Saturday, December 31, 2011

Photobucket

Well, I'd say we pretty much got that Christmas holiday all wrapped up and out of the way. Now to put a few things away, clean house a bit, and relax. I do enjoy the holiday though, at least it's a time that most people get off from work, and we also get to see and be with family members and friends. There's an occasional party, and everyone generally is in a good mood. Although some parts of that holiday can be a drag like the crowds at shopping malls and traffic and such. But at least I didn't run into any big mob scenes like they showed on the news where the crowds were going crazy pulling out each others' hair because someone just grabbed the last hot game for Xbox on sale. I went by the library before Christmas and check out a couple of books, and the librarian remarked something about how hectic everything is at Christmas, and then poof, it's all over. I could sense in her statement: Is it worth it? Ha, I laughed to myself, and thought, well, you might want to simplify it somehow, but just agreed with her sentiment.

I got up this morning and noticed a tiny lizard trapped in a spider's web, they were facing off against each other. I thought surely the lizard would win this match, but the spider is still crawling around and it will go down towards the lizard, they'll struggle, and the spider will back off again, and they keep dancing this macabre dance of nature. I'm fixin' to go outside and take off the screen to the window to free the lizard, just because I don't like spiders--they creep me out. I know it won't make a whit to either one or nature. Maybe it's more that I just don't want a dead baby lizard stuck between my window and the screen, but I sure thought the lizard would have won the match.

Photobucket

I guess that would be the precipice of 2011... I hope your past year was a good one, and the new year will yield amazing things. My year was about as good as any year, better maybe. I guess I'm a positive person, which is not to say I don't have ennui, get depressed and what have you, I do, I'm human. As long as I have a few little hobbies and pockets of interest, I'm a happy human. While on the topic of interest, mine being movies, books, and the like. A lot of critics have already posted their favorite top films of 2011. I never get around to seeing all the films before year's end. For one, I'm too cheap to see them at the theater, and also critics get free screenings etc., so there's no way to keep up with it. But at least their list yields a few things that you can keep an eye out for when you hit the video store, or add titles to your Netflix queue or however you choose to do it. My list of top fave films of 2011 is based on my Netflix rental list. If I rented more than one film that month, I chose the one I liked best. So here's what I enjoyed in 2011:

For December 2011, this past month, it was a tough call, I saw three/four good films: 13 Assassins, Beginners, Terri, and Magic Trip (doc) I'll go with Beginners, but 13 Assassins was really good, check it out too.

November: Unknown

October: Win Win

Sept: Meek's Cutoff

August: Ikiru

July: Inside Job

June: True Grit (Cohens)

May: Get Low

April: The Fighter

March: The Social Network

Feb: Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage (rock/doc)

Jan: The Pacific (series on WWII)

I saw more good movies than I thought I did after looking over the list. Also sometime last summer I did make it to the cinema to see Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, which was really good, and I saw Super 8 as well, which was pretty fun escapism.

Here's movie critic, David Edelstein's, picks for 2011

Here's the 2011 Village Voice/L A Weekly's picks

Roger Eberts--The Best Films of 2011--Roger always makes me aware of some films I was unaware of.

I check out the iFanboy's site for my pop culture fix sometimes they'll mention something that sparks my interest. They talk about 2011 movies and TV in this episode.

I ran across this site of 2011's best films from different critics. I thought it had a lot of interesting links on it so I bookmarked it for future reference.


Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Photobucket

Well, Christmas came and went pretty much without a hitch. My brother came down for a visit and to celebrate, though he had to work right up until the previous Friday. So he rested a bit and did some chores on Saturday, and drove down on Sunday. My sister sent us a smoked turkey for Christmas from Greenberg turkeys, which is located here in town. It tasted pretty wonderful filling the house with a rather nice smoke, meaty aroma. I had been sick with a head cold prior to the holiday, so that helped quite a bit. So all I had to do was fix some side dishes and so forth. I made some stuffed celery, a dessert type treat made with dates, shredded coconuts, and some puffed rice (Rice Krispies). I also made a green bean casserole, had a lettuce salad, and a fruit salad too. We had a nice feast. I also had made some Chex party mix, which is rice, corn, wheat chex cereals, mixed with nuts, pretzels, cheesy gold fish crackers, and that type thing. Mother used to make this around Christmas time and it's sort of a tradition for me. She also used to make peanut patties, and fudge, and would send it to us at Christmas. She was a good cook, and many memories of Christmas swirl around her cooking and love. All in all everything came out pretty well.

Photobucket

While I was in the kitchen I listened to Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, which helped pass the time in the kitchen. It was a good listen about some of Keillor's past experiences at Christmas time and a funny fictional interlude about a jaded teenager home from college with the typical teenager self-absorbed outlook, and how Garrison hypnotizes the teen into listening to some Bach, taking out his nose rings, putting on a sweater, and what-have-you, and cleans him up for the folks at Christmas. He also told a segment about when he was a kid and everyone in his family got sick one year and were projectile vomiting, and there were a few other humorous stories and some nice poetry and songs to round out the show. You can check it out in the link above if so inclined.

There was another radio program that I listened to that followed Garrison Keillor's show, which highlighted some stories and skits from other archived NPR Christmas shows. One was a Christmas story read by NY author, Paul Auster. It was an endearing and emotional story about one of the true meanings to Christmas, giving rather than receiving. After that they played a favorite of mine from David Sedaris, The Santaland Diaries. It's a very popular public radio Christmas story about him working as an elf at Macy's during the holiday season. At any rate, it certainly made the time in the kitchen go quicker. Hope you had a good Christmas, and will have a happy, healthy New Year. I've still got my brother visiting with me here in Tyler so we'll probably get out and about today. The sun finally came out, so it's dry and pretty weather, so if nothing else we should get out and take a walk just to get some fresh air. Toodles.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Photobucket

I've been under the weather this week. I've got some sort of head cold: somewhat headache, body aches, cough, sore throat, etc. I don't think it's the flu as I don't have fever. I guess it's a part of life. Makes you grateful for being well, and sympathetic for those that have chronic illnesses. I can't imagine being sick with some sort of illness all the time, it must be a real drain on one's energy and outlook on life. That's one reason I'm all for medical marijuana. If it can benefit some people, why not?

At any rate, I've got the head cold thing. I should get up and dressed. The library is holding a book for me, and they called yesterday. It's the James Gurney book, Imaginative Realism. I've currently got two books on loan here right now, one is the Stan Lee book, How To Write Comics, which I picked up just to peruse and see what he has to say. It does have some information in it that's worthwhile. There's also a bit of the history of comics, their origins, the difference between comic strips vs. comic books, but also a few things I've found that make it worth picking up. There are also guest writers that add their two cents, like Mark Waid who suggest a few books for writers: like a dictionary and thesaurus, Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, and something I'll look further into, the grammar book, Eats, Shoots, & Leaves. He also suggest Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Making Comics, and William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade. Another writer, Shannon Denton, offers these titles: Shot by Shot, and How To Draw the Marvels Way.

Writer Margaret Atwood list ten items she feels budding writers should have:
1. A small notebook to carry around when ideas strike you that's small enough to carry around with you.
2. A large box--for drafts, unfinished work and so forth.
3. Mortification: Writers and Their Public Shame complied by Robin Robertson
4. Roget's Thesaurus
5. The Stretching Handbook--for writers or artist--exercises to straighten out that writer spine or bad elbow. Sounds silly perhaps, but she's probably right.
6. A Novel in A Year--Louise Doughty--stating, it is what it is, to get one started.
7. How Not to Write A Novel, by Mittelmark & Newman.
8. The Art of Instinct by Dennis Dutton--why do humans make art, including narrative art.
9. The Gift, by Lewis Hyde--How is art situated in the world of commerce? Or, why do so few artists make lots of money?
10. Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer On Writing, by Atwood--What is writing and how does it differ from other art forms, and who are writers, and what do they thing they're doing?

At any rate, several suggestions, along with Stan Lee's Top Ten Tips for Writers, the three-act structure, the importance of subplot, timing and tension, and some nice graphics to go along with some of the other information. I mostly picked it up as I was curious, and it looked like a fun read.

Photobucket

I also picked up a cook book, The New McDougall Cookbook. It has over 300 ultra-low-fat recipes from the creators of the McDougall Program (or diet plan), by John McDougall, M.D., and Mary McDougall. Again I picked this up just to check it out, and look at some of the recipes as I've been pretty interested in nutrition and health lately. I was never in a position to do much about it when I worked steady. I tried to eat a good diet, but I knew I probably wasn't, and at the same time, I wondered, well what is a healthy diet? So I'm still trying to find out more about that one. One thing I have come to understand, there's too much prepared & processed foods, which are bad for you, there's too many people overweight with health issues, and for my own concern, I'm just wondering well then, what is a good diet? How can one optimize their health by eating the right nutritious foods? It's an on-going process, and one that I can see there probably isn't an easy, pat answer. However, from what I can tell, just from my limited findings, leans a great deal towards a vegan vs. meat vs. processed food diet.

Photobucket

Unknown is the last good movie I've seen in a while. It's an action film that takes place in Berlin, in which Liam Neeson plays a doctor, who in Berlin attending a science conference. When he forgets something at the airport (I think it was his briefcase), he takes a taxi back to get it, and is involved in an auto accident, which gives him amnesia. From there the story takes on aspects of mystery. It's escapism, and has mysterious men tailing him, and had sort of a Bourne Identity feel to it that I enjoyed.

Just a run down of the past movies I've seen, they've been hit and miss. Here are a few others some recommendable other not so much:

Terri--sort of a fable, about a kid that wears pajamas to junior high, and how this misfit kid finds odd friends and relates to the world around him. I found it interesting, but I'll be damn if I know why. Oddball film for sure.

Magic Trip--a documentary about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, and their trip to NYC Tomorrowland. Kesey wrote the books, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and Sometimes A Great Notion. It's a documentary about the drug culture of the early 60's, and also comments on Kesey's LSD experiments that he participated in sponsored by the CIA.

X-Men: First Class--an okay super hero film. I enjoyed Captain America a bit more, though it was ok, however, I'm not a huge mutant fan. I'm getting pretty burned out on super hero films too, somewhat.

The Tree of Life--I felt this movie was over-hyped. It's loose in structure, a lot of pretty cinematography, but not much there for me. Pass.

Why We Fight--a documentary on why we go to war (mostly lying politicians), it's worth a watch for sure. I'll leave it at that.

Nanook of the North--supposed to be the first documentary made about an Eskimo and his family, follows them through a year and how they live in such a brutal environment. Pretty interesting.

Hanna--I didn't think I'd like this as the premise of a young fifteen year old girl becoming this super human that doles out justice 007 style is just a bit too far fetched for me. The same type plot has been done before like in the French film, La Femme Nikita, and for me anyway, done better.

Win Win--Paul Giamatti plays a lawyer, part time wrestling coach, who becomes a legal guardian for a elderly man within the early stages of dementia. He meets the man's grandson, a trouble teen, and takes him under his wing and allows him to stay with him and his family, as the teen's mom has drug problems. A fairly worthwhile watch.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Photobucket

I woke up too early the other day with a headache. They aren't as frequent as they used to be. The only thing I can figure is that there is far less stress in my life now, which I'm daily grateful for, and perhaps diet. I've tried to switch over to generally a vegan diet, or a plant based diet, but on the weekends I'll allow myself to eat anything. So if I want to indulge in a hamburger and fries, I'll go for it. With the new diet I'm trying to find out if I can lower my blood pressure without the general route of taking blood pressure medication on a daily basis. I think sooner or later the doctors know they'll have you on one med or the other before it's all over, but I'd like to push that date further ahead if possible.

So I woke up early, and made some coffee and turned on the tube. I saw where the Me Channel was showing an episode from one of the old Fess Parker, Daniel Boone series. It just so happened that Leonard Nimoy was a playing Oontah, a Seminole indian, in the episode I was watching, which was before his famous role as a Vulcan on Star Trek. I remember watching Parker's Davy Crockett TV series, but due to the timeline of the Daniel Boone series, it escaped me, however, it's fun to see them now. It's not that they are a highwater mark for the arts, they are just fun escapism, but sometimes that satiates my mood pretty easily. The series is fairly corny, with stereotype characters, but somehow interesting as well. I ran across an episode guide, and the site also has fan art and some fan fiction: here.


Photobucket

The last comic I read was Peter Kuper's Stop Forgetting To Remember, which I picked up at Half-Priced Books in Dallas some time ago. I've always enjoyed Kuper's art and semi autobiographical stories. They are along the line of something like Harvey Pekar or Art Spiegelman and other cartoonist who favor human interest stories. His art in Stop Forgetting looks to be drawn, but he has done a variety of multimedia work when illustrating his work and other stories, and at times it has that going on in it as well. As far as the stories, they are about him living in NYC, where I'd guess he still does, and starts out in the present day, working in his office drawing the current volume, then flashes back to other aspects of his life from experimenting with drugs in his youth, to being as a doormat in a previous relationship, to his relationship with other friends, the incident of 9-11, to the pregnancy with his wife, and eventually having his daughter and helping raise her. In short, I rather enjoyed it a lot. I like his art style, and I enjoyed reading the stories too. They have the book and some of his other books over at Amazon pretty cheap if you're so inclined to pick up a copy.