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Woody Allen, The Quintessential Auteur

August 13th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

If you are a Woody Allen fan like me, there’s a relatively new documentary available to see on Netflix called –‘Woody Allen: A Documentary’, 2011, and it’s an absolutely must-see. It’s about 4 hours long (2 parts and there’s not a dull moment) and it’s the most comprehensive, in-depth profile of this unique, prodigiously talented filmmaker/actor/writer/musician to date. Mr. Allen is such an elusive private man and I was shocked to find how probing and personal it was. It was a completely no-holds barred portrait of this man’s astonishing body of work and his personal life and beliefs.
Whether you’re a Woody Allen fan or not, you cannot deny the fact that Woody Allen is an American National Treasure. Think about this: Woody Allen has been making films and has been RELEVENT for more than 40 years. This is simply unheard of in show business; if you’re relevant for 10 or even 5, it’s amazing! What I also got out of the documentary, was what a nice, unpretentious, likable guy Woody Allen is. The only real hitch in his personal life was the whole, over-blown coverage of his affair with Soon-YI, Mia Farrow’s adopted child (not Allen’s). As far as I’m concerned, Woody did nothing illegal, nor did he do anything really wrong. Listen, was it a little strange? yes . But the truth of the matter is: 1. He wasn’t married to Mia Farrow. 2. Soon-Yi was 20 when they started the affair and 3. As I mentioned in the previous sentence, it was not Allen’s adopted child. It wasn’t planned, and as we all know, love is irrational plus he’s still with her, so leave him alone. What was great was Allen’s response to the whole fiasco, he said, “Jeez, I was shocked by all the coverage; I didn’t know I was that popular.”
Enough of the nonsense, I’ve already spilled too much ink on Woody and Soon-Yi. Let’s talk about his professional life which is nothing short of masterful. I won’t go through his whole career, see the documentary, which is impressively exhaustive. Woody started as a writer, writing 50 jokes a day for $25 a week. He later became a stand-up comedian which he hated because he’s shy and hated performing before a crowd. Then he became what he really wanted  – a filmmaker with free rein to do whatever he wanted to do – which is simply unheard of with the big studios and major financial backers. What makes this even more unbelievable is that Woody had this incredible independence from day one. What a lucky man!
Of the 40 films Mr. Allen has made, I would say that I liked about 30 of them, he did make a few clunkers, but Woody would have you believe that just about all of his films were awful (again that monumental modesty). He also doesn’t care what the critics think; ironically, his favorite films are the ones the critics panned. Allen’s thoughts are that if he is able to reproduce what was in his mind (or as close to it, it’s impossible to be exact) then the film is a success.
Let me conclude with some personal thoughts about Woody Allen. One of the major reasons I like Allen , is he truly thinks like I do. I am somewhat of an insecure nervous nellie and I’ve always been obsessed with death. Woody Allen has essentially made a career out of talking about death but without the gloom, he always throws humor in. My favorite part of the documentary is when he says, “when I was 5 or 6 I realized that we all die, and he goes on to say, you mean this doesn’t go on forever, we have to die ? Doesn’t that ruin everything?”
So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think? Are you a Woody Allen fan? What is your favorite Woody Allen film?

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The River

August 12th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor


Time is a river.
Twisting and bending
Our perception of it.
Its movement
Snakes and decepts.
Charms us
With the future,
Present all too soon,
Passes
Before we realize.
The river
Is still the river.
It is we who travel
Its course,
Who emerge
Transfigured
At the mouth of the sea.

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Leave These People Alone

August 10th, 2012 by Michael Tabor

Listen, were it not for the people who watch their movies or TV shows, listen to their music, watch them dunk a basketball, etc. our celebrities would not exist. We are their bread and butter and they know that. Celebrities (the decent ones) also know that they ought to give back a little e.g. sign an autograph, shake someone’s hand, etc. However, for some people this is not enough; some of us out there want to have breakfast with Natalie Portman, follow George Clooney to the bathroom and worst of all see pictures, or read stories about our beloved stars when things are not going so well for them. There’s a multisyllabic German word for this – schadenfreude (the malicious delight in another’s misfortune, especially if that someone seems to have a better life than you have). What prompted me to write this blog was a front page headline staring at me in the face, as I waited on line at the supermarket: The great literary treasure, ‘The National Enquirer ‘ Macaulay Culkin is Hooked on Heroin and Has 6 Months to Live. To further exacerbate the indignity, there was a picture of Mr. Ciulkin seemingly getting sick and throwing up. Now whether or not the story is true (his PR people say the story is bogus, and the picture is of McCaulay merely coughing) is beside the point. LEAVE THE GUY ALONE! Especially if the story is true; we’re talking about human beings here – how sick and twisted is it for an individual to derive pleasure from a man who is allegedly dying.
Listen I know we’re in the middle of a recession and these are tough economic times for the average American citizen. Furthermore, I know there are the spoiled rotten Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of the world who have no idea what it’s like to have to work for a living and worry about paying one’s bills. But how pathetic and sad it is for a person to gleefully look at an emaciated Katie Holmes, obviously stressed out following the divorce proceedings to her ex-husband Tom Cruise.  And quit picking on Kirstie Alley – she has a weight problem, so what ! So do many people.
I know life is hard, and yes celebrities have fewer problems (especially economically) than the rest of us. But, can we please be a little kinder and nicer (Mr. Paparazzi – scum of the earth) to the people who are perhaps trying to make our life a little better by entertaining us. Please – people are people.
So WhaDaYaThink ? What do you think? Are you sickened by this yellow journalism? Are people’s lives that pitiful and empty that we have to revel in another fellow human being’s misery?

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Woodswomen

August 7th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
Numerous articles were written on Anne LaBastille since her passing on July 1, 2011 but Anne’s many books best describe who she was and how she lived her idyllic lifestyle. I first became acquainted with this remarkable lady in 1976 upon acquiring her first book entitled Woodswoman. Vicariously living her life through her words as she had lived hers through  Thoreau’s Walden, I connected with this kindred spirit but drew the line at actually living out the dream. It might have been she who spawned my desire to become a Conservationist in the Adirondack region but my intense fear of bears prevented me from embarking on the journey she so freely embraced. Instead, I took a detour, enjoying all the benefits of the family summer home in the mountains while still retaining my ties to civilization. Truth be told, I just didn’t have it in me to live a life of such reclusive isolation. I was in love with the idea of it and so Anne’s books sustained that love without my having to endure all of the hardship and lonliness that went along with it.
The other day I came across her book, Beyond Black Bear Lake. I was in the family cabin, now belonging to me 36 years later. Her books take me back to that time, when our cabin was built  and all my girlhood dreams came flooding back like the river that lies at the base of the mountain. Like the river, they were there all along but lay dormant, and dislodged like a rock in the muddy contours of my mind. The rock that slid out from under me at having learned of her passing, a year and a month too late. A profound personal loss overcame me, as though part of my past, that should be as solid as the book I held in my hand, had suddenly disintegrated. Woodswoman, it dawned, was the essense of what (not who) I was and it hurt me to the core. The unspeakable sadness that this fiercely independent woman had succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, had spent the last few years of her life in a Plattsburgh nursing home, had had her worst fears realized. Forced to give up her dream life, her cabin, her dog . Herself.
I pick up the book and begin to read. Anne speaks. Reliving the life as if it were just beginnng. Once more, I join her on the journey. On a beautiful moonlit night, canoe slipping softly through the water, German Shepherd in the bow. We are living, and breathing the crisp Adirondack air scented with pine.  Enter the tiny lamp lit log cabin. The night is long and summer is eternal. Write your story, Anne. The one that never ends. I can still see the water lilies floating on the pond.  And nothing breaks the surface.
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Island Guy

August 6th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor

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OLYMPIC SPIRIT??? A LOOK AT THE OTHER SIDE

August 3rd, 2012 by Michael Tabor

Written by Guest Blogger Le Duke De Fromage

While watching the opening ceremonies for the Olympics and trying to figure out what was going on, I kept feeling this is just one big commercial. Yes, it was glitz, showy, and glamor but also confusing and at times very messy. Compare it to a Monty Python skit on steroids or a questionable Super Bowl half time show. The blatant selling of England, the host country, was bewildering to non-brits and probably brits alike.
[ except for Mr. Bean, a personal favorite]
The spectacle reminded me of an excellent article written by Frank Deford for Smithsonian magazine on the History of the Olympic Games. Deford,if you are not aware is one of the premiere sports writers in America. He describes the struggles of the earlier games and some of the more outrageous acts committed by promoters and athletes alike. No doubt, this 2012 opening will be included in a later book for some future writer.
Cost estimates for these games are estimated to run over 24 billion pounds.No wonder there are over fifty official sponsors for the Olympics and this does not include the T.V. money for which N.B.C. paid a fortune. As Deford outlines in his history this is a far cry from earlier games,which were run on a shoestring. However, costs escalate as do ticket prices and hosting the Olympics is no cheap venue.The opening night average ticket price was $2500.00 dollars, slightly less than a super bowl ticket seat .Average price for any basketball game is $400.00, swimming event average $700.00 that is if you can get a ticket. Some demand events have been embarrassed by blocks of empty seats held by advertisers, and V.I.P.s who just didn’t show up. Again Olympic spirit at work.
Some countries have been accused of scalping their allotment of tickets to make a few bucks, others make sure that only fat cats and select dignitaries get to attend. Most of us get to watch on the telly which considering the cost of London is the best way. Estimated viewing for opening night was forty million people in the U.S. Of course, one cannot discuss the Olympics without mentioning the contests and the judging of such. Some of the most corrupt,inept, and home country decisions have made the judging an international disgrace.They make Vegas boxing judges look honest. The International Olympic Committee has not been without its scandals either. Corruption, bribes, unaccounted dollars and a host of improper and illegal acts have haunted the Olympics for years.
That leaves the athletes, doping, illegal equipment, questionable sex gender and every other wrongdoing one can name has been leveled against the participants one time or another. To win medal is the goal at any cost. So much for the spirit of the games. Isn’t it also contrary to the Olympic creed to count medals? The thought was to compete on an amateur level with sportsmanship and friendly competition the main goal. Just like the U.S. amateur Olympic basketball team.
There is another side to all the negative,the heart warming stories of individuals who sacrifice their youth for a chance to compete. At times, they actually achieve the goal and everyone feels good.I hope they can cash in and make it pay for all their hard work and dreams.
The games have become a big spectacle with the host country trying to out due the previous one, and hopefully make a few bucks.
Whadayathink? Are the Olympics worthwhile or is it just another sham production hoping to make a few bucks and gain publicity for the host country and a select few of the world’s best athletes?


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The NY Renaissance Faire

August 2nd, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
August summons the NY Renaissance Faire located in Sterling Forest, Tuxedo NY. The Faire runs every weekend from now until the third weekend in September.  For all you Shakespeare buffs and lovers of medieval times, it’s a thoroughly entertaining way to spend the day.
Comprised of twenty stages and more than one hundred shops scattered about on 65 acres, it’s impossible to enjoy the many attractions on one mere visit. Among my favorites is Birds of Prey. The audience is seated around rustic benches in a small open arena while each bird is introduced by the falconer and sent soaring through the crowd. The majestic wing spans will thrill nature lovers young and old alike.
Another interesting performance is staged by a remarkable man who plays a carillon; an ancient French instrument consisting of behemoth sized bells that are struck by pounding the keys on an organ. The sound produced by the carillon is breathtakingly mysterious, and made even more so by the masked man clad in black. He’s rather scary looking but the mystique was shattered when we approached him afterwards. Although he never removed the bird mask, he sounded just like a regular guy. Why couldn’t he keep up the pretense and respond in like fashion? I purchased the DVD anyway because I was so impressed with him. See his act entitled Cast In Bronze. You can get a taste of it on his website by the same name if you Google it but it won’t exude the same charm casting one spellbound. You have to see him for yourself to experience the magic.
Unless you consult your map of the fairgrounds distributed upon entering, you will ultimately become lost and revisit the area from which you departed an hour ago. Don’t make this mistake or you’ll miss out on all the fun. There are so many shows scheduled throughout the day, some of which have you hopping from one end of the fairgrounds to the other. To prevent you from missing any portion of  the ones you’re interested in, I suggest you do your homework by visiting the official NY Renaissance Faire website or studying the list of events handed out at the gate. To save you some additional time, buy your tickets on line so that you don’t have to wait on one when you get there.
Many of the shows involve audience participation, like it or not. You will need to quickly overcome any shyness or inhibitions for the actors will most certainly put you on the spot with no regard for your obvious discomfort. So be a good sport and wear the diaper while loudly proclaiming your manhood in front of complete strangers while everyone laughs at you. And the one you came with is laughing the hardest. Look, I feel for the guy, but it is funny. He shouldn’t have raised his hand to impress his lady friend with those lovely roses they were doling out. Glad they didn’t pick you, huh?
As the trails circle and overlap, you will encounter lords and ladies, peasants and landed gentry alike. Listen to minstrels and storytellers or maybe you’ll run into the Music Box Lady perched on her pedestal singing sweetly as she moves in delightful music box motion. Talent abounds as aspiring actors impress you with their wit and wisdom.  It’s hilarity at its best or at times, worst. Stop at Rotten Revenge; a rather raunchy act involving a face framed in a wooden cut-out who hurls insults as passers by. You get to stop and take your revenge by matching his insults with tomatoes that either hit or miss. If you fail to splatter his nasty little face, his insults will become ever more crude. At one point it became so vulgar, the crowd thinned out to just a couple of people laughing at his tasteless remarks. It’s not for everybody. I’m not sure it’s even for anybody.

One thing is for certain. You will leave the Faire a different person than from when you first arrived, perhaps sporting a jaunty hat; pirate, jester, or wizard’s. Take your pick. You get to be a kid again, no questions asked. No one will give you so much as a sideways glance.
So, whadayathink? Michael reluctantly agreed to go with me one year thinking he wouldn’t enjoy it. He had the best time.
He still has his pirate’s hat! (although he probably wouldn’t want me to tell you that.)
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