Sunday, December 31, 2023

Welcome to 2024

 Annamaria welcoming the New Year

Here is how we are welcoming 2024 in Florence.  

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2023

It's Auld Lang Syne Time Again



Several years ago, a Mykonian lass who'd read my parody of "T'was the Night Before Christmas," suggested I take a crack at a similar treatment of a New Year's Eve standard derived from a poem by perhaps the most famous Scot of all (other than our Caro)–Robert Burns (1759-1796).  I haven't posted that parody in several years, because I see "Auld Lang Syne" as a paean of sorts to not forgetting old friends; somewhat of a downer subject as we all hope and pray for a far better new year for our world.

HOWEVER, this year I took another look at my parody, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but new meaning for all, both uplifting and clear. [Sorry, I couldn't help myself.]  For I realized the question posed in the first stanza is answered with optimism in the final line of each following stanza. Or so I think.

Robert Burns
Burns wrote the poem (here’s the original version) in 1787, set to the tune of a traditional folk tune (Roud #6294).  Its seminal phrase, “Auld Lang Syne,” is traditionally translated as “long, long ago” though “old long ago” is more literally correct (based upon my deep understanding of the Lowland Scots language) and is a song about love and friendship in times past. For those of us who believe in time travel, astral planes, and questionable sobriety, I should point out that the phrase “auld lang syne” has been used by other poets in their work, including one Allan Ramsay (1686-1757), which I guess gives our Caro and her Alan a claim to have beaten me to the punch (bowl).

The other Ramsay...also with another career, a wigmaker

Happy New Year, everyone—and please forgive me, Scotland.

Should odd acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should odd acquaintance be for not,
And made to toe the line?

As in odd.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

And surely you’ll pick yours to hug!
And surely I'll pick mine!
And we'll show a lot o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

We all have run about the hills
In search of flower wine;
And wandered many a weary foot,
But we’re all fine.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

We too have paddled up the stream,
In mourning, fun, and grind;
And seas between us broad have roar'd,
But we’re all fine.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

And here's a hand, my trusty friend!
And give a hand o' thine!
And we'll drink to kindness and good will,
For we’re all fine.

For all fond thine, I cheer,
For all fond mine,
We'll share a cup o' kindness yet,
For we’re all fine.

To get your head back in the holiday mood in case I misread the uplifting nature of my parody--and me hopefully back in the good graces of the Scots--here's the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards playing Auld Lang Syne accompanied by a journey to the timeless Scotland of Robert Burns' inspiration.

A Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year to ALL!


Friday, December 29, 2023

A brief wish for 2024

 A Happy New Year to it all well it comes. I wish you peace, health and creativity.

There's a lot of things on social media about 'This is where I should be, compared to this is what's happening.

Where I should be? Well,  Conan Doyle wrote A Study In Scarlet in a Month. That's where I'd like to be.

This is a cartoon of what's actually happening.


I'm sure we have all been there, and if not you are not a writer!

So as I am doubting my ability to put three words together, I thought I'd give you a quote from Neil Gamain for 2024.



Thursday, December 28, 2023

Old Media

Wendall--every other Thursday

I thought I'd join Kwei and Sujata in talking about media this week. Well, old media, anyway. 

As I sat last night in front of a friend’s very highest definition television, it reminded me again just how old school I really am.

In case anyone doesn't recognize that thing on's an antenna.

Needless to say, they were a bit shocked that, as a film teacher at UCLA, I am still using two analog televisions (one a gift from 1987) in my house and will only get a flat screen when one of them dies. And even then, I’ll probably get a used one that is less high definition, since to me, the newest technology makes all the 70s films I love look like bad BBC/PBS two-dimensional videotaped dramas from that era.

I still have vinyl, of course. That's hip again, apparently?



One of my LP stacks.

A few favorites, including a signed Bangles release...

I will never abandon Mr. Newman.


I still have cassettes, I still have VHS and DVDs and I still have working equipment to play all these things, along with my true blue old media electrician, Joe at Stone Electrics, who keeps them all working. As he once said to me, after returning a beloved machine three days earlier than promised: “When a woman asks if you can fix a VCR and when you say yes, she says ‘I’ll be there in ten minutes,’ she needs her damn VCR.”


Someone told me "reorganizing is hoarding." Too bad.

Of course, I also have a crazy number of physical books, which I guess also qualifies as old media, or old school, or both.


And it’s not just media—I still have the original Krupp’s coffee grinder that I bought in 1983, as well as the Osterizer blender I took away with me when I went to college. And a few t-shirts from those days, too.


So, that qualifies me, probably, as the worst and most pathetic type of “Boomer.” I don’t know for me if it’s nostalgia, an inability to change, a high tolerance for static, skips, and pops, or it’s because I hate throwing away things that still work. Or fit!


However, I recently happened into a video store in our new neighborhood, and found I’m not the only one who is turning back to VHS tapes in all their low-definition glory. After the owner and I compared notes and he took me through his most precious and most popular items, I couldn’t stop laughing because, unless they were horror, I pretty much owned all of them.


A section of the "media" closet in our old apartment. Each shelf has a layer of tapes behind the ones you can see.

And then, I saw an article about that very video store in the Washington Post just before Christmas called “With VHS and video stores, ‘tape heads’ are fueling an analog revival.” You can read it here:


And this followed another Washington Post article and a Twitter flitter featuring Guillermo del Toro and Christopher Nolan declaring people who hold onto old media as saviors of these films for posterity, as so many great pieces of work float in and out of streaming, or have licensing issues and never stream at all.


del Toro and Nolan, on my side!

You can imagine how much that bolstered up my case for keeping all my movies with my non-hoarding husband. This is an argument we have been having for so long the picture below is actually one of the anniversary cards I gave him a few years ago. But even he can’t argue too much with two of our greatest living directors . . .



So, maybe I am not as out of touch as I thought. Or maybe I’m just old enough to know that everything, good or bad, comes back around. So, here’s a cross section of a few of my alphabetized tapes, just in case anyone else fancies a trip down VHS lane, or wants a reminder of something they might want to see again. 

Happy New Year, everyone!

                    -- Wendall

If anyone is looking for something to consider for a Best Humorous Lefty nomination, Wendall's newest Cyd Redondo trip, CHEAP TRILLS, is eligible.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

My Favorite Fun Streamable South Asian Shows of 2023

 Sujata Massey


I'm more of a reader than a TV watcher, but the quality and creativity of films and episodic series just keeps rising. Of course, this lures me in. My special treat is the occasional binge on OTT content that's either made in India or about the South Asian diaspora. During 2023, I found particular joy in these exhilarating, upbeat productions. 


On Amazon Prime Video:

Made in Heaven, Season 2. 

This is a fictional series about Tara and Karan, two cool young wedding planners in Delhi who are also friends and, in this season, flatmates. The show is full of glitzy fashion and architecture, subtle humor, and loads of social awareness and romance. This is one of the few shows on my list where the English dubbing (done with Indian voices) is natural enough that you don’t need to watch in Hindi with subtitles. Each episode covers a freestanding story about a couple getting married. Tara and Karan both have personal dramas that started in Season 1, and there’s a whole ensemble of family and friends introduced, so it's more understandable to watch the seasons in order. 

 Modern Love Chennai. 

The Modern Love series of film shorts is inspired by the essays made popular in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. Previous seasons of the Indian franchise of this show have been set in the cities of Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Delhi. This series is filmed in Hindi with subtitles in many languages, and no dubbing. Each episode is a standalone story, giving a nice feeling of satisfaction after the 45-minute episode finishes. Also, it's great that the relationships explored in these filmed short stories are not all about young men and women headed toward matrimony. Love between parent and child, or between a mentor and young person, or between friends are all grist for this fantastic mill. This is not Bollywood song and dance—it’s the real scene in one of South India's most dynamic cities. 


Polite Society (also on Apple plus, Googleplay and YouTube) 

Although this 104-minute film is set in Britain and is made by a British-Pakistani filmmaker, Nida Manzoor, it makes the list because it hilariously spoofs the striving community of Pakistani expats wanting excellent marriages for their children. Ria, a rough-and-tumble teenager, tries to save her artistic older sister Lena from willingly heading into arranged marriage with a hunky OB-GYN who seems too good to be true. Part martial arts action adventure, part kooky science fiction, and part family comedy, and my best laugh-out-loud film seen in 2023.





My appreciation for this historical series rocketed upward over the course of a few episodes. Set in the world of  1940s and 50s Bombay film world, Jubilee traces the destiny of three men and two women involved in acting and producing films. Their entanglements, including love affairs, violence, betrayal and legal suspense, are themselves a homage to the beloved tropes of Bollywood. But, oh—the gorgeous sets, cars and clothes, the stirring music, social worldview, and compelling acting! Stream it with subtitles or English dubbing, because the vocal track recorded by the show's original actors is top notch.





This 141-minute comedy about a young Punjabi housewife, her family and college friends falls into the realm of ‘women empowerment’ cinema. There are good laughs and surprising directions taken, with some good song and dances. Of all the shows I’ve mentioned, this is the most stereotypically Bollywood, although the outcome is a pleasant surprise. This film isn’t dubbed, and it has subtitles.



The Archies. 

The Archies puts Riverdale, the fictional location known to readers of Archie Comics, into North India. Specifically, up in a historic hill station populated since the early 1800s by a majority of Anglo-Indians, which gives a logical reason for the mostly fair-haired teenagers with names including Archie, Veronica, Betty, Reggie, and Ethel. I strongly advise against watching the dubbed version, which is Netflix’s standard setting for those of us streaming outside of India.  The dubbed version is painful because it’s voiced by Americans which shatters the illusion of an Anglo-Indian community. Watch it in Hindi with English subtitles, and you won't miss a beat. 


The rollicking musical score brings Bollywood, Broadway and 1950s-60s pop, and the dances by the teens and the crowds around them are the best I’ve seen in a long time. The teenagers’ parents, especially Veronica’s borderline nefarious father, Mr. Lodge, also lend interest to the plot. A real estate crisis devised by Mr. Lodge is something that only Archie and the gang can solve—with a lot of songs and dance and a '60s protest. If you liked Hairspray, Grease, or Barbie, you’ll adore The Archies. In fact, my adoration led me to stream it two times within the last twenty days. 



On Hulu (and Apple)

India Bites

Chef Shrimoyee Chakraborty, a British Indian restauranteur,  takes viewers to both Mumbai and her hometown of Kolkata to meet interesting people and get up close with food in this one-season program. The food is geared toward what a visitor might find in restaurants that reflects multiculturalism—such as the Persian-Indian mix of Parsi cuisine, the late night joys of Indo-Chinese bar food, and savory chaat snacks gobbled on the street. But this delightful series is not just about food; it’s hangout-interviews with people involved in acting, startup companies, and non-traditional romantic relationships. Stream this show before traveling to Mumbai or Kolkata, because it will give you a to-do list for sightseeing and eating. Recorded in English.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Christmas in Florence

Annamaria on Christmas Day

As my Christmas card to you, here are some photos taken over the last four days, of Florence decked out for the prettiest of holidays.  These images come with all my good wishes for beautiful days for you as 2023 comes to an end.  Let us hope that 2024 will bring us at least a modicum of the Peace on Earth we all long for.

I hope with all my heart that, for you, the new year will be filled with many joys.