Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 in Review - Answers Posted

This will be the last chance for points in 2016.  Three points for the first person with a perfect score.  Two points for the person with the most correct, if there is no perfect score. Deadline: 11:59 PM, December 31, California time.

1.  In January, this U.S. city was declared to be in a federal state of emergency due to contaminated water.  FLINT, MICHIGAN

2.  In June, the UK voted to leave the European Union.  This was called...?  BREXIT

3.  In August, the Summer Olympics were held where?  RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
4.  Bob Dylan unexpectedly won which major award?  NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE
5.  Who placed third in the 2016 U.S. presidential election?   COLIN POWELL

6.  In January, the former Davy Jones died.  To what did he change his name to avoid confusion with the lead singer of The Monkees?  DAVID BOWIE
7.  In March, this former FLOTUS died.  NANCY REAGAN
8.  In April, Prince died.  Name his two most famous backing bands.  THE REVOLUTION AND THE NEW POWER GENERATION
9.  In June, Muhammad Ali died.  What was his name before converting to Islam?  CASSIUS CLAY
10.  In November, Leonard Cohen died.  Which of his songs has been covered by Jeff Buckley, K.D. Lang, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Bono, and Bon Jovi? HALLELUJAH


Friday, December 16, 2016

Film Friday

The Amazing Spider-Man:  Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Denis Leary.  Peter Parker becomes a costumed vigilante and dates the cool girl.  Decent job from Leary.  Stone was better in Easy A.  The villain was silly.  Okay movie, but that's about it.

The Loves of Hercules:  Mickey Hargitay, Jayne Mansfield, Massimo Serato.  Hercules travels to Ecalia to avenge the murder of his wife.  He then is smitten by Queen Dianira.  Adventures ensue.  Mediocre acting, lame script.  Hargitay was the 1955 Mr. Universe, so he at least looks the part.  Mansfield's acting was really bad here, and her sex appeal was downplayed, so I have to wonder why she was cast in the part.  Serato's decent as the primary villain.

Clash of the Titans:  Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson.  Perseus must find a way to defeat the Kraken or Argos is doomed.  This could have been better than it was.  There should have been fewer, but better-developed characters.  It could also have been longer.  Good job by Arterton as Io.   

Knife in the Water:  Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz.  A married couple encounter a hitchhiker and take him along on their sailing trip.  Director Roman Polanski's first and only Polish feature film.  Niemczyk reminded me of Jerry Orbach.  Umecka was a hot one.  It's mostly three people on a boat, so some viewers might be bored.  I think it's worth watching, as long as you don't send any money Polanski's way. 

Batman:  Adam West, Lee Meriwether, Burgess Meredith.  This is in the style of the TV show. So it's campy and light, not the serious, dark Batman of the recent films.  The Penguin, The Catwoman, The Joker, and The Riddler team up to take over the world.  Plenty of funny bits.  Meriwether's excellent as Catwoman.  West, Meredith, and Cesar Romero (Joker) do decent work.  The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) seems kind of superfluous.  Not impressed by Burt Ward as Robin.  

Dog Days:  Maria Hofstatter, Christine Jirku, Viktor Hennemann.  The lives (mostly problems) of residents of suburban Vienna.  Some brutal stuff, so not for the faint of heart.  It's a bit uneven.  I wish some of the stories had been developed more, and others had received less focus.  I can't recommend it, though I won't say it's worthless.    

Rachel Getting Married:  Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger.  A young woman who has been in and out of rehab for the past 10 years returns home for the weekend for her sister's wedding.  I think the first half or so was better than the second half. It tried too hard to be p.c.  There's a drawn-out dance sequence that almost had me hitting the fast forward button.  But Hathaway is excellent as Kym, the MC.         

Casino Royale (1967)David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress.  With Barbara Bouchet, Deborah Kerr, Orson Welles, Joanna Pettet, Woody Allen.  A James Bond spoof, with emphasis on the title story.  There were five different directors.  Sellers quit before his part was finished.  Some good acting and attractive women, but it should have been better.

However, this does mean I've seen all the Bond films.  Including the short shown during the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony and the 1954 TV version of Casino Royale.        

Under the Tuscan Sun:  Diane Lane, Sandra Oh.  American writer gets divorced and moves to Tuscany.  It's a fun little movie.  Good for Lane fans. Nit-pickers might not like it.

Hannah and Her SistersMichael Caine, Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen.  Written and directed by Allen.  The personal and professional lives of New Yorkers, with emphasis on Hannah, her two sisters, her husband, and her ex-husband.  I liked the film more when Hannah's sister Lee (Hershey) was in it.  I found Hannah (Mia Farrow) to be kind of annoying.  I didn't like the ending.  So it's not Allen's best work, but it's a decent film.              

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Stolen from Tex's blog:

1Do you like bleu cheese?  No.
2.  Have you ever smoked?   Yes. Very briefly, in college. Like not even a full pack.
3.  Do you own a gun?  No.
4.  What is your favorite flavor?  I have no idea. Different moods call for different flavors.
5.  Do you get nervous before doctor visits?  This seems like a rich person's problem.
6.  What do you think of hot dogs?  Microwave-friendly, not too expensive if you buy the right kind, not bad tasting.  Off my menu though, thanks to my weird semi-vegetarian diet.
7.  Favorite movie?  Yikes.  Annie Hall, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Casablanca.  It's tough to choose across genres. 
8.  What do you prefer to drink in the morning?  Iced coffee.
9.  Do you do push ups?  No.
10.  What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?  I no longer wear jewelry.
11.  Favorite hobby?  Reading, I guess. 
12.  Do you have attention deficit disorder?  I don't think so.
13.  What’s the one thing you dislike about yourself?  Ha. Only one?  That I hate my life, but I lack the courage to end it.
14.  What is your middle name?  It's the same as my father's first name.
15.  Name three thoughts at this moment:  The pres. election showed the true colors of a lot of people, I need to finish a story I started writing, need to complain to the audiobook company but complaining is exhausting.  
16.  Name three drinks you drink regularly:  Iced coffee, Sparkletts water, store brand vitamin water - cherry flavored.
17.  Current worry?  Financial and dental stuff.
18.  Current annoyance right now?  The Left
19.  Favorite place to be?  Somewhere else.
20.  How do you ring in the new year?  With a bottle - usually Kahlua.
21.  Where would you like to go?  A better place.
22.  Do you own slippers?  Not officially.  I do own a pair of shoes that have become slippers.
23.  What color shirt are you wearing right now?  I am currently shirtless. 
24.  Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?  Huh?
25.  Can you whistle?  Not really. Not enough to matter.
26.  What are your favorite colors?  Black? 
27.  Would you be a pirate?  Depends.  Not thrilled about living in Pittsburgh.  But if my wench looks like Keira Knightley, I'd have to consider it.
28.  What songs do you sing in the shower?  I take requests from women.
29.  Favorite girl's name?  Gosh. Laura, Stephanie, Monica, Erin, Jennifer (because I hate myself), Michelle, Kelly, Shannon, Ariel
30.  Favorite boy’s name?  Not either of mine.  Sheesh.   
31.  What’s in your pocket right now?  Nothing.
32.  Last thing that made you laugh?  My own lame sense of humor that amuses only myself.
33.  Best toy as a child?  My Hot Wheels collection. 
34.  Worst injury you ever had?  Either the forehead injury from hallway football or the forehead / left shoulder / legs injury package from being hit by a car.  
35.  Where would you love to live?  A better place.
36.  How many televisions do you have?  Zero.
37.  Who is your loudest friend?  Not really a befriender of loud people.
38.  Does someone trust you?  No.
39.  What book are you reading at the moment?  Lone Star Noir
40.  What’s your favorite candy?  Chocolate. 
41.  What’s your favorite sports team?  Eagles, followed by whoever is playing the Cowboys.
42.  Favorite month of the year?  They all suck.  I guess I'll pick September.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Ten

Name the Christmas movie / TV special for each clue.  First to get all of them right will receive three points.  If nobody gets all ten by December 20, the entrant with the most right will be awarded two points.

1.  "Can't see the line, can you Russ?"
2.  Boris Karloff speaks, but does not sing.
3.  Cousin Mel though.  :)
4.  The proper ranking is as follows:  Porsche, Jessica Biel, family stuff.
5.  Don't lick the flagpole.
6.  Who has an office party on Christmas Eve?
7.  Once again, a certain legendary dog proves his superiority to the humans.  This time, as a thespian.
8.  Halle Berry, Lauren Graham, Angelina Jolie.  How many souls did this guy sell to the devil?
9.  Nothing says Christmas like forgetting your son.
10.  Possibly the worst movie ever.  Though I suppose he redeemed himself in Vertigo.      

Thursday, December 8, 2016

To Begin Again: A Review

Note:  A slightly different version of this review appeared on Goodreads in December 2016.


"At the Window" -  A woman gets punched in the face by a random stranger.
"Like Smoke" -  A clerk at an airport store. 
"Soft Like Snow" -  A mother and daughter.
"Angelique" -  Two men and a female bartender.
"Rationing Sweets"  -  A father and daughter, and her boyfriend.
"Absurd Hunger"  -  A father and son.
"The Millers"  -  A mother and daughter, and the neighbors. 
"The Probability of Him"  -  Sisters and the new boy.
"Cheers"  -  A couple relocates to Texas.
"Negligence"  -  A kids' beauty pageant.
"Levity"  -  A woman dealing with memory loss.
"Always a Story"  -  A woman and her grandfather and mother.
"Composure"  -  An aunt and niece, and the neighbors.
"Asleep"  -  A mother and adult daughter, and two men.
"D20-XC8"  -  A flash fiction that seems to me like sci-fi.
"Untied"  -  A married couple and their daughter, and a mysterious woman.
"A Little Taste of Heaven"  -  A waitress and her boyfriend.
"A Poor Mentality"  -  Female roommates.
"Solitary Value"  -  A woman in a retirement home.
"Jim"  -  An affair.
"To the Curb"  -  A couple and a homeless man.
"Dandelion Ghosts"  -  Sisters and their father.
"Disengaged"  -  An old woman.

Twenty-three stories, no table of contents.  As in her 2015 collection, After the Gazebo, a lot of her stories are about familial relationships.  There's one sci-fi flash fiction, as there is in the other collection.  "Disengaged" is in both collections.

She's a high-floor writer, so she doesn't write bad stories.  But as I alluded to above, her subject matter includes family stuff, old age, and children.  All three of these are topics I usually avoid in my reading.    

"Like Smoke"
"Rationing Sweets"
"The Millers"

Without you, life is just a bunch of days going by, a bunch of things to do.
-  "Absurd Hunger"

Rating:  Low 4 / 5  


Monday, December 5, 2016

An Elliptical Gifting Guide

1.  For somebody with a short name:  the acrostic gift package.
Example:  for Beth, you might give her a book, ether, tea, and a hula hoop.

2.  For somebody who's significantly wealthier than you:  a donation to a worthy non-profit in his or her name.

3.  For somebody who likes variety:  the five senses package: a small gift each for sight, touch, taste, hear, and smell.

4.  For somebody who likes variety but doesn't answer your drunken 3 AM phone calls:  the mind, body, and soul package.  (three items instead of five)

5.  For a single, sexy female:  a subscription to The View from the Third Floor.

6.  If you're an artist:  art.

7.  If you're a drug dealer:  drugs.

Disclaimer:  Elliptical Man does not participate in holiday shenanigans, but advises.         

Friday, December 2, 2016

Film Friday

Tex's Film Challenge

1.  Adolescence:  Rocket Science
2.  Rebirth:  Laura
3.  Comic Book Character:  The Amazing Spider-Man  
4.  Set in Washington, D.C.:  Zero Dark Thirty
5.  Set in an Academic Environment:  The Rules of Attraction
6.  Failure:  Nine
7.  Man vs. God:  Clash of the Titans
8.  Man vs. Himself:  Inside Llewyn Davis
9.  Invention or Ingenius Individual:  Imitation Game
10.  Prison:  Ex Machina
11.  Dog:  Saint Laurent
12.  Loss:  Elegy
13.  Man vs. Man:  McCabe and Mrs. Miller
14.  Man vs. Nature:  Jeremiah Johnson
15.  Monster:  Dune
16.  Pennsylvania:  Silver Lining Playbook
17.  Quest:  Alphaville
18.  Rags to Riches:  A Most Violent Year
19.  Man vs. Society:  Howl
20.  Made in the 1930's:  The Blue Angel
21.  Undesirable Elements:  Silkwood
22.  A Voyage and Return:  Knife in the Water
23.  Witchcraft:  The Loves of Hercules
24.  Made in the 1960's:  The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
25.  A Yearning or Obsession:  Fifty Shades of Grey

Completed:  10:40 PM, November 30. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

After the Gazebo - A Review

Note:  A slightly different version of this review first appeared on Goodreads in November 2016.


"After the Gazebo" -  A marrying couple.  
"The White Room" - Sci-fi?
"Do Not Pass" - Antiquing in Ohio.
"The Suit" - A chance encounter on a bus.
"The Snowstorm" - A snowstorm.
"Movie Night" - A storm.
"Scratching the Silver" - A man's return home.
"Synchronicity" - House robbers.  
"Types of Circus" - An odd romance.
"The Regular" - An older man's daily routine.
"The Driver" - At the DMV.
"A Whole Toy" - At a fast-food restaurant.
"Afterthought" - A woman after her husband has died. 
"No Worries" - Office life.
"All He Had to Give" - A woman, a turtle, and men.
"Lying to Old Men" - A woman talking to a doctor.
"Static Time" - A surprise for mom.
"Getting There" - Mother and daughter.
"On Paper Plates" - Sister and brother.
"Two Flew Away" - A boy and his older brother.
"Animal Control" - Two partners in animal control.
"Disengaged" - An older woman.
"A Glimpse" - A woman on her 35th birthday.
"My Children in Times New Roman" - Pregnancy test.

Favorites:  "After the Gazebo", "Synchronicity", "Afterthought", "No Worries"

There's a lot of content related to familial relationships.  She's comfortable writing about different age groups, including the AARP demo.  She doesn't shy away from flawed characters or flawed lives.

Anyway, I rated it 4 / 5 stars, which is pretty good coming from me.  This is the stand-out line, though:

...  I dance for perverts because having a pervert tell me I'm hot makes me feel wanted.
-  "Lying to Old Men"