Thin Ice | ★★★★★★★

Not sure what to say about this one. Billed as a Dark Comedy - yes it was. It starts slows and meanders a bit until things begin to get interesting as the lead character, Mickey Prohaska (played by Greg Kinnear), starts getting in over his head. At times you wonder where exactly the story is going to end. The story and the cold weather environment reminded me of Fargo a bit - if you liked it you might like Thin Ice.

I liked the way that Prohaska's bad behavior got him deeper and deeper in trouble - showed how sinful choices often lead us to unplanned places. At times his plight seemed so unrecoverable. The story line had many twists and the supporting actors did a great job in sucking you in with Prohaska. Was not crazy about the final scene/end but I thought that it made sense - from a human point of view anyways.

I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other min-movie-reviews by selecting "Movies" above.

Retirement Hodgepodge

Not sure why I miss posting on Wednesday Hodgepodge so much. I shared these at Debbie's place earlier this week and thought I would post them here today.
  1. It's National Bike you own a bicycle? When did you last ride a bike?
    Been a really long time since I got on a bike - unless you count the stationary one that I sold a few years ago. In my youth I rode my English Racer all over Staten Island.
  2. What's something you learned in school that wasn't part of the curriculum?
    I liked what my friend Debbie said about people not always bring who they say they are. School can often bring out the best and worst in us.
  3. What's a food you've never tried, but want to try? A food you've tried and will never try again?
    I am sure that there is a delicacy out there that I should try but simply cannot think of one.
    I will probably never east oysters even though I like clams and mussels.
  4. Have you been more demanding on yourself lately or less?
    Retirement has allowed me to slack off and give myself needed breaks.
  5. Who is your favorite book, movie, or TV show villain?
    Hard to beat the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz. Mostly I like my villains to be caricatures but I did think Heath Ledger was great as the Joker.
  6. How concerned are you about identity theft?
    We have insurance that protects us as much as one can be protected.
  7. Would you rather have an ordinary home in an extraordinary place or an extraordinary home in an ordinary place?
    Ordinary home in an extraordinary place.
  8. Insert your own random thought here.
    My grandchildren are such a source of great joy. Watching them grow (now 11 and 9) into wonderful people with unique personalities is such a blessing.
Feel free to share how you might answer all or some of the questions. Inquiring minds want to know.

LOL :: it's good for you!

Studies on humor and laughter from Duke University, Loma Linda University, UCLA and others have shown:
  • Laughing helps relax tense muscles.
  • It helps lower high blood pressure.
  • It reduces the production of stress hormones.
  • There are no known negative side effects to laughter.
  • Laughter and a positive attitude strengthen the immune system.
  • It allows a person to 'forget' about aches and pains and perceive pain as less intense.
  • A good laugh is like an aerobic workout for the heart and lungs--increasing the body's ability to use oxygen.
Just makes me want to catch a funny movie or TV show!

Atheists, Agnostics and Good Works

Pope Francis, in his weekly homily, referenced Mark 9:40 where Jesus says: "Anyone who is not against us is for us." He went on to say this about how believers should view the good works of nonbelievers:
“If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there,
doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
I like this perspective. Many folks I know either do not believe in God or are on the fence regarding faith. Yet many of these do good things and help those who suffer. By all means we should be grateful for their good works.

Operation BBQ Relief

These great people have deployed to Moore, Oklahoma. Follow their updates on Facebook here.

Operation BBQ Relief is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation founded in May, 2011 in response to a need for relief efforts in tornado-stricken Joplin, Missouri. In the wake of this nearly unprecedented destruction, competition barbecue teams from eight states answered the call to help feed displaced families and police, fire, National Guard and emergency personnel. The group was able to serve over 120,000 barbecue meals in less than two weeks during the operation in Joplin. As a result of efforts in Joplin, Operation BBQ Relief was born. The Joplin operation will be used as a model for future disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods and other tornadoes. They are a not-for-profit corporation registered in all fifty states and ready to respond to natural disaster emergencies across the USA.

The Erroneous Theology of Job

A post from 2010 for the religious prognosticators who see God sending tornadoes to Oklahoma ...

A few years ago my son and I were in the car and he advised me that he thought I was a modern day Job - I had to chuckle as I told him that Job had nothing on me. Of course we all have a story and mine is not all that different than many.. it is just different than folks who have not dealt with the death of a spouse.. or a parent who has not dealt with grieving children.. or a person who has not struggled with a disabling disease that has attacked their spouse.. we all struggle.. and our struggles are ever so personal.

So when I think about the story of Job in the Old Testament I first think about two parents who lost all of their children and their possessions.. and my heart breaks for them. I also think of a man who struggled with a disabling disease that inflicted him with boils all over his body.. a man who had friends.. and a man who was trapped by a bad theology.. a theology that yet traps and disables many even today. It is the theology of divine judgment.

Job and his friends argued about the reasons for his hardships.. his friends blamed him.. Job asserted his innocence.. but at the heart of their cumulative thinking was the idea that someone was to blame for what happened.. and God was judging Job and his wife for some secret sin that they had committed. Even though Job asserted his innocence he did not contest the basis of his friends claims. Job also believed that his hardship was God's judgment.. he just did not believe that he was guilty of a sin worthy of the judgment.

Of course Job's hardship was not initiated by Job or by God.. the story tells us that Job was not being judged.. it says that Job was blameless.. and it also says that Satan (not God) killed Job's children and afflicted Job with a disease. Even so Job and his friends believed that God's judgment was involved.

This theology of divine judgment often rears it's ugly head even today. When bad things happened to New Orleans four years ago religious pundits were speaking about the judgment of God on this area. More recently religious prognosticators were embracing Job's theology and speaking oracles of divine judgment when a massive earthquake hit Haiti. These religious folks seem to have embraced the erroneous theology of Job by saying that hurricanes and earthquakes were God's reaction to somebody's sin.

Interesting that in Job's story God shows up at the end of the story speaking from a whirlwind.. but the wind did not seem to hurt anyone or damage any property.. perhaps God's winds are of this sort? The end of Job's story also teaches us that "sometimes" hardship ends okay - I say okay because even though Job was healed, his fortunes restored and new children were born there were still many lives lost in tragedy.

The moral of Job's story is that things are not always as they seem.. bad things happen to  blameless people.. and it is foolish to blame God or invoke a theology of divine judgment when hard times come. I reject that theology on a personal level and I also reject it for the people of New Orleans and Haiti.

CS Lewis on Vision Casting

American culture (even churches) are rife with talk about vision casting ...

"While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as 'vision', 'dynamism', 'creativity', and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial - virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. 'Vision' is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day's work for a day's pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job."

Star Trek :: Into Darkness | ★★★★★★★

Saw it yesterday. A few random and brief bullets about it:

    • KC Star review contained a huge spoiler that I wish I had not read;
    • I like Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachery Quinto as Spock;
    • Felt it was too long and could have used better editing;
    • I like Benedict Cumberbatch as the villian;
    • Found the relational development of the main characters to be lacking;
    • No surprise that the movie mostly appeals to fans of the original series;
    • Nice high-tech update to the bridge of the enterprise;
    • The story line was a bit jerky and seemed to jump around a bit;
    • Enjoyed the twists at the end of the movie;
    • Was a nice re-imagining of an old TV show episode.

I mostly liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other min-movie-reviews by selecting "Movies" above.

Watergate Changed Everything

About a month ago Ann and I watched "Sunrise at Campobello" - a heartwarming and inspiring movie about President Roosevelt's struggle with disabling polio. I loved the movie! A few days ago we watched "Hyde Park on Hudson", a very depressing movie about FDR having affairs with various women - most notably his cousin. The first movie presents us with a 1960 rose colored glasses view of the man while the latter a grittier portrayal of a skirt chasing momma's boy.

I think that the Watergate scandal and aftermath changed the way that we view our leaders. In a sense Woodward and Bernstein were the first to topple a president from his pedestal. Since that time we have been confronted with the many character weaknesses of our leaders. Nothing appears to be off limits to the press any more. I am not sure that I like the changes that Watergate brought. What do you think?

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Regretting Regret

This thoughtful Shoebox cartoon reminds me ...

I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done. -Lucille Ball

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. -C. S. Lewis

I have many regrets, and I'm sure everyone does. The stupid things you do, you regret... if you have any sense, and if you don't regret them, maybe you're stupid. -Katharine Hepburn

My one regret in life is that I am not someone else. -Woody Allen

The past is a great place and I don't want to erase it or to regret it, but I don't want to be its prisoner either. -Mick Jagger

I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country. -Nathan Hale

Everyday Grace

Often religious folks like me speak of grace as being God's unmerited favor. So interesting how that concept seems to elude my grasp every day. Here are a few thoughts about sharing grace today ...
Consider the notion of tipping more for bad service ...

Say thank you even when you do not feel thankful ...

Be nice when someone treats you badly ...

Smile even when your heart is hurting and life sucks ...

Encourage a friend when they deserve it the least.
I would love to hear other ways of sharing everyday grace. Please share!

Lessons my Daughter has taught Me

A few months ago I told my daughter, Susie, that she was so much better of a parent than I was. Over the years I have watched her raise my grandson and granddaughter with such an amazing grace. So I thought that, on this Mothers Day weekend, that I'd take a few minutes to share some of the lessons that she has taught me about parenting and about life.
  • Advocacy: I have never seen a more tenacious mom than Susie. She will defend her children against anyone and anything that would come against them. She is the definition of a Momma Grizzly.
  • Bravery: Susie is one heroic woman. She has confronted major obstacles in her life with such resiliency and power. There is nothing that can defeat her.
  • Compassion: My daughter has a very tender side to her. You see it the most when she is around the kids. She communicates such a passionate love to them.
  • Discipline: I love the way that Susie disciplines the children. She is firm and unbending when they do something wrong. Then she comforts and encourages them later.
  • Education: Sometimes a single mom can give up on their dreams and settle for smaller ones. The way that Susie perseveres in her education makes me so proud.
  • Forgiving: I have watched my daughter grow in this area over the years and admire the way that she has been able to forgive and forget past failures.
  • Gladness: Susie is a fun person to be around. Her love of life is a bit contagious.
As you can tell, I am very proud of my daughter. And on this weekend dedicated to great Moms I wanted to take a few minutes to celebrate Susie and share a bit of her with you.

The Real Price of Gas

The Motley Fool comments on this chart saying: "There are two big takeaways from the chart.

One is that gas prices are much higher today than they were during the 1990s and early 2000s. There's no disputing that.

The other is that real gas prices are no higher today than they were a decade ago. That's largely due to two factors. In 2003, the average new passenger vehicle got 29.5 miles per gallon, while today a new car averages 35.6 MPG. And annual miles driven per capita has declined 5% over the past decade."

The Guilt Trip | ★★★★★★★

Interesting how this DVD appeared in our mail box the week before Mother's Day. This movie reminded me of how funny Barbra Streisand was in her early career when she played the likes of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. I think that the image on the left captures the essence of the story of how a loving son reluctantly takes his mom on a cross country trip. The pairing up Seth Rogen and Streisand was perfect casting. I smiled and laughed all the way through it as the two characters tangled and talked in such a warm story. Here is the way one Netflix reviewer described it.

"This is really an '80s movie about a relationship between a grown son and his doting mother, and with the exception of some gratuitous bad language it has little in common with most of the crude and cynical comedies we see today. There is great chemistry between Streisand and Rogen, both are very much in tune with their characters, and I think a lot of mothers will relate to Streisand's speech to her disrespectful son toward the end of the film. My mother gave similar speeches to me, and this scene helped me acknowledge how right she was."

I liked Guilt Trip and think you might too if you enjoy heartwarming flicks. On a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★.

Catch my other min-movie-reviews by selecting "Movies" above.

Where no man has gone before ...

ZDNet wonders if we should thank Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry for many of the advances that we see these days. I must admit that many of these inventions do bear a resemblance to things found on the Starship Enterprise. Consider ...
  • Flip cellphones do resemble that "Beam me up Scotty" Communicator.
  • The ear piece that graced Uhura's ear is a predecessor of current bluetooth ones.
  • Gigantic flat screen televisions of our day were once imagined by Roddenberry.
  • Remembering those tablets used by Captain Kirk reminds me of an iPad.
  • I talk to my Android phone like I am interacting with the Enterprise computer.
The article goes on to speak of medical advances that look like a Starfleet Sickbay and how we are a long way away from Replicators and Transporters. Even so, you have to wonder if maybe Roddenberry saw further into the future than we can imagine. :)

State Taxes and the Poor

The Motley Fool reports that "many states have tax structures that make poor people pay a far greater percentage of their incomes in taxes than those who are better off." They identify six states that tax the poor the hardest. Perhaps you can identify which three of these seven states made the list:
1) Alaska  2) Florida  3) Nevada  4) South Dakota  5) Texas  6) Washington  7) Wyoming 
Interesting that all of these states do not have a state income tax but only three made the list of six states. Here is what the Fool says about state tax codes and how the affect the pporest amongst us.
States that rely on sales taxes more than income taxes tend to be harsher on the poor, who have to pay a greater percentage of their incomes on living expenses that are often subject to sales tax.
The writers contrast the disparity of effective tax rates in these states. The largest disparity has the poor paying 16.9% of their income in taxes, while the figure for the richest citizens is 2.8%. Interesting numbers. Wonder if this disparity is representative of how a national sales tax would affect the poor?

Oblivion | ★★★★★

Yes, I know that I am usually not this early with a movie review. I saw this one yesterday at the movies with a buddy. I really liked the first half of it. The beginning was intriguing and a bit mysterious/suspenseful. Sadly the movie turned into a SciFi cliché filled with chase scenes and gratuitous computer generated fights. I hated the ending and wished that the plot had taken a completely different and more sane direction.

In the end the story simply had too many holes in it and just did not come together with any rationality. Part of the story line was understandable but so much of it took leaps that I had a hard time piecing together. Even so, Cruise was pretty good in the role.

All that said, I left the movie feeling apathetic towards it. If you like Tom Cruise action SciFi flicks you may like this. It is not as good as Minority Report but it is okay.

On a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★.

Catch my other min-movie-reviews by selecting "Movies" above.

Happy May Day

This funny Shoebox cartoon seems appropriate for a day in Kansas City that will begin in the 70 degree sunny zone and possibly be hit with rain and 30 degree temps tomorrow. Spring weather has been a bit crazy here.

Even so, I am looking forward to May. It 'may' be my most favorite month of the year. Usually the temps are pleasant and conducive to outside dining and other activities. And, of course, it is the month of my birth. :)

How is the day looking in your neighborhood? Any plans for May?