him by his first name – for much of that time I had a ginormous crush on him.  I know, I know, what straight woman didn’t?  But I was breathless, watching his older movies.  I mean the ones from the 80’s, where he was unspeakably beautiful, and when the camera was on his face it was physically and psychologically impossible to look away (so sometimes I had little idea of whatever else was going on in the movies…good excuse to watch them again).

But what set him apart and what made him much more than just a pretty face was the vulnerability that his characters had… particularly those in his 80’s movies…that’s what made him so compelling for me.

(Confession:  I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty face when there is a lot of complicated stuff going on behind it.  How can I spot it when it’s hidden behind the veil of a face?  I have no idea, but it’s an instinct…I even spot it in cats and dogs who have underlying illnesses that aren’t diagnosed until much later.  Go figure.)

I only saw a handful of his movies on the big screen at a theater, though.  I was always too poor to afford the movies when I was younger, and most of his early movies wouldn’t have been at the theaters in the small-ish town I lived in at the time.  I’m talking about Gallipoli, Tim, The Year of Living Dangerously, Mrs. Soffel, The River, and of course the first two Mad Max Movies.  I liked the first two more than Thunderdome, which went all Hollywood, and while it was good, the grit that made the first two movies so great, was gone.  (Although, I still go around my house calling water, “wawtehr” because of the way the kids chanted “Wawkehr” (they thought he was their savior, Walker).)

Road Warrior and Dog

The Road Warrior was in my top 5 all-time favorite movies from the early- or mid-80’s, up until the time Mel’s anti-semitic, racist rants became known.  I’ve seen the movie dozens of times…back in the day, my husband and I would go out to our favorite bar on the weekends and go home and watch either Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The Song Remains the Same, or The Road Warrior.  (Hubby was much less of a fan of RW because he was a pacifist, whereas I…am so not.)  I had matted, framed photos of the Road Warrior hanging in my house for over 10 years.

Around the time Thunderdome came out, Mel did an interview – I think it was in Rolling Stone – in which he was surprisingly candid.  This was of course in the mid-80’s, long before actors or any celebrity for that matter, opened up about difficulties in their lives.  I was really struck by the interview because he was in a very dark frame of mind and talked about exhaustion from doing so many movies in a row, that he was getting ready to take a break and go home to his ranch in Australia and ride motorcycles.

He talked about being destructive – not just a little, but significantly destructive.  He said he’d had problems with drinking – it was bad, and he talked about having some rage issues, and it came down to him having to get his shit together or he’d lose his wife.

I’m pretty sure it’s either the 2nd or 3rd article here to the left.  I was going to quote the areas I’m talking about here, but I’m too cheap to pay the $20 for a subscription, but if you have one, you can access these.

Anyway, I thought about his sort of confessions at a lot, mostly because they came as such a surprise at the time – and the media was nothing like it is now, so no one picked up and ran with that “dirt”.  He was a shooting star, very quickly becoming The Star, and in those days I guess the media didn’t want to alienate celebrities, because of course there was no internet, no 24-hour news cycles, and all of the trappings that come with those things.

I don’t like scandals…I’m not into watching and reading about what celebrities are doing or not doing, and especially don’t like seeing the negative stuff about their personal lives, because I can’t understand why in the hell that’s any of my business.  So yeah, I’m kind of out touch in that sense.  But something about this latest rant unnerves me, and I kind of have the feeling he’s not long for this world.  I know what anger does to my body these days, and the level of rage he’s been displaying has got to be destroying his body.  The repercussions have got to be really damaging for him, psychologically.  The man was on such a high pedestal – put there by Hollywood and by us, the public – so he’s in the midst of such a long, long fall.  Everything in him may break when he hits the pavement…and that may be soon.

Listen, I know he’s a shithead, but a lot of us are shitheads, just maybe in different ways.  But the guy clearly has psychological problems and a serious drinking problem – I wish he could get help.  And I wonder about his ex-wife and kids, and how they tolerated whatever it was they had to endure.  And how are they dealing with all of this?  Surely they’ve got to be very, very concerned.

Something about this is now tragic…it isn’t just fodder for Mel-hating anymore.

My Sunday Afternoon With Rachel Maddow

(Okay, I spent about 45 seconds one-on-one with her.)  But oh yes, I did meet her, and it was a fantastic day!  The best part was hearing what she had to say…everything she had to say.

A month or two ago my trusty fellow liberal co-worker mentioned that Rachel was coming to Portland because she had a book out, and that his wife had bought tickets.  Of course I jumped online and bought a ticket!


I haven’t been to downtown Portland for over a year and I don’t go to the area she was appearing very often, and the venue’s frigging website wasn’t very helpful for dummies like me – especially because there are 2 locations, 2 blocks apart.  So I had to do a lot of map researching to figure out where the location even was, where the closest good parking garage was, where to pick up the streetcar, which way to walk when I got off, etc.  (You see, in Portland, more often than not, you’re not operating with your relevant streets laid out in a grid – and it’s fairly uncommon for businesses to have visible street address numbers – you’re expected to already know where you’re going.  Most importantly, unless it’s Summer, you absolutely must expect it to be raining, which doesn’t make for a fun 8-10 block walk followed by sitting soaking wet with hundreds of other wet people for several hours…only to get up and go for your 8-10 block walk back to your car, by which time you will be fully drenched and gasping for air because you could very well be half-drowning.  And if you wear glasses you’ll probably have gotten run over anyway, because you can’t see and all the SUV drivers don’t care.)

But enough about that – because Alas, it was a dry and sunny day, so even though I overslept by nearly an hour I still made it before the 12 noon start time.  I sat in the very back row because there were few free seats by the time I arrived, but more importantly, I noticed I had a clear sight line up the aisle to the podium.

A nice hippie-ish guy went up to the microphone right at noon and told us what to expect with the talk, Q&A, and book-signing, and when Rachel took the stage mere minutes later, the place erupted.  She is a rock star to all of us who attended, and she received due acknowledgment in the reception we gave her…which she was characteristically embarrassed by.

One of the first things she said was that she’d have to take her glasses off because she could see every one of us.  To preserve her dignity (and sanity), we eventually shut up and sat down.

She read a bit from her book, Drift, after having asked us if it was okay if she spent the bulk of her time answering questions rather than reading from the book.  Of course we would have been satisfied if she chose to throw icy, sticky, drinks on us, so that was fine with us.

Here’s a snippet of a portion she read, having to do with the U.S. capture of Osama bin Laden:

(Apologies for the camera movement in all of these vids, btw.)

She talked about the book’s subject – the drifting of America towards the “ease” of war, and the blind eye turned to it’s many far-reaching consequences.  A bit of it here:

Then she answered questions from the audience, which were evidently gathered and put on cards for her (questions from attendees who were much more timely in arriving than I was).  This is video of a question about her dedication of the book to Dick Cheney, and her response, in it’s entirety:

That was fascinating to me.  In fact, it was all fascinating.  As I listened to her, I realized I had the same feeling I often used to have while at a rock concert, seeing some band that I lived half my life listening to…not quite believing I was seeing and hearing them in person.  I knew I wanted to say something to her when I got my book signed later, but I had no idea what it might be…maybe offer to walk her dog or release fish from her fishing pole or brush dirt out of her path as she walked down the street.  But I was faced with the opportunity to say something which could provide an opportunity to hear what she had to say back!  (Did I mention I’m enthralled by hearing super smart, funny people speak?)  I needed at least a coherent sentence formed in my head.

As I continued listening, I realized that she reminded me of Bill Clinton…and then I realized, oh –  Obama, too.  It’s a unique triad.  These three people have uber intelligence – how many people THAT smart actually have a personality, too?  And not just any old personality, but these three people are extremely charismatic.

Now it seems like that was a ridiculously obvious connection and maybe I’m slow in many of my observations…but better late than never – and suddenly I knew what I wanted to say to her!  And then it occurred to me that she’s also the only woman I have any knowledge of with those qualities.  That’s just crazy cool, if you ask me.

She finished with the Q&A period and we were asked to remain in our seats while she got settled for the book signing.  I was fiddling with my camera or something, and heard or sensed some kind of movement to my right.  Just as a I looked up, I saw a large sort of a translucent golden, glowy orb and there she was, surrounded by staff but nevertheless in the middle of the glowy orb, walking right in front of me down the aisle to the back of the room.

It was really weird – I’d had no idea she’d be coming my way and when I looked up I couldn’t even see her at first because the staff was surrounding her like she was R Diddy or something, but I did see the big glowy orb thing, even for that initial split second before she was visible.  So her aura precedes her…or something like that.

(For those of you who think I’m due for a psych evaluation, obviously you’ve never been in the presence of The Rachel.)  Moving on….  So then the nice hippie guy tells us that for the book-signing they’ll call numbers like 1-50 first, and we’ll go stand in a line in the groups as he calls them.  We couldn’t get in line until he called our group of numbers or letters.  I had letter “A” so I thought, hey, maybe after 1-50 he’ll start calling letters.  So I went out for a quick smoke.

I came back in and there were still a ton of people in the room so I asked someone where they were…they were at 100-150.  😦  I wound up going out for a smoke two more times…it turns out they went to 250 or 350 (I’d stopped paying attention to any numbers being spoken) before calling the A’s – which of course comprised the last  group.

While I was waiting, I rolled my head around on my neck a lot and stared at the ceiling and walls – The Crystal Ballroom is a beautiful venue for these types of events.  The hardwood floor-on-springs is interesting, but…different.

Long before the A’s were called, I’d started worrying about my back…which happens to be a bad back…and there is no way I can stand in any line for 20+ minutes without being in a lot of pain.  But seeing as how it was getting late, and surely Rachel was getting tired, by the time the A’s were called to get in line, the line was moving really fast.

Nice for my back’s sake, but I took this to mean they were rushing us along…which meant I might not get a chance to speak with her other than a ‘hi’.  When she was on Howard Stern recently she said she wasn’t taking time off from her TV show for the book promotion, and this was a Sunday and it was after 2pm – I thought the chances were high that she’d be catching a flight back to the East coast that afternoon and would need to leave soon.  (Turns out she wasn’t on her show on Monday, though.)

I was wearing my Bad Wolf t-shirt, and a guy whom I think was on the staff asked me about it, and he walked with me throughout my time in line as we talked about Doctor Who.  Before I knew it, it was my turn to hand my book to the guy who sets up the page at the right spot before he hands the book to Rachel to sign!  Crap! I wasn’t at all prepared like I wanted to be!

On the plus side, I didn’t have time to get very nervous. I relaxed for a moment as she was having an interesting conversation with the people in front of me, as you can see from the pics above.

Suddenly it was my turn, so I stepped up to her.  She looked at me and with a big smile, brightly said, ‘Hi!’, as she had to the previous 300 or so people.  I think I may have said ‘hi’, and then quickly leaned forward (because it was noisy and I’d seen other people doing that so she could hear them) and took a big breath and said, really fast, because I was worried they’d rush me off:  “Okay – three people in the world who are uber-intelligent, with uber-charisma and personality – Obama, Clinton, and you.” And I pointed at her.

She looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh…!”, and cocked her head a tiny bit, with an expression similar to what I’d imagine she’d have if I’d told her I ran 3 miles in golf-ball-sized hail to get to the venue and had a concussion from it and my dog got run over by a car but he was at the vet hospital and would probably be okay and that I’d call and check on him as soon as I had my book signed and oh no I couldn’t possibly miss her appearance and my dog would be okay without me in emergency surgery I’d be right there as soon as I could and then later I’d go get an MRI.

I don’t think I scared her, I think she understood I was being sincere.  However, sometimes my delivery leaves something to be desired….

And then I said, “and you’re the only woman!”, and pointed at her again.  D’oy…  WTF is up with the pointing?  Sadly, that is actually how I talk and gesticulate in real life when I feel like I have to rush and I have a point to make.  I’m maybe a little overly assertive?  Or just overly ass?

I’d basically recited rather than spoken, and was like a person in serious need of Ritalin (or had had way too much of it).  Anyway, then she was kind of looking ahead or at the book or table or something (or anything that was not me, the pointer who made the strange, rapid declarations), and I am not sure whether I’d rather have made her laugh like hundreds of other people had, than made her…shocked(?).

Who knows, maybe she was just thinking she was really frigging tired and hungry and can all of these liberal people PLEASE get the hell out of the room already.

Clearly not having the social graces to know when to leave well (or bad) enough alone, then I said it was an honor to meet her, with my ridiculous unworthiness exhibited by my downcast eyes – and I found myself unconsciously in the midst of doing a small bow (my Japanese genes pick now to take control over my body?).  And when I raised back up I saw that she was looking away – she was looking at the guy who was getting the next person’s book ready for her!  Damn….

(Okay, seriously – at least they weren’t calling Security.)

Obviously I can’t just be a normal person and say I love your show and your politics and I’ll read your book and it’s great to meet you. I’ll take some small comfort in knowing there are a lot dorkier people than me whom she’s been subjected to (and she tends to be highly tolerant of dorks, perhaps because of their/our entertainment value).  But mostly, as long as I didn’t scare her, I’m happy that I got to tell her a small bit of how highly I think of her…which for some reason has some importance for me.

From all I’ve seen and heard of Rachel, despite her deep understanding of the political powers that affect and even control our lives, she has an awesome outlook that can (almost) always find the humor in things.  And she does it with so much more intelligence than I’ll ever grasp, which must mean that things in general, in life and in the world, aren’t necessarily as bad as I often think they are.

Don’t be afraid of photography – just start taking pictures

All it takes to be a “photographer” is to take pictures with a camera.  If you’re reading this you’re probably not a professional photographer, so for us regular folks – don’t let worrying about doing things like the pros hold you up…with digital cameras, or even many cell phones, you can create wonders!

I’d love for more people to get into photography, and know that they don’t have to spend a ton of money or take classes or otherwise feel a need to immediately become technically proficient – you only need a working camera (digital preferred because it can cost a small fortune to have prints developed), a computer with some affordable software, and mostly, passion and patience.

And hang up your self-flaggelation equipment for a while. I’m always surprised when I hear someone say that they don’t even take pictures because they’re terrible at it and their pictures don’t turn out well.  Have you ever noticed when people say something like that, they never look you in the eye?  I’m guessing they’re not happy about it…they’d like to take more pictures, but someone, somewhere, one day or on many days, told them they weren’t any good.

People have told me me that I wasn’t any good, they’ve openly scoffed at some of my best photos, while condescendingly refusing to educate me on the smallest of technical details which just happen to make major differences under certain conditions.  Still now, decades later, I hear those criticisms and I ‘believe’ them, and I almost don’t hear (and I certainly don’t remember or believe) most of the positive remarks people have made over the years.  But I keep taking photos and I keep working at it, because I’m not doing it for the douchebags of the world, I’m doing it for me, first and foremost.

I remember one photography buff co-worker laughing and eye-rolling and dramatically emphasizing his speechlessness about one of my photos which I loved and had spent money (that I couldn’t afford) on, having it matted and framed, with special glass.  I hung it in my office because I loved it.  He laughed again when he saw I’d actually hung it in my office, and almost angrily pointed out what he considered to be some of it’s unforgivable flaws.  A day or so later, another photography buff co-worker was in my office and saw the photo, and started discussing it with me because he thought it was an Ansel Adams.

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.  Of course I was much younger and had very little technical knowledge at the time of those incidents, but you really don’t need all that much.  And I was a lot bolder(!).  I notice I’m less thick-skinned about these things now…I think because they mean so much more to me, because I do put a lot of time, energy, and effort into my photos now.  I don’t have it in me, so I marvel at the millions of artists throughout human history who have either been so brave or so desperate for approval that they had the courage to put their work on display for all to see – and for all of the public to scrutinize (i.e., criticize).  And they kept doing it, over and over, because they weren’t alive if they weren’t producing art (and is it art if no one else sees it?).  And I suppose in many cases they couldn’t live without the public’s adulation, even if there were some who criticized their work with some measure of brutality.

But that’s really not where I wanted to go with this!  Most people will never have any desire to approach that level of public display of their work, they just want to take good snapshots of their dogs and cats and human families, and maybe some nice landscapes.  Those are the things I hear most from people, and there’s no reason for them to feel discouraged from learning to take the shots they want to produce.

Here are a couple of tips:

The single biggest factor in ‘what makes a good photo’ is composition.  Have an idea of what you want your photo to convey, and then start framing it.  Everything else comes afterwards.  Start looking more closely at photos you see in magazines and ads, online and in print – you’ll begin noticing that the majority of them are far from what we often think is considered “perfect”.  But you don’t notice those so-called imperfections, because of what the photos convey.

And don’t let anyone else tell you that something you like isn’t “good” – let your heart and your eyes guide your photography.  Your head will know when to step forward and take you to the next level in technique.

Ignore unconstructive criticism from the equipment-snobs – they produce some of the most beautiful work in the world and we’re all better off with them around – but unless you intend to become a professional photographer, that kind of criticism can instantly kill your passion.  It can abort and destroy an enormous amount of beautiful work that can, and does, come from amateur photographers who allow their hearts and their eyes to be their guide.

Just start taking pictures.  Worry about the rest later.  Plenty of photographers take hundreds of shots just to get one “great” photo.  You can buy an old copy of Photoshop Elements (even 2.0) on Ebay and do all kinds of amazing things with it.  I know some (okay, older) people who think of themselves as purists and don’t want to digitally ‘enhance’ their photos because it feels like cheating…or something.  Don’t ever worry about that – film processors and photographers with their own darkrooms have been doing it since the beginning of photography!  That set of prints from your last roll of film only looks as good as it does because the photo lab performed post processing – that’s the same basic stuff you’ll be doing with digital software.

There’s a neverending supply of Photoshop Elements tutorials and forums online with people eager to help, for all levels of knowledge, including noobs.  Youtube has lots and lots of video tutorials (and I think Lyndapodcast is constantly adding tutorials).  Don’t worry too much about the software versions mentioned in them, most are close enough for you to learn the basics (other than CS or lightroom, etc. – you want PSE/ Photoshop Elements).  Once you learn the basics you’ll know if you want to take the hobby further and whether you’re willing to spend a little more time and money.  The important thing is to just start taking pictures.

Good luck!

My Review of the Samsung Intercept

The Samsung Intercept has been my first smartphone.  I’m cheap, I hate talking on the phone, texting hurts my hands, and I hate being interrupted by a ringing phone, so I’ve been using pre-paid for over 10 years.  (Why pay any more than I have to, just to make the occasional call away from home or the office?)  AT&T’s pre-paid plans started turning me off and I discovered Virgin Mobile has the best pre-paid plan, or at least it did when I signed up ($25/month for 300 minutes, unlimited data and unlimited texting).  I wanted to access the internets via a phone’s portableness, use it as a GPS, etc., so I sprang for the $179 Intercept back when it was a headliner in the VM package.

Since I don’t use any phone much to begin with, and since it’s my first smartphone, I didn’t have a ton of high expectations, but I did expect it to perform the functions it’s advertised to.  It should be noted at this point that I use the Intercept less than I have ever used any phone that’s had features beyond straight up dialing, answering and hanging up.

Why?  Because the phone SUCKS.  It’s a POS.  It BLLOOOOOWS!!!

I wouldn’t even bother writing about this older phone, except I recently saw people asking about it on the VM website.  Please-oh-please don’t try this phone unless you have a therapist and sedatives on hand any time you want to use the phone.  Not only do you have about a 1 in 50 chance of performing 3-4 trouble-free movements on the internet, don’t even think of trying to make a call if you haven’t reset the phone in the past 12-24 hours (taking the battery out and turning it off and on).

And don’t think you can outsmart this smartphone by resetting it just before you try making your call – it’s way smarter than you’ll ever be in that regard…it will lock up both on shutdown and startup…maybe several times…maybe for days…just to spite you for thinking you could outsmart it’s suckiness.

I suppose it could be argued that this is a great phone for me, considering my dislike for phones.  But I’d really like to have that $179 back, so I could put it towards a decent tablet and be able to use the internet reliably.