Wendy’s Word

Not your mama’s blog….

New Glasses October 20, 2009

Filed under: Adventures in Wendyland — wendy @ 8:14 pm

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Getting new glasses is an ordeal.  It calls into question two things I normally take for granted, they way my face looks and my vision.

The shopping experience is the first trauma.  I went everywhere from Costco to Lenscrafters to the flagship Oliver Peoples store on Sunset Boulevard.  Everything I saw was either too dull or too bold.  And then there’s the problem of the bifocals, er, I mean progressives.  For the uninitiated, progressives are bifocals for the vain.  (a bifocal by any other name…) With progressives, I couldn’t get any frame that was too small, but with my strong prescription, I couldn’t get anything too big either.  That pretty much rules out the field.

Is it wise to bring someone with you when shopping for glasses?  Yes, if you have a friend that knows your taste and is honest with you.  I tried bringing my kids a couple times, but it was not a pleasant experience for anyone involved.  If you don’t have anyone with you, you’re at the complete mercy of the salesperson.  I don’t know that I want the look of my face for the next five years to be that strongly influenced by a salesperson.  And yet, without a fashionable friend, that’s what I was reduced to.

When I was in college, I used to get a pair of glasses, frames and lenses, at For Eyes for $40.  I’m dating myself, I know, but I kid you not.  Now, glasses cost a bloody fortune.  Which raises the stakes on making the right choice.  The lens choice requires higher education — there’s high index, super high index, super special extreme high index, not to mention the various coatings you can get.

I went to an overpriced boutique near my house and put myself in the hands of a capable salesman.  For some reason, I was liking everything I tried on that day.  Once I decided on glasses, I turned my attention to sunglasses.  Progressive or single vision?  New frames?  Go somewhere cheaper for the sunglasses, because they’re only sunglasses after all?  Against better judgement, I chose a funky Oliver Peoples frame for my sunglasses (single vision).  I say against better judgement only because I was fatigued after the long decision process for my regular glasses so I made a hasty decision.  I just wanted to see, both indoors and outdoors.  For a few minutes after leaving the shop, I was elated.  I was getting new glasses!  Then panic set in.  What if I made a horrible choice?  Why hadn’t I brought anyone with me?

And then my new glasses arrived.  They were…..different.  Every time I passed a mirror, I had to decide whether I liked them or not.  More importantly, I wondered if anyone else would like them.  I went to Costco later that day and felt so conspicuous that I wanted to ask total strangers if they liked my glasses.  Luckily, I restrained myself.  The reaction after the big reveal was mixed.  Some people at work didn’t even notice.  I took that as a good sign.  But the best reaction came from my hubby, reminding me why I married him.  All weekend, he kept looking at my face and jokingly admiring my glasses.  I have no idea if he really likes them or not, but who cares?  I’ll take what I can get!

The final trauma is that when you get a new pair of glasses, there is an adjustment period.  Put another way, your vision is all messed up.  This is especially true when getting your first pair of progressives, as these were for me.  To make matters worse, I had to get used to a pair of progressives and a pair of single vision sunglasses.  Every time I went from one to the other, my eyes had to adjust.  I’m still scrutinizing far away signs and small print to assess whether I can see.  And because neurosis is my birthright, I went back to the glasses store to make sure the prescription was right.  I mean, how would you know?  They could give you anything and you’d never know the difference.

All of this is to say that I think optometry is an imprecise science.  All those questions about which image is clearer – they all look the same to me!  And that’s what they base your prescription on!  I’m resolved to keep these glasses for the rest of my life, just to avoid this experience.  If I ever get used these glasses, that is…..

Photo on 2009-10-20 at 21.08
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A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar October 17, 2009

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 10:11 pm

I’m probably one of the few people who never saw the movie, A Beautiful Mind, which won the Oscar in 2001, about Nobel prize winner John Nash.  I remember that there was controversy about the movie — it’s a romantic look at a brilliant mathematician who develops schizophrenia, leaving out some of the negative aspects of Nash’s life.  Since I tend to be a purist about movies based on non-fiction, I had no desire to see it.  But now that I’ve read the book, I’m curious.

The book is incredibly engrossing.  I ignored dust bunnies all weekend so I could keep reading.  I abandoned my regular gym routine so I could read on the exercise bike.  The book takes the reader into the world of mathematics, mostly at Princeton.  Nash was there when Einstein was there, as well as many other brilliant scientists and mathematicians.  They had their own culture, thinking all the time, ribbing each other, playing complex games, and publishing articles.  They truly did not live in the real world, and the environment at Princeton allowed them to live in their heads.  The book also describes Nash’s strange personality and despite his unease with personal relationships, his marriage to a vivacious and devoted young science student.

Nash’s life unravels when he descends into schizophrenia.  The book describes his symptoms, and the difficult decisions his family had to make to get him treatment without jeopardizing his brilliant mind.  Mathematicians are quoted as saying that math is a young man’s game and that most significant work gets done before age 30.  Unfortunately, Nash never got to disprove that theory, losing many of his would-be productive years to serious mental illness.  Remarkably, Nash got better (or perhaps went into “remission”) on his own without treatment, and lived his later years symptom-free.  He was able to accept his Nobel prize and fully participate in the fanfare.  He was also able to repair the relationships that has suffered during his illness, most notably with his wife and sons.  Yet his recovery was bittersweet, as he was never able to recover the flashes of inspiration that fueled the work that was the mainstay of his life.

 

Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl

Filed under: Books,Food — wendy @ 9:27 pm

The third of Ruth Reichl’s autobiographies.  The first one, Tender at the Bone, was terrific, going from Reichl’s childhood where her mother all but poisoned the family with her “cooking,” to the point where Reichl is on her way to learning that she might be able to make a living from this food thing.  This book, Garlic and Sapphires, is about Reichl’s stint as food critic for the New York Times.  Because restaurants are always on the lookout for her, she dresses in elaborate disguises and experiences the restaurants from the viewpoint of her characters.  She gets a more honest view of the restaurants and learns about herself in the process.  This book was not as engrossing as her first (I didn’t read the second, Comfort Me With Apples) but was still fun to read.  Although I did find the descriptions of her transformations kind of creepy!  Until recently, Reichl was editor of Gourmet magazine.  Now that it’s gone, we’ll see what Reichl has in store for us.  And by the way, I have Reichl’s large yellow Gourmet cookbook, and although it didn’t get great reviews, I use it quite often.

 

High School Musicals – Glee and Fame October 7, 2009

Filed under: Music — wendy @ 2:22 pm

Glee– I can’t believe I’m writing about a TV show – I don’t even have cable and haven’t watched a show regularly since the X-Files and NYPD were on the air!  But I’m hooked on Glee.  I first watched the show with my high school age daughter and thought it would be fun to watch together (it is).  But now I watch even when she’s immersed in homework and can’t take a break.

The show has great characters – yes, it’s PC, there’s a gay character, a Black, an Asian, a kid in wheelchair, and even a Christian cheerleader who heads the celibacy club.  But all the characters are likable, even the mean ones.  The meanest character, the cheerleading coach who wants all the glory for herself and her team and will step on anyone in her way, is hilarious.  The stories can be kind of goofy, but the show’s still fun to watch because the characters are great, the show is funny, and there have been good guest stars (Kristen Chenowith) and cameos (Josh Groban – very funny, believe it or not).  Oh yeah, and the singing is terrific.

Fame– I recently re-watched Fame – the original movie, not the remake that’s out now.  I loved it just as much as the first time I saw it.  I love the exuberance of these talented kids going through a performing arts high school, learning about their craft and themselves along the way.  The characters are all wonderful and we root for them as they grow up and bond with each other.  The creative environment of the performing arts school, the excitement and energy of the young students, makes me wish I were a few (?) years younger and had artistic talent.  The music and dancing are fantastic, adding to the movie’s energy.

For a long time, I resisted showing Fame to my kids because there’s some inappropriate content.  But I finally relented because it’s pretty hard to avoid inappropriate content these days and Fame seems pretty mild compared to alot of other things out there.  But they didn’t love it.  My high school age daughter thought the characters reminded her of all the artsy-fartsy posers at her school.  I guess I’m so far beyond high school that I have no such associations any more and can just enjoy the movie for what it is – a joyful endorsement of youth and a hopeful future.

 

Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 1:29 pm

Netherland is a great title for this book.  Either I’m stating the obvious or reading too much into it, but Netherland describes the elusive state of mind of the protagonist, as well as the state of his marriage and his sense of place, belonging and not quite belonging in Manhattan and London.  The protagonist is Dutch, ergo the other meaning of the title.

Hans van den Broek is passively going through the motions of life in post-911 New York after his wife and son leave him to return to London.  He meets Chuck Ramkissoon, a larger than life character who shares his passion for cricket and who introduces him to the ethnic and sometimes seamy world of New York that he had never seen.  Chuck is the opposite of Hans, engaged in everything he does and intellectually curious while Hans is aloof and distracted.

At the beginning of the book, we find Hans and his wife together, learning about the murder of Chuck Ramkissoon.  The story that leads us there is not action-packed, but is introspective and beautifully written.

 

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

Filed under: Books — wendy @ 12:54 pm

Water for Elephants takes place on a circus train during the Depression.  The protagonist, an almost-veterinarian, runs away and joins the circus. He, and we, learn the realities of circus life – the social hierarchy among performers and working men, the harsh living and working conditions, the eccentric and occasionally insane characters who manage and work in the circus, and the ruses designed to wow the crowd and get them to spend money.  Sara Gruen, the author, did extensive research on circuses and incorporated many actual incidents (which she fictionalized) into the novel.  The frame of the novel is protagonist as an old man living in an assisted living facility recalling his past circus days.  The chapters narrated by the old man are touching and as much about the indignities of growing old as they are about the circus.  The book leads towards a tragedy, where the circus animals stampede and someone is killed in the melee.  (This is revealed in the first few pages.)  The book becomes a page-turner as conditions become grimmer and we move closer to the event descibed at the book’s start.  However, my favorite aspect of the book was being immersed in the dark behind-the-scenes world of the circus.  In this fictional circus, it’s all ugliness behind the cheerful, family-oriented facade of the big top.