Something to talk about

Any group of people, whether it is business, high school, church, or some other association, will have people that perpetuate the gossip and rumor mill. This attribute is as old as the hills. People are going to talk.

One of our favorite artists, country-blues singer and accomplished slide guitarist, Bonnie Raitt, had a huge hit about this very subject, “Something to Talk About.” Here is middle verse and the chorus to give you the gist of a co-worker slowly realizing that another co-worker seems to be as smitten as she is.

“I feel so foolish, I never noticed
You act so nervous, could you be fallin’ for me?
It took the rumor to make me wonder,
Now I’m convinced that I’m goin’ under.
Thinkin’ ’bout you every day,
Dreamin’ ’bout you every night.
I’m hopin’ that you feel the same way,
Now that we know it, let’s really show it darlin’.

Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
(Somethin’ to talk about)
A little mystery to figure out
(Somethin’ to talk about)
Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
How about love?”

I love this song as she turns the rumor mill on its head. The rumors about them “standing a little too close” made her think and realize that is exactly what they were doing. The video which aired is clever, with Dennis Quaid acting as the interested and interesting co-worker.

Rumors at work do fly. It is hard to follow the advice of Dr. Wayne Dyer and defend the absent. But, that is what we should do. Yet, I shared the story of how a colleague was in a group dinner with a new senior executive who talked about everyone when each left the table. My friend said he did not want to go to the restroom as she would talk about him. It is hard to defend the absent when you might be next.

It is also hard to date someone at work for this reason. Yet, with limited social time, it is not uncommon to meet you future spouse at work. My wife worked at a small company that sublet some of our office space. What tickled both of us is a colleague of mine took credit for introducing us, when that was not the case. She actually told my future wife I was dating someone, which was not true, so she almost waylaid our plans.

So, if you do date someone at work, keep the PDAs to a minimum. More importantly, be prepared to ignore what people are saying as it is none of their business. As a friend, who actually met her husband at work, told her high school students she counseled, “if you do not take offense, you are not offended. Don’t cede your power.”

So, if you give them something to talk about, be OK with being the subject matter.

Wednesday wanderings mid-October style

October is one beautiful month, which is ironic as its charm surrounds death. The beautiful leaves are making their final show of wonderful colors across the spectrum. Yet, they are just about to pass away and fall from the tree.

At the end of the month, we celebrate “All Hallows Eve” or “Halloween” as it is better called which is the eve of “All Saints Day.” Per Wikipedia, “It begins the observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed.”

Kids just recognize it as a time to dress up in costume and when people actually give you candy. How fun is that? I recall my oldest dressing up like a clown where we painted his face. He was so proud, but just in case you could not guess what he was, instead of saying “trick or treat,” he would say “I am a clown.”

We live in a young neighborhood (not due to us), so we get about 80 to 100 trick or treaters. We love the costumes, but one of my favorites is when the whole family dressed up as ‘The Incredibles” family of superheroes. Seeing Mom and Dad share in the fun with their two kids was fun.

By the way, one reason we get so many trick or treaters is our house is known as the “big candy bar house.” My wife will not shortchange these youngsters, so a full Hershey bar is the prize. Of course, we have to watch enterprising adolescents who like to come by more than once. I do want those bars gone, as we will eat them otherwise and don’t think someone in their 60s cannot get acne. God has a sense of humor, you know.

For those who are born in the first two-thirds of the month or the last part of September, you have the added benefit of being a Libra. Supposedly, Librans are well-balanced. It would be interesting to see if Librans have a higher percentage of independent voters than other Zodiac signs. I do think of the statue of Lady Justice, which the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” used as a fade out, when Librans come to mind. I used that movie, as of course, it is about death.

Happy October. Enjoy the leaves while on the tree. Jump in the piles when you rake them like you used to when little. And, trick or treat.

Four more movies worth a look

I decided to mention a couple of movies that are more mainstream. Some of these, you may have seen. So, here goes. I will not spoil the endings, but must caution you on reading the comments.

A Perfect Man – released in 2013, it stars Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn, with a co-starring role for Louise Fletcher. I have always liked Tripplehorn, as she brings a vulnerability to the role of the wife of a womanizing husband played by Schreiber. She continued to give multiple chances to her husband until she finally leaves him. After over-hearing him talk to a perfect stranger on the phone as he canceled airline tickets for them, she decided to call him as a wrong number and fake persona to hear him flirt and open up with her. She learns why he is the way he is and that he does, in fact, love her. The movie is directed by Kees van Oostrin and is written by Larry Brand and Peter Elkoff.

The Good Heart – released in 2009, it stars Paul Dano, Brian Cox and Isild Le Besco. Cox is a cantankerous bar owner who has a bad heart, which is not a surprise given how he lives. He befriends Dano in the hospital who is his roommate after Dano tried to commit suicide. Dano is a kind soul who is in need of a helping hand, so Cox’s character brings him into the bar to help him. They learn from each other, but their relationship is tested when Le Besco, a woman who has no place to go, is invited to stay with them over the bar owner’s objections. Cox plays irascible characters quite well and Dano has this innocent countenance about him. The movie is written and directed by Dagur Kari.

Tully – released in 2018, it stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis and Mark Duplass. Theron plays a mother who is suffering from post-partum depression while nursing her third child with her husband played by Duplass. Theron has never hesitated to play roles of women who are struggling. Davis plays Tully who is hired to be a night time nanny, so the mother can get some sleep and recover. Davis tells her she is only there to help her get over this period. The two women bond as Theron sees a lot of who she used to be in Davis. The movie is directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody.

The Sixth Sense – released in 1999, it stars Bruce Willis, Hayley Joel Osment and Toni Collette. Osment and Collette were nominated for Oscars as was M. Night Shyamalan as director. and writer, and the movie itself. My wife was puzzled that I had not seen such an acclaimed movie. Willis plays a child psychologist who helps a tormented young boy who we know from many movie advertisements, “I see dead people.” Collette plays Osment mother and there is a reason she also gets an Oscar nomination. Olivia Williams plays Willis’ wife who we learn is suffering from depression. While the movie focuses on the boy and his doctor, the mother-son relationship is also key. And, Willis and his wife’s relationship is not unimportant as we see him struggle with his wife’s depression wanting him to do more to help her.

All four movies are good, but the latter two get more acclaim and rightfully so. Let me know what you think below. Also, I will repeat to those who have not seen the movies to be mindful of spoiler alerts below in the comments. Commenters, please edit your comments to not reveal too much of the plots. .

Immerse yourself with Van Gogh

My wife and I went for a second time yesterday to see the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit that has been making its way across the country. This time we took two of our adult children to experience it. They enjoyed it as much as we did. What is it?

It is a blend of wonderful music highlighting Van Gogh’s wonderful art as it appears slowly at times and explodes on occasion onto every wall of of a large exhibit room. The fact it is not a rectangular room aids to the viewing, as you could change your position on your bench seat (built for two or three) and see nooks of art or turn around and see a larger wall.

The viewing is of repetitive segments of about fifty feet long where the art comes alive. The immersive experience has the computer presented art actually moving, whether it is shimmering light on water from a town across the inlet or birds flying in the trees or people smoking in a room

Van Gogh was highly prolific in his art, I believe because he was a voracious painter. He had a self-portrait of the artist wearing a straw hat with lit candles around the brim, so he could paint at night. His paintings of fields of flowers are experienced in large viewing form, as well as his paintings of cafe scenes, empty streets, starry nights, and people. He captured people so well, showing that we are an imperfect lot, himself included.

The people in his scenes reveal an observant man. One of his series of paintings seem to be of men lined up to go into a mental asylum later revealing the less than inviting halls of the place. This is likely from his own experience as he spent time there of his own accord. I think that may be an additional reason for his appeal. He was both talented and tortured. While this song was not one that was played, I have always had a fondness for Don McLean’s “Vincent” which is also referred to as “Starry, starry night.”

If you get a chance, I encourage you to go see it. It lasts about fifty minutes, but the time passes easily. I attached a link which shows the various cities it has and will play. It will be here in Charlotte for the rest of the month.

Entertainment from abroad

My wife and I watch several shows that originate out of Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. What I find most interesting is the dialogue tends to be more extensive than American dramas, which is one reason actors from abroad are asked to play roles with a lot of dialogue in American made movies. “Loving” about the interracial marriage the US Supreme Court blessed in the 1960s, starred an Irish Black woman and a White Australian man, eg. as the Virginia couple.

I won’t mention them all, but here are a few to glean your thoughts. We are big fans of two shows, one from Australia and one from Canada, based on the same theme. “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” and “Frankie Drake” are two sides of the same coin about a female detective in the 1920s who is both smart, inventive and Avant Garde. Both star ensemble casts and have excellent theme songs to start and end the shows.

There are also two shows based on the same theme from Canada and Great Britain. “Coroner” from Canada and “The Coroner” from Great Britain are about female coroners working with a supportive detective. We like the Canadian version a little more as the coroner is dealing with some personal anxiety and depressive issues which involve her husband’s death and father’s worsening dementia.

From Great Britain, we have long been fans of shows where we have now watched every episode – “Call the Midwife” based in the late 1950s and early 1960s, “Father Brown,” and “Doc Martin.” The latter show is worth watching just to catch the beautiful coast. We also are big fans of “Midsomer Murder Mysteries,” “Endeavour” and “Grantchester” although we enjoy the first minister the best.

There is a Canadian show that just completed its series called “Burden of Truth” about law and personal partners dealing with a rigged system against the disenfranchised. We are sad to see this one go, as the leads were very human and humane. They were less than perfect, but were on the path to do the right thing.

From Australia and New Zealand, we enjoy ‘Doctor Blake” about a confident but caring medical examiner with a complex past as well as a show called “A Place to Call Home” about a Jewish woman and nurse who falls in love with the oldest son of matriach controlled wealthy family. We also enjoy a couple of comedies one called “800 Words” about a man who writes an 800 word column whose wife is killed in a car accident and moves his kids to a town on the coast of New Zealand. The columnist also starred in a show called “Packed to the Rafters” about the adult family and father moving in during the housing crisis.

There are many short series we watch as well. Usually these are four to six episode seasons. ‘Unforgotten” is a British show about a unit that solves old crimes that pop up with a discovered body and ‘The World at War” about the lead up and early part of WWII. But, there are many others.

Lately, we have been watching “Marple,” an old series about Agatha Christie’s less flamboyant sleuth, Jane Marple. The stars that appear in this show, either after their biggest fame or before their fame begins, is amazing. I wish this show came on at 8 pm rather 9 pm, as my wife and I are no longer night owls.

Let me know what you think. Please share your favorites, as I know we have missed many.

A few more movies worth a visit

We have seen a few more movies since I last gave an update. Some we rented from the local non-profit video store I have mentioned, others we saw on the television and one we just saw in the theater. Let me start with the more recent theater one and go back in time from there.

Dear Evan Hansen – This is a movie based on the highly successful musical play starring Ben Platt who played the first Evan Hansen on Broadway. The theme is complex and very sobering and the music is well done sung by a host of high school and parent singers. You will go through a range of emotions, so please bring some tissue. The story is advertised in the previews, so it won’t be telling too much to say Evan Hansen, a troubled teen, was asked by his therapist to write a letter to himself. Another troubled teen steals the letter from Evan and unfortunately commits suicide leading his parents to believe Evan was their son’s friend, when they thought he had none. The movie was directed by Stephen Chbosky and also stars Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani and Julianne Moore.

16 Blocks – This one is surprisingly good, but I wondered why I did not remember it coming out a few years back. In essence, Bruce Willis plays a disgruntled, weather-beaten cop who was set up to fail in delivering Mos Def’s character in protective custody sixteen blocks to testify against a rogue cop. The relationship between the two men evolves especially when Willis’ character decided to do something unusual – the right thing. It is directed by Richard Donner and also stars David Morse, Jenna Stern, David Zayas.

Local Color – This movie is also surprisingly good. It is a coming age of movie based on a true story about an artistic (and observant) eighteen year-old who wants to learn from a renowned, but reclusive artist who lives near by. The teen is played by Trevor Morgan with Armin Mueller-Stahl playing the curmudgeonly artist who is far more complex. Samantha Mathis plays a nearby friend of the artist who reminds him of his long ago deceased wife. She is getting over the loss of her son due to a car accident, so she is also in need of some healing. Key small roles are played by Ray Liotta as Trevor’s father, Ron Perlman as a self-professed art expert and Charles Durning as an early mentor. The movie is directed by George Gallo.

Conflict – an old black and white film is an excellent movie as well. It stars Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Greenstreet, but this time in reversed roles. Bogart plays the antagonist in this one, with Greenstreet an observant doctor. The movie is advertised as Bogart’s character killing his wife because he is in love with her sister, which happens early on. From there I will leave it to your imagination. I was wondering why I had not heard of this movie before and it may be due to Bogart playing the heavy. The movie was directed by Curtis Bernhardt and also stars Rose Hobart as the fated wife and Alexis Smith as her sister.

A couple of other movies that are also good are “Trucker” with Michelle Monaghan and Nathan Fillion about a mother who has to take care of her son while being a trucker, as his father is dying and “Phone Booth” starring Colin Ferrell, Forrest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes and Kiefer Sutherland which is about a sniper forcing a selected man to stay in a phone booth until he gets satisfaction with the man confessing his sins to his wife and mistress. I would also give high marks to “Biutiful” with Javier Bardem, but this one is in Spanish with subtitles and “3:10 to Yuma” with Christian Bale and Russel Crowe.

Let me know what you think. If you have seen them, please share your feedback. Are there others you have seen that are worth letting others know?

Five easy memory tricks – once again for emphasis

The following brief post has been repeated for emphasis, as we all could use a little help recalling names of actors, friends, places and events. Fortunately, my wife knows my shorthand and can ascertain whom or what I am speaking about with a few phrases like “do you remember that place we used to go to near the mall…” or “isn’t she that actress in the show we liked about the Australian doctor….”

With two of our four parents succumbing to complications due to Alzheimer’s, memory maintenance is of interest to my wife and me. Readers’ Digest ran an article by Andrea Au Levitt called “5 Easy Memory Tricks.” Her intro paragraph follows:

“You know that eating healthy, staying active, and solving a few brain games can help keep you sharp. But these lesser known habits work wonders, too.”

1. Sit tall – when slouching it follows or promotes defeated, anxious and depressive thoughts, which hinder memory.

2. Exercise – once – gains in memory after one exercise are similar to gains after regular exercise (note still do the regular stuff).

3. Limit TV – including online versions of TV, too much screen time can harm cognitive development and maintenance.

4. Doodle – people can remember things better if they doodle or draw a picture of what they are thinking of. Writing the words of the thing is not as memorable as drawing a picture.

5. Walk backward – real, imagined or watched walking backward or even forward, can help remember something. So, in keeping with #2 above, take a walk (and walk backwards on occasion).

Let me take one of the above and break it down more. One of the examples from Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Talking to strangers,” notes that torture is a horrible way to gain information. Why? Under trauma, people remember less than they would normally. The comment about sitting tall in #1 above, notes if we slouch we increase anxiety or depressive thoughts, a mild form of trauma.

Outside of the walking backward, I do the above things. The sitting tall actually helps this tall person with his back. As for doodling, for some reason when I work the various puzzles in the newspaper, I blacken in the circular letters (O’s, D’s, P’s etc.) in the title of the advice section (sorry Dear Abby). Maybe it helps me with the puzzles (or advice).

As I leave you, think of Barbra Streisand walking backward singing “Memories light the corners of my mind, Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.”

The Eyes of Tammy Faye – a review

My wife, two boys and I watched “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” this week which is out in theaters. It is about the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Baker of the PTL Club. For those who may not know, PTL stood for Praise the Lord, and the club was a very popular Christian tele-evangelical show that raised a lot of money. Unfortunately, the money brought in could not keep up with the money going out.

The movie stars Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye and Andrew Garfield as Jim, along with an excellent supporting cast, including Cherry Jones as her mother and Vincent D’Onofrio as Reverend Jerry Falwell.The movie was directed by Michael Showalter and written by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Abe Sylvia. Chastain wanted to produce the movie after seeing a documentary that painted Tammy Faye in a different light.

The movie is excellent, but our main reason for wanting to see it is we live in Charlotte where the rise and fall took place in the 1980s. We remember the award winning newspaper articles in The Charlotte Observer and a radio DJ who had a recurring comedy segment called the “Pass the Loot” club. Tammy Faye was mercilessly teased for wearing an awful lot of make-up and crying on camera. As Chastain said in an interview, I watched many hours of footage and I never saw her cry so much that her make-up ran, which was a popular spoof.

Her husband was a narcissist who had to have things his way, even forcing his wife to apologize to him on air when she strayed (his straying at the same time would come up later). And, all the negative press about his fraud on his “partners” as he called his faithful, were, per Jim, reporters out to get him or who just did not like him (he was later found guilty on 24 counts of fraud and went to prison).

What we learned from the newspaper reports, national interviews and his trial, that the Bakkers had a lavish lifestyle built off the hard working donors who sent their money. As Jim famously told Ted Koppel in an interview, “the Lord wanted him to have nice things.” He arguably is the first prosperity preacher at least on air. Now, there is a whole flock of them. But, the key to his fall was his taking in more money based on promises of lifetime stays at a Christian resort that he could not possibly fulfill. So, the only answer was to sell more, in his mind, not unlike a Ponzi scheme.

There was a sex scandal with a young woman, who I won’t name, that was more scintillating than his fraud. Per the movie, we also learned Tammy Faye’s infidelity was a due to an inattentive husband who had wandering eyes for men and women. Forcing his wife to apologize to him on the air was unnerving given what we learned about Jim later. And, per earlier segments, the apology appeared to be a ploy to raise money.

Yet, a key takeaway is Tammy Faye actually had a more progressive view of treating everyone fairly, like Christians should, as she noted on air. A key example is she had an AIDs patient on her show whom she interviewed via satellite. She was outwardly moved by his plight and told her viewers that everyone is the same in God’s eyes. It was very touching. But, that seemed to be par for the course even though her willingness to help was frowned on by Falwell’s Moral Majority.

The part that seemed surprising in the movie is her lack of awareness of the fraud going on. She did ask questions and got poor answers, but she did not follow-up. She was too trusting of her husband when he had abused that trust. His narcissism was, in part, a defense mechanism.

To their credit, you have to applaud their rise through the ranks of tele-evangelists. More than a few of the old guard scoffed, but at their height of fame they had 20 million viewers. Yet, it truly was all smoke and mirrors. God may have wanted them to have nice things, but he sure did not mean for them to take donations from poor people to buy them.

The movie is worth the look. It can be silly at times, as Tammy Faye was an over-the-top personality. Yet, Chastain does an excellent job of showing some depth that needed more exploration. And, Garfield plays Jim Bakker quite convincingly.

Weekend warrior wisdom

Now that pro and college football (the American version) have started their new seasons, watching, betting, imbibing, overeating and playing by those who are less talented at the game will begin. Here are a few truisms of which to be mindful as we watch the games.

Monday comes early for Sunday drinkers watching football.

Fantasy footballers need to be wary of those who use multi-variant regression models to select their players. Bet what you can afford or don’t bet at all.

Tuesday comes early for Monday drinkers watching football.

A football is not round so it bounces in peculiar ways. Remember that when you wager.

Football players do not get that big and strong without chemical help.

The best of football helmets will not prevent the brain from rattling around in your head when hit on the field..

For every Tom Brady who plays that long, there are thousands of players who won’t make four years in a football career.

There are two halves to every football game. Do not celebrate victory before it occurs.

Finally, college success does not automatically translate into pro success – the pros are bigger and faster and the significant majority of college players from the bigger universities will not make it to the pros.

Enjoy the seasons. Don’t drink and drive. Wager wisely.

Dating dilemmas – a repeat performance

The following post was written about five years ago. I was inspired to repeat this post by our blogging friend Cindy who shared her setting up her daughter with a blind date, where the lack of follow-up frustrated the mother and daughter both.. A link to her blog is below.

Being a tall person, I have had my share of dates who were much shorter than me. I have even dated a few women who were under 5 feet tall. But, those height differences are very manageable and provide interesting stories. The dating dilemmas occur when something surprising happens.

Here are a few I encountered, some funny some not so.

Why must you be so rude? – the first example occurred when I took a date to Disneyworld for the day driving from my home 3 hours away. The dilemma is she was rude to other people, cutting lines, being curt, impatient, etc. I was captive while there, but could not wait for the date to end.

You want to go there again? – I dated someone for a couple of months, but I learned she liked going to the same two restaurants that her family went to. She was charming and nice, but after going to one place a half a dozen times and another more than a few, I was encouraging of other venues. That was not the reason our relationship waned, but I must confess not going back to those two restaurants ever again.

We really must pray before the meal – one of the funniest blind dates occurred when a friend set me up with a minister without telling me. I was not expecting the answer that she gave me when I asked what she did. She was a nice woman, but I was too immature to get past thinking it was a sin to imagine carnal knowledge with a minister.

Prom dates need to pace themselves – I think many of us have had prom dates where too much drinking occurred. But, our double date before the prom started consisted of far too many Screwdrivers. When we arrived first to the prom, my date waved with a big gesture to the other couple when they arrived. When she did she fell backwards and for some unknown reason, I was able to catch her with one arm, six inches from the ground and straighten her up. Talk about scared.

Did you like how I parked my car?  – when dating a college friend, I offended her when I suggested we use her car, so a friend could use mine. She broke our date after I arrived, so I tried to back down a long, hilly and angled driveway. I drove off into a rock garden and my car got stuck. My last sight of her was as she watched from a large window as her father towed my car off his rock garden. 

Where did that horse come from? – as I was sneaking out of my girlfriend’s parent’s house after she moved into their basement apartment, I was unaware her horse was in the field next to the driveway. At 3 am, while pitch black dark, as I edged toward my car, the horse snorted and scared the bejesus out of me. If a horse could laugh…

I guess my audition failed – this actually occurred with the above horse owner. We went to a community play where folded chairs were placed on raised platforms. When we returned from intermission, unbeknownst to me, one of my chair legs moved off the back of the platform. As I took a sip of wine, I noticed my date moving forward in slow motion. In actuality, I was falling and made a huge crash when I hit the floor on my chair. It was indeed funny and the only thing hurt was my ego.

I am sure my dates can share stories about me. It is all about perspective. When I look back at my dating before I met my wife, I wish I had been more mature on occasion. Tell me your funny or surprising date stories. I am sure you can top mine.