Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Red&Green is Black&Blue

Well, I am in the process of moving.  This computer will be disconnected this afternoon.  I won't be back up for a day or two - assuming I can hook it up correctly...

So for all you country fans out there, here's a little ditty from a Texas gal...

My bed's too high - I fall out before I can even get in.

I've been forced to move, really took one on the chin.

All in all I find reasons to smile.

After all, I'm moving less than a mile.

My family's been great, really helping me out.

My Tzus are the only folks around here starting to pout.

Shaky and jittery, they constantly have to go.

And you know it doesn't help at all to scream, Miss Myrna, NO!!!

Stubborn little furballs, but I love them still.

I know this move will be finished soon, at least I hope it will.

Christmas is coming, but this year, what the heck is that?

The only thing I'm grateful for is that I'm no longer so fat.

And the last straw that knocked me to the floor?

While I was out they came and painted my front door.

The paint was still wet, the lock was taped shut.

I demolished the rest of my manicure, and muttered about kicking the painter in the butt.

So, now I'm going off the net for awhile.  Merry Christmas to you.

But none for me.  My Red&Green is Black&Blue.

(and so is the painter...when I catch him...)

Froeliche Weinachten! Feliz Navidad!

I'll catch you later.

The paint-stained pop diva.

Friday, December 13, 2013

I Dream of Packing - The Epic Saga of Moving

Again, the Universe is having a huge horse laugh at my expense.  While other people fill their thoughts with holiday parties, presents, delicious food, the smells of pine and cinnamon, and loving thoughts of being together, all I can think about is packing.  I spent the morning swathed in bubble wrap...sounds kinky, but believe me it's not as much fun as it sounds. (although I could tell you tales of an actress taking a bubble bath onstage, really swathed in bubble wrap...you had to be there.)

Picture it, an aging diva, wearing an old Dallas Cowboys' sweatshirt with her jeans, furiously wrapping pottery, kachinas, fetishes, etc. in bubble wrap  and putting them in tote bags to take to the new apartment.  Make-up is running down her face, hair's all over the place.  Her face furrows in mature concentration.  Glamorous image, huh? I need to watch Kinky Boots again...

My father chided me for working so hard.  He said, "you've been cleaning out and packing for two weeks now.  Nobody needs that many clothes!"  To whit I replied, "I haven't even started on the clothes.  It's all been books, dvds, vhs tapes, and my collections of STUFF."  And to think I could have had the movers pack everything!  Uh huh.  In your dreams, kiddo...After all, this is just a move inside the apartment complex, not a cross country trip.  (Read that, I'm too cheap...although I have reconsidered that decision in my odd moments.)

Do you think I could call myself a pop culture diva without a huge book collection, dvd collection, vhs collection, cd collection, and theatrical memorabilia?  I'd be drummed out of the union, stripped of my sequins, and told to exeunt stage left.  I could never let that happen.

I will be very glad when this is all over, but I won't be in any kind of holiday spirit.  There's no time for it now.  I did manage to have a gift sent to a loved one (a family of loved ones).  And I got my best friend to postpone our exchange.  But the rest of my family members are all getting cash.  Sounds crass, I know, but that's the best I can do this year.

I'll probably be unpacking until after Christmas, anyhow.  Oh, and the piece d' resistance - the interior of my new place has been renovated, but they haven't painted the exterior yet.  So I look forward to having my poor garden exposed to more bleach water and spray paint.  I also look forward to having my back door painted shut again...took me a good ten minutes to get the one open on this place after that event.

But I don't have time to worry about that now.  After all, I have to focus and make sure I don't wrap my Tzus in bubble wrap and pack them for the move...

Take care.  Enjoy your holiday festivities.  I'll write more before the move since I will be confined to a Blackberry for a couple of days next week, if all goes well...(no comments, please...)

I told you - the U is laughing big time.  Oh well.  It makes an entertaining story.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Sound of Music

Last night, NBC made a brave choice and aired a 3 hour LIVE presentation of the stage version of Rodger's and Hammerstein's "Sound of Music."  I had seen the promos for several weeks, including interviews with the stars, namely Carrie Underwood, and Stephen Moyer (Bill from True Blood.)

I had my doubts about Ms. Underwood in the part.  For one thing, due to the huge success of the 1965 movie, the world is imprinted forever with the image of the young Julie Andrews as Maria.  Ms. Andrews had a lovely classical (read that operatic) voice in those days.  So I worried about Ms. Underwood in the role, even though she is a good singer. 

Then I remembered the original Broadway production starred Mary Martin, probably known to most of you as Larry Hagman's mother.  Yep, she gave birth to JR Ewing.  Mary Martin was a little girl from Weatherford, TX near Fort Worth.  She had a lengthy career in movies, on Broadway, and on TV where she played the title role in "Peter Pan" a couple of times.  I remember that production from when I was a small child, maybe six or so the first time it aired.  Ms. Martin was an energetic performer all of her life.  She brought spunk and sparkle to the roles she played.  That's the way she played Maria when she originated the role.  She didn't have a classically trained voice, but she could carry a tune and fill it with emotion.  I read an article today that reported "The Sound of Music" was written for her.  Maybe it was.

By the way, on a side note, I used to have to visit state contractors in Weatherford, periodically.  They had a statue of Mary Martin dressed in her costume as Peter Pan, right in the center of town. My mom and I got to meet her after we saw a wonderful production of "I Do, I Do" on Broadway, in which she co-starred with the incredible Robert Preston (aka The Music Man.)  Ms. Martin was so gracious to a pair of star-struck fellow Texans.  I'll never forget it.

I read a review today of the NBC production which panned Ms. Underwood's acting ability, but said she sang well.  The reviewer also acknowledged if not for her, the production would never have come to NBC. Her name with its star-power was enough for NBC to finance the expensive production.

I agree she's not the best actor, but there's a reason for that.  She's never had to do it, nor has she had much if any training.  Acting isn't easy, folks, even in musical comedy. She did a fine job in the part that carried the show.  That's not easy, either.  I, for one, was happily surprised at her vocal range.  She made every note in the difficult score.  And as Stephen Moyer said in one interview filmed for a promo, she certainly can yodel.

As for the rest of the cast - the children were good.  The little girl who played Gretl, the youngest Von Trapp, had a surprisingly deep voice but knew how to use it.  Liesl was wonderful and the actor playing her beau, Rolf, portrayed the character perfectly.

Stephen Moyer surprised me with his mellow, melodic voice. He reminded me of folk singers from the 1960s.  I knew from the promos for the show that he has had several roles in musical theater.  It's good to know he can do other things besides play a emotionally conflicted vampire.  When True Blood is over, he'll have lots of options.

The woman who played his first love interest, the Baroness, is an established star of Broadway, and has a beautiful, classical voice. 

Finally, the woman I consider to have one of the BEST voices ever to grace a Broadway stage, Audra MacDonald, played the Mother Abbess.  I could hardly wait to hear her version of "Climb Every Mountain."  I was not disappointed.  If you have never heard of Audra MacDonald and you want to be blown away, check out the soundtrack from the original Broadway production of "Ragtime."  That is one of my all-time favorite musicals and she was astounding in the show.  I cry every time I hear her songs.  Also she starred as Bess in a revival of "Porgy and Bess" in the last year or so.  Check out that soundtrack.  It's another gem made richer by her incredible voice.

All in all, it was an enjoyable production.  I know that some Broadway devotees apparently belittled the NBC version, but so what?  They're entitled to their opinions.  But I say, if they think they can do better, let them try.

Staging a production of any kind is hard work.  Staging a production for the stage and doing it on television is harder.  I was especially impressed with the staging that moved seamlessly from one set to another last night, with the cameras following the actors.  It was a huge soundstage, built to accommodate the different scenes.

When the Andrew's film came out, I was literally "sixteen going on seventeen" and a young voice student.  My teacher started me out on that song and we progressed through the score.  I used to be called upon to entertain my family and their friends at various gatherings by singing "Climb Every Mountain."  If I was feeling rebellious, I'd sing it with a heavy Texas drawl...of course that detracted from the quality of my voice.  Oh well, I was always hopeful I wouldn't have to perform (sing for my supper) each time.

For those of you who missed the show last night, it will be available on video soon.  WalMart, one of the primary sponsors of the show, will be selling it, along with a "sing-along version" of the soundtrack.

Finally, my last comment is, why do critics always think they have to criticize?  It's not mandatory.  I'd much rather celebrate the creative spirit and rejoice in the many choices we have for entertainment.

Until next time, take care, and enjoy our glorious pop culture!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The World's End

Obviously from some of my posts, I am an anglophile - translated I like British entertainment, especially the humor.  This stems from my checkered days in college where I got to watch what I wanted, instead of my parents' choices.  I discovered such wonderful things as Masterpiece Theatre and my personal favorite, Monty Python's Flying Circus.  I was warped for life!

I watch Monty Python whenever I get the chance, as well as Keeping Up Appearances - the saga of Hyacinth Bucket (no, it's Bouquet!!!)  These shows make me laugh, always a good thing.

Though I came late to the party, I've discovered the writing team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.  They have given us such irreverent films as Paul, Hot Fuzz, and my personal favorite - Shaun of the Dead.  What hoots these films are!

And, of course, the fact that Simon Pegg plays Montgomery Scott in the Abrams Star Trek franchise delights me as well. He makes a wonderful Scotty.

I recently watched The World's End, which is the latest collaboration from this talented team.  Like all of their films, there are some surprises in this one.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play friends since childhood.  Nick Frost usually plays the more outlandish of the pair with Simon Pegg the more conventional one.  Those roles are reversed in The World's End.  Simon Pegg makes a surprisingly good slacker/bad boy who never grew up.  Nick Frost makes a surprisingly good conservative business man who doesn't even want to see his old friend in the beginning.

This one is the story of a group of friends who, at Pegg's insistence, recreate their historic pub crawl in their home town for one last chance to finish it.  You see there are eleven pubs (public houses - bars) in the small town from whence they came.  When they were graduating from school, they tried to make all of them in one night, but they failed.  They never made it to the last pub on the list - The World's End.

One by one the friends are coerced from their conventional adult lives to join Pegg's character on one last fling.  Do they make it?  I'm not telling.

I will say they encounter some adventures on the way.  It is a life changing experience for them all, some more so than others.

There is a quirky take on the term "blue blood" which feels like a slam at British aristocracy, in the most comic way possible.

The climax is a big surprise.  The last pub is aptly named.

This is howlingly funny in places.  I guffawed while watching it.  There are a few serious bits, but that balances out the story.

The World's End is now out on video and pay-per-view for cable subscribers.  In my opinion it is much funnier than the recent comic version of the apocalypse.

If you haven't seen their other films and like to laugh, you should rent them.  Hot Fuzz is the story of a small town police force and the London officer who is transferred into their midst.  It has some hysterical moments....Yarp!  The straight-laced London officer gets corrupted by action films and becomes a super cop.

Paul is a must see for any Sci-Fi fan.  It's about two fans who go to World Con and meet a real alien, who is a trash-talking cigarette smoking little guy (with the voice of Seth Rogan.)  Look for Signourey Weaver in an offbeat role for her.  Great cast in this one.

Finally, if you haven't seen Shaun of the Dead, you're missing a treasure.  Of course there are zombies (don't say the Zed word!) galore.  There is some gore but trust me, it is funny.  As I mentioned, it's my favorite piece of all of these good films.  You won't catch everything in one watching.

Enjoy these wonderful films.  You'll have a great time and lots of laughs.

Oh by the way, we wave goodbye to the 2013 hurricane season today!  Yeaaaaaaaaayyy!  That's important to people in Florida.

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Adventures in Time and Space

The wildly popular BBC series "Doctor Who" had the misfortune to debut on the same day John F. Kennedy was killed.  Very few people watched the original airing as the British people were glued to the news just like we Yanks.

So it's no coincidence that "Doctor Who" celebrated its fiftieth anniversary at the same time we commemorated JFK's assassination fifty years later.

Fortunately for generations of fans, the BBC decided to rerun the first episode, gathering fans, until it became the phenomenon we know today.

Adventures in Time and Space is a movie produced by the BBC and shown on their network, as well as BBC America.  Written by Mark Gatiss, who has penned several episode scripts for the series, it is funny, yet surprisingly poignant.

Brian Cox (Red, Red2, among many other roles) plays Sidney Newman, a brash Canadian hired by the BBC to update their image and the quality of their presentations.

Jessie Raine plays Verity Lambert, Sidney's former assistant, whom he hires to be the producer for this new "children's program" he's decided to add to the line-up.  A woman producer was not the norm in those days and Ms. Lambert had her own battles to fight.

Sacha Dhawan plays Waris Hussein, a Indian misfit among the all-English staff.

David Lambert (Filch in the Harry Potter series, and the sexual offender driven to suicide in Broadchurch) plays William Hartnell, the irascible older actor who originated the role of the Doctor.
While this cast works very well together as a true ensemble, it is Lambert's show.  He gives a measured performance going from angry curmudgeon to bewildered victim of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries.)  And the hardest part to take is that Hartnell begins to enjoy his fame as the Doctor.  He grows comfortable in the role and even likes teasing young fans in the park.  He tells them to run because the Daleks are coming.  They run away screaming, "Exterminate, exterminate" with their best Dalek imitations, to the delighted laughter of Hartnell. He loves playing the role he was so reluctant originally to accept.

The point of the script is that four misfits, Sidney, Verity, Warris, and Hartnell came together with an "impossible" concept according to the administrators at the BBC and made a magical show that has endured.  They bucked the considerably hide-bound system and won.  Doctor Who has an enormous fan base, all over the world, called Whovians.  (Sounds sort of like Trekkers, don't you think?)

After several years of success, one by one the originators leave the show.  Hartnell is the last to leave and he does so unwillingly.  He has been having serious problems with his lines due to his disease.  He cannot remember the correct words, says outrageous things, and is quick to fly into a rage.

Finally, the role is recast and he is informed.  He takes it very well, a true English gentleman.  But he has one more episode to film where the Doctor will be regenerated into someone else - something they have used throughout the series to recast the role.  Hartnell begins his lines and loses them as he looks around the set of his beloved TARDIS.  A young man appears to him, smiles and nods.  It is Matt Smith, the eleventh actor to play the Doctor.  Hartnell leaves knowing his character will continue.

I am a fan of Doctor Who.  My favorite actor in the part was David Tennant, the tenth actor to play the role.

But I'd be willing to bet even the most hardened cynic would be moved by Bradley's performance.  He's got the part down.  I cried as I recognized the elderly man dealing with confusion and fright.

This film is a fitting tribute to the series, to Hartnell, and the others who have come later to the role.

It's another wonderful job by the BBC.  Oh, and by the way, Doctor number twelve will be introduced next month.  I for one am looking forward to it.

Don't miss this film if you like Doctor Who.  You won't be disappointed.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Enjoy a good movie, a book, some music, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, football, whatever strikes your fancy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963

I remember it all in black and white, because that's the way we saw our television broadcasts in 1963.  There is one exception to the memory - Jackie Kennedy's beautiful pink Chanel suit.  Somehow that is the one spot of color on an otherwise stark day.  It wasn't until many years later that the color film shot by Abraham Zapruder was released to the public and we could see the assassination "in living color."

I was fourteen years old, in junior high, as we called it in those days.  We had just gone to our home room after lunch.  The home room teacher was one of the young football coaches, always joking and irreverent.  I remember he walked slowly into the room, his face stunned.  He told us someone had shot the president in downtown Dallas.  With the usual teen-aged attitude, we didn't believe him.  "Yeah, right...good one, Coach Douglas..."  But then he persisted and I noticed his face was ashen, a funny grey, leached of flesh tone.  Gradually, we accepted what he said.  The principal put the sound of the television broadcast on the loudspeaker system.  We sat and listened.

The bell rang and we got up to go to our next class.  It was English and was taught by my favorite teacher.  I sat right in front of his desk.  We hadn't been in there long when Walter Cronkite's voice came on the loudspeaker and announced that President Kennedy was dead and then swallowed a sob.  I remember I began to cry.  One of the boys sitting beside me reached out and awkwardly patted my shoulder.  The teacher held my hand for a moment, fighting his own grief.  Other than the soft crying from some of the girls, the classroom was quiet.  None of us had words.

I don't remember much of the rest of the day.  We stayed in school that afternoon until the bell rang.  I don't remember how I got home.  What I do remember is the silence...not only was our president murdered, he was killed in our home.  The sense of shame and guilt began to build, an awful burden for an adolescent.

Later on, I learned my mother had been having her own adventure.  My older brother was getting married in one week.  We were going to Atlanta for the ceremony.  I was to be a bridesmaid.  Mom had a busy day planned.  She had taken our white satin pumps to a specialty shoe store to be dyed to match our dresses.  So she went blithely off to get her errands accomplished.  She didn't listen to the radio while she drove, so she didn't know what happened.  I can hardly believe it, but she went to several of the fancy stores and didn't learn about the president.  The last errand she had was the shoe store, which happened to be across town, in the Oak Cliff section, on Jefferson street.  It was across the street and down the block from the Texas theater...

My mother, a small, somewhat shy woman, witnessed history.  She saw them capture Lee Harvey Oswald and watched them take him away.  In fact, it was the manager of the shoe store who saw him sneak into the theater and told the management who called the police.  Only then did my mom learn what had happened.

That night and for days to come, all that was on television was news.  It was like what happened on 9/11.  In 1963, we had the major networks and that was about it.

The following Sunday morning, we were getting ready for church and saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald on live television.  The shame and guilt grew even greater as the television commentators blamed the Dallas Police for Ruby's deed.  There was even an issue of Mad magazine that came out the next month that had a cover about it.  Alfred E. Newman was shown saying "Don't worry, Lee.  The Dallas Police will protect you..."

That Monday schools were closed all over the country.  We watched JFK's funeral services.  I remember Jackie Kennedy, her eyes puffy but dry, walking in the procession at its head.  I knew then that I was looking at courage personified.  She grew in my estimation and stayed there, no matter what her life choices were later.  She had the guts to make those choices.

We left to drive to Atlanta.  Though we knew feelings in the country were high against Dallas and her people, we didn't give it much thought.  We stopped for gas in Alabama.  In those days, they pumped it for you.  Dad got out of the car to stretch his legs.  The attendant came up to him and noticed the Texas plate.  He asked Dad where we came from and Dad said "Dallas."  He refused to sell us any gas and ordered us out of his station.

On the day of the wedding I went to a beauty salon to have my hair done.  Busy with the preparations, my mom dropped me off.  The beautician talked to me while she worked on my hair.  We talked about the wedding.  She asked where we were from and like an idiot I said Dallas.  I am not exaggerating, every woman in that shop, customers and staff alike circled around me and peppered me with questions.  I tried to explain to them that I was in school the day it happened but they didn't listen.

It was a traumatic experience as a young teen-ager, but as an adult, I understand they needed someone to blame for the unimaginable, to explain the unexplainable.

I carried that guilt around for years afterward, like a stone in the middle of my chest.  There must have been something we as a city did to allow such a thing to happen there...Now I know it was happenstance or fate who put JFK in the path of the insignificant little sniper, nothing to do with us. 

That being said, while I do finally believe Oswald was the shooter, I don't know the real reason, the how or the why.  I also don't know Ruby's true motives.  There has been too much corroborated evidence of the mob wanting JFK dead.  Unless we know the real reasons, there will always be doubt, unhealed pain of not knowing.

The facts remain that JFK was the hope for all of us.  He was perceived to be just that.  He was young, vital, handsome, a hero in World War II.  He had saved us all from nuclear war.  He had great plans for the country to end poverty and prejudice.  We were all looking forward to the future, then his plans were aborted with gunshots from the Texas Schoolbook Depository.

Lyndon Johnson got most of JFK's legislative agenda through.  Equal rights for African Americans became the law of the land, though the opponents have not gone quietly.  Thank you, JFK, for the dream of equal rights, Medicare, and work programs for the poor.  Thank you, LBJ, for getting them implemented.

At that time in my life, I still had all my relatives and grandparents.  Nobody had died in the family during my lifetime.  The assassination was a loss of innocence for me, the beginning of a cynicism that grew with the events of the rest of the sixties...

Jackie Kennedy's comments about Camelot and her husband's presidency were right on the money.  It was a time of dreams, of youth, beauty, culture, and most of all hope.  And though I wish it otherwise, such a time will never come again.  Our innocence as a nation has been forever lost.

"Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot for happily ever aftering, that was known as Camelot."

Rest in peace.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Man of Steel

In all my pre-move running around, I finally got to sit down and watch a movie.  I saw the lavish, big-budget production "Man of Steel", the latest installment in the Superman saga.

I watched the old Superman tv series, "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SUPERMAN!!!!!!!!!!!"  I think I was about six when it first came on the air and like any good couch potato child of my generation I watched it and loved it.  Although I have to say even then I thought Superman's suit was dopey looking.  I mean it was in the pre-polyester days and looked to be made of cotton jersey, ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and probably made poor George Reeves perspire.

Then there was the 70s film versions with heart-throb Christopher Reeve.  He was gorgeous.  Of course I can't watch that series of films anymore knowing what his eventual fate would be.  It is just too painful now.  I've seen billboards in the last couple of years featuring him in his wheelchair and headlined "Super Man."  He truly was an inspiration.

Then there was another film, "The Return of Superman" which hovers at the edge of my aging brain.  I saw it in the theater, no less.  But I don't remember when it came out.  The actor was a one-shot Superman, but also very handsome, as I remember.  Of course that one had the addition of Lois Lane and her son...that was a grown-up version of the franchise.  They didn't make any more films in that incarnation.

And now we come to the extravaganza version of Superman, with all the bells and whistles (amazing special effects) of the world of CGI.  Henry Cavill is truly beautiful as Kalel, aka Clark Kent.  He does things to that spandex suit that make my old girl's heart go pitter pat...(and no, I'm not comparing myself to Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind...I'm not that far gone yet!)

Henry Cavill has a physique that reminds me of Joe Manganiello of "True Blood" and "Magic Mike" fame.  I know there are probably a few hundred guys built like that around the LA area, but I rarely see anybody who looks that way.  I had to watch the movie twice because I got a tad distracted...

Amy Adams is one of my favorite actresses these days.  She is so versatile, turning in wonderful performances in such diverse films as "The Muppets" and "The Fighter."  She was magnificent in "Doubt" as a young nun confronted with a complex situation.  She makes a beautiful but plucky Lois Lane.  And unlike poor Margot Kidder's Lois Lane, Amy's is in on the secret.  She knows who Clark Kent is, she's met his mom, for heaven's sake!

Michael Shannon makes a wonderful General Zod from Krypton, the part played by the great Terence Stamp in the 70s films.  Shannon is one of those actors who sneak up on you.  He is terrific at characterization.  Currently, he is appearing on "Boardwalk Empire" as a man, horribly repressed, and steeped in contradictions.  You know he's going to blow any minute.  He's already leaking out a bit of steam.  And then there was the indie film "Take Shelter" with Jessica Chastain.  If you haven't caught that one on cable and like sci-fi/cerebral horror films, check it out.  His performance is amazing in that one.  You'll remember the ending for a long time to come.

Russell Crowe plays Jorel, Kalel's Krypton father.  His role is much better written than Marlon Brando's was in the first series of films.  Crowe's Jorel is a man of passion and purpose, even his artificial intelligence left to teach and protect his son.

Kevin Costner has a brief but important part as Jonathan Kent who finds the infant Kalel, adopts him and names him Clark.  He dies a noble death of sacrifice.

Diane Lane plays Martha Kent, Clark's mom.  When I first saw her in the film, she was artificially aged for the role.  I thought she better run home and apply some of the anti-aging products she sells on tv.  But she is shown as a younger woman later on in the film.  Whew.  I was afraid she really looked like the older version...but she gives a good performance.

I was happy to see Chris Meloni previously from "Law & Order: SVU" and "True Blood" in the film.  He is such a commanding presence onscreen, he's always a pleasure to watch.

Lastly, but certainly not the least, we come to the biggest stars of the film, and I do mean biggest - the special effects.  The final battle between Kalel and Zod rips up Metropolis and leaves it a huge pile of rubble.

The fight goes on awhile, but doesn't drag on because the special effects are so amazing.

This film is well worth viewing.  It's fast-paced, exciting, and filled with attractive people.  Plus, it is true to the Superman legend.  What's not to like?

Lastly, please forgive me for not mentioning the series "Smallville."  But I never really saw it.  I've seen snippets on early morning TNT, when I've been half asleep.

Some exciting news for me...I am planning to start a second blog of free reads.  It was suggested by one of my writing buds.  I will post original short works of fiction that I wrote.  However, I probably won't be doing that until after the holidays.  So stay tuned.

I'll be thinking while I'm packing...

Take care.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Windwalker by Dinah McCall

Windwalker by the imaginative Dinah McCall is an amazing novel.  In the beginning we meet teacher Layla Birdsong, who is attending an education conference in Chicago.  Late one night, she takes a wrong turn on the mean streets and is attacked by a vicious gang of men, intent on robbery, rape, and murder.  As they begin to carry out their plans for her, she fights back, stabbing one attacker.  Then a whirlwind appears in the alley and morphs into the shape of a warrior, a Native American warrior.

The next thing she knows, she is in her hotel room, naked and bleeding.  She remembers something out of a vision, but is very confused.  The warrior appears before her and tells her she is now a red feather warrior.  She remembers her father telling her that meant she had killed an enemy in battle.  The warrior tells her people will come for her, wanting her help.  He tells her his name is Niyol.  Before the warrior disappears he tells her she is his and that he will return.

The police find the dead men and Layla's purse with her identification.  They are also blown away by the footage from a nearby security camera.  The police come to her hotel room and rush her immediately to the hospital.  There her journey begins to get truly interesting.  She is beset by those that want her to succeed and those that do not.

This is a tale of ancient prophecy of the last days of planet Earth, of the quest to find the way to safety, of an ancient promised fulfilled, and a couple reunited.

Ms. McCall has written a rich story filled with spiritual dreaming.  It is a fascinating tale that will keep the reader turning the page, rushing to know the conclusion.

Published in 2012, it is the first book in the Prophecy series by Ms. McCall.

For all fans of the paranormal, of Native American stories, of suspense, and characters who battle forward through deep adversity, you will love this book.

It took second place in the 2013 Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards for the Paranormal category.

This is a terrific read.  Enjoy!  (Isn't the cover gorgeous?)


Forever Lovers - Forever Lost

Singing Bird: Died in a world just beginning.

Layla Birdsong: Reincarnated as it is coming to an end.

The Danger: A meteor called Firewalker on a collision course with Earth.

Her Mission: Take what's left of the Native American race back to their beginning.

Her Hope:  To change the past and the future will change with it.

Cayetano: From ancient Mayan to Windwalker, an all powerful and angry spirit trapped in eternal punishment for his earthly sins.

His Only Hope: Singing Bird offering up her spirit to undo his curse.

The Risk:  Firewalker - If it comes too soon, before what's left of their people get through the portal, her sacrifice will have been in vain.

Links to purchase:


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

O the insecurity of apartment living!

Picture it...(sorry, Sophia)...Florida 2013...you're minding your own business in your nice apartment.  You have a much beloved patio garden that you tend.  That's such a zen thing to do, calms me down when things get tough.

Anyhow, suddenly, there are strangers roaming the property looking at the buildings and taking notes.  What's going on?  You wonder, but mind your business and go watch a movie.

Then one day, there's a letter on your door.  The property has been sold to the same LLC that bought the property next door.  Now you get mildly alarmed.  The property next door has been undergoing a serious make-over.  You drive by their signs daily proclaiming "granite countertops!" "New Appliances!"  "Laminate Flooring!"  And you feel the four horsemen galloping inexorably your way...

Sure enough, soon you're getting emails from the new management company.  They're going to repair the buildings, put up, you guessed it - granite countertops, new appliances, laminate flooring yadayadayada...

So you wonder, how in the heck am I going to live through a construction zone?  Will they actually rip out the tile and the carpeting with me in the apt?  And how will my Tzus react?  I can see them needing canine shrinks to talk them through their stress...they're far too old to chew the carpet or anything else.

Then the hammer falls.  You are notified that they won't renew your lease when it's time in a couple of months.  You won't be able to remain in your current unit...

The fact that the workmen are already here replacing rotted wood in the trim and filling up our cul-de-sac with a giant dumpster makes it very real.  The hammer is falling, literally and metaphorically.

Now my mind goes into crisis mode...after years of working for the government, putting out everything from smoking embers to enormous blazes of out of control situations, it just goes into that mode automatically.  It's purely a survival instinct.

Sideline - I could have told the Feds there would be major difficulties in rolling out the Affordable Care Act - I've never seen a government program yet that rolled out on time and without blips.  One program in the state where I worked took five years to fix before it worked correctly.  Of course I'm talking about programs that involve major work with computers...makes you think, doesn't it?

Back to the crisis - I have an appointment with the manager tomorrow morning to discuss my options, all of which involve my least favorite thing in the world, packing up my pack-rat existence and moving and having to unpack at the new place.  As a friend suggested, I'd rather have a root canal - MUCH RATHER.

There are benefits to all of this.  The apartment complex next door is an option, and it's very nice now.  Much of my garden won't have a home there, but I'm working on finding good homes for some of the plants.

If I move over there, I doubt I'll be doing battle with Godzilla's spider relatives - I had one hide in my closet for three days.  Every so often I opened the door suddenly, broom in hand, but the bugger would inevitably be on to that ploy and hide.  Finally one night, about 2am the spider came out of the closet. (Okay, stop the laughing!) I left the lights on so I could monitor the culprit.  I chased him down telling him if he had let me catch him previously, I'd have caught him in a jar and put him outside.  His demise was his own fault.  Defiant to the end, he met his death as the broom descended, on his eight legs, steadily watching it come to get him...When it was over, I scooped him up in the jar and consigned him to a watery grave.  Since then I have been paranoid when I open my bedroom closet, wary of arachnids...The one I killed was almost the size of my fist with its legs included...and they say everything is bigger in Texas!

And then there was the snake that slithered in one evening when I opened the front door...maybe the new place won't be so bad, after all.  Of course they've got several retention ponds on the property which sometimes invite gators to come and stay awhile...

I may not be putting up as many posts for the next couple of months.  Just imagine me with giant garbage bags, filling them with kitchen stuff (I don't need a lot of pots and pans because I rarely cook anymore.)  Then there will be bags of paper to shred...more things for Goodwill...before I finally get to packing.

Everybody take care...I've got a review to post later this week on a great book entitled Windwalker by the terrific author, Dinah McCall...the cover is to die for, girls!

Take care.

Now, where did I put the number to 1-800-Got Junk?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't Cry For Me by Sharon Sala

I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful author, Sharon Sala, at the Ancient City Romance Authors' conference last weekend.  I got to be a fan and tell her how much I enjoy her work.  Her novel, Don't Cry For Me, took first place in the Romantic Suspense Category of the 2013 Heart of Excellence Readers' Choice Awards.  In my opinion it was well deserved.

Don't Cry For Me is the story of Mariah Conrad, a veteran released from active duty in Afghanistan.  She comes home physically and emotionally wounded.  She is surprised when Quinn Walker, who served with her, comes to pick her up on the day of her release.  He takes her to his home in the remote forests of Appalachia.  There she begins the arduous process of healing both her body and her mind.

Quinn and Mariah grow closer as they both heal from their wartime duty.  Their safety and very lives are threatened by outsiders come to use the rural mountains for illegal purposes.  Also there is a renegade bear rampaging in the area. As danger comes close to them, they grow closer still, more comfortable with each other.  They grow to hope they have a future together.

They are adopted by a foundling hound pup who turns out to be a great friend, indeed.

This one is a real page-turner.  Danger beckons while love blossoms.  It's got something for everyone.

Don't Cry For Me is a must-read for fans of suspense, contemporary stories about veterans and their families, and wonderful, realistic love stories.  It is the next novel in Ms. Sala's successful Rebel Ridge Series.

Pick it up.  You'll be very glad you did.


Mariah Conrad has come home.  Badly wounded on active duty in Afghanistan and finally released stateside, she has no family to call on and nowhere to go - until Quinn Walker arrives at her bedside.
Quinn - her brother-in-arms, ex-lover, and now maybe her future.

Quinn brings Mariah to his log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to rest and recuperate both physically and emotionally.  While she's incredibly grateful, Mariah is also confused and frustrated.  She's always stood on her own two feet, but now even that can be torture.  She's having flashbacks and blackouts, hearing helicopter noises in the night.  She wants to push Quinn away and hold him closer than ever.

But will she get the chance?  Those helicopters are more than post-traumatic stress, they are real and dangerous. Bad things are happening on the mountain.  Suddenly there's a battle to be fought on the home front and no guarantee of survival.

Link for purchase:


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beautiful Imperfection by Kathryn J. Bain

Beautiful Imperfection, the fourth novel by Kathryn J. Bain, follows the tradition of wonderful writing she established with her first novel.

Honestly, she is one of my favorite authors.  Her writing style is clean, concise, with plenty of action to keep the reader's interest.  One of the best things about her books is that she understands the use of "the hook" to grab the reader at the beginning.

In Beautiful Imperfection, we are introduced to Teddy Federline, a woman who had a recent mastectomy and has been pronounced cancer free.  At the insistence of friends, she is meeting a man for drinks in a local restaurant.  We see her apprehension in having this date as well as her insecurities due to the recent surgery.  It is a brief but wonderful introduction to this character.  The reader just starts having empathy for Teddy, when a gunman walks into the place and begins killing people at random.  Boom!  And there's the well-placed hook.

Teddy watches as someone she knows is killed, as well as others in the room.  Given her recent illness, she is determined to survive and takes action she never would have before in her life.  She helps take down the gunman so he can be disarmed.

That act of bravery makes her the target of the serial killer who shot the people in the restaurant.  One by one, the witnesses start dying, even though he sits securely behind bars.

In walks Sloan Michaels, her boyfriend from years ago, now a detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.  Teddy does not want to trust him because he deserted her when they were young.
He has feelings of his own and secrets he has never revealed.  He is determined to protect her, even at the cost of his own life.

Thus begins an intricate story that moves quickly and keeps you reading until the satisfying conclusion.

Ms. Bain has filled her story with well-drawn characters with whom we can empathize.  She also researched the healing process for women with breast cancer.  Teddy's battle, both physical and psychological is real.  In my old days in the field of social work, I worked with women like Teddy who were trying to cope in the aftermath of treatment from this disease.  I recognize Teddy's behavior as well as her physical symptoms.

The author will donate a portion of her net earnings for 2013 to Breast Cancer Research.

This is a terrific story of healing and redemption and not just for Teddy.  Filled with sensitivity and suspense, it is a good read that will stay with you.

I hope you will read this book and discover the talented Kathryn J. Bain. 

By the way, her cover art just took first place for the Inspirational category in the Sunshine State Romance Authors "Show Me Your Cover" contest.  It is a gorgeous cover, indicative of the sensitivity of the story inside.

Brava, Ms. Bain for another beautifully written novel!


When witnesses to a mass murder start dying, breast cancer survivor Teddy Federline must push aside her anger and trust an ex-boyfriend to ensure she lives long enough to testify against the killer.

Detective Sloan Michaels still has deep feelings for Teddy but realizes that after the way he left her years ago, he has a lot of making up to do. Now, he must keep his focus on the case and off the woman he loves. If Sloan doesn't keep Teddy safe, he'll never get a second chance.

Where to purchase: 


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

One Lucky Vampire by Lynsay Sands

Lynsay Sands' most recent Argeneau novel, One Lucky Vampire, has been published.  It is the story of Stephano Notte, who goes by the name of Jake Colson.  Stephano, or Jake, doesn't want to be a vampire.  In fact, he's estranged from most of his family.  He's asked to do a favor for Marguerite, the charming and infamous matchmaker of the Argeneau clan.  There is a young lady of her acquaintance who is being threatened by an unknown stalker.  She is in need of a bodyguard, but will not accept the fact that someone is after her.

So Marguerite presents Jake to the young lady as a cook/housekeeper of the live-in variety.  The fact that Jake can't really cook doesn't seem to matter.  With cookbook in hand, he accepts the job and moves in with the soon to be divorced artist, Nicole Phillips.  There are several apparent attempts made on her life.  Plus there is a dangerous attraction between Jake and Nicole.  He fights the attraction, but the signs are all in place.

How does Marguerite always know?

This novel is hot, hot, HOT!!  Also, it is laced with Ms. Sands' characteristic humor.  The vivid characters bring life to the tale.  It is a warm and passionate love story played out among elements of danger, everything a reader could want in an enjoyable novel.

You'll read it in one sitting, because you won't want to put it down.  Vampire novels are common in the romance world.  But nobody writes them like Lynsay Sands.  Each story is a gem on its own, never a formula followed.  One Lucky Vampire is no exception. 

Wonderful job, Ms. Sands!  You keep writing and we'll keep reading.


Luck be a vampire tonight . . .

When Nicole Phillips agreed to hire a housekeeper, she pictured someone a little frumpy and almost certainly female. Instead, she gets gorgeous, unmistakably male Jake Colson. The man is proving indispensable in the kitchen—and everywhere else. Except Jake might not be a mortal man at all.

. . . and every night

Who wouldn't want to be a tall, dark, powerful vampire? Jake, for one. He's barely had time to adjust to his new state before he's roped into a family favor. Still, secretly playing bodyguard to sweet, sexy Nicole is turning out to be the wildest ride of his life. First he'll put a stop to whoever's targeting her. Then he'll prove that this kind of love, and luck, happens only once in an eternity.

Links for purchase: 

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_10?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=one%20lucky%20vampire&sprefix=One+Lucky+%2Caps%2C497

Barnes&Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/one-lucky-vampire?keyword=one+lucky+vampire&store=ebook


Monday, September 30, 2013

Carly's Rule by Vickie King

I just finished reading Carly's Rule, a wonderful first novel from talented author Vickie King.

Carly's Rule is the story of Carly Braddock who owns a bakery called Sugar Plums in her home town.  Carly's life hasn't always been easy.  In fact, she has known grief and loss in her young life.  She finally comes back home and opens her bakery.  She has a large family and spends time with her nieces and nephews when she isn't baking.  Life has taught her not to risk her heart.  She has one hard and fast rule about relationships.

Enter a man from her past - Luke Donovan.  Though intellectually, Carly knows he is dangerous to her heart, she is still attracted.  Will he be the one to finally break Carly's rule?

This is a warm, engaging tale, filled with realistic characters who face problems in their lives.  The players and the situations pull the reader into the story.  It is an engrossing read from beginning to end, filled with the colorful inhabitants of a West Virginia town.  All of the characters are well written and memorable.  They live on the page and in the readers' memory.  You will remember these folks and wonder about them when you close the book.

I give Carly's Rule four and a half stars, only because I wasn't ready for it to end!

This is the first book in a series. The second book due to be published in 2014 is the story of one of Carly's brothers and is entitled Dusty's Fate.

I will have my copy reserved.  I can't wait to read more about the Braddock family.

Warning! Ms. King does such a good job describing the delectable treats baked in the bakery, you may well be tempted to wolf down some carbs!

I hope you're listening, Hallmark Channel. You've got the makings of a great movie in this book.

What a lovely job, Ms. King!  Carly's Rule is a must read for fans of contemporary romance.


Pastry Chef Carly Braddock only ever loved one man, Luke Donovan, who disappeared from her life years ago, breaking her heart and leaving her to wonder what happened to him. When he walks into Sugar Plums, her West Virginia bakery/cafe, and back into her life after all this time, she isn’t in a forgiving mood. Though he doesn’t know it, her experience with him shaped the other relationships in her life and led her to create a rule to protect her heart. What neither counts on is that the chemistry between them is still as fierce and tangible as it was all those years ago, and Carly doesn’t know until her heart is completely involved once again that Luke has kept an important part of his life from her. When she finds out what it is, she knows she must let him go, and this time for good. Not only did he keep something from her, but he broke the one thing she created to protect her heart . . . Carly’s Rule.
Available at Amazon.com

Friday, September 27, 2013

Update - BBC's Broadchurch

In my previous review of this incredible series on BBC America's "Dramaville", I was mistaken in how many episodes there were.  Actually, it aired its final episode this last Wednesday.

This is an amazing series, a mystery with many clues like strands of fog on the British coastline.  The story is haunting.  The production is evocative and unforgettable.

The cast makes a wonderful ensemble with excellent performances all around.  The directing is seamless.  The production values (sets, music, lighting, locations, etc) all play a part in bringing this poignant story to life.

There is a surprise ending that will stun you.  It did me. 

I recorded the episode on Wednesday and watched it again this morning just to see if it was as good as I remembered.  Yep, it was...I may even appreciate it more knowing that even a repeat of something I'd seen could keep me engrossed in the hour.

If you haven't seen it and get BBC America, please see if it's available On Demand on your system.  If not, rent it when it comes out.  You won't regret it.

BRAVO, BBC America for another exquisite series.

I am looking forward to their upcoming production of "Burton and Taylor" which stars Helena Bonham Carter in what looks like a dead-on portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor.  That premiers on October 16th.

Enjoy our incredible pop culture, where there truly is something for every taste.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ode To The Dearly Departed Thunder Thighs

Remember I once said I studied ballet as a child and wanted more than anything to be a dancer?  Well, that's true and even though I took classes and practiced all week, I still had big thighs.  They were muscular, but they were also big.  I inherited them from my mom.  In high school, not only did I take dance classes and practice, I was also on the drill team.  My thunder thighs stayed firmly in place...

Our best and most requested routine for the drill team ended on a spectacular contagion of movement beginning at one end of the line and progressing through the girls to the opposite end.  Those of us short enough to be at the end where the contagion started did 64 high kicks in a row.  My thunder still rolled.  (Talk about a cardio workout!)

And let's not even talk about the splits we had to do.  My worst memory of high school is performing at a game where the temp was below 50 and the field was wet.  I had the misfortune to be located on one of the yard lines when split time came.  My majorette boots dug trenches in the yard line as I performed my perfect split.  I got up with mud and yard line paint striping my legs...YECH!

My life is pretty stressful right now, with health issues for my loved ones, two leggeds and four leggeds.  So, it's understandable why I miss some things these days.

Earlier this week, I put on a new pair of pants only slightly less fitted than leggings.  That's when I realized...my THUNDER THIGHS ARE GONE!!!

Wha??? Where'd they go?  I hadn't been hearing the telltale whoosh-whoosh when I walked, but it didn't register on my conscious mind.  Besides, it's too early in the season for corduroy.

Granted I have been a dedicated dieter and carb counter for the last year or so.  I also started an exercise program back in the spring, which I do 6 to 7 days each week.  But who knew at this age, my old thighs would depart?  I mean they never did before...though I worked at it and wished they'd go away.

After an adult lifetime of walking like a thunder lizard, shaking the ground whenever I moved, it is very strange to tread so lightly now. (And so much faster!)

Along with the low carb diet, I have an elliptical on which I pedal daily.  I am up to eight miles a day, with my goal being ten miles daily.  My little elliptical is portable.  It can be used while you sit in a chair.  So each afternoon, I pull out one of my dining room chairs and pedal away at a fast pace (one-two, one-two, one-two.)  It takes me about 26 minutes most days to pedal eight miles, so I keep a fast pace.  I also use resistance bands for my arms while I pedal.  I am up to 200 reps per day with the bands.

Having problem knees, I couldn't really use a bike when I started.  The elliptical is much easier on the joints.  Besides, I've pedaled over 500 miles so far, not far enough for the Tour De France, but that's an impressive stat for such a dedicated couch potato!

Who knows how far I'll go?  One of these days, I may get a real bicycle and go out into the world.

In the meantime, take heart, for this is my advice and assurance to you. 

If you dream it, you can do it.  I am very serious about this.  We humans have an amazing capacity for manifesting success in our lives.  Go for whatever you want.  You can do it.  I'm living proof.

One of these days I may take my act to the beach!  (In bicycle shorts and a tank top, of course.)

So fare thee well oh thunder thighs of mine.  You kept me warm in the winter, and chafed in the summer (in Texas and Florida!) Now I'll chortle gleefully as I pull on my leggings and walk silently into the sunset...

Live Long and Prosper...*

* Quotation from Mr. Spock

Monday, September 16, 2013

Confessions of Football's Grim Reaper

I tried not to take it personally.  But lately, it's hard to ignore it.  I am the Grim Reaper for football teams.  My support slays any chance they have at successful seasons - bowl games, the playoffs - and forget the biggie - the Super Bowl!!!

Take this last week...who did I want to win?  Everybody who didn't.  They all failed, some spectacularly, some not with a bang but a whimper.

I've loved football most of my life.  It was inevitable.  My dad was the quarterback of the State Championship football team when he was in high school.  We started going to the high school games in the town where we lived when I was about twelve years old.  In Garland, Texas in those days, Friday nights were all about the Garland High School games.  Didn't matter if they played in the rickety all-wooden stadium (where I got some big honking splinters in unmentionable places, especially when I was in the drill team and sat unaware in my little short skirts.) Or if the bulk of the town's residents drove in a winding caravan all over north Texas in heat, wind, rain, whatever.  Nothing was more important than football.  Yep, Friday Night Lights, though it was written about one of our arch-rivals in playoffs, Odessa Permian High School, was real all over the state.  That's the way it was.

In those days, Garland only had one high school.  They got their second when I was a junior.  We had the option to move to the new high school if we wanted, but no way would I do that...I mean, did they think I would give up years of tradition?  No way, no how.  Would I give up being a Dashing Deb to become a Southern Belle?  Bleah...it was totally unthinkable.  Dad thought about sending me to a prestigious private school, but I BEGGED him not to ruin my life!

So is it any wonder that I am a football fan?  In the glory days of Garland, we won the state championship two years in a row, beating Odessa Permian to get to the final game, I should mention.

With that foundation, I have loved football ever since.  My main teams are the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Texas Longhorns.  I also like Texas A&M, if they're not playing the Longhorns, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.  (I mean I live in Jax, after all...)

But this season is not turning out well for the Longhorns, the Cowboys, and especially the Jaguars.  On Saturday, even Johnny Football couldn't pull off a win against Alabama.  I couldn't watch it when they got so far behind, but my dad assured me it was a really good game.  BUT DID THEY WIN?!!!  NO!!!!!  The Cowboys handily beat the Giants in the first game of the real season.  Yesterday, they lost to Kansas City (who had the nerve to sneak in Andy Reid as their new coach...)

Ahem...the Longhorns, well they're not even in the rankings anymore this season...I swear I saw Bevo crying on the sidelines.  Or maybe he was chewing his cud, or the rope that held him in place.  I don't blame him, I'd try to escape the madness, too.  It must be hard to stand before 90,000+ fans in that heat and noise.  It would be much nicer to be munching grass in a field somewhere.

So I have come to the inevitable conclusion, in the "Superstition" mode (thanks, Stevie Wonder).  IT'S MY FAULT!!!  I'M TO BLAME!!!  I must be, otherwise why are all my teams losing?

I have come up with a plan.  I've decided to advertise a special service in which I will cheer for the opponents of my customers' teams.  That way, their teams will win...I haven't worked out the particulars yet, but I will...I can be clever when necessary...

Take care. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Adios, Burn Notice

I don't know how many of you watched USA's series Burn Notice.  I started watching it when it came on originally.  The premise was intriguing as was the fact that it was shot in Miami.  I was born in Miami and spent many happy summers there as a child.  To say I was stunned at the enormous city shown on the tv screen would be an understatement.  Of course I haven't been back to Miami since my grandparents died.  So, as far as I know there could be space aliens sitting at the cafes sipping mojitos.  Some of my friends are sure Austin, TX is already full of them...I'll reserve judgment on that one.

Anyhow back to Burn Notice.  I always thought it was an exciting series, full of action, but also with some human pathos for balance.  It had a great cast who worked well as an ensemble.  I liked all of them.  They all did a wonderful job in their respective roles.

My favorites were Bruce Campbell as Sam Axe and his alter ego - Charles Finley.  I have always been a fan of his.  They frequently referred to his character on the show as the "guy with the chin."  If you have seen Bruce Campbell, he does have a memorable chin.  It became a running joke.

My other favorite was Sharon Gless who played Michael's mom, Maddie Weston.  I have liked her for years, from the time she and Tyne Daley, played female detective partners for the NYC police dept in the breakthrough tv drama, Cagney and Lacey.  It was the first tv show that had a female team of investigators.  I loved it.  Of course we were all much younger then.  It was the heyday of feminism in the 70s.

Throughout all the difficulties in the storyline of Burn Notice, Gless played a courageous woman who had two sons at the beginning of the show.  At the end, she had one living son and a three-year-old grandson.  SPOILER ALERT - the hardest, most jarring part of the finale last night was when Maddie Weston sacrificed herself so her little grandson could escape from the bad guys.  She sent him to safety with Jessie (one of Michael's crew) and sat calmly smoking a cigarette, when the bad guys burst in, their weapons ready.  She looked at them and said, "this is for my boys."  Then she pushed the button on the detonator connected to C-4 that she held in her hand.  Goodbye Maddie as well as all of her would-be attackers.

Jessie took care of the two guys left outside and got the little boy to safety.

In the end, Michael and Fiona, as well as Sam and Jessie made it out alive.  Although Michael and Fiona let everybody think they were dead and went to another country with his little nephew.  Sam and Jessie were off on another mission to help someone in need.

It was a satisfactory way to wrap up the story.

I always watched Burn Notice.  It was a good combination of action and wry humor.  Last night was no exception.

I will miss seeing these guys tooling around Miami going after the predators who preyed on their human victims.  I will miss Sam's wry humor, Maddie's love and her problem with cigarettes, as well as Michael and Fiona with their on-again, off-again love story.

Nice job, folks.  Enjoy your respite from series television.  I know you will enjoy those residuals you get.  That's the real beauty of series television for the actors.  Once you reach a certain number of episodes "in the can" - the residual checks just keep on coming as long as the series is shown in reruns.

You can thank the Star Trek crew for that.  They didn't get residuals from that show.  Since then the acting unions lobbied and got a deal to take care of the actors when a show goes into reruns.  Nice gig, if you can get it.

Take care and enjoy the upcoming fall shows!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering 9/11

9/11/01 for those of us who lived through it, is one of those dates we will always remember.  It will stay with us like the day President Kennedy was assassinated for those in my age range.  For my parents' generation it was the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and WWII began for the US.

We can remember where we were when the first plane hit the World Trade Center and where we were when each tower disintegrated into a sixteen story pile of rubble in lower Manhattan.

Even if we had no ties to anyone involved in the horrendous attacks or to NYC, we will always remember.

Twelve years ago today I was at work in Austin, TX in a large office complex, employed by a state agency.  One of my coworkers had been down in the cafeteria to bring back some breakfast and saw the first plane crash on the television in the dining area.  He came back and told us what he had seen.  He immediately started streaming video on his computer to watch the events.  All day long other staff members gathered in his cubicle watching it all unfold in real time.

I didn't.  I didn't want to see it.  Instead I listened to NPR and followed the events while I tried to work on writing procurement documents.  I was only partly dedicated to finishing my tasks.  Actually, I didn't want to see what I thought to be inevitable.  In other words, I didn't want to watch the trapped people die in real time.  I knew I would see it eventually on television replays.  I would watch it in the privacy of my own home with my little shih tzu pups for company, as if that would shield me from the horror of it all.

I was no stranger to man's inhumanity to man.  My early career in social work had shown me firsthand the sadistic handiwork of some so-called humans, as they starved their children, or beat their elderly parents and left them to live in their own waste.

I finally had enough of being a witness to unimaginable cruelty and sought an office job within the government system, so I didn't have to bear witness again.  I wasn't going to forget what I had seen - still haven't to this day.  Is it any wonder I didn't want to watch the towers come down when it happened?

As it was I talked with some of the other employees off and on during the day.  One woman, I remember, who had a son in the military, was loudly advocating that we should "nuke 'em all."  In retrospect that's an appalling statement, but at the time, I was too numb to feel.

I don't remember the trip home that afternoon.  There had been talk that our offices should be closed.  We had no idea if the attack was confined to New York and DC or if it would spread to other offices in other cities.  Some of our agency offices in downtown Austin were closed and the employees sent home early.  But those were the government buildings around the state capital.  We were located close to our Medicaid contractor, in an office park without even a sign that any government agency was housed there.

By the time I got home, it was all over - the towers had long since come down.  The hotel had come down later that afternoon.  And we had all heard about Flight 93.

I saw it all replayed on television that night, unable to look away.  I remember I wept watching it.  My little pups consoled me as best they could.  Honestly, I was glad I had them with me, something life affirming as I watched the stark images onscreen.

I remember it was several days before network television started broadcasting anything other than news from ground zero and the Pentagon.  NPR did not broadcast any of their musical shows, either, sticking to a news format with somber music accompanying the breaks.

The one thing I remember most is how quiet it was with no planes flying.  There were no contrails to mar the blue wide open sky of Texas.  For days afterward, we lived on the events of 9/11.  From the search and rescue that turned into recovery at ground zero and the Pentagon to that field outside Shanksville, PA, we moved through our daily lives, automatons in varying states of shock.

The sight of people putting up pictures of their missing loved ones in NYC; the fence in Shanksville that was decorated in memorial bit by bit; the film of the victims jumping from the upper stories of the WTC; the volunteers who rushed in to help, many with their valiant service dogs; the restaurants in lower Manhattan who stayed open to feed the rescue crews and bring them water; the way each recovered firefighter or police officer was accorded an honor guard as his or her body was carried from the rubble; the face of Todd Beamer's widow at the President's speech before congress and the nation as we heard for the first time that the last thing she heard from her husband was him saying to his fellow passengers "let's roll" as they went to storm the cockpit and take back the plane.  These are the things that stand out in my mind.

My memories are filled with such incredible bravery as well as such horrendous cruelty I will never forget that day.  How could I?

Each year I watch some of the programs leading up to the anniversary.  My dad asked me why I would subject myself to that sadness.  I told him I feel it is our duty to always remember.

The most surprising thing of those events and the aftermath to me was so many politicians and pundits spoke about how "shocking" it was to have the attack happen on our soil.  I suppose it was, but I never thought we were invulnerable.  I grew up during the cold war, learning how to "duck and cover" - constantly being reminded that the enemy had ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) that could reach us in a matter of minutes with their nuclear warheads in place.

A lot has changed in the past twelve years.  My mother died in 2003.  I retired in 2010 and moved across the country to look after my elderly father.  One of those little puppies from twelve years ago died last January.  Life is ever changing.

Yet this year on 9/11 I stop and remember that day in 2001 and pay homage to the brave men and women who marked that day in our collective memory.

I will continue to honor the victims and those who rushed to help every 9/11 for the rest of my life.  It is the least I can do.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Say It Ain't So, HBO!!!!!!

Cue the dirge.  Cue the blue lights.  Get out your mourning clothes.  HBO announced that True Blood will not be renewed after its seventh season.  I don't know why.  Perhaps the producers feel they've done all they can with the subject.

They promise next summer's season will be a fitting end to the series and the best ever.  Humph.  I will reserve judgement on that one.

As much as I've enjoyed the series, I am a realist.  It has to end sometime, but I will miss Sookie and her buds in Bon Temps.

I will definitely complete my TB dvd collection...

At least Bill has already returned to normal...Hope Eric does the same after his harrowing, crispy sunbath in the snow.

But as we've said before, we'll have to wait until next year to find out, I guess.

In the meantime, there are lots of other shows to watch now, like Broadchurch on BBC America, which closes its first season tonight.

Enjoy pop culture! 

Create pop culture, not war...hmmmmm, I think I like that.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Broadchurch - BBC America

I don't know about you, but I like BBC America.  They show great British shows, including reruns of Doctor Who, Torchwood, etc.  They also show Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns.  What's not to like.

In the past few years I have been hooked on several of their dramas, such as The Hour, Whitechapel, and Luther.  By the way, Idris Elba is coming back for a third season of Luther, which begins airing this Tuesday night.  If you've never watched the show, he's a fascinating character.  Elba is a fine actor who you may have seen in some American films.  He played Beyonce's husband in Obsession, complete with an American accent.  He played a drug lord in HBO's The Number One Ladies Detective Agency.  But Luther is his best work.  Look for it.

Broadchurch is the current star series of BBC America.  According to one critic, it's the new Downton Abbey.  The British viewers have been mesmerized with Broadchurch.  Now we Americans get a chance to see it.

Broadchurch stars David Tennant (my favorite Doctor in the Doctor Who series) as a Scot detective who is given a job in the small seaside town of Broadchurch in England.  He is a stand-out in the small, closely knit community.  His accent is strange, his ways are strange.  He is suffering from PTSD, but we're not sure yet just why.  It's from a previous case that went awry.

On his first day at his new job, an 11 year old local boy is found dead on the beach below the cliffs.  It becomes obvious he did not jump, nor was he pushed off the cliffs.  In fact, his body was placed there and the area staged.  That doesn't fool DI Alec Hardy (Tennant).  He knows the boy was murdered elsewhere. 

Complicating his job is DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Coleman) just back from maternity leave.  It seems she was promised the Detective Inspector position, but lost out to Hardy while she was away.  Of course nobody bothered to tell her until she came back to work.  To top it off, the boy who was killed was a schoolmate of her own 11 year old son.  In fact the victim was his best friend.

Broadchurch is a small town, filled with tourists merely six weeks out of the year.  The rest of the time, it's just the local residents.  DI Hardy and DS Miller determine it must be someone local who killed the boy.  Everybody in the town is a suspect.  One by one, they interview the locals and try to unravel a considerable mystery. Local resident DS Miller has a hard time thinking any of her neighbors could do such a thing.

Along the way, they learn the child's life wasn't what it seemed.

There have been four episodes aired so far.  This is a short-run series. There will be only one more this season, airing Wednesday night.

It has held my interest throughout.  It's storyline is compelling, filled with mysteries, and townsfolk who have secrets, including the boy's family.

Previous episodes are available free On Demand, for those of you who have that feature.

If you like mysteries that are filled with human drama, this one is for you.

I'm not a big mystery fan, but this one grabbed my interest.  If you don't get BBC America, the BBC shows are available on dvd and Blue Ray for purchase or rental.

Check it out!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Heroes of Cosplay and Face Off - SyFy's Tuesday night line-up

I mentioned earlier in my blogging career what a Star Trek fan I am.  And yes, years ago I attended cons several times around the U.S.  I had a Starfleet uniform, but never participated in the costume contests.  I remember seeing people walking around in elaborate costumes, a gorn, a green female slave, lots of Spocks, Kirks, and once a very credible T'Lar (played by Judith Anderson in STIII: The Search for Spock.)  She scared me a bit she was so into her character.  One lifted eyebrow from her and I knew I wasn't measuring up to Vulcan standards.  But then that ticked me off...Hey, wait a minute, I'm human, not Vulcan...so Bite me, T'Lar!!  (Emotional human!)

I have been aware that sci-fi/fantasy/horror/video games conventions are once again in favor.  No longer are they "Star Trek Conventions" - they cover most of the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres.  The costume contests have grown to the point that many of them offer cash prizes.  People compete who are trying to be professional costumers and prop makers.

SyFy has a series that follows a handful of competitors from con to con, showing how they come up with their costume(s) and the process through which it is made.  Sometimes their ideas work, sometimes they don't.  It is fascinating to watch to see the process from beginning to end.  Often, they make a new costume in the limited time between one con and the next - as little as a week.  They have wonderful ideas and talented hands for sewing and building complicated props.  The contestants range from successful costumers to first time entrants and everyone in between.  Even the newbies can come up with some fun and innovative ideas.  It's a pleasure to watch.

Gee now that I'm older, I could probably pull off T'Lar!  I'm certainly wrinkled enough.  I wouldn't need any latex creases.  What a time saver that would be...

Now that's a quandry to ponder...how come the older Vulcans get wrinkled like humans when they don't use much expression on their faces?  They're probably all smiling in secret!  I've long thought that was the case.  They'd probably appreciate some botox.

Face Off which leads the evening line-up is in its fifth season.  I've been watching this show from the beginning.  Talented make-up artists are given a challenge each week to create characters out of sci-fi, fantasy, or horror movies.  Usually they are given three days to develop their concept based on the theme they are given, create the make-up (often with elaborate prosthetics), make the costume, apply the look on the model and present it to the panel of professional judges.  The judges are usually from the film industry, known individually for their work.  One of the panel members is an Academy Award winner for her make-up designs.

There are different levels of skill among the chosen contestants, but all are professional make-up artists.  It is surprising how good some of them can be.  Even the ones with less experience can come up with an impressive make-up job and win.  They are competing for $100,000 among other prizes.  So the competition is fierce.

I hate to see people eliminated each week from Face Off, but know the exposure on the show will help them with their careers.

Both shows are enjoyable and riveting if you're charmed by creativity like I am.  I wouldn't miss either.  Too bad they have relatively short runs.

No shark movies listed for SyFy this week....that's a relief!  You need a break from such things.

Hope your weather is turning autumnal.  Ours hasn't quite gotten there yet.  But at least there aren't any hurricanes menacing us from the ocean as yet.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!  Remember to indulge in pop culture.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

True Blood - Season 6

Can you believe it?  True Blood has been on for six years now.  Sunday night was the season finale of Season 6.  I have to say I liked this one better than Season 5.

BEWARE! SPOILER ALERTS all over the place...

I knew Warlow was up to no good.  I am glad he got his comeuppance.  I am glad Niall was freed from the dimension in which Warlow put him.

I am glad the vamps were freed from the ghastly prison and even glad that the governator met his just desserts.  That's one of the things I like about TB.  The bad guys usually get what's coming to them.  Love that karmic justice!

I am glad that Sookie and Alcide are together, at least for a while.  Neither one of them seems good at maintaining long-term relationships.  (Well, that's an understatement, Miss Thing!)

I am glad that Tara and her often ditzy mother have made up to some degree anyway.  I'm glad Andy's fairy daughter Adalynn has found her light and is learning its uses.

I am MOST glad that Bill is back to himself, that he realizes his love for Sookie again, although she doesn't reciprocate and probably never will.  I always liked the old Bill best of all the vamps.

It's a bit weird to see Arlene as the charitable owner of what was Merlotte's.  I wonder if Sookie still works there?

It's also a bit weird to see Sam as the mayor of Bon Temps.  It's so weird in fact that the first time I saw the final episode, I thought the minister addressed him as "Mr. Mayes."  I thought, "gee, did he change his name?"  But on second viewing I got that it was "mayor."

I'm not worried about Eric.  After all Bill greeted the sun in an earlier episode and survived okay.  I have a feeling Eric may be just fine.  He could bury himself in the snow, after all.  If Eric is truly gone that would be a travesty.  But we won't know until next June.  I'm willing to bet Pam will find a way to help him.  Remember, we don't know where she is.

But I have to say the thing I disliked the most about this season was the fact that Terry Bellefleur died.  He was such a sympathetic character.  He did have a lovely funeral with the most poignant moment being his friend and associate in the kitchen, Big John, singing beautifully at the service.  I am going to miss Terry very much.  The character was wonderful as was Todd Lowe's portrayal of him.

As for the cliff-hanger at the end, well we just have to wait until next June to find out what happened, if the non-infected vamps protect their humans...

All in all, it has been an enjoyable season.  I'll probably buy the dvd set when it comes out...

In a side note, SyFy channel is showing Sharknado YET AGAIN tonight to be followed by their newest shark opus Ghost Shark, which apparently can appear in any water and eat the unwary...

I've got four words for the silliest shark movie of them all - Jersey Shore Shark Attack...I watched that this morning on SyFy during a violent rainstorm.  So there wasn't much else to do.  Actually, it was pretty funny.  I am part Italian after all.  It was a huge farce.  That's not necessarily a bad thing some noted playwrights and writers have written successful farces - anybody ever heard of the infamous Moliere?

Until next time, enjoy pop culture and stay away from sharks...

Oh yes, I'm looking forward to seeing City of Bones, the first Mortal Instrument movie.  I finished the book last week.  It was great!

Also on my list for viewing is The World's End.  I LOVE Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.  They make such hilarious and irreverent films.  This one looks to be wonderful...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

ELYSIAN FIELDS by Suzanne Johnson

Suzanne Johnson's third novel in her wonderful SENTINEL OF NEW ORLEANS SERIES, ELYSIAN FIELDS, has been released.  This novel continues the story of Drusilla Jaco, also known as DJ.  She continues her work protecting the people of the Crescent City from the ever-greedy, ever-hungry preternaturals who inhabit the city along with the mortal population.

In this case, DJ is trying to find a serial killer who murders with an ax.  Though she thinks he's a copycat of an infamous New Orleans murderer from many years ago, she learns he is the original.  So how do you kill an already dead serial killer?  And what if he's "gunning" for you?!!!

Throw in lots of romantic confusion with Alex Warin, changes in his loup-garou brother Jake, and a strange man named Quince Randolph, who doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word "no" and you've got an entertaining story with a well constructed plot. 

It's filled with scary surprises, vivid characters, lively dialogue, and dangerous twists.  I especially like the descriptive settings such as the time DJ spends in the Beyond as the guest of Jean Lafitte. Sigh, he is a gorgeous rogue!

This one is a keeper.  A must-read for fans of the paranormal, it is a good story that will attract readers of other genres as well. 

I know I'll never think of Six Flags in the same way after reading ELYSIAN FIELDS.

Another Brava, Ms. Johnson.



An undead serial killer comes for DJ in this thrilling third installment of Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series....The mer feud has been settled, but life in South Louisiana still has more twists and turns than the muddy Mississippi.

New Orleanians are under attack from a copycat killer mimicking the crimes of a 1918 serial murderer known as the Axeman of New Orleans. Thanks to a tip from the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, DJ Jaco knows the attacks aren’t random—an unknown necromancer has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans, and his ultimate target is a certain blonde wizard. Namely, DJ.

Fighting off an undead serial killer as troubles pile up around her isn’t easy. Jake Warin’s loup-garou nature is spiraling downward, enigmatic neighbor Quince Randolph is acting weirder than ever, the Elders are insisting on lessons in elven magic from the world’s most annoying wizard, and former partner Alex Warin just turned up on DJ’s to-do list. Not to mention big maneuvers are afoot in the halls of preternatural power.

Suddenly, moving to the Beyond as Jean Lafitte’s pirate wench could be DJ’s best option.


Monday, August 5, 2013

42 - The story of Jackie Robinson

For those of you who may not know, Jack(ie) Robinson was the first African-American to play in major league baseball.  He was recruited in 1947 by a man named Branch Rickey, who owned the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The film "42" about him breaking the barriers in major league baseball was released earlier this year.  It is an excellent film with only a few moments not based on historical fact.

Honestly, I put off seeing it because as a child of the south born only a couple of years after the time frame of the film, I knew what I would see.  I've lived in the south my entire life.  And as I have mentioned before, I was a sapient life form during the turbulent 1960s - saw the civil rights movement take wing, watched a filmed version of Dr. King's famous "I have a dream" speech with the amazing crowds surrounding him.  As a thinking person I turned away from some of my friends when they expressed bigotry and hate.  I have become less tolerant of such things as I have aged.

But back to "42".  It is a "no holds barred" story showing it like it was.  Some of the comments in the film and actions of some of the characters made me uncomfortable.  Some made me downright furious, primarily because I knew it was a realistic depiction of that baseball season when a talented player named Jack Robinson became the first of his heritage to break the barrier.  The movie is the story of his rocky road.  Not only does he have to face the crowds, some of whom are less than thrilled to have him on the team, he has to face teammates who start out not so thrilled, either.  It is a story of growth for most of them as they learn to work together.

As Robinson, Chadwick Boseman, not only bears a physical resemblance to the man himself, but he plays him with dignity, resolve, and a good sense of humor.

Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Rickey is a complicated man who loves the game of baseball and Christianity.  He knows what will happen when the first African-American player joins a major league team.  He searches for the perfect man to be the first, a man who "has the courage not to fight."  Ford gives a surprising performance immersed in a character you have never seen before.  He didn't miss a beat.

Nicole Beharie plays Rachel, Jackie's girl friend who becomes his wife.  She is his anchor and his love.  A beautiful woman, Ms. Beharie brings a layered performance to her character.  Mrs. Robinson founded a scholarship fund in her late husband's name.  You see the strength of character in the portrayal of the woman who did that.

Christopher Meloni, of "Law & Order: SVU" and also last season's "True Blood" plays Leo Durocher, the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Actually, I remember Leo Durocher as an older, frankly speaking man from my childhood.  My dad used to watch baseball on television every Saturday when I was little.  So I saw a lot of the game.  (Later he took up golf and I didn't watch much baseball any more.) Meloni gives a good performance as the brash Durocher.

Andre Holland plays Wendell Smith, an African-American reporter hired by the team to chaperone Robinson and chronicle his exploits on the diamond.  Since Robinson cannot stay in some of the hotels with his teammates, Smith takes him to homes of prominent African-Americans in the towns where they play.

In the film, there is an early incident that takes place in Sanford, Florida.  If that town sounds familiar to you, it's probably because that's where George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin.  In a bit of ironic ugliness, Robinson was staying there and asleep in a prominent citizen's home.  A man came to the house and said other men were coming for Robinson (he didn't call him that) and he'd best get out if he didn't want to get hurt.  So Wendell Smith wakes him up and speeds him out of town finally telling him why they left and why Mr. Rickey instructed him not to tell Jackie the reason.  Rickey was concerned Robinson would want to stay and fight.  Given the time it takes to get a feature film produced and in the theaters, I am certain the recent incident in Sanford had not happened at the time they made this film.  Like I wrote, ironic ugliness.

This film is a salute not only to Robinson, himself, but to all the heroic men and women who broke down barriers to claim their rights and have the careers they wanted.  It is a very real portrayal of the struggles and obstacles faced by this man and all others who broke barriers.

The film is a triumphant portrayal of the indomitable human spirit, but with a liberal sprinkling of the "n-word" as you can probably imagine.  There are also many examples of meanness and bigotry.  But it only makes Mr. Robinson more of a hero.

And why is the film called "42?"  It was Jackie's Robinson's number, the only number to be retired from baseball.  Every April, ALL major leaguers wear number 42 in his honor.

I knew I liked baseball!

Until next time...