October 8th, 2006


Catch a Fire

I've been leaving my apartment more than usual this week (and there's more to come). Friday was an IFP screening at Loew's 34th of the movie "Catch a Fire," about South Africa during apartheid. Apolitical factory foreman Patrick Chamusso gets caught up in events of the day, eventually ending up in prison for his activism. Based on a true story, the movie was scary, moving, violent, and evocative of the time and place.

Afterward, there was a Q&A with a panel of heavy hitters: director Phillip Noyce, producer and writer Robyn and Shawn Slovo (daughters of anti-apartheid activists), actors Tim Robbins (getting older, but still a tall drink of water) who played a government official, Derek Luke who played Patrick, Bonnie Henna who played Patrick's wife Precious, and the real Patrick Chamusso. We were excited to see all of them. Patrick, in New York for the first time, fielded most of the questions.

The screening was co-sponsored by WGA-East, but I didn't see any writers from ex-work. It was a large theater, so it's possible others I knew were there.

I've now seen 4 movies through IFP/Moving Image, making the membership worth the fee (and it'll get better as I attend more events). All had Q&A's except "Inconvenient Truth" which had a wine reception I didn't go to.

My Generation

April 23, 1972 (OK, I had to look up the date) was a typical Sunday, with the Times spread out on our Plimpton kitchen table. The magazine's cover story immediately caught our eye. There was Joyce Maynard, a Yale freshman, writing about growing up among the same events we did.

My immediate thought was, "I could have written this!" Probably any number of college students thought the same thing. But we didn't write it. She did. The article soon became a book, and Maynard became the de facto spokesperson for our generation.

I followed her career. I even was in the audience when she did a TV talk show at a Boston department store while I was in grad school (the other guest was actress Elizabeth Ashley). We had similar childhoods (including Canadian-Jewish parents - though her father was not Jewish and my mother was not Canadian), but our life experiences differed drastically after that.

Her writing caught the attention of J.D. Salinger, and she dropped everything to be with him; this painful story is detailed in "At Home in the World." She married, had 3 kids, divorced, moved to California, and wrote about it all. Some accused her of narcissism, but you write about what you know.

I had read some of her fiction - "Baby Love" about young mothers in New Hampshire which I found depressing and confusing (which character is which again?), and "To Die For" which was made into one of my favorite movies.

Last time I was at the library, I got "The Usual Rules," Maynard's novel about a 13-year-old girl who loses her mother on 9/11. It's also a novel about being a 13-year-old girl, family, and loss. Some of the situations are contrived (her new friend, homeless skateboarder Todd, finds his long-lost brother, only to lose him for good in a snowboarding accident!), but it's mostly interesting and absorbing.
[Update: I sent the link for this entry to Joyce Maynard, who told me this plot point has been changed for the paperback, since it upset younger readers. Nice to know, and nice to hear back from her.]

Fun with customer service

Remember last year when my bank account almost went dormant? Me neither. So when Quicken was giving an error message on my savings account number not being valid (but checking worked just fine), I called the bank's customer service. They informed me that the error had to do with recent changes in their computer system, and had me edit some specs in Quicken. It still didn't work. In that case, I'd need to deactivate and then reactivate my account download on Quicken.

But while they had me on the phone, did I know the savings account was inactive? What, AGAIN? Apparently now this happens if you don't do anything for 10 months and I had last transferred the $5 to keep it active back in July, 2005. What a pain. So I requested a phone transfer of $5 to keep things active.

There was still the problem of getting the Quicken download to work. Activating the account itself didn't help. When I started following the instructions for deactivating and then reactivating, it looked like this could wipe out my records since 1991 (I have a back-up file, but still) and I was scared to hit OK. So the bank said I'd need to call Quicken and have THEM walk me through it. This was last weekend, and Quicken live people weren't available.

So on Monday, I called Quicken support (after checking the web site to make sure this wasn't covered). They claimed this was such a complex issue it would be subject to a tech service charge. OK, whatever. After taking my credit card info, all they did was tell me to hit the same OK I was scared to before, reregister (which meant I had to remember my user ID and password to access online banking), and try it again. It worked. Such is the price for being scared to hit OK.

Except the resulting download still didn't catch the interest paid on 9/18 (it did download the phone transaction of $5). If it misses the October interest, I'll have to call again. Or maybe I should just add the interest manually. Fun, fun, fun.

Then there's Amazon.com. I returned the book I already had, paying postage myself since the shipping label never arrived. I reported the $5.71 postage and a credit for this was applied to my account. They then received the book, and applied an additional credit... of $4.55. Huh? I realized that they'd subtracted the shipping credit from the $10.36 price of the book (and also were off by 10 cents), when it should have been in addition to the book refund. And they didn't reimburse me for the shipping charge for the original book.

I got on the phone to Amazon. We figured out what they still owe me, and I hope it will be resolved.

I can't wait to see what happens to my eye exam claim.