Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Ends

Let it Snow

by Joanne Faries

faint frilly flakes

tease eyelashes

tickle the nose

swirl, twirl




snowball splat

Happy New Year everybody!  I end this year with a poem. We do not anticipate snow in Dallas for New Year's Eve or Day, but what the heck - I wrote a snow poem.  And I'm throwing a snowball your way. It's been a good year. My poetry collections are published and languishing on Amazon. I swear I don't look at the numbers anymore, and if Amazon sends me some money I treat Ray to a taco (at Taco Bell - the 99 cent menu).   I hope all of my writer friends can buy the full enchilada plate.   My 2014 resolution - keep blogging because it's fun. Finish my next humorous memoir - Athletic Antics. And just have fun.   I wish everyone good health and good  cheer.  Chat with you in 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: Mad About the Boy

I've read decent reviews of this book and some absolutely thumbs down ones. I liked it - so here we go:

It has been fourteen years and a lot has happened since we met Bridget Jones first in Diary and then in Edge of Reason. Now author Helen Fielding is back with current technology, slick dialogue, texts, and tweets, and a widowed Bridget. Alas, Mark Darcy died in an overseas peacekeeping mission five years ago, leaving Bridget with a toddler, Billy, and a baby, Mabel.

Fast forward and the kids are in school, Bridget's working on a screenplay, and she's lonely. Her friends all agree it's time to date, but Bridget is out of the social media loop and all the new lingo.

Middle age single motherhood is not for the feint of heart. Bridget Jones Darcy bumbles her way through in Mad About the Boy, a funny heartwarming, timely tale. The cover blurb offers typical Fielding laugh-out-loud lines:

"Is it better to die of Botox or die of loneliness because you're so wrinkly?

Is it normal to get fewer followers the more you tweet?

What do you do when your girlfriend's sixtieth birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend's thirtieth?"

Yes, Bridget dates a boy toy for awhile, suffers writer rejection, is constantly late for her children's school programs, and can't bare the thought of Facebook. Mad About the Boy is a quick breezy read. It's mind candy and you'll chuckle all the way through.

"Is sleeping with someone after two dates and six weeks of texting the same as getting married after two meetings and six months of letter writing in Jane Austen's day?"

I chuckled. I think Helen Fielding is clever and this book is not rocket science - it's fluff, but good fluff. Read it with a mouthful of leftover Christmas chocolates.  Enjoy

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

Christmas Spirit

by Joanne Faries

secrets abound

this time of year

mom and dad whisper

say "Get out of here."

I won't look in the closet

it is tempting, I say

but I'm on Santa's good list

and I want to stay that way

rustle of bags

buckets of bows

yummy smells from the kitchen

Christmas star glows

excitement builds

we hum holiday songs

wish for peace on earth

all year long

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas Essay

Christmas Message for Parents on Behalf of Kids by Joanne Faries

I don't understand folks who say, "It's all such a bother. I hate this time of year." Indeed, it is ridiculous that holiday red and green decorations fight for floor space with pumpkin orange in October. Then the poor turkey gets shoved aside for the Christmas ham.

Ads blare from all media, and consumer reports declare doom and gloom for the economy based on shoppers' wallets. There is a lot of pressure to purchase goods, decorate the home, hang a fantastic light display, attend parties, bake cookies, send cards, and be of good cheer.

But that is the key - be of good cheer. Take a breath, step back, and enjoy moments. Stay in budget and don't just frenzy buy. Pause for a second and gaze at a decorated tree or store window. Savor the colors and whimsy.

Sit with the kids at the kitchen table with white paper and cut out snowflakes, then tape them to the front windows. Sip hot chocolate and read Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol or Dr.Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas, OR the Trinity Writers' Workshop Christmas Collection.

Sing a carol off-key in the car, and let that idiot in front of you make an illegal turn. Chill out. Hug your kids and your seniors. Slurp a candy cane and make a sticky mess. Lick a baking bowl, and eat a mouthful of chocolate morsels.

Look for the star in the east, and contemplate peace on earth, goodwill towards man.

I wish you a Merry Christmas (or any holiday you celebrate this time of year)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Movie Review Madness: All is Lost

All is Lost is a film study of man versus nature and nature wins. In the voiceover opening, Robert Redford's man at sea expresses his dismay and apologizes for not making it. He tried his best, but Mother Nature threw everything she had at him and conquered his boat and spirit. That's it. There is no dialogue. Often the only soundtrack is the wind howling and water spraying. But this film is enthralling and heart pounding and sad.

Robert Redford is superb. He's 70+ now and while fit, he shows his age. His weather-beaten face reflects his frustration as he repairs a hole in his boat, then has to flee in a lifeboat after a killer storm. The ocean is vast and unforgiving, and he was a speck, a piece of flotsam. Great film making and acting. One man in a boat versus a large ocean proves hypnotic.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: The Lowland

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri is another dazzling book by this Pulitzer Prize winning author. Her prose is musical, her characters are rich, and she puts the reader in the middle of place - whether it's Calcutta, India or a seaside town in Rhode Island. You can smell the air and feel the heat or cold.

cover blurb: "Two brothers bound by tragedy. A fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past. A country torn by revolution. A love that lasts long past death. The Lowland is a tale of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga with a story steeped in history that spans generations and geography with seamless authenticity. "

Inseparable brothers, Subhash and Udayan, are opposites with different futures. Subhash is quiet and scholarly, ultimately making his way to a new life in America. Udayan is brash and impulsive and participates in a rebellion to erradicate poverty in India. Unfortunately the family is shattered by Udayan's choices. Subhash must pick up the pieces, make choices, and try to raise a daughter.

Lahiri weaves Indian customs within new world expectations. She's excellent at depicting internal conflict, and outward strife. Her characters are intelligent and display heartfelt emotion. Her writing is sublime, and when you finish The Lowland it is with a sigh of regret at leaving these peoples' lives, and yet knowing they are going to survive and succeed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fun in PA with Pa (alias Dad)

 Quick trip to PA - post Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas. Arrived on a lovely winter day. Blue sky, very cold, and icicles hanging from Dad's front porch.
 They are in for a wicked winter. This shows the accumulation on the bushes from the Sunday and Tuesday before I flew into Philly. But it is pretty and glistens in the sunshine.
 Saturday turned bleak, but dire predictions did not stop us. We had tickets for an exhibit at the Michener Museum in Doylestown. Teensy flakes fell in the morning. Here are my Dad and younger sister, Lori braving the cold with a smile.
My smile is more of a grimace as a cold wind blasted us. We scurried inside and waited for my brother, David, his wife Cherie, and my Aunt Janice. I will have more on the exhibit in a later post. Needless to say, we had a splendid time, great lunch at the Hickory Cafe, and we got back to Dad's before more snow accumluated followed by sleet.

You can go home again.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film by Marisha Pessl is a puzzle, an enigma, and you have to keep turning pages to find out what really happened to Ashley Cordorva. She's beautiful, a piano prodigy, daughter of an elusive horror film director and Ashley is dead - an apparent suicide in Manhattan. Investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he pursues leads, encounters strange activities and possible cult connections, McGrath is haunted by his memory of Ashley. He's positive he saw her that last night as he took a late run in Central Park. A dark haired girl in a red coat seemed to seek him out on the path.

With the help of two strangers connected to Ashley, Scott seeks clues in the father's disturbing films. Marisha Pessl includes documents that look like newspapers, film blurbs, and excerpts from a frightening website by those obsessed with Cordova. Her writing is enthralling, the suspense is taut, and this thriller suprises until the end. Night Film is a tight read from start to finish.

p. 63 "I ducked through the opening, the rancid smell of garbage overpowering, unseen animals scurrying away as I made my way along the path....As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could see the crumbling brick exterior, a door to my left. I stepped toward it, tripping on an old bicycle, some plastic bottles, and pulled it open."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


This blurry photo is circa 1981, the house I grew up in on Oakland Place. It was built in 1960 and stands today. The trees are taller. My Dad is shorter. I'm headed there for a Thursday thru Monday visit - post Thanksgiving/pre-Christmas. You have to work with the airlines these days if you don't want to pay them thousands.

Home is in Texas with Ray. But home is also here - no doubt as long as Dad is alive and shoveling snow, raking leaves, and vacuuming the carpet. He's darn healthy and has nice neighbors. Nothing really changes here, but it's clean, packed with memories, and we sit at the kitchen table and talk forever.

I'm very fortunate. I might have to dig in the basement and see if that big red stocking is still around to hang on the front door. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Black Nativity

Jennifer Hudson can sing. She can sing like an angel, and she's the reason to see Black Nativity. Based on a play by Langston Hughes, it's a story about family, love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Poor and getting evicted, Jennifer sends her son in Baltimore to stay with her well-to-do parents in Harlem. The Reverend (Forrest Whittaker) and his wife (Angela Bassett) welcome the young teen but immediately impose house rules. The teen rebels and wants to know why he and his mom are so poor, and his mom never contacted her parents.

It all comes together at the Christmas Eve service with confrontation, family drama, and a gospel chorus to boot. Mary J.Blige has one song and she soars. All in all, the story is predictable. But Black Nativity has an excellent cast, and Jennifer Hudson can sing. Man, she can sing.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Movie Review Madness: The Book Thief

Read The Book Thief first. It's a great book. Or see the film The Book Thief - it is worthy of the book. The setting is a small town in Nazi Germany. The story is narrated by Death, who discusses how he doesn't mean to hasten the inevitable. Man seems to do the job for him.

A couple agrees to "adopt" a young girl and raise her as their own since the mother had "issues". Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are perfect as the parents. He's a softie, and she's tough as nails with a heart of gold. The girl, Liesel, learns to read and is obsessed with books. She grows and learns a lot when the family takes in Max, a Jew.

Air raids abound. The father is conscripted for the army despite his age. So many boys leave and don't come back. The father and mother don't subscribe to the Nazi way, but they also fight to survive and not cause trouble. The Book Thief is a touching film about human spirit, love, family, and survival. Take a tissue because you'll sniffle at the end.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's Only a Little Sleet

 Wednesday I got home from work and raked leaves. It was a balmy 78 F.  Then the north wind howled. By Thursday morning, it was 40 F and raw. Drizzle started mid-late afternoon and the temperatures fell below freezing. A nice glaze covered the streets. I awoke at 1 am to sleet pellets pounding the windowpane.
At 7 am, it was 28 degrees and we had ice covered with close to two inches of sleet. No work, no schools, huge cancellations and treacherous conditions. That's Texas.
 Ray was in Boston and tried to fly home on American Airlines. They cancelled over 1000 flights at DFW. He managed to get booked on Southwest Airlines through Houston to Love Field. An all day journey, plus trying to get a ride home. He understood my car was not leaving the garage.
 I did wander out back (careful to not slip into the pool) to take these icy wonderland pics. I'm fortunate that our power did not go out. So I stayed warm - read and watched Netflix, and of course had to keep looking out the window. Temperatures stayed at 28 F so not much melting occurred.
Our odd metal sculpture looks quite alien with icicles. Very cold predicted for the whole weekend. I think my car shall stay in the garage. Stay safe and warm, my friends.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Humble Man of Peace: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed at the age of 95 yesterday. He was someone to admire - a humble man of his time who stood for what was right and wrong. He believed in democracy for South Africa and spent twenty seven years in prison for it.

From his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom:  I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mr. Mandela is now at rest. However, we on this earth have a lot more hills to climb.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Hunger Games Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a very successful sequel to The Hunger Games and keeps us thirsting for more. War drums throb and tensions build as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) battles wits and power with President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

She and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are back to participate in the special Quarter Quell - like a Survivor All Star version, they must compete against former winners from each district. The new gamemaster, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) created a jungle world of toxic fog and evil monkey attacks.
Who works with whom? Is Plutarch with the President in trying to eradicate Katniss and her influence? Are hunky Finnick (Sam Claflin) and punkster Johanna (Jena Malone) allies to be trusted? Rebellions in the district abound - three fingers raised silently and the mockingjay whistle are a call to arms and a sign of hope for desperate people.

Keeping us on edge is Jennifer Lawrence herself. This plucky actress can do no wrong. She's fearless and yet questions herself. She feels responsible for the people and is torn by the burden. She is the Girl on Fire and when Hunger Games: Catching Fire ends we are pumped for the Mockingjay finale. Whew!!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: Insurgent

"One choice can transform you or it can destroy you." (cover blurb). Insurgent is the second book of a trilogy and our heroine, Tris Pryor, is fighting for her life and those she loves. War and conflict loom amongst factions and the key to power is the Erudite computers of knowledge. As a Divergent, Tris dances between Dauntless, Erudite, and her home Abnegation upbringing has been strong. She has to be careful because the Erudite want to eradicate the divergent and factionless. Fear of the unknown is powerful.

As Tris, Four, and her friends seek a solution to gain entry to the Erudite fortress, she must count on some folks she didn't trust before. Choices become sacrifices which become loss, burdens, battles, and more choices. At sixteen, Tris grows up a lot. Veronica Roth has written an exciting series with strong characters. This is a fast read and I'm ready for the final book in the series.

"Insurgent is a noun. A person who acts in opposition to the established authority, who is not necessarily regarded as belligerent." p. 458.

Follow Tris into battle, and make wise decisions with her. You will keep the pages of Insurgent turning as the pace quickens. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Poem: Queues

Inspired by the holiday shopping season and standing in line at Kohl's, I reflected on lines - past and present. Thus I present a new poem:


wait here

line formed
faced forward, turned around
leaned against wall
smiled, nodded as others joined
checked watch, tapped toe
chatted about nothing
weather, sports, or "What's taking so long?"

wait here

line forms
stand hunched
head down
caress phone
send communiques
self indulgent blather

Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review: Never Go Back

"Never go back...but Jack Reacher does, and the past finally catches up with him." (cover blurb). Author Lee Child has another Jack Reacher hit with Never Go Back.

Former military cop, Jack Reacher, travels once again with his toothbrush and his wits. Brawny and over six foot tall, this military machine is prepared for almost anything except the thought of fatherhood. However, he's come from South Dakota to Washington DC to meet with Major Susan Turner at his old 110th MP HQ. But Turner's now imprisoned, and he's on his way due to criminal charges of murder. Plus another case has risen - paternity.

Nothing is as it seems. Reacher breaks himself and Turner out of jail and heads west to meet his alleged 15 year old daughter. Along the way, he discovers two American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan under Turner's watch. Here at home, four soldiers stationed out of Ft.Bragg seem determined to stop Reacher and Turner from drawing conclusions about those deaths, money, trades, and a network of intrigue out of Afghanistan.

p. 177 "You're like a predator. Cold, and hard. Like this whole thing. You have it all mapped out," said Turner. "You're swimming toward them, and there's going to be blood in the water. Your or theirs, but there's going to be blood."

Jack Reacher moves at a quick pace, not to mention he's involved in car chases, fights, ambush on an airplane, a little love in the afternoon, and plenty of dining at greasy spoons. In Never Go Back, "Jack Reacher questions who he is, what he's done, and the very future of his untethered life on the open road." (cover blurb). This is a fun book in a great series - page turning intrigue at its best.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert is an impressive story of "desire, adventure, and a thirst for knowledge." (cover blurb). The book covers the late 1700s and into the 1800s following the Whittaker family. Henry Whittaker, a poor English boy, makes his fortune in South America and turns his vast botanical knowledge and connections into a broad business based in Philadelphia. His daughter, Alma, born into a now wealthy household, is brilliant but not beautiful. Her research takes "her into the central mysteries of evolution. But she falls for a man who draws her in the opposite direction - the realm of spiritual, divine, and magical. "

From London, Peru, Philadelphia, Tahiti, and Amsterdam - "The Signature of All Things" is a sweeping panorama of life. Its unforgettable characters - missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, geniuses, and the mad - all tell a tale of life's ups and downs. New ideas, new discoveries are exciting. Then there's heartache and heartbreak - nothing new there. Elizabeth Gilbert's rich writing kept me mesmerized. This is a dense read, but fantastic in its details, emotions, and plot lines.

p. 447 Alma writes "Anything less than a fight for endurance is cowardly. Anything less than a fight for endurance is a refusal of the great covenant of life."

"The Signature of All Things" will stick with you - the characters, nature, and you'll find yourself looking at moss growing on a tree in a whole new light.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Almost Time

Almost Time is a sweet quirky love story directed by Richard Curtiss who gave us "Love, Actually" and a personal fave "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Set in England, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21 and learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that he has the ability to travel in time. Nothing that can change huge bits of history (like Hitler,etc). But the time travel can change a silly meeting to a perfect night of love. All Tim has to do is find a closet, clench his fists, and go back to the moment needed. Tim's a lawyer, but he's a redheaded dorky fellow who desperately wants a girlfriend.

Now in London, he encounters the most spectacular girl played by Rachel McAdams. They meet cute, he messes up some timing, they meet again and it's on to love, marriage, and babies. Through it all, you're engaged with his odd family, you realize the love and respect Tim has for his father, and you learn how he copes and manages the time travel. It's a bit of a stretch, so you have to suspend reality at times. Nonetheless, the actors make it work and they are so sweet and kind and rather twinkly.

Almost Time is a pleasant way to spend two hours. These are likeable characters. The dialogue is humorous and light. And the message - enjoy your moments, marry someone kind, and appreciate life - is a good one to review for one's own life.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A New Poem: Fall Fancy

 Fall Fancy

feathery clouds
layered afternoon sky
dusk loomed as sun's final rays
streamed. Highlighted
autumn glory. Golden leaves,
burnt orange, and rust reds
glowed. Wind rustled.
created rippled shadows
apple crisp breeze
teased hot cocoa nights

              Joanne Faries

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Thor:The Dark World

Thor: The Dark World allows us to revisit Chris Hemsworth in all his glory. Wow, he is a Marvel. As the second film, it lacks the originality and freshness of the first Thor flick but this is still a lot of fun. Thor has brought a peace to all realms and life is beautiful. But there's one thing missing - Jane. Yep, Natalie Portman's on earth and Thor keeps an eye on her from his faraway land. Fortunately there are some weird disturbances that cause her team to find a portal. Soon she's yanked into another realm. A real bad creature comes back to life. And the party/battle is on.

As an added bonus, Thor needs to release Loki from prison. His knowledge and hidden places are needed, plus Loki (Tom Hiddleston) adds tension to the whole dynamics. The best scenes are when the brothers are on screen exchanging barbs. All in all, the filmmaking is rich, the battles are glorious, and a bare-armed Thor shines as he wields his hammer.

This is fall eye candy at its best. So round up the family, buy that tub of popcorn, and zoom to another realm for adventure. Thor brings light to a Dark World.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pink: Truth About Love Tour

 Pink is a tiny dynamo with a great voice, a ton of energy, and a lot of material to present. I've been wanting to see her and Ray heard my hints (honey, I don't care how much it costs. I want to see Pink). He had to go scalper and this covered 2013/2014 birthday/Christmas, etc., but it was worth it.
 Great seats for The Truth About Love Tour.  Full house and the place was rocking. When she began by bouncing from a bungee cord and singing "Raise Your Glass", we knew this was going to be a crazy night. Lights, videos, dancers, and Pink bouncing everywhere. Wow!  Ray was not as up on her music, but he was impressed.  I loved the song "Try". Like the video, it was Pink with one male dancer. The song and dance were steamy. I also enjoyed her songs with the acoustic guitar player - "Who Knew?" is poignant.
"Blow Me One Last Kiss" was a winner. And with "So What" she was singing and flying all over the arena. She swooped down so low, I thought we could graze her hands. The whole Pink crew looked like they were having a blast. Pink chatted at times, smiled a lot, and sang her heart out.

We left pumped up and enthusiastic. Thanks, Ray for our Saturday night date to see Pink.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Epic NaNo Fail

Epic NaNo Fail.  I have written a page or two and I hated my characters, hated my alleged plot, and I question if I am a fiction novel writer.  So - I confess to failure. But my month of November has been fun. Lovely fall stroll at the arboretum.  See, I'm distracting you with pretty pictures
 And I caught up with a friend for lunch at the Kimbell Art Museum. Saw great art and also walked to the Amon Carter Museum for awesome photography exhibits.  And yes, I've been to movies, I've downloaded Netflix, and I've been reading a good book - "The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
I did write a poem to submit to Baseball Bard (have not been rejected yet). And I submitted Christmas material to Trinity Writers' Workshop for their annual childrens giveaway book.  (Charity, folks, charity!!)

So - I sorta began a NaNo but was never truly vested in the enterprise. I admit failure and I'm okay with it.

Are you distracted by the pretty pictures?  ...............yeah, me too.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Movie Madness: 12 Years a Slave

Solomon Northup wrote his book "12 Years a Slave" in 1853. Wow. Here was a black man in Saratoga, NY - free, educated, cultured (violinist), and happy with a wife and two kids. Life was great until he was lured by two men to go on tour with his violin and he ended up in Washington DC (south of the Mason Dixon line). Oops. After a night of wining and dining, he awakened shackled, alone, and without papers.

The film "12 Years a Slave" chronicles Northup's journey to hell and back. Chiwetel Eijofor needs to work on his Oscar speech now. His performance is spot on and often without dialogue. Just the puzzlement and despair on his face, and then his determination to survive is breathtaking. His first enslavement is with a "kind" plantation owner played by Benedict Cumberbatch. However, the overseer (Paul Dano) is petty, mean, and evil. Northup and Dano come to blows and the result is not pretty. Ultimately, the owner sells Northup to another. Then he's moved to another and here's where the going gets tough. Michael Fassbender's plantation owner is nutso evil. He flaunts his affair with a slave girl, Patsy, in front of his wife. She, in turn, manipulates Northup.

Mid-1800s was not a pretty episode in American history, and this film does not approach it lightly. The beatings, degradation, and slave life is depicted brutally honestly. It's not an easy film to watch, and yet it is absolutely intensely well done. Eijofor is one of those actors you've seen in lots of things - television and movies. Now he has leaped into the forefront of Oscar watch with this role of a lifetime. Brad Pitt, who is a producer on this film, is a hero also. As a white man who abhors slavery, he's Northup's connection to friends up North and his final passage to freedom. I'm not giving away a huge plot line - the man lived to write his book, but the twelve years he lost to happiness is horrific. This is not a popcorn movie. It is just great filmmaking and storytelling.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Are you Divergent? Read the book to find out.

I announce the next Hunger Games. Read Veronica Roth's trilogy - Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant. I have only read the first one and I'm hooked. Whoa. This is a futuristic, dystopic Young Adult series that can pull in adults too. Really good writing, well formed characters, and a very creative plot equals fun.

Beatris has never really felt like her clan family -Abnegation. She is a tad selfish and she yearns to break free. Well, she has her chance to change her life. Turning age sixteen allows her to pick from all worlds - Amity, Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation. She takes the test which involves a drug serum and hallucinogenic situations. She tests as a Divergent - meaning she's not conclusive and ultimately could be trouble. She needs to keep her results quiet, but she does choose the Dauntless family and becomes Tris. Her brother Caleb chooses Erudite. Thus both kids reject their selfless lifestyle.

As Tris, our heroine learns to jump onto and off trains, fight, kickass, leap from buildings into a net that she does not know is there, and altogether becomes daring. And yet, some selflessness is still instilled in her, and she questions her planet. What is the whole plan? The leader Eric is brutal, but the "co-leader" Four becomes a love interest. Tris is naive and yet learning. Her friends Christine, Al, and Will - everyone is working to find themselves, score points to earn their Dauntless title, and not become factionless (i.e. homeless).

Well, Tris, as a Divergent, is able to manipulate scenarios plus she's freakin' brave. Her scores are topnotch even though there are suspicions about her. Slowly, she gathers information and chats with her brother. The Erudites are planning a full out war over Abnegation's government and they plan to use Dauntless as the fighters.

The pace quickens and the battle is crazy. Fortunately, Tris is able to see her mother, father, and family. The results prove shocking and you, the reader, are hooked for the next book - Insurgent. Trust me - read this series now before the first movie in March 2014. Books > film

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Movie Review Madness: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is based on a true story that was even more brutal than the film depicts. All I know is, I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath at the end. Even knowing the outcome, I was truly vested in these people and feared for lives. As Rich Phillips, Tom Hanks, is an appealing all-American hero - quiet, stalwart, dedicated, and practical - a competent Yankee seafarer. He reassures his wife as he leaves - yes the world has changed and sailing around the Cape Horn of Africa is dangerous. However, that's his job and he's going to achieve the goal of getting the Maersk Alabama from Point A to Point B, even though he sails past the coast of Somalia.

Meanwhile, Somali desperado/fishermen are told they need to get back out on the water and earn some money. The lead Somali - Barkhad Abdi -(nicknamed Skinny) is not a trained actor, but his fierce charisma holds the screen. Sure enough, they are tech savvy and their gear plots the course of the Alabama. They approach quickly, circumvent the water hose blasts, and manage to get aboard. Captain Phillips had feared for this very incident. He had his crew doing practice drills, and then had to announce, "This is real world. Hide in the engine room." It became an outwit, outplay, outlive the terrorists real-life game.

Ultimately, the Somalis take Phillips as hostage in the small life boat. As they pilot it toward their port, a bigger brinksmanship occurs. US Naval power and Navy Seal expertise work to defuse the situation. Skinny seeks dominance over the situation. He truly believes he will get ransom money, survive, and his goal is to go live in America. Captain Phillips has faith in the Navy, and he quietly tries to create tension amongst the pirates. This earns him some beatings. The movie does not go overly political and yet there are some lines showing the level of desperation involved in Somali life for these young men.

Director Paul Greengrass excels at directing the actors and action. He ratchets tension - we feel the lack of air in the lifeboat, the thirst building, fear, and lack of control. Captain Phillips is a great modern seafaring adventure that demonstrates America's reach and power. It's also about men and a will to win and live. Climb aboard, mate, and prepare for an ocean of entertainment.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fort Worth Treats

A glorious Saturday in Fort Worth's Cultural District. Here is a sneak peak at the new Renzo Piano Pavillion. It sits opposite the Louis Kahn designed Kimbell Art Museum.  The Pavilion will house the library, auditorium, education rooms, and has underground parking. It is understated and yet elegant, and adds to the Kimbell campus. I'm looking forward to taking a tour.
 Meanwhile, at the Kimbell, there is a huge exhibit called The Age of Picasso and Matisse courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago. The show features not only Picasso and Matisse but other radicals in their day - Brancusi, Duchamp, Kandinsky, plus Dali and Miro.  Cubism and Surrealism are not my favorites, but I can appreciate the history and influence in these master works.
 Over at the Amon Carter, this Color! exhibit on American Photography is really worthwhile. At the time, serious photographers sneered at the advent of color. However, in viewing the growth and experimentation, one can see how "color can simultaneously describe objects and stand apart from these objects as pure hue." (Amon Carter program).
One final small but fascinating exhibit is Hotel Texas: Art Exhibit for President and Mrs.JFK.  The Kennedy's spent the night in Fort Worth prior to the eventful day in Dallas fifty years ago. For their stay, sixteen famous works of art were used to decorate Suite 850 of the Hotel Texas. Thirteen of these works are now on display at the Amon Carter. Apparently Mrs. Kennedy was quite "amazed by the beauty of the works, and truly appreciated the effort." The keynote piece was Thomas Eakins "Swimming".

The Fort Worth Cultural District is a treat on a lovely fall day.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNo Nutso

Friday, November 1, 2013 and I am crazy, nuts, insane. Yep - I am going to attempt a National Novel Writing Month novel.  Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Oh, it's possible. I've done it before, but then abandoned that work. By the end of November, I hated my characters, my plot, and my writing. I did not participate last year.

However, I've published non-fiction, flash fiction, and poetry. Somewhere, there is a novel inside of me. Surely I can develop a character arc that is remotely interesting to read. Okay - I think I'm already behind on my word count.

I'll keep you posted on my progress and maybe even upload some of the bizarre crap my fingers type. This could be amusing.

Gotta go NaNo now.

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.