Sundry information, thoughts and links to sort us out

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Christmas at Chez Loebrich South is usually a low-key affair. It always begins the same way, on Christmas Eve morning I put the last character (the Star of Hope) on my advent calendar and then log in to NORAD's Santa Tracker to follow the Jolly Old Elf in flight. This year was no exception. After those two key items were taken care of, I did some laundry and finished baking cookies; we also talked to some of our relatives back in the Midwest to share holiday greetings.

Then it was time to get ready for church. In years past, we've occasionally attended Christmas Eve service at Duke Chapel and I definitely recommend it if you're looking for a beautiful, traditional service in one of the most gorgeous gothic church buildings around (you can even it watch it live online nowadays). One year we left the chapel, after lighting candles and hearing the North Carolina Boys Choir sing "O Holy Night" in their clear boy sopranos, and it was snowing gently. It was like being in a Currier and Ives Christmas card or an old movie - just perfect.

Our own church, in fact, has long since stopped doing multiple Christmas Eve services because everybody in the area goes to Duke. The one service at First Presbyterian is at 5pm and it combines the Children's Pageant with communion and the lighting of candles. Since we don't have children in the pageant, we don't usually go, but this year I am on the Worship Committee and was the Communion Assistant for the month of December. So we got there an hour early so I could help fill the elements and set them up in the sanctuary.

The service was lovely. The children perform a living nativity while readings and carols go on around them. They had a real baby playing the role of Jesus. At one point all the children, led by our associate pastor, performed a dance to represent the shepherds' joy at the good news. My favorite part was that three of the children representing animals in the stable were dressed as a shark, an elephant, and a cheetah! Well, why not? I have all sorts of extra figures in my nativity scenes at the apartment - the good tidings are for everyone, surely that includes sharks, elephants, and cheetahs!

I had to clean up after service as well. It took almost an hour just because the service was so crowded and everyone was passing greetings of the season in the lobby so it was really difficult to navigate through the masses while carrying trays and chalices back and forth from the sanctuary to the kitchen. It was nearly 7pm when we finally left.

We had this total 80's sitcom moment afterward. As we were driving home, Bruce said "what do you want to do for dinner?" I said, "Chinese?" So we went over to Orient Garden, a restaurant near our first apartment in Durham. It was packed! Everyone there was wearing red and green, or Christmas tree earrings, or Santa hats - it was obvious that they'd all come from church and were now having the obligatory Dinner at a Chinese Restaurant that everyone does on Christmas! Additionally, we needed to get a few things - most notably, aluminum foil so we can cover the turkey we'll bake tomorrow - but all the stores were closed and we ended up shopping at Walgreens. Got what we needed, but still darned funny.

We returned home and I frosted all the cookies I'd baked, finishing up just about 11. Imagine my surprise when I checked in with NORAD at that point and discovered Santa was in South America and making great time! Before I'd even finished checking my email, St. Nick was in South Carolina and it was definitely bedtime!

Christmas Day began with us deciding to sleep in a little longer. Then we lounged about in our pj's and opened presents while enjoying the cookies I'd made. We got lots of lovely and fun gifts and are looking forward to playing with them in the coming year! Phone calls to friends and family back home wrapped up the morning beautifully.

Then we heated up our left-overs from the Chinese restaurant, had lunch, and headed out to the movies. We saw True Grit, which was very good and I'll try to get another compilation-of-reviews post up soon. Now we're home, alternating between the Doctor Who marathon and the Weather Channel as we try to monitor the winter storm approaching the southeast.

Bruce's folks will be driving down tomorrow and we are hoping for safe roads for their journey. We wish all of you days filled with love and laughter, warm and snug in your homes surrounded by all those who are dear to you, and safe travels wherever you may go this holiday season!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Catching Up on Movies...

We've seen a few movies in the last couple of months and this is my first chance to get some reviews up, so here goes!

Starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich, this Disney picture is the story of the famous race horse and his Triple Crown win in 1973. When Penny Chenery Tweedy's (Lane) mother passes away, she begins splitting her time between her own household and that of her ailing father. While there, she reasserts her love and knowledge of horse raising and racing. She discovers that her father's horse-trainer is skimming off the top and she fires him. Chenery then hires wild-card down-on-his-luck trainer Lucien Laurin (Malkovich) whose out-of-the-box techniques turn out to be just the right fit for Meadow Stables. Then along comes the horse Big Red, who eventually gains the racing handle Secretariat.

My mom and I are both big Triple Crown racing fans. We remember 1973 (I was 5), especially Secretariat's spectacular run in the Belmont Stakes which won him the Triple Crown. I enjoyed the use of archival footage in the film, too, as that just reinforced my own memories.

The acting in this is very good. Larry thought that the best actor in the film was actually the horse playing Secretariat and he's on to something! That horse was amazing. How do you cast for that sort of role, do you suppose? Anyway, this is just a heartwarming, powerful, moving film that is well-acted, well-shot, and very enjoyable. Especially if you like horse racing, as there are some great races in here.

But, even if you don't, this is great family fare. We already know my mom liked it, so it gets a Mom Approval rating, too.

The Social Network
Starring a lot of newcomers, but written by the talented Aaron Sorkin and directed by the also-talented David Fincher, this is a story about the founding of Facebook. Loosely-based on and inspired by actual events, the story happens simultaneously in the past and the current day. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is on trial in two cases over the creation of the social networking website. Evidence presented in the trials fills in the backstory of the events that led to Facebook's uber web presence today. It's a very timely film as the cases have only recently been settled, and as Zuckerberg and Facebook continue to make news worldwide for the company's growth and Zuckerberg's charitable contributions.

This is tricky. None of the characters are likeable. The events supposedly leading to the creation of Facebook are uncomfortable at best and downright mean at worst. The lawsuits are vindictive. Friendships are broken and the main characters are not above stepping all over people to get what they want. Most of the time, I just felt depressed that I like using Facebook so much if all these people are so nasty.

That said, it is a well-written, well-paced movie, as you would expect. It is probably also well-acted. I just didn't like any of the characters in it. Okay, I take that back, I loved that there was a bit with Prince Albert of Monaco (not his real highness, an actor) - I thought that was clever. I have also since learned that a significant plot point in the movie never happened in real life. I may have to watch it again knowing that and see if it lightens my mood.

I still like Facebook, though, the website I mean. The rest of you will have to make up your own minds about the movie. Moms, probably not for you, sorry.

Starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman, this is the story of four retired CIA operatives who get thrown together for one last case. It's a big action thriller with lots of heists and hijinx. Stuff goes boom.

So, it's predictable. Willis is a lean, mean, killing machine. Malkovich is crazy. Mirren is fabulous. Freeman is suave and clever. The government is sneaky and corrupt. There's a Russian spy. Did I mention stuff goes boom?

It's just fun, folks. Silly, humorous fun. There's a plot and a little twisting, but mostly it's about the "We're getting the band back together" feel that is super well played by the starring foursome. Good times. Stuff goes boom. Sorry, moms, not for you.

Starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, this is based on a real railway incident that happened in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio! The movie is set in Pennsylvania, however. A train, including several cars full of hazardous materials, careens unmanned along the route, picking up speed and heading into populated areas with dangerous pieces of track. The potential for disaster of catastrophic proportions increases as the train continues to pick up speed and closes the distance between itself and major towns. Washington and Pine hatch a plan to use their own train to stop the runaway.

This isn't a movie, it's a roller coaster, a big, fast, furious, awesome roller coaster! It was totally predictable, but such fun! I had a blast, I was totally into it from the very beginning, flinching when the train whooshed by heading straight at the camera (such a basic trick, but well-used here), and hanging on to Bruce as they tried to stop the train. Such fun!

Guess what? Stuff also goes boom. Sorry, moms, not for you, but anyone else up for a good roller coaster ride in the off-season, get on board!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Magical Midwestern Tour 2010

We recently spent 10 days traveling about Points Midwest visiting friends and family. It was a great trip - of course, we didn't have enough time to see everyone we wanted to, nor could we spend as much time with everyone as we would have liked, never works out that way. Nonetheless, we had a splendid time back in the Old Stomping Grounds.

The impetuses (impeti?) for the trip were: my 20th class reunion at Kalamazoo College and the arrival of our new niece, Abby. We left NC on a Thursday and drove as far as Columbus, where we stayed with Bruce's sister and family. We had a delightful visit including dinner out (Mongolian barbecue!) and a preview of our nephew Derek's Halloween costume.

From Columbus we drove to Kalamazoo and checked in at our hotel before meeting up with Cyndee, Marnie, Wendy, Alisha and David, and Patrick and Kati for dinner and visiting. After a late but great night on Friday, we spent most of the day on campus at K College for the reunion on Saturday. The weather was fabulous, the fall color was glorious, the turn-out was huge, and a grand time was had by all. The night wrapped with our class dinner - full of friends and memories - followed by an ice cream run with Alisha and David!

On Sunday we drove to Detroit to meet Abby - and see my brother Joe and sister-in-law Traci, of course. Our niece is just the cutest little pumpkin - sweet, snuggly, and beautiful! Speaking of pumpkins, we all took Abby to pick her first one at the pumpkin patch. The weather continued to cooperate with sunny skies and mild temperatures and we got in a hayride before sitting down to donuts and fresh apple cider. Mmm!

After a delightful dinner and visit, we backtracked a little and drove to Ann Arbor to Mom Stahl and Larry's. We spent all day Monday with them and enjoyed going over to U of M campus to meet up with my former intern Paul for lunch - followed by meeting Mom Stahl's friend Aletha for an afternoon snack/visit. We wrapped up the day by seeing "Secretariat," which is a great movie (I must review it!). Mom and I are both Triple Crown fans, so this was a special treat for us, but everyone enjoyed the film.

On Tuesday, we drove down to Toledo. We started our day visiting with Cindy (including a trip to Anderson's Market!). Again, the weather was fabulous, so we took a walk at Wildwood Metropark where the fall color continued to be spectacular. While we were in the park, Dad Stahl got home from work, and shortly thereafter my sister Suzanne and brother-in-law Tim joined us for a yummy and fun dinner.

On Wednesday, we met up with Mom and Dad Loebrich for a scenic drive to East Harbor - with a stop at Cheesehaven in Port Clinton, of course! We had packed a picnic and added some yummy snacks on our stop before staking out a picnic table at the harbor. The weather was still gorgeous - albeit windy - and we had a nice lunch enjoying the scenery. Lake Erie sure had low water levels, though! After lunch we had another scenic drive back to Toledo, toured through the renovated Anderson's, and had dinner at an area diner.

On Thursday, Dad Stahl and I played cribbage! We used to play all the time when I was growing up - he and Grandpa David taught me everything I know about the game. Well, Dad skunked me in game 1 and double-skunked me in game 2, but I came back and beat him in a game 3 that included my getting a 24-point hand! Afterward we went over to see Suzi and Tim's house and get the back-story on all the work they've put into it - the place looks great! We wrapped up the night with a big family dinner at Ventura's which included Aunt Barbie and Aunt Maggie.

On Friday, we drove down to Columbus and went with Debbe to pick our nephew Derek up from school. We had a great dinner at Bob Evans together. Later in the evening Bruce and Duncan took Derek stargazing to use the new telescope eyepiece we'd got him for his birthday.

On Saturday, we drove to Lebanon to visit Bruce's best friend Ralph-Stephen, his wife Pamela, and their son Alex. We had not been to their house in probably 7 years, so it was great to see all the home improvement projects they'd done. We had a great lunch on another weather-cooperative day and enjoyed sitting out on the deck talking and playing with Alex. We wrapped up the evening by driving back to Columbus and getting together with the McEwens and the McIntyres to carve pumpkins and have chocolate fondue!

On Sunday, we drove back to North Carolina. We hit construction, an accident, and several patches of heavy traffic that extended our drive from the usual 8 hours to 10. Ironic that the day we came back was the worst day of our trip, eh?

All in all, it was a GREAT visit, we had so much fun, we miss you all already!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Our 18th

We celebrated 18 years of marriage with a wonderful day.

We donated the flowers for church, since our anniversary actually fell on Sunday. Family Garden florist did a fabulous job with the bouquet! When I called, I told them the occasion, that my favorite flowers are gladiolas (they are), & that I like "fall colors" - with just that little to go on they created a gorgeous arrangement of white and orange glads, sunflowers, roses, and more. We were listed in the bulletin so we got congratulated during Passing of the Peace and Pastor Marilyn mentioned us during the Joys and Concerns.

We bought ourselves an HDTV as our big gift and a new Wii game as a bonus gift. We had spent Saturday setting it up, so we used Sunday afternoon as the chance to play with the system. Wii pinball looks great on the new tv, by the way! We had a light lunch accompanied with our traditional root beer floats while we played games and relaxed.

After a quiet, restful afternoon, we went out to dinner at Sullivan's Steakhouse. The ambiance, the service, and the meal were all awesome! We had such a great time.

It was a delightful way to mark our special day and enjoy just being together.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Raechel's Graduation

Kris and I have been best friends since the 7th grade. She was my matron of honor when I got married. Her daughter, Raechel, was even at the ceremony - in utero! Since she was born, I have considered Raechel to be my niece. She is very special to both Bruce and me - and us to her! So when Rae graduated from high school, we were among the family in attendance at the ceremony.

Bruce and I drove up that morning, arriving in time for a quick lunch at the house. We also "helped" Raechel pick which dress to wear - which really meant just offering input on the two dresses and the state of the weather! Then we packed up and drove over to the Convention Center in two cars. The ceremony was quite nice - it was impressive how well they expedited everything and got the entire class through in plenty of time to re-set for the high school that was using the convention center later that evening.

We had arranged ahead of time to meet by the flag poles outside after the ceremony. We had to wait while Raechel hugged and visited with her friends and fellow classmates - eventually Kevin caught up to her there and got some photos, too! Then we posed for some shots by the flags and amid the lovely flowerbeds outside the Convention Center.

Afterward, we all went out to dinner before Raechel went on to a safe graduation party the school was holding. The five of us were crammed in Kris' husband Kevin's car - the three girls were in the back with the skinny graduate in the middle. Rae was wearing her cords (Latin society, Global Studies Academy) and her mortarboard. She kept swatting Kris with her Class of 2010 tassel. The following conversation ensued.

Kris: She's tassling me! She keeps hassling me with her tassel.
Katy: If she had a bunch of them, she could hassle you with a passel of tassels.
Kris: Hey, Raechel, I'll wrastle you for the passel of tassels.
Katy: Winner gets a castle.
Kris: You could be my vassal.
Raechel (who had realized that, counting the tassels on her cords as well as the one on her mortarboard, she actually had a passel of tassels): I won't be your vassal! I have won the castle for hassling you with the passel of tassels!

At which point we all started laughing so hard we could not breathe and tears were running down our faces - while Kevin and Bruce, in the front seats, were busy thinking we were awfully strange!

We went on to have a great dinner at a Greek restaurant and then headed back to the house. Rae went to her party and the adults pretty much crashed on the couch for the evening. We spent the night and got to congratulate Raechel again in the morning - when she came back from her all-night party! - before we headed back to NC shortly after lunch.

Even though it was a short trip, we were so glad to be able to go and support our dear niece on her big day!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Disney 2010

Bruce's sister, Debbe, is a Disney Vacation Club member. Essentially, she has a time-share at Disney World (FL). In addition, she earns rewards points from various promotions, etc., throughout the year. So, Debbe suggested we take a Family Vacation together. She provided the housing with her time-share and used her rewards points to upgrade to a bigger unit.

That was part of the reasoning for the timing of the trip - many people asked why we were going to Florida at such a hot time of year weather-wise - we were using up rewards points before they expired! It also gave us the chance to roll-in celebrations of my birthday, Dad Loebrich's birthday, and Mom and Dad Loebrich's anniversary - all of which fall within May and June. Additionally, as it was our first complete extended family trip in a while, we called it a Family Reunion and celebrated that, too!

So we were at Walt Disney World, staying on resort property, for 8 days. The party was comprised of: Mom and Dad Loebrich; Debbe, Duncan, and Derek (our nephew, he's 4); and us. We all had Park Hopper passes so we could zip around to whichever park we wanted. Our hotel was within walking distance of The Magic Kingdom (aka Disney World). The monorail took us to Epcot. Buses to Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) left from the front of our hotel regularly. It was a short drive to Disney's Animal Kingdom (primarily a zoo, although there are rides, characters, and shows - Bruce and I did not go to that). The girls also braved Orlando traffic and roads to go to Downtown Disney to shop, and later took Bruce with us even further off Disney property to go to the outlet mall.

Although it was danged hot - near or over 90 each day! - we had a blast!! We could see the Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks show "Wishes" from the balcony of our hotel (we could sit and watch in our pj's!). The four of us "kids" also caught the show from the park one day, which was beautiful. We saw the IllumiNations fireworks show at Epcot one night - awesome! And took in the SpectraMagic Parade at the Magic Kingdom (replaced the Main Street Electrical Parade) another evening - it was also awesome, by the way!

We had a family character breakfast at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom to celebrate my birthday. Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger were all there to visit with their friends, and to occasionally lead guests in the Pooh-rade around the restaurant! This was one of the best meals we had in the park, it was a great buffet with all sorts of tasty options. I was also most pleasantly surprised when the waiter brought me a cupcake with a candle in it, had our table sing me happy birthday, and then presented me with a card signed by Pooh and all his friends!

We had a family dinner at Hollywood and Vine in Disney's Hollywood Studios one evening. This was also a huge buffet, but there are no characters at this event. Nonetheless, the decor is fascinating and it was a nice meal. Dad and I both got birthday cards at this meal - they were signed by Handy Manny and crew. After this dinner, we got priority seating at Fantasmic, which is Hollywood Studio's night-time show.

While Bruce and I were watching Derek in the Magic Kingdom one morning - the rest of the family was on It's A Small World - we were invited to breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table by her highness' valet. I did not realize this was an actual deal, I thought he was just being in character, so I turned him down as we were supposed to wait at the castle for the rest of the family. Oops! Oh well, I'll know better next time and Debbe, Duncan, and Derek were having breakfast there the next day anyway.

Our final planned family meal was dinner at Chef Mickey's, which is in Disney's Contemporary Resort where we were staying. This was primarily a celebration of Mom and Dad's anniversary, although Dad and I got birthday cupcakes as well - which was okay since it meant extra cupcakes! All in all, the best part of this meal was meeting the Big 5 characters - Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald. Many of us missed Chef Mickey because we were in line for food when he came around to our table. We told his assistant and got to meet him later. He gave me a belated birthday kiss!

Easily the best family meal we had in the park was lunch at the Rose and Crown Pub in Epcot England. This was hilarious. The day had started out as sort of a free-for-all with Debbe, Duncan, and Derek going to Hollywood Studios for Star Wars stuff, Mom and Dad going to Epcot to take a more leisurely tour of the lands, and Bruce and me uncertain of what we wanted to do. Eventually, we decided we wanted to go to Epcot because there was this fish-n-chips cart in England and Bruce wanted to get some for lunch (I figured maybe they'd have fried chicken, too). So we called Mom and Dad, since they were in Epcot, to see if they wanted to do lunch. Turns out, Debbe and Derek were on the boat to Epcot to meet Mom and Dad to do fish-n-chips for lunch! Great minds, eh?

But it doesn't end there! Bruce and I got there first and discovered that all the fish-n-chips cart sold was, surprise, fish-n-chips (no, non-seafood). So we went to look at the menu at the Rose and Crown Pub next door. They had all sorts of stuff - including fish and chips - plus indoor seating which would also be air conditioned, huzzah! The fish-n-chips platter was huge and I hear it was yummy. I had the best pub burger ever, with malted ketchup for my fries which was delicious. Debbe got some fabulous potato soup. We had the greatest server ever, Gemma - who I want to say was from Scotland. She was so nice and friendly. We had been seated on the patio, which was actually quite cool with the breeze off the pond, but it was looking ominously like rain. Gemma told us she'd secured a table for us indoors and if we wanted to move due to the weather we only had to ask. When the winds whipped up, she came to get us before we'd even said a thing and helped us move our food, drinks, and sleepy nephew in his stroller into the restaurant. Then, at the end of the meal, she brought Dad a birthday card signed by the entire staff of the pub as well as a signed anniversary card for Mom and Dad, too. (I had stopped wearing my birthday button at this point.) Gemma totally went above and beyond to take care of us and was super sweet the entire time. That was a joyous respite in what had started out as a topsy-turvy day.

The other big to-do going on while we were at Disney was the Star Wars Weekends. This happens every spring as part of a deal with George Lucas (Master George), and was another reason for our scheduling our trip when we did. The event happens at Hollywood Studios and the entire park is filled with costumed re-enactors from a galaxy long ago and far away. In addition to Stormtroopers, Jawas, and Sandpeople, among many others, Jedi Mickey, Darth Goofy, Princess Leia Minnie, and Stormtrooper Donald patrol the park and greet fans. Star Wars music was playing on speakers everywhere, and there were tons of opportunities to get your picture taken with all the characters. As the big Star Wars geeks we kids all are, we had a blast!

When we weren't taking in big events, we were just hanging out and enjoying the parks. As Disney Club members, Debbe and her family are there frequently. They've even taken Mom and Dad a couple times in recent years. But Bruce had not been since they had last gone as a family when he was in junior high, and I had not been since I was 10. So we were more than thrilled to get to experience Disney Magic once again!

We pretty much rode all the big rides and saw most of the major stuff. I did not ride the Tower of Terror or the Rock and Rollercoaster, and since we didn't go to Animal Kingdom, we didn't ride the Expedition Everest coaster either. When I was a kid, I was afraid of Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion, so I was determined to go on them this time - fun! I think probably my favorites were Mission Space and Star Tours. Derek really likes Toy Story Midway Mania, which is also a darned fun ride. We rode Cinderella's Carousel just because. The Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland is fairly hokey, but I enjoyed it for the history of it, at least. Pirates of the Caribbean was fun - they've incorporated Johnny Depp as Captain Jack in a couple of places now, too! Although it's fairly obvious, the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular in Hollywood Studios is lots of fun.

There are about a zillion parades and shows in the parks. We joked that Disney could build a park solely for parades and have them running 24 hours a day easily! That said, they were fun, it was so cute to see the characters dancing and having fun. SpectraMagic, which replaced the Main Street Electrical Parade, was easily the best of the bunch - really great and gorgeous. I also highly recommend IllumiNations at Epcot, that is one great fireworks/laser show.

The best part about Disney overall, though, is the ambiance. It really is The Happiest Place on Earth. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming - from the housekeeper who came to give us fresh towels, to the Cast Members helping us on and off rides, to the other visitors you meet in the parks, and so on. You could just feel yourself getting happier just to be there. Plus the characters we all know are just walking about, so happy to see you and welcome you to their home. Minnie was always giving big kisses, it was so cute! Just delightful.

Some of my favorite memories of the trip are:
- Being unexpectedly chased by a Tusken Raider (Star Wars Sandpeople) in Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekend
- Riding the Test Track Rollercoaster with our nephew Derek and hearing him joyously and repeatedly shout, "Yeah, that's what I like, baby!!!" as the car whipped around the track at 75 miles per hour
- Getting a birthday kiss from Mickey at dinner at Chef Mickey's
- Seeing the Wishes fireworks show both from our balcony and in the park
- Meeting Darth Goofy and Princess Leia Minnie
- Having an amazing, totally unplanned, family lunch at the Rose and Crown Pub in Epcot England on a rainy Saturday

Friday, May 14, 2010


Today NBC announced the cancellation of Law & Order. When it ends its run later this month, the crime drama will leave the airwaves tied for longest-running drama with Gunsmoke, both shows having racked up 20 seasons.

I'm massively bummed about this! I'm a big fan. Law & Order is a standing series record on my DVR. I watch most of the spin-offs, too. And reruns on cable are a good way to pass an otherwise un-busy weekend afternoon.

Several years ago there was an ad campaign for Law & Order which said something like, "it's not about the characters, it's about the stories." Bull cookies! It's totally about the characters for me. I still miss Lenny Briscoe and Adam Shiff. I cried when Claire died (spurring Lenny's becoming clean and sober, btw). I am going to be really bummed if Lt. Van Buren dies of cancer in the season - now series - finale. Then there're Olivia and Elliott, whose lives are pretty darned messed up and who keep bucking the system to solve crimes. And what about Bobby and Alex, who got fairly rooked by the system and had to leave the force? But, at least that opened the door for Zach and Serena, who are pretty awesome. Lastly, I cannot forget to mention Munch, who holds the record for being the same character on FIVE different shows - really!

(Incidentally, if you followed all that, [especially if you know which characters are in the spin-offs!] odds are you're a fan, too!)

I'm really going to miss that show. So is New York City. I heard a report on Marketplace today about the economic impact losing Law & Order will have on the city. Every time you turn it on, any actor who's anyone who lives in NYC and has some spare time is on the show! Sopranos' actors were known to double-dip from time to time. Big, big names would guest star just for the opportunity to do a major dramatic turn. And I cannot forget all the crew and support staff who will also be adversely affected.

"In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories."

On May 24th, we close the book. Chung, CHUNG!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Garden Poem

Long ago & far away,
a little girl, a bright spring day;
a little yard with flowers fair,
a glint of sun on strawberry hair.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Post-Oscar 2010 Recap

So, as I noted before, this was rather an off-year for us as far as Oscar Season went. Thus, we didn't Live Blog the ceremony as in past years. Fear not, however, faithful readers, we most certainly did settle in for one of our favorite evenings of the year! A bottle of Coppola Rossi accompanied some delicious ravioli during the E! Live from the Red Carpet pre-show and many M&M's were consumed during the Oscar ceremony itself!

Fashion-wise, I hated Zoe Saldana's dress - the one that looked like several french poodles had been dyed purple and stuck to the train - and also wasn't too fond of the supporting actress nominee who looked like she had been wrapped in one giant red ruffle from head to toe. A runner-up for displeasing dress was Sarah Jessica Parker's odd butter-cream number - if it had either had the halter-neck or was just strapless, it might have been okay, but having both was weird and the dress seemed to change color depending on the light, which often looked worse than it should have. Oh yes, speaking of lousy color choices, Charlize Theron's "look at my boobs" fuschia dress with the big pink circles around her individual bosoms was another clunker. The good looks of the night were Kate Winslet and Sandra Bullock - both of whom wore stunning, classy gowns with just the right hairstyles and jewelry.

I have to mention that I thought that both Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe looked fabulous. They had just the right gowns for full-figured women, in good colors for them. Gabourey was hilarious, too - if you caught her on E's show, by the time she reached the ABC booth, she was pretty much repeating rehearsed lines, but on E she was fresh and personal and just a delight. And, of course, I can't leave out our girlfriend, the always-stunning, Queen Latifah, who once again looked fabulous.

The men were pretty much all wearing tuxes. The worst tux of the night was on the fashion critic guy from E, who looked like he had made his (well-fitted!) suit coat out of a grey paisley upholstery fabric. George Clooney - hot, Keanu Reeves - still my cool breeze over the mountain. Best tux of the night? Robin Williams, just plain classy.

As far as the awards went, I was shocked that The Hurt Locker won the biggies. I was rooting against Avatar just because I didn't think it had everything it needed to be the big winner, but I wasn't all that into Hurt Locker either. I was surprised and thrilled when Sandra Bullock won for Best Actress, I really thought the award would go to Meryl, but I liked Sandra in The Blind Side (and have liked her for a long time, actually) so that was cool. What we were happiest about was that both the short films (animated and live-action) that we liked actually won!

Speaking of short films, dang the lady who interrupted the documentary short winner was annoying! Bad blood, much? Also annoying, the multiple audio problems and the lousy presentation of the In Memoriam reel (shots too wide to read the names of the deceased, montage left out important people), and the consistent playing off of any co-winner unfortunate enough to have to give their acceptance speech second.

Overall, I thought the ceremony was only so-so. The opening number with Neil Patrick Harris was awesome. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are very funny, although their opening shtick seemed redundant after the opening musical number - sort of like, "oh, we're obliged to make fun of the nominees now." The show started out strong nonetheless, and was running at a really good clip for about the first hour. Suddenly, despite shortening a lot of the traditional elements (like presenting the lifetime achievement awards separately and just acknowledging them during the show, or eliminating the performances of the Original Song nominees), despite cutting off any winner not the first in their group to speak, with fewer montages, and a much-shorter Memorial reel, the show still managed to slow to a crawl and drag itself well past midnight, and then end abruptly with an impromptu wrap from Martin and Baldwin.

Okay, so it wasn't Rob Lowe serenading Snow White and Bjork didn't show up wearing a swan-dress, but it still wasn't Oscar's best year ceremony-wise. And we weren't all that thrilled with the selection of nominees, despite the expanded Best Picture category, but it was a fun night overall.

Now it's on to prepping for next year!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Here Come Oscars 2010!

It's nearly that time again...Oscar Night is practically its own holiday here at Chez Loebrich South! As usual, we've been out and about in our Annual Oscar Push, although it has been a little hindered this year. The Winter Olympics always impede our Oscar film viewing because, rather than going out to the cinemas, we're staying home watching figure skating or hockey (or bobsled, or luge, or freestyle aerial skiing, or...). The Oscars also always fall during Pledge Drive, so my work schedule doesn't always allow us enough time to go to the movies. Then there is the historic change to 10 nominees for Best Picture this year, which was done in the hopes of allowing more "blockbusters" into the nominations to attract more viewers/ratings.

That said, it has been an very odd year for movies. Most of 2009 we were going out around 2 times a month to see movies with our friends, we actually saw quite a lot of movies overall. And most of those films were our standard fare, that is to say "popcorn flicks" rather than the more "cerebral" movies the Academy usually notices. Nonetheless, we were doing pretty well when the nominations came out, making it fairly easy to pick up several others. Movies On Demand from the cable company also helped out quite a bit, and was way cheaper than the cinemas!

We've only seen about half of the Best Picture nominees, but this is a pretty easy one to predict. In fact, I kind of wonder whether the 10 nominees plan is going to backfire on the Academy, solely because Cameron released Avatar this year. If you think anything else is going to win this category, you're nuts, it is an amazing cinematic achievement. That said, I'd rather see almost any of the other films win myself. I found Avatar to be beautiful, technically amazing, but plot poor and predictable with flat acting. I was not really taken with The Hurt Locker either. I already knew that war is hell, and that all the military personnel involved are brave and talented people who are being affected in more ways than we can understand. Inglourious Basterds was brilliant, and I love Quentin Tarantino, so you'll see me holding out hope for him here, even though I know it's pointless.

In another unusual development this year, Up is nominated for both Best Animated Feature and Best Picture. I don't think that has ever happened before. The Best Animated Feature category came about after Beauty and The Beast was nominated for Best Picture and didn't win. The uproar was such that the Academy decided there should be a separate category. Up is definitely the Best Animated Feature of the year, but I wonder what the ramifications would be if it were to win in both categories. Unlikely, and something I really don't think *should* happen, thus I'm rooting for it in the Animated category and against it in the Picture category.

When it comes to Best Director (my sentimental favorite category), you know I'm rooting for Tarantino. In this case, he's a good bet. I'm hearing a lot of "sympathy vote" buzz for him (also in the Original Screenplay category). Could go to Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, but I wish it wouldn't. And James Cameron bugs the heck out of me, he's like Juggernaut or The Tick - nigh indestructible.

The acting categories are where we lost a lot of ground this year. I think that Jeff Bridges has a really good shot for Best Actor. Crazy Heart was awesome and he was spot-on perfect in it. All the buzz I'm hearing about Best Actress says Meryl Streep, and I love her in general, but I haven't seen Julie & Julia, although "biopics" are always a good way to get an Oscar - if you have a meaty enough character to sink your teeth into, you can do a really good dramatic turn. Everybody knows Mo'Nique is going to win the Supporting Actress category. I have not seen Push either, but I hear she's brilliant. When it comes to Supporting Actor, I've only seen two of the nominated roles. Matt Damon is pretty, but, amazingly, that's almost all he does in Invictus - be pretty, oh yeah, and play rugby rather well. The guy from Inglourious Basterds was really good.

Our standard category, the one in which we have usually already seen all the films when the nominations are announced, is Visual Effects. Yes, we had it done again this year. Guess what is going to win. Come on, you know this one!

Amazingly, the other categories we usually have locked up early on - Art Direction, Costume Design, and Cinematography - are ones in which we fell short this year. We also only saw 2 of the Animated Feature nominees, and none of the Foreign Film nominees. Like I said, we had rivals for our attention this time around.

Then, we got an unexpected bonus - the Oscar-nominated live-action and animated short films came to town on tour *before* Oscar Night! We squeezed those in around my Pledge Drive shifts last week and had a great time. We pretty much agreed on our favorites, too. If any of you regular readers have the opportunity to catch the Short Films, do it! There are some good ones in there. Our faves? Animated: Logorama. Live-Action: The New Tenants.

Tonight, we start getting ready for *next* year's Oscars - we're going to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D! Then, Sunday night we'll be settling in with our popcorn, M&M's, and bottle of Coppola wine to see who takes home the Golden Boys.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Blind Side

Nominated for Best Actress and Best Picture, The Blind Side is based on the true story of football player Michael Oher. As a high school student, he is homeless and struggling. His father has been missing for most of his life, his mother is a drug addict, and Michael is left mostly to his own devices. A good-hearted neighbor manages to bring Michael to the attention of the football coach at a Christian school. Michael's athletic prowess is enough to get the coach to lobby for his admission. Once in school, Michael crosses paths with Lee Ann Tuhy, whose two children also attend the school. Lee Ann is inspired to take Michael in as she sees that he has nowhere else to go.

A bond forms between this large black youth and the Southern white family who has taken him in. Eventually, the Tuhys become his legal guardians and work to help him improve his grades and get into college. Oh yeah, he also plays football...very well.

This is a very good movie. Yes, it's predictable. Yes, it's got a "movie of the week" feel to it. But it is also a feel-good story with some good performances and a great ending.

Moms, I think the vote is split here. My mom loves football, but there is the issue of Michael being a virtual orphan until he is adopted away from his birth-mother (who, admittedly, is not able to care for him). Both our moms don't like violent or scary movies, and there are two definitely scary scenes (car crash, fight in the projects). But overall, I think this could be a really good moms movie, primarily for its messages of overcoming adversity, finding that family is where your heart is, and becoming who you're supposed to be.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Nominated for Best Animated Feature, and adapted from the book by Neil Gaiman, Coraline is the story of a young girl who has just moved to a new town with her parents. As they ignore her to complete work on their project (they're writers producing a gardening catalog), Coraline discovers the passage to a secret world behind a hidden door in the house. Each night she travels to this parallel world peopled with parents who love and play with her, neighbors who are friendly and adoring, and lots of fun things to do. Until she discovers the darker side of this world.

I wanted to see this when it came out, but it got passed over for other options. The animation is similar in style to The Nightmare Before Christmas; the look and story have a very similar feel as well. I enjoyed the movie, it was cute and clever, although fairly predictable in the end. If you like animated features in this style, it's probably worth a rental. It's not as creepy as you would have thought from the commercials, either. But, Moms, sorry, but I don't think this one is right for you either.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Hurt Locker

Nominated for: Best Actor, Best Director, Best Picture, Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, Original Screenplay, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing, The Hurt Locker is the story of elite soldiers serving in the Iraq war. SFC William James is a munitions expert and adrenalin junkie, who dives recklessly into his job of diffusing bombs and returns for a repeat tour because it's what he loves to do. Sgt JT Sanborn is the unit's trainer, he does everything by the book and James' fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude bothers him immensely. Spc Owen Eldridge is overwhelmed, worried that even a minor mistake on his part might injure his comrades. The title of the movie is Army slang for being injured in an explosion.

There's a lot of buzz around this film. I've talked to people who really loved it, thought it was one of the best films they've seen this year. I didn't think it was all that and a bag of chips. What I got out of it was, "yes, war is hell," "yes, this war is insane and scary," "yes, some people get off on that sort of thing and can get in way over their heads," but that was about it. I don't know, though, I don't really like war movies much to begin with, so maybe I am subconsciously biased.

Either way, Moms, heck no, you do not want to see this film!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Inglourious Basterds

Creative spelling notwithstanding, Inglourious Basterds is the fictional story of a group of Jewish-American soldiers who make it their personal mission to kill or otherwise inconvenience the Nazis. At the same time, a young Jewish woman who owns a movie theater in Paris has an unusual opportunity dropped in her lap and seizes upon it as her own way to get back at the people who murdered her family. When the two projects unexpectedly coincide, and come up against a third plot against the Reich, noir hilarity ensues.

I did not want to see this movie when it came out. First, because the unusually spelled title really bugged me (darned English degree!). Second, because the TV commercials made it look like a total slapstick romp, which is really not our style of film. Well, I should not have doubted. Quentin Tarantino has been one of my favorite directors for years, and he has not lost his touch. Like most of his movies, Basterds is graphic and disturbing at times, and deals with some dark subject matter in an offbeat kind of way. It is also full of the quirky amusing moments and fabulous characters Tarantino is known for. In addition, the pacing is brilliant.

Moms, no way, sorry. Less squeamish folks, absolutely, this is up there in the ranks of Tarantino films, as good as Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. Good stuff.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bruce!

Today my beloved husband is 42. Happy birthday, darling, I love you more and more each day!

Friday, January 15, 2010


Based on the book Playing the Enemy, Invictus is the true story of how Nelson Mandela united his nation behind their rugby team and led them to the World Cup. An unusual political move, Mandela used the team to galvanize a previously divided country, and in so doing moved the hearts and minds of many who had formerly opposed him.

I am not a great historian, and even though this is a major event for a major political figure in my lifetime, I did not know the story going into this film. I think that was a good thing, because it meant I didn't know how it would end. Now, I probably could have guessed as the plot is pretty predictable and has a "movie of the week" feel to it, but I didn't.

So, it's predictable, but it's well-acted (of course it is, Morgan Freeman is just too darned good, and Matt Damon's no slouch, even though he doesn't really do much in this film) and very enjoyable. It's easy to get swept up in the emotion of the film, and that's partly the point. Add the fact that you get to watch some blood-pumping rugby games, and you've got a nice evening at the theater.

Come Oscar time, expect at least one acting nod, although I can't guarantee a win. Moms, nope, probably not, considering the heavy shadow of Apartheid which hangs over the film (purposefully); everybody else, check it out.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

Continuing our Robert Downey, Jr. fest, we saw Sherlock Holmes. Inspired by the books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the film takes a somewhat different tack. In this movie, Holmes is an eccentric detective who makes up for his lack of social graces with his tremendous martial skill and deductive reasoning. His relationship with Dr. Watson is almost mythic, their connection seems practically telepathic/empathetic as they understand each other almost without using words.

The story begins with the capture of a serial killer. Just before the criminal is executed, he asks to see Holmes. His last statement is that three more will die and Holmes will not be able to stop the deaths. And the game is afoot!

Okay, this movie is hokey and predictable, and not in the same vein as any of the books (I'm still scared of "The Case of the Speckled Band" to this day, btw), but it is so much FUN. I enjoyed the clever repartee, the relationship between Holmes and Watson (LOVE Jude Law in almost anything anyway), and the big revelation as the case was solved. Sure, it's a popcorn flick, but it was good time.

This is also not a moms movie, and I don't think it is going to be a successful launch of a new film franchise for Robert Downey, Jr., but that's okay. Iron Man 2 comes out in the spring.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Soloist

Based on a book, The Soloist is the true story of Nathaniel Ayers - a talented musician whose mental struggles have left him living in the streets - and Steve Lopez - the LA Times reporter who saw the music of his story. One chance encounter sets things in motion. Lopez is drawn to Ayers first simply as a byline, but Ayers in turn is drawn to Lopez, seeing him as something of a savior, protector, and lifeline. Through their friendship, both men become something more than who they were in the beginning.

I had heard good things about this film, so when it showed up on HBO, we watched it one evening. The acting is great, the music is beautiful, and the story is very moving - although somewhat difficult to follow. Like life, there isn't a total resolution - lots of plot lines are not neatly tied-up for the viewer by the end of the movie - but it is based on a true story, which is still ongoing. All in all, this was a nice little film about intriguing characters.

Sorry, moms, I think it's too intense for you, though.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Snow softly falling
Sirens calling across the stars
Go gently sweet prince

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year 2010!

Can you believe it's a new decade? Me either. Where has the time gone? No matter.
May 2010 bring us all health, happiness, prosperity, and peace.
Rabbits, rabbits!