Nov 242009

I sometimes wake up during the night with a case of cotton-mouth, so I keep a cup of water on the nightstand beside the bed. Quite a few years ago, when I lived in Greensboro, I had a roommate who owned a restaurant. He brought home some big empty Dijon Mustard jars (probably quart jars) for making big Gin and Tonics and sitting on the porch. I used one of these as my night-time water-glass. It must have had the best silk screening in the world, as the writing was clear and bright for over 10 years of going through the dishwasher.

When I moved to Winston-Salem, then Tampa, then Dayton and back to Tampa that old jar went along with me, and was one of those little things that just made me, wherever I was, feel a little more comfortable because of its familiarity. I know it probably sounds silly, but it is these little things that make up the fabric of our lives…each single little strand.

Throughout life we loose strands of that cloth, but we’re forever weaving in more strands. Such was the case with that jar when I rolled over one night, flipped the pillow around, and knocked the jar to the floor and it finally broke. Just one of those little strands finally wearing out and reaching the end of its life as part of my cloth.

Carl Kasell (2004 NPR/Anthony Nagleman)

But a bigger and more important strand is leaving. Carl Kasell is retiring from NPR as the Morning Edition news anchor after holding the job for 30 years since the inception of the program. I have never had the pleasure of meeting Carl Kasell, and I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of him until his retirement was announced this week, but I knew that voice as well as that of my best friends.

I discovered Public Radio right after moving to Greensboro. I knew of it, and occasionally listened to classical music, but really didn’t find their whole range of programs until about 25 years ago. Since then hardly a day goes by that I don’t wake to Morning Edition (or Weekend Edition), and I have always had a radio in the bathroom to listen as I get ready for the day.

So Carl doesn’t know me, and there’s not a lot I know about him, but his voice is that of a friend. Something I’ve heard most every weekday morning for the past 25 years. It’s always been a pleasant, calm, but authoritative voice, and has brought the stories of life both great and small. After 30 years of having to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 every morning, and at age 75, I think Carl has earned his retirement. The generous part of me wishes him the very best and thanks him for his many years of keeping me company wherever life took me, but the selfish part of me will miss the constancy of that familiar voice starting my day.

Apr 262009

Movie Poster for The SoloistJournalist Steve Lopez discovers Nathaniel Anthony Ayers , a former classical music prodigy, playing his violin on the streets of L.A. As Lopez endeavors to help the homeless man find his way back, a unique friendship is formed, one that transforms both their lives.

Genres: Drama, Musical/Performing Arts, Adaptation and Biopic; Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.; Release Date: April 24th, 2009 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language.

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Nelsan Ellis, Michael Bunin, Robert Downey Jr., Rachael Harris

Directed by: Joe Wright

While we’d both been anxious to see this movie, Lay was especially looking forward to it. We decided to take it in at an afternoon showing yesterday, to avoid a packed theater. We did avoid the crowds, but unfortunately at least two groups (at least was two older ladies) did manage to talk quite a bit throughout the movie (where have manners gone).

That was hardly enough to spoil a great movie though, and I was completely sucked into the story. This is a powerful, heartfelt, emotionally moving, human drama with two very talented actors who pour themselves into the story. It lives up to it’s promises, and is definitely one of the best films of the year. If you’re looking for an inspiring story, then look no further. This is Director Joe Wright’s best film. I’ve always known Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. are two great actors respectively but the mix of two is like combining two different formulas that compliment each other and create an atomic chemistry only described as something that no one else will ever manage to replicate.

Downey and Foxx play a newspaper columnist and homeless man who come together in a most unusual way. Downey is a newspaper columnist looking for something original and interesting to write about it. He finds it when he sees Foxx beautifully playing a battered two-stringed violin along 3rd street in downtown L.A. Foxx has been there for years but on this day grabs the eye of the columnist because the columnist himself is experiencing hardship and doubt related to his own position. He begins to write about this talented but troubled man who fills the thick air around him with harmony. They become friends but keep in mind this is not fiction. The friendship hits many bumps that continue to this day. Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx’s character) may be a brilliant, educated musician, but he suffers from bouts of schizophrenia that manifest at any time. Downey’s character accepts this as it adds more intrigue to his columns. Then he accepts it on a personal level. Their friendship ultimately becomes real and meaningful. You sense that Downey’s character needs the friendship even more than Foxx’s homeless man does. In the end, Downey’s Lopez can see the positive effect his work has brought to the plight of the homeless, yet he wonders personally how much better he has made Nathaniel. His reflections make us think also.

As someone who’s volunteered at a homeless shelter, I’ve seen much of this story play out. I even remember one of the clients as a young man who could sit down at the piano they had in the shelter, and play nearly any song you could name, and play it beautifully. There is no great final climax to this film, as is usually the case in life, and as with many people who find themselves in Ayers’ situation, the story is complex and difficult, and rarely resolves itself to everyone’s satisfaction. It’s important to remember that “normal” is something relative.

It’s also important to remember that these are real people, still alive today, and still friends. So the story continues to play out.

This is Jamie Foxx’s best performance since Ray, and I’d vouch for a second nomination on the horizon. Robert Downey Jr. proves that he’s versatile, that he’s more than just Tony Stark, Superhero. Wright’s directing is superb. He understands the plot and how the actors should respond to whatever conflict that may surface. The locations chosen or how a scene would play out, his vision of it all is borderline perfect. The portrayal of the skid row and how the camera moves from one homeless guy to another and take us on this view of the forgotten little kingdom is quite humbling. Those of us who’ve seen the real LA would not find this to be an exaggeration.

It is an extremely well told story, and worth every minute you spend in the theater.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 9.00 out of 10)

A Fare Fair Weekend

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Feb 202006

While I posted movie reviews (Date Movie, The Pink Panther), there has not been much else posted lately. I had a pretty bad couple of days related to work and my profession at the end of last week. I have also been busy with work, and the social calendar has been pretty full.

My best friend Jeff had some best friends down visiting from his hometown. We met them a year ago when they were down visiting. Jim and Glenda are a fun couple, and we ate dinner at Jeff’s a couple of times. Man, can Glenda cook.

Friday night, while Lay was working, I went to see Date Movie with Mike and Jeff.

It was also the last weekend for the State Fair here in Tampa. Saturday we took Lay’s nephews. The weather got to 80 or so Saturday, but we managed to go early enough to miss the worst of the crowd, and the weather was still pleasant. However, by the time we left it was packed, and I forgot a hat, so now my face is blistered. Everyone was tired, but, as you might expect, the boys said they weren’t.

Later that night, Lay and I went to see The Pink Panther. I was expecting it to be pretty good, as I think Steve Martin was the right guy to play Peter Sellers’ role. Lay wasn’t sure he’d like it, but he did.

Sunday we went to a friend’s birthday party in the afternoon, and then stopped Jeff’s for a final cookou with Jim and Glenda.

So it was a busy weekend, and because of the concerns that surfaced last week, I didn’t sleep much. I’m pretty worn out now, and hope I can sleep good tonight.

Jul 252004

American Wedding (2003)

The third film in the American Pie series deals with the wedding of Jim and Michelle and the gathering of their families and friends, including Jim’s old friends from high school and Michelle’s little sister.

Directed by
Jesse Dylan


Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Alyson Hannigan, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, January Jones, Eugene Levy, Molly Cheek, Deborah Rush, Fred Willard, Angela Paton, Eric Allan Kramer, Amanda Swisten, Nikki Schieler Ziering, Lawrence Pressman


American Wedding is a little less funny than both ‘American Pie’ and ‘American Pie 2′ but still has the shameless charm of the first two. It still wants the best for the main characters and especially the final sequences show us that.

I can be very short on the story. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are about to get married and this movie shows us a lot of things that could go wrong. Jim’s best friends Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) show up and of course the movie could not do without Stifler (Seann William Scott) who is not very wanted. He and Finch like the same girl, Michelle’s sister Cadence (January Jones). Eugene Levy shows up again as Jim’s dad and together with Stifler he is the best thing in the movie once again.

Although the two movies before ‘American Wedding’ were a little more funny there are still enough shameless jokes to enjoy. Jason Biggs must have had so much humiliating moments that one more doesn’t really matter and the opening sequence here sets the tone for him. Almost painful to watch, but very funny. It was too bad regulars like Chris Klein, Mena Suvari and Tara Reid didn’t show up for this sequel, but it didn’t make it less funny. For a third part it is still very good.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 7.00 out of 10)
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