Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Things Are Not Always As They Appear....

Last week, my friend and fellow author Shelly Arkon came up with a wonderful, generous idea: donate her ebook royalties for the summer to the Red Cross to help the victims of the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes. I was so moved by her gesture, I decided to follow suit. It was, I believed, the right thing to do. I posted my intention at Facebook and here on my blogs. I believed other authors would follow suit.

I was surprised--and frustrated--by the lack of comments, even from my regular readers. Did no one care about helping fellow human beings in need? How could anyone be indifferent to this situation?

But the truth is that when an author--or anyone else, for that matter--publicly announces their intention to give their entire income for any period of time to a good cause, it's going to be met with a degree of skepticism by almost everyone except those who know the person making the announcement very well. And with good cause. How many times have such announcements been made just to increase the "donor's" own income? There was an incident, back when Shelly, William and our friends were meeting on the Writers Digest message boards--an author of biographies had allegedly donated her royalties to some cause related to one of her subjects. But no one could find any proof the donation had ever been made. This sort of thing is far too common.

A change in plan was needed, and Authors for Oklahoma was created. Shelly, William and I launched a Facebook page. Shelly got permission to use the Red Cross banner on the page and activated a Crowdrise application that would enable people to donate directly to the Red Cross from the page. We approached our fellow authors for book donations. We're creating baskets of books and ebooks to be raffled, the proceeds to go to the Red Cross. A $10 donation buys a chance to win the book basket of your choice.

We hope you'll buy a ticket to help a good cause and win some good books!

Friday, May 10, 2013

This is Really for the Birds!

I miss my birds. It's only been two days, but I miss them terribly.

We received notice from the leasing office Tuesday that we can no longer feed the birds and squirrels on our patio. We've been feeding them there as long as we've lived here--seven years as of next week--and though the birds are not causing a problem, it's a case of guilt by association. The squirrels eat the bird seed, too--and the squirrels, it seems, have been chewing into the electrical wiring in the buildings.

Feeding the wildlife is a way of life for us. My parents did it for as long as I can remember. When Collin was little, we adopted a family of squirrels--or they adopted us, I was never quite sure which. The day we moved, the male squirrel kept running through the doggy door, frantic, trying to figure out what was happening. My dad missed the little furball til the day he died.

One day, a few years after Dad died, Mom, Collin and I found an injured dove when we were out for a walk. We took her home with us, and I took care of her until she was able to be on her own again--but when we set her free, she kept coming back. She was there on the kitchen windowsill every morning for breakfast, and before long, she was bringing her friends with her.

So now, after almost twenty years of having mourning doves outside my window every morning, impatiently awaiting their breakfast, no one is there. When the snow comes this winter, there won't be any tiny footprints in the snow outside our door, making circles as they wait. Now, we're feeding them in the cemetery across the road from the complex. Once I'm sure they're finding the food, I'll stop worrying about them...but I'll still miss them.

But the squirrel problem won't end for management. For one thing, we're not the only ones feeding birds. There are bird feeders on several of the balconies. Collin and I are the only ones feeding doves, who are ground dwellers. For another, there are lots of trees on the grounds. Where there are trees, there are squirrels. And there's the matter of the hole in the roof. It was there for quite a while. If there's an opening, squirrels will use it.

I wish we could move to the country, where we could be surrounded by birds and animals instead of annoying people. Chewing or not, I'd take the squirrels over my neighbors any day!

*Also published at Wordpress.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Movie Review: IRON MAN 3

Before I start, allow me to direct you to my partner in crime William Kendall's review of this movie at his blog, Speak of the Devil. William's reviews are far more professional than mine. I tend to judge movies, TV shows and books quite simply on how they make me feel. In short, I review with my gut.

Darker than the two previous Iron Man movies, Iron Man 3 is a cautionary tale. It reminds me, oddly enough, of an episode of the TV series Touched By An Angel, in which the angel Monica, in an uncharacteristic bad mood, snaps at someone, setting off a chain of events that results in a woman's suicide. One never knows what impact a seemingly unimportant act or comment might have on another.

At the start of the film, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), in voice-over, says that he created two of his own demons. He recalls the events of New Year's Eve 1999. His callous treatment of two idealistic young scientists, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), at a party in Switzerland set into motion a thirteen-year quest for revenge that would lead to countless deaths and destruction.

When Tony must face those demons, the timing couldn't be worse. He's been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder since his all-too-close brush with death in New York (in The Avengers). He's unable to sleep. He's plagued by self-doubt. He builds one Iron Man armor after another, for a grand total of forty-eight. He worries that he can't protect the one thing--the one person--he can't live without: Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), now CEO of Stark Industries. Yet in his manic state, he seems to be neglecting her, and that worries his friend and former bodyguard, now head of Stark security, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau)--especially when Aldrich Killian shows up at Stark Industries one day, presumably in search of funding for his Extremis project (which reminds me a lot of the supersoldier project in Captain America: The First Avenger).

Extremis is one of those discoveries that, in the right hands, could have been a gift to humanity--but it's in the hands of a madman, and it's dangerously flawed. But is the madman the Asian terrorist who calls himself The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley), or is it Killian himself? Not everything in Iron Man 3 is what it appears to be.

The movie could be subtitled Tony Stark Finally Grows Up, because until now, he's been, for the most part, a big kid with a lot of really cool toys. He's the boy who never thought his father loved him. I've often wondered what his relationship with his mother was like, and what role it played in his inability to commit to Pepper through two movies and countless comic books. A shrink could make a career of this guy.

Iron Man 3 is more about Tony Stark than it is about Iron Man. As he searches for the identity of his enemy, he also searches for his own identity in his post-Avengers world, and what he discovers in the midst of all the explosions, battles and confrontations is, I think, as surprising to him as it will be to his audience. I loved it--as always, RDJ delivers the rapid-fire wit in abundance, and though there's less banter between him and Paltrow this time around, there's some funny dialogue between him and best buddy Rhodey (Don Cheadle), who hates having to trade in War Machine for Killian's flashier Iron Patriot armor--Rhodey's password, WARMACHINEROCKS, pretty much says it all. There's also some great scenes between Tony and a young Tennessee boy (Ty Simpkins) that makes me wonder--could there be a baby in Tony and Pepper's future?

Also posted at Wordpress.