Favorite quotes from Monk

He’s the guy.


I don’t know how he did it, but he did it.


You’ll thank me later.


She’s the guy.


We should wait for Natalie. She’s in charge…of saying the right things.


Here’s what happened.


You can taste the symmetry.


It’s a blessing…and a curse.


Here’s the thing.


Unless I’m wrong, which, you know, I’m not.


I have nature on my hands!


I’m seriously considering you for employee of the month.


I just solved the case.


Posted in Humor | Leave a comment

Melancholia – Movie Review

I have to admit, this is one of the nicest, most orderly End of the World movies I’ve ever seen.  No zombies, no cannibals, no Mad Max type degenerates terrorizing a handful of survivors.  If the world has to end, this isn’t a bad way to do it:  a humungous rogue planet comes into contact with our own, with explosive results.  Ka-poosh!  And it’s all over.

But it happens in slow motion, over the course of days.  Just enough time to tell the story of a newly married couple, Justine (Kirsten Dunst)  and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard)  Justine is a sufferer of depression, or what the Greeks called melancholy.  Her wedding night is a roller coaster of emotions seen in her face: utter happiness, followed by disgust, disinterest, and an unshakable bone weariness.

Her new husband notices all this and tries to help.  In a private room he gives her a picture of an apple orchard he just purchased, a place they can rock sedately and enjoy their golden years.  Justine says to him, “I’ll keep it with me always.”  When she gets up to rejoin the party, she leaves the crumpled photo behind.

Throughout the night-long wedding reception, no mention is made of the celestial bad boy coming our way, called Melancholia.  The bride’s brother in law, John (Kiefer Sutherland) insists that top scientists have certified that the larger planet will simply fly by, giving those on Earth a fine show.

But top scientists have been known to be wrong.  Differing viewpoints predict a Dance of Death involving the two planets; think of a tetherball wrapping itself around a pole.

The marriage ends before the night is over, guests leave, and left behind on John’s large estate are Justine, her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), her nephew Leo (Cameron Spurr), and John.   Melancholia is now close and bright enough to be seen in the daytime.  Is the planet leaving for good?  Or coming back?  A homemade wire and wood device made to track the planet’s movements seems to suggest both.

Birds stop chirping, horses plunge and whinny, and the Earth’s atmosphere thins and makes it hard to breathe.  Lights and power go out and even batteries stop working.  As disaster approaches, Justine seems to be handling it fine, while Claire and John begin to lose their wits and composure.  Their actions and reactions are interesting to watch, and make us think how we ourselves might handle this situation.

A long montage in the early part of the movie shows us just what is going to happen, so it won’t be a spoiler to tell you how it ends.  It really does end.  But seeing how this group of people spend their last days on Earth is a fascinating study of our universe, our planet and the characters that populate it.

Posted in Movie reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Last Day In Ecuador

Friday, March 18, 2011.  It was the last full day of our Ecuador trip, and in some ways the most important of all. We were going to meet Stella’s sponsor child, Sibel.

Originally, our group was going to meet the children and their mothers at an amusement park.  But at the last minute, this was changed to a water park in the outskirts of Quito, roughly a 40 minute bus ride away.  We brought all the gifts, plus foodstuffs we had bought at the supermarket days before.   Stella was very excited as the bus pulled into the park.

There were no signs of the families in the parking lot, but after entering through a stone gate, we saw a crowd of people on the grass.  Various children were holding signs, and one of them was Sibel.

She was dark haired and pretty, with a serious expression.  Behind her stood her mother Yolanda, also pretty, a translator, and a minder from Compassion International, to make sure all went well.   Sibel gave a flower arrangement to Stella, then we both posed for pictures with the child.  After some pleasantries, we all trooped over to the indoor snack bar for some unusual ice cream bars.

After ice cream, Stella changed into her bathing suit and took Sibel into an inviting pool.  I was the appointed picture taker and didn’t want to get wet, so I snapped away as the two of them splashed and swam together.   Stella was smiling happily, and Sibel seemed to be relaxing a bit.

For lunch we had chicken and rice, then went back to the pool.  There was one water slide, but much smaller than the ones we knew in the U.S.   We all lounged around while they swam, and I took pictures of Yolanda and the interpreter.

In the mid-afternoon, we paused to exchange presents in the snack bar.   Stella had a large bag of gifts for Sibel and her family, and they gave Stella six white and red roses and two plaques.  It was a happy, emotional time.

It was then time for the children to board their buses.  We all gathered on the grass where we’d first met the children, for a large group photo.   It was now starting to rain.  The photo took a while, then we walked with Sibel to her bus.  Crying, she said goodbye to Stella and I, and back home they all went.

Our group got back onto our bus as well, and we stopped at a marketplace to pick up some souvenirs.  I bought a tee shirt and two table runners for the folks back home.

The last dinner at our hotel was an Ecuadorian feast in a private room.  Goat meat, calf hoof soup and serviche shrimp were served, along with rice and pasta.  Stella and I left a bit left early to explore the hotel grounds a bit more, then we went off to rest.  Our wake up call would be at 3 am, and we needed to be packed and ready by four.

Our Ecuador adventure was at an end.  Those seven days went by fast, but they were deep and meaningful, unlike any vacation I’d taken before.  Stella may go back someday, to check on Sibel and help her succeed in her world.

Posted in Mere's travels, My Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Restaurant Review: McDonald’s!

When the long-awaited McDonald’s opened on 237 Main St, long lines of people waited to get in.  My interest was piqued.  I simply had to find out why, and bring back a full report.

I came in around two o’clock, to avoid the lunch rush crowds.  Walking in though the glass doors, there was no one to greet me, but I noticed people waiting at a long stainless steel counter, so I joined them.  I had heard of this “self-service” concept, but now here I was, trying it out.  This was going to be an adventure!

As I waited, I studied the menu with colorful pictures, high up on the walls.  My, those hamburgers and other treats looked delicious.  But I wasn’t very hungry, and decided a milkshake would best satisfy my sweet tooth.  A nice young woman took my order.  “With whipped cream and cherry?” she asked.  Oh no, without, I replied.

When she came back with my (small) vanilla shake, I noticed there was ample room left in the clear plastic cup.  I enquired if she might put a bit more shake in, since I wasn’t getting the whipped cream and cherry.   She relayed my question to a supervisor, who didn’t answer but took the cup away and briskly filled it to the rim.  I thanked them sincerely and left the counter.

But now, where to sit?  There was no host or hostess to guide me, so I walked among the tables until I found an empty spot.  Sad to report, the tabletop was not as clean as it could be, with definite signs that someone had been there before me.  I sat anyway, and took in the ambience of the room.

It was very bright, with so many windows.  Curtains would be a nice touch, I thought.  And the voices around me seemed loud and shrill, especially when a child acted up.  Back in the kitchen, people were shouting and pans were banging.  My goodness, what a boisterous group they were.

I sampled my milkshake, which was tasty but very thick.   I decided to remove the lid and stir my shake with the plastic straw they provided me.  I must say that if all the food here was this good, I’d have to return in the near future.

I thought someone, maybe the nice supervisor, might come over to ask how my food was, or if I needed water.  A glass of ice water at that time would have hit the spot.  But no, I was unlucky.  The only worker I saw was sweeping around a nearby table and seemed not to notice me.

Since I had paid for my milkshake ($2.19 plus tax) at the counter, I was free to leave at will.  I almost left my empty cup on the table, but with a start, went back to retrieve it.  I would have to be my own busboy, I thought, chuckling to myself.

Next time I shall sample one of those hamburgers, and perhaps some “fries.”   Heavens, I’d recommend this restaurant to everyone, as long as they don’t mind the lack of personal service.   They are open 24 hours (!) so you can come in any time.  Tell them the Eatery Beat reviewer sent you.

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

These Wings Won’t Fly Away

What is the deal with wings and the Big Game?  Did I miss something?  Was a law passed?  An Act of Congress?  A Constitutional amendment?  Who decided that everyone had to eat chicken wings and nothing else, in front of a television whenever the Big Game is on?

My God, it’s everywhere you look.  Every third coupon in my Sunday paper shows platters of wings, plates of wings, wings piled to the ceiling.  Sometimes even a little bowl of blue cheese dressing.  Somebody somewhere really wants us all to eat wings, and plenty of ’em, during this game.  Was there ever a time, I wonder, when it was all right NOT to eat wings?

Yes, my mind tells me.  There was something called “popcorn” and “chips”.  There may have been “dip”, although that sounds odd.  These were possibly eaten during the Big Game.  Maybe even actual food, like a meal.

I dunno.  I guess I’m not crazy about wings.  When I order Chinese food, the wings are usually the last thing I eat.  There’s not much meat on there, but many bones.  Lots of work for very little reward.  And I think I’ve tried the extra hot, spicy, bright red kind.  But it’s not really food, is it?  Can anyone eat more than one or two?  Could anyone really eat these for three plus hours during a game?

What about vegetables?  What about the four food groups?  Should we forget everything we learned about nutrition just because a Big Game is on?

Maybe I should lighten up and go with the flow.  I might feel more normal, somehow, if I can rustle up some wings for the game.  I’ll go see the Number One movie in America, whatever it is.  I’ll read the latest James Patterson novel, whoever he is.  I’ll spend my life savings for one of those huge Ford trucks, even if my commute to the office is six miles round trip and I don’t have any “payloads” to haul around.  Yee-ha!

With the brainwashing complete, I feel better already.  Tucking my oversized napkin under my chin as my eyes glaze over in anticipation.  Turn on the game, and bring on those wings!

Posted in Humor, Pet Peeves | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dolphin Tale – Movie Review

My taste in movies is a bit strange.  I can watch and enjoy almost any kind, ranging from the dark comedies of the Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, Fargo), to period pieces like The King’s Speech, and such recent fare as Young Adult and The Descendants.

Every now and then, though, I just want to see something where I know all will turn out well.  Where I know the nice dolphin is not only going to live, but go on to star in the movie about its life.  An uplifting, eye-watering, feel good flick that even a grown up / big kid like me can enjoy.  A case in point:  Dolphin Tale.

A troubled young boy named Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), missing his long-gone father and losing his cousin and best friend to military service, must take summer school to repair his awful grades.  Riding his bike home after school, he sees the dolphin; beached, tangled in ropes, tail caught in a crab trap.  He does his best to free the creature, who is soon whisked away for treatment by experts from the nearby Clearwater Marine Hospital.

The next day he skips school to check on his new friend, and is brought up to date by the daughter of the local veterinarian.  The dolphin (named Winter), is doing all right, except that her tail is badly infected and must be amputated.  She learns to swim without it, although that leads to other problems.  Bottom line: without a replacement tail, Winter’s days are numbered.

Enter a doctor (Morgan Freeman) from a nearby VA hospital, who happens to specialize in fitting new parts to humans.  He’s never worked with a dolphin before, but hey, he’s got some time and access to technology.  Tail after artificial tail is tried, and Winter rejects each one.  Not only that, but money’s running out, the sale of the marine hospital to a hotel developer is imminent, and a hurricane decides to blow through.

How Winter and her human friends overcome these problems is a sight to behold.  The young, painfully shy boy is transformed by this new direction in life, and Winter brings out the best in everyone she encounters.  It’s a bit of a formula, but I fell for it…hook, line and sinker.  The performances are understated and at times, close to profound.

Dolphin Tale is an affective little movie that left me thinking about dolphins in general and the ones who recently beached themselves off Cape Cod.  I hope some of them, like Winter, were saved.

Posted in Movie reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Meeting Ecuadorian Moms and Kids

The Tumbaco region of Quito is an area in which some of the poorest Ecuadorians live and work.  Our group visited a church there and surrounding neighborhoods on Thursday, March 17, 2011.

But first, a visit to the home office of Compassion International.  Stella, myself and the rest of us were split into four groups and given tours by the staff.  The director, an affable man who spoke excellent English, gave us a welcoming talk, and explained a bit about how their programs work.  This director was once Minister of the Interior, in charge of all military and police in the country.  A coup on the government led to his dismissal and his eventual path to human service work.

Our next stop was a project where a church service was taking place.  Many mothers and young children were there; we took pictures of many of them.  The project is called CSP, or Child Survival Program.  After the service, we all met the children and their mothers in the courtyard outside.

We were divided into more new groups to do home visits.  Our small group of five went with Leda and her young son Andy to their modest house about a half mile away.   The house was in a poor neighborhood, with stray dogs ambling by and older cars parked near the curb.  We had to watch our heads while walking under the bent metal roof on the pathway to Leda’s house.  It had two rooms; one for eating and cooking, the other for sleeping and living (two beds, a love seat and a padded chair).  All were covered by clean but worn looking sheets.

We were seated, then took turns asking Leda questions via an interpreter.

Our food was delivered in Styrofoam boxes – another nice lunch of chicken, rice and vegetables.  Coca Cola was served as well; one year old Andy drank freely from a 20 ounce bottle.   After lunch we continued our questions.  One was, how can we pray for you?  Leda’s answer:  Please pray that my husband (a construction worker) finds steady work and can make more money for all of us.  As we were leaving, a second son, Christopher, was walking back to the house.  He looked about four years old; too young to be strolling the neighborhood alone.

Back at the church we watched the children singing and dancing in traditional garb.  Then we attended four informal, stand up CSP workshops before the mothers gave us each a scarf for a souvenir.

At the hotel, we had dinner in a private room, and listened to three young women discuss their experiences with the Leadership Development Program.  They were all college students, and received help from sponsors through Compassion International.   We were touched by their stories, as well as the fresh memory of the earlier meetings with moms and kids.  It was a fine and meaningful way to end our day.

The young woman on the right is attending college through LDP.

Posted in Mere's travels, My Life | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments