Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rock of Ages: Musical Feast

Combine music with words and I'm in heaven. I love the theater. If I lived in New York City, I'd be Broadway poor. All of my time and money would be blown on theater tickets. However, it's quite pricey and so I dole out my meager allowance on some touring productions.

Dallas/Fort Worth is fortunate. It has excellent venues - Meyerson Symphony Hall, Bass Hall, old favorite The Majestic, and now new favorite Winspear Opera House. Forget Fair Park Music Hall. Never say never, but I vow to never fork out dough for their crappy acoustics and bad sight lines.

Back to the Winspear. Ray and I enjoyed a touring production of Rock of Ages and it was a blast from the past.

The original Tony nominee Constantine Maroulis (formerly on American Idol) starred as Drew, janitor of a bar/music hall who dreams of playing in a rock band. Sherrie (Elicia MacKenzie) is the girl from Nebraska who dreams of being an actress. The show is about dreams, and boy meets girl, falls in love, loses girl, re-discovers dreams, and ultimately gets the girl. Trust me, you know this from the very first song and are willing to go along for the ride. The nifty part of the mismash is if you lived through 80s rock, you'll know all of the tunes and rock cliches. You'll hum along, feel the love, and C'mon Feel the Noise.
The narrator, Lonny (Patrick Lewallen) has a great voice, sense of humor, and keeps the musical rolling along. We loved our gal, Oh Sherrie. (Yes, Drew sings this Journey anthem and we feel the longing.) Indeed, Elicia MacKenzie was a bright light in this show. Her voice on Harden My Heart was stirring.

More songs kept the cast wailing and the audience rocking - Can't Fight This Feeling, Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Heat of the Moment, Here I Go Again, I Wanna Rock, Nothin' But a Good Time, Sister Christian, Wanted Dead or Alive, and so on. Nothing wrong with using a classic frame, classic music, and creating entertainment.

All in all, it was a foot stomping, laser light, rock 'n roll fist pump.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hail No

The basest of all things is to be afraid - William Faulkner. Indeed, in Texas, in the threat of a weather "event" (the new terminology from our StormTracker television teams), I hunker down - car safe in the garage, flashlight in hand, grousing about the satellite signal going out. Common sense, plus scenes of horrifying devastation in Joplin, MO, Tuscaloosa, AL, and so many other locations, says to batten down the hatches, stay away from windows, and be alert and afraid of the power of nature.

However, that tornado siren wailed last night. Ray and I both met at the patio door and stepped outside. So yes, if I write a storm scene for a book or a screenplay, I shall have characters follow stupid instincts, curiosity, and head outdoors. Now, Ray was beaned by decent size hail before he retreated to the overhang. I wavered - inside, then outside, peering up, then scampering back inside only to turn around as the siren stopped. Venture out again.

It's what people know about themselves inside that makes them afraid - Henry David Thoreau.

Indeed, I never felt confident that I would do well in a crisis. Hence my fear of a tornado, fire, etc. Hence my cry to Ray, "You're on your own sweetheart. Be careful."

At one point, the siren screamed again and the wind shifted along with a weird rumble noise. Whoa! That did if for me. I was prepared for the closet. Ray zoomed inside. Then silence. No claxon call. No wind. Then plunk, plunk, plunk. Not plinks - I'm talking ker-plunks. The pool rocked from hail.

Then silence. Unearthly calm. Gray stormy clouds swished above our heads, onward to pelt another town. We were fine. No discernible damage to Ray's truck, windows, and hopefully not our roof. It had been a noisy scattershot.

May in Texas is almost over.

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage - Robert Louis Stevenson.

Easier said then done during a hail/tornado combo storm.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Movie Review: Bridesmaids

Posted in The Little Paper of San Saba. I am the movie critic - hurrah! (The town does not have a theater - ha)

This movie critic gives Bridesmaids an A and a F. Stick with me folks. Here's some dialogue and description of the movie experience, plus an inner monologue (that'll be in italics).
Cast -Joanne Faries (JF) your critic. Linda T (LT) friend and moviegoer. Joanne's husband Ray declined this movie - genius fellow.

Email - day of movie:
JF: So, see you at 4:15 in the lobby. Looking forward to seeing Bridesmaids.
LT: Absolutely. Ready for some laughs and it's received good reviews in EW and newspapers (Shows how much they know)

1/4 of the way thru the movie:
LT leans over: I'm so sorry I picked this.
JF whispers: It's okay. I'd read there were gross parts. Just not our style. (Reader - keep in mind most viewers were howling as the bridesmaids, after a brazilian lunch, are now barfing on bridesmaid dresses, each other, and they are pooping in their pants. Ugh. Double Ugh. Not funny)

JF: Much better. Kristen Wiig, as Annie, has some great lines. Here where she's trying to one-up a new friend/bridesmaid (Rose Byrne, who's gorgeous) is cringeworthy but humorous. Maya Rudolph, as the bride-to-be is awesome. She has understated talent and soulful eyes).

LT and JF: We are laughing out loud at Jon Hamm (from Mad Men). He's so good looking and he plays such a jerk in this flick. Annie keeps coming back to him and he just puts her down. Wants her to leave after sex. Won't agree to go to the wedding with her. Ultimately she's third choice. Any scene with him is sadly pathetically humorous.

mid movie:
LT: Oh dear
JF: It's okay. (So, it's the bridal shower at the rich friend's home and it is absolutely over-the-top crazy. Well, Annie snaps. Funny at first, but then the scene goes ridiculously stupidly nuts. It's a shame that Kristen Wiig thought this was worthy of her talent)

post movie:
LT: I'm never picking a movie again.
JF: Yes, you are. There were a lot of clever lines.

Bridesmaids is Hangover for women. That's a shame, in my opinion (though I liked Hangover for what it was at the time, but no need to duplicate). I wish the women in charge had been so much smarter. Great cast. Awesome lines. And then stupid toilet humor. Ugh. The parts with real feelings, real friendships, real long-term deep emotions were SO good. They resonated with me.

The concept of Annie hitting bottom and then going even lower was well handled. These are all women who aren't kids and the movie, when it explores some of these depths, is absolute gold. But when it goes for the cheap laughs ... it cheapens itself. Now the dollars are speaking at the box office, so I know nothing. However, I do know I'm disappointed. Bridesmaids could have been SO MUCH BETTER.

See you at the movies ... matinee, that is ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spring Fever

New chaise lounge. Can't be indoors. Must slather on sunscreen, grab all reading material and head outdoors. This is after mowing the yard, weed wacking, and then wiping window sills, windexing windows, and ALL other spring cleaning. There's always a weed to pull. If I wrote a word for every weed, I might be ahead of the publishing game.

Ray assembled his new grill. High potential for summer eating. Brats, hotdogs, hamburgers, and (if on sale) steaks. Gotta love shiny, new pretty implements.

Spring is the period

Express from God

Emily Dickinson

Glass of cheap zinfadel. Magazines - WSJ and Time. Book - Ape House by Sara Gruen

Tunes playing - Adele 21 - Rolling in the Deep

Jennifer Hudson - I Remember Me

Hanson - Shout It Out

The world's favorite season is the Spring. All things seem possible in May - Edwin Way Teale

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Recommended Read: Room

Jack's five-year-old voice leaps from the page and captivates you in the novel Room by Emma Donoghue. To him, Room is the only place he's ever known. It is filled with all that's necessary for his imaginative, energetic life and the key is Ma. However, Room is her prison. She was kidnapped at age nineteen and now at twenty-six, she's wearying of maintaining a calm facade for Jack.

She tries to explain that there is a real world beyond their four walls. But how do you explain reality? And what happens when you re-enter the world after disappearing for seven years? Plus there's Jack, a product of her captivity. He's an innocent boy, with no concept of friends, social boundaries, nature, and family.

Ms.Donoghue brilliantly captures two lives in two different situations. First there's Room, where it's Ma and Jack and their routine, interrupted only by their captor, a creepy entity. We deal with him while hidden in the wardrobe with Jack.

Second, there's the world upon escape - the hospital, necessary for health assessments and re-adjustments. For example, Jack's never walked down stairs, he's never been in the sun, his eyes have to learn distance sight and perspective.

Dealing with lawyers, family, and the media proves stressful for Ma. And for Jack, he doesn't understand that it can't just be him and Ma anymore. He has to share her and become his own person. Jack's observations offer keen insight into our crazy world. I liked this paragraph on
p. 286:
In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time. In Room me and Ma had time for everything. I guess the time gets spread very thin like butter over all the world, the roads and houses and playgrounds and stores, so there's only a little smear of time on each place, then everyone has to hurry on to the next bit.

Room is different in a good way. Ms.Donoghue has strongly fleshed out characters, a unique perspective in her main character, Jack, and gives her reader a lot to think about.

You'll look at your own space and world in a new way after reading this book.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Saucy Scents

Scent, Savor, Perfume, Fragrance, Bouquet, Aroma, Atmosphere, Taste

The sense of smell and taste intermingle. They lend layers to a story and conjure feelings and memories in the reader. Writing about these senses does not come naturally to me, because I don't have a strong sense of smell and that affects the tastebuds.

"Here, smell this," says a friend as she moves a candle under my nose in a store.

"Hmmm," I'll say politely, generally with no clue as to what whiffed by my nose.

It's good there are alarms to signal fire, because unless I was up in flames myself, don't count on me to smell something burning.

That's why an article in the WSJ (4/9-10/2011. p. C11) caught my eye. Marie Wright is a flavorist. She's "created more than 1,000 flavors for food and beverage companies, including bourbon vanilla for coffee beans, apple-peach for cookies, and rosemary/garlic for crackers."

She doesn't specialize, but deals in sweet, savory, or beverage flavors. She builds formulas in her head, mixing ingredients and "visualizing the smell in colors and textures." Over 4,000 compounds, oils, and extracts are her building blocks, as she considers emotional and psychological impacts of flavors.

"Scents have personalities." For example a paper strip soaked in isoamyl acetate first smells like nail polish remover, but then morphs into bubble gum and pear. "To me," Ms.Wright says,"this one is very happy."

Creativity as a flavorist - who knew? I shall keep this article in mind as I write my next story.

I'll also whip up a batch of brownies for inspiration. My nose might be weak but its sense of chocolate is strong.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tiger Mom : Book Review

I think it's appropriate on Mother's Day Weekend to discuss Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. I got a huge kick out of this book and laughed out loud at various parts. Truly, I admire Ms. Chua for writing it, and I hope that her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, write their version.

Ms.Chua, very successful as a lawyer/Yale teacher/writer in her own right and her husband, a successful Yale professor, choose to raise their daughters the "Chinese way." This means total immersion in academics and strict studies in music (piano or violin only). No sleepovers, no playdates, no tv or computer games, and no grade less than an A.

Does that sound ridiculous??

Well, it works well for Sophia, the first born. This young lady is malleable from the start and obviously very talented, skilled, and willing to subject herself to her mother's requirements, tasks, practice sessions, etc. The results are worth the effort. The kid's playing piano at Carnegie Hall, for God's sake.

Then there's Lulu. From the womb, this young lady is in combat. It's hilarious (to me) to read the battles won (by Lulu) and lost (by Ms.Chua).

There truly is a lesson learned from this book about individualism.

I had read review of this book and discussions about "the horror, the horror". I personally did not read that into this book at all. I had the feeling that Ms.Chua had to concede that "Her Way" wasn't the total "Way".

Indeed, Lulu proves to have a mind and will of her own. The child is successful in her own right. She's smart, talented at violin, and ultimately at OMG.

I highly recommend this book and frankly admire Ms.Chua for her methods and madness. I truly found her standing back and watching herself and laughing. She believed and believes that her way was the right way. However, she encountered The Lulu, and maybe, there's some other paths to success.

All, I know is I wish the best to all mothers trying to raise children in this day and age.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Weatherford Workshop - Books 'N Jazz

Stupendous Saturday in Weatherford at the college sponsored Books 'N Authors 'N All That Jazz workshop. A plethora of class choices, meet 'n greets with authors, and words - the glory of words, writing, and publishing.

I started my day with Laurie Moore's Snappy Dialogue class. She's a hoot and I enjoyed her insight on keeping your plot moving along with valuable conversation. Her mysteries don't lag, and the chat is never dull.

Jazz was the theme of the day and Jazzing Up Characters starred Helen Ginger and Sylvia Dickey Smith. The two tag teamed about digging deeper into your characters, and giving the reader a reason to read your book. Sparkling insights and humor highlighted this class

After lunch, a panel discussion turned into a business discussion - self publishing versus traditional, plus marketing via twitter, website, social networking, and an array of circus like promotions. The author give and take was lively, informative, and energetic. The key is to write a great book, then promote the heck out of it, and believe in it and yourself. Thanks to Dave Lieber, Mike Kearby, Helen Ginger, Sylvia Dickey Smith, and Laurie Moore.

My final session of the day concerned children's literature. Rickey Pittman regaled us with poems and excerpts from his childrens' historical picture books. A prolific author, Pittman enthusiastically believes in children literature and the magic of reading aloud to kids. He shared marketing tips and his love of writing.

After the workshop, friends gathered to discuss the day, and agreed that Weatherford College put on an enlightening show and all that Jazz.