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.

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.

“That’s Not Possible”…..

My apologies once more for a lack of posting, but it’s been another of those weeks. I’m taking a few minutes break from a task and have had the television tuned to the movie, “Apollo 13” with it’s incredible cast of stars. I’ve always enjoyed the movie for a lot of reasons and it’s especially great if you want to use a movie that demonstrates problem solving and leadership. The two most memorable phrases of course are, “Houston, we have a problem,” and “Failure is not an option.” (That phrase is often used inappropriately, but that’s a topic for another post.) One of my favorite lines though comes just after the explosion on the craft as no one knows quite what has happened. Everyone is looking at their instruments and Ed Harris, who plays Flight Director Gene Krantz is asking one of the men what’s going on. “It’s reading a quadruple failure. That’s not possible – I’ll get back to you, Flight.” Except it was very possible and in the six (or maybe seven) days that followed, a great many things that had been considered “not possible” occurred. A huge number of individuals were required to come up with solutions for things that had simply not been imagined as going wrong and in each case, the people thought through the problem and worked it out.

Another irony that I’ve always wondered about is that Astronaut Ken Mattingly was replaced on the mission by Jack Swigert at a very late date because NASA was concerned that Mattingly would break out with the measles during the mission. To disrupt a well-functioning team is never something to be done lightly and inserting a new member at that point did have some drawbacks. However, it was Mattingly who figured out how to re-sequence the re-entry of the crippled spacecraft. Quite simply, there may have been no other person who could have worked that out –  Mattingly not being in space was a significant reason why the astronauts were able to successfully return to earth.

Not too long ago, I watched a “making of” segment that was part of the real story of Apollo 13 and there was this one scene they discussed with Director Ron Howard where tempers had flared in the movie. The truth was that scene did not occur in real life and when asked about it, Howard readily acknowledged he had taken dramatic license in a few spots. Why? Because the reality was that people had remained remarkably calm, all working to the very best of their ability to solve the crisis. As Howard said, “I was making a movie and we had to have at least a little conflict.” (Not his exact words, but close.)

Sunrise Isn’t for Everyone…..

Sunrise From Our Back Yard

Sunrise From Our Back Yard

I’ve posted before about how I am a morning person and hubby is a night person, but we manage a compatible rhythm that works well for us. Part of what I love about early mornings are indeed sunrises and I’ve seen some great ones – especially when we’re on a dive cruise and you get to watch the sun seemingly rise from the water. I have to admit that even though it’s totally different in the mountains (and we don’t spend much time there), that can be spectacular, too. The very stillness of that hour of the morning is something I greatly appreciate, and if you’ve read Irises to Ashes I describe a couple of sunrises through the main character’s eyes.

When we visited the lovely fishing town of Sete, France quite a few years ago, I slipped out of the hotel right before daybreak during that time that it’s light enough to see, but the sky is still that pale gray. As a fishing village, you had boats getting ready to head out and the night boats that had come in. In a small town, they didn’t have many 24-hour places (probably none in fact), but they did have a few that opened very early. I strolled the streets, hearing the sounds of a handful of cafes getting ready and watching birds wheel overhead and come to perch on top of street lights that were just going off. Several cats were roaming about and the people who were preparing for the day waved when they saw me.

Although I mostly come up to the office and start work before sunrise, there are mornings when I pause and step out into the back yard to look at the sky and take a few sips of coffee. The other day, I snapped this photo as a reminder of why I enjoy it. And yes, I realize that sunrises look a great deal like sunsets.


Relatives and Friends or…….

I was in a conversation the other day when the topic of having family and friends in business with you came up. For small family businesses, especially places like restaurants, it isn’t surprising to see siblings and two or three generations working side-by-side. In really successful situations, a son or daughter might then branch out to open a second location. The flip side to that are the sons and daughters who when given the opportunity, go into an entirely different line of work precisely because they did “grow up” in something that they decided wasn’t the right path. In fact, if you remember the great scene between Peter Boyle as the father and Bill Pullman as the son from the movie, “While You Were Sleeping,” the character of Bill Pullman finally got up the nerve to explain that he didn’t want to continue in the family business only to have his father tell him he wished he’d known earlier because someone was asking to buy him out.

Anyway, the real point of the post goes back to when I retired from the Army and went to work for a small services and technology firm. I say small –  that’s how they started and grew to the point that a Fortune 500 company acquired them. That, however, is another story. At some stage as they were hiring larger numbers of people, the comment was made about them hiring relatives and friends. The wife part of the co-founders said, “Yes. Who would you like us to hire – strangers and enemies?”. The reality is that I have absolutely nothing against family and friends with the clear understanding that they have to be the best qualified for the job or at least highly qualified. They must also be willing to recognize that they probably need to work a bit harder to overcome the perception that they’re getting away with stuff that others wouldn’t be allowed to. It isn’t fair, but it is a normal human reaction. The problem comes when it’s obvious that an individual is either not fully qualified or has an attitude that’s difficult for other employees to deal with. The smirking, “You can’t do anything about this,” can quickly translate into the loss of good employees who don’t need that kind of thing in their lives. Other employees might not be in a position to leave, but aren’t as effective as they otherwise could be. Working together as family and friends can be great, but it isn’t the right arrangement for everyone.