Friday, January 28, 2011

Movie Review: RED

I wanted to see RED when it came out in theatres. I like everyone in the cast, and I love action-comedies. When it came out last fall, I heard a lot of mixed reviews about it. Some people were complaining because it's based on a graphic novel that is apparently dark and very serious, and "Hollywood turned it into a rom-com," the comics fans would say disdainfully.

I didn't get to see it in theatres, because we were busy the first couple of weekends it was out, and then the third weekend it was only in one theatre, not very convenient to our house and only at one time in the morning, and by the time I looked for it on Saturday, it was too late to make it. I think there was a fourth week and the times still weren't convenient. We have to give our cat Indy an insulin shot at 8:00pm, so a movie with a listed starting time of 5:30pm or later is simply not possible.

Now the movie is out on DVD, so we picked it up the "Special Edition" this evening (Walmart for $15).

First, a quick summary:

Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA operative who's so bored and lonely that he keeps tearing up his retirement checks so he has an excuse to talk to Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) at the call center. When a team of operatives shows up trying to kill him, he realizes that Sarah is at risk, so he travels to her apartment and, when she freaks out, he kidnaps her. Over the course of the movie, they team up with several other retired operatives (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox) to find out why he's a target, and uncover a conspiracy designed to protect a powerful politician.

The movie is well-paced and very funny. I laughed out loud several times and also gasped at some of the incredible near-miss action sequences. I know most of it is done with computers now, but they had some very clever set-ups. It was well-plotted. We saw Sarah start to trust Frank and come to care for him. There was a great sense of camaraderie and sense of duty among the old timers. The younger CIA agent (Karl Urban) who is assigned to go after him, gives just about as good as he gets, but he can't get the upper hand on the seasoned retirees.

I don't remember much, if any bad language. There's no nudity.  It's an action film, so there is a lot of violence. It's not particularly bloody, but people do get blown up.

I'm disappointed in the DVD because of the sparse special features. They have no business calling this a special edition. The trailer isn't even included. There's a commentary from a former CIA agent, some deleted and extended scenes, and something called "Access RED" that's supposed to include some interviews and trivia. I haven't watched any of the special features yet, but it doesn't sound like a lot.

If you enjoy '80s-style action movies, , if you like a well-thought-out story that's a bit of a mystery, or if you believe there's life after 40, then I think you'll enjoy the film RED.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Feed a cold, starve a fever, chicken soup and plenty of fluids

For centuries, people shared tips on how to treat illness at home. Doctors were scarce, and for a long time, they didn't even have any special training. If something worked, you remembered it and you told your friends.

Along came medical schools and research hospitals, and learned doctors and scientists began to scoff at "old wives' tales." How could eating chicken soup possibly help anyone get over a viral infection?!

How indeed?

A researcher at the University of Nebraska Medical Center asked himself that question and decided to find out. He took his wife's chicken soup to the lab, and after getting some interesting results, he and his team tested store-bought soups as well. The results were published in the journal Chest and publicized on CNN's website.

In a nutshell, when we get a viral infection like a cold, our body sends out white blood cells called neutrophils that eat up germs. All that neutrophil activity stimulates the release of mucus, and that causes us to have stuffy or runny noses and leads to coughing. Many of the ingredients in chicken soup, including the base broth, help slow down the neutrophils, thus reducing the amount of mucus produced.

Personally, I think the heat from the soup and the steam rising from the bowl both help to break up mucus and improve breathing. The researcher didn't study that factor, but he said it could play a part in soup's effectiveness to relieve cold symptoms.

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever

A Duke University doctor tackled the old adage to "feed a cold, starve a fever." That advice was first put in print in the 16th century. The idea was that a cold was caused because you got too cold; eating and drinking would help your body generate heat. If you had a fever, you needed to cool down, so don't eat so much. The Duke experts admit that there is something to the old idea. For one thing, if you have a fever, you probably won't have much of an appetite. Turns out, not eating helps the immune system focus its energy on fighting the bug, although if you're hungry, don't starve yourself.

When you have a cold, which usually lasts a week, you need nutrients to keep up your strength and give your body the energy it needs to fight off the infection. Vegetables, fruit juice and warm broths are recommended.

Drink Plenty of Fluids

A recent New York Times report began with the suggestion that maybe the age-old advice to drink plenty of fluids when you're sick may not carry much water. Scientists at the University of Queensland, Australia, decided they wanted to review the facts about that common recommendation. They plowed through piles of old studies and medical journals and found out that while everyone seems to suggest drinking plenty of fluids, no one has really done any research on it.

Uh, guys? Maybe that's because we all know it works!

For one thing, we all know it's important to stay hydrated under normal circumstances. When you're congested, if you're taking medication to dry up your stuffy nose, it's going to dry out everything. In addition, meds or no meds, if you don't drink enough water, all that mucus is going to be really thick, and more difficult to expel. If you're properly hydrated, it's easier to blow your nose or cough the stuff up out of your lungs. Plus, what follows a stuffy nose? A sore throat. That's because of all the nasal drainage and coughing. Drinking plenty of water, hot tea, warm lemonade, and (ahem) chicken soup, will help keep your throat moist so it doesn't hurt as much.

Wash Your Hands

Okay, that's as much for before you get sick as after. Washing hands frequently (with soap and sing the alphabet song to make sure you wash long enough) will wash away the germs you pick up on door knobs, cash, shopping carts, etc. If you get sick, it'll help keep you from spreading those nasty germs to others. Good practice, all year long.

Stay well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thank You, Stanislav Petrov

Where were you in September, 1983? I was in college. A typical day would have involved going to classes, maybe a few hours of work at the mall, possibly a rehearsal for the musical "Of Thee I Sing" - I was in the chorus and had a couple of lines, too.

In September, 1983, Stanislav Petrov was at work in a bunker new Moscow. He was monitoring an early warning system for any signs of nuclear attack. On September 26, while working a double shift, his screen turned red, indicating that an intercontinental ballistic missile had been launched from the United States and was streaking through the sky towards the USSR.

Petrov knew that tense relations between the US and USSR were even more strained than usual. Three weeks early, an American congressman and 268 other passengers and crew had been killed when Soviet jets shot down a Korean Air flight that had strayed into Soviet airspace. He also knew that the new early warning system was not without its problems. He waited. Then the system reported the launch of four more ICBMs. Still, he waited.

Had Petrov reported the situation to his superiors, they could easily have made the decision to launch a retaliatory strike that would have ended life as we know it. Petrov didn't panic. He considered the situation logically, and he knew that if the US were really entering nuclear war with the USSR, more than five missiles would be headed their way. No other systems, such as ground level radar, could corroborate the early warning system's report.  So, the day passed, for the rest of the world, without fear, without war, because Petrov waited.

Thank you, sir.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Wine that Time Forgot

Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.
1 Timothy, 5:23

In the 21st century, you might hear a doctor recommend drinking a glass of red wine to help prevent cancer. 3,500 years ago or so, the people who transcribed the Word of God included the above admonition to to drink a little wine for what ails you. But when exactly was wine invented? Recent archaeological discoveries suggest wine-making was going on more than 7,000 years ago!

How did scientists reach that conclusion?

Archaeological chemist Patrick E. McGovern examined the chemical residue found in ancient jars found at a 7,400 year old site in northwestern Iran and identified it as wine.  Basically, they found someone's wine cellar, pantry or recycle bin. So, they know wine was around that long ago, but they still didn't know who was making the wine or exactly how.

Until now. 

A multinational team of scientists this week announced the discovery of what McGovern calls, "the earliest winemaking facility that’s ever been found." It's about 6,100 years old.

REUTERS: Archaeologist Levon Patrosyan looks
at 6,100 year-old wine-making equipment.

The winemaking operation was found in an Armenian cave, covered in sheep poo which, for whatever reason, helped preserve the artifacts. Scientists located grape seeds, dried pressed grapes, stems and shriveled grapevines along with the tools of the trade: a vat for fermenting, storage jars, a clay bowl and horn drinking cup. I guess they needed to test the quality of the product. The archaeology team also found a shallow, thick-rimmed clay basin they believe was used for stomping the grapes. The basin was positioned so that the grape juice would flow into the two-foot-deep fermentation vat. Pretty clever, huh. 

Elsewhere in the cave, the science team found a burial site where the bones of several people, from children to old men were stored in ceramic vessels. Co-director of the excavation, Dr. Gregory Areshian, believes the wine made in the cave was used in death or mourning rituals.

The cave also contained a 5,500-year-old leather shoe (woman's, size 7), smelted copper and a mold for casting ingots, and containers filled with an early trail mix - dried grapes, prunes, walnuts and almonds.

One of the next steps for this find is, according to Dr. Areshian, “a very extensive DNA analysis of the grape seeds” from the cave. He also says that botanists connected with the find are eager to plant some of the grape seeds and see what grows.

Now that's what I call heirloom gardening!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What's your favorite thing you've written?

I've been writing since I was a little kid. Not just writing as in being able to form words on paper with a pen or pencil but writing as in creating a work of literature. I'm not saying what I wrote when I was a little kid was great literature or anything, but I did win second place in the third grade poetry contest with this gem:

Lady Kathleen Kelly is her name.
During her lifetime, she won lots of fame.
She was queen and ruled the land,
and all her courtship was very grand.
With all her courtiers she loved to chat,
but this is a dream, and Kathleen's a cat.
It was probably the twist ending that impressed the judges. 

Long before Dances With Wolves, I wrote a story about a
frontier soldier who questioned mistreatment of tribes.
I'm not sure I have a favorite among all the writing I've done. Standouts among the stories I wrote when I was little, in elementary or middle school,  are two kind of dark pieces. If I ever find them again (I'm sure they're boxed up somewhere), I'll post them online. Years before Dances with Wolves won an Oscar, I wrote a short story about a frontier soldier who questions treatment of a Native American tribe. What can I say, I watched a lot of old westerns on TV and my great-grandmother on my mom's side was Native American. The other story is about a barber who's planning to cut the throat of a dictator. When I ran across this in some papers a few years ago, I kind of wondered if I made it up or if it was some sort of bizarre English exercise. You know, this story is missing the punctuation; copy it and insert the correct punctuation marks. It just doesn't seem appropriate content for middle school. I think the one guy's name was Torres. I don't remember if that was the barber or the dictator. Does this sound familiar to anyone from school in the mid-1970s?

In high school, I was pretty proud of a story I wrote for senior English. We were supposed to write a true story, but I couldn't think of anything interesting, so I wrote some far-fetched science fiction story in the first person, and for anyone who might question its veracity, I ended it with the brilliant, "It could be true, and it could happen to you."

The only scripts I've ever written are short ones, 20 minutes or less. Two were completed for a 24 Hour Theatre project, so they were done under the gun and turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. One was the screenplay for a movie that I got to make as part of a contest run by MTV and Amp'd (a mobile phone company, now defunct). I thought the script turned out well, though it was also written rather quickly; the finished film was cut down to four minutes (the better to play on Amp'd cell phones), and I think it would have been better about a minute longer. Still, I'm proud of the film. The two other screenplays I've written were for short film contests, but due to circumstances beyond my control, they were never filmed.

I've started writing novels and feature-length scripts, but I've never finished any of them. That, however, is a post for another day.

What writing projects that you've done stand out in your mind as something to be proud of?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Monsters are Due

Tonight, we watched an episode from the first season of The Twilight Zone. The story is called "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." Filmed circa 1960, it's probably a statement on HUAC and the Red Menace. I read the story in science fiction class in high school, and I first saw the episode years ago, and I thought it was great.

I see it a little differently now.

In the episode, a quiet afternoon on a suburban street turns into a night of hostility and death. Several neighbors witness something -- a meteor, perhaps -- streak by overhead. Soon after, they realize the power has gone out, the radios won't pick up anything, the phones aren't working, the cars won't start. One of the men sets out to see if the next street over is having the same trouble.

A teenager says he knows what happened; he read it in a comic book. The meteor is a spaceship, and the aliens have disrupted power and communications. Two other men were planning to walk into town to find out what the trouble is, and the boy begs them not to go. He says they may not come back. In the comic book, the only people who could leave the area were an alien family that had been planted in the area to earn the neighbors' trust.

Some of the neighbors start to believe the story. When one man's car starts unexpectedly, that's suspicious. Why is your car starting when ours won't? A woman says she's seen the man walking outside early in the morning, looking up at the stars. Why is that? Clearly he's watching for the spaceship bringing the invasion fleet. As the night goes on, accusations keep flying and tempers are burning hotter.

Then a figure appears at the end of the street, walking towards the group. It's dark. Who's coming? It must be the aliens. Someone grabs a gun and shoots. Of course, it's Pete coming back from his foray to the next street over. Even his death doesn't snap people back to using common sense, and as the chaos builds, we zoom out to find a pair of humanoid aliens watching from a hilltop. It's always the same, one says to the other. All we have to do is shut off a few of their machines and wait for them to destroy each other.

Today, I can't really see that happening. I've seen people support each other after 9/11, help each other after hurricanes, share flashlights and radios after the big Northeast Blackout. The only somewhat violent incident I recall after Hurricane Ivan was a couple of out of town deputies tasing a resident who was on the dark and isolated beach trying to defend his home from looters.

The part that left me with chills and convinced me that the story still has a great deal of relevance was Rod Serling's closing narration, which I quote here:

The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own - for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone.

I listened to these words and I thought about the bright, inspired 9-year-old who was shot dead a few days ago because a disturbed man was biased against members of a particular political party.

"Prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy." Rod Serling, you were right. More's the pity.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Please Vote for My Soft Kitty

Kali and I are trying to win a trip to L.A. in a contest sponsored by CBS and The Big Bang Theory comedy series.

Well, I'm trying to win the trip. Kali is trying to get her parents out of the house so she can make mischief. It's a voting contest, to be decided over several rounds. Round 1 is under way and ends January 13.

You can view the video and vote by clicking this sentence.

It's really easy. Just look for the security confirmation word to the left of the video, type it into the box, and click the Vote button right underneath. I would really appreciate it.

To read more about why the video is not very exciting, visit my other blog CrazyKittyChick.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Best Christmas Gift of 2010

Now that the holidays are behind us, I find a moment to think about the best gift I received.

For me, it was the time spent with family. Many of my extended family members I only see at the holidays or the occasional wedding or funeral. We just don't get together that often.

Spending the holidays with family members has always been a blessing to me. I grew up a military brat so even our immediate family wasn't always together for Christmas, and the times we came home and went to my grandparents' houses were that much more special.

As I get older, the times together become even more precious, as I have lost grandparents, my dad, my cousin. Christmas brings all of us together, and that's the best part of the season.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Men: Dress Sharp to Get Women

Photo from
A man who dresses well seems more attractive than he really is. At least, that's the view of 91% of Americans polled. Most women, 83% of them, said that a sharply dressed man is sexier than one with a lot of money.

Of course, this survey was conducted on behalf of Men's Wearhouse, who would certainly benefit if more men wore suits and ties. I can't say that my heart would be broken never to see another man wearing baggy pants that look like they're about to fall off with a grunge-skater-graffiti t-shirt. I'm not alone; 65% of those polled agreed that you can determine a man's maturity level by what he's wearing.

The men's responses show that they're thinking about what they're wearing. A little, at least. The survey found that 72% of men feel underdressed most of the time. About the same number responded that men in general don't dress as well as they did 20 years ago, even though they also saw a good wardrobe as an important part of financial success.

Men's Wearhouse has published the complete survey online, if you'd like to see more results. Before I sign off, one final hint to the guys: 32% of women polled said they have thrown away some of their men's clothing without telling him.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I met a famous filmmaker today.

I'm jumping the gun just a little. Brett Haley isn't a household name, but judging by the reviews his new feature film is getting, he probably will be very soon.

Trieste Kelly Dunn and Brett Haley
Brett grew up in Pensacola, Florida. He went to college in North Carolina then moved to New York. The year my super short film Payoff was in the Pensacola Bay Area Film Festival, Brett had a short film in as well. His cost a lot more than mine and his was longer (he wasn't cutting his movie for screenings on cell phones). I missed it; I was in New York, thanks to a sweepstakes I'd won. My husband attended, and he says while my film ended up too short, Brett's was a little too long. The other difference is, I haven't made another film, and Brett has.

His newest film is a feature. The New Year. It's been getting rave reviews at prestigious film festivals around the country. The film was actually shot a couple of years ago, here in Pensacola, for a budget of about $8,000. (Hey, my four-minute film cost just a bit more than that! Huh.) Today, I learned that he finished editing in time to submit it for festival season in 2009. Unfortunately, none of the festivals picked it up. Finally, the Sarasota Film Festival screened the movie, and the audience loved it. So much that it won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. Suddenly, everyone in the film community sat up and took notice, and he was invited to screen the film at a dozen-plus top festivals. Here's the trailer:

It's a great kick-off for a promising directorial talent.

The New Year is booked for a two-week engagement at the Gulf Breeze Cinema 4 starting Friday, January 7, 2011. In the meantime, you can read an interview with Brett at IndieWIRE and check out the latest news on the film's Facebook page.

Brett and I have something else in common, besides our films screening together at the Pensacola Bay Area Film Festival. We both cast the extremely talented Carol Kahn Parker in our movies. You can see Carol in Payoff at, and to learn more about how that movie got made, look for the Unofficial Payoff website link in my sidebar.

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Year - New Blogging Resolution

Gerard ter Borch d. J. 001I am resolving to post more on my blogs in 2011. I really want to build this into something really useful. I want to expand my product reviews and giveaways, and I hope that I can get the support of businesses. PR Welcome!

You may have noticed that I have a new look and a new title to go with this resolution. The name has changed from Musings to Rhyme Schemes and Daydreams. I chose the Musings name when I first started the blog several years ago. I hadn't been to many blogs at that time, I wasn't sure what I was even going to do with this other than try to create a non-private personal journal. Now, I have visited dozens if not hundreds of blogs and I have a better idea of what I want to do with it. I never really liked Musings; it's kind of dull, actually. I wish I had put more thought into it when I first started because I had a great notion only to find that it was so great, someone else is already using it. C'est la vie.

Rhyme Schemes and Daydreams alludes to my love of writing and my tendency to "imagine the possibilities," aka daydream.

I have two other blogs, and I'm trying to decide if I should pull them all together or continue to maintain them separately.

A few years ago, I started my Hurricane Safety blog with the intent of providing tips to people who might need to prepare for a tropical storm or hurricane. At the time, I was really frustrated that after a couple of really busy and devastating storm seasons, people here on the Gulf Coast, at least in my part of it, seemed to be blasé about preparedness. It also provides a quick reference for me to find supply lists and phone numbers. Of late, I have expanded it to include some other safety information, such as home fire prevention and readiness.

More recently I started Crazy Kitty Chick. My intention was to post cat-related articles, personal stories as well as information found online, reviews of products, ideas for DIY projects, and that sort of thing. I pretty quickly broke my own rule and included some non-cat content. If I maintain that site as a separate blog, and I'm going to do that for now, I will probably move those non-cat posts over to this one.

What do you think? Do you like the new look of this site and what you're reading here? Should I keep all three separate sites or try to merge any or all of them? Are you a blogger? I would love to hear your success stories and whether or not you've ever faced a decision about maintaining multiple sites. I've also been trying to convince my husband to blog about the things he's interested in. I keep giving him ideas. Have you been able to convince someone else to take up the task? Do tell!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Not in the house, Luke!

This video demonstrates what really happened when Luke Skywalker turned on his father's lightsaber for the first time. Priceless!

Blizzard video - Oscar-worthy?

On December 26, 2010, New York filmmaker Jamie Stuart spent a few hours documenting the blizzard that hit New England. The next day, he edited together a short film, uploaded it to YouTube, and he emailed the link to a number of people, including Chicago movie critic Roger Ebert.

Ebert loved the film and wrote a column about it. He thinks it's a masterful example of film-making, deserving of an Academy Award for live action short subject. Here it is:

What do you think?
For the most part, the visuals are beautifully shot. I liked some of the editing, but not all of it. I don't mind that it doesn't tell a particular story, but I thought that parts of it, particularly the first half, was cut very choppily. I don't know what the deadline is to submit a short film for consideration by the Academy, but if there's still time, Stuart should certainly go for it. I'm sure he wasn't aiming for an Award when he posted it, but he will certainly get a job offer or two based on all the attention he's getting, and that probably is what he's aiming for every time he uploads a short film to YouTube.
One of the reason's Ebert liked it was that he considered it an homage to Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov's 1929 feature "Man with a Movie Camera." Ebert posted the complete silent film, just over an hour long, on his website. I watched a few minutes of it, and it seems like an interesting experiment and a nice documentation of life in the young Soviet Republic. The film is respected, at least in part, because of the variety of in-camera effects, trick photography, and cinematic techniques developed and/or used by Vertov. Stuart's short really doesn't have a unique style that really stands out.
You can read Ebert's complete article, including a Q&A with Stuart, and watch Vertov's film at Roger Ebert's Journal on the Chicago Sun-Times website.
For myself, I was just as entertained by this timelapse that shows the blizzard's effects in New Jersey. Photographer Michael Black set his camera to take a photo every five minutes for about 20 hours.

Watching this video makes me glad I live in Florida!

12 Days of Christmas and the Weather

My Grandma Hahn held with the old superstition that the weather during Christmastide predicted the weather for the coming year. For a long time, I mis-remembered the legend as being the weather on the first 12 days of the new year, but it always seemed to make sense. January 7 would be July, and it was usually a little unseasonably warm that day. I think it was last year, maybe year before last, that my mom had said it was the 12 days of Christmas, starting with December 25th that predicted the weather.

I've always had the best intentions to compare the appropriate prediction dates to the actual weather, but I lose my notes or I'd forget to check it once the summer got here, that kind of thing. This year, though, I found that the National Weather Service has some excellent tools -- such as a chart of the average high, low and cumulative rainfall for each month of the year; a chart for each month of the year showing the average high, low and rainfall by day; and a chart that shows the 30-year average for each month (1971 to 2000). So I went back over all of last year's data so I could check the accuracy of the old legend.

The first box shows for each day of Christmastide 2009-2010, the high, low and rainfall amount in Pensacola, Florida. The second box shows the average high, low and rainfall for each month of 2010. You can follow each row straight across to see if the Christmastide weather predicted the actual weather.

As you can see, the temperatures in January, February and March are spot on. One could argue that December 31, being unseasonably warm, predicted the higher temperatures in July. Sort of. I'll be following this for next year, and I'm particularly curious to see if we get snow this February, since we had a few snowflakes fall on the day after Christmas.

I've thought about going back a few years, but it is a little time consuming. One comparison I would like to make is what Grandma recorded in a diary some thirty years ago. My mom has the book, but at the time, I didn't know how to compare it with any actual temperatures for that year. That'll be interesting.

Something else interesting is the comparison of last year's temperatures with the historical averages for a 30-year span from 1971 to 2000. With the exception of April's low, 2010 temperatures were colder than average in winter and warmer than average in the other seasons. While some months of 2010 had drastically more rain than average and others had drastically less, by the end of the year, we were about an inch-and-a-half below average for the year.

At least we didn't have any hurricanes. Knock wood.