Thursday, September 29, 2011


A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention - Herbert Simon, psychologist.

This will be a short post. I'm having trouble focusing. Actually I was driving home the other day (my one hour commute) and thinking about how I used to feel I accomplished more. I seemed to read more, go to more movies, got together with friends and hung out. What am I doing with my time?

I definitely spend more time on the computer and it can be choppy - go read a book, but get up and check something. My concentration has diminished. There's a new term "executive function" which contains cognitive skills allowing us to control thoughts and impulses. I need to work on that.

There's so much information today and the world is changing rapidly. Our minds and processes have to evolve too. But there still are key factors: Pay attention, listen. I'll repeat that one -actually listen to someone if you are having a conversation. Read. Focus.

Oops ... gotta go check something.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Moneyball Review: Catch It

Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis' fascinating book, is about the science of baseball and how the anemic Oakland Athletics in 2002/2003 managed to win games with an unlikely team and lousy payroll. Sound boring? Nope. Brad Pitt fills a perfect role. He's Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A's.

Beane was a young gun with a full Stanford scholarship, who skipped college to play in the big show for the New York Mets. Unfortunately, he could never get all of his skills to connect. But he became a talent scout, thrived, and moved up the ladder. Now, as a forty-something GM, he was facing the loss of three big players (free agents) and had no money to buy replacements.

However, he did recognize some other talent - a young Yale economist graduate - Peter Brand (unassumingly played by Jonah Hill in a breakout role for him). This kid had statistics to back up player picks, looking at on-base percentages,etc. No picks based on physical looks, girlfriends, or star wattage. Strictly numbers. Billy rolls with the new method, is almost laughed out of the ballpark, until ... the A's start winning, and winning, and winning some more.

Moneyball is a modest, talks a lot film. It watches Pitt ponder and then sweat out his team's games. He battles the coach, played by a gruff Phillip Seymour Hoffman (always fabulous), and he helps Brand understand the glory of baseball, the dream, and that the key is winning that last game. Plenty of chuckles, angst, and baseball in this film. Brad Pitt ambles through it all with grace and all-American heart.

Here's to the start of a home-run hitting fall movie season.

(review published for the Little Paper of San Saba - a town without a theater)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

The leather bound volume was nothing remarkable. With this opening line, Deborah Harkness begins a mesmerizing tale of witches, daemons, and vampires living, learning, and competing in our normal human world.

Diana Bishop, studying and writing a paper about alchemy while in Oxford, tries to control her witch tendencies. However, when she breaks the spell on the leather bound volume, senses hidden secrets, and returns the book, all manner of otherwordly deeds transpire. Not the least is attention from Michael Clairmont, a wordly vampire.

History, romance, magic, and suspense are combined in A Discovery of Witches with superb prose, richly drawn characters, and intellect. Sparks fly as Diana delves into her past, her legacy, and recognizes her witch powers. I was mesmerized, drawn into this six hundred page book, reading it as if it was the life blood I needed to stay alive. Excellent. Become possessed and obsessed, too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Amon Carter Museum: Allure of Paper

Rather than go to musuems for the huge popular crowd events, it's worth taking a Sunday and wandering into your local museum for a peek at the small treasures. I enjoyed my afternoon in Fort Worth, and left feeling enriched.

First, fortify at the cafe in The Modern . The view is spectacular and the brunch choices are flavorful.

Next, the Kimbell Art Museum. It's prepping for Caravaggio's visit. Meanwhile, a guest of honor from Italy, Titian's La Bella: Woman in a Blue Dress is breathtaking. Also on view is a new acquisition - one of Poussin's seven sacrament paintings. Rich in color and detail, it is a coup for the Kimbell.

Finally, we strolled past construction as the Kimbell's new annex created by architect Renzo Piano takes shape. Onward to the Amon Carter Museum and enticed by The Allure of Paper. This special exhibition features a wide variety of drawings, charcoals, watercolors. Delicate and detailed pictures abounded. It was difficult to choose a favorite.

I vow to return, dodge the crowds, and poke into corners. Artistic gems await.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review: Sizzling Sixteen

I returned a book to the library and didn't plan to peruse the stacks. Books are piled up at home, some on loan from friends, and I need to catch up on them. However, can't help myself. I had to wander into the new release area, just to check out the choices. Well, who can resist a new Stephanie Plum adventure? Not me.

Janet Evanovich's Sizzling Sixteen sticks to the formula she created back at One for the Money. It's a breezy, no brainer read that amuses and entertains. Stephanie Plum's wisecracking lines and ability to get in and out of trouble as a bounty hunter keeps the pages turning. This is fun fluff, cotton candy for the eyes, and perfect for a Sunday afternoon on the patio.

Stephanie doesn't like guns (she's a bounty hunter!), eats a ton of fast food, partners with her cousin, Vinnie (he's a total sleaze), and works with Lula (a former prostitute). Plum's on again, off again boyfriend, Joe Morelli is a cop, and she's still tempted by Ranger, the mysterious/hot/sorta dangerous security specialist.

In Sizzling Sixteen, Vinnie's been kidnapped due to his gambling problem. Money's on the line, bad characters abound, not to mention a huge gator, and Stephanie keeps wrecking cars. Grandma Mazur's broken her foot and keeps us laughing with her perpetual visits to funeral homes. (Trust me, Grandma is a worthy recurring character - the comic foil)

There's nothing new in this book, no deep character studies, no poetic interludes. Evanovich churns out a reliable tale with a feisty heroine. Made for a sizzling Sunday read, indeed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Movie Review: Contagion

Don't catch this disease. Contagion is like watching a documentary from the Center for Disease Control, only the cast is all famous actors. There's Laurence Fishburne, as a concerned director. There's Gwyneth Paltrow, traveling back from Asia, coughing, and then dropping in a seizure on the kitchen floor while her husband, Matt Damon urges her to stop seizing. There's Gwyneth, all frothing at the mouth in the hospital, and then dead. Uh-oh. (No surprising spoiler alerts ahead - we're talking fatal disease here)

Slowly we see people all over the world, feverish and then dead - China, Japan, London, and then little Gwyneth in Minnesota. That's the puzzlement. But she was in Hong Kong and Chicago, and alas while cheating on her hubby, spreading fatal germs. Marion Cottillard is with the World Health Org. She's off to Hong Kong to connect the dots. Kate Winslet, lucky girl, is assigned to MN. Pale and wan, she dies a slightly prettier death than Gwyneth.

Lots of scientists peer into microscopes and discuss cell growth and linkages. Lots of folks with clipboards, and plenty of teleconferencing. No one in this movie gets to smile. Don't touch anyone or anything, or shake a hand.

Contagion is boring. You don't really get to meet and know these people enough to care. We all know how disease spreads - human contact. And yes, with planes, trains, and grocery shopping, we all know how fast disease spreads. Nothing new in this film. Lots of people talking, looking worried, and then worried with face masks.

Fortunately no one in our theater coughed, and I have to say I was conscious of touching the handrails on the way out. But the only infection we caught was ennui.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - Today and Ten Years Ago

September 11, 2011. It's a quiet Sunday. Blue skies. Ray's settling in for a day of NFL television viewing. His exercise will be running outside to the grill - slow cooking some pork ribs. I've got U.S.Open Tennis Women's Final dvr'd (ten years ago, I'd be taping, now DVR is a verb). He hosted his monthly poker crew last night (and won 3rd place). Today we straightened up, vacuumed, and I just completed our laundry loads. Life at the Faries household - all the "new normal", kinda the same as the old. But is it?

One year ago August, Linda T. and I visited New York City. We enjoyed fabulous weather, yummy meals, superb theater musical, and a visit to the World Trade Center site. This statue is outside of Trinity Church. We had hushed moments, and also were amazed at the hustle bustle energy of new construction.

Ten years ago, 2001, Ray and I spent a week enjoying New York City - US Open tennis, Mets, Yankees, bagels, and pizza. We left the city on September 1st. On September 11th, we watched television in horror - the towers coming down, the areas we walked cloaked in smoldering ruin.

My sister visited NYC that October - took the train up from Delaware and enjoyed the hospitality of a city still in shock, but hardy and welcoming and encouraging and friendly. She bought me this FDNY t-shirt, and I'm wearing it today to honor the firefighters, the first responders, the victims, and the survivors.

Ten years later, we still remember and yet so much has happened. Two sons became Marines, did their duty, and are now employed civilians utilizing skills learned from Uncle Sam. I've changed jobs. Ray's changed jobs. Our 401k plummeted this Friday - see nothing has changed.

Ray's grandparents are gone. Other friends and family have passed. Everyone's a little older, a little grayer (and yes, that includes Ray and me). Ten years encompasses so much LIFE.

9/11 tributes today and in the future bring tears to the eyes and cheers for America. The Statue of Liberty still stands proud in New York's harbor, sends a message of hope and peace and welcomes huddled masses.

United States of America ... liberty and justice for all.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Future Now? Drought & New Authors

I ponder the future based on our Texas drought conditions, horrific wildfires in Bastrop, and floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes that have graced the world in 2011. Rather scary. Settings for futuristic tales are always bleak, dry, ruined property, and smoldering land.

I realize our crunchy grass is a miniscule issue, but it has me contemplating literature. What new creative horrors are out there?

The publishing industry recognizes the drought caused by the Harry Potter void. J.K.Rowling's successful series ended with The Deathly Hallows. Now what's in store for young adult readers (and adults like me)? According to the Wall Street Journal (8/19/11), Harry Potter sold more than 450 million print copies. Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series sold 116 million, and Suzanne Collin's Hunger Game series along with Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series sold 42 million combined. That's a lot of reading, and authors need to keep those eyes peeled for new characters, plots, and drama.

Don't despair. The future looks bright. Here's upcoming hot buzz: Legend by Marie Lu (11/29/11) is a dystopian futuristic trilogy set in 2130 Los Angeles. Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan (9/13/11) covers young lovers torn apart while future colonists seek a new habitable planet. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2012) follows a young girl after a massive earthquake knocks Earth off it's axis and slows time.

There's hope for readers and at present books are still being published. Pick a format, any format, and hunker down with a good read. Just don't look out the window at your weather reality - better that it stay on the pages.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ray of Sunshine: Anniversary

September 1, 1989 Ray Faries married Joanne Crowther in Arlington, Texas. The Justice of the Peace ceremony was very low key but pleasant and meaningful. The bride's father, George Crowther, treated everyone to a wedding lunch at J.Gilligan's in Arlington. He commented on the inexpensive tab. That night, the couple honeymooned at the Sheraton in Arlington overlooking the ballpark. Saturday evening, they hosted a blowout party at their home complete with margaritas. Best wedding weekend ever. Ray picked the September 1st date - it's the opening day of dove season. (Put that in a romance novel)

What a grand thing to be loved! What a grander thing still, to love! Victor Hugo

Twenty two years and we're still having fun and smiling. Unlike many novels' versions of marriages with daily trauma, heartbreak, infidelity, murder, betrayal, and abuse, our book is fortunately quite boring. Big questions - what's for breakfast? What's in the lunch bag? Who's cooking dinner? (I vote for Ray - much better cook.)

Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile - Franklin P.Jones

We're headed to the Texas Rangers game tonight to celebrate our anniversary. Again, a reader would yawn and fall asleep at this chapter. However, we keep turning our pages and delighting in our marriage adventure. It's our story.

That Love is all there is,

Is all we know of love

Emily Dickinson