Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: The Engagements

The Engagements is a "sprawling novel about marriage - about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding." (cover blurb). J.Courtney Sullivan's book spans over one hundred years and traces the story of diamonds in America. One of her strongest characters is the single woman who coined the phrase for De Beers - Diamonds are Forever. It was advertising gold.

Evelyn was engaged to a young man who passed away suddenly. Thinking she would never love again, she ended up marrying his best friend and now forty years later she frets over her son's divorce. Delphine's seen passion and now fury. James, a paramedic, struggles to make ends meet and worries about his family. Kate and Dan, together but unmarried, are content with their arrangement. However, she's embroiled in her cousin's wedding preparations and has somehow lost one of the diamond rings.

All of these characters are well drawn, and the reader cares about everyone's tale. Life is about for better or worse, love found and love lost, and hopes and dreams for the future. The Engagements is a fun read, and you'll laugh or commiserate with the characters' situations. Sullivan's story sparkles like the glittering diamonds featured.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Autumn at the Dallas Arboretum is a pumpkin extravaganza. Sunday was a tad overcast, but a perfect temperature for strolling the grounds. Kids were dressed in Halloween costumes (Spiderman abounds), and pumpkins lined every walkway.
 They had a pumpkin village
 Pumpkins greeted you at every angle. The splash of orange perks up life in general.
Tough to beat a day at the arboretum - Halloween spirit prevails.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Maverick Speaker Series at UTA

 Thursday evening, after a tasty meal at Fuzzy's Tacos, Ray and I headed to Texas Hall at the University of Texas at Arlington. There we enjoyed another presentation of the Maverick Speaker Series. The guest was ESPN founder and entrepreneur - Bill Rassmussen. This engaging man was fired from his job as communications director for a New England hockey team. "Hmm, what shall I do now?" Well, he and another fellow had a vision for a 24 hour sports network in 1979. Cable television was a fairly new concept, and there was a lot of time to fill. Innovation, timing, perseverance, and some luck all played a part.
Financing was achieved by a deal with Getty Oil. Advertising courtesy of Budweiser. Communications. Technology thanks to RCA. And subscribers. NCAA football coverage proved huge, along with March Madness basketball, and ESPN Sports Center. Mr.Rassmussen viewed sports as a common factor for people. The mission statement today emphasizes any and all sports at any and all time. One of the earliest time fillers was Irish hurling.

Today ESPN has many outlets worldwide. It is a 66 BILLION dollar business. It is now owned by Disney Corporation and brings in half of Disney's profits - that is an amazing statistic. Ray and I enjoyed Mr.Rassmussen's talk - he's now retired and shares his wit and wisdom as a speaker. It's always good to gain perspectives from innovators like him.

And Ray's probably watching something on ESPN right this minute.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Ray's Adventures in Asian Food

 This is second hand story telling, but it's amusing. Ray and I are not adventurous eaters. Thus his trip to Asia proved daunting. However, he did not want to offend his hosts, so he gave it his best shot and downed some interesting food that he said , "I tried it, but will never eat again."  That's fair.  This first item is a shrimp with a sprinkling of gold dust. Ray likes shrimp (peeled) and wasn't keen on the head and everything aspect. But he said this went down just fine.
 Some kind of sushi thing with roe on top. Again - small and manageable
 No.  Let's just say that fish eyes staring are not gonna work.
 He has a video of the presentation of this plate. It took two workers to haul it to the table. Lovely platter and presentation with a driftwood base and an assortment of seafood product. Ray had tastes of everything.
Possibly one of his faves. This is coffee encrusted shrimp on a bread loaf presentation. He was very impressed with the artistic impression given at the table, and it was fine to take pictures. At times, items were presented with sparklers. It truly was a 2-1/2 hour lunch show. Quite unique for a very meat and potato couple. Ray did us proud.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Prisoners

I haven't posted my movie viewing in order, but that doesn't mean this is not worthy. Indeed, fall movie season has begun and it is worth heading to the theater once again. Prisoners offers a stellar cast and an intense experience. Everyone in the theater collectively held his or her breath until the end. Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello have two kids and live in a normal suburban home in PA. He works construction and times are a bit tough. They head over to the neighbors up the street (Terence Howard and Viola Davis and their two kids) for Thanksgiving. The day is good - food, family, and friends. Then the two young girls (approximately age seven or so) ask to go back to Hannah's room to look for a toy. The parents agree thinking the older kids will go with them. Oops. Miscommunication leads to missing girls.

Earlier, when the kids went for a walk, there had been a camper parked on the street. The girls wanted to climb the ladder on it, but the elder brother said no. It had a creepy vibe. A description of the girls and the vehicle are given to the police, and the camper is found at the edge of the woods. As police approach, the driver suddenly guns it and crashes into a tree. No sign of the girls, and the guy played by Paul Dano is confused. He's twenty something with the mind of a ten year old who lives with his aunt (Melissa Leo).

Lack of clues but suspicion about this lone suspect lead to frustration. Hugh is certain that the detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) is not doing his job, and he takes matters into his own hands. He holds Dano captive and tortures him for a confession. Terence Howard reluctantly goes along. Life stops for these families and they are prisoners in their worry and fear. Layers of new clues slowly emerge, and the clock ticks. Who's right? Who's wrong? Where are the girls? I will not give away anymore. Plenty of twists and turns keep us guessing. Each performance is great, and you'll be on the edge of your seat. This is a solid R for violence. Hugh Jackman is coiled as only a desperate father can be. Prisoners holds you captive.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Gravity

Gravity is ninety minutes of great filmmaking. Alfonso Cuaron has created a believable out of this world space adventure. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney bring humanity and grit into space and you'll hold your breath as you tumble along with them to dodge space debris. I recommend paying for the 3D movie. I am someone with motion issues, but did not have a problem and the 3D dimension truly added to the movie experience.

We first meet Bullock and Clooney as they work. He chats and oozes confidence, hoping to break a time in space record before he retires. Bullock is a research doctor who's testing her studies in space. She's reserved and quiet with a mournful air. He's determined to get her to loosen up and talk more, and then discovers the reason for her seriousness.

The mission is going great, and as a member of the audience we are feeling buoyant. Then, Houston announces an impending disaster. Russian equipment exploded causing a chain reaction of hurtling space debris, and it's headed directly toward our heroes. Indeed, it all happens so fast, we barely have time to duck and we fear for their lives as she becomes untethered and spins out of reach of safety. Fortunately, he still has some jet pack fuel. With his experience, they are back together to head to the space station.

But communications are lost. More debris hits and it keeps being one disaster after another. She has to remember her simulator training for this mission. She's a medical researcher not an astronaut by trade, and Bullock portrays intelligence, fear, anxiety, and doubt in her acting. She's great for this role. I won't give away the rest of the movie. Needless to say, the title means a lot - the gravity of the whole situation.

Gravity is worthy of the buzz. It's fast paced with hold your breath moments. For anyone with astronaut dreams, strap in for the ride.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Ray is home from his Asia work trip. Quite an adventure and he's a bit loopy from jet lag. I asked if I could steal some photos, and he agreed.  My dear readers will be happy to know that he fixed the pool problem immediately. Now he does have a filter cleaning project ahead of him, but the general crisis is averted. Whew!   So, he enjoyed Taipei, Taiwan but really loved Hong Kong. Great harbor view.
 Along the harbor they were celebrating cinema, so Ray had his photo snapped. He's my star.
 Hong Kong harbor at night, just one angle. I'll be featuring more whenever I need to entertain with pics and not words.
 Bruce Lee, of course. Way too cool statue.
And finally  -  food presentation. I'll have more pics of this and Ray described some of his tastebud forays. He gave it a go, and is pretty much happy to be back with my crappy American (fattening) cooking. But you can't beat these folks with presentation. Look closely - a dragon in mayo.

Sorry hon - here's the Miracle Whip jar - just go for it. I'm happy Ray's back. Yes, I missed him. The week seemed long. The breakdown is mended.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Book Review: Turn Around Bright Eyes

Turn Around Bright Eyes by Rob Sheffield is his tale of love and karaoke. If you enjoy music, especially tunes on a jukebox or ones you sing real loud to in the car or your shower, then you'll laugh at lines in this book. Rob moved to New York City in 2001, young but newly widowed and at a loss as to what to do with his life. Friends dragged him to a karaoke bar, and there he found escape. "Discovering the sublime ridiculousness of karaoke, despite the fact that he couldn't carry a tune, he began to find his voice." (cover blurb).

Then one day, he heard a woman's voice on the radio, and had to meet her. Turns out she could argue about every rock band (Rob's a writer for Rolling Stone, and other music critic journals), and could sing Bonnie Tyler tunes. It was love with a happy ending, and a singing partner to boot. Sheffield's humor shines through as well as his descriptions of being a good husband, but a horrible boyfriend. His dating scene stories are funny, and his references to songs both good and bad are hysterical.

Opening line of the book: "Once upon a time I was falling apart. Now I'm always falling in love."

By "now" he means Saturday night and the karaoke bar scene. "Either way, we always come here for a fix of that transcendent experience we can only get from singing."

Sheffield discusses Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond, et al amidst his life story. And karaoke at the senior center with his folks is taken very seriously. All in all, Turn Around Bright Eyes is a fun, breezy read that has you digging out old CDs to listen to in your car. C'mon, we all have guilty pleasure tunes.

"At any moment a song can come out of nowhere to shake you up, jump-start your emotions, ruin your life. It's never too late to let a song ruin your life." (p. 269)

Hum along and enjoy this memoir.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Bear with me friends. No pics. No reviews. Just a story.

Ray rarely travels for work, but he's in Asia. I dropped him off last Saturday and he headed to Taiwan. Now he's in Hong Kong and shall be back on Monday. Meanwhile, the pool filter decided to spew water, gallons of water. This occurred on Sunday. I turned off the pump and clicked the breakers in the fuse box. Pool is without power and no new rivers are flowing in Bedford.

Texting internationally did not go well. Feeble suggestions from his end. My response, "You're not here. No Monday morning quarterbacking." I consulted my brother-in-law and said to call a pool service. The pool folks were not cooperative. So the pool is awaiting Ray's return.

The point of this boirng story is - why do big things break the minute Ray leaves? It never fails.  And why is the breaker for the pool tied to our office room?  That is a weird electrical routing. Thus I have no computer at home, thus no blog with awesome pics.  This is being churned out at work, and I need to end it now.

Breakdown = it never fails.  I'll be back on Monday or Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Movie Madness Review: Rush

Rush is Formula One racing gold. Ron Howard directs a winner about an over-the-top sport, facing death, competition, rivalry, and how two men learn to respect each other. James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth) is the UK's golden haired cool playboy in the sport. From the day he begins, he has the girls, the popularity, and the assumption that he'll win. Then Niki Lauda (an intense Daniel Bruhl), an Austrian, enters the game and a rivalry is born. Lauda is under the hood, analyzing times, and making enemies, but he wins. Hunt calls him the rat. Lauda considers Hunt an asshole, and is determined to beat him every time. But Lauda makes huge gains, and the driving is on edge all the time.

This film is based on real men and a true story. One race turn goes bad and Lauda and his car are in flames. Is this the end? No. We see Lauda battle back from his injuries - skin grafts, lung procedures. It's horrific, but Lauda is determined to race again. Hunt, meanwhile, is winning but it seems like hollow victories. Lauda made him a better racer and a better man. Lauda returns, but there's far more to the story. I won't reveal the final ending. Needless to say, Rush is about character. This is a really well-made movie. The race scenes are adrenaline filled, and so are the off road entanglements. It's a champagne spraying worthy winner.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cold Feet, Warm Heart, and a Few Sales

Final update to Bedford Arts Fest, and it has a happy ending. I arrived in a blustery wind and placed at "extra" table 10 - this amounted to the hinterlands. Forget a nice table cloth, I needed boulders to lock down any paper.

Fortunately, Sue Ireland, a watercolor artist, came over and said, "I can move my table a bit, and we can fit you in near me."   Great - this got me out of the direct north wind and also into the flow of customers. Plus we had the added bonus of chitchat during lulls.

Traffic picked up and for such a horrific day, it turned into decent flow. Folks in shorts, folks in winter coats -that's Texas during a weather change. Anyway, I actually sold a few books (can't brag on recouping my table investment, but that's okay) and I believed my books went into good homes.

One young girl (age nine) chose a poetry book. (!).  One young man came back for "My Zoo World", and he was enthusiastic, "This sounds SO funny."

A writer friend drove in from Haslet and bought a poetry set - Thanks, Becky! She is so supportive.

I was surprised at lack of interest in my flash fiction. I truly thought folks would like the idea of super short stories. I had several people say, "I barely have enough time to read my Bible."  Well, I can't compete with that book.

All in all, it was a fun day and I enjoyed walking around to other artists' booths - stainglass, jewelry, oils, watercolors, puppets. There are a lot of talented people eager to share their work. I think the City of Bedford should be pleased, especially considering the weather.

I finished up the night at the Bedford Library - it was open mic poetry night. A small group of hardy souls shared their words (yes, I read - Blend and also Fall), and applauded our efforts.

My cold feet warmed and caught up with my heart. Yes, it's fun being an author.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Splash Indeed

Saturday update. I am getting ready to head out to the Bedford Arts Fest. My enthusiasm dwindled as storm clouds rolled in. Skies are ominous. Wind is howling. And there's a light drizzle. Oh boy.

A month ago, when I registered for the event, I flipped a coin and chose an outdoor table and chair. October is always so nice - cooler temps, a crispness, and blue skies. Oops.

I'm going to show up as part of my civic duty. Don't know if I'll unpack my car. No lightning at present.
Being an author is fun.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Art Fest Prep

Insecurites abound. This Saturday is Arts Fest in Bedford. I've attended some community meetings as our little town tries to figure out how to attract people with culture. Artists of all types - paint, sculpture, tattoo, puppeteer, actors, singers - have attended these conclaves. So far, I seem to be the only author, and I hope that's an advantage for Saturday. My books are fairly inexpensive, so if folks look at a $500 painting and say no, then perhaps they'll see my $5 poetry collection and whip out some cash.
 I did invest in new business cards. Here's the front. If people choose to not buy paper, they can go home and order my books on Kindle. At least that's the idea.  My sister asked if I was offering facepainting - always a winner at a festival. I said, "No, but I'll have a sharpie handy. I can draw a mustache or give a beauty mark if need be."
Here's the back of my new card. I did restock my books and I'm prepared with cash to give change. Part of me is going through the motions as if I'll sell out - exude confidence. I am trying to convince myself that folks will flock to my table. But a huge part of my gut is prepared to sit forlorn, trying to catch people's eye. Could be pathetic, but I'll sit up straight. My one hope is a table near the food trucks. People will gather there and paw my books with taco juice dripping from their fingers. Then they'll have to buy one.

Wish me luck. I shall report results on Sunday. Until then - support your local arts community.