Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ghouls and Goblins

                          Soul Appearance  by Joanne Faries


eyes glowed pink
moonlight reflected
ghostly skin
pale man reveled
in his appearance
stared boldly into
children’s faces
bared skeletal chest
white hair shock
so pale, it was blue
harvest moon glare
strangers admired his
costume, blood slathered
carving knife

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: The Mockingbird Next Door

Any fan of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, should read The Mockingbird Next Door - Life with  Harper Lee by Marja Mills.

The author, a Chicago journalist, by sheer luck/chance/a modest letter of introduction, began a long conversation and friendship in 2001 with Alice Lee (a lawyer) and her younger, more famous sister Nelle Harper Lee in Monroeville Alabama. Marja Mills traveled to the small town to do research for a Chicago Tribune article about Harper Lee. Chicago had a book initiative and To Kill a Mockingbird was its selection.

Something clicked and Mills spent time slowly learning about the Lee sisters, their lives, love of history and literature and the south, and about fame and elusiveness. She learned about the childhood time with Truman Capote, and then life in New York. She got better insight into why Ms. Lee never wrote another book, after such huge success in her 30s.  She appreciated the "great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two great women." (cover blurb)

From this rare opportunity and with Harper Lee's blessing, Marja Mills wrote this book and has allowed a glimpse into this celebrated author's life. Conversational in tone, it's thoughtful, well written, and feels like home.

 p. 273  All those years later Nelle's dark hair now white, her hands arthritic, her voice in To Kill a Mockingbird still could be heard on those Sunday drives, as she and Alice remembered a place that was.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wilson Sisters Wail

Ray was off to the deer lease this weekend. Hmm, what to do? I saw in Friday's paper that Heart was appearing at the Verizon Theater (fairly small venue) on Saturday night. Sure enough, I bought a "cheap" seat - $35 plus fees, and found myself at Radio Station 92.5's blowout.

It was almost a senior citizen convention - every old rocker around hobbled to their seats. Yep - I guess that includes me. The way I look at - everybody driving tonight had good car insurance.

Flashback to the 80s. One of the openers was Night Ranger - Don't Tell Me You Love Me and Sister Christian were their biggies. They were LOUD, but fun.  Another opener was a local dude - Monte Montgomery - darn good guitar player. I liked him a lot.

Headliners - Heart came on at 9:30 pm. and opened with Barracuda. The hits came fast - Magic Man, Crazy On You, Dreamboat Annie, Even it Up, Straight On for You, Alone, What About Love, and more.

Wow - Nancy Wilson looks the same and can play that guitar. Ann Wilson can wail - her voice is richer, maybe a little less of the super high notes, but still she is unique and pure. The two together are rock queens. For 1-1/2 hours they captivated their audience. No fancy gimmicks on stage, just music magic.

I had never seen them in all my years of concert going. Glad I had the chance. Heart is classic and still rockin'

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Movie Review Madness: Fury

“Fury” is the name of the tank. It’s WWII, 1945, and though the crew looks beat down, America is making inroads in Germany. However, “Ideals are peaceful, history is violent” says Sgt. Collier (Brad Pitt) to the new guy, Norman (Logan Lerman). The poor kid was a clerk, and now he’s in the second gunner seat of a tank. The wide-eyed fear and horror is palpable on his face. But as the tank rolls through towns, takes out German battalions, we see him harden in this unflinching portrayal of war. 

The guys have made it through Africa, France, and now Germany. They count on each other and especially on the sergeant.  Pitt brings a quiet nobility to his role. He’s stalwart and commanding, and then he walks away and has his moment of fear/relief/ and utter exhaustion. Then he rallies and keeps his tank on the move. With a tank’s eye viewpoint, the director keeps us in the mud and in the middle of fire. It’s scary and claustrophobic.  

“Fury” does not give us major history lessons, but it does show the endurance of war weary men. I give the film a B for making me care about the guys, for solid filmmaking, and for the tank perspective. The fury does build and unleash in many different ways.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

UTA Maverick Speakers - James Carville and Mary Matalin

 It was an amusing and interesting Monday evening.  UTA brought James Carville and Mary Matalin to town. The two have been married for twenty years and have two teenage daughters. Otherwise, they are polar opposites that agree on a lot of issues. As the introduction went - she's Midwestern, he's Cajun Louisiana, she's Republican, he's Democrat, she speaks English, he speaks....well, see for yourselves.
The two agree on many things - they cannot get their daughters to listen to them or close doors. And he embarrasses the heck out of the girls. Truly - they seemed like a happily married couple who happen to disagree on politics.  The title of the evening - All's Fair: Love, War, and Politics.

The key they kept coming back to was humanity. The USA is going to keep kicking. There are divisive issues. We have to get past the media pervasiveness of "We're All Gonna Die" mentality. If we look to the US governors at the state level, life and politics are grinding out the true government necessary, along with innovation. And ultimately, we do have to look out for each other.

He's funny, sharp, and smooth. She's a tad more direct and certainly the salt to his Cajun pepper. Plenty of food for thought - including where to eat in New Orleans - they agree that Brennan's is the crème de la crème for special occasions.

UTA brings top notch speakers to the area. I'm glad I took advantage of this free opportunity to broaden some horizons.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vote Early

The polls are open for early voting, so I drove to the Bedford Library today to do my duty. I followed the Vote Acqui signs, and showed my driver's license. With shoulders slumping and a sigh of resignation, I cast my ballot. I wish I could be happier with my choices, not going for lesser of evils.

And the question of evils is based on articles I read. I admit I am shallow and lazy in regards to politics. I don't dig deep into voting records. I am, no doubt, a victim of media bias.

I count on the checks and balances of the "system" to keep things sane, though it sure seems like the inmates are running the asylum.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why See This Play?


On Sunday, October 19th, I saw the play A Few Good Men with a friend. This was at a local college, Brookhaven, and it was a decent production. If you've seen the movie, the role of Colonel Jessup as done by Jack Nicholson is engraved in the brain. The tension filled courtroom scene between him and Tom Cruise is classic.  "You Can't Handle the Truth"
All in all, the director Lisa Devine gave a faithful rendition of Aaron Sorkin's play. However, I'm not really here to review the play. I'm interested in the why of how we ended up in the Brookhaven theater.
My friend, Tracey, is a faithful Starbucks coffee drinker. She gets her fuel on her way to work and has a favorite barrista, Jake Bullock. In day to day chat, she learned that he is a theater major. Then she noticed he cut his hair quite short. "What's up with the cut?"  
"I got a part in A Few Good Men."
"Let me know when you perform and I'll check it out."
Sure enough, he let her know and had posters hanging at the Starbucks. Tracey knows I'm game to support the arts (and her husband was happy to stay home and watch the Cowboys play football), so we hit the matinee.
After the show, as folks greeted the actors, his face lit up seeing family, friends, and a Starbucks customer. As a matter of fact, another customer was there too. I'm happy to say he did a very good job as Lt. Kendricks - one of the "bad" guys.
It's a busy world, but no matter where you go or what you do, (especially on a regular basis) it's worth saying "hello", "what's new", and learn a little about somebody. You can be surprised.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Frivolity

A lot of pending pumpkin pies

Friday, October 17, 2014

Movie Review Madness: Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” was and is a must read. This book defied expectations – forget cooking, cleaning, eating, or the kids. Anyone who picked up this book could not put it down, and then the discussion was a lot of OMG, and “Are you kidding me?!”   Now “Gone Girl” is in theaters and does not disappoint its fans. David Fincher, the director, with Gillian Flynn’s own screenplay brings this cold calculating book of a marriage gone wrong, of successful people failing, and of a murder/kidnapping mystery to film in fine fashion.  

I shall not reveal key plot points, thus this review dances a bit about the story. Just know that Ben Affleck’s Nick comes home midafternoon after a call from a neighbor saying his cat is out and his front door is open. He walks in calling out to his wife, Amy, and finds living room furniture upended and blood in the kitchen. He calls the cops and soon a search for a missing person, Amy, becomes arrest for murder.  

So, did Nick do it? We see the story develop forward and backward. Head over heels love in the early parts of marriage. Huge success in New York. Nick and Amy are the cleverest, cutest, and most accomplished couple. She is still the focus of her parents, having been analyzed as a child with the Amazing Amy series of books. A bit resentful. A tad petulant. Rosamund Pike, as Amy, is icy blonde, fiercely brilliant, and now bored in Missouri. She and Nick had to leave NYC during economic fallout and return to his hometown to help his dying mother. Now his mother is dead, he runs The Bar with his twin sister, Margo (a really good Carrie Coon), and they both feel trapped and resentful. 

What happens? I won’t tell you. Just know that Affleck is perfect as Nick – the cool guy who’s just a bit too good looking and can come off as smug. Is he tired of the perfect Amy? Money troubles always stir the pot. He counts on his twin. They are so close, and yet even she has to ask – did he do it?  The two detectives offer contrast – the guy is sure Nick is guilty, the female detective has her doubts. The fact that Amy herself left written clues (it was an anniversary game) seems contrived.  

In flashbacks and forwards, we see Amy’s side of things through diary entries. Rosamund Pike is Oscar worthy in this role. She’s so calculating and smooth. History of past boyfriends/alleged stalkers proves interesting. Maybe Nick never had a chance.  

That’s all I can write. Read the book. See the movie. Find out what happens to that “Gone Girl.” 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review: Outlander

“Outlander” is now a STARZ series, and I just finished the first book in the series. I’m late to the party but ready to scavenge for crumbs. Diana Gabaldon must only write. She can’t possibly sleep, eat, or breathe like a normal human. In paperback, “Outlander” is 850 pages of page-turning action, adventure, love, history, murder, and mayhem. Life in 1743 is brutal, especially if you’ve arrived there from 1945! 

Claire Randall is a former combat nurse, reuniting with her husband on a second honeymoon. They stroll the moors of Scotland, enjoy a small inn, and he works on his history projects. They also hope to start a family. One day she strolls through an ancient stone shrine and finds herself in the midst of a raiding clan war in 1743. She’s a Sassenach – an “outlander”.  From the back blurb “Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life…and shatter her heart.”  She meets and falls in love with James Fraser, a gallant Scots warrior, but she’s married to Frank in 1945. “Torn between fidelity and desire, she must survive.” 

What a concept. With the knowledge Claire has of 1945 and history she’s gleaned from her husband, she must not reveal too much. Her nursing skills save lives (keep things clean first and foremost), and with a few vague warnings she can turn the tide of a battle. Gabaldon keeps things moving and her details are fascinating. The pages burn when Claire and Jamie are together. I’m hooked on the “Outlander” series and highly recommend you start reading now. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fort Worth Stockyards Adventure

Huge temperature change on Saturday after rain Friday night. We awoke to 58 degrees - gray and dreary. What to do?  I had an ulterior lunch motive, but first we decided to walk around the Fort Worth Stockyards. We walked into the stables and here's a warning - basically beware of horses. I stayed in the middle of the barn lanes and let Ray pet the equine.  (See Old Buttercup chapter from my book My Zoo World, and you'll know why I steer clear)
 We did enjoy the cattle mosey at 11:30 am.  The very first time we ever saw this I expected a cattle stampede, but no - it's a leisurely stroll down Exchange Street. Plenty of tourists and it's fun to watch.
We've never been in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame - nice museum.   Here's Ray hanging 'round the campfire.  The displays for men and women who've excelled at rodeo, cutting, ranching, and sport medicine are well done - famous names like Larry Mahan, John Justin, Jr., Walt Garrison, et al are represented.  The Sterquell Wagon Collection is extensive - over sixty antique buggies, carriages, sleighs, carts, and wagons are shown. This is a premier salute to transportation from the 1800s.

And lunch -     We chose The Love Shack - tasty burger combo, root beer on tap, and a live duo playing outdoors. It was a bit chilly, but we chowed down. A fun Saturday exploring our back yard - well, twenty minutes away.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Movie Review: This is Where I Leave You

“This is Where I Leave You” is a typical throw a family together under funeral circumstances and hilarity will ensue film. This is an okay film, probably better for rental or streaming in a few months. I only paid matinee price and was amused. Jason Bateman’s Judd walks into his apartment with a birthday cake  for his  wife, only to find her in an inappropriate situation with his boss. Ooops. Now he’s getting divorced, needs a job, and gets a call from his sister (Tina Fey) that his father died. He arrives to sit shiva with his whole family. Mom (Jane Fonda), older brother Paul (Cory Stoller), sister, and baby brother (Adam Driver). Add in assorted wives, kids, neighbors, and former hometown loves (Rose Byrne, Timothy Olyphant).  

But the point of the film is family. No matter what -  you can battle, have some grudges, and your siblings will still love you. I was very happy that throughout the film, no bad secrets came out about the father. That’s often the twist for films these days. All in all, he was a glue for the family and they all missed him in their own way. Very nice.  

The siblings did fall into stereotypes but thanks to decent acting rose above the material. Tina Fey as the only girl was the heart and boss of the group. The older brother was looked up to and yet “disliked” for being the “good one who set the example”. Judd as the middle brother was popular, cool, and Bateman does bemused snarky well. Despite outward appearances, Judd is an insecure mess – sure that he’s always never quite made it. Peter, the youngest, is the beloved screw-up. He gets away with shenanigans, but really wants to be like his older siblings.  

“This is Where I Leave You” does have a lot of good moments and lines. It solves things a bit too easily with pregnancies and the whole “circle of life” cliché. And yet, that is life, and as we leave the film, we have to hope the characters have grown and will succeed in new paths, plus stay in touch.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Family History (Lack Thereof)

Wednesday was my birthday - age 56 - old enough to groan, not old enough for good perks, yet.
But I dug around and found this photo - I'm the baldy on the left. My cousin Mark (four days younger) is on the right. We were eleven months old and propped with Great Grandmother Farrell.

That's all I know. Can't tell you her first name. She's eighty or so here - but back in the day everyone had that Grapes of Wrath look. They were ancient even at sixty. I have no doubt she always had an apron handy and could whip up a meal for three or thirty.

Stoic, plain speaking. I bet she was kind, but didn't put up with nonsense.

I should have listened better, but I don't remember many stories from my mother about her grandmother. My mom's gone now. But the photo lives on.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Silent Sunday - still milking Italy

Italy is dramatic, even the night sky.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Fresco and Frivolity

 Look everywhere in Italy and the art is fabulous.  This was in the Pantheon.
 Vivid colors
 Stop along the Amalfi Coast and smile. No wonder the Italians are such a happy people. Lovely scenery and a gelato break ease the mind
The colorful fishing village of Burano in the Venice Lagoon area was picture postcard perfect.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bernini and more

 Forget cramped airlines, crappy airline food, and jet lag.  I traveled to Italy with a good writer friend, Ann Summerville, and we hit the streets of Rome on Saturday September 20th, running.  You can't go wrong in the Piazza Navona. It is dramatic, gleaming, and a dream come true.

 Bernini sculptures have to be seen in person. Pictures do not do them justice. The detail, the creativity, the story, the characters, the size - I was in awe.

So many statues, so little time.  This was just day one, hour one and it got better and better. My eyes are full of beauty - Italy itself, the people, the food, the art, the history. I shall share the adventure until you scream "No more!"