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Archive for December, 2015

The Martian  —  movie review
Today’s movie review is for the science fiction thriller which came out in October of this year (2015).  The movie stars Matt Damon in the title role – stranded astronaut Mark Watney.  Full disclosure: my daughters say I have a full blown man-crush on Damon and that I say he can do no wrong.  That’s pretty close to true (the man-crush), but not entirely (see my review of “The Informant!here).  In this movie, our hero Matt (I mean Mark), gets left behind on a mission to the planet Mars and he must survive until he can be rescued.
Let’s see now, left for dead.  (Check.)  Oh, heck, he’s alive!  (Check.)  He’ll be dead before we can save him.  (Check.)  Blah, blah, blah.  Political intrigue.  (Check.)  Let’s turn this puppy around and go get him!  (Check.)  Blah, blah, blah.  Drama.  Surprise ending – we saved him and we feel good about it.  This is about as predictable a movie as has come out in any number of years…  But…
Darn if it isn’t a GREAT movie!
This is a movie which deals with three themes: 1) an individual’s near indomitable will to survive; 2) a nation’s (planet’s) will to support the individual (“the needs of the one out-weigh the needs of – costs to – the many”); and, 3) there is survival value in being able to break down problems into their incremental parts and then finding a solution to each problem in its turn.
The acting and writing are great.  There are moments of great tension. There is comic relief in the dialogue.  Watney’s expressions of aloneness are palpable.  And, the actions of all parties are heroic.  Of course it is possible to nit-pic about some of the special effects, but all in all, they are very good to excellent too.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!  This is great cinema and great science fiction.  I will be very disappointed if this movie doesn’t win several Oscars.  This is a movie I will watch multiple times.
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On This Day In:
2014 Recovering
Best Wishes For 2015!
2013 Best Wishes For 2014!
2012 My Creed
2011 It Probably Isn’t So

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You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along.’  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
    —  Eleanor Roosevelt
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On This Day In:
2014 Recovering
Best Wishes For 2015!
2013 Best Wishes For 2014!
2012 My Creed
2011 It Probably Isn’t So

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The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.
  ―  Mark Twain
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On This Day In:
2014 Disguised Blessings
2013 Be
2012 The Only Way to Win
2011 Honest Writing

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Cinderella 2015 as performed at the African-American Shakespeare Company

Cinderella 2015 as performed at the African-American Shakespeare Company

Earlier this month – December 19th, to be precise – I took Hil to see a play.  It was a musical production of Cinderella presented by the African-American Shakespeare Company.  The play has been running each Christmas season for over a decade and it is (was) easy to see why it has remained so popular.  It is magical!
I have a friend from work (Todd Risby) who performs in theater around the Bay Area and he’s been after me for a number of years to come see him in one of his productions.  Now, normally I just say no (politely, but firmly)…  I don’t like crowds.  I don’t like travelling in lots of traffic.  And most of all, I hate fighting for parking.  But lately, I’ve been trying to find things for Hil and me to go to so we can share more experiences.  Mainly, this is because although we both have a lot of stuff, we are not really “things” persons.  So, this was to be an early Christmas present.
Todd played two roles in this production (the Duke and Cinderella’s childhood father) and he was very good in both!  It’s funny how we can draw a sense of joy from someone else being up on stage, but I did.  As I watched him all I could think of was how happy I was for him to be living his dream and doing it well!
If you’ve seen the Disney film, you’ve got the gist of the story – pretty young girl, evil step-mother and two step-sisters, prince,  ball, slipper, and all.  Todd told me in advance it would be a musical and that it would be funny (it was).  What he didn’t say was ALL the rest.  This was not just a love story of a princess getting rescued by her prince charming.  It was a story of self-empowerment and self-belief.  And more importantly, it wasn’t only about Cinderella, it was also about the prince.
Now, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve probably come to realize I’m a big softy – and I unapologetically admit it – I am.  There is a point in the play where the prince and Cinderella stand at opposite ends of the stage and sing (to the audience and facing away from each other) about despairing of ever finding true love and then feeling that now, just maybe……  And I teared up.  I have heard it said that “true” art (music, dance, sculpture, painting or theater) touches you.  Sitting next to my wife of thirty years and remembering back to my own doubts of finding my true love, the performance “touched” me.
I have no idea how many of my readers are in the San Francisco Bay Area, but if you are around in the Christmas season, I highly recommend taking in one of these performances.  As I said above, this is an annual production and well worth taking your daughters or nieces to.  As I’ve stated many times in the past, support your local arts, particularly live performances.  Art makes us feel human.
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On This Day In:
2014 It Lies Ahead…
2013 At Least One Difference
2012 Are We, Are We?
On Not Playing The Game
Scale
2011 Nutcracker And Nooks
Seeing Differences

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Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens  —  movie review
During its first week of release (last week), my daughter (Sarah) and I went to see the latest edition to the Star Wars saga.  This is episode seven (VII) and sub-titled: “The Force Awakens“.  The movie has the three main characters from the original movie (Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill) with Ford getting the most screen time.  It also has most of the other secondary characters (Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO) and a handful of new actors to serve as future replacements for the aging work force.
So, is it any good?  If you are a Star Wars fan, you will probably LOVE this “reboot” (and that’s what it is).  The basic story line is the same as the original and the new characters parallel their predecessors.   If you are a casual Star Wars viewer or completely new to the series (young or just out from under a rock), you will probably enjoy the movie or maybe even like it a lot.  Unfortunately, if you are old enough to have lived through the original, you will probably leave your seat feeling like deja vu all over again…
The actors (the new ones) are better than the old ones were at a similar point in their careers so the acting is better.  The special effects are better, but they had a lot more money to spend on them and almost 50 years of better technology.  The “problem” is this story has already been told.  As bad as the three prequels were, at least they had a story to tell: “how did we get here”.  Unfortunately, instead of saying how we moved on, the writers simply say: “we’ve moved on, now were going to tell the same story as the original, but with different (younger actors) heroes.”
Now, before the Star Wars “fans” start with the comments, I would like to go “full disclosure”:  I am a Trekkie first and foremost, even though I’ve viewed the Star Wars movies FAR more times than I have almost all of the StarTrek movies.  In fact, as much as it pains me to say it, the best StarTrek movies are not as good as the best Star Wars movies and the worst Trek movies are far worse than the worst of the prequels.  Be that as it may, it is the spirit of StarTrek which drives its fan base and we’ll accept bad movies if it keeps the spirit alive.  I believe “The Force Awakens” retains the spirit (okay, I’ll say say it: “the force“) of the series even if it doesn’t bring much in the way of originality to the franchise.
Having offered my opinion… my daughter loved it.  Final recommendation: good clean fun and entertainment – strong recommendation.  But here’s to hoping the next two movies advance the franchise (fingers crossed).  Now, off to buy some Star Wars merchandise…  (Just kidding.)
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On This Day In:
2014 We Are Not A Fearful Nation!
2013 Risking Truth
2012 Working On Reality
2011 Massive Contradictory Changes

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Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.
   ―  Plato
[But which witch is which?  And is now, then?  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2014 We Are Not A Fearful Nation!
2013 Risking Truth
2012 Working On Reality
2011 Massive Contradictory Changes

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“…How is it that everybody considers the rose the queen of flowers?”
“It is because nearly all people are blinded by surface glitter, there are only a few who would not have voted for the rose if there had been an election.  The rose is good-looking and dignified, and, just as in the rest of the world, scarcely anyone asks if there might not be another, outwardly a little plainer, perhaps, but inwardly more noble and gifted, for the role of ruler.”
   —  Anne Frank
From the story: “Eve’s Dream
In the book: “Tales From The Secret Annex
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On This Day In:
2014 They Resemble Us
2013 Both
2012 That’s Success!
2011 Losing At Dominos
2010 1,001

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I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, nor to scorn human actions, but to understand them.
   —  Spinoza
[New Year’s Resolution: Try harder…   Nah!  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2014 Can Do
2013 Are You Helping?
2012 Inside All Truth Is A Vacuum
2011 So, Whom Are We Trying To Fool Then?

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Words can mean that I want to make you into a friend and silence can mean that I accept your already being one.
  —  Hugh Prather
[Singing “Silent Night” while praying for peace on Earth and especially in the Middle East…
Merry Christmas to all… !!
  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2014 Merry X-mas – 2014
2013 Merry X-mas – 2013
2012 Merry Christmas – 2012
2011 I Have Seen

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Man is thus his own greatest mystery.  He does not understand the vast veiled universe into which he has been cast for the reason that he does not understand himself.  …Least of all does he understand his noblest and most mysterious faculty; the ability to transcend himself and perceive himself in the act of perception.
  —  Lincoln Barnett
[They have eyes, but do not see…  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2014 Ite, Missa Est
2013 I Hear Voices
2012 Positive Thoughts
Hope Works
2011 Look! Up In The Sky…
Humility Before The Unknowable

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I Am A Runner

I used some credit hours to knock off of work a bit early today.  I am planning to go see the new “Star Wars” movie with my daughter (Sarah), so I wanted to get home and get my jog out of the way.  The jog was noon-“ish”.  A bright, clear, cloudless day.  Mid-60’s temperature, but with a cold, stiff breeze blowing.  It wasn’t constant, but it was more steady than intermittent.  It was really nice to get out in the mid-day sun to just see the brightness of the world.  I’m so used to the fluorescent lighting of work, it seems strange to see things in natural (bright) light.
Day 5.  The jog was same old-same old; 13 laps; 3.25 miles in 70 minutes.  I actually timed it today.  The time is even slower than it used to be, but that’s the way it goes when you’re starting back up.  The times will drop and the distance will increase before all is said and done.  So, now that my curiosity is satisfied, I don’t have to time myself again for a month or so.  By then I’ll be used to the activity and time, and distance will be more of a consideration.   Until then, it’s just one foot after the other…
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On This Day In:
2014 The Law Of The Perversity Of Nature
2013 One Standard Deviation
2012 High Anxiety
2011 And I’m Taking Me There
2010 1,000

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The rainbow is more beautiful than the pot at the end of it; because the rainbow is now.  And the pot never turns out to be quite what I expected.
   —  Hugh Prather
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On This Day In:
2014 The Law Of The Perversity Of Nature
2013 One Standard Deviation
2012 High Anxiety
2011 And I’m Taking Me There
2010 1,000

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Day 4.  Sunset jog, finished in the dark; another 13 laps; another 3.25 miles; another hour(ish).  Fitbit is still saying 5 miles and about 65 minutes.  I’m not actually tracking the time.  I’m just trying to get through the distance each day.  The evening was dry and warm with a intermittent breeze which was cold but not steady.  The temperature was probably only a couple of degrees warmer than yesterday, but it felt much warmer without the rain.  The breeze was nice.
Sometimes, when you pull your eyes up from the pavement in front of you, you can see some amazing sights.  This evening’s was a partly cloudy sunset with the most brilliant turquoise sky I can remember seeing in ages.  The blue was framed by clouds with pink and yellow edges.  It looked like something out of a Cecil B. DeMille movie.  Anyway, it was definitely a high-light!
The process is starting to feel easier.  My legs and feet hurt less each day.  No change in weight yet (it’s only been four days), but my clothes feel better (slightly looser) – so that’s a good start.  Now I just have to keep it up.  It feels good to be a runner again…
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On This Day In:
2014 Some Things I Learned (Mostly) In The Army:
2013 Who You Are
2012 Mine Stands
2011 Aversions

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What does it matter if we have a new book or an old book, if we open neither?
   —  Rev. Jesse Jackson
[Time is passing…  Are you?  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2014 Some Things I Learned (Mostly) In The Army:
2013 Who You Are
2012 Mine Stands
2011 Aversions

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I Am A Runner

Day 3.  Another 13 laps; 3.25 miles; approx. 5K.  Fitbit still says it’s 5+ miles, and I still doubt it.
Raining and dark, but not cold.  Sometimes you just got to suck it up and get out there.  It’s more difficult mentally when you’re trying to do it after work and after walking the dog for 40 minutes.  Still, I found the gentle rain cooling.  Of course it stopped with two laps to go.  Legs hurt more during the day than when I’m actually out pounding.  Go figure…
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On This Day In:
2014 Just Dig ‘N It, Why?
2013 Additions
The Object Of Instruction
2012 Telling Her
2011 On Torture

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