When We Lose A Star…..

Not that one can argue with being handsome, famous, wealthy, and living until almost 90. Yet, I was sorry to hear about Roger Moore’s death. Although his James Bond was played differently from the great Sean Connery, it was a winning approach. I don’t how much that was his choice or how much direction and it doesn’t really matter. Actually, the role I loved him in the best was as Simon Templar in the TV series, The Saint (1960s). I’ll have to see if those are available on DVD and put in an order. We do still have some of our greats around and I usually enjoy the movies that provide a role for them as the aged actor. I also admit, one who returns to the screen is an occasional surprise since I didn’t realize we still had him/her with us.

It is not that genuine celebrities (someone who accomplishes something of note rather than simply being the product of spoiled wealth) are more valued humans than the rest of us. It’s that as an actor, artist, musician, etc., they may very well have created one or more special memories for us – spoken lines we remember forever, recorded a song we still play and cherish, crafted a painting that speaks to people for centuries, made an astounding play in some sport that seems almost impossible. Do I think we give far too much weight to celebrities? Oh yes. It has spawned the everyone wanting their “fifteen minutes of fame” to a degree that is well beyond what it should be. With that said, there are many celebrities who do wonderful good in addition to whatever joy/pleasure it is they bring in the matter of what has made them famous. So this afternoon, I shall definitely offer a toast to Roger Moore.

When Politics Really Did Mean Murder…..

My husband hates the Jeopardy category of “Royalty”. Other than Cleopatra, Rameses, King Tut, King Herod, Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, George III because of the American Revolution, Queen Victoria, and Princess Diana, he hasn’t a clue and doesn’t want one. I’m not an expert, but I often manage the category until it gets into the obscure stuff (of which there is a great deal). We are currently watching “The White Princess” on Starz after having watched “The White Queen” last year. The shows about the War of Roses and rise of the Tudors are actually fairly accurate which is saying something for Hollywood. As I pointed out though, this is a situation where you don’t have to make too much up. There was enough violence, sex, betrayal, and intrigue to make any writer/producer happy. We look at today’s “dirty politics” – which I do wish were less nasty – yet in the end, no one’s head actually gets chopped off and children aren’t murdered because they will have a claim to the thrown. That is not to say terrible things aren’t happening in the world, but within most countries, the “political blood-letting” is figurative.

I tend to prefer non-fiction written in an engaging manner since history reads like so much fiction. I do like historical novels although I am more demanding than hubby when it comes to wanting historical accuracy. I don’t know that I have a favorite period – I mean who didn’t enjoy the Clan of the Cave Bear series – even though I haven’t read (or watched) Outlander. That’s more because I’m not a big time travel sub-genre fan. Anyway, Hubby more or less follows the story line of The White Princess as long as he doesn’t have to figure out whom is whom. He boils it down to who is on the throne and if they can stay there. His view is anyone who isn’t in power is trying to get there and that does pretty much sum up the situation.

Merry Christmas……

It’s been a beautiful day which is part of why people love South Florida in the winter. We checked in with the kids and it wasn’t too bad for them – 40, but no snow or ice yet. They don’t require a white Christmas at this point.

I’ve watched “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th Street”, so I’ve had my fix. Although hardly a classic, there is a movie that brought a point to mind I’ve posted about before. Ben Affleck and other stars were in “Surviving Christmas”, a movie about a very wealthy young man who decided to “rent” a family for Christmas one year. He didn’t explain why he wanted to come into their home as their “son”, but he was willing to pay a lot of money and they agreed. As you can imagine, a variety of mishaps occurred until the point when it seems as if the whole family was coming apart. In trying to sort through what happened (and of course come to happy resolutions), Christina Applegate, who was the real daughter in the family finally got Affleck to explain his motivation. His mother, raising him alone with no help, had been a waitress at a diner. Since she made double for working at Christmas, she always took not only her regular shift, but an extra one and by the time she was finished, she would be too tired for celebration. His Christmas had been to come to the diner for a big stack of pancakes. The movie had a mostly funny and a tiny bit poignant ending, but the point is that many of us think about military personnel being away from their families. We sometimes consider police, firefighters, etc.,. The fact is, in our busy world, there are a lot of 24-hour jobs staffed 365 days a year. I promise the power plant is being manned and like the woman in the movie, a lot of diners are open. Granted, places like Chinese restaurants that celebrate at different times of the year aren’t in quite the same category. Do take a moment though if you are out at a convenience store or whatever and be sure to give a smile and say, “Merry Christmas” to those who are working today.

An Irish Pub To Enjoy…….

There was a time when the idea of an Irish Pub on the square in the town of Covington wouldn’t have made sense, but those days are in the past. Like many towns in the deep South, the sale of alcohol went through various stages, and so, it simply would not have been a practical choice of location “back when”. Irish Bred Pub (which appears to be either a franchise or at least in multiple locations) did well with converting one of the historic buildings and actually has a fairly quiet downstairs area and the larger upstairs “events” room. It was Trivial Pursuit night last night. http://www.irishbredpubcovington.com/

The fare is as expected with a couple of regional variations such as shrimp and grits as part of the menu. The beer selection is appropriate and they have an interesting arrangement with Cork, their neighboring wine store. If you bring a bottle from Cork with your receipt, you don’t pay an outrageous corkage fee. Considering how difficult it is to resist temptation while traveling (I certainly didn’t for lunch yesterday), I ordered the onion soup and fields greens salad with pecans, roasted corn, and topped with steak. The salad was wonderfully fresh and the steak perfectly cooked. Hubby had beef stew with their Irish flair. (For those who may not be familiar with it, traditional Irish stew is made with mutton.)  Had we not been so tired from getting up early and more traffic than we hoped, we would have sampled the Irish coffee. That will have to wait for the next trip. The weather was clear for travel though and we’re quipped for the chillier temperatures.

Sly, But Fun….

There actually are romantic comedies that guys can enjoy, too, but I’m not certain if Music and Lyrics falls into that category. If you want something entertaining and a great soundtrack, rent or find this to either watch or record for when you have time to sit and watch. It requires no great concentration, and the more-or-less predictable ending is delightfully executed. The main characters, Alex and Sophie, played by Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, are wonderfully drawn and acted. The movie highlights the foibles of celebrity status in both the has-beens and absurdly young rising stars. In essence without giving away too much, Alex was in a highly popular band that broke up, leaving the other members to do okay, yet never to regain their former glory. Through an odd set of circumstances, a young singer who has zoomed to the top gives him an opportunity for a comeback through a specific song she wants as a duet. The comedy of the timeframe allowed is well worth a chuckle and the way in which this all leads to Alex teaming up with Sophie is filled with great, droll exchanges.

Not being in the music business (there is a fabulous scene about that toward the end), I don’t know how accurately the process is portrayed, but it seems reasonable. The interaction with Alex’s agent is always funny as is the relationship between Sophie and her sister. The subplot of an event in Sophie’s past that emotionally threw her out of balance is well-drawn to show how we can allow others’ opinions to affect us. It is a lovely little movie you’ll probably want to watch more than once.

“Science the ___Out of It”……

One of my all-time favorite movies is Apollo 13 and I have used it before as an example of the snobbery of the Oscars when director Ron Howard wasn’t even nominated as Best Director. That, however, is not the point of this post. We recently watched The Martian and I consider it to be right up there along with Apollo 13 especially since there is a scene about halfway through the movie which takes a line directly from the predecessor. (No, it isn’t “Houston, we have a problem.”) Anyway, having seen Gravity and Interstellar (both entertaining), what sets this one apart is the attention to the science. (This is an advantage of having a hubby who actually understands this stuff.)

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the movie, an astronaut is stranded by his team on Mars due to an error and one of the intriguing aspects are the multiple Public Relations issues when the error is realized and courses of action are subsequently considered. At one stage the stranded astronaut, played by Matt Damon, is faced with at first a seemingly impossible task in order to survive. In recording the problems and trying to think through a solution, he uses the term, “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.” As the movie progresses, this is often the case, and virtually all of what is “worked out” is feasible rather than using what the Myth Busters refer to as “Hollywood physics”. Of course there are intensely dramatic moments and while a particular problem solved by an offer of international assistance might be a tad far-fetched considering current politics, it is a situation where what’s right might override politics. It does happen sometimes in the real world. This is another of those movies though where you do have to pay attention because there are some complexities.

Day Four, Chicago Trip……

Apparently we are lucking out with weather. The temperature is supposed to drop again and I believe snow is on the way. The last part of the dive show was good, and the best part was when several people came back to buy an extra book for a friend, or to pick one up because someone couldn’t make it, but wanted to be sure and get an autographed copy. The Beneath the Sea Show in New Jersey is next up the first weekend of April and that should be it for me for a while. Richie has multiple appearances, but those are in areas that I am not involved with.

We didn’t make it to a place with deep dish pizza, however, there is still the chance they may have somewhere at the airport, so we haven’t given up just yet. We took the advice of a friend and went to Carlucci’s where I had an excellent veal piccata (one of my go-to dishes) and Hubby had his wild boar pasta. Although there were several items he was torn between, wild boar is not something we can get at any of our local Italian places. This was a variation because it was boar ragout and slices of boar sausage in a sauce.

We’ve had a delay in departure which means if there aren’t other delays, we’ll be landing in Miami right about peak traffic time. That’s always an interesting situation.

A Complex Movie….

Lucky Number Slevin is right on the edge of the kind of violence I can handle in a movie. It’s also one of those you have to pay attention to, especially in the beginning because of how it unfolds. I don’t want to “spoil” anything and we actually tuned in because it had such a strong cast. Josh Harnett is one of the younger actors (not one I know that well), but Lucy Liu is certainly familiar. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley, and Stanley Tucci provide quite a line-up. It wasn’t wildly popular with the critics, but I learned a long time ago my opinion and that of professional movie critics diverge on many occasions.

The movie is reminiscent of other complex ones such as “Inside Man” and “Vantage Point” where misdirection takes place and seemingly unimportant moments become significant. It’s classified as a “Dark Comedy” and as I said, the body count is pretty high. I would say rather than being a comedy, it has comedic aspects. Although it isn’t a movie that’s likely to cause you to plunge into heavy philosophical discussions, it will keep you entertained as long as you focus on what’s going on.

Definitely Not a Holiday Film…..

Yes, I always watch “Miracle on 34th Avenue”, I prefer the version of “A Christmas Carol” with George C. Scott, and I enjoy “Scrooged”. I like some of the other classics, too. Last night, we tuned into a WW II movie, “Fury”, that we’d been told was well done. I must digress for a moment and explain that years ago, our son said he didn’t like watching military movies with us because we were too quick to point out the errors. That’s an occupational  hazard and part of why when I enter into technical aspects of my novels, I go out of my way to be accurate with whatever the “techy” part is.  We can handle a certain amount of “Hollywood version” (such as in “Saving Private Ryan” when they attacked this one position instead of logically using the long gun to pick the bad guys off), but when a movie is well-done with attention to detail we appreciate it.

Anyway, my point is we started watching “Fury” and many of the small details were properly captured. It is, however, graphically violent in several scenes which I don’t care for, but did support the story. It is a dark movie in many ways and certainly not what would one call heart-warming. I definitely don’t recommend it if you’re looking for something light. If you want thought-provoking though and you’re a fan of WW II movies in general, it’s worth your time. Some of the dialogue is a little difficult to follow since it takes place in the tank over their intercom system, but you can get the idea even if you don’t catch it all.

It Might Not Seem Funny, But…..

Okay, in general I do not like to play to stereotypes and clichés, however, snow is white and there are certain realities from a regional perspective. When I walked to the rental car parking lot to get my car, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Sure as the world though, there are New York plates on it. New York? New York – as I am preparing to be driving in rural Louisiana? Really? Sigh. At least the car has a digital speedometer so I can be certain to not go more than 1-4 miles over the speed limit and right on it or under if I am within the town limits. Here are the comments to date.

I arrive at my aunt’s house. One of my cousins comes in shortly thereafter. “New York plates? You do know the phone will be ringing asking who on earth from New York would be visiting?” Another of the family arrives. “New York plates? Did you get a ticket yet?”

I leave my aunt’s house yesterday morning to drive up to Minden where Daddy and my stepmother live. I stop for a Diet Coke at a convenience store in one of several small towns I pass through. As I step to the door to leave, an elderly man holds it open coming in and says, “Are you the one that drove all the way from New York?” “No sir, I assured him. “A rental car with New York plates. Who could imagine?” He shook his head in puzzlement as I went on my way. Yes, it is kind of funny, but believe me, there will be no speeding on this trip.