Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is a fascinating look at the life of a genius. Much has been written in homage and tribute to a man who will be listed with Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison as a major contributor to life as we know it. Jobs died too young and yet his Apple legacy will live on and flourish.

Mr.Isaacson was given unprecedented access to interview Jobs himself, people who influenced Jobs and were influenced by him, review photos and data, and finally write a very unedited portrait of Steve Jobs. Isaacson, obviously admired the man, and yet he gives a very unvarnished picture of an egomaniac jerk, who could inspire many, and demand absolute perfection. There are a lot of unflattering scenes and incidents, and yet they add up to give a full image of Steve Jobs.

I was fascinated, repulsed, and in awe of Steve Jobs based on this book. I saw him speak once out in Silicon Valley. I don't remember the speech. I don't know that I fully comprehended what the heck he talked about. However, he was a commanding presence in his black shirt, his thin reedy voice speaking without notes, his enthusiasm for the subject, and his utter confidence, intellect, and magnetism. This was the Steve Jobs that took Apple to a high level, was basically fired from his own company, founded NeXt, gave a new lease on life to Pixar, re-took Apple, and zoomed it to dizzying heights with the iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iPad, and ultimately more iProduct that we didn't know we needed.

The book is well written, thoroughly researched, and compelling. Steve Jobs, the man, was totally nuts from a "normal" perspective. Steve Jobs, the genius, was awesomely amazingly on a whole other level from "normal", and we - the human race - have benefited.

RIP, Steve Jobs. You are probably driving God and Heaven crazy with a re-design.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Artist

No you aren't crazy. The Artist is in black and white. It's also a silent film with printed dialogue. Crazy? Sure. Kinda cool? Yeah. Up for tons of Oscar nominations? Absolutely. This film harkens back to the golden days of Hollywood when boy meets girls, boy falls for girl, boy's the big star, girl's the peppy young ingenue who surpasses his dreams and becomes a huge star. Meanwhile, boy's star plummets into disgrace. It's an olden goldie tale and it works in 2011-2012.

Jean Dujardin is our silent hero, George Valentin. Think Douglas Fairbanks - swashbuckling, matinee idol good looks, with an expansive smile, and over emoting - perfect for the silent film heyday. Berenice Bejo is Peppy Miller - our cute heroine, with large expressive eyes, a smile that doesn't end, and dancer legs. Plus she's ready to talk, sing, and go far in this new world of talkies. George refuses to change, thinking the talkies are a fad. Soon only his dog, played by a terrier named Uggie, stands by George. (Uggie steals the show!)

The 1929 stock market crash hits, wiping George's fortune. Folks still flock to movies, but only the talkies. He spends his own fortune to make a film, but silence is not golden anymore. Part comedy, part drama, part love story - The Artist is charming, entertaining, and rich in its black & white & shades of gray. The film score is luscious, and it's nice to enjoy an old fashioned film. Buy a tub of popcorn, treat yourself to a soda, and don't make a sound. Ssshhh!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Guest Post: Sharon K. Owen

Today I welcome fellow author and friend, Sharon Owen She's had a varied career and offers a lot to the world of literature. Let's hear from her in her own words:
I am a fiction writer, a university professor, a copy editor and an online writing teacher. My first Romantic Suspense: Thicker Than Water was published in 2011 and the second book in the series, Whatever Goes Around, will be published in March, 2012.
My short stories and poetry have been published in Descant, Concho River Review, Iron Horse, American Literary Review, Trinity Writer’s Workshop newsletter and collections of Christmas stories.
I am blessed with a loving family, a multitude of friends and the good fortune to share a cozy sanctuary in North Texas with my four-legged roommates.
As an only child in a household and neighborhood primarily populated with adults, I followed my grandfather’s example and entertained myself by creating my own stories in which I was always the hero and the star.
I inherited my vivid imagination and a compulsion to create alternate realities from my maternal grandfather.
He was natural-born story teller. In another century he might have been a Seanchai (an irish storyteller/historian who related adventures that became part of the legends in Ireland.
In our family, he passed along an oral history that brought our ancestors to life. These stories instilled in me a love of family drama and a curiosity about all the interactions of family members through succeeding generations.
The literacy skills I developed in school give me the opportunity to put those stories on paper. Although the written version never quite matches the perfection of those images in my mind, I persist in the attempt to present characters and situations that intrigue, inspire and entertain

Sharon's first book in her Brands Crossing series introduces us to well rounded characters, family dynamics, a mystery, and a feisty heroine. Let's hear what Sharon has to say about her book:

As a child, KATE O'DONNELL spends summers at her grandparents' estate in Brands Crossing where she and her girl cousins battle make-believe monsters, rescue endangered victims and a save a mythical kingdom.
At twenty-five Kate is a singer/songwriter living in Nashville and pursuing a promising relationship with computer game designer PHILLIP NORWOOD. There, her only battles are fought in Aidenne's Revenge, Phillip's online fantasy game based on her childhood adventures. With her grandfather's sudden death from injuries he sustained in a suspicious car crash, Kate is forced to make a choice.
Will she remain in Nashville to focus on Phillip and her music career?
Or will she move back to Brands Crossing and honor the promise she made to her grandfather that she would investigate the mystery surrounding his death?
Family trumps career and romance and Kate heads back to Texas where the monsters, victims and endangered kingdoms are all too real. In an attempt to protect Kate from danger, Phillip joins her quest and helps her search for incriminating documents, investigate a centuries-old family feud and confront an anonymous rose-bearing admirer who stalks Kate in both real and virtual universes.
Thicker Than Water (Brands Crossing Series) is the first in a series of novels set in Brands Crossing, Texas. It chronicles the lives of the Kincaids, a prominent family in this mythical town, and focuses on a mystery that extends back to the mid-eighteenth century and the young Texas Republic.

Finally, let's hear from Sharon and her philosophy on characters:


What's in a name? that which we call a roseBy any other name would smell as sweet;
is a quotation from William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, meant to say that the names of things do not matter, only what things are.[1]

In the play, the line is said by Juliet in reference to Romeo's house, Montague which would imply that his name means nothing and they should be together.

Well, as much as I hate to dispute any of Shakespeare’s wisdom and advice, I disagree with this statement.

For contemporary fiction writers, it is extremely important that they take a lot of time and effort to choose the best possible names for their characters. Ones that will seem appropriate and resonate with the reader(s).

When I was writing Thicker Than Water (Brands Crossing Series) I spent hours pouring through websites on names, trying to find one with a look, sound and meaning that was most appropriate for my characters.

When I pondered on the name for my protagonist, I wanted it to represent who she was as an individual and how she was connected to family. I chose her last name for the Irish connection (and also because that was the name of the town where I grew up). I wanted her to be named after both grandmothers and chose to have her named after her Irish nana in Boston and after her French belle-mere in Texas. Therefore, she was christened Kathleen Isabelle O’Donnell.

I wanted her to have the nickname Katie as a child, but I knew she would shorten that to Kate as an adult.

Kathleen is the Irish form of Katherine and means innocent or pure.
Isabelle is the French version of Elizabeth and carries a meaning of reverence, loyalty and commitment.
O’Donnell is a celtic surname which means world might.

I think these names are very appropriate for Kate because she personifies a kind of idealism and innocence (some would say naiveté) as well as the loyalty. She also comes across as a heroine (especially as her alter-ego, Flamesdancer, in an online, multplayer video game). These qualities lead her to abandon career and romance and dive into a quest to avenge her grandfather’s murder.

So, I respectfully disagree with both Will and Juliet. Kate, by any other name, would not look, feel, smell, nor sound as sweet. Her boyfriend Phillip mightt add taste to that sensory list.

Thank you Sharon, for your time today. Here are her various sites and contacts. Please buy or download Thicker Than Water for a reading treat.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Ice Fishing Story - Perspective

A quick story to illustrate perspective. Here in Texas we hit 80 degrees today. Crazy for January. My husband chats with a product person in Thief River Falls, MN - it was bizarre cold below zero. He went to pump gas and his hand froze on the handle. He had to get material out of his car to help defray the cold. Ray asked, "Why no gloves?" John said, "Well, it hadn't really been that cold yet""

Oh yeah? Here in Texas, we had a morning that was 28. Ray and I both have gloves, hats, and afghans in the car - just in case. If something happens, we don't want to freeze to death.


Here's a super funny story. John had to call Onstar. His keys were locked in the car. Onstar said, "Your car is in the lake. " He said, "No, it's on the lake. We're ice fishing." The Onstar personnel (calling from Florida were confused and didn't grasp the concept). "But, sir, your car is IN the lake," they insisted. "No, it's ON the lake. Just open the "damn" door." They finally complied, but reluctantly.

Perspective. Keep that in mind for your tales.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Waltz Wishes in Front Porch Review

So far, January's poetry month for me. I had Sidewalk Chalk in Curio Poetry last week. Now glide into Waltz Wishes in Front Porch Review

Photo taken at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What's in Your Queue?

I am the movie critic for The Little Paper of San Saba (a town without a cinema). I do have a specialty column, What's in Your Queue?, that features short blips on movies I've rented through NetFlix. Christmas and New Year's week were quite entertaining:

Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - the youngest Pavensie kids, Lucy and Edmond, along with their spoiled cousin Eustace take an unexpected trip back to Narnia. They join King Caspian for an epic high seas adventure on the Dawn Treader. They sail to the end of the world to rescue seven lords, banished by Caspian's evil uncle. Fun story and effects. This series has been amusing and it's a worthy rental.

Heathers - this is an oldie from the eighties starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. High school has its cliques and the "Heathers" are all blonde and boorish. Winona's character skates by with her dark prettiness and sharp tongue. However, she sees that the girls are out of control and enlists the new guy (Slater) to punish them. Well, he's a bit psycho and what was a prank turns into murder and escalates. Heathers is dark and makes fun of high school. It was ahead of its time and now, as a film, stands the test of time. Amusing.

Margin Call - Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, and Zachary Quinto head this all-star cast into a near Wall Street crash. Big trading company, overextended packages, crazy leveraging and financing. Sound familiar? This film brings our nightmare 2008 economic crash onto the screen. It seems very realistic as the risk department figures out that this financial behemoth has gone beyond its own rules and needs to do a mass sale of epic proportions to perhaps survive. Who knew computer screens could be so compelling? We know what's going to happen and yet we watch this gripping tale of money, greed, and how it is all a game. Wow!

Horrible Bosses - Kevin Spacey again, only this time he is evil, along with Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell as worst bosses ever. Buddies Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), and Dale (Charlie Day) can't leave their miserable jobs, so they decide to creatively eliminate each other's employers. Crazy schemes ensue after advice from con artist Jamie Foxx. This is a funny over-the-top zany movie.

That's what I did with my time, in between reading new goodies on my Kindle, and trying to outsmart my Wii Mii.

What's in Your Queue????

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wii: Whee, I'd Rather be Reading My Kindle

These people look so happy. They aren't teetering, wavering, or ready to collapse into a fetal position. Ray got us a Wii for Christmas, and yes, we need some fitness. Believe me, my little Mii tells me that anytime I tune in. With trepidation I step on the board, hear a groan, and am berated by an electronic voice for being shaky.

It's good for me. I'll look better and feel better when/if I'm called upon for a whirlwind book tour. However, if we're talking electronics devices, I'd rather press buttons on my new Kindle. Yes, I'm a proud owner thanks to Santa, and while I'm not giving up paper - the Kindle is darn tricky and I can understand how useful it is for portability.

My first download was my own book: My Zoo World If All Dogs Go to Heaven Then I'm in Trouble. It looks pretty good, so thanks again to Rich Ochoa , Sharon Owen , and Ann Summerville for self publishing and Amazon Kindle advice.

My reading queue keeps growing larger - how am I to fit in Wii activity?

No indolence, no laziness, but employ every minute in your life in active pleasures or useful employments - Lord Chesterfield 1752

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Curio Poetry Chose Me

Curio Poetry

I'm pleased to have a poem chosen by Curio Poetry. First one for 2012 on-line. Coming soon - Front Porch Review and Fortunates shall have a few of my tidbits.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Tony Cragg: Seeing Things

Tony Cragg: Seeing Things is a collection of thirty pieces of sculpture at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. Seeing things, indeed. These hard to miss dramatic pieces of wood, stone, bronze, and more are fantastic. Mr.Cragg's first exhibit was in 1979, and he's still exploring shapes, materials, and concepts - stretching the boundaries of space and form.

Kids would have a blast if they were allowed to crawl through this sculpture. It was tempting.

Mr.Cragg: What I think is important for me is something different: a sculptural quality that doesn't emulate time.....there is some sense of passage, there is a sense of flow, there is an intuition of flow in the sculpture.

and another view. It had been a gray dreary day, but our time at the Nasher was sunny, adding reflections, extending the flow of the piece with shadows.

I love the energy and movement in his pieces. I would not get tired of viewing his work. Indeed, each angle offers a different way of seeing things.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2012: Reflections of 2011

The final issue of Time magazine for 2011 features their choice for Person of the Year. This year it was the protester. I read the articles and admire people who have such conviction that they'll risk life and limb for what they feel is right. I admit to having a very calm middle class upbringing, a Norman Rockwell childhood, and no need to protest. Oh, I complain about mundane stuff, but I've never felt the urge to put myself on the line for justice.

So, the protests of 2011 are not over, and I'm sure some new ones shall arise. I'll watch and read from the sidelines.

On another note from 2011, here are a few quotes from artists and celebrities who passed away:
Amy Winehouse/singer,songwriter - lyrics I tread a troubled track/My odds are stacked/I go back to black
Jack LaLanne/fitness expert - "I can't die. It would ruin my image." He made it to 96.
Sidney Lumet/director - "He knew exactly what he wanted to see, and when he saw it. He didn't question it. He didn't look back through his lens. That was it. That was the shot."
Geraldine Ferraro/politician - "American history is about doors being opened, doors of opportunity for long as you're willing to earn it."

Gil Scott-Heron/poet and musician:
You will not have to worry about
a dove in your bedroom, the tiger in your tank
or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs
that may cause bad breath
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat
The revolution will not be televised

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello 2012

2012 is the year of more technology. Here's Ray's interpretation of his media room ceiling courtesy of his iPad2 kaleidoscope photoshop program. The Anaheim souvenir rally monkey (only one) hangs from the light fixture. However, with some stylus maneuvering, Ray created art (and gave me permission to use it - yes it's gonna cost me (!))

2011 proved challenging as I published my book on Smashwords and Amazon. I'm very technologically inhibited, but my goal is to keep learning, pushing buttons, and keeping up with social media, publicity, and promotion.

It is a zoo world. But like the tales in my book, I shall conquer my fears, work on my author page, seek outlets for my work, and try to update my website . WordPress, so far, is winning. (Easy to use? I don't think so.)

If it all works, I achieve more booksignings and sales. Another resolution for 2012, is to work on my next collection of humorous essays. I'm a few chapters in and there are plenty of laughs in store.

I wish my fellow writers - Ann, Sharon, Rich, Arly, Bonnie, Sheryl et al TWW - an excellent 2012.

Happy Writing (and publishing) and technology!