May 2011

Remember Diana Nyad, Olympian and holder of the world record for longest swim?  Back in 1978 she tried swimming the 103 miles from Cuba to Miami, but had to stop after some 40 hours because of bad weather.  Decades later, in which she worked as a television sportscaster, she tried again, at the age of 60.  That attempt last summer had to be cancelled, again because of weather, but this summer she’s trying again and I am SO rooting for her.

I heard Diana talk about this summer’s big swim on the Leonard Kopate Show, revealing that it’ll take a support team of over 20 people and a budget of about $400,000 to make the swim, which will take over 60 hours.  Think about it – 60 hours in the water.  Famously “shark-infested” waters, at that.  She won’t be using a shark cage, though – no asterisk for this record-seeker.

From Diana’s website we learn that she’s identifies strongly as a Boomer.

For decades, Diana has been at the heart and soul of the baby boom generation, many of whom are feeling irrelevant, lacking in vitality, and dejected that their best days are behind them. This summer, the imagination of the American public will once again catch fire. The authentic message, the walk that Diana walks, will resonate with millions of baby boomers looking for renewal, parents hoping their children spark to inspired lives, and women searching for proof that middle age is their prime, not the beginning of the end.

Love her!   And even after years on television, it seems that appearing swimming-cap-dented and make-up-free in this video doesn’t bother her at all.

I’ll be following her blog for news of the big swim, scheduled for sometime in July.   I know it’s weather permitting, but I find myself surprisingly invested in her being able to make the attempt this time – and accomplish it. For all of us.

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Wanda Sykes keeps getting funnier

by Susan Harris on May 17, 2011

Or so it seems to me, based on her HBO show “I’ma Be Me,” which I saw thanks to Netflix.  It was filmed here in D.C. in August of 2009, when Sykes had this to say about the Obamas.  (If you like to be warned about an impending use of the F-word, consider yourself warned. Repeatedly.)

She quickly gets off the topic of politics, though never strays far from sex.  Her imitation of the wives of Viagra users is what had my snorting uncontrollably.  Rent it!

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Michele Forbes in AMC's "The Killing"

Rarely do I watch TV shows or movies about violent crime – it just messes with my sleep.  But the reviews of AMC’s “The Killing” were off-the-charts positive, so I gave in and am now solidly hooked.

And yes, the quest to find the murderer of a 17-year-old girl is at the center of the story, but just like real life, it doesn’t happen in one 50-minute episode.  They’re spending a whole season solving this one crime, so there’s plenty of time for unusual things to happen.  Like getting to know the grieving family, who get to be real people with back stories and demons.  And Praise the Lord, the mother is played by the totally riveting Michelle Forbes.  Looks intense here, doesn’t she?

Michelle Forbes in "True Blood"

The last time I saw Forbes she was playing a “maenad” in HBO‘s True Blood.  I’d never heard of a maenad, either, but it’s a supernatural character who managed to turn a whole Louisiana town into stoned-out killers and orgy-goers.  She was seductive and scary as hell and I’d dare anyone to take their eyes off her. TV Guide called her portrayal one of the Best Performances of the Year.  Indeed.

Forbes first impressed me as the wife of therapist Gabriel Byrne in HBO’s excellent series In Treatment.

Just pondering this one actress’s recent bio reminds me that there’s a whole lotta good television these days.  More than at the movies, it seems to me.


Those crazy TV show websites!
You know what you find on websites of TV shows, right?  Episode summaries, cast bios, forums for discussing the show.   But there’s more – games and quizzes!  Games like “Suspect Tracker” and “Search the Victim’s Room”. You know, really fun stuff!

I guess I’ll skip the games and just watch the show.

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How Craig found art on the bed of a cheap scanner

by Susan Harris on May 5, 2011

If you haven’t yet seen the kind of art that’s possible using the scanner function of a cheap home printer, you’re probably not reading gardenblogs because they’re all the rage in that part of the Internet, thanks to Master Scanner Craig Cramer.  He first learned about scanning from an article in the NY Times about scan artist Ellen Hoverkamp, and one glance at her awesome website shows us why.  (If plants aren’t your thing, you might be inspired by her portfolio’s “Food” and “Off-Season” categories.)

These Amaryllis blooms don't even look real!

Craig works as the communications specialist for horticulture at Cornell and has popularized the art form by contributing scans to the popular Garden Blogger Bloom Day meme, now in its fourth year.  Just click here to see over three years of Craig’s scans, one for almost every month, even in winter.

Two of Craig's winter scans - using dried grasses and poinsettias.

How to do Scan Art

It’s almost as simple as covering your subjects with a dark cloth of some kind, then clicking “scan”.  Okay, there’s a bit more to it:

All scans by Craig Cramer, with permission.  Click here to see the long list of websites and blogs that Craig is responsible for, but don’t miss his his personal blog.  It’s mainly but not completely about gardening – I love his posts about music.

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Boomer grooms finally allowed to be grooms

by Susan Harris on May 1, 2011

Charlie Fabella (L) and Bill Yosses, photo by Anthony Jalandoni

Before Royal Wedding fever cools off too much, I’ve gotta say that same-sex wedding announcements, which we’re finally seeing in the Washington Post and the New York Times, are always a pick-me-up to this reader.   I’ve never looked twice at hetero wedding announcements – because they’re sooo boring if you don’t know the people – but gay weddings are different.  They’re still a rarity (still only legal in 5 states and D.C.) and each one is a triumph of love over bigotry – cue the Kleenex box!

So in today’s NY Times darned I didn’t see a name I recognize grinning proudly with his new spouse – that of Bill Yosses, 57, “executive pastry chef” chef at the White House.  He married special education teacher Charlie Fabella at a courthouse in D.C.

According to the Times, he was tapped for the White House job by Laura Bush in 2007, and in 2009 heard his new boss Michelle Obama saying that “desserts would be rare at family meals and that portions would be scaled down.  And with her emphasis on healthy eating, his responsibilities broadened to included beekeeping and tending the White House Garden.”  Ah, if only more pastry chefs would see the light (or have it shown to them) and grow vegetables instead.  Even better?  If the people who make Oreos got food religion, too.   As if.

But there’s more!  Today’s Times was a jackpot for lovers of gay weddings, including another with an even more famous Boomer taking his vows.  That’s John Goldwyn, 52, scion of the movie producer family and a producer himself – we have him to thank for “Dexter”.  This time, the groom had been down the aisle before – in a straight marriage that resulted in an adult daughter, who “led the couple in an exchange of vows and rings.”  Sadly, though, theirs was a commitment ceremony with no legal standing, since the right to marry in California was snatched away by the odious Proposition 8.

So sure, all spring brides and grooms deserve their share of congratulations, but gay newlyweds get an extra shout-out from this reader for being trail-blazers.  And no matter how sappy their how-they-met stories may be, I read every word.

Photo by Anthony Jalandoni, which I’m assuming is kosher to use because it was released with their wedding announcement.

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