Monday, December 31, 2012

Less Traveled Roads Seinfeld Style

Happy New Year!

Parental Guidance

We decided to end the year with a little comedy and save "Les Miserables" for the New Years Day.  I am a Billy Crystal fan and while I like Bette Midler's singing, she grates on me in comedies.  It held true tonight. They play the "other grandparents".  You know them. They are the ones that live the farthest away from the grand kids and don't get to spend as much time with them.  I instantly identified with Billy.   It is about the generational differences in parenting.  Each's ideas seem foreign to the other.  The young think we old are just senile.

It was a funny but pointed story.  And every one lives happily ever after.

I give it **1/2 stars.  2012 movie # 46

Last year we went to 61 movies
2010 we went to 62 movies
2009 we went to 87 movies

So in 4 years we have almost cut our movies in half!

Reflections of 2012

This has been an unusual year.  My first full year of being an employee instead of Manager or Owner since 1978. All of the time during that span I have been responsible for payroll and receivables especially the past 18 years.  I have been Partner, owner, Principal Manager, VP etc. for a long time.  While I still have many of the same responsibilities as the past, THIS YEAR THEY DIDN'T COME HOME WITH ME.  Most younger employees want security in their jobs, but I know that their jobs have NO security.  I know what is going through the boss's mind, and it doesn't bother me at all.

The firm is continuing to grow and after working only in eastern Oklahoma for most of my career, I now have projects in Shawnee, Lawton, and the Panhandle which has given me needed variety.  I lost a couple of long time clients to politics but was amazed that I wasn't bothered. 

My family continues to grow and excel.  My son had a severe medical set back that messed up his health and his job.  But he and I see God stepping in to improve his life and his future.  We all mend when the LORD is our Shepherd.

I have slowed down a lot and made some changes. Minor Changes include: replacing NASCAR with the Thunder, going to less but better movies (45), and reading even more.  Major Changes still in progress include: Learning to be present and in the moment, learning  deeper prayer and relationship with GOD and learning to let go.

My church family is in a state of change.  I usually would be "Hip Deep" in the changes but for the first time feel that I have been told to sit it out.  It goes against my nature, but it is not mine to say.

It has been a good year but 2013 will be a great year.

My favorites:
Favorite Concert:   Tie: George Strait,Martina McBride  &  Paul Thorn
Favorite Movie: Lincoln
Favorite Books:  Steve Jobs, Soul Work by Randy Harris
Favorite Sports Event:  Thunder vs Lakers (Playoff game)
Favorite Event: with Carol

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Less Traveled Roads

Mike's 15 Favorite Movies of 2012

The rules for this venture are: All movies were seen in 2012 at the Theater.  A couple were up for 2011 academy awards but did not get to Oklahoma until this year. I looked through my reviews and only picked movies that were 4 stars or better.  This is subjective.  There were several movies at ***1/2 stars that may be just as good. AND there was at least one movie that is on everyone's Top 10 that I did not like (The Master).

Top 10 in order:

Lincoln  *****
Bernie    *****
Hunger Games *****
ARGO ****
The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel ****
Moonrise Kingdom ****
Perks of Being a Wallflower ****
Silver Linings Playbook ****
Life of PI ****
Late Quartet ****

Second Five:

Hope Springs ****
Artist ****
Iron Lady ****
Django ***1/2
 That's four but I haven't seen  "Les Mes"  yet!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking for "Silver Linings"

Sometimes I go to movies that are so well acted that I feel like I am watching real life. Eavesdropping.  "Silver Lining Playbook" is that kind of movie.  I must say that I was uncomfortable for the first half of the story.  This is a dark comedy about serious subjects. Bradley Cooper plays a guy who has just been released from a metal institution. He had been their eight months in lieu of jail for something key to the story.  He is bi-polar and OK when on his meds, but he doesn't like taking them.  He lives with his parents who live for the Philadelphia Eagles games with he dad being a "book maker" taking bets on games.  He has a friend, Chris Tucker, who keeps running away from the institution and Cooper's character meets a girl (Jennifer Lawrence )who has as many problems as he because of her husbands death.  Everybody's Crazy!   But everyone has a theory. In this case our main character believes in looking for positive silver linings.

About half way through the flick, I forgot the eavesdropping and was emotionally invested.  It is sometimes difficult to watch because we have similar problems in our lives or the lives of our loved ones.

Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games) and Bradley Cooper carry the story, but supporting actors are like Robert DeNiro and Chris Tucker.

Not your typical popcorn movie.  I have to use your mind.

I give it ****stars.  2012 movie #45

Django - a Guilty Pleasure

As a Movie goer, sometimes you are confronted by decisions.  The preview looks good but should I go?  That's hard. For sometimes the trailer shows every great scene and the rest is filler when you watch. Sometimes it looks funny and safe only to find that the language is shocking as are the scenes.  What's a person to do?

For "Django Unchained" I have a questionnaire to assist you:

1. Do you like Quentin Tarantino movies?  If no don't go.
2. More specifically, did you like "Inglorious Basterds"?  If yes this will be a success?
3. Do you like to laugh at crazy dialogue?
4. Since you know that Tarantino likes bloody action movies, do you know that the exploding packets of red are NOT real blood?
5. Have you ever watched a "Southern"?  (A western that moves East)  Do you want to?
Were you a fan of slavery and wished the South had won the war?  If yes don't go.

That was a public service.

As for me, it was a wild ride for a two and a half hour movie.  Christoph Waltz was my favorite as the German Bounty Hunter and frees slave Django to help him find some bad guys.  Django wants to find his wife who was sold to a plantation somewhere in Mississippi.  The adventure begins.  It is a great cast that seems to enjoy their roles and brings there best.  Even the minor characters are major actors.  Actors like Don Johnson and Bruce Dern have great cameos. The director even shows up in the final scenes.  Again, you have to look past the blood (Not constant but effective when it is). Tarantino takes you right up to the edge and I think:  I'm not watching this and then he doesn't actually show the bad scene and then suddenly he does.  Yikes.  The first ninety minutes are hilarious and the dialogue is very witty. The remainder of the movie is the climax of revenge (spaghetti western style).

Actually, the entire movie is a send up of the old Clint Eastwood westerns where  one guy can shoot about 40 bad guys in 5 minutes, with cool music in the back ground.  Leonardo Decaprio is at his ornery best.

Unlike the movie critics, I give it ***1/2 stars.  Not probably in my top ten, but close.

2012 Movie #45.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Late Quartet

Remember what I said about "Jack Reacher" the action movie with car chases, fights and jerks?
"A Late Quartet" is absolutely NOTHING like that.

This is about the days leading up to the 25th anniversary of a well known string quartet in New York City. The world renown Fugue Quartet is about to change as the group's beloved cellist (Christopher Walken) is diagnosed with Parkinson's and this knowledge causes suppressed emotions, egos, and passions pour out.  It is about the bonds of a tight group with 25 years of history and the power of music.  The piece of music that frames the story is Beethoven's Opus 131 String Quartet in C Minor (I looked it up).

While this movie will not be seen by most who will stand in line to see Reacher or "This is 40", etc., It may be as good as any with the possible exception of "Lincoln".  It is great acting with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Mark Ivanir and Imogen Poots.

It is a treat for music lovers and movie lovers.

It is ****star.  2012 Movie #44

Jack Reacher

If you are old enough to remember the Dirty Harry movies, you know the feeling of meeting a character that is ALWAYS in control of the situation.  I would think to myself :  I would like to be that guy. Fearless, Calm, Unrattled, and Assured.  Pretty Cool.

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher is that guy.  He has a reputation as an ex-military investigator who seemed to have disappeared.   The movie opens in a horrific way given recent events:  A sniper kills 5 innocent people from a perch in a parking garage and is soon caught.  In police custody he says he needs "Jack Reacher".  Mr. Reacher appears and we hang on for the ride.  He is the character like Dirty Harry that we just grab our popcorn and watch.  The young punks smart off to him and we think:  "You shouldn't have said that."

It is a PG13 joy ride.  Robert Duvall has a short role backing him up and is of course perfect for the job and the part.

I enjoyed this Christmas blockbuster.

I give it *** stars.  2012 Movie 43

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Guilt Trip

It 's been too long since I've been to the movies.  I finally said to myself that though the good Christmas movies won't start until tomorrow, I would find one of the better bad ones.  That would be "The Guilt Trip".    It is not a bad movie, just not a grand movie.  Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand are the main players. And the first half the movie is excruciating!  It is several minutes of a nagging Jewish Mother who meddles in her grown son's life.  AND THEN just when your ready to leave the theater, it gets good.  The movie is a road trip across the country and is funny, sad, crazy and real. Sometimes too real.

The Seth character is an inventor trying to sell his product to big box retailers with no luck and takes his Mother across country to places like Nashville, Lubbock,  and Las Vegas.  It is PG-13 with only one F-bomb (and not by Seth.)

It was what I needed tonight.  But I'm ready for the big movies,

I give it 2 1/2 stars.  2012 Movie #42

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cruise Control

I enjoy driving the turnpikes using Cruise Control.  I always come up on someone driving about 65 while talking on their phone. They are usually in the fast lane, but when I pull around, they notice that I am going by and speed up so that I can't pass.  They suddenly drive about 80 and pull over to block!  I am set on 75 and soon they get engrossed in the conversation and slowly drop back to about 72, as I change lanes to pass again. Then?  You got it :  They go 80!

Something that really charges drivers up:  If I'm in our Prius and pass a big Ram truck, they seem to drop their phones and zoom out to 85 because they're not letting some Japanese Electric car pass them!

Who do I think I am?  It is easy to tell who uses Cruise Control and my survey says Very Few.

Two Good Books

I just finished two good reads. "The Panther" by Nelson DeMille is the third part of the Story that is a follow up the "The Lion". These stories are about the FBI/CIA terrorism task force.  This book takes place in Yemen as shows the brutal lives of the people in that country dealing with harsh government, the tribes and the terrorists.  If interested, start with the "Lion's Game" then "the Lion" and then this.  AS always, I suggest you download the audio.   It is better than a movie.

Of course, John Grisham always writes a story that will be you eager to read, read, read.  It is a little departure from most of his lawyer tales, and it also involves the FBI.  While I won't tell you the story, if you like stories like "Absence of Malice" this is for you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Don't just watch Tv, Wait for Help

See this great add?  150+ channels for only $34.99,  WOW

My 92 year old Mother does not like her cable service.  I cuts on and off, completely undependable, and does not get ESPN2.  She is a big sports fan.  I told her how much I liked our Direct TV and said I would set it up for her.  I did an Internet look at the D-TV web site decided what I needed and started to sign up right then.  In the bottom corner a message center popped up and a text message said,  "My name is Ben how can I assist you?"  I typed, "I have Direct-TV and would like to get it for my mother at a different location. Is that possible?"  Says he, "Sure, as a matter of fact, by doing it this way you will receive $10 off your monthly bill and  so will your mother." Well lets get started.  I didn't get far before I realized that I needed info from my account and bailed.

The next day I decided to use the direct phone approach.  I called the number and started by telling them my request.  They said they only handled new accounts and gave me another number.  That number was also wrong and after 4 times and 30 minutes, I was sent to the "Moving 
Department".  I told them my need and they were ready to help.

I told the lady that my Mother was 92 and only needed two standard receivers.  She:  "Does your mother have HD?"  Yes  "Well we can give her HD receivers for FREE"  What about a DVR?  She would not use it I say. She: "It's FREE.  She takes down all the information about my account and sets up hers. She then starts summarizing:  Two HD services at $10 dollars a month each, and two DVR services at $6 dollars a month each.....   I stop her and went, "Stop, you told me this was free?"  The equipment is, but the use cost is an add on!"  She went ahead to mention other costs that I objected to.  She explained these are services you bought on your other account to which I said No and she said: "That's the way it is."  I asked, "What is the monthly total?"  She said $97.00.  I asked. "what happened to the 34.99?  She said, "That's for new customers only.  Since you are existing, this package costs $69.99 plus the additional costs."  


I then went back to their web site and typed in my Mother's info and got everything complete and then an error message popped up.  Her street address did not match her ZIP CODE.  We have that Address and Zip since I was 10!

Today, driving down the street  I see that Radio Shack handled D-TV.  I was there.  Everything was finished in 10 minutes for get this $34.99.  Can you believe it?

She said she needed one more thing. She needed my account number so that I could get $10 a month off my bill for recommending a new customer.  COOL.  I did not have the number and told her that I would call it in from my office.  AND I did.

Five minutes later she called and said that D-TV did NOT recognize this account?????????????

This is truly an unbelievable offer.