Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Movie Review - Inside Out

 Inside Out is my favorite film so far this summer. It’s clever, exuberant, original, and just a gem. Riley is eleven and loves her life in Minnesota. But now her family is moving to San Francisco. New school. New friends. New ice hockey team. Change is the worst, especially as a pre-teen girl with enough emotions roiling through her body to light up a zillion computer circuits. When we join the movie, the brain is functioning nicely. Command control is harvesting memories, containing stories, and building the life of Riley. But the move brings transition and the brain panel evolves. 

Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) all come into play. The voicings are perfect and the inner and outer dialogue are spot on. Dinner time is no longer pleasant. Riley is a time bomb every night and the parents are at a loss with how to handle this new tween creation.  And in Riley herself, the islands of goofiness, family, et al are adrift. She’s charging through the day and destroying so much calm that was built in eleven years. 

Joy tries to win, but realizes Sadness has to play a part, along with the other emotions. It’s bittersweet and we see loss of innocence arrive. Fortunately, there is a strong family element that tugs at Riley’s heart and she’s able to turn to her parents for help in coping with life’s changes and pain. All emotions come into play and Inside Out proves we need them all to survive. Yes, this is a “kid” movie, but it’s truly for adults who understand the depths of the brain and are still seeking control at times. I loved this film. It’s sublime.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Movie Review: Jurassic World

It’s been a long time since we held our breath as raptors tapped their claws in the kitchen and kids tried to not move. Well, they are back and dinosaurs are bigger and badder than ever in Jurassic World.

This is a summer blockbuster, eat-a- tub- of-popcorn, kind of movie for the family. It’s PG-13 with a little language and some big teeth chomping. I actually paid full price and have no regrets – super big screen, great sound, and comfy recliner seats. I did not choose 3D, but I heard that is decent. So, Jurassic World is fun……….but………..it’s a lot of rehash of the old Jurassic Park. For me it lacked that extra wow factor that made the first one so original.  

Two kids come to visit their aunt and experience the theme park – ride dinosaurs, interact with them, and picture Sea World or a Zoo on mega steroids. The aunt played by Bryce Dallas Howard is a big executive and really can’t spend time with the kids. She’s in crisis mode when a newly created dinosaur goes rogue. What was in its genetic mix? A bit of raptor, a bit of all things nasty? This dinosaur is clever and can adapt as it runs rampant. Speaking of running, Howard does it in heels (seriously? This annoyed me).  

Fortunately, we have Chris Pratt – dino-whisperer. He’s the man with the muscles, the plan, and some common sense. Plus his sense of humor and comic timing makes the movie. Chris Pratt can do no wrong right now.  And finally, evil Vincent D’Onofrio, is eager to bring in his military muscle to control Jurassic World and key dino DNA.  

So lots of great CGI special effects. The dinosaurs are impressive. Lots of chasing through the jungle, rain, and the roar of massive beasts. Jurassic World is eye candy and there’s nothing wrong with that in the summer. Take the family and have fun. Just keep your arms inside the ride.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Saturday

Summer Saturday. Find a big tree. Sit in the shade and contemplate a whole lot of nothing.


P.S. In Texas, make sure you don't sit on a fire ant nest. (This has been a public service announcement brought to you by "Texas is Dangerous")

Friday, June 26, 2015

Maverick Speaker Series: Bob Costas

The University of Texas at Arlington hosted their final Maverick Speaker back in May - Bob Costas. He proved to be quite charming and funny with lots of sport stories to tell. After thirty years in the business, he's been witness to a lot of changes in the games, the characters, and the media presentation.

The talk was moderated by Charlotte Jones Anderson. She's the Executive VP of the Dallas Cowboys, and yes, Jerry Jones's daughter. Sharp lady with good questions. She and Costas knew each other and had an easy dialogue.

His favorite sport is baseball, thanks to fond memories of the game with his father. He enjoys Olympic coverage, though not his pink eye experience in Russia.  Favorite location was Barcelona. Favorite moment was Muhammad Ali as a torch lighter.

Most bizarre moment was the OJ Simpson Bronco chase. Costas was covering basketball playoffs. He was also personal friends with OJ. The whole coverage was surreal for him. After OJ was in jail, Costas did visit him with his lawyer (Robert Kardashian - yes, father of the K mess). That story was darn fascinating.

All in all, we enjoyed the 1-1/2 hours with Bob. His take on all of the instant coverage - there still needs to be network coverage and focus. Facts not fiction.  Sports unites the world.

And Bob Costas is quite short in person.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wordless Wednesday Summertime

 Raise the umbrella. The heat is on
 Crape myrtle are starting to pop
 Happy pepper plant says 'bring it on"
I think the moss rose is a tad thirsty. Better get the watering can

Well, I couldn't be completely wordless today. Let's finish with a haiku

the creak of    

my umbrella -

the heat

Monday, June 22, 2015

All Things Alex - Cassa Series Trilogy Launchpad

I am very pleased to be a part of the CassaSeries Trilogy launch. Alex Cavanaugh, writer and blog friend to the world, has his books now available in one package. Check it out on Amazon NOW!!!

Release date - June 22 2015



By Alex J. Cavanaugh 

ISBN 9781939844118

Price - $5.99 eBook boxed set

Science fiction/adventure (FIC028010) and science fiction/space opera (FIC028030) 

The Amazon Best-Selling Series!

CassaStar - Few options remain for Byron. Slated to train as a Cosbolt pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth to his instructor, Bassa. As war brews on the edge of space, Bassa must make a decision that could decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission destined to stretch their abilities to the limit? 

CassaFire - Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters behind him, the detection of alien ruins sends him to the planet of Tgren. Forced to train a Tgren named Athee and deal with an eager young scientist, he feels invaded. Tensions mount as the ruins reveal a potential weapon, plunging him further into the chaos. All Byron wanted was his privacy… 

CassaStorm - Commanding the base on Tgren, Byron watches as a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the planet. When the war hits Tgren, it triggers nightmares in his son. The ancient alien ship begins transmitting a deadly code and the probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago returns. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle… 

Find it here:


Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.


Good luck, Alex!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Happy Father's Day Weekend

Here's Dad. Just spent a week in PA and had a very good time. He's undergoing some medical treatments - has five to go - and that's slowing him down. But at almost eighty-four, my Dad's a hoot.

My sister and I had a mission to spruce up bushes and beds (not the jungle in the back), and to clear any cobwebs (Dad - you gotta look up sometime), wash floors, and remove "junk".  Lori was brutal in the kitchen.

"Dad, do you know what this is?"
He hemmed and hawed. Bam - it was on the staging table for removal.
"Dad, do you plan on baking a Bundt cake anytime soon?"
Bam, out the door. The kitchen was the biggest area of cleanout since the man is the king of the deli and also microwaving. No need for a roasting drip pan. So, feel free to visit the Salvation Army on Rte. 309 - there is a fresh pile of kitchen goods.

Other than that, he keeps a nicely appointed home. No, we did not venture into the basement - that's for another day.

We laughed. We pretty much reconstructed the whole neighborhood - who lived in that house? Kids names. And stories galore. My brother joined in when he could - he had a paper route as a boy, and could name the good tippers.

I'm very fortunate. My Dad is just a good, kind man with a wicked sense of humor.

 I need to check the airlines and book a ticket for another visit....the basement awaits.

Happy Father's Day Weekend to all. Hope you visit your father now, or can reflect on good memories. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Poem: She Let Go

she let go 

after a month of rain
weary grip on the earth
the strain to live
tasked her roots 

she had no roots
vague memory of youth
intense growth period
heat cycled, hail pounded 

wind whipped
green lacy leaves lingered
branches presented a brave prayer
beseeched the sky 

sap starved, she dried up inside
despite surging storms
she keeled over
hitting her crown on the roof 

final farewell scraped
tiny root tendrils exposed her

so shallow
Note - Ray and I took a walk around the block after our May storms. A rather large maple was uprooted on another street. She looked healthy enough up top with green leaves, but alas, huge gaping hole in the yard revealed.....nothing.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

I've liked Nick Hornby's writing ever since discovering About a Boy and also High Fidelity (both turned into good movies, too). Now with Funny Girl, he brings his breezy style to the 1960s and early British television.

Barbara Parker is crowned Miss Blackpool and keeps the honor for a few minutes. She realizes it's time to get out of the small town and try to conquer London. With a new name, Sophie Straw hits a casting call with her comedic talents (and other assets) blazing and becomes the lead in "Barbara (and Jim", a comedy series on the BBC.

Hornby explores Sophie's stardom, the writers, the producer who's in love with Sophie, the lead actor Clive who thinks he loves Sophie, and the magazine writer who's been loyal to covering Sophie's rise.
The story moves along briskly, the humor is light, and we enjoy a "group of people who are funny, if flawed, and illuminates their deep connections, complicated relationships, and wise humanity." (cover blurb)

This is a fun, quick read. Nick Hornby did not disappoint.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Off to PA

This picture of my Dad is from August 2014.  I'm headed up to PA to see him and do some work around the old homestead with my siblings. He's been having some medical treatments, so probably not as perky.

I shall assess the situation. My younger sister (by ten years)  assessed a month or so ago and suggested I come up for spring cleaning. She just wants to point and have me move furniture. I require a lot of breaks, so it's good I'm there for a week.

My brother's already buying some mulch for a bush spruce up. We don't want Dad's place to be the neighborhood eyesore (at least from the front).

Absolutely DO NOT walk around back - it's gotten out of hand, like Sleeping Beauty's castle - a tangle of overgrown crazy.

So, everyone have a good week. I'll be posting some of my usual reviews, etc. but I might be remiss in commenting due to hard labor. My sister is stingy with the work passes.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Book Review: A God in Ruins

Last year I declared Life After Life by Kate Atkinson my favorite book. The story and writing was stunning – very unique.  Now her new book, A God in Ruins, is not really a  sequel but contains many of the same characters.  Instead of Ursula, we read younger brother Teddy’s story – heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather. Atkinson handles time in a unique fashion. We read about Teddy as a grandfather and then seamlessly move back to his WWII pilot days and harrowing danger. She gives witness to an ordinary man and his path through extraordinary times.  

Here are some samples of her writing.  P.97 Teddy’s attempts to be an author are a struggle.  The great authors of the past had set standards that made his own attempts at artifice look puny. He could find no engagement with the one-dimensional lives he had created. If an author was a god, then he was a very poor second-rate one, scrabbling around on the foothills of Olympus.  

p.135 the move to an assisted living center.  He had begun to lose the thrifty habits he had once had, growing tired of the relentless culling and resolution that the material world demanded. Easier to let it pile up, waiting for the great winnowing of goods that his death would bring.  

p.440 The trumpets sound the end of the revels. The baseless fabric begins to disintegrate. The stuff that dreams are made of starts to rend and tear and the walls of a cloud-capped tower tremble. 

A God in Ruins is not the page turner Kate Atkinson’s other book was for me. However, the characters are richly drawn and I liked Teddy a lot. She obviously did research because his time as a pilot on bomber runs was well written and thrillingly scary. Teddy’s time as a mortal man prove more difficult. Dealing with his very annoying daughter, he’s at a loss and misses his wife, Nancy, who dies far too soon. This book is a leisurely read. I like a book that’s intelligent (albeit, maybe a tad stodgy). This won’t be for everyone, but I’m a Kate Atkinson fan.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Adrift at Sea

No more landline.

I'm sure this is not news for many. It's an all cellular world with everyone saying, "Huh, what did you say?" into their smart phones.

However, I held on to the last vestige of clear signal. Ray paid the bill each month. But, we've been a week without service (I assume it was weather related) and Ray was losing the battle with the customer relations folks. Actually there were no folks - he was in auto dial hell. No end in sight.

So, since I don't chat with my father weekly on the phone (we pretty much email because he keeps weird hours), and I mostly email or text with friends to arrange a get together, this made sense.

It's all moving quickly. I've only had a cell phone for two years. Yes, you read that right. I was a hold out. I still haven't mastered all the buttons and programs and swiping stuff. Now I don't have a backup plan. I can't reach for the phone on the wall.

I will learn and I guess I need to turn on my ringer.

So what ringtone shall I put in for you?   A movie phrase, a blast of classic rock, or an animal sound.

No more landline. I am adrift at sea. My ringtone shall be a foghorn...........

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Movie Review Madness: Entourage

The boys are back and as foul-mouthed and rowdy as ever. Vincent Chase (dreamy eyed Adrien Grenier) has his Entourage. It was an HBO show and now it’s on the big screen – still saluting Hollywood excess. The houses, the pools, the beach, the cars, the drinking, the partying – nothing has changed. Well, maybe a few things. Ari Gold (the irrepressible Jeremy Piven) is now a studio head. His self-imposed retirement did not last long. He’s back stressing over details, money, and whether his big star Vince can act AND direct. A lot is on the line, like over a hundred million dollars for a blockbuster called “Hyde”. The money man from Texas (Billy Bob Thornton) and his goober son (Haley Joel Osment) fit the stereotype, and they are exerting power over Ari. 

Vince needs to finish the film, that’s the key to the plot line. Meanwhile, Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) is still Vince’s dimwitted older brother, still plugging away, and hoping that his four pivotal scenes bring him the stardom he yearns for. Eric “E” (Kevin Connelly) is the common sense manager/producer who’s awaiting the birth of his child with Sloane his ex-girlfriend, as he juggles other ladies. Even E can’t stay out of the gutter. And Turtle,  (Jerry Ferrara) Vince’s old pal who’s the driver, is actually a successful businessman with his own tequila. Who knew? 

This isn’t a good movie, but it isn’t horrible either. For my five dollars I was amused and entertained, realizing this is very low brow and stupid.  There are plenty of star cameos. Behavior is shameful but it’s Hollywood. The key theme is that the NYC hometown boys hang together, support each other, and are friends/family no matter what happens. At this point, Ari is family and he stands by Vince no matter what the studio says. So, will the movie be the downfall of the crew? Place your bets, then hop in the shiny new car with Vince and his Entourage to cruise Hollywood. Just try to stay out of trouble. I dare you.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Night Dance

Had an email last week from my sister as she closes out another school year with eighth grade Jr.High kids. It cracked me up and I asked if I could share. So consider this a guest post courtesy of my younger sister who's been teaching over twenty years. - from last Friday night
Another dance checked off!  This one was very easy (as the last few have been).  I see that kids today want to take selfies and videos while jumping up and down. This doesn't leave many hands free for groping. There are no couples--girls dance with girls, black boys dance with black boys, and white boys run around with balloons or eat food. Line dances are universally popular and Michael Jackson is still a hit. 

  In fashion news, a colored dress shirt is a must. Lots of black with a bright tie (think red or purple) or Easter egg colored shirts with a black tie. Turquoise, pink, orange, etc. A few vests, bow ties, or suspenders. Pants are skinny right now (Is there a term "pegged" for that narrowing at the ankle?) 

  Girls are in frothy dresses with lots of layers and tulle. Colors like peach, champagne, pink, baby blue, mint green. Some look inspired by the Lupita Nyongo red carpet looks of the past few seasons. Only a few short, tight and trampy. Much more princess-y. 

 A good time was had by all. Previous generations used to get more sentimental and cry and hug at the end of the dance. I guess they had grown up together and some were going to Vo-tech or private schools for the first time. These kids are easy, breezy. Just grab their shoes and phones and head out into the night with a "see ya"! 

That's the news on the youth culture of 2015.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Movie Review Madness: Far From the Madding Crowd

It was enjoyable to go to the movies and not have anything blow up. Well, maybe a heart or two, but it was done quietly in Dorset England, 1870. Far From the Madding Crowd is a rich period movie based on a Thomas Hardy novel. Unlike many of his books, this one actually has a happy ending. Carey Mulligan plays the  very independent Bathsheba Everdene. She’s a young woman who inherits a farm and intends to prove that she can manage it without  a husband. She’s extraordinarily modern in a very modest time full of manners and social mores. 

Miss Everdene says, “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”  The movie revolves around her independence and interactions with three possible suitors. I will not divulge the winner. Gabriel Oak (a very stoic (hot) Matthias Schoenaerts) is a sheep herder/farm hand with plenty of wisdom from observing the world. Mr. Boldwood  (a shy Michael Sheen) is her wealthy neighbor. It would be quite convenient for them to marry. Or there’s the dashing soldier (charming Tom Sturridge) who’s quite the lady’s man.  

The dialogue is expressive and often what is not said is what counts. There is plenty of soulful eye gazing. The scenery is gorgeous and well filmed. Carey Mulligan is an excellent young actress (only 29) and can say so much with her eyes. She’s smart, energetic, and fully developed as a character.  Far From the Madding Crowd is an artsy flick and far from the summer blockbuster blow ‘em ups. But sometimes it is nice to get away from the crowds, travel to old England in your chair, and watch a love story evolve.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Road Trip

 Finally, Sunday sunshine in TX.   Ray and I decided to stretch the Camaro legs. We zoomed up to  ( **)  mph. Smooth as silk. It wasn't for long, but man....it was fun.

Onward to Hico, TX - ate at the Koffee Kup Café - their motto is "Pie Fixes Everything". Darn tasty.   Then onward to Dublin to tour their soda bottling plant. It used to be a huge Dr. Pepper location and has a very full Dr. Pepper museum. However, a lawsuit a few years ago removed Dr. Pepper. Now it bottles other sodas but still uses the pure cane sugar.
Interesting tour and plenty of Dr. Pepper stuff to peruse.  Fun Sunday road trip and home by 4:30 pm.

NO RAIN in sight.

** use your imagination