Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Shia LaBeouf and Moi

Maureen and I saw “Eagle Eye” at the local Deluxe Theater.

Once the action started, it hardly slowed down for any turns, taking some of them on two wheels. I was hanging outside the passenger seat window, flapping in the slip-stream. I don’t believe I exhaled until the end of it. I know others could hear me sounding like a semi on and off the air-brakes.

Today I caught the rerun on HBO and the movie had lost none of its ability to scoop a viewer up and take them for one hairy ride.  I don’t recall at what point in the movie it struck me, but I told myself that Shia looked an awful lot like me when I was sixteen or seventeen years old.

So I did a search on Google for images of him to put along side some of my own I had in my possession thanks to my slideshow project I turned into Christmas presents.

scan0114 Shia LaBeouf3

scan0111 - Copy

So…What do you think?  Am I imaging things?

Bet you can’t tell which is which….Right?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What is MOACA?

Men of a Certain Age is a new series brought to us on TNT.  YES! TNT does know drama and dramedies too judging by this latest presentation.

I can’t help it; I like Ray Romano and have ever since I watched the first episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. I’ve watched the reruns and rented it from Netflix. Loved it the third time around.

My favorite episode is the one where Marie had baked a Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake and left it out on her kitchen table while visiting at Raymond’s house. Of course, a big quarrel broke out and the men ran out, then over to Marie’s kitchen, sat around the table with a fork for each and talked while slowly devouring Marie’s cake.  Marie called on the phone; they let it go to the answering machine while continuing to scarf down the cake.

The more Marie talked, the faster those three went to eating.  When she said “Are you over there eating my special cake?”  You should have seen the forks flying then. Then, when she said “I’m coming over there and you had better not be eating that cake” and with that those three packed their jowls while slowly raising up from their seats and leaning toward the back door. Robert tripped as he followed Ray and his Dad to the door.  Those two paused at the doorway, trying to decide if they should go back and help poor Robert.

Robert cracked me up as he called out to them…

“Save Yourself!”  I could hardly breathe after that remark.

If that kind of humor is what you are expecting when you watch Men of a Certain Age, forget about it. This is a different kind of humor.  Still, it is very funny in spots.

The cast is great Joe (Ray) plays the owner of a party supplies store who is separated from his wife. Scott Bakula plays Terry, a man who considers himself a real “Playa” in street jargon. His conquests are many and he doesn’t know what commitment means.  Then there is Owen. Is he ever a piece of work. Andre Braugher plays Owen. He works at a car dealership; one his father owns. Recently demoted and looked down upon by his own father (who could imagine such a relationship) Owen is the only “married” one of the three. He has diabetes, is overweight, ( I really relate to him) and hates his job.  No kidding!

Joe(Ray) has a gambling problem.  I know what that’s like. Thank God I saw the light before it destroyed me and now I won’t even buy a scratch-off but I root like everything for Maureen and Gail when they buy Powerball and regular Lottery tickets. I’d be a winner by proxy that way. 

Joe(Ray) isn’t a great father but he’s trying to become one since he realized his shortcomings as an afterthought that came to him while mulling over the “Whys” and “What-ifs” of his separation and soon to be divorce if things don’t change between he and the wife, who; it turns out, was cheating on him with a teacher she had in a local college while trying to improve her resume so she could get a better job and be more self supporting. WHEW! What a sentence that was. Sorry!

The realization that one is “middle-aged” is no picnic. Those mid-life crisis experiences can be pure hell. I recall my own when I was 43.  I guess that’s why I like this series so much. I can relate to the reality these three men are experiencing at this awkward time in most men’s lives.

Three men at that certain age, trying to adapt to life’s changes, maintaining a friendship and continuing to bond with one another, all the while desiring to be better men, better friends and sharing life’s pitfalls and obstacles, celebrating victories and failures together.

We are into the season already. If you haven’t joined me yet, perhaps you’d be better off trying to catch up on their website where full episodes are made available for late comers.  Please give it a chance; then make up your mind. It may not be for everyone.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Christmas to remember

I cannot recall the last time I spoke these words, but today I can honestly say,

"We had so much FUN this year at the family's annual Christmas Eve gift exchange dinner."

I can also state that Maureen and I have never put so much time and energy into the gifts we were presenting to our sibling, family members. I know, Christmas is said "to be for children" but not this year; not in this family. If I'm remembering accurately, there was only two children under the age of ten years present at this gathering. The children's time would come either later in the evening back at their homes or Christmas morning when they would gather around their family's Christmas tree.

It was a few years ago when all the grown-ups got their heads together and seriously discussed the concerns of several heads of families about whether we could afford to continue to buy and give gifts to all the children in our huge extended group, what with the average family income being what it was and how there was little hope for much improvement in the near future. We decided that no one would continue to do so. Let's face it, our family was growing at a never before known rate when it came to the number of children there was to buy gift for. It was time for everyone to tighten their respective belts.

Even Santa knows these are desperate times for millions of families throughout the nation.

You couldn’t tell it from this photo of my daughter and me on Christmas Eve.

SDC10573

We had just eaten a superior buffet style dinner and were enjoying the good spirits displayed by all present.

Maureen began working on this year’s gifts last January. She dedicated countless hours to each gift she created in her spare time.  She’s retired but still works three to four days a week at her part-time job as a check-out clerk for one of our local supermarkets. That job cuts deeply into her spare time so whenever she sat down to watch the evening TV line-up with me, she had her crocheting box along side and worked while she watched.

Do you have any idea how long it would take most folk to crochet seven very large afghans?  Each one required approximately thirty dollars worth of yarn. Add the value of her time and you still would be guessing trying to place a price on one.  Beautiful and of higher quality than most due to the expertise she had developed over the many years she has spent perfecting her technique, I’d say that calling one of her creations “priceless” is not a stretch of the truth.

When our hosts opened their gift, they immediately reached out and grasped me in a big hug. I assumed that was their reaction to my giving them the present. I could only say “You are hugging the wrong person,” Maureen did ALL the work involved. With that they rushed off to find her. I followed until they found her and  they in turn, hugged her even harder than they did me, also expressing their gratitude fervently. Doug, whom evidently was thinking about obtaining an afghan for someone close and dear, asked Maureen what she would charge to make a special afghan for him.  She thought about it and estimated a price of two hundred dollars. Doug was surprised and assured her that she was way under pricing her creations.

My gift to everyone was a two hour long memory disk of old family photos in the form of a slideshow with special affects and my personal pick of appropriate background music from my “Favorite songs” folder.

I too had spent many hours gathering photos from various family members, going though every box that was given to me, selecting what I considered to be the most thought provoking and comment or question generating images. My brother, one of the hosts, took a disk, placed it in his DVD player and got it started. People came from all over the house to sit or stand where they could to share the experience. Their reaction was exactly what I expected. Questions were shouted out as never before seen faces appeared on the large TV screen in black and white.

Several people commented on my excellent choice of music and most had something to say about how someone on the screen had changed, either for the better or worse. The friendly, verbal pokes and prodding went on endlessly.  You know how siblings and other relatives can be at such gatherings. There was a few cat-call or whistles when someone’s shorts were too short or a female had adopted their version of a sexy pose or a young, buff, male displayed all his beefcake attributes and looked very proud while doing it.

Everyone present seemed to love the show and wanted me to assure them that their copy would be exactly like the preview presented. It was cut short because no one would want to experience all that for two hours. There were presents to be shared and gushed over. Also there was desserts to follow the previous feast, enjoyed along with contributed, favorite, family stories.

It may be a while before this year’s event is topped. Maybe it can never be…topped that is.

I only hope everyone had a gathering like this and came away, refreshed and rejuvenated about Christmas as this old man did. Perhaps it isn’t hopeless after all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My LIPS

My LIPS have sunk no ships, but they have hurled verbal stones that crush egos and diminish self-esteem.

My LIPS conceal a weapon so fierce one dare not draw it from it scabbard.

My LIPS have cursed God and in the next instant, kissed the cheek of my precious child.

My LIPS have brought me great shame and regret because they expressed the contents of my heart.

My LIPS have invited many strokes upon my face and knew no remorse.

My LIPS have become thin lines, barely perceptible, compressed by my will in an attempt to still their anger and wrath.

My LIPS one day found other lips upon which they were pressed with great passion and desire and were changed.

My LIPS tasted genuine love, a love that taught them to grin with pleasure, then smile broadly with joy.

My LIPS learned to confess unspeakable truth in repentance, to beg for forgiveness and allow the breath of renewed life to pass through them.

My LIPS will, when the time comes, form words of thanks to my God as their last deed, for these lips have become instruments of love.

Then my LIPS will say “Good-bye; I pray that they have learned to love well.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Looking out through a broken Windows7 aftermath

12/12/2009 7:50 AM

I had read a little about this new Windows7 software I was waiting on. Chuck Sigars said his upgrade was working well, so that placed my mind at a little more ease. I wish I could say the same...NOW!

I purchased this computer back in June of this year. It came with the promise of a FREE upgrade as soon as it was released. The expected release date was Oct 22, 2009. I made my application for said FREE up grade a day or two after that date. My package of disks and instructions finally arrive on Dec 7th. I should have seen that infamous date as a sign of impending disaster but I have always been naive.
I'm so glad I managed to get those gift DVDs created that I was giving for Christmas before I began the up grade.

I followed the giant sheet of step-by-step instructions more carefully than I've ever followed any other instructions before. It didn't matter. When I was through, I had a full-blown computer disaster on my hands. There was nothing I could do but take it back to the Geek Squad at Best Buy. They promised me results; results I paid in full for before I left the store. Two days later they called with an apology about not being able to retrieve my personal information. They said all the files had been totally corrupted. "Corrupted!" Corrupted by what? I did get a refund of charges for the failed recovery of my personal information. I'd rather they kept the money and fulfilled the recovery.


It took me a few years to realize the value of backed-up computer files. I am also thankful for the fact that my sister-in-law is currently using my old computer...the one with all my user info still intact. I'm also glad that I thought to purchase one of those small, Flash-drives. It sure came in handy as I manually restored all my document files and music.


I need to use this Windows7 software up grade a while longer before I can pass judgment on whether it was worth all the trouble and expense I've experienced. Geek Squads don't work for peanuts.


I'm very glad to be back in the blogosphere's polluted atmosphere adding to the contaminates.This is a very abridged version of all I've thought and said over the last few days related to Microsoft. I'm sure you don't want to be bored for that long, so I spared you. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

So - This is Christmas?

Oh My! How times and I have changed. I’m just baffled by my attitude and no matter what I do trying to get it back to normal, if anything; it gets worse.

I hate winter – I hate snow and ice – I hate being cooped up in the house with its dry, stale air.  I hate having dry, flaky, itchy skin all over my body. I hate having colds, runny nose, choking cough and that general feel bad ache all over. I hate to even think about having the flu. Isn’t it bad enough, being deprived of sunshine and fresh air for months on end, totally dreading next month? January – what a total waste of calendar space. Do you have any idea how much I wish I could hibernate with the Bears and other wild creatures? Just to sleep until Spring; what a blessing that would be.

Instead, I can’t even sleep normally, like ALL NIGHT LONG! I wake three or four times each night, sit up and listen to the cold wind howling around the storm door and shudder at the thought of what it would be like to be outside right now. Wouldn’t you think I’d be glad just knowing that I DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE THE HOUSE IF I DON’T WANT TO? The thing is; I do want to – I NEED TO most desperately. I have gifts to buy for people for Christmas.

Okay! I’m forced to admit it. It appears that what I hate is this Holiday Season and most of all, CHRISTMAS. BAH! Humbug! I’m worse than Scrooge ever thought about being. Not even a few ghosts taking me on spiritual journeys into the past and future could make a dent in my attitude. I don’t have anything against people; I love people. I even like to give them gifts when I have them on hand, but that’s just it, they aren’t on hand. They need to be shopped for and purchased, and wrapped. I’ve given away many of my prized possessions just so I didn’t need to go shopping. If that isn’t desperate, I don’t know what is.

I haven’t always felt like this.  I can remember thirty-two years ago, I was just dating my present wife. We walked hand-in-hand, down the sidewalk in front of all the stores along the main avenue of Newport's shopping center. I had just gotten a very large Christmas bonus from my employer. I had six hundred dollars in my pocket and I didn’t know how to deal with it. It’s a good thing that my girlfriend had her wits about her. She was my advisor. She kept me thinking straight.

Everything was perfect! I was at the mercy of the Christmas Spirit. The lights and decorations, the music and the weather were as they should be at Christmas time. The Lion’s Club had their little booth all set up. The long tray down the entire front covered with chicken wire so no one could do a “snatch and run” theft from the contributions laying there. Coins tossed into it had no problem getting through. You could even contribute a bill of any denomination by rolling it up and sticking it through one of the grid openings. A little further along, there was the Salvation Army’s representative, ringing his little bell, holding that can with the slot in the top. Still a bit further was one of Santa’s Elves, dressed in his Santa costume, standing beside that cast iron pot, ringing his bell too. I put something into every one I came to. It felt so good to give. I had it to share, so why not? Maureen thought it was great that I felt so charitable and generous.

Snow was falling, bells were ringing, carols were permeating my whole being from all directions. People we passed were smiling and laughing, really enjoying the atmosphere and I felt just like them; HAPPY! The air was cold and crisp. I liked being able to see my breath as I exhaled. It was exactly as it should be. It was Christmas!

I’ll never forget those times. The sights, sounds and smells can still be conjured up within my mind. All of that can still be found today. But, where is the happiness and joy?

Last Sunday, I went through my music files on the computer. I have a great music collection, all MP3.s. Over 2.6 GB of them and many of them are Christmas songs. I cued up a long play list, cranked up the volume a bit and let the music waft throughout the whole house. I suppose I was hoping that if I listened to enough Christmas music, that would somehow affect my attitude. It affected it alright, in a negative way. Celine Dione came on singing “So, this is Christmas?” I don’t recall hearing that one before. I ran upstairs and started it over again so I could focus and hear the lyrics. By the time she was done singing, I was in tears.

So, this is Christmas – and what have you done?
Another year over – a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas – I hope you’ve had fun
The near and the dear ones – the old and the young
A very Merry Christmas – and a Happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one – without any fear
And so this is Christmas – for weak and for strong
The rich and the poor ones – the war is so long
And so Happy Christmas – for black and for white
For yellow and red ones – it’s tough where they fight

Those words are in such strong contrast to the true message of Christmas.

The Book of Luke, chapter two:
8: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9: And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10: And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12: And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And so – this is Christmas – or what it was intended to be

When Christmas becomes what God intended, then and only then will this old man know true joy and happiness.

Happy Holidaze

There is no other time of year which can affect the human spirit the way the up-coming Holiday season can.  Who can explain the sudden change in behavior, the constantly present smile seen on practically every face, the welcoming warmth of total strangers, the hustle and bustle of everyone, everywhere.  You just know they aren't really in control of all they are involved in, but they do radiate that feeling.

Picture this scene, a clan, a tribe or a family gathered together under one roof.  There may be as many as four generations represented by those present.  Ages range from the late nineties to only days old.  Every chair and most of the available floor space is occupied by at least one individual.  No closet can hold the winter apparel of this great horde of human flesh, so one bedroom is chosen for temporary storage.  This system has never proved successful, some articles remain lost to this very day.  I suspect they ended up in the same place all of those missing socks find their way to, sort of an Elephant burial ground for lost items.

It is a time of seemingly endless small miracles.  Everyone was able to clear up their busy schedules and converge on a single location at an appointed time.  It is hard to say exactly how it is accomplished, but somehow all of that wonderful food is ready on time and the table is set.  Differences between individuals are forgotten for this time and there are friendly handshakes, compassionate hugs, and loving kisses spread around everywhere.

The aromas which hang in the air, the cheerfulness and joy in every heart, the atmosphere of togetherness, the peace which seems to control everything, and everyone.  These conditions and circumstances exist all over the world.  National boundaries do not confine the Spirit of this season.  Who can explain the reason or the source of its existence?  Yet it does exist.

Have you begun to feel the effects of its influence?  If not, I am sure you will soon.  Don't try to resist it, you can't.  Just give in and enjoy it.  You will be your old self soon enough.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Memories of one more Christmas (1995)

Christmas Eve, and we were observing what has become a family tradition.  Everyone has gathered at my sister, Frances's house for food, fun, singing, and exchanging gifts.  Forty-five, I believe, was the total number of people crammed into that small house.

One bedroom held all of our winter coats, gloves, hats, and scarves.  All of the ladies purses were stashed in one closet, on the highest shelf, away from prying children's hands.  The other bedroom served as an expansion tank for periods of overflow, when a portion of that mass of humanity moved around, changing positions.  There were periods, when all the children, who had been exiled to the basement to play and roughhouse, would surge upstairs and all the adults would stand motionless, while they wiggled through toward some unknown destination.

All the food which Frances had prepared or others had brought, was laid out cafeteria style.  We would eat in stages, one small group at a time.  While one group was eating, the other sat or stood and talked.  The noise level has to be experienced to be appreciated or abhorred.  The range for voice communication was approximately two feet if you screamed at the top of your lungs, six inches if you spoke normally.  The scene made you think it was a reunion of secret tellers.  Everybody looked like they were whispering into someone else's ear.

It was an evening of unending miracles.  Somehow we were all fed without any serious injuries.  There were some mashed toes, a fork puncture or two, but thanks to skill and quick thinking, all bleeding was brought under control and no one passed out from loss of blood.

What a madhouse it turned into when it came time to pass out the gifts.  The term pass out is a very accurate usage of language in this instance.  The Christmas tree, which was positioned in one corner of the living room, was all but obscured by the heap of gifts.  Whoever was chosen to perform the task must, out of necessity, have a good arm.  The delivery of some of those packages would have made Terry Bradshaw green with envy.  He had never thrown a pass farther or with more accuracy, while guiding the projectile over, around and through obstructing heads and hands which were trying to intercept those packages in route to their intended destination.  There were invisible hand-offs and nimbly executed laterals but not one single run for yardage, unless it was in a pair of panty-hose.

It was December 24th, but the furnace was turned off and the front door was standing open.  No one could have remained conscious for longer than five minutes without that door being open.  All the oxygen would have been depleted long before that.  Everyone had their empty shopping bags at the ready.  As they received their gifts, they were placed in the shopping bags, and as each bag was filled, someone would shuttle them out the door and into a car trunk.  As soon as the gifts were passed out, those who couldn't take it any longer, would hug and kiss anyone within reach, thank them for their gift and say their good-bye’s on the move.  Slowly, the house had enough room for those remaining to find a corner to stand in.  Some truly fortunate souls actually found a place to SIT!

Despite the constant threat of a fire breaking out in all that crumpled up gift wrapping paper and empty boxes, the evening passed and the house escaped unscathed.  There were times when I imagined I could hear the floor joists moaning under the strain of all that weight and I thought I felt the house quiver a time or two, just momentarily.

Talk about miracles!  As hard as this is to believe, there is only one bathroom in that house.  Need I say anymore?

The evening of musical chairs ceased when someone managed to yell loud enough to get everyone's attention.  It was time to sing Christmas Carols.  We stood in corners, leaned on doorways, and walls.  The children were able to find a place to sit on the floor after all the wrapping paper and boxes had been picked up and stuffed into plastic garbage bags and placed out by the can rack in the side yard.  One after another, the talented members of the family would make their way over to the piano and play their own special selections while everybody sang.

I had waited for this all year.  Our family is so blessed by God, and sadly some of them can't see it.  They think that every family has five or six members who play the piano like these do, and everybody else has a beautiful singing voice.  Some members of the family have voices of solo quality, but the outstanding aspect of this family is the perfection in the blending of the voices.  It sounds like a natural harmony, with no one out of tune or off key.

There is a special kind of reverence noticeable in the voices as they melt into one beautiful choir.  After the traditional carols, we all join in on specially requested Gospel songs we have all learned over the years. 

I would like to think that every family is much like ours but I know that there are many who wish they had what this family has. It breaks my heart sometimes, to see how ungrateful some can be for the blessings that are all around them.  I give God all the thanks I can muster each year that passes by with this family not knowing some terrible tragedy.  How blessed we are!