Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Tuna Christmas

For all of you in the Austin Texas area, I want to highly recommend the following production:

A Tuna Christmas

If you've never heard of A Tuna Christmas, it is absolutely hysterical. I made a visit to Tuna whenever possible when I lived in Texas. The originators of this whacko world in a tiny Texas town, wrote three plays that I know of about the denizens of Tuna, Texas.

It is a town filled with "colorful" characters, to say the least, such as the two waitresses at the Tasty Kreme,
Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd. Just say the names aloud and you'll get the gist.

If you want to enjoy uproarious comedy and laugh yourself silly, you'd best get your tickets.

I am told they are sold out though the 19th.

One of the actors, Frank Benge, is a friend of mine. We've worked together on some productions. He directed me and I directed him.

Trust me, he will be incredible in this comic delight.

Click on the link above to find out more info.

This is a laugh-til-you-cry event.

I really wish I still lived in Texas. Here in Jacksonville, a tuna Christmas means Christmas dinner is the catch of the day.

Tell Aunt Pearl I said hey.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Remember to be thankful.

For some of you, this post will contain some old information. Sorry about that.

Anyway, today is not a happy day for me. I was my 94 year old father's caregiver. Last Thanksgiving was his last holiday. My niece and grandnephew met us at a local restaurant where they had a buffet. My niece walked my dad inside. He was already beginning to forget how to walk. The people at the restaurant knew us and filled a plate for Dad so he could remain seated.

We had a good time that day. But the next week he took three separate falls. Went to the ER all three times and refused treatment. On the third visit, the doctor ordered the tests anyway, told me Dad would be admitted. He ordered me to leave telling me I looked exhausted.

After several days in the hospital Dad went to hospice care where he died in five days. Needless to say I don't feel like celebrating this year.

I have very little family left in this area. My niece is in Japan right now visiting her son who is stationed there. So I am alone.

I'm working today, beginning my next novel, another of The Inquisitor series (thrillers about a vicious serial killer.) Hmmmm. Sharon "vicious serial killer" is an oxymoron...but this guy IS a champ at viciousness.

Before I came in here to work, I fed my dogs their breakfast, ate my own, and then wrestled with the gargantuan morning newspaper. I tossed all of the Black Friday circulars into the recycle receptacle unread. I read the small newspaper, checking to see what they said about the chances for the Dallas Cowboys to make it 10-1 on their winning streak when they play the Redskins this afternoon. Did the Word Jumble and the Sudoku (my daily mental acuity tests - if I can solve both, I'm on target that day- got 'em both.) Sorry, but my father and his mother both died of dementia. My best friend's mother died of dementia.  We both worry if we forget words, etc, that it may be inherited dementia. So far, it's just normal aging process.

I watched an episode of Property Brothers. Then I watched Rocky Balboa which premiered in 2006, the last offering of the long running movie serial. I like Rocky, always have. Oh I know it's schmaltzy, but part of it rings true.

No matter how many people say "you can't" - you keep fighting - you keep pursuing your dream as long as you live.

On a day which is hard for me this year, I realized I do have things for which to be thankful.

When I moved here almost seven years ago to become my dad's caregiver, I began writing once more. I hadn't written anything but articles in the last 30 years. I had written two novels in the 1970s which no publisher wanted. They're hidden away in boxes in my files.

I remembered my dream of being a published novelist and went to work pursuing that goal. This time a publisher read the prologue of my first novel Touch the Sky on one of my blogs and asked for the manuscript saying they were interested in publishing it. Now my third novel in that series will be available December 6th. My fourth novel, the beginning of The Inquisitor series is having its first edit. Entitled Forbidden (Kapu), it takes place mostly in 1898 Hawaii. It was so hard to write because I had to study the Hawaiian language for some of the characters. The new one, tentatively titled, Honor Thy Mother, takes place in the US. Whew, no foreign language to research.

Plus, two of my sixteen year old shih tzus are still with me. I've had them since they were two months old.

I have made good friends in the local writing community, live by a small lake where I can see all kinds of birds and the occasional aquatic mammal. Even though I get depressed on some days, my life is good.

So remember your blessings, love your family, be thankful, and enjoy your dinner.

I've got a turkey sandwich from the deli with my name on it waiting for me. I also bought a small pumpkin pie, an unaccustomed dissipation. (Love that phrase - it came from a Regency novel I read years ago.)

Coming out of the cloud of the last few years, I am grateful to still be here, have good friends, and three books published and two more coming out of the chute. I know, I know, but you should expect words like that out of a Texan and a DALLAS COWBOYS fan.

I am also thankful for my readers of my books and of my sometimes inane blog posts. Bless you.

Take care. Have a great holiday.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


I saw Race earlier this week.  It's another of those films I intended to see in the theater, but never made it. Fortunately for all of us it's now on premium cable channels.

This is the story of Jesse Owens and his remarkable career in track and field events. If you don't know about Jesse Owens, he was a black man who got accepted at Ohio State University because of his running and jumping abilities. He went on to the 1936 Olympic Games, held in NAZI Germany, Berlin to be exact.

See, Hitler was planning to show the world how great Germany was under his leadership.  He also wanted to show the "racial superiority" of the "Aryan Race." (read that - white people from Germany.) The Games were to be a set-up to show how the Aryan athletes could best everyone else. Hitler's regime tried to bar Jews and Blacks from the games entirely.

In comes an American named Avery Brundage, a wealthy man who for years chaired the U.S. Olympic Committee. He wasn't impressed by Hitler's minions. In fact he dealt with Dr. Goebbels, head of the Ministry of Propaganda. Brundage basically told him the policy banning all black athletes and all Jews wouldn't fly. America wouldn't be involved in the games at all and would tell the world why. Brundage got his way.

The American team had three African-Americans and two Jewish men, who were all medal contenders.
If you don't know what happened, Jesse Owens took home four gold medals, smashing several world records. It would have only been three, but he had to step into the relay team when the two Jewish men were banned from competing at the last minute. Jesse had never run the relay, but he was incredibly fast. So with another teammate of African-American descent as replacements, the US relay team took the gold medals. Hitler refused to greet the winners of any event Jesse won.  He conveniently left before Jesse arrived to be greeted.

Hmmmm. Der Fuehrer had a big case of sour grapes. So much for his "master race" bulldookey (sorry had to go all Texan on you good folks.)

The film, Race, is about much more than Jesse's accomplishments. It's about his life. How he had to fight to be accepted at Ohio State and out in regular society. When they held a major banquet in his honor at a large NY hotel, he and his wife were made to take the service elevators because they weren't allowed inside the main parts of the hotel.

I was shocked to find the president at the time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, did not even acknowledge Owens' accomplishments.  There was no notice of it from the White House. I bet FDR got a good tongue-lashing from his wife on that one.

The talented cast includes:

Stephan James as Jesse Owens. He plays the lead character with a strength of spirit and of body. He makes a wonderful film athlete.

Jason Sudeikis as Coach Larry Snyder - known for comedy, Sudeikis does a great job in this dramatic role.

Clarice Van Houten as Hitler's favorite filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl who filmed the Olympics. Riefenstahl was a fascinating woman. She was Hitler's best propaganda tool with her filmmaking. Some of her films are rarely shown to this day as they put the NAZI regime in such a favorable light.

Jeremy Irons as Avery Brundage. I remember seeing Brundage and Irons captured the character superbly.

Shanice Banton is lovely and feisty as Ruth Solomon, Jesse's longtime girlfriend whom he ultimately marries.

William Hurt as Jeremiah Mahoney, is good as another influential member of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

David Kross as Carl "Luz" Long - a German athlete, the pre-games favorite, who lost to Jesse in his signature event. Luz's story is sad. He and Jesse became great friends and remained friends after the games. Because Luz lost, he was drafted into the German army at the beginning of WWII and died at the allied invasion of Anzio in Italy. He and Jesse corresponded until his death.

Race is entertaining and keeps the audience attention throughout the film. His three daughters were consultants on the film.

It is the story of arguably the greatest track and field athlete of all time. He took the gold in two different length race events, the long jump, and the relay, breaking records in three of his events. He also broke the "glass ceiling" for African-American athletes to follow.

Until next time ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dr. Strange

Marvel's Dr. Strange is a wild ride even without the 3-D. Alas I suffered an eye injury a couple of weeks ago. It's healing, but I still can't take 3-D yet. So I saw it in the XD version at a Cinemark theater. (Which basically means a bigger, wrap-around screen, with enhanced sound.)

It's the story of Dr. Stephen Strange, an arrogant, brilliant surgeon with mad skills. He treats people around him as inferiors. Self-assured in his superb surgical talent, other people are discounted in his world. He always knows best.

One evening, he has performed miraculous surgery late in the day. When it's finished, he leaves to go home, change, pick out one of his many luxury watches to wear, and go to the black-tie event. The female doctor who often assists him and is his frequent date, tries to dissuade him from going. It's a rainy night and he has a long way to travel to get to the event. He disregards her and her fears.

Later when he's ready, he gets into his Maserati or Lamborghini, one of those slick European sports' cars, he leaves the city and comes to a curving mountainous road.  He doesn't pay attention to the narrow, winding road, secure in his assurance nothing will ever happen to him.

He's wrong. He suffers a head-on collision as he has veered into oncoming traffic. The crash is terrible as he bounces off the bridge, down the rocky bank, landing upended in the river. He is found and wakes in the hospital. His hands were surgically put back together. As a surgeon, he knows they will never be the same.

After months of recuperation, he is almost broke and down to his last watch. He has sheafs of letters from the world's best surgeons refusing to take his case.  All will not take his case as it is hopeless. He seeks out a man who's been miraculously healed.

The man (played by Benjamin Bratt) tells the former doctor he needs to go to Kathmandu to seek out a spiritual teacher there.

Thus the real journey begins. Strange, at his wit's end, finally finds someone to lead him to the teacher, known as The Ancient One, played by an androgynous Tilda Swinton with a shaved head. Resistant to learn at first, his old arrogant self still in play, he has to come to a crisis to be broken down and accept what he is taught. It's a rough journey for him, but he does learn what he needs.

If you can't tell, I love most of the Marvel movies. This is one of the biggest and one of the best. The special effects are mind-bending. As with most of the other Marvel films, there are incredible images of color and destruction, some of it gorgeous.

Benjamin Cumberbatch does his usual excellent job in the role, filled with humanity, strength, and unexpected humor.

Tilda Swinton plays the Ancient One with all the strength and power of a true spiritual teacher.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, a veteran of many films, including one of my favorites - Kinky Boots (yes, he played the drag queen) - is excellent as Mordo, one of the teachers who works with Dr. Strange.

Rachel McAdams does a wonderful job as Christine Palmer, the doctor's on again off again romantic partner. (Ever notice these super hero guys don't do relationships well?!!)

Mads Mikkelson plays the villain Kaecilius with serpentine grace and evil intent.

Stan Lee, one of the original creators of the Marvel Comics world, appears in a comic cameo. I think Dr. Strange was his creation. Of course he appears in each of the films.

As with every other Marvel film, look for a scene at the end of the credits - actually in this one there are two. In the first one, we see Dr. Strange meeting with Thor. They have a serious conversation which points to the next Dr. Strange film.

I'll leave the second one a secret. You'll know when you see it. It points to the surprising possible villain for the next one.

As I said previously, this is a glorious film visually with magical special effects on an enormous scale.
Also you learn something about the whereabouts of another infinity stone. I want to see the movie where they all come together for those stones!!

This is a memorable movie in the Marvel pantheon. Enjoy it, whether or not you see it in 3-D.

Till next time...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Westworld Revisited

Folks, I don't usually do this, but the HBO series Westworld is so extraordinary, I want to give it one more recommendation.

From a well-known premise (based on the 1973 film), this series has ventured far afield. Last night's episode was so shocking I had to watch it a second time to catch all the stuff I missed due to sitting stunned and staring at the screen in open-mouthed surprise.

The cast is superb in this one. But, the champ is Anthony Hopkins. He comes across as an addled old man content to socialize with his "hosts." Then his true personality and motives are revealed and you see doddering kindly old Santa Claus become Hannibal Lecter, icy, dangerous, and without compassion.

I smell an Emmy and/or a Golden Globe.

If you have access to this one already, check it out on demand. It's amazing on several levels.

Please don't miss it. In a host of wonderful series past and present on HBO, this one is the most starkly brilliant of them all.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 13, 2016


Friday I decided to go to the first showing of The Accountant at the movies. It's the one starring Ben Affleck who is an assassin with issues. I thought I might get some inspiration for my second Inquisitor book (the serial killer inspired by the Inquisition.)

But as I stood in the line for tickets, the woman in front of me bought tickets for Arrival. My brain went "Arrival, the weird one with the aliens..." So I bought a ticket to that one instead. I'd seen the commercials and the previews. It piqued my curiosity.

Arrival is not your stereotypical "hey-the-bad-aliens-have-landed!!!"

Instead it is like being in someone else's dream. Amy Adams, a prominent linguist who teaches at some college/university (it is never clarified), is facing a huge classroom with only four or five students. Frowning, she asks her students where the rest of them are. Then the cellphones start ringing. One of the students asks her to turn on the television to a news channel, please.

She does and they all see a series of strangely shaped alien craft hovering over the Earth in twelve different locations around the world. The students are released for the day and martial law is declared until they know the intent of the extraterrestrials.

Later she sits at home staring out at the view of her exquisite lake home (tell me a university that pays enough to have such a house!) Suddenly a helicopter lands in her yard and military men emerge onto her lawn. A Colonel played by Forest Whitaker comes to her door. It seems she is one of the world's best linguists. She is asked to be a part of the contact team for the craft hovering over Montana.

She finally relents and off she goes.

There she meets a physicist, played by Jeremy Renner, heading the scientific team. Together with military representatives, they make first contact with the aliens.

Everything is indistinct as if enshrouded by mist. The creatures, much larger than humans, resemble enormous squids with seven legs on which they stand. They make loud noises, sometime with so many decibels the theatre seats shook like the old "sensurround" days of the movie Earthquake.  For you younger folk, the tremors in that movie rumbled so loudly and deeply, the chairs seemed to vibrate like they would in a quake...

The visitors have a written language which the professor ultimately deciphers so they are able to communicate. Their reason for coming to Earth will surprise you.

Then the Russians and the Chinese stop all communication with the rest of the world, unable to communicate with the visitors and sure they are hostile. Yep, the Earth is brought to the brink of WWIII.

Tense moments ensue until resolution is reached.

I won't tell you about what they learn or how the linguist learns it...

You need to see it for yourself. I'd give this one a solid nine out of ten. It is a lovely film with memorable characters, an excellent screenplay, atmospheric sets and effects, and a somnambulistic quality (like they are all walking in a shared dream.)

It reminded me of what an able actor Amy Adams is. Also showed me Jeremy Renner's capabilities extend well beyond the Marvel films. (Not that I'm bad-mouthing those - solid fan, here.)

This one will stay with you for a while.

I was so stunned by it when I started writing this post on Friday afternoon, I spelled poor Ben Affleck's name as Afflack. Somehow I knew that was wrong..Why did I see a duck? When I figured it out, I decided to postpone writing this review...

Okay, the Cowboy game is coming on!!!

Until next time...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Prince of Tides

Okay, now that the election is in the past, I'm going ahead in healing mode by blogging about something beautiful.

This morning, sick of the news and the endless speculation of astonished pundits, I decided to watch The Prince of Tides, a lovely film directed by Barbra Streisand in 1991.

This film is based on one of my top two favorite books (I go back and forth between The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.) I just realized both of them died in the last two years.

Anyway, Conroy, who wrote the screenplay with a partner, was an astonishing writer. A victim of abuse from his hardlined father, he created beautiful lyrical language to describe cruelty committed on children by abusive parents. The prose was so magnificent you could not look away even from the most violent passages. Also, like Harper Lee, he was born and raised in the South. Filled with all the attitudes, history, and social habits unique to this region which many of us call home.

The film stars Barbra Streisand as the NY psychiatrist Susan Lowenstein. Nick Nolte gives one of his best performances as Tom Wingo, jolly football coach, always laughing to hide the severe trauma of his family's past. His sister Savannah, played by Melinda Dillon, has once again tried to commit suicide in her new home of NYC. A noted poet, she has tried to kill herself many times. Tom is called to come to NYC to be with his sister. There he meets Susan Lowenstein, her psychiatrist. The vivid tale moves with grace through an unfolding of long held family secrets as the doctor tries to determine why Savannah is so broken.

This is a powerful film has abundant healing in it, not only for Savannah, but for Tom and Lowenstein as well. The dialogue often matches the incredible prose in the novel.

It's a beautiful film filled with joy and astonishing grief at the past which broke the individual members of the Wingo family. Speaking as a long-time social worker, the responses to the trauma are based in reality.

If you would like to witness healing on a major scale, watch this gorgeous film, or even (gasp!) read the magnificent novel which was the basis for the film.

Pat Conroy also wrote The Great Santini, an autobiography of him, his siblings and his domineering father. If you've read that one or seen the film, you will get an idea just how rough Mr. Conroy's childhood was.

I know it doesn't always make sense, but pain is often the impetus for great literature, films, music, and other artforms.

Art in all its forms also gives us examples of people being able to survive hideous experiences and be healed to live content, fruitful lives.

Have a blessed day as we move on to the future.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Theme from "Jaws", ba dum ba dum

It's coming!! I can see the fin in the water!!!

Forgive my silliness, but the election is now five days from today. Did you ever think it would get here? It's been a long, contentious, agonizing period the like of which we've never encountered in the USA.

Don't worry, this isn't going to be a diatribe for either of the candidates for President. In fact, it has nothing to do with them at all. So take a breath...

No, I'd like to offer some common sense about after the election. Whoever is elected for the office of President, and the down slate of positions (Senate, House, State Legislators, State Judges, Local offices, etc.) - Some people will be very upset if their candidates lose.

Okay, here's my pitch to all of you out there. If we have more of the recent pattern of refusing to work with the opposition we've seen in our Congress over the last eight years, very little will get done. We'll continue to deal with an enormous national debt; health care requirements that do not work; government funding that does not get fixed; issues for our infrastructure (you know like crumbling bridges on the Interstates which fall down and kill people?) Just an example of things that benefit our country and its citizens.

I notice the House and Senate always seem to get their operating budgets (including their salaries) voted into law. Funny thing about that.

What I am asking you to remember is that all of these people work for us.  That's why we vote them into office - to do their job, not posture and preen and get all outraged when the cameras are rolling.

We need to work together as Americans to repair the rift in our country.  We're all in this together.

In January when the new administration takes over, I ask you to study the things which you think are important for us. Email, Tweet, or use Facebook. Contact your Congressman or Senator, let them know what you think. Their contact information will be on the Web.

Most of all, please remember, when the elections are over, it won't be "us" and "them" anymore. It will just be us Americans. Let's face it, except for the Native Americans, we are all members of immigrant families who came here seeking a better life. It will be time to compromise and get to work. Hmmm, compromise is a word we haven't heard much lately.

What will I be doing election night? I have to tell you I already voted. I have been avoiding all the hoopla and speculation ever since. I'm sick of the subject and the schism between us. So I'll start out by watching "Star Trek: Beyond" and then settle down to binge watch a bit of  "Longmire."

What do you expect of a self-proclaimed Pop Culture Diva?

Take care and breathe. This will all be over soon...