Monday, November 30, 2009

iPhone Pictures

Looks like it's time to empty my iPhone of its pictures. I'm still not as excited as I'd like to be with the iPhone's camera; I'm not quite capturing what I'm seeing, a complaint I really didn't have with my Blackberry. Maybe it's me but things just seem flat and washed out.

Rather than make a post for each, let's just make it a grab bag of sorts, okay? Here we go:

I was downtown about 10 days ago on IRS business and had some time to kill before meeting Clara for lunch. I killed it by elbowing aside the homeless exercising their inalienable right to access porn on the Internet and taking this from the lounge on the West side. That's the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and Patience Latting Circle:

It was a crystalline Fall evening. The moon was on its way to setting over Miss Betty's roof line:

(If my iPhone's camera can capture this, what's my complaint?)

I was sweeping the leaves off the patio on the sunny Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving and I saw this guy. Someone forgot to tell him summer was over. He looks a little sun-faded and weak-kneed so maybe he knows his time's about up:

Here, I got an angle on him and the shadow he throws makes him a little easier to spot:

I call him a "him." Since he still has his head, he might be a she. Or a male praying mantis who has yet to learn the carnal touch of a female praying mantis. And the subsequent head-munching by the female that occurs in the afterglow of the act. Either way, it was surprise.

Finally, one morning last week we had a good deal of fog. Here's the view outside my office window. Not quite Victorian England but close:

I'm Not the Only Fan of Billy Collins

If he's not already, Instapundit soon will be a fan of Billy Collins.

This link will take you to all of my Billy Collins posts and you can see what the fuss is about. I'm re-reading his Sailing Alone Around the Room and finding it as delightful as ever.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bob Dylan's Christmas Album Isn't as Bad as You Think

A not entirely negative negative review of Bob Dylan's Christmas album:
My reaction upon hearing the record lurch to life with “Here Comes Santa Claus ” in my ear buds was first to laugh; whether a joke or not, this (stuff) is funny. Mostly because Dylan sounds so uncharacteristically jovial and (yes, I’ll say it) jolly, even. My second reaction was relief – it’s nice to hear that from Dylan for a change.

Faint praise, indeed. Still, the reviewer doesn't like everything:
But that’s not the worst moment on Christmas in the Heart. That dubious distinction goes to “Must Be Santa,” a hideous polka-shaped monster that terrorizes the eardrums with psychotic glee. I shiver at the memory.

Hey, it's not that bad. Here's a video of the song. You be the judge:

Kinda fun in weird way. Okay, really weird.

Thanksgiving 2009

Looking over last year's posts, I see I managed to overlook Thanksgiving. Not this year. Though I made a brief mention of what I think there is to be thankful for - much! - here, I spared the details, didn't I? Let me set things straight and tell you what I'm thankful for:

Family, first and foremost and always. We're blessed with family both near and far that we love dearly and every single one of them have always let us know just how loved we are in return. You can't ask for more than that. Everything else is just icing on the cake. We'll have a few of them over today and we'll enjoy their company but we'll be thinking, too, of the family that's not here.

We won't have quite the same crowd that we usually do. Some of the older relatives have opted to dine out since they're torn between showing up empty-handed and having to cook something. They don't have to cook anything, of course, but you can't convince them of that. They're joining other relatives who have the same idea so good for them. Maybe they'll drop by later. And we likely won't have our nephew Jonah and his family. Being married now means he's got other family obligations. That's the way it goes as we grow older.

So, what's on today's menu? Turkey, of course. Sweet potato casserole. Corn casserole for Emily, broccoli rice casserole for Rachel. Mashed potatoes. Grandma'll bring her dressing and gravy and noodles while Aunt Teri will bring her oriental salad. Hey, did someone remember to bring dessert? I hope so. As if there'll be room for it afterwards.

A special day all around. I hope everyone's is as special as ours.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Elmer Kelton, Texas Author, and His Posthumous Novel 'Other Men's Horses'

I've been looking for a new genre author to follow and I may have found one in Elmer Kelton:
Elmer Kelton was born for a life on the range. "Dad gave me every chance to learn to be a cowboy," he wrote in his autobiography. "I was probably the greatest failure of his life. I was always better at talking about it, and writing about it, than I ever was at doing it." Early on, he sensed that his future wouldn't involve cattle drives, at least not directly: "By the time I was eight or nine years old, I fantasized about someday writing the Great American Novel."

Kelton wound up writing something almost as ambitious: a book that may go down as the Great Texas Novel. When Kelton died in August at the age of 83, many of the obituaries cited "The Time It Never Rained" as his finest achievement. The story of rancher Charlie Flagg and his struggles during a terrible drought in the 1950s is not just another western. It's a piece of Western lit.

The reviewer, John Miller, put out a query for good conservative writers of fiction and Kelton's name came up frequently. (As well as my personal favorite, Mark Helprin!) It might be time to check out Kelton and see what all the fuss is about.

Raymond Carver’s Life and Stories

Stephen King reviews a biography on Raymond Carver:
Raymond Carver, surely the most influential writer of American short stories in the second half of the 20th century, makes an early appearance in Carol Sklenicka’s exhaustive and sometimes exhausting biography as a 3- or 4-year-old on a leash. “Well, of course I had to keep him on a leash,” his mother, Ella Carver, said much later — and seemingly without irony.

Mrs. Carver might have had the right idea. Like the perplexed lower-middle-class juicers who populate his stories, Carver never seemed to know where he was or why he was there.

Unless your a fan of Carver, and I am, the above passage doesn't promise much in the way of a writer's biography but I'm more interested in Carver's story of redemption. A hopeless alcoholic for much of his career, he finally found victory over the bottle and began a new life with a new wife and was happy for a while before his tragic diagnosis of cancer. Make no mistake, Carver is no hero here; he treats his first wife shabbily and the executors of his estate sound like they've continued to do so. But there are some good things to be found in his life story and those things are more important than any of his stories.

(King also reviews the new collection of Carver stories, which he likes, but I've already blogged here about the book and I still believe it's too early to issue this volume.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Always Much To Be Thankful For

Peggy Noonan soars with her latest column about things to be grateful for. I especially liked her closing paragraphs (But read the whole thing.):
And after that, after gratitude for friends and family, and for those who protect us, after that something small. I love TV, and the other day it occurred to me again that we are in the middle of a second golden age of television. I feel gratitude to the largely unheralded network executives and producers who gave it to us. The first golden age can be summed up with one name: "Playhouse 90." It was the 1950s and '60s, when TV was busy being born. The second can be summed up with the words "The Sopranos," "Mad Men," "The Wire," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "ER," "24," "The West Wing," "Law and Order," "30 Rock." These are classics. Some nonstars at a network made them possible. Good for them.

I leave it to others to dilate on why TV now is so good and movies so bad, since both come from the same town, Hollywood, in the same era. But there is a side benefit to televisions's excellence, and that is the number of people who follow a show so closely, and love it so much, that after it's aired they come together on long threads on Web sites and talk about what happened and what it means. People use their imaginations and unfocused creativity to add new layers of meaning and interpretation. "You know that was a reference to 'Chinatown.'" "Did anyone notice what it meant when Peggy told Mr. Sterling 'no' when he asked for the coffee? A whole revolution captured in one word!"

Those threads are golden. We rightly discuss the fact that media now is fractured, niched and broken up, that we no longer watch the same shows or have the same conversation. But what's happening now on the Internet after a good show is a conversation, a new one, and it's sprung up from the technology that helped do in the old one. How ironic and predictable, and another cause, however small, for gratitude.

Trash television and the internet if you want but there's always much to be thankful for. You just have to look for it. And likely not very far.

Wanda Jackson to Perform at Oklahoma City's 66 Bowl Celebration

I'm late to post this but Wanda Jackson performed last Saturday at 66 Bowl Celebration, a bowling alley:
The "Sweet Lady With the Nasty Voice” and her husband/manager celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary Oct. 7. On Saturday, 66 Bowl marks its 50th year as a landmark on the Mother Road.

Like one of Wanda’s hit songs says, "Let’s Have a Party.”

The Queen of Rockabilly returns to the scene of her romantic beginnings for a special show at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Who's Wanda Jackson? A down-on-her-luck faded rock'n'roll star from the dim past? Hardly. Here's her Wikipedia entry. Irrelevant to day? Ha!
Another cause for celebration is Wanda’s current collaboration with Jack White. She told me the front man of the White Stripes and the Raconteurs is producing her next album. At the time of our conversation, she was on her way to Nashville, Tenn., where she would record half a dozen preliminary tracks, with White at the studio console.

"One of the biggest stars on the planet I guess right now,” she said of White.

She said it would be premature to reveal titles of the songs she’s covering because the selections might change, but she did allow that White had been consulting with his friend Bob Dylan.

"Jack e-mailed (Wendell) and said he happened to be talking to Bob Dylan the other day, and Dylan is a big fan of mine,” Wanda said. "So, he asked him if he could think of a song that he thought would be good for me to record. So, I might be doing one of Bob Dylan’s songs.”

Just another milestone in a career that’s been full of them. The Maud native, 72, was a young country and gospel artist who began singing rockabilly in the 1950s on the advice of her mentor and then-boyfriend, Elvis Presley.

Take that, you dang whippersnapper.

Oh, and one more thing about Ms. Jackson: she's a member of our church.

Not bad for a bunch of stodgy Baptists.

More 'Fiscal Blood on the Tax Tracks'

Hey, it's a twofer! A Bob Dylan album title reference and dismal economic news. I doubt I'll ever use these two tags together again:
Across the nation, local governments and related public entities, already reeling from the recession, face another fiscal crisis: billions of dollars in fees owed to UBS, Goldman Sachs, and other financial giants on investment deals gone wrong.

The seeds of this looming disaster were sown during the credit boom, when Wall Street targeted cities big and small with risky financial products that promised to save them money or boost returns. Investment bankers sold exotic derivatives designed to help municipalities cut borrowing costs. Banks and insurance companies constructed complicated tax deals that allowed public utilities, transit authorities, and other nonprofit organizations to extract cash immediately from their long-term assets. Private equity firms, pointing to stellar historical gains, persuaded big public pension funds to plow billions of dollars into high-cost investments at the peak of the market. Many of the transactions shared a striking similarity: provisions that protected the banks from big losses and left the customers on the hook for huge payouts.

Brought to you by TaxProf Blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Woman Loses Benefits Over Facebook Pics

Another cautionary tale for my Facebook friends about posting any ol' thing on your Facebook account:
Photos on Facebook have cost a Canadian woman her long-term sick leave benefits.

Nathalie Blanchard has been on leave from her job at IBM in Bromont, Quebec, for the last year.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported she was diagnosed with major depression and was receiving monthly sick-leave benefits.

But when a Manulife insurance agent discovered pictures of Blanchard having a good time, the payments dried up.

Blanchard said she was told by Manulife that the photos of her at a Chippendales bar show, at her birthday party and on vacation were evidence that she is no longer depressed.

Remember, the Internet is everywhere. The Internet is permanent.

Media Bias Noticed - Finally!

So the media finally takes note of some media bias. Of course, it's Fox News' bias the media notices and not its own:
For the second time in just over a week, Fox News is coming under fire for misusing old news footage. The latest flap is leading some people to charge that the cable news network is intentionally misleading its audience, while Fox claims a "production error."

Wednesday's incident occurred when Fox News host Gregg Jarrett mentioned that a Sarah Palin appearance and book signing in Grand Rapids, Michigan had a massive turnout. As footage rolled of a smiling and waving Palin amidst a throng of fans, Jarrett noted that the former Republican vice-presidential candidate is "continuing to draw huge crowds while she's promoting her brand-new book,'' adding that the images being shown were "some of the pictures just coming in to us.... The lines earlier had formed this morning."

However, the video used in the segment was from a 2008 McCain/Palin campaign rally. In response to the minor uproar that arose after clips of Jarrett's report hit the Internet, Fox senior vice-president of news Michael Clemente issued an initial statement saying, "This was a production error in which the copy editor changed a script and didn't alert the control room to update the video."I'm patiently awaiting Yahoo!'s detailed cataloging of errors and bias of Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, the major television networks, etc. I'm sure I won't have to wait long.

Get Excited and Make Things!

Wil Wheaton on using the power of the Internet to help you create things:
So what are you waiting for? Do or do not. There is no Try. Whether it's an Etsy store, or a book with Lulu, or a T-shirt or a mug or a clock or a fucking teddy bear in a sweater from CafePresssingle ... hell, if it's a photograph you put on Flickr or a podcast you host on, or a story that you write for Ficly or your own blog, just do it! Go get excited and make things, and when you're done, come back here and link us to what you did.

Really, if you're burning to create something, create it. There's no excuse anymore to to keep you from doing it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2012 - Movie Review

Man, do things 'splode in this movie real good or what?

2012 is as disaster movie to end all disaster movies and if it weren't for the massive loss of humanity, I'd say it was a heckuva ride. Each time I see an fx-laden movie, I think we've reached the pinnacle of the art and then along comes a movie like 2012 that just pushes right on past. You have to admire the sheer audacity of director Roland Emmerich to show as much as possible, and as realistically as you can imagine, the end of the world.

But there's that pesky massive loss of humanity. Oh, I suppose the loss of life comes with the territory of disaster movies, but seeing buildings crumble into one another I couldn't help but flashback on the Murrah building bombing and the WTC Towers collapse. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's only a movie, but those two incidents have taught us that there are real people in those buildings and I couldn't help but wonder about their lives as well as the lives of the main characters. Silly, I know, but there it is. The movie makers want me to care about their movie and I do.

Still, as a disaster movie, 2012 works exceedingly well. The main characters are likable and have their own little dramas that need resolution while the world ends around them. And things are wrapped up with a hopeful ending after a nerve-wracking, gotta-get-this-thing-done-before-we-run-into-that-thing climax.

A great ride.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fitzgerald in Hollywood

An interesting discussion about the many reasons for F. Scott Fitzgerald's downfall in Hollywood. Goodness knows he burned with talent but not the kind of talent that could lead to success in Hollywood like the kind of success he had enjoyed in the '20s. The reasons for Fitzgerald's failure are many but one I hadn't thought of before may have been his political incorrectness - Fitzgerald was never really concerned with the social issues like the rest of Hollywood was in the '30s:
Of course, Patsy Ruth is describing the emerging cells of Hollywood Reds. The love of humanity at the expense of the individual is at the core of Communist ideology. Too often Communist purges, where thousands if not millions are murdered, are justified by the charming dictum: “You have to break a few eggs in order to make an omelette.”

Patsy Ruth observes:

His work was condemned, they said, and he believed them. He denounced himself even more harshly than his judges, accusing his work of being trivial and superficial.

“He actually told me he’s ashamed of The Great Gatsby,” John fairly snarled. “Those cursed Do-gooders… they’ve got him believing his work isn’t worth a tinkers damn just because he wasn’t waving a banner or marching in a picket line. They’ve destroyed him, as sure as God made little apples.”

That shouldn’t keep him from writing,” I protested.

The Hell it doesn’t,” John said. “Who can write when you’ve been told, when you’ve been convinced that anything you have to say is a bunch of crap. He can write rings around every one of those bastards who’ve done this to him, but he doesn’t believe it any more, and if you don’t believe it, you can’t do it.”

I think that's reaching a bit - Fitzgerald's downward spiral can be traced back to his post-Gatsby days. Still, it's good to see that despite whatever outside pressures he was feeling, Fitzgerald stayed as true to his vision as he could. That's no small thing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Student of Clouds

My online pal Jason posted about his love of paintings of clouds and I promised him a link to a poem by my favorite poet Billy Collins about that very subject. A good enough reason to post the poem here:

Student of Clouds

The emotion is to be found in the clouds,
not in the green solids of the sloping hills
or even in the gray signatures of rivers,
according to Constable, who was a student of clouds
and filled shelves of sketchbooks with their motion,
their lofty gesturing and sudden implications of weather.

Outdoors, he must have look up thousands of times,
his pencil trying to keep pace with their high voyaging
and the silent commotion of their eddying and flow.
Clouds would move beyond the outlines he would draw
as they moved within themselves, tumbling into their centers
and swirling off at the burning edges in vapors
to dissipate into the universal blue of the sky.

In photographs we can stop all this movement now
long enough to tag them with their Latin names.
Cirrus, nimbus, stratocumulus -
dizzying, romantic, authoritarian -
they bear their titles over the schoolhouses below
where their shapes and meanings are memorized.

High on the soft blue canvases of Constable
they are stuck in pigment, but his clouds appear
to be moving still in the wind of his brush,
inching out of England and the nineteenth century
and sailing over these meadows where I am walking,
bareheaded beneath this cupola of motion,
my thoughts arranged like paint on a high blue ceiling.

A good way to start the day, I hope.

(The Constable Collins refers to is John Constable, an English landscape painter.

Incompetence, Dishonesty of Treasury Secretary Geithner Nothing New

We already know about Treasury Secretary Geithner's dishonesty but his confirmation testimony back in January may have been only the tip of the iceberg:

(We) learned a few weeks ago about then-President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Tim Geithner's role in crafting a full-payment deal for big banks that had credit-default swaps with the failed AIG insurance company. As Radley Balko noted earlier, Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, has now issued a harshly critical report on Geithner's handling of the AIG bailout.

Barofsky's report details how the bailout vehicle "Maiden Lane III" was created, and why Geithner quickly decided to pay 100 cents on the dollar to AIG counterparties -- including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and others. . .The deal ended up costing taxpayers at least $13 billion.

So, bad Federal Reserve President as well as bad tax return self-preparer. Just the thing you look for in a Treasury Secretary.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Back to The Office

After two days at another CPE, it's back to the office this morning. This round of CPE wasn't sponsored by the Oklahoma Society of CPAs; this is the first of two that our Thursday tax luncheon group puts on and it attracts maybe 30 other professionals throughout the city. No, it's not as classy as the OSCPA - you're on your own for lunch and the people who put it on are nebbish CPA types, not cool professionals - but the facilities are nice at Oklahoma City Community College and if you're looking for a no-frills, down-and-dirty, just-give-it-to-me-straight kinda thing, this is the place to be.

This CPE was an intense, two-day business tax review and dealt with new business tax issues as well. The consensus:

1.) Taxes will likely go up.

2.) The number of IRS audits have already gone up and will continue to grow.

3.) These audits will likely be performed by new hires which means:

a.) An unusual amount of havoc may result since these new hires are just learning. This could be a terrible to time to be audited, but

b.) An unusual amount of no-changes may occur as these trainees get their feet under them. So it may be a great time to be audited.

Bottom line: Yeah, I'm tootin' my own horn but if you haven't looked at having a professional do your tax return, now would be a good time to start looking. I happen to know of a great firm. Ask me and I'll tell you all about 'em.

Sarah Palin’s Book Tour to Stop in Norman

I may have to cover this for my tweeps:
Sarah Palin’s national book tour will include a stop at Hastings Books, 2300 W Main St., in Norman on Dec. 3.

The former vice presidential hopeful and former governor of Alaska will sign copies of her newly released memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life,” at 7 p.m., store manager Rob Wood said.

"This is definitely the biggest thing we’ve ever had happen,” Wood said. "I’m excited but nervous. We expect a lot of people will be here for it.”

Odd, though, that she's appearing at Hastings. Not that I don't congratulate them on a good get - take that, huge bookstore chains - but, well, Hastings isn't a huge bookstore chain. Wonder what the story is behind that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Demolition Angel - Book Review

I'd said I was through with Robert Crais for a while but I'd downloaded a sample of "Demolition Angel" onto my iPhone to test the Kindle app and I got absorbed in the first chapter and, well, one thing led to another and the next time I was at the library I checked it out.

A good entry in Crais' non-series books. Another set in Southern California, of course, and this time we're chasing a serial bomber and the protagonist is female, a former bomb technician who'd been blown up and died but revived. Thus, the name of the book. I liked Crais' realistic portrayal of someone who had gone through such an ordeal - the post-stress and guilt of survival - and who was trying to get back on her feet both career and personal-wise. Added bonus: a corking good yarn with a good twist and a spine-tingling countdown of a final confrontation. A good, well-written thriller.

(A note about the Kindle program: I liked it better than I thought I would. Sure, it's strange reading a book on my teeny-tiny iPhone but no stranger than using any of my other internet based apps. Plus, once I'm done with the book, I can keep it or delete it, no stashing it away in a box in the attic with the delusional excuse that some day I'll read it again. No, the Kindle will never replace the tactile experience of reading an actual book but not every reading experience has to be sublime. Sometimes you just want to read a book, not experience one.)

Everyone Pays Taxes

Even this person:
Belle de Jour can rest easy: her mum doesn’t mind that she worked as a call girl whose online diary became a literary phenomenon.

Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a research scientist working in Bristol, unmasked herself yesterday as the anonymous author behind the best-kept secret in modern literature. ...
An entry on the Belle de Jour blog website today ... took the opportunity to clarify her relationship with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs department. “So much curiosity about my tax situation!” she wrote. “Yes, I did pay taxes on sex work earnings.”

I suspect her depreciation schedules would make me blush.

(Via Tax Prof Blog.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

History: It's Natural!

Emily needed to score some extra credit points in Science and one of the methods available to her was a trip to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman. Sounds like fun! Rachel tagged along with us so it turned into a real family outing, a rarity these days, and something you'd better grab while you can.

We haven't been to the SNOMNH since it opened and we got in for free. At that time, the exhibits were a little limited - what do you want for free? - but now the museum thrives with a lot of interesting exhibits. The big draw now is the exhibit on Charles Darwin, about as comprehensive exhibit on the man as you'll likely see anywhere. Fascinating of course but what I liked most was seeing some of his actual correspondence and other handwriting samples. See, his handwriting is a illegible as mine? My favorite visitor comment submitted on an index card? "You won't go to heaven if you believe this evolution." Scrawled in a child's hand. We start 'em young here.

The other exhibits were interesting enough but what really drew me in was the exhibit about the early Oklahomans. Amazing how the different native tribes adapted to the landscape in similar and unique ways. Imagine: this pieces of flint had been handled by humans thousands of years ago.

I could've spent the entire day there but for our purposes all we needed was a few hours. Emily had her notes, a map, and a receipt for proof of entry so we were done. Pictures? There's only one real picture you have to take when you go to the museum and that's this one:

The dramatic staging of an encounter between a hunter and mammoth rendered flat and uninteresting by an iPhone camera and a talentless photographer.

But amazing as the museum is, the time spent there was made more amazing by spending it with loved ones. And isn't that the case, always?

Hi There, 4,000th visitor

You dropped by on Saturday around 4:30. Thanks. Hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here. Stay longer next time, okay?

I see the current rate of visitors remains the same: about a thousand every three months. In blogging terms, that's a glacial rate but I'm happy for everyone who comes by. I hope I managed to brighten your day in some small way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Movies at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art

I wanted to do a separate post about our visit to catch a movie at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art because I didn't want to distract from the brilliance of my brief review of the movie. But I managed to take a few pictures with my iPhone of the auditorium and I wanted to post them and say a few words about being here.

The OCMA is housed in the old Centre Theatre :

On Christmas Day 1947, Oklahoma City saw an impressive new movie palace open downtown. The Centre Theater, the last of the downtown movie palaces to open in Oklahoma City, was considered to be one of the most modern cinemas between Chicago and the West Coast. Built within the municipal center of Oklahoma City, the theater’s design matched those of its neighbors: City Hall, the County Courthouse, and the Civic Center Music Hall.

Now sixty years later, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art occupies the entire block at 415 Couch Drive on the site of what was formerly the Centre Theater. In 2002, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art opened its new location while preserving many of the unique architectural elements that were original to the building, such as the box office, poster display cases, and the Plexiglas staircase railings.

I'm not quite clear if the auditorium we were in was the original one; we had to go up a flight of stairs to get in and that doesn't quite make sense to our modern theatre-going sensibilities. And by today's standards, it's tiny, no bigger than the small venues you'll sit in at the local google-plex. Oh, but it's been beautifully restored and you can imagine the ghosts of the past that are sitting right beside you as you watch the movie. (Drat. No popcorn though. But they did have previews. Yes!)

A brief glimpse of what the OCMA will be showing next. I was wanting to get a shot of the stage and its hardwood floors but the low light and limitations of Blogger only get me the screen. Well, maybe you get an idea of it:

Here's something you don't see anymore in movie theatres: the projection booth. An actual person is in there jockeying around the reels of celluloid. Cool:

In this part of the museum, you'll find another Dale Chihuly. And, again, thanks to he limited iPhone photo capability and Blogger, you get only a tiny sense of the beauty of this piece. (Funny how I manage to shift the blame of my lousy photos, isn't it?):

After the show, you can go back out the doors into the night of downtown OKC. No, you're not in Manhattan - it's foolish to think you'd have that kind of experience, but maybe it'll do for now. It's enough to think you might have just passed through the same doors, stepped on the same sidewalk, as Susan Hayward and Robert Preston and thousands of Oklahomans before you who were doing the same thing you just finished doing: looking for a few hours of entertainment in the city.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Breckenridge Goes to Pot

Everyone's concerned about Breckenridge's recent vote to de-criminalize marijuana use, right? Maybe not:
Breckenridge’s part-time mayor, Dr. John Warner, a dentist who voted against the measure but remained publicly neutral before the election, said the three dozen or so e-mail messages he had received since the vote had been mixed.

About half of the messages were negative, Dr. Warner said, and included comments from people who said they had canceled reservations and would never come back. Other respondents said they were thrilled about the town’s vote and could hardly wait to visit and spend some money.

Three dozen e-mails, about evenly split between the pro and con of the issue. Yawn.

I'd mentioned before my concern about how this will affect Breckenridge's family-friendly reputation. Looks like I'm just about alone on that.

Bright Star - Movie Review

We caught Bright Star a the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. (Our last visit to the museum was in August and I'd mentioned then we wanted to see a movie there.) The movie is about the Romantic Poet John Keats and his passionate, but chaste, love affair with his pretty neighbor, Frances Brawne. The story is filled with everything you'd expect - the eye candy of period costumes, scenery, and sets, as well as poetry and longing glances and doomed love. The cool explosions quotient is discouragingly low but the music is lovely. At times the actors accents are a bit thick; you may not be able to quite follow what's going on at times but that's no real problem. At two hours, it's a tad too long but if you like this kind of thing - and we do - you'll like this.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another Stop on Rachel's College Campus Tour

This time it was The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (What? No football team?) in Chickasha, about 35 miles from the house. (Here's Rachel's first campus visit from a few days ago.) I'd picked her up from there a couple of Saturdays ago when she'd finished with her choir competition and she thought she'd like to take a closer look. We'd signed up for the Night Out get together, which promised a campus tour, dinner, some entertainment, and Q&A afterwards.

We hit the road after work, the sun just going down, the ride across the Oklahoma prairie in the twilight very nice indeed. (No, no pictures.) We crossed again the commemorative location of the The Chilsolm Trail - you can imagine its counterpart to the north where we crossed it just a few days ago - and arrived on campus when evening was just about full on. Lots of student greeters around to show us where to go in the Student Activity Center. As promised, we were entertained, first by a keyboard group playing instrumental Beatles - way to play to the demographic, people! -and then, after a good dinner of pork loin, green beans, mashed potatoes, and salad by an improv group who were very good. The students then when their way and the parents stayed behind for the Q&A - you know, the usual: tuition, scholarship deadlines, student safety, tuition, financial aid, tuition. Rachel texted when she was through - none of the majors really appealed to her so she was through. We met up with her afterwards - she'd found an school chum who'd graduated last year and sang the praises of USAO - and hit the bookstore before heading on home.

A very fine time, even if it wasn't quite something that Rachel was looking for. We'll cross this one off the list but if you ask me, I found the place charming. Small, yes, with older but well-kept buildings, a tree lined campus, and only about 500 students on sight. A college student could be quite happy here and have a four good years to remember.

Our next visit isn't scheduled until December. So it's back to school business as usual for Rachel.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No Pictures, Please

How bad do pictures have to be before you don't publish them? In my case, considering my limited skills, pretty bad. And the pictures I took of my drive to Tulsa a couple of days ago are pretty bad. Lots of blurred shots through the window of the morning countryside in Fall and the fog-shrouded trees. Pretty in real life, a blue-gray blur captured by the camera. So, since I'm not uploading them here, you'll have to take my word for it that they're pretty bad.

But, take my word for this, too: it was a lovely drive in November. James Taylor on the iPod, which seems about right for the season. You just had to be there, I guess. I wish you had been.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Agassi's Road to Redemption

I'm by no stretch of anyone's imagination a fan of sports but I like stories of personal redemption and it looks like Andre Agassi's autobiography, "Open," promises to tell a good story about his:
Whether he was the bratty, scrawny teenager from Las Vegas bursting onto the tennis scene in 1986 or the bald, buff 36-year-old elder statesman who received an emotional eight-minute standing ovation at the U.S. Open when he retired in 2006, Andre Agassi always seemed as beset by inner demons as by his opponents across the net. Why?

We begin to glean the answer with the publication of "Open," a memoir that describes his personal odyssey with brio and unvarnished candor. Looming throughout Mr. Agassi's fascinating life has been the shadow of his overbearing father, a former Olympic boxer from Iran. Violent and foulmouthed, he single-mindedly groomed his son for tennis greatness even before he could walk. The results were phenomenal: At age four, Andre had already hit with Jimmy Connors; at age seven, he hustled the former football champion Jim Brown out of $500 in a set; at age 16, he turned pro. Though his work ethic was questionable, his blistering forehand helped redefine the game—indeed, the transformation of tennis from serve-and -volley play to today's big groundstrokes was in many ways Mr. Agassi's doing.

Agassi's story has a happy ending and serves to remind us that redemption always available to us. All we have to do is ask and then take action.

Money Can't Buy Me Beatles

Are (Is?) The Beatles internet fuddy-duddies or just copyright savvy? The latter, it seems:
But the real question is why, so many years into the era of digital music, the Beatles still don't allow digital downloads of their songs. Many bands now view the sales and illegal downloads of their songs as loss leaders for their live performances, but the last Beatles concert was in 1966. Rights holders such as John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, are well known for trying to protect exactly how Beatles songs are presented, limiting distribution.

The explanation is that the owners of the Beatles understand that the brand is so valuable that they can maintain scarcity even in a world of file sharing and mass downloading. The late George Harrison's son, Dhani, has said "we disagree" with the standard Apple price of 99 cents a song. At a time when the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimates that 95% of downloads of digital music are illegal, there is less money to be made selling songs through any medium, whether the Web or CDs.

Instead, the Beatles are focused on more innovative and high-priced digital products. One is "The Beatles: Rock Band," a videogame released in September whose theme is the history of the band. The music has to be played through the game console and can't be downloaded or shared. The success of the game accounted for much of the revenue growth of Viacom in its most recent quarter.

I've got all of The Beatles on CD that's available - or, more accurately, that's worth having - and I've transferred them to my iTunes so having them digitally available elsewhere isn't a problem for me. But I think it's a mistake to purposely keep their music away from newer listeners. Sure, it's a fine line between art and commerce but how rich can you be? (Okay, as an unapologetic capitalist, I say as rich as you can get but still.)

No, I think the better business model is to get your music - your art - out there to as many consumers as possible. That's what you got in this business for in the first place, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Uncle John's College Advice

In response to my post about Rachel's college visit, Uncle John e-mails advice about the most important criteria for choosing a college: choose one with a great football team!

Of course! So, what kind of football team does SWOSU have?


Southwestern Oklahoma State University stood toe-to-toe with Lone Star Conference North Division heavyweight Texas A&M Commerce and gave the Lions a fight to the finish before falling 15-12 in a football game Saturday in Weatherford.

The loss ended SWOSU's season at 1-10 overall and 1-4 in North Division play.

Well, there's always next year.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Emily and Her OMEA Audition

This past Saturday was Emily's first tryout for the OMEA. (Here's a post about Rachel's tryout last year - her last, it turns out, for her flute career.) Since I was busy with Rachel's college visit, it was up to Clara to take care of this one. No, no pictures. And all reports are second hand.

I may have mis-characterized the even to Clara. I think she had the impression this would be a sedate, orderly, low-key affair. You know, a few music students auditioning, their music wafting down the halls of Santa Fe North in Edmond? Not quite. It was utter chaos. The-fall-of-Baghdad chaos. The halls jammed with tense kids and their even more tense parents, the practice hall swarming with more kids and their instruments, all vainly trying for a final practice session or two. No directions. No hint of where to go. You know, typical. Did I not mention any of this before?

They checked in, got the final music, and then Clara shooed Emily back out to the car for some serious practice. Emily managed to keep her cool and did her audition just fine but wasn't chosen for the final. She wasn't too disappointed. Well, Rachel never made it either so no biggie. At least she was out there trying. More than I would have ever done.

They hit the Cheesecake Factory afterwards, a far cry from the usual visit to Starbuck's that Rachel and I traditionally made. Then shopping. So, quite a Saturday for Emily, too. Too bad I couldn't be in two places at once but this made for a special time for her and Clara, something that's all too rare, it seems.

College Campus Visit With Rachel

With Rachel's senior year well underway, it's time for her to start thinking about what she's going to do after she graduates. The college reps have been hitting the seniors pretty heavily at school but one of the colleges that stood out for Rachel was Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford because the rep had pointed out that music scholarships were available without having to major in music. Well, that's just right up Rachel's alley. We registered for the Visitor's Day for parents and students and this past Saturday was that day.

It was just Rachel and me - Emily had a flute audition for a state competition that Clara had to tend to - and so off we went. A quick stop at McDonald's for some breakfast-on-the-road for Rachel and coffee for me and we were off. I had my iPhone, the perfect tool for capturing the experience with some hastily taken pictures.

Rachel had spent the night before at a friend's house so a likely late night, a full stomach, and the gentle rocking of the road proved too much:

(Sorry for the blurriness. I'm driving, drinking coffee, and taking pictures, too. What? They'll get better. Let me finish my coffee first.)

A beautiful November day for a drive. The skies were clear, the spaces were wide and open:

(The ghost image is my reflection in the window.)

Across the highway, this farm pond reveals how breezy it is out this way. A light to moderate chop on the water:

Some markers you just don't see anywhere else. Here the Chisholm Trail crossed:

Other than the sign, no trace of the trail is left. That is, none that I could see while whizzing past at 70 miles per.

Ah, look, it's Weatherford not far ahead:

It's only about an hour and fifteen minutes away, not too terribly far but far enough to give you a sense you went off to college.

I didn't take any pictures on campus or during the tour, opting instead to pay close attention to what was being said. Rachel already meets the entrance requirements and the estimated tuition costs were something a parent could more than live with. Rachel enjoyed talking to the reps from the various departments that she's interested in - chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics. Heavy stuff but I managed to point out all of them begin with the same core courses. Oh, and we talked to the music department. They'd be glad to have her audition for a scholarship.

I did manage a final shot on our walk back to the car. Windmills! Waaay out there on the horizon. See 'em?

Western Oklahoma. The perfect place for a wind farm.

Rachel was happy with the visit and so was I - I'm glad to spend time with her doing pretty much anything but this visit, this planning for the future, was a little more than that. Hard to believe we're at this point. Wasn't it just the other day she was plunging into her kindergarten class? Wasn't it just the other day -

No. Best not to start thinking like that. Best to keep looking ahead.

Rachel has others to consider but for the first one to visit, this one turned out pretty well. Now, if she can just maintain her grades. . .

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Men Who Stare At Goats - Movie Review

Men Who Stare at Goats is an entertaining movie about the follies of war and the military which is really about the follies of, well, everyone. More akin to Dr. Strangelove than anything, it tells a straight enough story about the whacky world of psychic research supposedly conducted by the military. The disclaimer at the start of the movie warns us that more of this is true than you'd think and the movie is based on a non-fiction book so who knows how much of it is true? Doesn't matter, really. George Clooney does an effective job as a gifted "New Earth" soldier and look for the inside jokes with Ewan McGregor, who plays incredulous reporter, about Jedi knights. A fan of The Big Lebowski? Jeff Bridges plays off his character from that movie and Kevin Spacey rounds out the amiable cast.

Much of this takes place during the early days of the Iraqi war and with Clooney involved you can be sure I was hyper-sensitive about any kind of left-wing spin I might encounter. (No, I don't like Clooney's politics but I always enjoy him on the screen.) Surprisingly, that kind of thing is toned down and I didn't come away with sense of disparagement against the war or the military. If anyone looks foolish, they do so while earnestly pursuing outlandish ideas - after all, the military as portrayed was looking for more effective ways to fight the enemy while protecting its own - and anyone with any familiarity with how government operations work, whether they're civilian or military, will get some knowing laughs.

Hunting Down Ideas

I'm following Wil Wheaton on Twitter and his blog feed on Google Reader and he's immensely entertaining in his nerdy way. (What? You don't know who Wil Wheaton is? And you call yourself a Trekker.) Warning: if you click through below and browse his site, you'll find he sometimes he uses salty language.

I'm not sure I entirely agree with this post about the pursuit of ideas, though:
As writers, it's vital that we meet our deadlines, of course, but we also have to build time into our work schedule to read books, take walks, visit doctor whisky, play with our dogs, and do the other things that may not look or feel like work, but are integral to our creative process.

I think this is true of everyone, not just people who pursue creative endeavors. No matter your profession, what you do in your every day life feeds it. Or should.

And, besides, writers and artists should pursue their passions as a profession as well. That means you don't sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. You produce. You don't produce, you don't eat. Hunger is a great motivator.

I like how Bradbury put it about inspiration. Just jump off the cliff. Build your wings on the way down.

So, if you're an artist, what are you waiting for? Jump!

Ten Ways To Audit Proof Your Tax Return

I tweeted about this already but this one goes out to everyone who's not following me on Twitter. (And why aren't you following me on Twitter? Huh? Why?) My favorite tip:

2. Use a pro, or use software.

Some argue a return prepared by a professional is less likely to be audited, but there's little reliable data to support it. Nevertheless, having a professional prepare your return--or at least advise on anything quirky--is a good idea.

If you do your own return, using a commercially available software package, such as Intuit's ( INTU - news - people ) Turbotax or H&R Block's ( HRB - news - people ) Taxcut will make it easier and more reliable. If the software produces some result you consider wrong, don't simply override it. (Or, at least investigate before you do.) Example: You're not rich and can't understand why the software has spit out a Form 6251 showing you owe the alternative minimum tax. Sad to say, you probably do, particularly if you live in a high tax state or have a large family.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stalking Lucky

Lucky'd been bustin' loose from the backyard and I was having a hard time finding out how she was doing - all of the gaps that I thought she could possibly be using seemed too narrow. Still, she was getting out and keeping track of her was an endless hassle.

Not to be outsmarted by a 5 pound yorkie poo, I came up with the idea to shadow her every move. How about a riveting one minute plus of my attempt to do so? Thought you'd never ask. Added bonus: it's from my iPhone!

Wow, the quality of that video is not good, is it? It looked a whole lot better on the iPhone. I tried uploading it directly from the iPhone to YouTube but that seems to be an empty promise for now. I had to connect to my laptop and then upload it. Editing? Ha! Windows Moviemaker didn't recognize the file and I haven't been able to find a free video editor just yet.

For now, long, uninterrupted takes will have to do. Still, I'm quite pleased to have this capability. Thanks, iPhone!

(Need another story of the iPhone's miraculous capability? While tracking Lucky at night, I couldn't find a flashlight with batteries that worked. What to do? Why, download a flashlight app to my iPhone! Perfect! Sort of. No, the light's hardly flashlight quality but it put out a bright enough glow that I could see where I was going in the dark. Cool!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Breckenridge Votes to Legalize Marijuana

Talk about your Rocky Mountain high:
The Colorado ski town of Breckenridge has voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana.

Early returns Tuesday night showed the proposal winning with 72 percent of the vote. The measure would allow adults over 21 to have up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

The measure is largely symbolic because pot possession remains a state crime for people without medical clearance.

Well, okay, I guess. Good to see the town of Breckenridge has all of its other problems solved so that it can now put its attention to something that turns out to be largely symbolic.

It's been a couple of summers since we've had the chance to go to Breckenridge - it's one of our all-time favorite places to escape to during the wilting days of an Oklahoma summer. This won't likely change our future plans but I can't help but think this kind of action makes the place just that much less family friendly.

Hark! the Heralded Dylan Sings

Andrew Ferguson takes down Bob Dylan a notch or two. Okay, a lot of notches:
If you needed more evidence, the release this month of Bob Dylan's Christmas album, Christmas in the Heart, should close the case. Dylan fans are like Baby Huey dolls, those inflatable figures with the big red nose and the rounded bottom, weighted so that when you punch them--punch hard, punch with all your might--they bounce right back, grinning the same frozen, unchangeable grin.

We can only make a guess how Bob Dylan truly feels about his fans. But it can be a good, strong guess. He's been punching those Baby Hueys for a long time, hard.

It's not too unusual for a performer to lack respect for his most worshipful admirers; he hears himself as they do not, knowing how far short of his hopes his performance invariably falls, despite their wild applause. Sometimes an artist will even hold his audience in contempt, though he's careful, for business reasons, to keep the contempt at least thinly concealed; Abstract Expressionist painters come to mind. But not since Don Rickles at the height of his powers--the second greatest artist of the past 50 years, some believe--has a performer taken delight in actively abusing the people who pay money to enjoy his act. And when Rickles did it, the people were supposed to laugh, and did. When Dylan does it, the fans pull their chins and think hard. Then they pop right back, Baby Huey-like, and start explaining.

Ferguson is only getting warmed up so read the whole thing.

This kind of things is hard for a fan like me to take but, well, the truth hurts, doesn't it? Dylan's best work is far behind him and when something contemporary of his comes up on the shuffle play mode of my iPod, I find myself gritting my teeth to get through it. He's become a chore to listen to and no artist should get to that point.

No, I won't be buying his Christmas album. Sure, I think the man's an American original and much of what he does amuses me but I have no explanation for this. Sorry, Bob.

Leonardo's Atlantic Codex, on Display at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan

This looks fascinating:
The Biblioteca Ambrosiana, which opened as one of Europe's first public libraries in 1609, would rank as a major tourist attraction in almost any other country. Its art gallery features paintings by Leonardo, Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio and the full-scale "cartoon" (or preparatory drawing) for Raphael's monumental fresco of "The School of Athens" in the Vatican Museums.

At least as precious, but ordinarily visible only to scholars, is the Ambrosiana's collection of manuscripts and rare printed books. Holdings include a fifth-century illuminated copy of Homer's Iliad and a 14th-century edition of the works of Virgil, with hand-written annotations by the Renaissance poet Petrarch. Yet no item in the library's possession can be more intriguing to experts and laymen alike than Leonardo's Atlantic Codex.

With 1,119 pages of drawings and notes, almost all of them in Leonardo's own hand, the Atlantic Codex is by far the largest set of works by the archetype of universal genius. Leonardo's more famous Codex Leicester, currently the property of Bill Gates, is only 72 pages long.

Clearly the work of a lifetime but, still, at 1,119 pages, Leonardo was not only a genius but a hard worker. Which should serve as a lesson to the talented - of which, I'm not one, alas: talent without hard work is meaningless. You gotta get up every day and put in the work.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fitzgerald and His Pat Hobby Stories

Though I've re-read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby within the last few years - if you're looking for The Great American Novel, here it is - it's been a long, long time since I've read any of his short stories. This might be a good reason to dig into at least the Pat Hobby stories:
When F. Scott Fitzgerald died in Los Angeles in 1940, he'd been laboring for a year and a half on "The Last Tycoon," a novel about a charismatic movie producer named Monroe Stahr. Published posthumously, this uncompleted manuscript would be called—by, among others, Edmund Wilson—the finest work of fiction ever written about Hollywood.

On weekends during those same creative months, Fitzgerald dashed off (for quick cash) a batch of tales involving a much different Hollywood type: a down-at-heels scriptwriter named Pat Hobby. The 17 Hobby episodes, printed in Esquire magazine between 1939 and 1941 and later collected into "The Pat Hobby Stories" (Scribner), complement "The Last Tycoon" and fill out his vision of the movie-town that fed and inspired him in his final years. The unfinished "Tycoon" is a masterpiece of modern-romantic tragedy. "The Pat Hobby Stories" is an acerbic comedy—one where the laughs often stick in your throat.

Fitzgerald's story is a tragic one - yes, much of it self-inflicted - but I liked how, at the end there, he was working on coming back to life. And, right up to the end, he was devoted to his daughter, Scottie. These stories sound like they may shed a little light of how things were before they ended.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Another Book I'm Not Reading

I gave Joshua Ferris' "And Then We Came To The End" an honest try. Really, I did. I tried to crack over a year ago and I should have listened to myself then. This time, though, I got about 150 pages done before giving it up.

Why not finish? Well, there's the annoying prose style I'd mentioned before to start with. It's just too precious. And then the seemingly endless parade of characters who come and go and seem to resemble one another too much. Finally, not much is really happening. An ad agency is spiraling down the drain. Who'll be next to go?

Oh, who cares, I say. I get the sense that the farther along I read, the less rewarding this whole venture will turn out.

Though Nick Hornby liked it, I'll take his advice about books you don't want to read: don't read them. So, I won't.

Chillin' With Emily on a Monday Night

Clara's teaching ESL and Rachel's hangin' with her peeps so that means Emily and I are chillin' on a Monday night. Anything she wants to do, that's what we'll do. A tip to the music store in Norman for some fun flute music? Perfect!

I haven't tried out my iPhone's camera much and this would be a perfect time. Well, except that with Daylight Savings Time and the season, evening falls fast and hard. That means night shooting which means a wide aperture and slow shutter speed. Combine that with a moving car and moving traffic and a shaky hand, well, you get this kind of art:

A steadier hand is called for to catch the busy, busy traffic:

Emily shows infinite patience for her iPhone wielding Dad and glows orange in the low light:

We dropd by the flute guy's place - you know, the flute guy, whose shop is near Bart Connor's gymnastics place off of I-35? Yeah, that flute guy. He'll take a look at Emily's flute and see what tuning up it needs. CODA auditions are this weekend and Emily demands her flute to be in tip-top shape.

On to the music store. We browse the sheet music bins until closing time. Snagged two books: one with Disney tunes and another with movie themes. Great choices!

What next? Emily says she needs a few things at Wal-Mart: shampoo, gum, candy. Gulp. Well, okay, if you says so, Emily. But Wal-Mart? Cue the ominous music.

Moon over Wal-Mart:

Emily's a study of movement in the Wal-Mart parking lot:

We get our things and head to the Quick Checkout line. And by quick, Wal-Mart means that's in theory only. The reality? Not so quick. Still, Emily doesn't mind so neither should I.

And then we're through and headed home. It's a beautiful night for a drive. Let's take the back road.

An outtake of David Lynch's Lost Highway? Almost! You'll note I'm traveling at a safe rate of speed for driving and photography:

Then we're home. The dogs go out, then come back in, and Emily cues up her DVR'd Law and Order episodes. I'm right there beside her on the couch. No place else I'd rather be than beside her, watching justice dispensed upon the guilty.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009

Yeah, I'm a day late but with as fine a day as we had yesterday, weather-wise, you don't think I'd make much effort to get to a keyboard and post about Halloween, do you?

Rachel had to work at Sonic - 50 cent corn dogs! - so it was just Emily and her friend, Sue, who made the trick-or-treat rounds. Sue's from Korea and this was her first time to indulge in this tradition. She loved it! Emily went as Alice in Wonderland and Sue went as Snow White. Emily briefed her on the trick-or-treat protocols and off they went, not to be seen again for the next few hours.

The weather was fine again this year and, like last year, Daylight Savings Time had yet to kick in so that allowed for a late start. We could count on one hand the number of kids we knew, replaced by a new generation who have recently moved into the 'hood. Of course, the carpetbaggers swept through later in the evening, the motors of their rides a'rumblin' in the street. Plenty of good candy for everyone with a few crappy pieces set aside for the sullen teens who couldn't be bothered to put together a costume. Emily and Sue made it back and we showed Sue the tradition of checking out the candy before consuming it; she seemed puzzled by this, not really grasping why anyone might taint the goodies given so freely. We didn't make a big deal of it but we eyeball her candy as carefully as we did Emily's.

We shut things down around 10:00. Rachel breezed in - $40 in tips! That's a ton o' corn dogs! - and then breezed back out to make a spooky, post-midnight visit to a haunted house with her friends and her friends' parents. Claimed it was a real haunted house. She rolled back in in the wee hours of the morning made a little less wee by the miracle of Daylight Savings Time. She was adequately, and thrillingly, spooked and headed off to bed.

Another one for the books, I'd say. Sad to see it behind us but as fast as time is passing it'll come rolling around again before you know. Besides, there's so much more ahead.

Bella is a Movie That Keeps Changing Lives

I've sung my praises of the movie "Bella" here and it made Andrew Breitbart's list of best conservative movies as an also-ran here but don't take our word for how fine the movie is. "Bella" is changing lives in all sorts of ways:

Like many of Jason Jones’ best ideas, this one came in the middle of the night.

A member of the production team that put out the pro-life hit movie of 2006, Bella, Jones’ previous nocturnal brainstorm had instigated Bella Hero, a campaign devoted to putting a copy of the film in the hands of every visitor to a crisis-pregnancy center in the United States.

Next came Bella on Campus, which raises funds to pay for college screenings.

Now, because of a chance meeting with a New York City beggar, drug addict and ex-con to whom he had given a ticket to the movie the day before, he had a new idea and a new target market.

He instantly called up Tracy Reynolds, one of his key partners in Bella Hero, and pitched it: “Why don’t we screen Bella in prisons?”

The movie's pro-life stance doesn't interest you? Fine. See the movie anyway for a rich experience about family and love and redemption. And food. You're not against food, are you?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

White House Hosts Trick-or-Treaters

Man, this would've been so cool if you were a trick-or-treater in the nation's capital:
The first lady was dressed as a leopard, with a smear of eyeliner, fuzzy ears and a spotted orange-and-black top. The president was dressed as a middle-aged dad, with a black cardigan, checkered shirt and sensible brown slacks. Together they handed out treats on the steps of the north portico of the White House Saturday night, sending some trick-or-treaters into fits of shock and joy.

Of course, there's always somebody willing to spoil the party:
There were, of course, real spooks roaming in the gray, foggy distance. On the far end of cordoned-off Lafayette Park, a witch held a pink sign that said "This White House is haunted by ghosts of Bush's war."


Good on Obama and the Mrs. for making a memorable Halloween for a lot of kids.

Where The Wild Things Are - Movie Review

Where The Wild Things Are may have been one of a favorite book of your children's but I'm not sure the movie version will play well with them. The makers seem to have forgotten who their audience is - the movie is rated PG for a very good reason and while children can tolerate cinematic intensity in the right context, this isn't one of them.

The book, of course, is so much shorter than what's depicted in the movie but the plot essentials remain: a wild-mannered little boy escapes in his imagination to a place where the wild things are but eventually returns to his safe home. The locations have a strange but familiar feel - credit the Australian countryside for providing scenery like you've never seen before but maybe might have - and the costumes and sets are imaginative and could be worth the price of admission alone. But there are great stretches of time where not much really happens and then brief periods of intensity that are frightening. Yes, the creatures are extensions of the little boy's imagination and psyche but what's hinted at about their troubles goes far deeper than the book. There's a reason why the book is so short - children should only contemplate their fears for a short period of time before being reassured that everything is going to be okay but the movie's length - it claims only a minute more than and hour-and-a-half but it seems much longer - makes this impossible.

So the movie is really aimed at adults and adults may enjoy, like I did, the technical accomplishments of the movie but they may not find that enough to justify the price of admission.