Category Archives: entertainment

Ann-Margret Guests on Kominsky Method

The other night I saw Ann-Margret on Michael Douglas‘s Golden-Globe-winning The Kominsky Method.

The Netflix show appeals to me because Michael Douglas still looks good at 74, and also, the show jokes about physical aging.

Well, make that men’s aging. Sandy Kominsky (Douglas) takes Viagra for sex, and Flomax for other prostate issues. He talks to his friend Norman (Alan Arkin) about these geezer problems, and he always has to pee.

But here’s what gets me: the women on the show. Kominsky is dating his student Lisa (Nancy Travis), probably twenty years younger—blond hair, beautiful, with a teenage son. Sandy’s hair may be thinning and grey, but no grey-haired woman for him!

Norman’s wife has died, and he is still grieving when her widowed best friend asks him out. Reluctantly, he goes. And get this. It’s Ann-Margret! We see her at a table in a restaurant with Norman. He’s not ugly, but he looks his age. Whereas Ann-Margret is drop-dead (sorry) gorgeous. She does not look her age, which is an unbelievable 77! Strawberry blond hair, peaches and cream complexion, oozing sex—and she wants to be with Norman?

(Maybe she, too, has urinary incontinence. Is she doing Kegels under the table?)

I like The Kominsky Method. Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin make a good comedy team. And Sandy’s daughter Mindy, played by Sarah Baker, is a great character. But where are the other normal women?

It just seems a bit sexist.

Go! Mrs. Go!–a Korean Drama

house and Namhae scarf 2016 012

My Namhae souvenir bandana

I will watch anything halfway decent in Korean in order to keep up my skill—such as it is—in that language. So I was delighted when I heard about Go! Mrs. Go! My sister said that she and her family were watching and enjoying this Korean drama, or TV series. I was surprised. They’ve been to Japan, and they love things Japanese, but Japan is not Korea.  It must be pretty good for them to like it.

It turned out to be a really good series, which I loved for several reasons, not just the language practice. (Note: There are subtitles, and I use them.)

First, Mrs. Go lives in Namhae, an island to the south of Korea. It’s a beautiful place, and I’ve been there. When I taught English in South Korea in 2000 at Chungwoon University, the faculty took a trip to Namhae. I fell in love with the place because of the beautiful views of the sea.

On the show, the main character, Go Bong Sil, lives in a lovely house there, with a greenhouse where she raises flowers. When her husband dies suddenly, her life changes and she has to figure out how to survive. She is a strong and kind woman. Through her kindness, she takes in a homeless South American man. When he leaves, he gives her a gift of seeds. They sprout and she makes a tea from them which proves to be rejuvenating to a lot of people, almost magical.

Bong Sil decides to move to Seoul, to the Itaewon district. There her adventures, good and bad, continue.

Maybe Bong Sil is a little too good to be true—kind to everyone, honest to a fault. She feeds everyone, always thinks of others, and is always instinctively helpful. Most of all, she has integrity.

But there are people like this, and I admire this fictional woman so much.

She gets to open her own restaurant in Itaewon. We see her cooking, and we learn a lot about Korean dishes. She cooks delicious and healthy food. She knows the health benefits of the various fresh ingredients she uses.

This is not unusual in Korea. One thing that struck me, when I lived there, was that the food was both delicious and healthy at the same time. It didn’t have to be a choice between the two.

South Korea is a traditional society, although it is changing as the whole world changes. Still, when I was there it was unheard of for a couple to show affection in public. This is shown in the drama Go! Mrs. Go!

On the other hand, one of the characters is a transgender female. Her story is touching, and she is portrayed in a very human, respectful way. That was something that surprised me, too, about this Korean drama.

I got hooked on it and found myself binge-watching Go! Mrs. Go! Now I’m looking for another good Korean drama, one that, like this one, appeals not just to youth but to older people too. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

A Pleasant Evening of Classical Music

Mozart the prodigy, from a painting by M. B. Ollivier at the Louvre

Mozart the prodigy, from a painting by M. B. Ollivier (1712-84) at the Louvre, Paris

Last night I went to a concert by myself. I don’t mind at all doing things like this alone once in a while; in fact, I enjoy it.

It was at the local university, where I got my master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language and taught English to international students for several years.

I love living in a college town. There’s so much to do, and some of it is free. Everything is so accessible too.

This concert wasn’t free, but it was inexpensive. It turned out to be an orchestra of young students, and most of the audience seemed to be their families or else university students who get credit for attending performances like this. Since it’s getting close to the end of the semester, there were quite a few of them. It was a comfortable atmosphere.

They played Dvořák, a really sweet viola concerto with harpsichord by Telemann (the director/conductor is on the viola faculty), and a short modern piece, Meditation, 2000, by a composer who turned out to be the conductor!

After the intermission, they did something interesting. The concert was called “Firsts,” and they played the fourth movement of the first symphonies of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms.

The conductor explained the connections between the composers’ styles, and how this program demonstrated the development of the symphonic form.

It’s always fun to learn something at a concert. I even took a few notes.

I took some notes!

I took some notes!

The little boy across the aisle from me mimicked the conductor during these pieces, moving his arms rhythmically and dramatically. He must have been about eight—the age of Mozart when he wrote his first symphony. A budding conductor?

Since the orchestra members were young, the quality of their playing was at times a bit uneven. Nevertheless, it was beautiful in its way—especially the Telemann, in which the director solo’d, and the four fourth movements of the familiar composers.

Having started at 5:30 pm, the concert was finished at 7, so the young players could have time to do their homework, I suppose. The air was cold. The moon was a sliver. I walked from the auditorium to my car feeling happy.

Next to Normal–A Rock Musical about Mental Illness

Next to Normal program

Next to Normal program

I saw a wonderful play this weekend, the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical, Next to Normal. It’s playing at John A Logan College; if you live nearby, and it’s before 2 pm on Sunday, you can go to the matinée!

The show is about mental illness. I applaud the college for its courage in presenting a rock musical about this subject in an area where shows like Oklahoma! and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown are the usual fare. Nothing wrong with these shows; I love them both. But this one is uniquely moving, right on target with its understanding of mental illness, especially bipolar, and its effect on the family. And the music is good. It’s mostly loud, upbeat rock music, with a small orchestra led by local star Derek Hamblin. And it works.

The quieter songs were my favorites though. There are some really tender, touching ones. And though I am far from being an expert on music, I did recognize and appreciate that many of them did not end on a harmonious cadence. Like real life, they were a little—I don’t know, not sharp or flat, but just not tied up in a neat bow. Very lovely.

The singing and acting by all the main characters–Nathan Arnett, Diane Taveau, Brandyn McGhee, Jordan Bramlett, Zachery Stout and Kurt Endebrock–was excellent.

The main character in this play was Diana, the mother, whose bipolar illness was, like that of the people I know with this illness, very difficult to treat and stabilize. As a result, her whole family suffered. Her husband Dan was always trying to make everything normal and right, when clearly it wasn’t, and couldn’t be. Her daughter Natalie never got the attention she needed. Her life was dominated by her mother’s illness, and everything she did seemed to be in reaction to it.

Diana tried medications, then got some help in talk therapy when her psychiatrist hypnotized her and made her face some things she was trying hard to repress. This I thought was the most interesting and perceptive part of the play, the way he encouraged her to take the pieces of what she knew and remembered, and make a real self of them.

The play will be difficult for some, especially those who, like Dan, do not want to face the painful aspects of life. But for others it will be profound and touching.

I can’t stop thinking about it. I learned something about mental illness from this play, and about healing. I was most moved by the daughter, who had to come to terms with the role model she had and create a self from the pieces, light and dark, that were hers.

The meaning of the title is, maybe it’s not always possible to be normal, or perfect. But it is possible to be Next to Normal, and that’s a very healthy, whole way to be.

I really loved this play, and again, thank you, John A. Logan College, for having the courage to present it to Southern Illinois patrons.