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OK, so my final visit to the 2009 State Fair of Texas this evening got off to an interesting start. Specifically, I got in for free.

Now for the record, I've been to the Fair 4 times before tonight, but I've only had to pay a total of $9 for admission (regular price = $15 per visit). I did this by going on the discount days:

  1. Opening Day: $4 admission with full 20 oz . bottle of a Coca-Cola product donated to the North Texas Food Bank
  2. Thursday: $4 admission with empty 20 oz. bottle of a Coca-Cola product
  3. Saturday: free admission with ticket to "Mary Poppins"
  4. Wednesday: $1 admission with 3+ cans of food donated to the North Texas Food Bank.

Since today was a Thursday, I actually intended to get in for $4 with the empty Coke bottle, and I actually got the $4 voucher after dropping the bottle in the bin. But as we approached the ticket booths to pay our admission fees, a man and woman who were just finishing up at the booth saw us walk up and asked if we'd already paid. When we said we hadn't, they said "Here" and handed us each a companion ticket to their season passes.

So we put away our money and walked in for free! Isn't that amazing?!

So that was 5 visits to the Fair -- a $75 value at the regular price -- for only $9. That comes to less than $2 per visit. What a bargain!


How did they do?

I know the results show aired already, but I haven't seen it yet. And this is the 1st chance I've had to sit down to report my impressions on last night's performances.

I thought there were 2 phenomenal performances: Danny Gokey and Ricky Braddy.  They both have great voices, and I would like to hear more from them. Of course, I agree with Simon's comments about Ricky -- specifically that he need to build up his self-confidence some and really believe that he's good.

I really like Alexis Grace. But -- and this is where I really have a problem -- I thought the best female performance came from Tatiana del Toro. Yes, I know. I can't believe it either. But I can't remember anyone ever singing a Whitney song so well. (And many have tried.)

With the voting changes for this season, I guess that's really all I need to comment on. Any 3 of those 4 would likely move forward to the Top 12.

Everyone else was all right -- for the most part. There were 3 stunningly awful performances, though. And that was just positively horrific. (It's the only word that applies.) If you saw the show, then you know who I'm talking about.

OK, I guess I'm now ready to watch the results show. I've still got about another hour or so before that happens.

And so it begins ...

All right, American Idol is on right now, but as usual I'm waiting to watch it -- on tape -- later on. So that means that things are cycling back around again. So it's time for me to start posting about it again. For a while, at least.

And yes, I know it's been on a while, but I've learned not to post anything about the auditions or Hollywood Week shows. Because there's just no point. You never see half of the people who end up in the "semi-final" round in either type of show. And the ones you do see are the most annoying ones.

But before things begin in earnest -- with the postworthy material -- I did want to make a couple of comments on this year's changes.

First, what is up with the Final 36? Why after all this time are they increasing the number of people who make it through to this stage of the game? Is it because there is a higher caliber of performer? Well, there had better be evidence of that.

So the fact that there are 36 people in this stage of the game leads me to my other point: the determination of the Top 12. It seems that they're implementing a strange blending of the original voting process and the process from the last couple of year. Specifically, the 36 have been divided into 3 groups of 12, and each week the 12 perform. In the results shows, the top male, top female, and the person who received the 2nd highest number of votes move on to the Top 12. Then they will bring back the original "wild card" show where the judges will select at least a few of the performers, and then they will do the same thing with the results to round out the 12.

And this baffles me. Because they're restoring exactly the problem that I always had with the original style. Namely, taking only the top people from these performance shows -- who most often didn't deserve to win because others performed better -- because they garnered the most online votes. And we would never see the really good ones again because they were invariably never picked.

I thought that the last couple of years there were actually being fairer (even with the imposed gender split) because they were gradually winnowing out the lowest vote getters each week.  So the good people had a better chance to make it into the final round.

My other problem with the way they're doing it this year is that they are still imposing the gender balance -- at least in theory.  But my question is ... what happens if (for example) all the boys outperform the girls and get more votes. So you've got the 2 top vote getters who would be male, but then the highest female vote-getter gets puts through even though she might be somewhere in the middle of the pack. Is that fair to everyone who got more votes? All because you want to make sure there is an even gender balance in the Top 12?

(And don't think I've got a gender preference because I don't. The question applies in the reverse -- if the boys are outperformed in toto by the girls.)

So. Having cleared my conscience, I think I can now move forward with the season in full later on this evening.

And the winner is ...

OK, with last night's visit to the movie theater, I have now seen all 5 Best Picture nominees for the 81st Academy Awards. (And to give credit where it's due, I wouldn't have done this if it weren't for my neighbor Deborah, who usually tries to see them all each year before the Oscar show.)  So for Best Picture, here are my thoughts (ranked in order of preference).

1. Slumdog Millionaire: This is an absolutely fantastic movie! If you can only see one of these 5, this would be it! The cast are for the most part young and not as experienced as you would find in the other movies (but I love Dev Patel!). However, the story is just outstanding. You are just pulled along with the pace of the movie as you slowly discover how this kid from the slums of Bombay can possibly know answers to some esoteric questions on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.  Yes, there are scenes of a violent nature, but they aren't frequent and are integral to the story. (Plus, you never really see any blood.) But in the end, the movie does have a happy ending. And be sure to stay through the end credits because I love them, too!

2. Milk: I saw this one even before the nominations came out, and I was sure after seeing it that it should win. (But that was before I saw Slumdog, of course.)  The story is pretty straightfoward and you know what's going to happen, but it's the acting that is superb. Sean PennJosh Brolin, and everyone else acts their hearts out and make you believe they are the characters they're portraying. I highly recommend it also.

3. Frost/Nixon: I actually don't remember anything about the Frost/Nixon interviews.  (Actually I don't remember much about Nixon at the time it all went down.) And I wasn't really expecting much about this movie.But I have to admit this was a really good movie. I loved Michael Sheen in The Queen, and he did a really good job here playing David Frost. But the real star of the movie is Frank Langella, who I would never have thought in a million years could have played Richard Nixon. But he did. He really became Nixon.

4. The Reader: OK, so the movie is centered around a heavy topic: the Holocaust. But it's pretty good. I'm not a fan (usually) of Ralph Fiennes, but he is actually quite good in this movie. (Of course, that could be because he was only in part of the movie, not all of it.) Anyway, Kate Winslet is also very good, but David Kross (as the young Finnes) to me really steals the show. But as much as I liked this movie (which I did even though you probably can't tell that from what I've written so far), it was just not up to par with the other 3 movies.

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Which brings me to this movie, which is the one I saw just last night. This is the "crowd pleaser" movie. I liked it, but I'm just not sure why it got nominated. Yes, it's good, and yes, the acting is superb. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett both do a great job, as does Taraji Henson. But the movie is really low-key, it moves slowly (though you don't realize that it's 2.5+ hours long), and it doesn't really grab you. And the story itself is very formulaic. Good, but there are no surprises.

So in summary Slumdog or Milk should win, and I wouldn't be upset if Frost/Nixon took the main prize. The Reader doesn't stand a chance, but Benjamin Button is the question. If it should win, it would be a travesty. But as the "crowd pleaser" movie, it might sneak in there.


LiveJournal Interview Meme

Meme courtesy of[info]coneycat , via[info]salamandersam .
Wanna get interviewed?

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond with five (5) questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to your questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five (5) questions.

This is me, interviewed by coneycat ...Collapse )


Book Read Meme

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed. Well, let's see.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read. (I have not yet done so. I'm not sure there are more than one or two on the list I still plan to read anyway.)
3) Reprint this list in your own LJ.

Following the example set by[info]coneycat , I've put the specific answers behind the cut.  Not that I couldn't have posted the whole thing to the journal anyway since I've got so few readers, but still ... 

Read more...Collapse )



Thank God for short work weeks!

OK, last week was different. A Star Is Born (1937) on Wednesday night was really good, and it still showed a peak into movie studio life as it exists today. Although, of course, you don't have the studio bosses controlling so much of the performers' lives anymore. But still the fan craziness applies.

Tell you what was weird, though.  Seeing Lionel Stander in the movie, looking so dang young!  Remember him? Max from Hart To Hart?  Sheesh!  That was a shocker!!

Friday night was Death on the Nile (1978), with Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith, David Niven, Bette Davis, and whole cast of others!  AND IT WAS FANTASTIC!!!  I don't think I ever saw it on the big screen before, and it was great!!  Granted, this screen was not as big as a regulation movie theater screen, but it was still big.  And grand.  Just grand!

Of course, I sat through the movie, seeing all the sites, and I kept thinking, "Yeah, my mom's been there ...  and there ...   and there."  That wasn't so much fun.

And then Saturday was the day trip to Austin with my neighbor Deborah.  We left around 9 a.m. and got to Austin around 12 noon.  Had lunch at Katz's Deli & Bar (fried pickles, Reuben sandwich, fresh-cut french fries, cole slaw -- mmm mmm good!), went to The University of Texas at Austin campus to see the Blanton Museum (I'm not a huge fan of contemporary art, but they've got a really good collection!) and the Tower Tour (nice view, even it was cloudy and foggy).

Then we had dinner at Brick Oven (one of my old college haunts) and went to see my niece in her play (here's a review).  It was fantastic.  The play was staged in Austin once before (2005, I think), and my niece was in it then.  The writer-director was in her class at UT, and it was good before. But this time around it was PHENOMENAL!  Clearly there's been some work put into polishing it up, and it has just blossomed as a result.

The play tells the story of Ophelia (from Shakespeare's Hamlet), who -- let's face it -- got short-shrift in the play.  As much as you hear about the great love that was O&H, you just never see Ophelia much in the play at all.  So this play tells her story from her perspective.  The writer-director has broken up Ophelia into 5 different faces (each played by a different actress): in love, impassioned, on edge, undone, and in water.

My niece played "Ophelia impassioned" and got to romp around on stage with Hamlet (played by the delicious Gabriel Luna) in hilarious, sexually-suggestive situations.  And of course, she got to make out with him on-stage.  (I didn't mind so much -- since he was such wonderful eye-candy -- but bear in mind that her father, mother, grandmother, and boyfriend/fiance [BFF] were all also in attendance.)

After the play -- and after congratulating everyone for a job well-done, including Mr. Luna -- Deborah & I headed to Kerbey Lane Cafe for some dessert and final fortification (i.e., coffee for Deborah) before heading home.  (The Italian Creme Cake was divine!)

All told, we were in Austin for about 11 hours.  We got back to Dallas a little after 2 a.m.  We told ourselves we did this to prove we were still young.  And we did.


It certainly makes up for putting in an order for new glasses on Friday, with my very first bifocals.  Yikes!  More about that later.

This week's activities ...

Tonight I'll be heading out to see A Star Is Born (the 1937 version, I think).  It's one of those free movies being shown at the Magnolia Theater for their TCM Movie Nights.

On Friday, though, the Dallas Museum of Art is holding its Late Night event.  The current Tutankhamun exhibit is there now, and one of the features for Friday night is a showing of ... drum roll please ... Death on the Nile with Peter Ustinov.  I've come so close to buying it over the last couple of months (not yet, coneycat !), but obviously I can't resist going to see it on a large-ish screen.  [The screen at the DMA isn't as large as a regulation movie theater screen, but it's still larger than any screen I've seen the movie on ever.]

And rounding out the week's events, I'll be going to Austin on Saturday to watch my niece in her play, Ophelia, before she heads off to Angola in January.

I'll be doing all of these events with my neighbor, Deborah.  I've been here in Oak Cliff for 6 months now, and she and I have become really good friends.  And constant event buddies.  It's a good thing we get along.

Best laid plans ...

OK, I seriously meant to write up something each day of the chapter meeting in October, but I was just so darn tired when I got home each night that I just couldn't work up much energy.  So mea culpa!

Quick updates on what happened:
  1. My brother's talk went off without a hitch, and he yet again was impressed by giving a presentation to medical librarians.
  2. The big dinner banquet at the meeting was fantastic!  Never had so much good food, and such a nice venue (Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field, among all the planes and other displays).
  3. I was surprised by being awarded the SCC/MLA Librarian of the Year Award for 2008.  I feel truly honored, not just for being recognized like this (by a nomination) but also to be the 3rd recipient after Ethel Madden (New Orleans) and Ana Cleveland (University of North Texas, Denton).
  4. The meeting concluded with no major problems, and everyone loved it.  Especially the dinner banquet.


First day over ...

And I'm sitting at home.  Been here since 9 p.m.  It was the only early night of the meeting, which goes until Wednesday afternoon.  The events tonight ended at 7 p.m., officially.  Then I went out to dinner afterwards to a wonderful Indian restaurant (Roti Grill) just a few blocks from the meeting hotel.

The next couple of nights have events that are scheduled to 10 p.m. so they'll both late nights.  Tuesday night the official events end at 7:30, and I'll be hosting a dine-around to a nearby restaurant (Cuba Libre).

So far I'm surviving.  Today wasn't nearly as stressful as I thought it would be, but then again we haven't hit the full stride of the meeting yet. The peak will likely be Monday (when I'm doing a presentation on the meeting registration software we used for this meeting), but I expect most people will register tomorrow.  So the desk is likely to be really, really busy.  We'll see.

I need to go to bed soon.  Since I've gotta be back at the hotel tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.



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