Monday, August 31, 2015

Pet Delights, Not Peeves

Steve Blow, from the Dallas Morning News, had an excellent Sunday column about what he called pet delights. Instead of pet peeves, which are easy to list, he has a list of the small joys in life. Things you take for granted, but are truly special. Just little moments or things.
It got me off the couch to take a picture of these flowers in our back garden. Admittedly August in Texas gets dry and crusty. However, these flowers appear in the morning. By the time we get home from work most days they are shut down. But on the weekends, when we are likely to be on the patio in the morning, Ray and I marvel at the colors and delicate loveliness.
Now that's a pet delight.
I'm also going to list the comic strip "Pearls Before Swine", brownies, Ray's sour cream enchiladas, the earnest expression of kids telling you something and you have no clue what they are saying, the opening notes of Boston's More Than a Feeling, the first view of Tara in Gone With the Wind, sitting on my dad's front porch (the home where I grew up), reading any book by Anne Tyler, getting mail that's not a bill or junk.
Oh  there's so much more.
What are your pet delights?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: Dead Wake by Erik Larson

It’s funny how you think you know something about history, but you find you really don’t. Erik Larson’s book Dead Wake brings to life the harrowing tale of the Lusitania, and its effect on America and World War I. This author is the master of narrative nonfiction, and his writing will keep you turning pages.  May 1, 1915, the Lusitania, the crown jewel of the Cunard Line, set sail from New York to Liverpool with close to 2000 people aboard, including a record number of women and children. Passengers were at ease despite the increased German U-boat attacks in the North Atlantic. America had stayed out of the World War after ten months with no inclination to join.  

Cover blurb – As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small- hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more – all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history. 

We meet the real life passengers aboard ship and care about their lives. We meet the captain, William Thomas Turner, a knowledgeable seamen. And the U-boat captain Walther Schwieger, an aggressive fighter with no qualms about changing the game of war. Who would aim and shoot a torpedo at a boat carrying civilians? Why was the Lusitania not traveling at its highest rate of speed through dangerous war zone waters? What information was sent and how was the data interpreted? 

Dead Wake is a thriller, only it’s a true story. We see President Woodrow Wilson, a man in mourning, at the helm of a nation. And we see the convergence of disaster as U-20 glides underwater to blast the Lusitania. You will hold your breath and gasp at the frigid Atlantic temperature as you fight for your life reliving the anguish and fascinating story in Dead Wake.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ice Cream Break

Texas kids went back to school Monday. That signals end of summer around here. Oh it's plenty hot enough to keep swimming, grilling, and dodging mosquitoes. However, it's more psychological.

Traffic has an urgency. My morning radio talk show (KISS FM 106.1) is less racy, geared more for their "mad moms in mini-vans" segment. Kohl's ads feature sweaters and jeans, not tank tops and flip flops. It's rather sad.

In a fight against end of summer doldrums, Ray and I enjoyed a treat at a new ice cream spot - Sub Zero. Workers fill your bowl with the cream mixture. You pick flavors and add-ins - I chose the mint chocolate chip extravaganza - and then it is  blasted  with liquid nitrogen. The cool mist adds pizzazz to the production and freezes your ice cream instantly. Several stirs later, you are ready to eat your confectionary delight.

Tasty on the tongue, it has a dense texture. If Sub Zero comes to your town, join the lines. Ice cream tastes like summer.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kimbell Art Museum presents Botticelli to Braque

The Kimbell Art Museum is a gem. Their current big exhibit is Botticelli to Braque - Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. Fifty-five paintings span over five hundred years. You will enjoy the variety and the presentation.

Botticelli's Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Child (1490) gleams. Some of my favorites are a John Singer Sargent portrait, along with landscapes from Monet, Pissarro, and Cezanne. Other portraits from Rembrandt and Vermeer are breathtaking.

Take an hour and stroll around an art museum. Enrich your eyes.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Weekend Reflections

I don't write a lot of personal stuff. I give opinions on art and movies, but not much of real life. However, since I've whined a lot on the typical Texas summer heat, I shall report on an excellent Texas weekend.

First, last Wed eve the temp was high 90s. Then the "cool" front blew through and we awoke to 66 on Thursday morning. Say what??? That's insane. Folks at work were giddy. There was a pep in every step. The high Thursday was a refreshing 78..................!!!!!

Now Friday, things got back to normal with a high in the 90s, but the air was different. The breeze was not a hair dryer. It boded well for a Saturday family swim party. Oh we were prepared for heat stroke, but instead it was delightful.

The coolers were filled with refreshing beverages. I had snacks -watermelon and strawberries (healthy), and Chex mix, chips, dips, and cookies (tasty treats!). My cabana boy (Ray) had the pool in perfection state, the cabana was up, yard looked fine. We were ready for the gang.

Such a nice day. Not too hot, not cold. Pool was comfortable and the kids swam from 1 to 6 - only sunscreen breaks under protest.

I personally think it was one of the nicest family gatherings we've had. It's always pleasant but this one was very stress free and just flowed.

So, that's my share. I hope you folks had excellent weekends as well, as the summer starts to wane. Kids in TX start school Monday and then Labor Day looms. It all goes much too quickly.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Amon Carter Museum presents Indigenous Beauty

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art ( is undergoing a huge reconstruction project. But don't let that stop you from entering the new side door and enjoying the exhibit - Indigenous Beauty - Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection.

Fierce masks or small tools carved from whalebone - the variety and ingenuity of native people in using nature to make a life is on display. Colorful beadwork and detailed woven baskets are astounding.

I also wandered in to the photo gallery and perused the skills of Edward and Brett Weston. Both father and son expanded the world of black and white photography with gorgeous still lifes and views of nature.

It's easy to keep coming back to the Amon Carter, and I look forward to their "new look".

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Modern Museum of Fort Worth - Framing Desire

I don't always go to The Modern ( due to my art preferences. However, this exhibit Framing Desire - Photography and Video interested me and proved thought provoking.

The artists explore the premise of desire with three themes - Ages, Rooms, and Scapes. From the brochure "these updated takes on the traditional subjects of portraiture, architecture, and landscape make the well traversed themes seem more magnificent and provocative, especially when they are couched within the framework of desire."

Indeed, I enjoyed the viewpoints and contrasts. One cool video was a compilation called "The Crying Game" - clip after clip of crying in movies, from quiet sobs to an outpouring of sorrow.

It's good to step out of the comfort zone and explore new worlds - my time at The Modern confirmed it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Local Theater

I've said before that it's often good to poke around your backyard.

For me, that's Fort Worth, Texas - an easy twenty minute drive to a variety of culture. Saturday, August 15, I saw a local production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels presented by the Stolen Shakespeare Guild ( at the Ft.Worth Community Arts Center.

The musical follows the plot of the original movie (starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin), and is silly fun. The two lead men (Ben Phillips and Trey West) had very good voices. The crew and cast, the dance ensemble, etc. obviously put a lot of work into their production.

Lots of talented folks out there, eager to entertain. Support your local theater. You'll be surprised.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Movie Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E

The Man From U.N.C.L.E  movie revels in the 1960s glory days of the Cold War. It was a popular television show that perhaps should have stayed on the small screen. Audiences are not embracing it, but I think you’ll be amused if you wait for DVD or streaming. Henry Cavill is Napoleon Solo, the oh so slick American agent. Armie Hammer is the stoic Russian spy. The two are first seen trying to kill each other in a mission. Then they find they are being assigned to work together to keep a nuke out of the hands of evildoers. Their key is Alicia Vikander, the daughter of a famous physicist who’s being held captive.  

Stylish clothes, stylish digs, fancy travel, and old fashioned teamwork keep the plot moving along. Then there’s an appearance by Hugh Grant as a British spy coordinator. His bumbling graciousness adds class to the project. The movie is very light and rather silly, but that’s okay. It pales next to Mission Impossible, but that’s okay. If you don’t want to think too hard, The Man From U.N.C.L.E is okay.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Movie Review - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

This was a little movie I saw in June. Sorry for the late review -

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a small artsy film with a big heart. I really liked it, and yes I had to sniffle at the end. But it’s funny, clever, and endearing. The young actors – Thomas Mann, Ronald Cyler II, and Olivia Cooke are all excellent. The boys are nerdy high school kids. Mann skirts through the battlefield of high school as an acquaintance to all. He’s not in any groups, but he’s not a loner either. Cyler is Earl, the cool black kid who lives on the other side of town and befriended Mann back when they were seven or so. The two hang out at lunch in the history teacher’s office. And they share a love of movies – to the point where they’ve redone forty or so with weird titles and their own unique spin using hand created props, dolls, and cut and paste animation.  

Cooke, as Rachel, is a girl that Mann knows but doesn’t hang with. However the mothers are dear friends and now his mom is making him go hang with her because she has leukemia. He’s reluctant. She doesn’t want pity. They are at a standstill, but have to make the moms happy. Needless to say, their witty dialogue, sharper than average high schooler awareness leads them into friendship, even though he really doesn’t want to acknowledge it.  

That’s the movie in a nutshell – the growth of a young man as he learns to deal with the dying girl. Sounds deep. Sounds depressing. It’s not. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a unique exploration of the human heart. It’s short and sweet and you root for these kids as they grow up in a year.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Book Review: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler unspools a story smoothly. No tangled confusion. She has such a great sense of place, time, and people. In A Spool of Blue Thread, you feel as if you are sitting on the Whitshank's fabulous porch and enjoying their lives.

cover blurb:  It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon....This is how Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she fell in love with Red that day in July 1959.  Anne Tyler spins a family tale of laughter, celebrations, jealousy, disappointments, secrets, and death. We meet the grown kids who move back to the homestead, worried about Abby's "spells". The aging issue is handled well, along with the black sheep son Denny who returns (and was always secretly Abby's favorite).

Here are some samples of Anne Tyler's writing
p. 56  And in looks, they were no more than average. Their leanness was the rawboned kind not the lithe, elastic slenderness of people in magazine ads, and something a little too sharp in their faces suggested that while they themselves were eating just fine, perhaps their forefathers had not.

p.168  She might suddenly smell again the bitter, harsh, soul-dampening fumes of the chopped onions and green peppers her mother fried up most evenings as the base for her skillet dinners

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler is a calming, tender read about a family. So many little moments in lives sewn together with love and language precision.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Movie Review: Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash - Great cast. So-so story by Diablo Cody. She’s a young sharp writer. However, this movie is more Lifetime soap opera, than cutting edge tale. I was amused for my matinee price of $5 and the theater was nice and cool on a 100+ degree day. But even with heat delirium, I have to give this movie a C+/B-.  

Aging rocker, Ricki (the amazing Meryl Streep) is playing with a bar house band (The Flash) by night, and checking groceries by day. She’s eking out a living, but loves the music scene in CA. Fear of commitment keeps her from embracing her lead guitarist, Greg ( yummy Rick Springfield). She gets a phone call from ex-husband (Kevin Kline- wonderful) that brings her back to the heartland of Indiana. Their daughter is being divorced. She’s distraught, tried to commit suicide, and he thinks it’s time for blood mother to show up and do something.  

Family drama ensues. Daughter and sons resent mom for walking out a zillion years ago. They and their lives have moved on. BUT, no matter what Ricki (formerly Linda) is the mom and there’s room for redemption. Of course Kevin Kline and wife (Audra MacDonald – greatness) have a huge fantastic house and have given the “kids” now young adults stability and love. BUT…… 

The big BUT is the Ricki factor. Best scene In the movie is the confrontation between the stepmother and mother. Audra v. Meryl – face to face. I, of course, root for the stepmother who had to raise these kids, deal with the teen years, put up with the sickness, the sorrows, and got to cheer the good times. BUT…… matter what, there’s the Mom factor. So, Ricki does her thing and the daughter is at least showering and dressing decently. Now, what about the older son’s impending nuptials. Will Ricki be invited to the wedding? Will everyone get along after all?  

Let’s just say it does go predictable, and yes you’ll smile and enjoy the tunes. I yearned for a version of Rick’s hit “Jessie’s Girl”. Alas, not to be. But Meryl pulls off decent singing. That woman is a chameleon and can play anything.  Ricki and the Flash is entertaining. This movie does not reveal anything new in the Prodigal storyline. Wait for it to stream, or see it super cheap on a hot summer day. No deep thinking needed, except how could Diablo Cody have written a better script for this highly credentialed cast?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wordless Wednesday (almost)

Got in my car after work and this temperature greeted me
Yes, it's insane to not have shade and be parked next to a metal building
So, I am crazy from the heat.  And cranky too.
 Flashback to Butchart Gardens in Victoria and visit their lovely carousel
 Flashback to a walk along Victoria's harbor. A rocky shoreline
 Flashback to the cool gleam of Chihuly glass in Seattle
 This lovely flower is very lucky to live in Canada. It would be a dry stalk of nothing here in Texas

Stay cool my friends. Thanks for listening to me whine.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: The English Spy by Daniel Silva

A bomb explodes. Unfortunately it kills a very famous woman. British intelligence must turn to Gabriel Allon – legendary spy and assassin – to find Eamon Quinn. He’s a mercenary bomb maker and elusive lead to a higher power. Fortunately, Gabriel has the help of Christopher Keller, a British commando turned assassin. There’s a lot of killing ahead. Exotic locations. Elite spies. Only author Daniel Silva can thread the needle, pulling together a scattered set of clues, to tighten the noose. In The English Spy, he succeeds in looking to the past to find reasons for today’s incidents that help predict the future.  

As per the cover blurb: And though he does not realize it, Gabriel Allon is stalking an old enemy – a cabal of evil that wants nothing more than to see him dead. Gabriel will find it necessary to oblige them, for when a man is out for vengeance, death has its distinct advantages.  

And to heighten the tension timetable, Gabriel’s beloved wife, Chiara, is expecting twins. 

Twists and turns abound. I thought the book started a tad slow, but it soon ratcheted to a new level and I was enthralled. Silva knows how to spin a tale and make the pages turn. The English Spy is not one of his bests, but it’s worthy of a read. In these politically fraught days, Silva has his pulse on the world and has developed a very fine hero to save the day.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fort Worth Zoo

Went to the Fort Worth Zoo last Saturday for Ray's birthday. ( ). Enjoyed a stroll along their shady paths. They are smart - lots of mister systems set up to keep the crowds cool. They were celebrating all of the babies - 2 year old elephants, baby bonobo monkeys, sleeping lion cubs, and my favorites were two baby girl jaguars. They scampered, played with balls, slapped at each other, and romped. Very cute.

In the aviary, they sell bird seed sticks for $1.  My favorite line of the day by a mother to her two year old daughter, "Bailey, don't lick the stick. No it's not for you."

All in all, you had to keep your eyes peeled for the animals. Due to the heat they were hiding in the shade. Lot of lounging, that's for sure. You also had to watch for ankle clipping strollers - they were out in force.

If you haven't visited a zoo in a while, it's worth going to see and learn about animals. Watch the humans outside the cage, too!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Movie Review: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is darn awesome summer movie making. It starts off with Tom Cruise (as Ethan Hunt) hanging off a huge Russian airplane. The thrills accelerate from there. I won’t go into plot because of course it’s convoluted. Ethan and gang have been chasing the Syndicate, but the CIA says there is no syndicate, but of course, there’s a syndicate. And these “dead” spies that appear to be alive have gone rogue.  

A key question in Mission Impossible movies is who works for whom?  Where do loyalties lie? Who can we trust or not trust, or maybe sorta trust and they sorta trust us and we all use each other?  Ethan has his loyal crew played by Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Jeremy Renner. Poor Jeremy is stuck back in CIA HQ answering to Alec Baldwin – the joke is “I cannot confirm or deny the existence of that.” Meanwhile, Ethan is chasing the syndicate, but keeps encountering Rebecca Ferguson – she’s maybe British intelligence, or maybe working for the bad dude, or straddling many worlds. Either way, she saves Ethan’s butt a few times and vice versa. Ferguson is a pretty actress who appears to have the smarts and the athletic ability to pull off killings, all while removing great shoes. 

Tom Cruise looks great and is so perfect for this role. He can just gaze at someone, crinkle his eyes, toss off a line, and then spring into action. He makes it look effortless after this many years in the business. I think it’s easy to take for granted how smooth he is as an actor. The Mission Impossible franchise keeps upping the ante successfully. It has not jumped the shark or gone cheesy.  Rogue Nation is a worthy addition. So hang on tight, hold your breath, and wear a seatbelt – this movie will take you for quite an entertaining ride.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

 This is it I promise - enough with the Seattle trip pictures and happy people wearing jackets at Mount Rainier. (I type this as it's 100 degrees in Texas, looking for 105 by the weekend. Ugh)

I lie. You'll probably see more.