Happy birthday, Bob Dylan

Legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan turns 80 today. I’ve never been a hardcore fan, but I enjoy many of his songs, and I definitely admire his participation in the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. I pay tribute to him with what has become one of my life’s theme songs.

Bob Dylan – Idiot Wind (Audio) – YouTube

Reading and retiring

For a blog that’s supposed to be movie-themed, I admit that most of my recent blog entries have had more to do with my personal life than with pop culture. (And part of today’s blog will, as well.) So I thought I’d give a plug to a movie biography that is due out in mid-June.

The lengthy title of this modest epic is Mean…Moody…Magnificent!: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend. The book’s author is Christina Rice, whose other bios I haven’t read, and the book will not be coming out until June 15. But the subject matter itself was enough to make me pre-order a copy.

From the book’s title, I’m guessing that its slant will be how Russell became famous more from publicizing her glorious physical assets than from her talent. And I probably can’t disagree with that. I first came across Ms. Russell when I was 15 years old. I was perusing a coffee-table book about the movies when I came across an eye-popping publicity photo of Jane from her movie The French Line, and that alone was enough to instill my lust for her ever since.

I’ve since watched several of her movies and have noted that she was indeed quite a talented singer and actress. But let’s face it — the first time you look at Russell, are you thinking about her thespian gifts or her physical ones?

I read Jane’s autobiography years ago, and she seemed to be two-faced about her appeal. Throughout the book, Jane seems ashamed when people gawk over her figure, and she apologizes to any woman who ever had to exploit her looks in order to gain fame. Yet the book has no shortage of photos that proudly display Jane’s fulsome physique (including a pic of her in a bikini, which was quite shocking in 1955). So she always seemed to want it both ways — acting shocked, shocked that anyone would only want to look at her body, while displaying said body in some quite compromising poses. My main interest in Rice’s book — other than the obvious — will be to see if she addresses Jane’s hypocrisy and her helping to usher in the “look but don’t touch” era of femininity.

(Click here to go to Amazon.com to learn more about the book or to pre-order it.)

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Now that that’s out of the way, here’s my really important news…I’M RETIRED!

I never, ever thought retirement was even a consideration in my life plan. I used to joke that my idea of retirement would be a dignified cremation.

But shortly after my wife died last year, I was informed that when I turned 60 years old, I would be entitled to 71.5% of my late wife’s Social Security benefits. At the time, I shrugged this off as a pipe dream. But the closer my 60th birthday came, the more I thought of this as a tangible possibility. I figured up my ostensible Social Security payment and discovered that it would pay all my monthly bills and would still leave me a comfortable amount to live on. Naturally, this made me even more anxious that the plan wouldn’t go through properly.

I turned 60 on April 27, at which time I called the Social Security office. When I told them the purpose of my call, they asked me to gather some personal data about me and my wife (birth dates, her death date, etc.), and then they would call me back on May 18 at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Now, we all know the frustration of having to deal with any federal bureaucracy, and the closer May 18 came, the more I feared that I would have to suffer the same fate. I hadn’t even gotten the name of the person I spoke with at the Social Security office. I forgot if I’d even given them my phone number. And what if they just jotted it down and then let it get lost in the paperwork?

Well, if there was ever one time when I hoped my experience with the Government would be positive, this is the time my hope became true. To remind me about the phone call, they sent me two voicemails and one text message prior to May 18. When the date came, they called right on time, discerned the information they needed, and told me that they’d process my request ASAP, although they said it might take up to 30 days to process.

Two days later, my first monthly Social Security payment had been Direct Deposited into my checking account. Two days after that, I quit one of the most thankless jobs I’ve ever had.

I’ve that, once you tell everyone that you’re going to retire, everyone has an opinion about it. My daughter still isn’t convinced that I can survive on my monthly payments, and she keeps hounding me to find some on-line or part-time job to supplement my income. One of my long-retired roommates, who now plays the stock market for a living, insisted that I’ll become bored stiff after 60 days.

All of this might be true, or none of it might be. Right now, I’m still in shock — a pleasant shock, to be sure — that I can eat, drink, drive around aimlessly, and walk around the house in my skivvies without having to answer to everyone. I went grocery shopping yesterday, and even that was a gratifying experience — being able to buy a steak or other “real” food, rather than getting by on junk from The Dollar Store.

I’m really not trying to rub my retirement in the faces of those who still have to toil for a living. And of course, I definitely don’t want to belittle my loving wife’s death, which made this whole thing possible. But after decades of working with condescending people (co-workers and customers) and grin and bear the whole thing, it is so relaxing to wake up in the morning, breathe, and know that breathing is the only thing I’m actually required to do at this point in my life.

I hope all of you will eventually reach this same happy fate. Now, excuse me while I go sip some wine out on the patio.