Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Like most people, I love movies. Nathan and I have gone to several over the last two years, including most of the "blockbuster" movies. 

Honestly, in many cases, the thrill has just been gone lately. As my friend Keith says, the question all movies must answer first and foremost:  Does it ENTERTAIN?  The whole point of movies is to entertain; movies that fail to entertain are failures.

There is a group of moviegoers (sorry if this steps on toes) who are into “CINEMA” (the same group who go to Cannes, apparently).  While I can occasionally do “cinema” myself, I don’t try to make a steady diet of it.  For example, while I watched “Citizen Kane” once, and agree it is very well made and intelligent, it is far from one of my “favourite” movies.  I’d rather see “popular” (meaning not obtuse exercises in filmmaking “craft”) movies from the same era, “Casablanca”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “Red River”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Gone With the Wind”.  Critics sniff at some of these (although I think almost everybody agrees on “Casablanca”); they’re not “cerebral” enough.

Several “cerebral” films have come out recently.

“No Country for Old Men”---one of Nathan’s fraternity brothers raved about this one; he’d seen it about 10 times already when we went.  While this movie featured one of the best movie-villain performances in my memory (Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh, absolutely chilling and brilliantly portrayed), and featured some excellent acting jobs by some of the best players of the day, it was also a 2 hour exercise in depression.  I’m not saying every movie should be “The Sound of Music”, but GEEZ, I was ready to commit suicide when I left the theater.  I thought maybe it was just me, but Nathan was even more unhappy.  We all walked out and Bret breathed, “Wasn’t that just the greatest movie of all time?”  I think if we had said, “Yeah, let’s go see it again tonight”, he’d have done it.  If you’ve not seen the movie, here’s my synopsis:  life is futile, violent, pointless, and everybody dies horribly.  Gee, thanks, I needed a lift….

Then there are the “blockbusters”….

I Am Legend:  This is the third movie treatment of Robert Matheson’s book of the same name; star power provided by the redoubtable Will Smith, who I generally like.  The last version of this show was “The Omega Man” with Charlton Heston, who I generally DISlike (William Shatner must’ve studied every Heston movie for inspiration); I liked that particular movie, even if it WAS 1968-cheesy.  In the current movie, though, you get to the end (very quickly) and wonder, “Why do I care about these people?’

See, that’s the thing:  in many, many of these modern movies, there is NO plot, NO character development, NO sympathy---we don’t know who these people are, what they are doing, why they are doing it, or why we should care about them.  It’s all very “arty”, and it’s very “cool” in intellectually fashionable circles to like this sort of thing.


OR it’s all very vacuous.  Do we really care much about the characters in “Monsters vs. Aliens”?  Um, probably not. 

Kung Fu Panda?  Please….


OR there are really nice movies that somehow leave you feeling a little let down---like, “Where’s the beef?” or “Is that all there is?”  A lot of movies are like this; mildly entertaining, but there is no “there” there.  “Leatherheads”, “Australia”, “W.”---all mildly entertaining, in a “lite” sort of way.  You feel like there just ought to be more to it….


All of the foregoing to set the stage for this:

We went to see "State of Play" last night, the new-ish effort from Kevin MacDonald, featuring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Helen Mirren.

Both Nathan and I had the same thought at almost the same time; I thought, “Wow, this is a REAL MOVIE, with, like, MOVIE STARS and PLOT and ACTING and DRAMA!” and Nathan turned to me and whispered, “It’s so great to see a real MOVIE for a change!”

“State of Play” would have been at home in the earlier era of moviemaking, when plot, character, and action MATTERED. 

I didn’t “get it” until almost the end (Nathan reports he didn’t either), they had me fooled.  I’m not easy to fool and I’m not very helpful to the moviemaker---I look for things to criticize.  Obvious plot errors, continuity errors (in “War of the Worlds”, Tom Cruise comes out of a building that has basically been blown to pieces---but after the explosion, he’s in there and all the furniture is still in place, dust, no debris---wow, what happened to the rest of the building?)---I’m good at picking these out.

I couldn’t find any errors in this movie.  It was taut, suspenseful, and had lots of twists, turns, and blind alleys/red herrings.  Couple of things:  you have wrap your brain around the idea that scruffy Russell Crowe and ultra-prep Ben Affleck were college roommates, and the romance between Affleck’s wife and Crowe seems out of place and unnecessary—doesn’t really contribute to the plot.

But, this movie kept me on the edge of my seat, guessing (incorrectly) “whodunit”.  I love it when that happens.  It is called, “being entertained”.  I was engaged from the beginning of the film to the closing credits.  You have to keep up, too (another of my favourite things); you can’t sit there and half-sleep and still follow the movie. 

It’s a GREAT show and I recommend it heartily.  Can’t wait for it to come out on DVD so I can watch it again in my den. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Greetings from the shores of Beautiful Lake Westmere

Westmere Dr., Houston, Texas, 77077    April 28, 2009, 7:45am

This is what we saw this morning when we went out the front door.

Nathan, of course, walked out in the middle of the street in the flood (not my ass---there might be SNAKES in there!).   He is 6"4 and the water was up to his knees.  Apparently the water got almost up to the house, but didn't get in (thank God).  Fortunately, I have Federal Flood Insurance....


This is how high it got; note the debris line.

 DSC_0129 DSC_0135 DSC_0136 DSC_0139 IMG_4441 IMG_4443 IMG_4445 IMG_4450 IMG_4451 IMG_4452 IMG_4453  IMG_4457 IMG_4461


My neighbors, who are kind enough to watch my dogs while I’m gone.

Monday, April 27, 2009

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (and is there no common courtesy any more?)

Well, Nathan and I learned (again...) that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

These movie houses which double as restaurants are sweeping Texas (don't know how long they've been other places, but they are sprouting all over the place here).  Ours is Studio Movie Grill.  If you have been to one, skip the next section; if this is a new concept for you, read on.

The idea is this:  you want dinner and a movie, right?  Ok, they provide both--at the same time. 

The movie screen is a typical big screen, with state-of-the-art sound.  Instead of movie seats, though, the floor is tiered, and each tier features a width-of-the-theater bar-like (meaning, like you'd find at a sports bar) table, with a little shelf above it.  The little shelf conceals a very low wattage string of lights, so the table is lit just enough that you can find your food without accidentally groping the person next to you.  The seats are "executive" chairs, like your boss might have at work.

As you enter, you are given a menu and a little light-up gizmo like they give you at restaurants ("Jones, party of 4, your table is ready..."), but this is not to notify you of a table---it has a little button; you push it and put it on the little shelf; this notifies the waiter you need him/her.

The food is typical burger-bar stuff coupled with bar food.  Fried cheese, chips and queso, chips and salsa, burgers, fries, onion rings, etc.  They have a "steak" but I've never been brave enough to order it.  Food is "fair" at best (don't order the chicken nachos!) and a little more expensive than, say, Chili’s; drinks are movie-house expensive.  Of course you must also tip.

But, let's say you want to go to a movie during the week.  You get off work at 5, get home around 6, eat fast food and try to get to an 8:00 show, then get home in time for bed.  Well, with Studio Movie Grill, you can just go straight there and skip the intervening steps, see a 6:00 show, and get home at a reasonable hour.

Our SMG is located in a "new" shopping center (they tore Town and Country Mall down and built a shopping center).  It's still mostly under construction, and the movie house needed patrons.  So, they printed up a TON of free admission tickets.  We snagged some.

Now to the "There's no such thing as a free lunch" part:

The free passes expire April 30.  Yesterday was Sunday, a nice day weather-wise.  We decided to take in State of Play and use our last passes. 

When we got to the theater, we discovered that –many- of our fellow Houstonians had decided to use THEIR passes on a nice Sunday afternoon as well.  Also, we discovered that “Hanna Montana:  the Movie” was showing on two screens. 

In short, the place was a total madhouse, lines snaking every which way, lots and lots and lots of out-of-control children.  The claustrophobia situation was off the scale.

Ergo, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.  We opted to leave and have cocktails on the back porch with neighbors instead.


Is there no common courtesy any more at all?

Dad and I went to Wal-Mart (that should be a clue, right there) Saturday to bring him from VHS up to DVD standards (wowsers, what’s next?!).  Dad was in one of those scooter carts; I was walking.  We’re moseying down the middle aisle when this teenage girl, pushing a cart, rockets out of the side aisle.  Her mother and sister were close behind.  I had to jump out of the way, and she almost hit Dad.  Neither of the girls even acknowledged our presence, but the surprise (guess not, huh) was that neither did the Mom.

As Nathan and I were going to the SMG, we walked out of the parking garage on the –extremely narrow- sidewalk.  We were exiting the sidewalk (no place for us to go except into traffic) and this lady (?) was coming in.  Instead of just waiting a few seconds till we vacated the sidewalk, she barrelled ahead, practically knocking us down.  No “Oh, I’m sorry”, no “Pardon me”, not even an “Excuse me”.  I’ve walked down many crowded sidewalks in NYC; people usually will give one of the above if they’ve physically contacted you.

Is common courtesy just dead?  What do you think?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Always good to go

Always good to get home.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Just keep feeding me material, Kathy

Here's one of Kathy's that I missed:

"This Old House"

Several things about that post are interesting; Kathy has shown me the house and all those shrubs (and the two little boys) are all grown up.

It is sad, sometimes, when you leave your home. I had very mixed emotions about leaving Malvern, AR for Houston. Of course I was excited about my new job, and excited about the change of pace, shaking up the routine, getting out of the rut, etc. I wasn't terribly sorry to be leaving Malvern, either. It was not the community I spent all those happy summers in in the 1960's; things change, you know.

Still, that house was special to me; it meant something. So I was a bit wistful.

But the point of this post is this:

Moving at Christmas---just don't do it.

My Mother and Dad bought a new house in Dallas in 1960. Why it went down at the exact time it did I have no idea (and can't ask them now). The reasons we moved were obvious: it was a brand-new house; our old house (with a 3 year old and two dogs) was on an extremely busy, major thoroughfare; the new house was bigger.

It turned out we actually moved ON CHRISTMAS DAY, because Dad could be off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day without losing time from work or using vacation days. Dad had rented a U-Haul and we made at least 100 trips between our old house and new one.

I vaguely remember the argument they had, but they have told me the story many times, so here's the gist of it:

Him: "Look, I'm tired, we've gotten everything else, we're ready to go to the new house, and we've still got to clean this one. We'll just carefully put the Christmas tree in the trailer and put some blankets around it; it'll be fine."

Her: "Are you crazy? We have to undecorate that tree and pack all the ornaments!"

He won, partly because she WAS tired and DID have to clean the old house.

So we moved our FULLY DECORATED Christmas Tree on the tailgate of the station wagon. I have no idea how many ornaments were lost, but the tree made it to the new abode and was put up just in time to be taken down.


A quick footnote: The surviving Christmas ornaments were used and added to over the years. Mother LOVED Christmas (I'm ambivalent; I'd rather have a religious holiday and skip Santa), and she had a huge trove of Christmas decorations. I didn't want them, and my sister has her own. So there we were, cleaning out the storage room at the Malvern house after moving Mother and Dad to assisted living in San Antonio. There were all those Christmas decorations, along with our baby bed (!), high chair (!), stroller (!), 1950's Chromecraft dinette (complete with vinyl chairs!) and assorted other miscellaney and debris that had accumulated. My next door neighbor had a son, aged 14 when they moved there, who kind of adopted me as a part-time uncle. He mowed my lawn, weeded the flowerbeds, etc. Later, when he graduated high school, he found "The One" and married her. At the time we were cleaning out the storage room, she was -great- with child. They had come over to help with the "toting" and cleanup. I told them they could just have any of the stuff we had left in there, thinking that I was well off having paid them $200 to throw it away.

A few weeks later, I got a call at my desk in Houston from the young man's mother (my neighbor). She told me how grateful the kids were, and how much we had helped a young couple in need. Seems they both worked at Wal-Mart, had NO furniture, and NO Christmas decorations at all. They put up Mother's old artificial (bottle brush) Christmas tree and hung all our Christmas ornaments on it; they ate their Christmas dinner on some of our old stoneware off our 1950 Chromecraft dinette (with vinyl chairs!). The mother told me that, had it not been for us, they'd have had -nothing-, and the young lady LOVED all our stuff.

Sometimes there's a silver lining you don't expect.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Frosted Helmets, the Garden Club, and the WMU (and a ‘65 Olds)


As often happens, my friend Kathy’s blog sparked a memory. Kathy and I are about 7 or 8 years apart, but we have some very similar memories about small Arkansas towns and the people who populated them. Kathy’s blog post on “A Mema Moment” is here, and is background for THIS post.

Sidney Stella Jones (“Granny” to us) IMG_0009 b didn't play bridge (cards being the Instruments of The Devil, you know), but she taught Sunday School, was a member of the Women’s Missionary Union, and (most importantly) was a proud member (and periodically officer) of the Garden Club. This picture is from Christmas (note my new stuffed puppy) about 1961 or so.

Those Club meetings (which transpired about every other week) were big deals. Everybody got All Dressed Up (I can see her right now in navy suit, white shoes, white gloves of course, white bag, and hat with veil) and went over to each others' homes (you'd think sensible shoes so they could walk around in their gardens, but no, pumps instead) for meetings. Membership was basically unvaried, because as a daughter would become old enough to marry and have her own home, she'd be inducted. Or, a son would marry and his new wife would be inducted.

I think the Garden Club is now history, as they all eventually died off, but I'll always remember those meetings.

Oh, and re: Beauty Parlor. That weekly trip to Morea's House of Beauty was not going to be missed, mmm'kay? Cuban Missile Crisis be damned, the ladies of Malvern were going to have that "frosted helmet". If Mr. Krushchev wanted to put nuclear missiles in Cuba on Thursday, he'd just have to wait.

Granny's fourth and last car was a '65 Olds Dynamic 88 "Holiday" Sedan that had been the pageant car for Donna Axum, Miss Arkansas. Donna had to turn in the car when she became Miss America (she got a Cadillac for that), and Gramp bought Granny that car. She never could drive it (well, she never could drive at all; if you've seen Driving Miss Daisy, you've met my Granny. She got her first drivers' license the way everybody did then: she sent her application and a quarter to Little Rock, and they sent her a drivers' license. She never had a test of any kind. Dad and his siblings had many hilarious stories about her driving, most of them involving the family's 1928 Model T and the various objects she struck with it, or the ditches into which she backed it.).

The bottom line is, I (at age 8) drove her to the beauty parlor and to her various club meetings every week. It’s one of the ways I learned to drive, and frankly, I was a better driver at that point than she was and she knew it.

She hated this picture, but it’s one of the only ones I have:


American cars

This last weekend, I went car-shopping with some friends who were legitimately in the market (as opposed to just kicking tires). Their lease was coming up on their prior car, and they didn’t want to buy it, so they were going to need to replace it.

They had determined that they were going to give the American car manufacturers every chance to earn their business. Both have driven American cars for years, though her last car was a Toyota 4Runner. Still, they were determined to be as “fair” as possible.

They had identified the Mercury Mariner as a possibility (Mercury version of Ford Escape), so we took one for a spin.

Houston’s streets are legendary for their roughness. Face it, the city is broke and has a lot of street surface to maintain, on land that is in a constant state of flux. In this last weekend’s rains, for example, a huge sinkhole opened in Kingwood. The streets are rough.

One of the roughest is near my house, and near the car dealership---Dairy Ashford Rd. Dairy Ashford presents everything you would want in a test track---bumps, ruts, expansion joints, washboard surfaces, bad asphalt patches, lots of traffic, stoplights, the works.

We took the Mariner on Dairy Ashford---and it failed miserably. We determined that Ford SUV’s ride "rough". We collected our teeth and moved on.

The Ford Edge (like many other crossovers) was just too tight a fit for my 6’3 inch friend. His arm hit the pillar, there wasn’t enough headroom, etc. If you’re tiny, this might be a nice vehicle, but if you’re “full-sized” (a market the American manufacturers have always proudly served), this isn’t the vehicle for you.

The Ford/Mercury dealer staff was nice and friendly, though, and genuinely wanted to sell us a car.

On to General Motors. The much-vaunted Buick Enclave was again too tight a fit. Chevrolet Traverse was nice, but had a cheesy interior. The GMC Acadia (same car, different interior) was nice, but sadly, the interior lacked quality and refinement (ok, the door handles were cheesy, there was a noticeable squeak, the controls felt tinny). The Tahoe and Yukon were just huge, and their interiors likewise were cheesy.

During all this, we were struck (amazed and dumbfounded, actually) by the attitude of the dealer and staff. First, the salesguy (despite being told that the car was FOR the lady, with the gentleman an occasional driver) alternated between ignoring her entirely, talking down to her, or pooh-poohing every word that came out of her mouth. This is 2009!

The other thing the General Motors dealer did that was infuriating: they still had that smug, “Aren’t you lucky we might deign to consider selling your worthless asses one of our fabulous General Motors vehicles?” attitude. All of the General Motors dealers we visited had this attitude. Um, hello, boys---YOUR COMPANY IS BANKRUPT AND BEING KEPT AFLOAT BY THE US TAXPAYER! You might try a little less ARROGANCE! At least the Ford and Chrysler dealers seemed glad to see us….

Ahh, Chrysler, my personal favourite. I’ve owned a lot of Chrysler products over the years, have two currently, and frankly was pushing the couple to look at the Chrysler Aspen. I had tested an Aspen in Malvern, and wanted it badly; they’re almost half price now because of the lack of demand.

Sadly, we were all shocked at the Aspen’s shortcomings. Cheesy (detect a pattern? All the American cars had CRAPPY interiors) interior, bouncy, rough ride---as someone said, “Welcome to 1991”.

Frankly, while my friends were doing other things, I looked at the current versions of my cars: the Chrysler Sebring convertible and the Chrysler Town and Country. My Sebring is an ‘02 and my T&C is an ‘04. There is NO comparison between the interiors in MY OLD cars and the new ones---the new ones were a definite step down. I would not buy the new versions of these cars, which saddens me.

By contrast, ALL of the Japanese brands were better than the BEST American brand. The Subaru Forester was a nifty vehicle, so was the Toyota Rav4.


They bought a Honda Pilot. I’ve not been a huge Honda fan in the past, but if I were in the market for a car right now, that’s the one I’d buy. It was shockingly nice. Great ride (front and rear seats), impressive power and handling, great gas mileage, solid, quiet, comfortable, ROOMY, thoughtfully designed interior, quality throughout. The Pilot (an SUV) had better ride and handling than the General Motors CROSSOVERS (car chassis, should be vastly superior to an SUV).

I can’t say enough nice things about the Pilot. Honda REALLY did their homework; it’s a home run. And $10,000 cheaper than the Buick or GMC products.

The point of all this: Geez, America. Is THIS the best you can do? The General Motors cars were cheesy, cheap (but very high-dollar) crap and the dealers acted like they were magnanimously doing us a huge favour by showing them to us. Ford was the best of the “Big 3”, but was easily 10 years behind the Japanese products. Chrysler was 20 years behind.

GM, Ford, Chrysler: maybe it really IS time for you to ride off into the sunset.


My friend read this post and sent me an email with his suggestions. He had in mind that I would re-write them, but he did a great job, so here's his email:

Several things

-we chose foreign over domestic EVEN THOUGH domestic had 0% APR for 60+ months

-We would have bought the Mariner if we simply planned to sit in our driveway in it. It was luxury at a reasonable price. Leather, comfortable seats, stylish, didn't look cheesy, and appropriate if you want the feel and ride of a truck. But it failed the second we started driving it because of the smoothness or lack thereof of the drive.

-Merc Mariner was practically being given away. 2008 model brand new for 20,000 (before haggle time). We paid in the 30s for what we got.

"Floaty" - That is the best way I know to describe the ride in the GMC Acadia. It was lower to the ground, but it felt like the car was floating on the tire (more from a responsive side, not a comfort side)

Most of the vehicles had LOTS of sway in the maneuvering. You turn the wheel, then the wheels turn, and then the cab of the vehicle wakes up and decides it better turn too (a second later).

(Note: the "swing and sway" aspect of almost everything we drove can't be overstated. If it was truck-based, the ride was rough and every bump translated directly to the passengers. If car-based, the ride was "floaty"--not really comfortable, didn't feel "solid". Kind of like the old 60's and 70's cars in a way--far too disconnected from the road. In turns, practically every domestic we drove had a LOT of sway---you felt like you were going to roll over at any minute.)

Emphasize that I researched the hell out of everything out there.

Maybe talk about the Pilot being a Tahoe in correct proportions.

(Note: He has a Tahoe, which he has driven for 8 years and 200,000 miles. The Pilot is shorter, smaller--fits in his parking deck at work much better than the 'hoe--but still roomy and comfortable; it is a Tahoe in a more compact, manageable package.)

We are interstate warriors. That car will live on Katy freeway.
High enough to see ahead in traffic
It won't be going off-road
Headroom even with the sunroof (Nissan FAILED miserably with all their models in this category)

(Note: his head wasn't even close to the ceiling, even with the sunroof---I've never seen that much headroom in a compact vehicle)

The Honda Pilot even had fewer options to choose from, they just included everything you needed in the 2 or 3 different kinds they offered. Do you want leather or not? Okay, do you want a nav system? Okay, do you want a Rear Entertainment System? - Do you want 2 or 4WD? Okay, those are the only differences between their lineup of Pilots. Those 5 questions. Less is more.

You may want to mention the Bizarre Dodge/Jeep products on the market. Swing and a MISS.

(Note: Dodge/Jeep; I forgot to mention that. The Jeep Liberty has a BIZARRE feature: the roof is a cross between a "convertible" roof and a "sunroof". The car has the full box frame greenhouse, but the "sunroof" is the full size of the roof--it goes to within about 4 inches of the doorframes, front and rear---and is a convertible roof; it's a soft top that folds up like my convertible's does. This makes it noisy and leak-prone. At least with my noisy, leak-prone convertible, it's a helluva lot of fun when the top's down (FREEDOM, baby!). This thing combines NONE of the fun with ALL of the problems. Just weird. Who would want such a thing? The Dodge Caliber has this weird pulley system instead of a transmission. It makes strange noises and the driving of it is just weird. What was wrong with a good ol Mopar transmission?).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

If you want a good workout

take 3 Border Collies for a walk simultaneously.

You have to be on your toes physically and MENTALLY.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The importance of GRAMMAR and SPELLING; or, "Thank you, Mrs. Doyle/Mrs. Roberson/Mrs. Curry"

Much is made these days of the idea that "Proper grammar and spelling are no longer important; the communication of the idea is the primary concern."

While communication of the idea is, in fact, very important, I categorically reject the idea that grammar and spelling are not.

Case in point:

This last Monday, I had a job interview (hold your breath and pray for it, kids, I need this one and it's a good one) in Dallas.

I got myself all spiffed up in my navy pinstripe suit, starched white shirt, muted red tie (never go wrong with good ol red, white, and blue). Shoes brightly shined, resume professionally printed on bond paper; references at hand; shoes matched belt matched portfolio. Sterling/gold Parker pen. Citizen watch, no other jewelry. Hair freshly cut and styled. Smile pasted on face. I was ready.

Or so I thought! I arrived in the (beautiful) north Dallas high rise office the requisite 10 minutes early, gave my name to the receptionist, and waited. Out came the very sweet HR lady, who greeted me and conducted me to a small conference room.

She offered me refreshment, which I politely declined. She took my (previously Fed-X'd and completed) application and a fresh copy of my resume, and turned to leave. "Before we go on, we have one additional piece of paperwork for you to complete," she said. She placed a single sheet of paper in front of me. "I'll be back in about 10 minutes or so."

The piece of paper had the company logo at the top and a short, single paragraph; the rest of the page was blank. The paragraph stated, "Thank you for your interest in (Big Insurance Company). In the space provided below, please tell us in your own words why you think you are the best candidate for our available position. You may not use more than the space below, but you must use all of the space provided. You have 10 minutes."

So, I wrote a short essay outlining my various talents, training, and experience; I had an introduction, body, and conclusion. I did not vary the paragraphs' beginning, and I did start paragraphs with "I". Usually bad form, but I was using them as "bullet points"--and a job interview is no time to be shy; it IS all about you! They don't want to discuss the weather.

I finished in space, on time, and with no errors. Frankly, I thought it was a pretty good little essay.

Now, here are the REASONS I was able to do that:

Mrs. Claudia Doyle, Glenview Elementary, Ft. Worth, Texas.

Mrs. Doyle was 6 feet tall, wore no makeup, and had her hair done up in a bun with a pencil through it. Everyone was terrified of her. She was, frankly, mean as hell. She had a ruler, one of those big thick jobs; she walked around the room and called people out, and if you didn't have the right answer, she was not shy at all about applying the ruler smartly to whichever part of your anatomy was within her considerable reach. She forced us to diagram sentences on the blackboard, and subjected us to harsh criticism and ridicule if we made errors. Offenders got to put their noses in a circle on the blackboard. You did everything in your power to avoid running afoul of Mrs. Doyle. If you had to study ALL NIGHT (and yes, that class---6th grade English---was the first time I pulled "allnighters"---though not the last...), you did so because you did not want to screw up on some arcane point of the diagram of a particularly difficult sentence.

Thanks to Mrs. Doyle, I can read and write the English language. I can never repay her, ever. The gift she gave me was priceless. (I can still diagram a freaking sentence, too, and if you don't believe me, I'll prove it).

Mrs. Carol Roberson, Theodore Roosevelt High School, San Antonio, Texas.

Yet another terror of the classroom. People did ANYTHING to avoid her class. She taught honors English, and she was the ONLY option for honors English for 10th graders, ergo she was my English teacher.

Like Mrs. Doyle, Mrs. Roberson simply refused to accept mediocrity. If you had not read the assignment for class, she ordered you out. You sat on the floor in the hall in disgrace. How did she know whether you read the assignment or not? Every day, she gave a pop quiz (one wonders about the use of the term, "pop quiz" for a quiz one has every day, but I digress). The quiz consisted of a maximum of two or three questions (never four). If you read the assignment, the quiz was a snap and you made 100. If you didn't read the assignment, you made a -0-. Example: "In last night's reading assignment, Act I, Scene 5, at the beginning of the scene, Lady Macbeth is doing something. What is it?"* Well, if you read your assignment, you KNEW what she was doing because it was pretty obvious; if you DIDN'T read the assignment, you could guess 100 times and maybe you'd hit, maybe you wouldn't. Next question: "Same scene: to whom does Lady Macbeth NEXT speak?"** There's your quiz. You read it, you made 100. You didn't read it, you could never guess and you flunked.

Mrs. Roberson believed that you used all your knowledge all the time. There was never a "special" time or place for grammar and spelling. If you wrote her a paragraph (another one of her frequent little "pop" surprises; she might ask you to summarize Act I, Scene 5, in a couple of quick paragraphs), it had to be in proper form, with correct grammar and spelling. Each grammar and spelling error counted 25% of the total, so if you did a great job of summarizing the Act, but misspelled a word and had a run-on sentence like this one, with far too many commas, and no recognizable end in sight, those two errors cost you 50% of your grade---and you got a 50.

Her finals were legendary, and NOBODY would tell the incoming class what it was like (she swore us all to secrecy). Everyone was terrified of her finals. She told us from the beginning of the class, "You cannot study for my final. The night before my final, study for your math final or something; if you don't know the material before my final, you cannot cram for it. When you come for the exam, bring 3 blue books and 3 bic pens."

She was right. All the other teachers were walking around carrying sheaths of mimeographed (mmmmm, purple ink! I can still smell it!) final exams. Not Mrs. Roberson. There we sat, nervously anticipating what was to come. She walked in. "Ready?" she smiled. She turned around to the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk, and wrote, "Tell me everything you learned this semester." She then said, "You have 2 hours. You can write anything you want. If you want your whole final to be on Macbeth, fine. If you want to hit all the things we covered, that's fine too. Grammar and spelling count; if you can't write, you can't pass."

Thanks to Mrs. Roberson, I can sit down and spit out a paragraph or twelve at the speed of light, with -generally- correct spelling and grammar.

Mrs. Laura Curry, Theodore Roosevelt High School, San Antonio, Texas.

Mrs. Curry was a stitch. Always dyed the hair coal black (and denied it). Hair in bun, pencil in hair. Always wore high heels, hose, and a pleated skirt (she must've had a hundred of them). Always a silk blouse with either a big bow on the blouse or a scarf tied in a bow. Black horn-rimmed glasses. Drove a black Corvette whose rubber she burned every day getting out of the parking lot. Acid wit (sarcasm a speciality). You did not want to become the object of her wit.

Like Mrs. Doyle and Mrs. Roberson, Mrs. Curry was feared and dreaded. She was the Senior Class Sponsor. Those of us in honors English LOVED her. She treated us as adults. She didn't care if we came to class or not (she said). It was our loss if something she said in class (that was not in the book or books) made up a significant portion of the test and we had chosen to skip her class. Like the other two, she demanded no less than perfection; her method involved that acid tongue. If she called upon you in class and you couldn't answer, be assured that you would be told off publicly, condescendingly, embarrassingly, and with malice. Fate worse than death.

Thanks to Mrs. Curry, I can function in pressure situations, spitting out the English language in passable form.

So thank you, ladies; I thought of the three of you after I left the interview. "Whew, thank GOD I had those three tough, mean, demanding, wonderful teachers."

To those who say, "Spelling and grammar are unimportant", I say (as Mrs. Curry might), "That just means, dear, that you can't spell your way out of a paper bag, and your grammar is slightly above that of the aborigines---come to that, I'm sure theirs is better."

*She was reading a letter. If you read the scene, you knew that. If you didn't how would you guess?

**A messenger enters, telling her Macbeth is on the way. She speaks with the messenger. You might guess "Macbeth" or "Duncan" but you'd be wrong. If you read the thing, you knew the NEXT person with whom she spoke was the messenger.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Bonnie (the young lady with the white face below) has gone to her "forever" home! She has a great new Daddy, an old friend of mine. He's kind and gentle and loving---just what Bonnie said she wanted!

Bonnie will be learning to Call the Hogs, as my friend is the same composition as me---a native Texan exterior with an Arkie center; as rabid a Razorback fan as you'll find. Bon-bon now lives in Bentonville, Arkansas (and yes, her Dad works there...). Her new Dad reports that she made the trip fine, and when they got to Bentonville, he showed her around his apartment and she determined that it was acceptable. He then took her walking on the leash and she did fine; she has followed him around and been very affectionate.

This is the thrill and joy of rescuing dogs. This beautiful girl was on the street, and now she's in a loving home where she is the "Queen". It's very gratifying.

Thanks, Rich.

Now, all we need to do is find a loving home for Bessie. I'll do another post on all my sites featuring only Bessie. She's a beautiful girl, too, and dying for love and companionship.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


UPDATE: Please see May 6 post HERE. Thanks to everyone reading.

These two beautiful female Border Collies need loving homes! They have been spayed, vetted, and cared for. They are house and crate trained, and walk beautifully on the leash. Won't you give one of these sweet, loving girls a "forever" home? (Caveat: Border Collies should not be adopted by families with small children, as the dogs want to herd them...). I will deliver these dogs anywhere in the continental US (partly because I do not believe in shipping animals, partly because I want to see to whom and where these babies are going).

Bessie is ready to GO! She is a full-blown Border Collie: energetic, full of life, smart, playful, inquisitive, loving. Energy and endurance off the scale. She is DYING to be somebody's pet. She loves to be around her people. She loves being taken for walks, playing tug-o-war, and playing with a squeaky toy. House-trained, crate-trained, walks well on the leash. She is heartworm-positive but is responding well to treatment (see * below) She is spayed and has had all her shots. She would love a forever home and someone to play with!

Bonnie (“Bon Bon”) loves treats and fun, but is more contemplative than her sister. She is very sweet and loving, and would love nothing better than to sit on the sofa with you while you watch TV. She walks well on the leash, and is a joy to take for walks. Give her a squeaky toy and she’s occupied for hours! Honestly, she will steal your heart; you can't help but to pet her every time you see her. House-trained, crate-trained. She is heartworm-positive but is responding well to treatment. (see * below) She is spayed and has had all her shots. Won’t you give this sweet, loving girl your heart?

More pictures of these beautiful girls are available here.

For a wealth of information on this most intriguing, energetic, fun, complex, and fascinating breed, go here. (I post on the forums frequently).

"Before you acquire a Border sure you want to spend two years training and thirteen more enjoying a highly energetic dog that anticipates your every move, shares your every joy, comforts all your sorrows, and beats you in every race."---United States Border Collie Club

*Heartworms: Most cases of Heartworm are treatable in the early stages, which is where these girls were caught (they have a "Low positive"). Because there was no evidence of microfilariae (the stuff from which baby heartworms come) in the blood, the treatment consists of one Heartguard tablet per month (which EVERYONE should do for ALL their dogs ALWAYS, ANYWAY). What will happen is that the adult worms now present will die naturally over the course of the year and the Heartguard keeps any new microfilariae at bay. After a year or so, the dog is heartworm free. There are other treatments but this is what my vet recommended. Heartguard is $39.95 for a six-month supply at 1800PetMeds, or from your vet. It does require a prescription. All of my dogs are on it and have been since I got them.