Monthly Archives: April 2015

Random Thoughts about Writers and the Self-Discipline Required to Maintain a Blog

I knew there would be weeks like this, when my idea pool has dried up, but I hereby challenge myself – and you are my witnesses! – to push through it, to come up with a blog even if it’s not the best, just so I can maintain my discipline. I’m writing this blog for no one but myself, after all, despite the fact that now people are actually READING it, and I’ve begun to gain a little bit of confidence so that I’ve actually been telling people about it, thereby putting even more pressure on myself.

But that’s a good thing! That was a key component of starting this blog – that I would force myself to write something “publishable” at least once a week. I must admit that losing the contents of my hard drive set me back a little bit, because I did have some “seeds” of blog posts that I had culled from my journals saved and ready to go for just this circumstance. Cataloguing and categorizing my journals is another one of those projects in my life for which I need TIME that I don’t have – at least not in the requisite chunks – because that would provide fodder for filling in when these writer’s blocks hit, and I could even stockpile valuable nuggets for future posts. Trust me – there is some useful stuff in my journals, but it’s buried within pages and pages of day-to-day drivel. Although frankly, when I looked back at my journal for this week, there wasn’t much in there. My brain has been basically blank for days now. Sunday’s entry was literally a single paragraph complaining that I’d just wasted an hour reading my prior blog posts (for the hundredth time, I might add)!

As I’ve mentioned previously (see “An Aspiring Young Writer”, 3/25/15), I do a lot of negative self-talking when it comes to my writing talent (or perceived lack thereof). A frequent theme of that negative self-talk is that I’ll never be as good as such-and-such author (on the short list, John Irving and David Sedaris), so I shouldn’t even try. And while it’s true that many things I’ve read on the Internet could use some serious editing, there are other bloggers/writers who amaze me, not only with the quality of their product but also by how fast and frequently they are able to produce it.

Grantland [grantland.com] has been a favorite online magazine of mine for a while; I tell everyone to read it and I’m always forwarding articles. It covers sports and entertainment and pop culture, and some of the regular contributors are outstanding. One such writer is Sean McIndoe (also known by his Twitter moniker “@Down Goes Brown”) is the resident hockey pundit, and he’s very clever and funny and I don’t miss a column, but one of my absolute favorite contributors (who also writes quite a bit about hockey on Grantland) is Katie Baker. I actually “recommended” her recent article on the Chicago Blackhawks-Nashville Predators triple-overtime game on my Facebook page (“The Party That Never Ends: That Insane Blackhawks-Predators Game and the Joys of Overtime Playoff Hockey”, Grantland, 4/22/15). Not only was it a fantastic article, but she also published it less than 12 hours after the game ended in the wee hours of the morning (admittedly, she’s on the West Coast, but it was still a pretty impressive turnaround time). She’s the kind of individual who you feel like you know personally just from reading her articles and tweets, but what I love best about her is that she is an extremely talented writer (of whom, it goes without saying, I am very envious). Nice little story about Katie Baker: I first discovered her thanks to the suggestion of a work friend who shares my love of hockey, which used to be her primary area of expertise (although she’s branched out to become more of a “feature” writer and she also writes a regular “Wedded Bliss” column, which analyzes nuptials described in The New York Times in all their over-the-top glory). This friend actually met Katie Baker at the Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Nebraska a few years ago – a meeting I actually helped to arrange using Twitter! – and got me a personalized autograph from her on the event program.

Andy Greenwald is another of my favorites on Grantland. He writes mostly about TV but I especially enjoy his articles about Game of Thrones, which literally come out on Monday morning following the weekly Sunday night episode. Granted, he may have pre-broadcast access to the episodes, but even so, his articles are deep and brilliant in their analysis, especially when you consider that they are prepared in such short order! I am so jealous of that talent: It usually takes me days to come up with a blog post of even middling quality, because I have to re-read and re-write it over and over, especially now that my words are going to be seen by eyes other than my own. (If it was not already apparent, a confession: This particular blog post has NOT been re-read and re-written over and over.)

Another of my favorite Internet writers—who writes for the Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo! Sports – is Greg Wyshynski, who impresses me with his prolificity (if that’s not a word, it should be, just to describe how much exceptional material Wysh puts out on a daily basis). I also love his daily podcast with Jeff Marek of Sportsnet (Canada), Marek vs. Wyshynski, and his mini-videos – still more creative endeavors that Wysh manages to cram into his busy days.

These folks are my inspiration, my touchstones, the bloggers/writers who I aspire to emulate. So you would think the least I could do is come up with one measly 1,000-word post every week, especially when I’ve given myself free rein to cover anything I please! For instance, I could write about how I’m enjoying what I’m hearing from the new Blur album that’s been featured as a “New Dig” on WFUV radio station this week – their first record in over 12 years –or how much I’m looking forward to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, although, truth be known, I would have preferred a Rangers-Islanders series; I’m a little fatigued by Rangers-Caps, as this is their fifth match-up in the past seven years. I guess I can look forward to yet another wager with my Cap-fan friend –we’ve broken even over the years, although I took a double-or-nothing win when the Giants beat the Pats in Super Bowl XLVI (and have yet to see my bottle of Bailey’s, thank you very much!).

Or I could mention something I’ve realized about myself recently: I really hate Broadway musicals, and I hate TV commercials advertising them even more. They actually make me inordinately angry. Like, how would anything I’ve seen in this commercial possibly make me want to see this play? I’ve been to a few Broadway musicals, although they were ruined for me when I saw “The Who’s Tommy” back in the ‘80s from a seat in the 3rd row, thanks to my friend Sue Ober getting me surprise tickets for my birthday. There was more spit flying off that stage than from a bench full of hockey players. It was fantastic! The music, of course, the staging – it was made even more meaningful by the fact that I had recently transcribed a series of interviews with Pete Townshend and the producers and actors for a coffee-table book on the behind-the-scenes making of the show, so I knew a ton of cool tidbits about it. No other Broadway musical could ever compare. But generally speaking, I don’t like the limitations of the proscenium arch; I don’t like the forced projection and the emoting and the artifice – all that singing out into space! Gah! Keep your Lion King and Wicked and Mamma Mia!  Give me hockey, or a concert, for live entertainment any day!

Well, that was random . . . but I’ve made it up to 1,000 words. Next week’s post will be more cohesive, I promise!

Hockey: An Obsession

I have quite a few obsessions. In recent years (probably since I started working as a lawyer), I’ve become borderline obsessive-compulsive about many things in my life. My journals, for instance: I cannot explain why I am so picky when it comes to (a) my handwriting and (b) my writing implement vis-à-vis my handwriting. No one will ever see my journals! No one (with the possible exception of my daughter) will be reading my quirky longhand with calligraphic flair (depending on how juicy my pen was) except as a curio, and that’s certainly putting the cart before the horse! (“Someday, when I’m famous . . . “)

But that’s just one of my minor and more personal obsessions. In honor of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs getting underway last week, I’d like to say a few words about the very public obsession I have with professional ice hockey generally and New York Rangers hockey specifically. It’s been this way for years but has gotten especially intense in the past decade, when the team has actually been consistently good (not coincidentally dove-tailing with King Henrik Lundqvist’s tenure). Throughout my 40-plus years of fandom, there have been many fallow years as well, and certainly there will be again in my lifetime. Such is the cyclical nature of professional sports teams, by design. Every city needs to have its turn at vicarious glory.

But the fact that I love hockey as much as I do is a bit incongruous. There are a lot of deep flaws in the game of hockey, things that trouble me as a liberal-minded woman.

(As an aside: I confess, despite years of denying it, that I am a feminist. My argument was always that I am a humanist: All people, regardless of gender, should be treated with equal respect, at least until they prove themselves to be unworthy. Females shouldn’t be favored so as to compensate for patriarchal relegation of women to the second-tier of humanity for millennia, much like affirmative action for minorities. [As an aside to this aside: I happen to be reading Volume 1 of Marilyn French’s From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World (2002), which I picked up at the public library because the cover looked cool. It’s actually a fascinating read.]  But now I’m in firm agreement with comedian Aziz Ansari, who recently said on Late Night with David Letterman that “I feel like if you do believe that men and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you’re a feminist, you have to say yes, because that is how words work.”

At Trinity College I was fully immersed in sports, both as the co-editor of the Trinity Tripod sports section (with my good friend, Worcester (Mass.) Pulse Magazine’s Best Radio DJ of the Year, Nick Noble) and as the manager of the men’s football, hockey and lacrosse teams. There was no women’s hockey team at Trinity at the time (there certainly is now, and the men’s team won its first NCAA Championship this year – Go Bants!) but it wouldn’t have mattered because I deemed women’s sports to be an inferior product despite having played field hockey and volleyball in high school. I realize now that Title IX funding for girls to play scholastic sports is vitally important, but at the time I didn’t see the need: Women’s sports just weren’t worthy of special consideration, especially when men’s sports were the big-money (relatively speaking) draw. Times have changed and I have certainly evolved in my thinking, including my feelings about women’s sports. I’ve been reading every article I can get my hands on about the nascent National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), and if I can figure out how, who knows? It might actually be the opportunity I’ve been waiting for all my life to get in on the ground floor of hockey as a profession so I can finally live my hockey dream.)

Hockey celebrates so many things about men that are considered stereotypically – and negatively – male. (Really, all that’s missing are the firearms.) Homophobia and misogyny are rampant in the filthy on-ice chirping as players exchange emasculating insults likening the opponent to women and gay men. While there have been recent admirable efforts to make the lads more aware of what they’re actually saying when they throw those terms around, decades of “boys will be boys” and only being conscious of “watching your language” in “mixed company” will be difficult to overcome, especially because that type of talk is an effective bullying tool. Then there’s the near-constant physical violence, with big sticks as weapons and literal hand-to-hand combat, especially in front of the goaltender and along the boards. Then, when two (or more) of those combatants have had their fill of pushing and shoving and getting hit with big sticks, they just flat out start punching each other in the head. By all accounts, the culture of fighting is being phased out of the game. Perhaps it is a tad barbaric, and a lot of people (myself included) think the fisticuffs – especially of the “staged” variety among players whose sole role on the team is to intimidate and punch people, ostensibly in the name of “protection” of their more skilled teammates and self-policing against the punks – ultimately detract from the pure beauty of the game, but as the broad appeal of boxing and MMA and even professional wrestling demonstrate, there’s definitely a market for watching men (and women) pummel one another.

It’s insane! Why should I like hockey so much? Not to mention that it’s uniformly disgusting: The retch-inducing stink of a hockey locker room, the rancid cheese of game-worn jerseys and cesspool pads and gloves and helmets, all the snot and loogies and blood are seriously gross.

And yet – and yet – I love hockey. I can’t get enough of it. It is poetry on ice. The speed and grace, the sheer athleticism of the players – the way they glide forward and backward and stickhandle and shoot with pinpoint accuracy, all at literally breakneck speeds – is unparalleled in professional sports.

Hockey has drama and unpredictability – every night there’s a new story. Who will be the hero? Will it be the grizzled veteran or the young buck turning the corner on his learning curve? Can a team make up a huge deficit? Will it be a back-and-forth affair? And the speed of it makes it so much more immediate. Uniquely among professional sports, there’s non-stop action in 20-minute chunks with only an occasional whistle and commercial break. Contrast that to football, with 30-second rest periods interspersed between 5-second plays, or basketball, with its time outs and out-of-bounds, sometimes making the last minute of a close game seem to go on for half hour, and the less said about slow-ass baseball, the better, where an entire day-long game can potentially have no action whatsoever!  Soccer’s too spread out, and while some people are constantly running, others just stand around until the ball comes near them.

And when a goal is scored in hockey, there’s no peacocking end-zone dances, just hugs and unadulterated joy, shared with your teammates! As a fan, there’s no way to stay quiet in your seat when your team scores a goal. It’s physically impossible. Watching games, I often feeling my heart racing, and I even find myself holding my breath during tense moments. Hockey affects me viscerally.

The toughness of hockey players is undeniable, and it appeals to the opposite sex while also being the source of envy and admiration to their fellow males. But frequent injuries also leave horrifying scars – seen and unseen, when you take into consideration the recent focus on head injuries, even reaching the litigation stage to try to force the league to do something about protecting the noggins of men who’d rather not think about such things. If a hockey player has no visible battle wounds, he’s not really a hockey player. It used to be missing teeth, but while dental procedures and protection have improved over the years, you can’t avoid the scars, even with the best plastic surgeons. When you wear razors on your feet and wave spears around, big ugly Frankenstein-type stitches are inevitable.

Off the ice, though, the players come off like real people, just the “boys next door” they clearly are.  Members of the championship team typically bring the Stanley Cup to their home town when they have it for their “Day with the Cup”.  There’s actually a kid who lives two doors down from me who played hockey at UNH and is currently in the Philadelphia Flyers farm system.  While I understand that he’s got some skills, I think he’s too small for hockey at the NHL level so this may be the end of the road for his pro career and he’ll be forced to get a “real job”, which raises another thing about hockey that bothers me, although, again, there are those in positions of influence who are trying to address it. I watched a video the other day called “It’s Not Just About Hockey”, an effort inspired by the suicide of a junior hockey player in Canada to address the situation where kids get so wrapped up in their pro hockey dreams that it destroys them when, as it must, the dream inevitably ends. Hockey players get extremely emotional on the ice, but most of them display a remarkable stoicism off it – almost to a fault, because it means they don’t talk about things like depression and what happens when the only thing that has given their young lives meaning is taken away from them. This has had tragic consequences in recent years.

To the point of parody, hockey players give almost rote responses to reporters’ questions after games, so as to never be rude or criticize the coach or your teammates or even your opponent, although it is kind of fun when they break that mold and say or do something unexpected. (Hockey players are unabashed jokesters, although, as you might imagine, their senses of humor are usually tinged with meanness to test how thick your skin is.)  Hockey players seem not to develop the big heads of other professional athletes (although there are few creatures on this earth as cocky as a college hockey player). Words like “lunch bucket” and “blue collar” get tossed around when describing hockey players, even though they make six- and seven-figure salaries for as long as they can stay bodily intact enough to remain in the league (which is only in rare instances more than ten years). And of course there’s the ubiquitous charity work that they all do, in most instances without fanfare.

For all its dichotomy, my hockey obsession has been the one constant in my life, from the time I was seven, watching Ranger games with my father (of course). And like any long-term committed relationship, I have loved the game of hockey despite its flaws, because it satisfies something deep inside me that can’t be explained.  It’s just the way it is.

Computer Dependency

Had a tough week, y’all. I’ve been fighting allergies and/or an incipient sinus infection – whatever it is, it’s unpleasant and makes me just want to go lie down – and I suddenly got busy at work, which is good for the bank account but bad for my writing. Worst of all, a random, insidious virus infected and literally destroyed every file on my hard drive. It may take years to figure out everything I’ve lost, but it definitely included lots of things that I can never recapture.

We’ve come to rely so much on our devices that, when things go wrong, we’re lost. I spend a lot of time sitting at my desk in front of the computer, and when my computer guy Neal took it away overnight for sanitizing, I felt so at odds, even though I was still “connected” thanks to my old Nokia Lumia AND a new iPhone that was foisted upon me by my employer a week or so ago. (I never had a desire for an iPhone, although my daughter had clamored for – and of course gotten – one, and I’m still very much getting used to it, so I may yet change my mind about its appeal and functionality, but thus far I don’t see what all the fuss is about.) I’m way too computer-dependent – yes, even me, who still writes in my journals in longhand and saves my downloaded iTunes in “mix tape” CD collections.

On a good day, I have an uneasy relationship with technology. For many years, I made my living as a typist and progressed from an electric typewriter (even before there was a correcting key!), to a clunky word processor with a tiny amber screen that I worked at an answering service on weekends to earn the money to buy, to a series of increasingly advanced (and, in my opinion, exorbitantly expensive) desktop computers. After the flood, when I lost my last desktop, I broke down and bought a laptop, which certainly provided portability but I still need a separate QWERTY keyboard because that’s what my fingers are used to (and I’m still a pretty speedy typist – at my fastest, I could type 125 words per minute).

As a part-time, second-shift word processor for the law firm Moore & Van Allen in Charlotte, North Carolina (which was my precursor job to becoming a lawyer, another story for another day), I learned a lot of shortcuts and tricks as we migrated from WordPerfect to Word. Even as a lawyer, I’m reasonably self-sufficient on the computer, able to navigate around documents and the firm’s file management system without relying too much on secretaries or the word processing department (who I always consider my brethren because of where I came from). In the past year or so, I’ve wangled a situation where I am able to work from the “Long Beach Office” (i.e., home) using Citrix, a “desktop virtualization” platform that enables my home computer to function just like my computer at the office, with full access to my email and files. (A side note about Citrix: The inventor of Citrix, Ed Iacobucci, tried a few years ago to parlay his technological creation into a scheduling scheme for an air taxi service. Our firm helped draft the contracts for his fledgling company to purchase a fleet of tiny light-jet aircraft developed by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer – essentially SUVs with wings – but unfortunately the company was never able to get off the ground [pun intended].)

Working from home using a virtual desktop is not without its technical difficulties, and in no way do I claim to understand the nuts-and-bolts of how computers work or how data interacts within a network. I often call myself a “computer dinosaur”, but I’m probably closer to a computer wooly mammoth or sabre-toothed tiger: somewhat more advanced but still prehistoric. On a nearly daily basis there are interruptions and failed connections, especially with my wireless network, but at least I have the firm’s Help Desk to remote-control into my laptop to remedy the problem most of the time.

For my personal computer issues, I have Eric and Neal from Eric’s Computer World [www.ericscomputerworld.com], two enterprising and brave young souls who will come to my house to address my technological ills, often within 24 hours of my call (if not sooner). I usually see Neal, but I’m also eternally grateful to Eric for trying to help me to salvage something – anything – from my drowned and salty hard drive in the dark days after Superstorm Sandy and successfully reverse-downloading all of my iPod music back on to my computer (something I expect we’re going to have to do again; I’m petrified to plug my iPod into my computer now for fear of erasing the songs that are on the iPod, especially where it might be the only version I have left). Every few months, when my computer starts getting glitchy and slow, I call Neil and he cleans me right up. But none of the spams and viruses and Trojan horses or whatever variety of malware that was making its way around the interwebs that I had contracted in the past had been catastrophic – until this week. As soon as Neil saw the devil on my hard drive, his normally cheerful demeanor changed: In a word, I was screwed. He had to erase EVERYTHING; nothing could be saved: photos, writings, music – all poisoned and contagious. And for what? What did anyone gain from this exercise?

This week there were evidently two parallel computer invasions: one where the hackers were demanding a ransom to “unlock” people’s home computer files that they had co-opted, and the one that I encountered, which was even more sinister given that there seemed to be no purpose, no benefit to be derived. My initial reaction was to ask Neal “Why?” because I could not even conceive of someone wanting to destroy the computer of a random, unknown person. The idea that hackers, with their brilliant technical minds, have the wherewithal and the motivation to mess with my computer for no reason whatsoever – no money, no personal gain that I can discern – troubles and mystifies me.

I’m sure this topic will arise again in this blog, because the nature of good and evil and the capacity of humans to be one (good) to the exclusion of the other (evil) is something I think about a lot. But this week’s debacle makes me wonder what drives a person to seek to harm another human being – a stranger, someone with whom the evil-doer has no connection and who has done him no harm – by stealing her memories, her songs, and whatever else has enough value to that person for her to want to save it (presumably forever) on her computer. On the scale of despicability – with the Nazis and ISIS and purveyors of genocide, say, at one end and the people who harm and abandon animals at the other – malicious computer hacking is far from life and death, but it is costly and potentially dangerous. And while it is seemingly purposeless, it is clearly ego-driven: “I screw with people because I can – because it makes me feel vindicated or powerful“ or whatever other negative motivation drives people to do terrible things.

On the other hand – on my hand – it also taught me another lesson about the impermanence of objects that I began learning after Superstorm Sandy, and which was later reinforced when I left my fat (and full) little red notebook and car keys on the LIRR (in two separate incidents) and no one – not a conductor, or a cleaner or a fellow passenger – bothered to take a minute of thought or effort to turn them in to the Lost & Found despite clearly meaning something to somebody. I’ve started not to care about my keepsakes and collections anymore. We all turn to dust in the end, some things just faster than others.

Sorry for the downer, folks. But now it’s a new week, and at least I have the Stanley Cup Playoffs to look forward to! My Rangers, having won the President’s Trophy for the best regular-season record, now have to carry their fine play into the post-season (some would say the “real” season). I have every confidence that Coach Vigneault and the boys can keep the good stuff going.

Some Thoughts About David Bowie

I saw on Facebook this week (and then elsewhere, including an article by Ben Yakas [“David Bowie Co-Writing Musical Based on The Man Who Fell to Earth”, 4/2/15] on The Gothamist website, which I’ve been liking recently, because it makes me feel like I’m a New Yorker even though I am so far removed from living in NYC, it might as well be China) that Bowie is joining his pop icon brethren (Bono and Sting and my favorite punk genius, Billie Joe Armstrong) in collaborating on a new stage production based on Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel The Man Who Fell To Earth, which Nicolas Roeg later adapted into a film of the same name which starred Bowie in his first major role. Roeg’s movie was a revelation to me in my formative years. I had probably been too young to see it, really, as it featured lots of naked alien Bowie. Bowie’s physique, in all its lissome paleness, became my ideal male body type for a while; it was exemplified, in my estimation, by one young man in high school who shall go nameless here as we have not reconnected, but those of you who know me from then will know exactly to whom I am referring. Only in retrospect have I made the connection that Mr. High School X was my Bowie stand-in.

Mr. Yakas’ article mentioned an obscure Bowie nugget from the Low album called “Breaking Glass” (which, upon clicking on the link to listen to it today, put me in mind of a Beatles’ song – maybe a cross between “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” and “Yer Blues”, but with a Bowie-Eno twist?), and the author said maybe we’d finally find out what Bowie “drew” on the carpet (the relevant lyrics, for those unfamiliar: “Don’t look at the carpet / I [drew] something awful on it.”) Now, I always thought it was “threw”, which to me makes more sense. Unfortunately, I cannot go back to listen to the album because Low was lost in the Superstorm Sandy flood, along with the rest of my Bowie LP collection. I had every album on vinyl up to Outside (which was my first Bowie CD), including this really great import anthology of his rudimentary yet surprisingly sophisticated early songs – gems like “Let Me Sleep Beside You”, “In the Heat of the Morning”, “Boy Blue”, “London Boys”, “Rubber Band” and my all-time favorite novelty song, “The Laughing Gnome” – collected on two LPs, in a double-sided sleeve with a cartoon depiction of each song. What I wouldn’t give to have that album again! (Well, there are limits, but I’d probably pay more than I should just to have it.)

I kept waiting for Bowie to issue a back-to-birth album collection like the Beatles did (the Beatles anthology is magnificent, by the way, and was the first thing I replaced immediately after the storm with my SBA loan money). But instead he came out this past November with Nothing Has Changed, which is a perfectly serviceable three-disk retrospective and a good representative sampling of his body of work, but it’s a little light on the early songs and weirdly organized in reverse order (new stuff first, oldest stuff last). I would have rather had all the albums, even if it meant duplication of records that I already had in CD format.

At the end of Mr. Yakas’ article, there was a link to another of his Gothamist articles (“Every Bowie Album, Ranked”, 1/8/15; I have shared this article on my Facebook page), which ranked Bowie’s 25 studio albums and was illustrated by some excellent embedded videos. I don’t agree with his ranking assessment, necessarily – I unquestionably favor his older work, perhaps because I listened to it the most – but it’s still an excellent article and a great reference. In fact, he named Low and Heroes as Bowie’s best albums. On the contrary, I wish I could somehow combine the first side of Low with the first side of Heroes. I believe that’s what Bowie should have done, and then release the Eno-collaborated ambient music from both records as a stand-alone album. But that album wouldn’t have moved as many units as splitting it up into two marketable records, and Bowie was (is) nothing if not a shrewd marketer.

This past summer I went through a phase (which felt very decadent and I’d love to do it again next summer) where I treated myself to a weekly film. Not only did I discover the art house Malverne Cinema here on Long Island and attend a couple of Wednesday night 9:30 p.m. screenings in which I had the distinct privilege of being literally the only person in the theater, but in September I went to the Film Forum in NYC to see Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth, a sort of imagined “day-in-the-life” of Nick Cave loosely based on the daily life of Nick Cave (who is another of my favorite multi-media artistic geniuses and personal heroes). I had missed out on getting tickets for the showing when Nick Cave was actually going to be there in person to answer questions, but I was pleasantly surprised when the directors of the film, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, fighting jetlag, appeared before and after the film the night I was there to answer questions and talk about their experience working with Nick Cave. They mentioned (and Nick Cave himself often addresses this, most recently in an interview on UK VICE) how Nick has this duality of self, where he has become the person he’s been “performing” all these years, but he’s also just the person, with his sense of humor and guarded brilliance and almost-obsessive work ethic. Nick’s former friend and bandmate Blixa Bargeld (and another personal favorite performer – check out “The Weeping Song” for a classic Cave/Bargeld collaboration) actually appeared in the film, in a scene where he and Nick are in Nick’s car (but the conversation is really only happening in Nick’s mind) and they’re discussing why Blixa left the Bad Seeds. Ms. Pollard said that was a real unscripted conversation, where they had no idea how it would go and if they’d even go there. But they did, and it was one of those moments that transcend the art – two old (genius) friends talking about why they had a falling out and hoping that they can move on from it.

A week or so after the Nick Cave movie, I made my way to the one of those mega-monster-plexes on Long Island, which seemed an odd location for a one-night-only showing (on a Tuesday, no less) of “Bowie Is . . . “, a film about an amazing Bowie exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (which later traveled to Chicago but not NYC, for some inexplicable reason, especially given that Mr. Bowie actually lives in NYC). I had gotten confused on the way to the theater – I thought it was at another location because when I arrived at the mega-monster-plex the parking lot was nearly empty (it was a Tuesday night, after all) – so I missed the first five minutes, but for the rest of the film I was entranced. Of course the music was perfect, and there were all these obscure video clips with Bowie’s early experiments in mime and dance and even the fledgling medium of video itself. What a gorgeous young man!  And so talented. I loved one of the quotes from from a schoolmate of Bowie’s who said that he had given all working-class kids the hope that they could live a creative life. (Me, too.) I especially loved a fantastic piece of art created for the exhibit called the “Periodic Table of Bowie”, which contained colored squares representing all the artists and writers and thinkers who influenced Bowie and who Bowie in turn influenced . I’d love to have a poster of that.

It is amazing to me what Bowie has been able to achieve over his remarkable lifetime, to which he is now adding a new medium in which to display his genius. He is a perfect melding of creative talent – songwriter, singer, performer – and salesmanship, yet Bowie has done nothing that is not genuine. Watching young Bowie in his earliest performances , aged around 18, one is struck by what a confident, polished artist he has seemingly always been, with a clear vision of the image he wanted to portray even though – or maybe because – that vision often changed, simultaneously mirroring the present and projecting the future.

Breaking Bad (Habits)

It is one of the greatest cruelties of life that most humans can’t eat what they want and also be healthy and look good.

I have lost literally hundreds of pounds over my lifetime, and I’ve put back even more, since I am chronically in need of losing whatever weight I’ve inevitably regained. As a fully grown adult (although admittedly in my early twenties), the least I’ve ever weight is 105 pounds, and when I did, everyone told me I looked sickly. At my heaviest, I’ve ballooned to over 200 pounds. The first time was when I was pregnant, because I considered pregnancy carte blanche to eat as I pleased. I pretty much lived on Häagen-Dasz® chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream the whole nine months.

I also am quite aware that, if I could manage to exercise on a regular basis, I’d be able to somewhat offset my excessive eating. Look at Michael Phelps: Whippet thin, he eats something like 12,000 calories a day when he’s training. I actually appreciate a good sweat. Once I start exercising, I thoroughly enjoy it and I always feel better afterward. I just have a hard time starting and then sustaining. Even during those periods when I have a gym membership or get on a walking kick, it always ends up becoming a chore and the least appealing activity I could imagine at the time and then it falls by the wayside.

Why does “getting in a rut” only refer to bad things? Why can’t you (well, more accurately, I) get into a GOOD rut – say, of doing yoga every morning? And yet, drinking gallons of Diet Dr. Pepper, eating bad-for-me foods and sitting on my ever-expanding ass to watch hockey or my shows every night – those habits flow, without thought or conscious effort. I just DO those things. In fact, it takes a conscious effort NOT to do them.

About a year ago I got into the habit of writing down everything I eat; then I attribute points corresponding to calories and try to keep under 30 points a day. It’s very loosely based on the Weight Watchers® PointsPlus® system. I had a good experience with Weight Watchers in the late 1990s, when I was living in my childhood home with my mother and 4-year-old daughter and restoring myself after my marriage imploded. I lost 60-plus pounds and was kind of the star of my 11 a.m. Thursday group. But of course I gained it all back. More recently I lost about 45 pounds using the Nutrisystem® food plan and then managed to add it all that back (and then some), not to mention having to throw out cabinets full of uneaten prepackaged meals that I didn’t like. Over the past year or so I even lost over 30 pounds using my personal points-calculation method, but the pounds have slowly been sneaking back on since I binged over the holidays (and beyond).

Probably my biggest eating problem is that I don’t like things that are good for me. A salad? Okay, I’ll have some iceberg lettuce or maybe romaine; I’ll tolerate tomatoes, maybe some cucumbers and shaved carrots; meat and cheese and hard-boiled eggs are always good to add; but a salad without dressing – preferably creamy Italian or Sweet Vidalia Onion – is dry and boring and insufferable. Without exaggeration, if I didn’t think it would eventually kill me (and bloat me up to 300 pounds in short order), I would survive on ice cream and baked goods with an occasional chocolate-covered pretzel or honey-roasted nut.

I have to believe some of this is genetic. My mother was a serious diabetic and yet, to the end of her days, could not give up the sweets or the bread. She used to stock up on Nips sucking candies (“Rich & Creamy Hard Candy with a Soft, Chewy Center” – it sounds even better in Spanish: “Dulce Duro, Rico y Cremoso” – says the package, and this is true and correct in every way) when they were on sale. She liked all the Nips flavors although, unlike her, I only eat the peanut butter parfait variety and will even send the CVS employees to the stock room to find them if they’re not on the shelf. I go through a few boxes a week. It’s a terrible habit – but I can’t seem to give them up.

I’m a bit of an obsessive eater. I can’t eat just one or two cookies; I will keep going back and back and back to the fridge or cabinet where I’ve ostensibly hidden them away so I will subconsciously forget they’re there – but of course I never do. No amount of trying to trick myself will work when I’m in one of those modes where I simply cannot get enough of whatever sweet I’ve made the mistake of buying and having in my house.

I have discovered some healthy things I like. For instance, chicken souvlaki with Israeli salad (and yogurt sauce, of course) from Abe’s Pitaria in Long Beach on a Friday night after a long day in the city – sounds healthy, right? It’s also a lot of food and totally fills me up, which is great. But lately I’ve been supplementing the chicken and salad with pita and hummus, which literally doubles the meal’s point allotment and sabotages whatever benefit I may have derived from a low-calorie dinner. My Friday night souvlaki habit is a good one, but I can’t seem to sustain it. Now my good habit has turned bad, because I have the pita and hummus, too.

A habit is commonly defined as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. But why is it that good habits are so hard to establish and bad habits so hard to break? Habits are a double-edged sword. We want our drugs to be “non-habit-forming” but we also want to emulate Stephen R. Covey’s “Habits of Highly Effective People”. Eating healthy is deprivation; exercise is a chore. Why does it have to be that way? Why can’t it be just as satisfying to have a power walk and a chicken souvlaki platter as to eat a vanilla soft-serve cone with sprinkles curled up on the couch in front of a Ranger game? This is certainly a topic for further exploration, as it impacts my life – and most lives – in such a big way.

Speaking of the Rangers, I’d like to end this post with a final thought about their recent mini-slump. Ryan Lambert, writing in his “What We Learned” column on Yahoo! Sports Puck Daddy blog this week, is so wrong about the Rangers, saying how great Lundqvist is (which he did get right) but the rest of the team? Not so much. I also read an article in the NY Post by Larry Brooks portending doom and gloom because the Rangers have lost three of four and Chris Kreider goes missing for long stretches (although the latter point is something I think Brooks got right; if I could figure out how to do it, I’ve been wanting to tweet a new hashtag: #WHERESKREIDS?, which would then be followed by a #THERESKREIDS! when he suddenly resurfaces to score a monster goal or throw a grown man to the ground like a ragdoll). Geez, guys! This is a team that’s done everything right this season and yet has still managed to fly under the radar. They were Eastern Conference Champs and Stanley Cup finalists in 2013-14 for a reason, and this season they’ve gotten even better. A lot of the credit has to go to the coach, of course, but they have a good balance of youth and veteran maturity and one of deepest defenses in the NHL (especially once Kevin Klein returns). Their speed is intimidating. They were the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot and they still control their own destiny when it comes to winning the Presidents’ Trophy and home ice throughout the playoffs. Not to mention that they’ve lost to teams that were desperate for wins, and they played well enough in stretches but fell victim to a few significant hiccups. If they can maintain their good habits and avoid slipping into some bad ones (e.g., giveaways in their own zone and flat cross-ice passes at either blue line), I am confident they’ll go far in the playoffs and make converts of their doubters. Go Rangers!