Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections of 2009

As a rule I resist those sappy Christmas letters sent out to friends reliving the past year. But I will tell you that 2009 has been a thrill ride! The second half of the year sucked from a financial and business point of view. That part of the ride I could have done without! 2010 looks to be better in that regard. But I am thankful for my blessings.

* Asher (the newest of the Triple As) was born. This year I got to spend more time with the Grandsons and it was great.

* We found out that our daughter, Lindsey will be giving us our first grand-daughter!

* My son, Nate, joined the firm.

* My wife, Carol, has still not figured out that she married beneath herself.

* The people that make up the Architectural design firm of which I belong, are the greatest group ever.

* My Church is beginning to Mature.

*and I got to see world class concerts, travel to cool places, go to great events and write this blog and share with all that stumble onto this site.

The Best of 2009

Best Concerts: U2, Brad Paisley, Paul Thorn, ACM awards
Best Architecture: 21st Century Cathedral, Oakland, California

The highlight of 2009: I received a letter from my DAD!

Happy New Year!




Mike's 15 Favorite Movies of 2009

The rules for this venture is they are movies seen in 2009. Two of the movies were actually 2008 movies that did not reach Oklahoma until after the new year. I then looked back through my reviews and only considered movies that I gave 4 stars or better. Then it got subjective!

My Top Ten + Five:

In no order past the first five! The Bold are my picks as the best of 2009


The Reader (2008) ***** stars

Up ***** stars

Up in the Air *****stars

Invictus ***** stars

Hurt Locker ****1/2 stars

Precious ****1/2 stars

Blindside **** stars

Inglorious Basterds **** stars

Soloist **** stars

500 Days of Summer **** stars

Avatar **** stars

Brothers **** stars

Sunshine Cleaners **** stars

Everybody's Fine **** stars

Sister's Keeper **** stars

Precious



I have saved the movie, "Precious" as the last movie of 2009. Actually, that is not true. I spent the day in Tulsa and did not want to drive back to see films not shown in my fair city. That is not totally true either, "Precious" is a movie that I knew I needed to see, but I kept putting it off.
"Sherlock Holmes" is fun. "Invictus" or "Blindside" is uplifting. "Precious" is raw, real, and rough. As the New York Times pointed out "Blindside" and "Precious" have basically the same story with very different points of view, outcome, etc. Although this movie is fiction based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire, it is not your typical popcorn movie. I forgot my popcorn as soon as it started. The story is about a 16 year old pregnant over-weight black girl in Harlem who is trying to go to school. She already has one child and both kids are from her father who has abused her all her life. Her Mother (from Hell) played by the comedian, Mo'Nique, has NO redeeming value. You hate her instantly. As you can see, this is not the feel good movie of the year, but it is one of the best. The directing is superb and the cast including Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Mariah Carey, Paula Patton and Lenny Kravitz are so real it is spooky.

It is a movie of hopelessness and HOPE. It is excellent but Raw. If course language is a stopper, stop.

You will leave this film thanking God for your blessings. I wish this was fiction, but sadly it is not.

I give it ****1/2 stars.

2009 Movie #87

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mike goes to a squeakquel!


You know, I went to see "Godfather 2" and realized about 30 minutes into the story that this movie was just as good as the original. Well tonight it happened again! We took our grandsons, Avery and Addison to see, "Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Squeakquel". I have it on good authority that it was just as good as the last one. I asked Avery to rate the movie from one star to five stars and explained that one star was like an "F" and 5 stars an "A". He stated that the squeakquel was "a bazillion percent A+". I take that to be *****star. I must say that I was never bored and even enjoyed watching them play and sing the Kinks, "You really got me now" (One of my favorites from the 60's).

Yes this movie has just what 6 year old and 20 year old boys require: 2 or 3 fart jokes, someone getting hit in the privates, slap stick falls and a few practical jokes. Come to think of it, replace Alvin with Adam Sandler and throw in profanity and you have every Adam Sandler movie!

I give this "Bazillion percent A+"

2009 Movie #86

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CSI-London, Sherlock Holmes



I went to see "Sherlock Holmes" today and had a great time. Robert Downey and Jude Law work very good together and the movie has great wit. Yes, it is sort of CSI at times of which I am NOT a fan, but it is great fun. There is always fun it Robert Downey Jr. is involved.

I give it *** stars.

2009 Movie #85

yikes!







Monday, December 28, 2009

leaving the past behind!


One of my personal goals was to get rid of 50% of my office paper before 2010. Today I started by going through boxes stored in my office closet. I had files going back to 1989! It was a trip back into the past dating back to the four previous firms that I have been connected. I am a pack rat by nature and many things were discarded quickly for fear I would reconsider. I am going by the theory, "If it means nothing to everyone else, it has no value." Of course I saved a few "gems", but so far I am proud. The bad news is, I have a long way to go!

I have been involved with many projects that would surprise my associates, but life is too short to burden them with my past.

It's Complicated? No not really.


When I see a preview of a movie with favorite actors, I get excited. When one of them plays an architect, I get very interested. So today I went to see "It's Complicated with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin (as the architect). I don't want to spoil anything for you, but I thought it was not complicated at all. I was disappointed. Well, the movie was just like the preview, but I guess I have been seeing a higher level of film than this. The great actors were great, but each one played characters that they have played many times in better stories. We are always amazed at Hollywood's take on architects! They showed this architect Martin as a wienie and his office looked architectural, but everyone had drawing boards and no computers. It was sad.

Steve Martin made a mousy guy (I had one who worked for me.) They could have made Baldwin the architect (the obnoxious prick). Actually, I know both kinds. I think I'm in between, but that's just me talking.

I give it **stars.

2009 movie #84

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Movie Week


Tonight we went to see "Avatar" for the second time. Its training for Movie Week. Starting Monday, we will see four more movies in 2009 and probably 2 more before Sunday. Last year we saw 74 movies at the theater. Our peak year was 95. This year we have seen 83 as of tonight! Yikes!


2009 movie #83

Got Books!





Santa was good to me yesterday. He checked my list and came through in a big fashion. I got a certificate to BLURB that will allow be to bind my 2009 posts into a book. AND I got some new books to occupy my driving time. First was the new Mitch Albom book, "have a little faith" a true story about an 82 year old Rabbi and a Detroit pastor (ex-con) who preaches to the poor.
Next is Pat Conroy's "South of Broad". This is "The Prince of Tides" author's latest novel about life in Charleston, South Carolina. Conroy's books are intense because he takes you into the world he knows so well and develops his characters as well as any living writer. And next is John Grisham's first collection of short stories "Ford County" Six stories of the people of Mississippi that only he can introduce us to. The common thread of these books is that the stories are based on the places where the authors live. The people they speak of comes from REAL life.

My January reading is set.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

White Christmas with Robert Frost


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

Pretty Paper


If you don't have your sound turned up on your computer, please do so. I'm playing a version of the Willie Nelson Christmas Classic, "Pretty Paper" this time sung by Kenny Chesney and Willie.




When our son, Nate, was small he liked to sleep listening to Willie's album of the same name. I have listened to it for many years myself and did not know the story behind it until today when I ran across it on CMT's web site. When Willie wrote this song, he was living in Fort Worth and the man in the song was a double amputee who hand both legs removed above the knee. he would scoot around on the sidewalks by his palms and stumps. He set outside Leonard's Department Store in Downtown Fort Worth selling pencils and paper calling out, "Pretty Paper".




Roy Orbison first found Willie's song in 1963 and made it a Classic. I must say I never paid enough attention to the words until today. When you listen to these words now, everything changes:




"Crowded streets busy feet hustle by you


Downtown shoppers, Christmas is nigh


There he sits all alone on the sidewalk


Hoping that you won't pass him by


Should you stop better not much too busy


Better hurry, my, how time does fly


And in the distance the ringing of laughter


and in the midst of the laughter he cries


Pretty Paper, pretty ribbons of blue........"




Be thankful for all you have




Merry Christmas

slices of life







Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Up In The Air and Flying High!




I have been looking forward to seeing the new Jason Reitman movie, "Up In The Air", starring George Clooney. It is listed as a comedy/drama and deals with a corporate downsizing company who flies the country "firing" people. Clooney's character, Ryan, is one of their best and he has life figured out. He even gives seminars about it. He is the ultimate believer in traveling light.
He also is a master traveler approaching 10,000,000 miles. But that is not the movie.

The movie deals with you and me and on what is important our lifestyles. What is shallow? What is family? Who is important and what is important. There is to female actors in this film, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. One is a fellow forty+ something frequent flyer that he "hooks" up with out on the road. The other is a twenty something assigned to him and has sold the company a plan to replace Ryan. I bring them up because there is a scene in a hotel lounge where the two compare the goals of life. It is an ultimate display of generation gap.

What is disarming about this film (like all Reitman movies) is the originality and lack of worn out lines. Like "Juno" and "Thank You For Smoking" the director gets your full attention whether drama or comedy. He does what I crave in good movies: He challenges me to think.

FYI: It is R rated for f bomb language and a brief semi nude scene. But this movie is too thought provoking for such things to matter.

When I saw "Blindside" and "Invictus" I thought that I had scene a great stories and they were. They were also true. Great Fiction is even harder. This is a great movie for any "thinking adult". It is as good as I have seen Clooney.

I give this one ***** stars (5)!

2009 movie #82

PS: In one scene in the movie they are trying to tell George's character the benefits of using the computer conferencing instead of taking trips and say, "This way you don't have to spend Christmas in Tulsa!"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar: Blue Man Group goes to Space





Tonight, I saw the future of Movies. "Avatar" was worth the wait. The 3D was everything that it was predicted to be. The movie is hard to explain except to say, think "Dances With Wolves" on another planet. It had a "Star Wars" feel because everything was so well conceived that the creatures, blue people, plants and everything made sense. The movie cost 500 million dollars to make a market and it showed. HBO is showing the "Making of Avatar". It is worth seeing. James Cameron showed that Titanic, Aliens, and Terminator were the forerunners of what he was capable of doing. Reviewers say the story is weak, but they also said the story did not matter. This is a movie for the senses. FYI: There is cussing and a lot of killing so it is not that much like Star Wars. It is a great way to kick off Holiday movies.

I give it **** stars.

2009 movie # 81

Christmas Past: Christians without Christmas

This morning at church we had an Advent Service composed of singing Christmas Carols about the coming of Christ such as "Joy to the World", "Little Town of Bethlehem", etc. combined with readings and remarks by our minister, Kevin, concerning the 4 parts of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. It was a great service. I am proud that the church I attend now has joined the rest of the world in celebrating the Birth of Christ.

My mind kept wondering back to my childhood and the church of my youth. That church would rather be righteous than be joy filled. You had to choose!

You see I was taught that Christmas was a celebration apart from Christian beliefs. This time of year the preacher would point out that Jesus was probably born in the summer. He would also point out that our group celebrated Jesus birth every week not just Christmas (This was a variation of the sermon near Easter, which was not acknowledged by our group either!) Then the preacher would deride those that just come to church for Christmas. The only time our church would sing Christmas hymns was in the summer to further our narrow minded beliefs.

By the way, Our church has a Christmas tree, wreaths and lights. I've come a long way, baby!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Holiday Tours and Peeing




Tonight we took our two oldest grandsons (6 & 3) to two drive-thru Christmas parks in our town. First we went to Pizza Inn and then on to the Castle to drive thru the World's Largest Yard Inflatable Collection. The boys had a great time with their windows down and shouting at each new turn. Our next stop was Honor Heights park and the almost 2,000,000 lights decorating the trees, azalea bushes, and special displays. On the way the boys (all of us) decided to go pee before getting in the long line of cars. I knew an empty parking lot near the entry and we pulled in. To our surprise three young deer were grazing by the road. After doing our thing we got in the long line of cars. With in to minutes, Avery started saying that he had to "go" again!
In this bumper to bumper line Carol told him that he would have to use a drink cup. Well, he tried to be careful! As we were nearing the exit, the chorus started again that both needed relief again. We found another good spot and pulled over. We stopped at WalMart to finish a little shopping and yes one more rest stop.

They really did not drink that much!

On the way home after seeing a see of decorations and lights the boys thought that the deer was the best of all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Communication

New Years Resolution: I should stay out of the way at work more often.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Brothers, Part 2, Life

Today my oldest brother called me during lunch and asked if he could come to see me. When he arrived he told me that he had found a letter at my Mother's house while going through our dad's papers. It was a letter that Dad wrote to all three of us brothers in June, 1972 and never sent us. Dad died in 1985. Bob handed me the letter and I read it slowly and emotionally. My Dad was speaking to me after all these years. In the letter he spoke of how proud he was of us and how talented he thought we were. He challenged us, boys, to become elders in our church someday. He retired from work in 1972, heart trouble caused by a massive heart attack four years earlier had altered his life. He talked about his prayers for us and how when he was in the hospital with that first attack, he promised that if the LORD would extend his life, he would work to spread the word. This is a portion of that letter:

"When I was in the hospital about four years ago, not knowing if I would recover or not, I promised my LORD that if HE would allow me to live that I would do my best to fit myself for service in HIS Kingdom. So you see I have so much to be thankful for and much to do to keep my promise. I don't want you to wait for something like this to happen to show you the necessity of doing more and more for the cause of Christ and The Church. I am a firm believer in Phil. 4:13- I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST THAT STRENGTHENS ME."

My Dad was an Elder for at least 20 years. One Wednesday night, after teaching the adult class at church, he just slumped over the speaker's stand and left this world.

It was hard to read that letter, but I will cherish it. The hard part was that like the movie, "Brothers", we brothers went different ways. One brother attends church now and then and the other has not been in church in years, even though in five years after this letter, he was a full time minister for a while. On the other hand, I did become an Elder, not because of a letter, but because of my Dad's life.

I am not bragging or saying that I won or something, I am saying that letter would have killed me if I had not taken a "less travelled road". I didn't know what to say to my brother and he was taking the letter hard. He asked if it should be sent to our brother in Florida and I said, "He wrote it to all of us and we all should read it."

I think my Dad is still doing the work of his LORD.

Dad was 55 when he wrote this letter and I have passed that point. I see the need for a letter like this. I want my children to read his message so that they will know their Grand-Dad and their legacy.

This letter will speak to me for quite a while.

Brothers, Part 1, the movie



Tonight, we went to see "Brothers" the new Toby McGuire and cast. Just saying "cast" is not enough. It was like eavesdropping on a family's life. Even the two small girls should get an award. This movie is about two brothers, sons of a VietNam Veteran Marine. When the movie opens, one brother is just getting out of prison and the other, a Marine, is about to ship out for a second tour of Afghanistan. As the movie unfolds they deal with role reversals and the effects on the mind, body and soul. This is a stout movie and not light holiday fare. It had a different effect on me because of the day's events that we will talk about later. This movie is REAL LIFE. Life that sadly is lived out throughout the world. As a matter of fact this is a remake of a European movie. By the way Toby lost twenty pounds during the movie to make it true to life.

As is my nature, I will not tell the story. That's for you to discover. This movie is for people who read or see serious tales. It is "R" for REAL.

I give it **** stars. It is the season for the award winning films to come out. Here is one.

2009 movie # 80

Monday, December 14, 2009

Favorite Christmas Stories 1


This Christmas the Grandsons will be getting a computer for Christmas. A Computer! I got my first real computer in 1998!

But in 1958 I wanted a record player, real bad. The old record player in our house would only play 78 rpm records, and with rock and roll hitting its stride, the hot item was a player that could play 45 rpm records! These were single vinyl records with an A side and a B side. The A side was the "hit". 45's sold for a dollar each and considering the cost of an itunes download was a bargain.

Anyhow I wanted a "real" record player. I dropped all the hints that a 10 year old could, and hoped for success. Christmas came to our house on December 15 and not a day sooner. We would go to the grocery store and looked through all the trees lining the walls near the entrance. Our family always got a 4 foot tall spruce tree. Once home we placed it in the little water-filled stand and set it on top of a large decorated cardboard box. This base raised the tree to near 5 foot six inches. After decorating was finished the long wait for the presents began.

Another of our family traditions was that Santa always came about 9 pm on Christmas Eve! Though none of us boys believed in Santa (me being youngest), we were sent back to our parents bedroom to wait while Santa delivered presents. Their room was used because it was the only bedroom with a door.

Our parents would say that Santa was there and we headed out to see the presents. As I located mine, I saw that none were large enough for a record player. I opened my gifts with as much excitement as I could muster but did a lousy job of not showing disappointment. When everyone finished viewing the gifts, my Mother said, "Mike, Are you going to open your last present?" I looked but saw nothing. My dad then walked over and lifted the tree off the decorated box and said, "Open This". There was a fantastic (gray with a pink front") RCA record player with an automatic changer and the ability to play 45 OR 33rpm records.

My first 45 was "Danny and the Juniors" song "At The Hop". Later would come Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Domino. It was the biggest surprise ever!

Later, I realized that, because my bedroom had on electrical receptacle, that my brothers would have control. They had one receptacle near the door so that became its home. It was however my beginnings of music appreciation. Later in high school I essentially worked at the OTASCO store for free for a couple of months on Saturdays while I paid off my first stereo. It cost $75.00!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Forgiveness


The movie, "Invictus", and Tiger Woods have had several effects on me. The movie portrays Mandella moving forward after 30+ years of prison, abuse, and wrong by his enemies. Having thirty years to think, he chose a course that none would expect. He didn't "throw the bums out", he worked with them. He didn't exact revenge, he moved forward. They saw no worth in him, but he did see theirs. It is something that we study and say we believe, but we don't practice. In the USA the victor always throws the others out. And the "others" do not want to go forward when failure of the "victor"is possible. We worship celebrities until they screw up and then we rejoice for someone to make fun of.

Clint Eastwood, the actor, played cowboys who took revenge, always. Clint Eastwood, the Director, has examined forgiveness a lot lately. He pealed back layers of World War II to see the affects on both sides. In "Gran Torino" he explored how we are ruled by what we carry inside. "Invictus" (like the Bible) says, "You know, Mike, it can be different."

"Invictus" and "Blindside" also made me dust off my old poetry books, again and led me to another couple of verses. Byron once wrote the famous quotation:

"There's so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it doesn't behoove any of us
To talk about the rest of us."

The poet, Joaquin Miller, liked Byron's quote and responded with this"

From "Byron"

In men whom men condemn as ill
I find so much goodness still,
In men whom men pronounce divine
I find so much of sin and blot,
I do not dare to draw a line
Between the two, where God has not."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Got Malled today!

Invictus, Convict us




Tonight, we went to the movies and witnessed "Invictus". This movie is what you go out for. I would not want to see it first on a TV. Clint Eastwood is a master director just as Morgan Freeman is a master actor. And Matt Damon fits in that category as well. The movie is the retelling of the story of Nelson Mandela becoming President of South Africa after spending 30 years in prison. It's focus is his belief in Forgiveness and the need to avoid revenge. He decides that the national Rugby team needs to get to the World Cup. Rugby is a white person's sport and to the blacks, a bad symbol of the past. Damon is the team captain. I know nothing about Rugby, but I did not seem important. I picked up enough along the way to get excited in the final scenes. The Soundtrack, the acting, the use of the poem (see last week's post) and the imagery were tops. I saw no weak points in this.

It is a convicting story. Great for all!

It is ***** star.

2009 movie #79

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bogging



Today I passed another personal milestone with the blog: 40 states and 20 countries.

Tiger Would (I mean Tiger Woods)


A while back at the British Open, an Irish Newspaper ran suggestive photos of a woman they said was Tiger's model wife. He was highly angered by this and the paper later admitted that the photos were of another person. We ALL were on his side. How dare they!

In the past few years Tiger Wood has represented the Best of Golf. He has been the poster boy for excellence. After he got married to a model, everyone said well he can have whatever he wants. Had anyone in the media made references about him being a Black golfer with a white wife, or made jokes about his life, we ALL would have been on his side. How dare they?

Suddenly Tiger is being portrayed in every possible bad light. It is up to your imagination. Tiger is no longer a good guy. People are even saying, "Who does he think he his? He wants us to believe that he is a family man, but he is a over-paid jerk."

Today on my XM Radio there was an advertisement of where to turn for the latest Tiger information. They listed 8 different channels.

In our "theoretical" world, Sunday, we read where Jesus says, "He who is without sin cast the first stone." But then we listen to David Letterman (of all people) the rest of the week. I or no one condones what we have told happened. But when I get into these conversations I realize that I am no better than the "Inquirer". In our "Theoretical" world we do not believe in gossip, but today's not Sunday. On Sunday we talk about "loving your neighbor as yourself", but we show that we would want everyone to turn on us if we sin. I have heard all these stories about what Tiger may have done, and until the Books are written and more money changes hands, we will gossip.

Last night we were at a basketball game. During player warm-ups, Carol and I were looking at our I phones. A lady walks up a jokes about us watching our phones. Carol says, "We are catching up on the news of the day." The lady asks, "Well how many women are we up to now with Tiger?" I say "7". She responds, "Your behind. It's 9". Then I thought to myself, "Why did I get sucked into this so easily?"

I guess we like other people's wrecks. As Ira Hays once said, "Don't tell other people your problems, 80% don't care and the other 20% are glad your having problems!" Its not supposed to be that way, but I guess that's just on Sunday.

Society likes for you and I to mess up and sin. If not there would be no "Desperate Housewives".

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's beginning to look somewhat like Christmas!

I've been thinking about the state of things, but not ready, yet.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Everybody's Fine



You've been there and so have I. Someone asks, "How's the family?" "Everybody's Fine." Why go into it? But what happens when your parents ask? How much do you tell? You will also be more likely to tell your Mother than your Dad. Why is that? Oh, don't bother DAD.

The movie, "Everybody's Fine" starring Robert DeNiro examines that family tradition. The movie starts with DeNiro's character, a widower for the last 8 months, inviting his four grown kids for a weekend at the family home. One by one they call and leave messages (lame messages) that they can't come. He decides to surprise them by going to New York, Chicago, Denver, and Las Vegas for a visit. At this point your thinking, awkward family holiday comedy. You would be wrong.

Yes, he is a duck out of water and there is some amusement along the way, but this slowly gathers into a storm of an ending.

This movie deals with an all too common fact. His wife knew everything about the kids, and any problems were hidden from old DAD. Let's not disappoint old Dad.

Now Dad is on his own and finds that his kids are hiding their lives from him. His was not disinterested, he was just busy with work. Early on in their lives, he preached doing their best and make dad proud. They decided that they could not meet his expectations and chose to avoid him (without knowing HIS true feelings.)

This is a good movie for dads. It was a hard movie for me. I choked up more than once and at one point, I was on the verge of crying. Not trying to drive you macho guys away, but you need to see this.

As a Dad, the decision between advice and interference is sometimes very hard. We don't speak when we should and occasionally speak when we shouldn't. This is why we don't tell others how to raise kids. I was raised by a good dad who worked night and day and didn't say a lot, unless asked and then it was to the point. That was my role model. So this movie grabbed me in a big way.

DeNiro starts the movie and you think this is an easy movie for such an acclaimed actor, but as the story unfolds, you sees his value. I really like this.

I give it ****stars.

Added feature: Paul McCartney wrote and sings the title song at the end during credits. he wrote it for the movie after watching the story and being moved by it. Another great job!

2009 Movie #78