Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mini-Movie Reviews - After Everything Else is Done

No - the movies aren't mini, just these reviews. These are Netflix picks and tend to be not serious, throwaway fun. Brain candy - after work, after writing, after reading, after DVR'd shows. But there are a few gems and the first film listed here is well worth renting ... seriously ....

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a quirky really fun treat of a movie. Ewan McGregor is a grumpy/then charming professor who specializes in fishing. Emily Blunt is the assistant to a rich sheik who loves fly fishing and wishes to bring the sport to the Yemen. Kristin Scott-Thomas is the publicity person for the Prime Minister and is all over this as a "feel good" story. She's hilarious. Ewan and Emily are charmingly cute, and what transpires is interesting, typical, and then awesome. Put on your wading boots and go fishing for this movie. You'll chuckle a lot.

The Change-Up - I was pleasantly surprised by how much I laughed and enjoyed this movie. Yes, I picked it, but I thought it could end up being stupid. Instead Jason Bateman (married with kids guy) and Ryan Reynolds (hot single guy) are really good in this movie about "be careful what you wish for". Swapping bodies after a drunken evening proves eye-opening for both guys. Responsibility can bite and yet sooner or later you have to grow up. Check out this buddy flick and be amused.

Unknown - Liam Neeson stars in this mindboggling thriller. He regains consciousness after a problematic car accident and finds out a man is impersonating him, his wife is denying him, and folks are getting killed because of him. Suspend belief and just roll with the premise. Liam is always great and believable as a doctor, no wait -he's a trained killer, no wait - he's lost an identity and Diane Kruger helps him find it and love. It's a silly time waster and yet, stuff blows up, Liam drives fast, and I was entertained.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: Age of Miracles

It still amazes me how little we really knew ... Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It's possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much.

Those opening lines to The Age of Miracles introduce you to Julia, a sixth grader, who narrates for us and let's us see the new world through her eyes. What was once a twenty-four hour day is no more. The earth is slowing and the news people go crazy. Julia's mother is in a frenzy, her father isn't fazed. It's interesting to learn how various people, teachers, the school, neighbors,etc. react. Amidst the new trauma, Julia, at age eleven, is trying to survive pre-teen stuff, puberty, boys, and life.

The book blurb uses the words haunting and luminous. I agree. I loved this book and read it in one weekend, with a Wow as it ended. This portrait of a family against a backdrop of uncertainty, an altered world, is gripping. Folks decide if they are going to live by the twenty four hour clock, or go off time - just live with the sun rise and set and that changes daily. Sometimes there's darkness right in the middle of a day. It's unsettling and does make one think about the future, our planet, and life in general.

The Age of Miracles is well written and engaging with a light touch, humor, and drama. It's a quick engaging read - written with a deft touch. I'm jealous of the writer's skill.

Here's another excerpt (p. 29):  Later I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layers, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flu. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different - unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Drama Review: War Horse

Harrowing, riveting, and incredibly well done - War Horse at the Winspear Theater in Dallas was a superb drama. I generally go to musicals, but this show captured my attention after watching a Making of War Horse documentary. The National Theater of Great Britain created the show from the novel by Michael Morpurgo. The creative vision from book to stage stopped me in awe.

Prior to WWI, a colt is born and bought with the mortgage money by a poor English farmer. Albert, the sixteen year old son, bonds with this horse. He trains it, raises it, and vows he'll find the horse when it's conscripted into the British Army (the dad sold it for one hundred pounds - much of it will sadly go toward alcohol).

We see how the war affects the small village, the soldiers over in France at the Somme, and we root for Joey, the horse and for Albert (joins the Army) to reunite in peace some day.

The Handspring Puppet Company created magic - those were horses on that stage, done in an illusion of timing and skill. I had to shake my head in one scene to make sure I could believe my eyes. Then the illustrations of war along with strobe lights and explosive sounds had the audience ducking for cover, and cringing at the barbed wire scene.

War is hell, but the love of a boy/man and his horse know no bounds. Triumph of spirit trumps evil any day. The play War Horse is memorable and striking. If you can catch it on Broadway or a touring production, I highly recommend an evening of serious stage magic storytelling.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Contemplating Autumn

Fall officially begins this Saturday 9/22/12. Oh, the Texas mornings are crisper. We are in the sixties, but still rapidly heating up during the day, soaring toward ninety degrees. That's too hot. I yearn for jacket weather. Browns, crimsons, and golds. This postcard represents fall perfection
I realize that on the other side of fall winter looms. Nonetheless, I'm ready for mums in bloom, pumpkins on the stoop, and a harvest moon. Here's a poem I wrote in contemplation of autumn.

Meditation Walk

leaves crunch underfoot

acorns plunk, squirrels rustle

wrestle nuts to hide as

mockingbirds cackle

German shepherds behind fences

growl warnings as I pass

calm, tranquil, I stride the

neighborhood route

mindful of peace

aware of nature’s din

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Water Like a Stone

Jacket blurb: Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James return to solve a chilling mystery that bridges past and present and threatens their happiness.

I'd seen Deborah Crombie's name and books in the library, read reviews that always sounded enticing, and yet hadn't picked up a book until now. Wow - I'm hooked. She spins a fun tale of intrigue against small town English countryside.

Christmas Eve should be calm, but not when a baby's body is found interred in an old barn. Family tensions rise, and life along the Shropshire Union Canal is far from idyllic. Recent drownings, troubled boating families, and a social worker's past all intertwine for quite a mystery.

Water Like a Stone is a page turner. Deborah Crombie's smooth style is worth a cup of tea and a long sit as you follow Kincaid and James' discoveries, clues, and final solution.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Place

 I entered the Bedford Library Short Story Contest. Deadline was September 1st.
 Saturday, September 15th - Bedford Library Evening with the Authors. My shiny face was on the poster and I did get to read an excerpt from My Zoo World. The other authors represented fantasy, poetry, romance, and suspense. Nice variety and fun reads.
 Here I'm chatting with Rebecca Balcarcel  - excellent poet
And then Amanda Green (VP of Friends of the Library) announced the winner of the short story contest - Whoa! That's my name. I accepted a check from Jim Davidson - a Bedford council member and Friend of the Library.  Very exciting. My tale is called "Bumper Car Life", and I am working on compiling my shorts stories for a collection.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Here to There

I'm posting this picture as something hopeful. Having just passed the 9/11 anniversary, reading news, contemplating the world, I sometimes wonder at it all.

This blog is not political. I try to keep the focus on writing, arts, and creativity. However, I'm going to post a paragraph written by Joe Klein, Time Magazine columnist (9/17/12 p. 29). I like his writing and this paragraph struck me as well done, and it summed up a lot.

But this campaign is wearing on me too, and I think I understand the source of my colleagues' mood. It's a closely held secret in the tribe, but most journalists are more romantic than cynical and are also, by the way, real patriots. We obsess over the game and get cheap jollies when the pols screw up, but we also have mortgages and 401(k)s like normal people, and we are freaked out by the paralysis in Washington and the truly diseased atmosphere of take no prisoners partisanship. (And some of us are very much aware of our role as a conduit for the prevailing ugliness.) We're really rooting for the country to do better, and we're afraid it won't.

He goes on to briefly discuss the ying and yang of issues in America. At the end of his column he summarizes - There should be real cause for optimism. But I don't know how we get from here to there.

Well said, Joe, well said.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chihuly Night Glass Glow

 Back in May, when my father was here, I posted our daytime adventures at the Dallas Arboretum featuring Dale Chihuly glass installations. The program runs through early November. Well, the arboretum hosted a member evening event. Wow - a whole new perspective on the gardens and the glass.

Out of this world gloriousness. I truly don't know if I can create poems to match what I saw. Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words. Anyone within a one hudred mile radius of the Dallas Arboretum should pay the gas money and drive, drive, drive to enjoy this treasure.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11th Resonates

I'm optimistic about the future, but not about the future of this civilization. I'm optimistic about the civilization which will replace this one - James Baldwin  1970

The age has an engine, but no engineer - Ralph Waldo Emerson 1854

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structure - John F. Kennedy  1963

Friday, September 7, 2012

Movie Review: Celeste and Jesse Forever

Celeste and Jesse Forever stars Adam Samberg and Rashida Jones in a cute ninety- minute love/divorce film. We first meet the couple at dinner with good friends. It all looks seemly until the friends declare, "This is too weird. You're divorcing and act like nothing's happening." Indeed, Celeste and Jesse share food, inside jokes, and a ride. They are separated (he lives behind her place in a studio), but in no rush to divorce since they are best friends.

Slowly we see him change when he's hit with some responsibility based on a teensy fling over a month ago. We see Celeste's hurt and then rebound reaction, which is not pretty. Celeste and Jesse have to face reality and move on, but both drag their feet. Samberg and Jones are credible. The film is light and fluffy with some great lines, yet it does dig deeper into feelings and relationships. Celeste and Jesse Forever is entertainment with "trending" issues for this day and age.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Portraits - Lucian Freud

Sunday, a friend and I visited The Modern in Fort Worth and strolled through the Lucien Freud portrait exhibit. I saw it a month ago with my husband and can't say I was enthralled then. The second time through I saw more nuances. I spent more time on portraits I did like, and glossed over ones I had no interest in.

Here's the quote from this brochure - His visceral renderings of people from all walks of life have a painterly and psychological drama that is unparalleled in contemporary art.

I said to my friend, "Lucien had issues." These are certainly not happy paintings. His sitters are haunted, exhausted, sad, and aging before our eyes. Thick layers of paint are like the weight of the world on these poor folks' faces.

There are definitely deep stories to be told from these people or even from Mr.Freud's own self portraits, from youth to aged. He died over a year ago and left behind a treasure trove. I have a better appreciation of his art. One could bring a portrait to life and have a character tale of sordid wretchedness.