Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Movie Review: Unbroken

Angelina Jolie's directorial debut. Not bad, not great. As many know, Seabiscuit is one of my favorite books and author Laura Hillenbrand when researching the exploits of the gimpy-horse-that -could came across a newspaper article about Louis Zamperini and his running exploits. She set it aside at the time and it was nine years later before Unbroken was published.

The story of Zamperini is incredible.  Born in 1917 to immigrant Italian parents in NY, he was nothing but trouble in his youth but thanks to the intervention of his older brother became a world class middle distance runner, competing in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.  He had hoped to run in the Tokyo games but of course the little matter of WWII put an end to that.  Louis signed up to be a bombardier on a B-24 and saw plenty of action in the Pacific.   The best scenes in the movie are early on, especially those involving bombing runs and the counter attacks by the dreaded Japanese Zero's. 

Zamperini gets shot down and survives several weeks with two others on a small raft in the middle of the shark infested ocean.  Then it gets worse: he is captured by the Japanese and what he goes through in the POW camp makes Guantanamo look like Disney.

Unfortunately, the movie is toned down a bit to get the PG13 rating and you just feel like it needed more of an edge to bring out the real prison camp horror show that Louis endured.  Too bad Clint was already engaged on American Sniper, he certainly would have made Unbroken a little more heartfelt and pulled no punches.

Unlike Chris Kyle, veteran Louis Zamperini lived until the ripe old age of 97, sadly passing away last year, just a few months before Unbroken was released.  He did get to see it though and his demise shortly thereafter is not in any way an indictment of Ms. Jolie. 

A solid B

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Except I did not say Fudge

We know everything is bigger and wilder in Texas.  No examples needed. We have all the oddities and extremes.  Down the years, the Lone Star State has had its share of hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, oil boom and busts.  Add to that Oswald, Whitman, and Koresh,  Just last year Dallas was front page news when the first Ebola victim in the the U.S. showed up unannounced on our doorstep. Not to be outdone, 2015 started with a bang - or more like a shudder.

At about 3.10pm on Tuesday January 6th our 18 story office building decided to shift a few inches to the north.  Oh fudge indeed.  For about four or five seconds, it shuddered, shook and flexed.  Yes, dear readers, Irving Texas, located in once what was pristine prairie had an earthquake.  Here we are, thousand of miles from the San Andreas, the Heyward, the Pacific Rim of Fire, a-shaking and a-shuddering like a giant mound of jello, our buidling going for a walk towards Arkansas.

Granted in the grand scheme, it was small.  Only a 3.5.  But heck, when an 18 floor office building (with a few thousand workers) starts to very noticeably move, at that time you don't think about the magnitude.  Just like the one we experienced in San Bruno, CA in 1996 you wonder is this going to get even more violent and when will it stop.  Hence the "Oh Fudge" moment.

Geologists will tell you our region should be earthquake free.  However, we sit on the Balcones Fault that runs from Del Rio down near Mexico all the way to Oklahoma.  They say the fault has not shifted in fifteen million years (how can they know that?).  But for some reason in the last couple of months the fault seems to have come alive and we have had twenty-plus "temblors".

There are so many theories, the most prominent being fracking and there are gas wells drilled in the area. Most of the activity is centered around the old Cowboys Stadium, which was imploded in 2010.  Did they forget a stick or two of dynamite?  Could it be the ghost of Tom Landry?  It is almost inevitable Jerry Jones has a role in this.

Between this and the Ebola scare, the consensus is the Plague of Locusts is not far away.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"Teeth Will Be Provided"

Anything worth watching on Netflix seems to spread by word of mouth and so it was with Peaky Blinders, referred to me by a co-worker.  Set in post WW1 Birmingham, it deals with wanna-be gangsters, blundering cops, the IRA, Bolsheviks, family in-fighting... in short nothing that has not been done before.  However, Peaky Blinders is executed in a manner that is stylishly different, fresh and is thoroughly enjoyable.

The cast is excellent. An interesting part is that we have an Irish actor (Cillian Murphy) playing the lead role of Tommy Shelby, born and bred in England; an English actress playing Grace from Galway and a Kiwi-type (Sam Neill) playing the hard ass cop from Northern Ireland.   No stereo-types here!

Actually Sam Neill was born in Omagh but emigrated to New Zealand when he was seven.  His Chief Inspector character sounds like Ian Paisley with rocks in his mouth.

An apocryphal tale of Paisley: delivering a hellfire and brimstone sermon he described the End of Days and included there would be "gnashing of teeth".  An elderly pensioner piped up that she had no teeth.  Paisley thundered back "TEETH WILL BE PROVIDED!"

Anyway, Peaky Blinders is well worth watching.

Sidebar: one of Nick Caves many brilliant compositions "Red Right Hand" is the theme music and there are other Cave numbers interspersed throughout.  Another reason to watch!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Quite not is all on New Year's Day

Welcome 2015.  Big D got some welcome precipitation this morning in the form of freezing rain that gave all the tree branches a natural glisten - the same effect we all try to get by draping our homes in Christmas lights.  This photo of a winter wonderland with green leaves, red berries and icicles was not taken in Vermont but in our back yard today.

We love rain - any rain - in Texas.  Down on the Willow City Loop, a beautiful part of the Texas Hill Country, there is a sign outside a ranch that says: " A good rain and a baby calf are always welcome".Ain't that the truth?
One New Years Resolution is already underway:  blog more.  Another is put more miles on the bike. Maybe pass 5000 on the odometer in 2015?

And some things remain the same: Arsenal and St. John's both start out the year with a loss.  Yet, I think 2015 will be a good year... Bhliain nua s├ísta y'all!