Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Follow the Flags - We're Redirecting

Man, when I decide something, I decide it quickly. I've set up a new blog on WordPress. I found a name I liked and you can read all about it on . . . drum roll, please! . . .

The Woo Woo Teacup Journal!

I've got a bit of work to do, transferring my links and the like, and maybe changing the picture, so bear with me. If you follow me using a feed reader or news aggregator, please link up to the new site, if you so desire. You don't have to dump this one right away. I may post a few more straggling things, plus I'm not going to delete this. Too much work went into it over the past year. I'll link to Filter & Splice on my new blog.

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Monday, October 22, 2007


What's in a Name?

Now that I'm thinking of moving my blog to Word Press, I can't stop thinking about it. More specifically, I can't stop trying to think of a name for it. While I could use Filter & Splice, I discovered that both words are so common online that the site name really doesn't stand out. (And I thought I was being so cute. At least it comes out on top of a Google search when you type in "Filter & Splice.") I've considered using my name for a blog, but the trouble is that there are rafters full of Mary Warners out there, so the name is taken. I could take a pseudonym, something creative and distinctive, but that's not me. I don't want to add the complication. Besides, I like my name.

The internet practically begs for made up words or interesting combinations of words. Joanne, who readers will remember from the Poppy Seed Heart blog, has recently started a blog called Bebellyboo. Very cute. And unique. I need to come up with a name like that, but not like that. One that shows my personality. Ideally, the name will be whimsical, but easy to spell and easy to remember. It's a tall order, which is why I'm racking my brain.

Random starting points for the name - something bird-related, something that uses my initials, a name that uses other letters in my name, something related to Dave Matthews Band (I know, that's lame), something writing-related, something related to creativity, something curvy. I'm also quite fond of the "quite contrary" part of "Mary, Mary, quite contrary." This used to be recited at me when I was a kid, especially by my seventh grade English teacher, which I never minded. Probably because I rather like be contrary, but not always.

I've tried out the following possibilities using my initials by Googling them and checking the number of hits:

mewbird - lots of hits, already taken by some jazz dude
trarybird - no hits
mewzba - no hits
mewsba - no hits (I keep wanting to type the "s" rather than the "z," though I like the "z" better)
zamew - this hit on a Polish guy who makes gantries
snickmew - like the sound of snick
mewzla - one hit
maelwa - 3 hits
melwa - 2860 hits

Suggestions, anyone? This is making me crazy.

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Plot Hole

Today is a writing day. While working on my final story in the Greenville series, I discovered a plot hole. One of my characters is part American Indian, African-American, and white. He is dark-skinned. He served in the military during World War II (in the Marines). I had him being awarded the Medal of Honor. Trouble is that only seven African-American soldiers ever received the Medal of Honor for service during World War II and they didn't get the medals until Bill Clinton's administration. Big problem there. I can't have my character receiving the Medal of Honor because the seven men who received them are distinct individuals who can be tracked down easily on the internet. It would feel like dishonoring them to add a fictional character to their ranks. So, I went online and did a little searching for medals and for the service of African-Americans in the military. Thank goodness I found this plot hole before I finished or published.

Here are a couple of links I found this morning that helped me out of my dilemma.

World War II African American Medal of Honor Recipients

Pictures of African Americans During World War II

Great photos in that second site.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007


Google Analytics

So, then, I'm thinking of switching my blog over to Word Press. While there are certain features of this here Blogger Google blog I like (the easy ability to upload photos and change the template), I don't like that I can't get statistics on the readership. Word Press has the reader stats built into the blogger dashboard. There is a way to get the stats on this Blogger blog, but to do so I'd have to sign up for Google Analytics. It's a free service for blogs that get less than 5 million page views per month and I know I fall well within that category, so that isn't the problem. The problem is that, according to the Terms of Service, Google can change the terms of service at any time, which means it can start charging for the service, but the kicker is that Google doesn't have to notify anyone of the change in the Terms of Service. The onus for doing this is placed with the user, not the company. I don't know about you, but rushing off to check the latest Terms of Service for Google Analytics hardly tops my list of things to do while on the internet. You know, whenever credit card companies or banks change their terms of service, they are legally bound to contact their customers and allow them to opt out. Why is Google not taking the lead on this in the online realm? Why is it not notifying users when its Terms of Service change? Google sure as heck asks for our email addresses often enough. It know where to find us.

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I have been tagged by Kim at Knit Whimsies. The purpose of this particular meme is to post eight random things about myself. But there's some language to include - the not-so-fine print, which is below:

The Rules:Once tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Then post the rules before your list, and list 8 random things about yourself. At the end of the post, you must tag and link to 8 other people, visit their sites, and leave a comment letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Once again, I'm going to have trouble listing eight other people to tag, but I'll give it the old college try. So, eight random things about me . . .

1. I keep a stack of books beside my bed. I can't live without reading material. Sometimes I don't get to them all.
2. I heard a Moby song today at the grocery store and it made me realize how much I like his music and how much I miss it. I haven't listened to any Moby in months. I really must buy some of his albums, rather than borrow them from the library.
3. I'm obsessive about backing up my writing files.
4. I'm not obsessive about editing my writing. I edit as I write (I know - it's a sin in the writing world to do this), so my stories and essays are pretty much finished by the time I'm done writing. (Please help your editor friends off the floor. I think they've fainted.)
5. I'm totally envious of Neil Gaiman's writing output. Does this guy fret over editing?
6. Eldest Son and Daughter are both taller than I am. Young Son is not far behind.
7. While I'm glad I have an art degree, I'm really jonesing for the sociology degree my husband is working toward.
8. I own an original Geek Squad t-shirt, handed to me by Robert Stevens (Stephens?) himself, while I was at the Minnesota State Fair. Stevens (Stephens? - Somebody please give me the proper spelling!) was a co-founder of Geek Squad, which is now owned by Best Buy.

Okay, now it's time to tag. I'll tag Livy, Lex, Ariel, Rianna, Soloist, and Reeva Dubois. Hey, that's six people. Not bad.

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Playing Catch-Up

Golly! I've been away for days. During that time, I've been tagged by Kim at Knit Whimsies, which I will deliver on in another post, my family and I have helped a friend move, I've gone to work, I've read more stories in "Logorrhea," I've checked Jeffrey Eugenides' book "Middlesex" out of the library, I've almost finished knitting a bath mitt, and I've gotten my new issue of Wired magazine in the mail. Such a useful magazine, Wired is. There's not a single issue wherein I haven't learned something. Since their redesign, they've made it a point to publish even more letters from readers, which I appreciate. Hey, there are some experts out here! I just wish I knew who wrote the smart-ass intros that lead off reader letters.

We've had rain, rain, and more rain in central Minnesota. It makes me think back to high school French class, where I learned to say "Il pleut," which means "It's raining." You say "pleut" as "plu" - kind of a short "u," but with some "e" mixed in. It almost sounds like rain when you say it, especially the sort of gray, plodding rain we've had. My mom told me that she had heard that if all the rain we've had lately were snow, we'd have 180 inches. Bring it on, baby! The white stuff, please, not more rain. Have we turned into Portland or Seattle?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


What Makes for a Date-able Man

Hubby and I caught part of a PBS program called "Life Part 2" a few nights ago and had a very good laugh. The show discusses various aspects of aging, primarily from the view of Baby Boomers. A young man was visiting a retirement community and noticed that it was clique-y, like high school. Women out-numbered men and there was a lot of dating going on. The one trait that older women said was most desirable in dating a man was that he be . . . wait for it . . .

. . . able to drive at night.

The bar has officially been lowered.

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Roxanne, one of my writer friends, pointed out this great website - Unwords - which is a site for inventing new words for "for those hard to express things and ideas in your head."

Coast around and you'll find gems such as mahonkin, McFinch, meandrathal, Einstoned, Emotional Tourette's, enclownter, eufirstics, wickcellent, wober, and wordjones. Really, take a look and have a laugh. It's filarious.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


A Continuation of Sorts

Have you noticed that reddit is posting more stories through my blog within the past few days? From five it's jumped to twenty-five. It's great because I don't have to bop over to reddit to check their site. The news comes right to me.

Today, there was a story posted about a six-year-old getting a notice from her city telling her to clean up her graffiti or pay a $300 fine. The graffiti? A mere chalk drawing someone called to complain about. How's that for being uptight? Hide your chalk, kiddies!

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Monday, October 15, 2007


More Graffiti from Blanchard Dam

Here are more photos of graffiti from Blanchard Dam. Thanks for indulging me.

Btw, the last bit of graffiti says, "Nature Thru a Fence," in case you're having trouble reading it. Notice that Hubby artistically took the shot to show the fence in the foreground.

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Old News & Modern Art

Today was a writing day. I managed almost 1,000 words on a new story, the last in my Greenville series. Because I was busy with that, today I'm presenting you with some old news. Last week, on my birthday, my husband, Young Son #2 and I took a trip to Blanchard Dam. I had never been before and neither had Young Son. I was wholly impressed with the dam, the Soo Line trestle bridge (which is now a recreational trail) and all of the graffiti. Now, I know there are lots of people out there who can't standing graffiti, what with its defacement of public and private property, but that aside, I can truly appreciate the artistry presented. Especially when you think about the pressure the artists must be facing to get their tagging done before they are caught.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007


Modern Art Pissing Match

I left a comment on the Dangerous Intersection blog a few days ago and suddenly found myself in a pissing match. I didn't ask to be in a pissing match, but that's where I was.

Erich Vieth posted a picture of a couple of modern art paintings and said that he "wasn't tempted to buy either of these paintings," which were going for $1,300 and $3,200. He indicated that he didn't "get" modern art, which is something I've heard a lot from non-artists. It's as if they feel they don't have the expertise to judge art based on how they react to it. I agreed with Erich, saying that I wouldn't buy the paintings either, and mentioned that our experience of art is subjective - trying to let him know that he could trust his own instincts when it came to paintings.

For opening my mouth, I was promptly challenged by a commenter with the screen name gatomjp to explain myself in detail and to show some of my own work. I felt that I was being placed in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. If I didn't link up to my work, I'd be considered chicken. If I did, I'd be placing my art in line for potential potshots, which may or may not be based on the fact that I said something that was disagreeable to gatomjp. I don't have much up in the way of art on my blog, but I did link to my artist trading cards. Gatomjp also asked me to define why, precisely, I didn't like the two paintings presented in the blog.

My reply garnered this response from gatomjp: "Sorry, Mary that's not good enough." I was expected to give an essay on the technical aspects of why I didn't like the paintings. It wasn't good enough that I simply didn't care for them. Gatomjp also leapt to the assumption that I didn't like abstract art at all. He/she did indicate liking my artist trading cards, which was a surprise considering the tone of the rest of his/her comments. I was beginning to think that maybe gatomjp was the artist of the pictured paintings, or perhaps an artist who produced paintings like those pictured. I was stumped by the vehemence at which this person was going after me and thought that if I'd been at a party and someone jumped on me like this, I'd find a way to distance myself right quick. It's not that I mind be asked to give a more in-depth explanation for my opinions, but a little honey (i.e. nicely asking), rather than vinegar (i.e. making assumptions that aren't true) goes a long way in getting my cooperation.

I obliged anyway, giving a long, detailed comment about how a painting can be technically perfect, but if it doesn't speak to my emotions, it will have missed its mark. I used music as my alternate example, because non-musicians have no problem determining what sort of music they enjoy.

As I was thinking further about this issue, and waiting to see how gatomjp would respond to my long comment, I realized that there was more that I had to say about technical vs. emotional aspects in creative works, this time in the subject of literature. When I write short stories, I'm always concerned with the technical aspects of telling a story. How do I turn this phrase? What's my point of view? Am I using cliches? How's my spelling and grammar? Did I break that paragraph at the right time? Do I have any plot holes?

When I read a finished story to my writers group, I'm hoping they will catch problems with the technical aspects of the story. What I've discovered is that this rarely occurs. What happens instead is that the other writers start talking about the content of my story. What happens to that character? Hey, I've had that experience. What's synesthesia? (Or some other obscure topic I've brought up.) After witnessing this several times, I realized that the technical aspects of my storytelling were not jumping to the fore, screaming for attention. They are at least adequate in allowing the story to take center stage. (There's always room for improvement, though.)

This is how it should be with art or music or literature or any other creative endeavor. The technical aspects should remain invisible. The work should appear as though created by magic. Once you've hooked people, gotten them emotionally entangled, they may be curious about how you made it happen. Then you can explain the technique behind the work. If all people notice is the technique, then you haven't done your job as an artist. You haven't truly connected.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007


All Better

I'm all better today, just in time for my birthday. Thanks to everyone who wished me a happy day, starting with Eldest Son, who surprised me with a hug and well wishes before he left for school, rapidly followed by Young Son #2, Husband and Daughter. At work I got birthday wishes from my co-workers, plus my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and brother-in-law. My sister called while I was out. (Shucks, I missed her.) One of my brothers called and so did my mom, who gave me a hug a few days ago in case she didn't get a chance to see me on the big day. Ryan and Rianna left birthday wishes on my blog and my hubby and children took me out for dinner. So cool! Thanks, everyone, for making me feel loved. :) :) :)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Age and Accomplisment

I don't know. Maybe I'm just sensitive because I'm going to reach a milestone age tomorrow, but I'm sick to death of headlines like the one on the current Special Issue of Smithsonian magazine. (Fall 2007) It is . . .

37 Under 36: America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences

I don't know about you, but the vaunting of the spectacular achievements of our youth make me feel completely inadequate. It always has, even when I was considered young, mostly because the tone is that if you haven't made it by a particular youthful age, the implication is that you'll never make it. As if all of us must achieve something noteworthy enough to make it into a magazine. As if those of us who don't simply aren't worth breathing the air on this earth. I do not begrudge people their accomplishments, au contraire! Amen and hallelujah to them for what they've done. And, amen and hallelujah to those who plug away at tasks that aren't deemed noteworthy by society, but that are crucial nonetheless. (You go, Mike Rowe!) But, quit attaching an age to the accomplishment, as though somehow we're all supposed to be so impressed by the wunderkind, merely because of the age, without factoring in all of the support the kid has had in getting to where he's gotten.

Because we can't seem to help ourselves on the whole age vs. achievement issue, I'd like to point out my favorite article on the subject, published by Wired Magazine in July 2006. (Yes, I still have the print version.) It's called "What Kind of Genius Are You?" and looks at the research of David Galenson, who studied age and achievement and found that those who blossomed early tended to peak early, but that there were plenty of genius types who didn't hit their creative strides until much later in life. There's still hope for those of us over 36.

P.S. I forgot a link that came through The Rake's Secrets of the Day email today. Apparently, I'm not to only one interested in the accomplishments of older folks. Lizz Winstead, who co-created The Daily Show, is looking for guys over 40 who've always wanted to be in a rock band, but life got in their way, for a reality show called "Ready 2 Rock." Here's a link to a video of Winstead describing the project.

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I've been sick the last few days. Monday was Coming Down With Day. Yesterday was Flat on My Back, Headachy, Weak, Not Very Hungry, Muscle-achy, Slept for Hours, Misery Day. Today was Better, But Still Not Quite Right Day. I took a nap, which helped, but my head is still threatening to ache if I don't behave. The good thing is lots of sleep, which, according to Po Bronson, is a very good thing indeed. Check out his article on sleep in New York Magazine. I can feel my brain cells getting stronger already.

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Monday, October 08, 2007


Too Funny Not to Pass Along

This gem of a post from CRACKED.com came through on my reddit feed on the Filter & Splice sidebar. It is simply too funny not to pass along.

The 9 Manliest Names in the World

Go ahead, have yourselves a giggle. No, wait! That's not manly enough. Have yourself a chortle, followed by a snort.

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I've Always Liked Crows

I've heard crows called nasty birds many times in my life - dirty, a nuisance - but I've always been rather fond of them. I have an affinity for all wild birds, but most especially black birds, crows and ravens. Perhaps it comes from reading Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" over and over as a kid, but I can't be sure.

When I was in kindergarten, I found a dead crow and felt sorry for it, so I put it in my school bag and brought it home. Scared my mom half to death when she saw it.

I ran across an article on National Geographic's website today, one that explains how several New Caledonian crows have been fitted with tiny cameras to track their behavior and how scientists are finding that these crows use tools much more than previously believed. How can you not like a bird that's so smart?

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Sunday, October 07, 2007


Night at the Museum

A couple of nights ago, hubby and I sat down with Young Son #2 to watch "Night at the Museum." As a museum manager, I like to see how movies portray the museum experience. Plus, the previews made this look like a fun movie, in no small part thanks to Ben Stiller. It did not disappoint. The movie plays on the wishful thinking of museum staff and visitors in that everything in the exhibits comes to life at night. (I know I sure wish I could talk to the people I've read about who've passed into history.)

Ben Stiller plays Larry Daley, the new night watchman. He's replacing three older security guards played by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs, all of whom give stellar performances. There's a bit of predictability in the plot in that Larry is a dreamer who can't seem to get anything accomplished, but he must because he's the non-custodial parent in a divorce situation and has to provide security for his kid. The creators of the movie did a seamless job in bringing the museum exhibits to life, especially the T-Rex installation. Owen Wilson and Robin Williams are hilarious and lend to the credibility. The only thing that seemed weird is that certain exhibits caused all sorts of chaos, but others just seemed to wander around aimlessly in the background - like that giant jade Chinese dog. I wasn't keen on the museum director, who was a stuffy fuddy-duddy. That's not what most museum directors are like, but we still have to deal with the reputation because it keeps getting played that way in movies.

All-in-all, "Night at the Museum" was a good movie and plays well with kids.

As an aside, Dick Van Dyke has always reminded me of my dad, especially when he was younger. It's the jaw. My dad has the same strong jaw Dick Van Dyke has.

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I found an interesting link on Kevin Donovan's "Bumblin' Along" blog. I always find good links there. Kevin really gets around on the internet.

Anyway, this link is to an online test in the Science & Nature section of the BBC. The test, which is easy to take - and, to be honest, pretty fun - is to discover what makes us feel disgusted. You run through a series of pictures and rate your level of disgust from high to low. When the test is over, each picture is explained in relation to how most people feel in terms of disgust. The point is that humans should naturally feel disgusted over things that are potentially disease-producing. When my husband and I went through it, we strangely were not as disgusted as the average person over most of the pictures. I can attribute this to a couple of things. We have three children and have seen pretty much every illness-related disgusting event you can see - poop, snot, gushing blood, etc., etc. - and as a parent, you just have to get over the disgust and deal. Also, we are adventurous eaters, being willing to try most any kind of new food. (It helps to watch Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern.) Hubby is more adventurous than I am with food, but I, at one time, considered becoming a naturopath and have long been fascinated with medicine, so I must have a stomach that can take the gross.

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Google Alerts

A person recently met introduced me to Google Alerts. I couldn't figure out how certain people rarely named in this blog somehow had discovered practically instantaneously how they'd been named and had dropped by to leave comments. Spooky, let me tell you. Google Alerts was the answer. It allows you to type in search terms to keep track of and spits back mentions of those search terms via email. You need to have a Google account to manage your alerts. You can choose where you want Google to search (blogs, news, comprehensive search) and how often you want to get alerts (as they happen, daily, weekly). I've found several good articles on the Dave Matthews Band this way. Also, in a move that looks like high vanity, I have a Google Alert on my name. What generally appears in my alert is my blog posts, but this morning I found a newspaper article by another writer named Mary Warner.

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Friday, October 05, 2007



Ever read a story that sticks with you? I don't mean stickiness in the overt that-was-cool sort of way, but in the subtle nagging-at-you-like-you've-left-something-undone sort of way.

I'm reading a collection of short stories called "Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories," edited by John Klima. Each author had to write a story based on winning words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The story that's sticking with me is "Eczema" by Clare Dudman. The gist of the story is about a young man whose sister has died. He doesn't fit into regular society, but I'm not going to tell you why. The story involves three neighbor women dressed in black that the man's sister used to call crows. The ending of the story left me unsettled, like I want to continue the story. That's why it's sticking with me.

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Stephen Fry on Fame

Actor Stephen Fry has started a blog. Neil Gaiman pointed out Stephen's post on fame, which is long, but quite marvelous. It makes our reactions to famous people seem quite ridiculous, albeit I'm not quite sure how we shut off our feelings for those we admire.

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Minnesota News

Just found a couple of pieces of Minnesota news on Reddit. Both have wider implications. I'll let you read them and form your own judgments. (Of course, that's not gonna stop me from having an opinion.)

National Guard Troops Denied Benefits After Longest Deployment of Iraq War - The soldiers' orders were written for service one day short of that needed to get full benefits. After reading this, tell me that our President and this White House Administration supports our troops.

24 Illegal Song Downloads Cost U.S. Woman 220,000 - The "U.S. Woman" was actually a Minnesota woman and she lost in her court battle against the Recording Industry of America. I think it's time we support musicians who work outside of the mega-music recording and publishing industry.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Down with Love

Sometimes it's easy to forget how great a movie is. My hubby and children bought me "Down with Love," both the movie and the soundtrack, a few years ago. I watched the movie a couple of times when I got it, but haven't since. It sat on a shelf gathering dust until last night. Over the weekend, while channel surfing, I caught part of the movie on cable and it reminded me how delightful and bedazzling it was. It's styled after the movies of the 1960s, all bright colors, snappy battle-of-the-sexes dialogue, montage time-passing scene, cartoon opening, split-screen double entendres, and overdone poses to show off the stunning outfits worn by the ladies. The music fits the era, too, with performances of standards by Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Michael Buble. (I know, Michael is not OF the era, but he performs several standards from the era on the soundtrack.)

"Down with Love" stars Renee Zellweger as Barbara Novak, an author who has written a book called "Down with Love" that teaches women how not to fall in love with men. Ewan McGregor is her male nemesis. He plays Catcher Block, posing as Zip Martin, in order to trick Novak into falling in love with him. David Hyde Pierce plays Peter MacMannus, Catcher's humorously neurotic boss. He is in love with Barbara's editor and friend, Vikki Hiller, played by Sarah Paulson. Vikki is a chain-smoking live-wire who packs a mean punch.

The movie clips along and makes me laugh and clap with delight. There's only one scene where the movie's creators should have said "Cut!" half-way through -- a monologue by Barbara Novak. When you see it, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. When her monologue ends and the camera cuts to Catcher Block, he looks practically comatose. Other than this one minor flaw, "Down with Love" is worth watching over and over.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Forget Rich

I want to make it comfortably well off.

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