Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections of 2010

2010 started with great promise and ended badly (business wise). We built our architectural firm around great talent and stretched to have everything necessary to serve our clients. We expanded our Tulsa office and we hired additional staff. Our great promise crashed in the last month losing a possible $26,000,000 in work by failing votes. We have been forced to downsize and start again. Our staff is still top notch, but we will need things to rebound, if we are to be who we should be.

I also realize that there is much more to life than business success. I would work for McDonald's if I could care for my family. I have gained much in my life and I have many good years left to excel in architecture. My focus is to grow as a person, a father, and husband, a PaPa, a friend and most of all, as a follower of My LORD and Shepherd.

I have been blessed much this year:

*Our grand-daughter, Kinley, was born and is our PERFECT Grand-daughter. Even though she lives in the wilderness of Texas, we relish every chance to see her and Lindsey and Jeremy.

* Avery, Addison and Asher have made my life more complete. I see in my grand children things and times that I thoughtlessly let slip with my children. Grand Children gives us a second chance to do it right. I covet my time with the Triple A's.

*I am also extremely proud of my kids and their spouses. Both families are such great parents. They please me in wondrous ways.

*Nate in our business has such a vision of the possibilities and will be key in turning our firm around. Lindsey is growing in her career and has moved up the ladder quickly. Both know how to serve others.

*My wife, Carol, is my best friend and the glue of my life. She continues to surprise, to radiate love, and to show others the way to live life correctly.

*I am growing in my journey with my LORD, not in ways anyone would notice, but in a more trusting relationship. I want to walk with GOD.

* My Church continues to grow because we have great leaders that show me how to live, how to worship, and how I should be more of a servant than is my nature. This year, if you read my blog, you witnessed my conflict with a couple of Christian brothers. It was not a pleasant experience but is was necessary in the great scheme of things. I expect it to be resolved in 2011.

* Now to the year's trivia:

Best Concert experiences: Carole King & James Taylor
ACM Awards and Brooks and Dunn Tribute in Vegas
Best performance: Jennifer Hudson singing "Believe" at the Brooks & Dunn Concert.
Best event: Blue Man Group Tour
Favorite Performers: Brad Paisley and Paul Thorn (saw them twice)
Best Architecture: City Center in Las Vegas
Best Trip: Whenever Carol is in the truck with me.
Favorite Books: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and Crazy Love

Mike's 12 Favorite Movies of 2010

The rules for this venture is that they are movies seen in 2010.

Some movies that will be up for awards have not reached Okie Land.

I looked back thru my reviews and only considered movies with 4 stars or better in a 5 star maximum.

There were twelve.

The King's Speech (*****)
True Grit (*****)
Social Network (*****)
Get Low (*****)
Inception (****1/2)
Black Swan (****)
Winter Bone (****)
City Island (****)
Scott Pilgrim vs The World (****)
The Fighter (****)
Despicable Me (****)
Easy A (****)

Last year I went to 87 movies. This Year I went to 62! 25 less and dropping. I am getting a "little" more discerning. We only walked out of one movie (Jonan Hex), but only saw 2 movies twice (Dinner for Schmucks and True Grit). My worst movie of 2010 was "Brooklyn's Finest" *star.

There are two movies that I have not yet seen that I wished I had: "The Kids Are Alright" (on dvd) and "127 Hours".

There are several popular movies that I missed gladly ("Little Fockers", etc.)

My runner up movies (***1/2) are:

Dinner For Schmucks
Ghost Writer
How to Train Your Dragon
Book of Eli
Edge of Darkness
Robin Hood

The King's Speech

I saved one of the year's best movies for the last day. This is a perfect movie to end this trying, difficult and disappointing year. "The King's Speech" is based on the true life of King George VI of Britain, the King at the start a WW2 and the father of the future Queen Elizabeth, the current monarch. It is a behind the scenes story of the King trying to overcome his stammer and his fear of public speaking. I liked this movie on so many levels. Radio is in its infant state and the Royal Family is faced, for the first time, with communicating with the nation (live) just like current leaders face 24 hour news cycles. Colin Firth is the King who has a speech problem and Geoffrey Rush is the Speech Specialist (a commoner).

1. It shows that no matter what our station in life is (rich , powerful or down and out), all of us have obstacles to deal with.

2. It shows that sometimes the people we know best and are not on our side.

3. It shows that sometimes people are placed in front of us that can help, if we will trust them.

This movie is so well acted, directed and filmed. Colin Firth will surely be nominated as will Geoffrey Rush. This movie is rated R because of language. The speech teacher pushes the King including forcing him to use profanities, pushes him to rage, etc. to unlock his problems. The F-word is used (awkwardly & in two occasions) but is central to the story.

This is another ***** star movie. On the level of True Grit, but totally different!

2010 Movie #62

Thursday, December 30, 2010

True Grit #2

Went to see True Grit for the second time. It is as good as the first time. I did find out that the movie was made in New Mexico for the snow scenes and around Austin, Texas hill country to act as eastern Oklahoma. The Coen Brothers said they could NOT trust Oklahoma Weather because it changes too fast. Us Okies feel the same way. Today it is almost 70 degrees and New Year's day it is going to be 40! So, if you squint your eyes Texas hill country looks like the Oklahoma hills. Not quite the look of the John Wayne version that was filmed in the Rockies! (See the poster).

2010 Movie #61 and still *****

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tangled up in Movies

We wanted to go two the movies tonight, but about all that was left was "Little Fockers", "Gulliver's Travels" and "Tangled". I wanted a good movie so it was "Tangled". Great Choice!
"Little Fockers" is the third in the series which is one movie too much. Jack Black's Travels is just that. Another time for Jack to be Jack. "Tangeled" is the only one of the three that will be up for awards. It is on the level with last year's "UP". It is also an animated movie for adults. Nothing bad in it mind you. The humor, songs, and story is something adults will get. Yes, it is based on the story of "Rapunzel" but you'll like it.

"Rapunzel, let down your hair. The little Fockers are tying up Gulliver with your hair!"

Very good use of popcorn. I give it ***1/2 stars.

2010 Movie# 60

Come on new year

It can't come fast enough!

Nook- My Future has arrived

I am a reader. I think it started with my Dad. Every day of most of his working life, he would arrive at home after work, rested in his big chair and read the "Muskogee Phoenix". I then went to school and started receiving my "Weekly Reader" paper. In the Seventh grade I had my first study hall and began reading Jules Verne, "20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" and his other books.!

I have mentioned before that I read a lot of newspapers. I one time I read 4 papers a day and five on Sunday. That became harder as the papers started getting in trouble and quit sending the news to us non-urban sorts.

So for Christmas, Santa gave me a NOOK-Color. YES, YES, YES

I still receive the Tulsa and Muskogee papers in my drive, but I also receive "USA Today" and "The Oklahoman" on my Nook. If I want the "New York Times", I can purchase that day's paper and the same with the "Dallas Morning News". This will save a few trees. It is my future of reading.

The Barnes and Noble people aren't dumb. I now subscribe to two magazines and bought a Max Lucado book. Unlike my MAC or the iPads, the battery on the Nook lasts a month. I have wi-fi
but it is not true tablet PC. I have an Iphone and a small Mac so I have what I need.

This is the future that I read about in my Weekly Reader. I just don't understand why cars still have wheels?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace on Earth

Black Swans and double meanings

A funny thing happened on the way to the movies this Christmas Eve. First there were few people at the theater, but as I approached the young ticket guy and say, "Two for Black Swan". he looks at me weird and said, "This is an R rated movie and the manager says it is very graphic." I looked at him and he goes on, "I mean it is VERY graphic." and then he said, "This movie would appeal to teen age boys, if you know what I mean." I looked at my wife and told her that I had read several reviews and nothing like this was mentioned. I had tickets in hand and said to the boy, "Well, if it is to rough, we will leave and go in to see "Tron." He said, "I didn't hear that, but if you go in the the 3D version, get glasses out of the recycle bin. Black Swan is real graphic."

We went in to "Black Swan" not knowing what to expect. Actually, I was expecting an abundance of nudity, profanity, violence and sex. You know, VERY Graphic. I looked at my watch about an hour into the show. No nudity, Little profanity (one actor said the F-word twice for the rating. Once is just PG-13). To get this out of the way: There is one lesbian sex scene with no nudity but you know what was happening.

Now to the Movie: The movie is about a ballet troupe working, competing and performing "Swan Lake". It has some of the typical dance movie conflicts of two dancers that each want the starring role and the Director who drives them and the Stage Mom who interferes. But as Swan Lake portrays a pure girl who first becomes a white swan and then morphs into a evil black swan, so goes the movie. It is very Hitchcock!

Natalie Portman stars and stories I have read says she practiced dance for THREE YEARS to prepare for this. (Just like Mark Walberg in "The Fighter".) She is remarkable and the rest of the cast is great. It look me about 30 minutes after the show to have an AH Ha moment and say, "Oh I get it!"

This movie will convince you again that Ballet Dancers are great athletes.

I give this four stars. I didn't enjoy it like "True Grit" but I appreciated how it was crafted.

I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been expected it to go wild, crazy and VERY graphic! I still don't know what the ticket guy was thinking. I guess he was trying to save old people from being embarrassed.

2010 Movie # 59

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This movie has True Grit

Yes, it is time for the great movies for the Christmas season. Tonight it was the Coen Brother's new movie "True Grit". The brothers have made many of my favorite movies including "O Brother", "Fargo", "Raising Arizona", Blood Simple" and "No Country for Old Men". I clearly remember the John Wayne version of True Grit with Glen Campbell and I have always thought that it was a week movie where Mr. Wayne just played John Wayne and they gave him an Academy Award because he had not been honored. This time it is Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. The movie is true to the book and the dialogue is tremendous. It is fun, it has action, and it portrays our part of the world in a noble fashion. The movie is set in Oklahoma Territory and Fort Smith. While I don't know where they filmed it, I looked right. I bring this up because the John Wayne version had the Rockies as a back drop in most scenes. I will say again this is a great movie. The girl that plays Mattie is superb also. It is a story where the 13 year old is the mature one and the grown men act like kids.

I did notice that Jeff Bridges and John Wayne had their eye patch over different eyes! Jeff pulls off the drunken Marshall better than the clean cut John Wayne, Pilgrim.

I give this movie ***** stars.

2010 Movie #58

Bad Decembers

This is not the worst December in my life but it is close. Of course the worst was the death our our daughter in 1979 just before Thanksgiving. Next would be 1985. My father had recently died, My partners stiffed me and I resigned from the firm I was in, only to be followed by Foreclosers, Bankruptcy, etc.

So this year comes in third. Because of an abrupt and costly happenings, our business took a bad turn. We have had to make many changes and get smaller fast.

Failing Bond Issues and a client that reneged on a promise, slashed our work load. In the last two days I have been to tell three staff members that they are loosing their jobs. I have let several people go over the years, but not like this. Layoffs usually allow firms to weed out the weaker staff members. This time such was not possible. I had to tell very accomplished, talented people that their job was gone and just before Christmas.

There are two rules that I was taught in Business:

1. Never hire anyone that you are not willing to let go.
2. If it ever gets easy to end some one's employment, you are no longer qualified to it.

This was hard. I feel so emotional about such things that I can't get through such meetings without crying. It may show my weakness as a business person but I can't help it.
When I hire someone, I am not just getting an employee, I am accepting responsibility for their families. It hurts when I can't make good.

Each of these individuals are so talented, that I expect them to come out much better with others. But for now I am blessed to have worked with them.

I am old enough to know that none of us know what is ahead our journey, but as I travel this less traveled road, I have everything a person needs: A Father, SON and Spirit that leads me and loves me in spite of myself, a loving and unbelievably great family and the optimism of a great life ahead. The exact same things that got me through the other bad Decembers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Real Santa

I stopped believing in Santa by the Second grade. I had noticed that Santa always got to our house by 9pm on Christmas Eve. My mother would send us boys back to the back bedroom so that Santa would come. They would shout that he had left and they rushed to the living room to find stuff under the tree besides the wrapped presents. So when I was about 7 my 12 year old brother engaged me in a conversation about Santa. When I resisted, he said, "I'll prove it to you."
He took me back to our parent's bedroom closet and showed me where the gifts were hidden.

So-o-o, Here comes third grade and in December some of my friends were still talking bout Santa and I said to Mike Nesser, "Santa is not real." He went to our teacher Mrs. Sanders and told her what I said. She glared at me and shouted, "What are you saying? You don't know what you're talking about young man. Of Course there is a Santa Claus!"

Those words shook me and I got scared and started crying. I was in big trouble. I raised my hand and asked if I could go to the bathroom because I got something in my eye. She let me go.

I never discussed that subject again until High School when Mike Nesser remembered my statement and we had a good laugh.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tale of two movies: Winter's Bone and The Fighter

I have been trying to see "Winter's Bone" since it was released, and I finally watched it and this movie was worth the wait. This story deals with a down and out Ozark family that will loose their land and house if the dad fails to show up for a court date. This movie deals with "meth" and the people back in the hills of Southern Missouri that are not mentioned at "Silver Dollar City." This film was so realistic that it had the feel of ease-dropping on a real family. The Girl, played by Jennifer Lawrence, seems to have to fight with everyone including family to reach her goal.
This movie won Best Picture at Sundance Film Festival. After the movie I said to Carol, "I'll bet people on the east coast can't relate to this depiction of Ozark life."

Then, we went to see "The Fighter" starring Mark Walberg and Christian Bale. It is a true story of two boxers (brothers) from Massachusetts. This story deals with a strange family that lives on the older brother's past glory and controls the younger boxer's life. This movie deals with "Crack" and the people who Boston would just as soon ignore. The Young boxer has to battle against his own family to reach his goal. This is also a real movie because it is true. This is no "Rocky" this is life. I read the Sports Illustrated cover story about this family and it is very, very honest and true. Mark Walberg worked for 10 years to get this movie made and he trained as hard as any boxer for the film.

Profanity Alert: In this movie the F-word is used as noun, verb, adjective and adverb and sometimes in the same sentence. It is probably as real as anything else, but I sure had to eat my words about people on the east coast. The family in this movie would embarrass Hillbillies.

Both are excellent films and will be up for the Academy Awards and are already nominated for the Golden Globes. Both movie's main characters get beat up and Both movies are **** stars.

2010 Movies 56 & 57 (two of 2010's best)

Friday, December 17, 2010

How Do You Know?

Good Question! I've been asking that all week in my world. Tonight, I went to the movie with the same name. The cast is spot on to the characters. And the story was spot on. The main characters, Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon, find their lives turned suddenly upside down just before they meet each other. Throw in two vain people and the story really takes off. There are several things about this movie that relate to my current situation, but somehow the movie made me feel good all over. It is a good, smart comedy. It is rated PG13 because Jack Nicholson says the F-word three times quickly at the beginning of the movie and never cusses again. Just for the rating.

The only bad part of the movie was the lady that sat behind us. She laughed too loud and in too many places that were not funny. She wanted to be heard. She would belt out a big laugh and then get the hic-ups which she belted as well. Then after the movie, she pushed people aside in her hurry to the restroom. She doesn't get out much.

The movie though was good. I give it **3/4 stars.

2010 Movie #55

Thursday, December 16, 2010