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Marley & Me Makes A Grown Man Cry

This review is from: Marley and Me (Single-Disc Edition) (DVD)


“Marley is not just a regular dog. He once ate an answering machine and polished it off. He did not just chew it either; he ate it and digested it, then he came back and ate the phone for dessert .” ~John Grogan ~ (Marley & Me).

Brief summary:
Marley & Me is a comedy about a Yellow Labrador Retriever. A young couple John and Jenny Grogan adopts Marley as a puppy and soon discover why he was sold to them on clearance. He is the “worst dog in the world” and wreaks havoc and destruction everywhere he goes. John gets an idea from his friend Sebastian that a dog might help him avoid some tough responsibility and allow him a few years of freedom by getting his wife’s mind off of having a baby. The plan doesn’t work out as well as John hopes and finds out that owning a Labrador Retriever can be just as tough as raising children.

My experience:
I had avoided Marley & Me since its release to theaters. I had heard rumors that the movie was so sad that grown men would leave the theater to avoid the embarrassment of bawling like a baby in front of their family, friends and worse yet, complete strangers.

The movie traces the life of a Yellow Labrador named Marley and follows thru to the dogs last days of life. Since I had just suffered the loss of losing my first Labrador; Zira in 2005 I knew I would not be able to cope well with the story-line. As the old saying goes “Time heals all” and I felt I was finally ready to take on the challenge of watching this most talked about film by all Labrador Retriever fans and just dog lovers in general.

The movie made me laugh out-loud so many times and I could relate and appreciate every aspect of John and Jenny’s experience with Marley. John is also a writer so I could definitely relate to that as well. Most of the humorous lines come from the character John and of course from the hilarious antics and behaviors from Marley.

There were so many heartfelt moments, they were so tear jerkingly touching, that some lumps in my throat had to be swallowed back and then the writers of the movie could immediately make me laugh again. The last half hour of the movie was so sad that I must admit I was glad I watched this movie alone. It did indeed have me “bawling like a baby” (I guess I am such a softie when it comes to stuff like this.) However I thought the movie ended on such a positive note that I found myself really enjoying this film. My biggest disappointment was that Marley is only an adorable little puppy for about ten minutes in the entire movie. I would have liked to have seen more of that.

The movie overall:
The acting was very well followed thru and Owen Wilson as John Grogan was very funny and an extremely likeable character. Jennifer Anniston as Jenny was just okay to me. The pacing of the movie was a bit on the slow side, with all the family, pregnancy and baby stuff; the pay-off at the end however made it necessary so it was well worth it.

The acting (if you can call it that) from Marley was fantastic, he really makes this movie extremely enjoyable and I will treasure Marley & Me for a long time.The music in Marley & Me was very decent as well; from the opening title theme to a remake of a Nirvana song all the way to the heart wrenching ending theme, I will simply name it, “Reflections”.

There were a few adult themed elements that gave the movie its deserving PG Rating but all in all I found it to be very appropriate for young children. I would highly recommend Marley & Me to any dog lovers and to all Labrador Retriever fans.

Wheel Of Hearts Paint By Number Kit from ArtYouCraft – fun and gorgeous!

Wheel Of Hearts Paint By Number Kit from ArtYouCraft




Pros: Beautiful pattern, fun to do, detailed instructions

Cons: None!

Take a look at this very pretty, very “different” paint-by-number kit.  Isn’t it adorable?  It’s called “Wheel Of Hearts” and it’s available in six different color combinations.  All of them are gorgeous.  Or, maybe this design isn’t your thing.  That’s Ok – they have seven other styles, in a total of 40 color combinations.

What makes this kit so different from other paint-by-number kits?  Well, the biggest difference is that you’re painting on wood, not on a canvas.  So when you’re finished you have a beautiful, sturdy piece of artwork.  You can hang it on a wall, or display it flat on a table.  Varnished to a high shine, it’s quite stunning, no matter where you place it.

The other thing that makes it different is that there are some spots purposely left unpainted.  In this case, it’s the four wheels and their spokes, on the sides.  Those are left unpainted, allowing the wood to show through.  It makes for a very attractive, and unique look.

Where does one find this kit?  On .  Take a look, you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy.

What comes in the kit?  In this case, seven numbered paint canisters, plus an extra canister of black paint, used for touch-up work.  The 8.5″ by 11″ wood canvas with its black lines and circles, defining the pattern.  Two paint brushes, a paper template with the numbers filled in to show you which color goes where, a small piece of sandpaper to smooth the edges, a small color graphic showing the completed project, a small canister of varnish and a brush to apply it, a hanger, and an instruction sheet.

As far as the instructions go, these are the most complete and detailed instructions I’ve ever seen in a paint-by-number kit.  They explain everything you need to know.  How to maintain the consistency of the paint, how to care for the brushes, and how to apply the varnish.  I’ve done a lot of paint-by-number kits and have learned a bunch of tricks along the way.  But these instructions even taught me a thing or two.

In the end, if you use a steady hand and take your time, you can end up with a gorgeous finished product.  Teens through adults will enjoy doing these projects.  The spaces where the paint goes are pretty big, it’s not like there are thousands of tiny little spots to fill in.  Even some kids might enjoy doing a project like this.  You might just want to help them with the “touchup” portion of the project, where you correct any spots where they painted outside the lines.

I am thrilled with how this project came out, and I really enjoyed doing it.  I think the price for the kit is fair, given everything that comes with it.  And the website’s customer service has been impeccable.  I had some questions, and they were answered very quickly.


How did mine come out?


Other paint by number kits:

Afternoon Nap by Dimensions
Bengal Tiger by Schipper
Japanese Garden by Bucilla
Siberian Tiger by Plaid
Taj Mahal by Schipper

One of the two perfect and nearly unmatched metal masterpieces. 100%

From all the things I’ve learned in life so far, time is one of the ultimate tests in determining the lasting value of a piece of art or entertainment. Morbid Angel’s debut album “Altars of Madness” came out in 1989, and to this day, many death metal fans across the globe still consider this one of the greatest albums the death metal genre has to offer. The time not only relates to this album’s release, but the time relative to my own experiences have helped me conclude it’s essentially perfect.

As of writing this, it’s been nearly 11 years since I decided to become a proper metalhead, and this month marks 10 years since I bought and first listened to Morbid Angel’s “Altars of Madness.” I remember first getting this album vividly. I was a few months away from graduating high school, and especially relative to now, I was still pretty young as a metalhead. I popped this album in my car’s CD player on my way home from the local FYE and was floored by the sheer quality of songwriting, aggression, flashy musicianship, and sheer evil oozing from the music.

In that decade plus, I’ve digested tons of different metal albums from all the different niches under the heavy metal umbrella, and while there’s been a good amount that came close to matching this Tampa death metal classic, only one has matched this album in terms of quality (that honor belongs to the Nocturnus album “The Key”), and none have beaten it.


If the musicianship on this album isn’t perfect, it’s as close as it’ll ever get. At the time this album came out, the death metal genre was gradually evolving into its own genre and not feeling as much like a more extreme offshoot of the thrash metal genre (examples of such “death thrash” albums being the likes of Kreator’s “Pleasure to Kill” and Sepultura’s “Morbid Visions”). “Altars of Madness” still displays some thrash influences, but also seamlessly fuses the blastbeat fury of the grindcore genre that was taking its own shape around the same time (best exemplified by albums like Napalm Death’s “Scum” and Unseen Terror’s “Human Error”). Combine the thrash influences with grindcore aggression and occult themes, out comes an album that obliterates anything in its path all the while displaying top-tier musicianship.

David Vincent handles the bass and vocal work on this album, and according to some sources, David had a cold at the time he was recording vocals for the album, and was forced to cranking out more raspy death metal vocals rather than lower-pitched growls. If that’s true, then I’m glad he was sick at the time because I can’t imagine this album being as awesome as it really is with different death growls. The raspy growls in this album perfectly match the tone of the guitars, as they enhance the nefarious atmosphere engrained in the instrumentation, and he’s largely intelligible in his vocal work. His bass lines aren’t as prominent in the album as they would be in an Atheist album (another band all death metal fans should check out), but they’re noticeable enough and they bolster the guitar riffs very well. However, listeners are treated to a neat bass solo at around the 2:04 mark of “Suffocation,” showing David’s skill on the instrument.

Trey Azagthoth and Richard Brunelle are the two guitarists on this album, and both deliver top-notch riffs and guitar solos. Trey and Richard are talented in all the right ways; they can not only deliver mind-blowing guitar solos (particularly Trey), but they crank out catchy and fast, hard-hitting guitar riffs that’ll be stuck in your head for days. Their riffs are dynamic but at the same time, complement each other perfectly. Most of the songs have a perfect blend of slow and fast riffs (such as opening song “Immortal Rites”) while some others specialize in a narrower range of tempos (such as “Bleeding for the Devil” being an outright high-speed massacre and album closer “Evil Spells” being a mid-paced crusher). Both Trey and Richard dish out some of the coolest guitar solos you’ll hear in a metal album. Granted, they’re not quite as proficient shredders as Tony MacAlpine or Chuck Schuldiner, but they’re titan forces to be reckoned with in this department. Some of the best solos can be found in songs like “Chapel of Ghouls,” “Damnation,” “Visions from the Dark Side,” and “Suffocation,” but all of the songs on this album have excellent delivery on all aspects.

Pete Sandoval handles the drums on this album, and there’s a reason why so many metalheads consider him one of the best drummers in death metal; this man is a beast!! Pete delivers a nearly unparalleled massacre of the kit all the while not missing a single beat. Granted, many death metal bands nowadays have drummers that can outdo Pete in sheer technicality, but Pete is better because he actually has wits on how to make the songs good with his drumming. He’s fast and technical, but will vary the tempo and show some restraint in all the right places so that the listener can actually memorize and appreciate his excellent skills. All of the songs are excellent displays of Pete’s drumming skills, but I think his best work is on the song “Blasphemy.”


Normally, I’d pick out the best songs here, but that’s an impossible task. All of the songs here are amazing from head to toe. All of the songs have their own nuances that make them killer in their own way, like the opening backwards riffing and chilling keyboards highlighting the breakdowns in “Immortal Rites,” the choppy, blasting fury and bass solo in “Suffocation,” the epic breakdowns in “Maze of Torment” and “Chapel of Ghouls” (with the latter being tastefully accentuated with keyboards), the occult ritual of the Ancient Ones in “Lord of All Fevers and Plagues” reengineered into a death metal format, the blastbeat-laden onslaughts of “Bleed for the Devil” and “Damnation,” the opening gunshots followed by a salvo of high-speed brutality in “Blasphemy,” and the blast of fury in the otherwise slower album closer “Evil Spells.” Name a song, and you’ll find plenty of awesome sonic elements to love in each and every one of them.


Tom Morris produced this album, and this was recorded at Morrisound Recording, which has become synonymous with the death metal rush of the late 80’s/early 90’s. The staff at Morrisound did an excellent job producing the album, as the instruments and vocals all come in clear. However, there’s a strong air of roughness that pervades the recording, all the while not making anything in the recording sound like crap. This greatly enhances the evil nature of the music and lyrics.


As the icing on the cake, Dan Seagrave was contracted to make the cover art for the album. I’m glad it panned out that way because Dan’s extremely detailed painting of tormented, creepy, ghoulish faces perfectly matches the extremely aggressive and nefarious music contained in this album. Dan has cranked out many awesome album covers for the top-tier death metal bands back in the day, but this is one of his greatest works.

If you’re a fan of the horror anime Doomed Megalopolis, I would recommend listening to this album after watching that OVA series because the tone of the music perfect matches the tone of the anime.


I almost never give out 100% ratings, so this should give you an indication of how excellent this album is. If you’re a death metal fan or if you’re thinking of breaking into extreme music and haven’t gotten this album yet, GET IT NOW!! You won’t regret it at all.

Police terrorism and poets’ narcissism in mid-1950s San Francisco

Robert Duncan in San Francisco by Michael Rumaker



Pros: third chapter to memoir, 2012 interview

Cons: letters (appended to memoir)

Though I have read and somewhere have Michael Rumaker’s overwritten (lyrical) A Day and a Night at the [Everard] Baths (1979) and was aware of My First Satyrnalia (1981), I’ve never considered Rumaker a writer, let alone an important gay prose writer. The copy of his Robert Duncan in San Francisco (written in 1976-77 about an 16-month stint in the City by the Bay two decades earlier) that I bought online has a title page defaced by an attack, headlined by “This book is AWEFUL” followed by changing the title to “Michael Rumaker in San Francisco, continuing “for only 16 months used Robert Duncan [1919-88] as an excuse tow rite about himself andhis not interesting life. As a writer he is marginally acceptable. City Lights Books [publisher of an edition supplements by a 2012 interview and some correspondence almost all of it from Rumaker to Duncan] is really groveling for material. It is BAD, BAD, BAD Duncan was also a dull, bore I’ve met him several times hard to look at — one eye off center” (punctuation and its lack from the original).

Surprisingly, this buyer went on to underline many sentences and to include a number of stars in the margin for points without challenging any of them.

rumakerThe 22-year-old Rumaker (born in 1932) blocked the 34-year-old Duncan’s sexual advances not from loyalty to Jess (né Burgess Collins, 1923-2004) the painter who was Duncan’s life partner, but because Rumaker was not attracted to Duncan. (He found the pictures of a younger Duncan attractive and felt sorry for the loss of youth/beauty Duncan had had). Rumaker admired Duncan’s poetry and his courage in coming out in print in 1944 in Politics (“The Homosexual in Society”). From Rumaker’s memories, Duncan seems to have like Rumaker’s writings, at least before the memoir, after which Duncan never again communicated with him.

Robert-Duncan-and-Jess-1959 Duncan and Jess in 1959 (in backyward of 1137 De Haro?)

Jack Spicer was nasty to Rumaker. Rumaker believes that part of this was Spicer’s alcoholism, but also fury that Rumaker was fucking (obscure poet) Ebbe Borregaard, who Spicer wanted and couldn’t get.

Robert duncan by Jess, 19591959 Jess portrait of Duncan

Rumaker celebrates Duncan as a role model of self-acceptance and of making a home with a lover (a mere two blocks above where I live, at 1137 De Haro), albeit not monogamous. Rumaker himself was petrified by fear of the San Francisco Police. Rumaker makes a point of Duncan’s slight frustration that Charles Olson (Rumaker’s Black Mountain mentor, 1910-70) seemed more interested in men who had, like himself, been raised Catholic, including Rumaker than in non-Catholics however ex-. I find it a bit odd that Rumaker does not mention how Irish (Catholic) the San Francisco police force of the 1950s (and later) was.

SM@1137 De Haro(1137 De Haro is the middle units of  a vertical triplex, built in 1900, on Potrero Hill; that’s me in front of it)

The most vivid and, I think, valuable part of the memoir of San Francisco of the mid-1950s is Rumaker’s account of being picked up along with two dozen other men while he was walking home from hearing Miles Davis, going up Polk Street. He was charged with “vagrancy” in a doorway with another man. Alone of the 24 or 25 guilt-ridden and frightened arrestees, Rumaker pled “not guilty” and the case was dismissed by Clayton W. Horn, the same judge who presided over the 1956 obscenity trial of City Lights Books for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL (which Rumaker criticized in the Black Mountain Review, after R’s alma mater, Black Mountain College had folded). Rumaker was able to go back to work and his name was not published in the daily papers, as was the norm for those pleading no contest or guilty of vagrancy (which could be applied to anyone not carrying a thousand dollars—a thousand 1956 dollars!), loitering, public indecency (a legal category with elastic boundaries).

The documentation of what was too well-founded to count as “paranoia,” and of the mindset of “being not quite permissible affected our own feelings for each other,” with no feelings of solidarity or any positive identity, is more important than any insights into Robert Duncan’s character or persona or importance on the San Francisco poetry scene. “The Morals Squad was everywhere and the entrapment of gay males in the streets, the parks and inn numerous public places was a constant fear and a common occurrence.” The police abuse of surveillance and harassment of suspected homosexuals was only curtailed after various clergymen got a taste of the police modus operandi around Calfornia Hall (also on Polk Street) at a 1964 New Year’s Eve Ball. As Deborah Wolf wrote, “The police pursued a policy of deliberate harassment by taking photographs of each person entering California Hall, by parking a paddy wagon and several police cars outside the entrance to the building, and by entering the hall themselves. During the evening three attorneys and a [straight] woman council-member were arrested for ‘obstructing an officer in the course of his duties’ as they argued with the police at the entry to the hall…. The outrage felt by heterosexuals who had attended the ball, including clergymen and their wives, at this show of harassment led to a politicalization and a strengthening of their commitment to fight for the rights of the homophile community, once they themselves had experienced similar repressive actions at first hand.” (Lesbian Community, 1979:55).


©2016, Stephen O. Murray


The Spanish “Running Out of Time”

Dias contados (1994)




Pros: Gómez, Bardem, gratuitous female nudity

Cons: nihilism

The Spanish “Running Out of Time,” “Días contados” (1994; there is also a 1999 Hong Kong one that I like better;  “Numbered Days” is a more literal translation of “Días contados”) to have been made to show Ruth Gabriel’s body. Except for the bottom of her feet and the top of her head, all of it is displayed. In some scenes she is topless, in others bottomless, and is completely nude for extended stretches of the movie. Her character, Charo, is a heroin user who is not quite addicted and a sex worker who is not quite a prostitute. She is mostly an erotic dancer, while her nymphomaniac friend Vanessa (Candela Peña) provides the blow jobs.

gabriel                                                      clothed Ruth Gabriel

The protagonist, Antonio (Carmelo Gómez [El portero] with a constant 3-day stubble) is a Basque (ETA) terrorist, come to Madrid to blow up a police station. He occupies the apartment next to Charo, who soon shoots up, takes a bath, and poses for photographs in his bathroom.

Antonio does not seem to believe in what he does (kill Spanish policemen, blow up things in the name of Basque independence), but has some interest in sex, albeit with sex workers rather than with his terrorist colleague and former bedmate Lourdes (Elvira Mínguez [Tapas, Pudor]).

Antonio’s nihilism (no doubt, he is supposed to be numbed by violence by and against ETA) and the look of the rundown Madrid neighborhood seem right out of a Luc Besson movie, “Léon, the Professional” for instance, though Charo is older and far more jaded than Natalie Portman’s character in “Léon.”

Javier Bardem is on hand as a very creepy pimp and police informer and heroin addict with rotted teeth. Aptly, he is called Lisardo. And there is a dealer called Portugues (Chacho Carreras) who endures more unpleasantness than he is shown providing.

The ending is predictable—not from early on, but no surprise. I would have liked more insight into why Antonio does what he does, but Imanol Uribe seems French in his lack of interest in character psychology. There is much less violence in “Días contados” than in any of the Besson movies I’ve seen.

Bardem appeared in what I think is a more interesting Spanish movie about urban terrorism, “The Dancer Upstairs” directed by John Malkovich from a novel by Nicholas Shakespeare.

The DVD includes a making-of feature and a trailer.



Decayed urban school drama with some superb acting and questionable direction

Detachment  (2011)



Pros: acting

Cons: directing, editing

Considering that British director Tony Kaye is best known for frequent and fierce clashes with Edward Norton over the 1998 “American History X” (for which Norton was nominated for an Oscar), it is surprising that Kaye could assemble the acting talent he did for “Detachment” (2011), starting with Oscar winners Adrien Brody and Marcia Gay Harden, and including tv stars Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Lucy Liu, William Petersen, plus old-timers James Caan and Blythe Danner. The latter two are quite funny and I wish there was more of them in the movie. Cranston (only one of whose scenes survived cutting) has said that he and other actors thought that Kaye had botched execution of the terrific script that was written by ex-teacher Carl Lund. (“I felt that Carl Lund, the writer of Detachment, wrote a really beautiful, haunting script. And I didn’t feel that it was honored. I was upset with that. I really was.. And I’m not the only actor on that film to feel that way.” From

The very messy (think Terry Gilliam-messy) movie includes what could have been a very good movie about a school that is a dumping ground for difficult students and the burnt-out teachers (including the pill-popping Caan character, and Tim Blake Nelson playing a teacher who believes he is invisible) with Harden as the frustrated principle and Liu as the frustrated guidance counselor.

detachment-poster-headerBrody plays Henry Barthes, a roving substitute teacher, hired to teach English for a month. Meredith (Betty Kaye; I don’t know if she is related to the director), an overweight, bullied, artsy female student develops a crush on him. Outside the school, he attempts to shelter and rehabilitate a teenage prostitute played by Sami Gayle. She is effective enough, but the whole good-hearted, tough-exterior prostitute and her savior is hopelessly clichéd and takes time away from the more interesting urban school movie.

Brody&Kaye                                      Adrien Brody and Betty Kaye

As if these two movies were not enough to intercut, there is also a dying grandfather (Louis Zorich) who raised Henry after Henry’s mother committed suicide (he found her naked body) when he was seven… and whom Henry suspects had molested his mother.

Kaye (who photographed as well as directed the movie) intercuts bits of what look like home movies as flashbacks. And there are also chalkboard animations, plus what appear to be interviews of Brody from after the month at the school (he has grown a beard) and some prosaic poetry Henry writes.

I think that in general Brody and Harden are underappreciated and woefully underutilized (among the movies few have seen in which each (respectively) is especially impressive, I’d recommend “The Dummy” and “If I Were You”). Their performances and Betty Kaye’s and the snippets of performances by others justifies “Detachment.” It also has a great sequence on Parent Day (/night) and of a state education bureaucrat spewing BS.


I hope the out-takes are preserved, though it is probably too much to hope that someone other than Tony Kaye might assemble the potentially great school movie I suspect that he shot and then subordinated to the teacher/teen prostitute movie. (BTW Brody’s Henry shows no erotic interest in either of the troubled teenagers who look to him to save them from despair. If his grandfather was a pedophile, Henry is not following that heritage.)

There are two bonus features with Kaye and Brody, copresent but not interacting (in a studio(5 minutes) and at the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival (3 minutes). Both include clips from the movie, so add little beyond the impression that the producer/star and director/cinematographer don’t like each other but are trying to promote the movie (which barely had a theatrical release and is being dropped from Netflix streaming in another week).


Thistle logo, gotta be great

Strathmore® Paper  3.5 x 5 inch, 300 series Sketch Pads


300 series


Pros: inexpensive, smooth texture, readily available

Cons: none noted

Strathmore® Paper  3.5 x 5 inch, 300 series Sketch Pads are one of a series of quality, Made in the U.S.A.,  artists’ materials available from a well respected paper company providing quality papers for over a century for those who enjoy writing, sketching, or other artistic endeavors.

This pad is crafted with a sturdy board back, wire bound sheets and textured, lemon hued cover filled with information offered in English, French and Spanish extolling the virtues of the sheets of sketching paper.   A pencil sketch by Rovan Yu, centered, provides a notion for possibility for using the papers, company name and website are included, number of sheets is provided at the bottom of the cover.  Size of sheets, type of paper, and surface are all addressed on the cover.

Wire binding is double wire, heavy enough to keep the book intact without snagging the wire binding on whatever I may be carrying in my briefcase along with it.  Series number, the Strathmore thistle logo and the word Sketch in larger font all clearly indicate the product and intended use for novice sketch artists should there be question regarding best usage of the pad.

Sketch Paper is created as a lighter weight  paper providing a surface that is dandy for practicing, experimentation and perfecting skill. 300 Series is an economical, superior paper designed for student, beginning artist, as well as the artist who is often noted sitting, pencil or pen in hand while producing what he/she sees in the world around.

400 Series, 400 Series Recycled and Windpower™ Series are better-quality sheets having the firmer surface often chosen by the advanced artist.

Acid-free, the reasonably priced 50 lb. white sketch paper is dandy use for dry media to include pencil, crayon, charcoal, and the like. The 3.5 X 5 inch size is handy for tucking into purse or briefcase to have the pad nearby as inspiration presents itself.

While free sheets and glue bound papers are available; I prefer the wirebound.  Perhaps in time, should I actually become proficient with pencil sketching, something I am just taking up as a new hobby interest; I may try other type sketch pads, however at the moment all of mine, large and small are wire bound.

Strathmore offers wirebound pads in sizes ranging from the 3.5 x 5 inch size, subject of this review to larger pads including 9 x 12, 11 x 14 and larger and glue bound 9 x 12, 11 x 14 on up to 18 x 24 inch.

I find this pad of acid free paper having smooth texture in white to be well-matched for pencil sketching, detail work. For now I am confined to sketching with pencil; in time I may try pen, colored pencils, ball point pens and or charcoal.

The 3.5 x 5 inch pad provides 100 sheets, accepts pencil, does not fall apart, create crumbs or pills when erased, and is working well as I apply more enthusiasm than artistic prowess at the moment.  I find the paper to be nicely suited to my ability and hopes for sketching.

I realize that an accomplish artist likely can take a brown paper lunch sack and create a stunning rendering of whatever the eye beholds, on the other hand, as a novice to the world of pencil sketching I suspect choice of papers may be an important decision as I endeavor to create something worth doing.

An accomplished artist will likely realize their ability, and whatever the medium, feel comfortable.  For the novice, myself, I like that the sketch pad helps me feel more like a possible artiste in old age.   Confidence can always take a boost as we begin new things.

While I purchased my 3.5 x 5 inch sketch pad from Michael’s Store in Kansas City, online check shows the product to be available at Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma, and is available from a diversity of online vendors including Amazon.

My heritage includes Scotland in my genealogy: the thistle is a favorite of mine

Happy to recommend  Strathmore® Paper  3.5 x 5 inch, 300 series Sketch Pads

As always I like to know something of the company providing the products I purchase: I prefer Made in America:  © 2015 Strathmore Artist Papers™, a division of Pacon Corporation ®, ™ used under license from Mohawk Fine Papers Inc., an online visit to the Strathmore website indicates:  Strathmore Paper Company began on St. Patrick’s Day in 1892 when founder, Horace Moses, opened the Mittineague paper mill in West Springfield, MA.

Not long after initiation of the first mill, Mr. Moses trekked to the Valley of Strathmore in Scotland where the thistle was in full bloom.  The magnificence of the location so awed Moses; that he commenced using both name and the thistle as an icon of excellence in art and printing papers.

The Strathmore brand name was inaugurated in 1899, initially with Charcoal papers and soon after with Bristol.  The Strathmore brand promptly became celebrated as one of the premier quality art papers used by many leading artists around the world.

Strathmore has preserved their repute as a purveyor of fine art paper for over a century.  And, currently makes available for artists of all levels the ultimate surface for producing striking works of art.


Historical Timeline:

1892 – Mittineague Paper Company opened in West Springfield MA by Horace Moses.

1893 – Strathmore Drawing Board is first manufactured.

1894 – Horace Moses visits the Strathmore Valley in Scotland and begins using “Strathmore Quality” and the thistle symbol on his highest quality papers.

1899 – Charcoal Paper, Patent Office Board and Illustrating Board are added to the art line.

1905 – Horace Moses acquires the Woronoco Paper Company and runs it as a separate company.

1911 – Mittineague and Woronoco Paper Companies are consolidated and becomes the Strathmore Paper Company.

1929 – Student grade papers are introduced under the banner Alexis.

1950 – First pad is introduced as Alexis Drawing.

1952 – Blank Greeting Cards are introduced.

1962 – Strathmore is purchased by Hammermill Paper Company.

1972 – The first recycled sketch pad is introduced and called Shelburne Phase II Sketch.

1974 – The 300 Series is developed, Alexis becomes 400 Series and Artist 500 Series.

1986 – International Paper purchases Hammermill Paper

2004 – Mohawk Paper purchases Strathmore

2006 – Pacon Corporation purchases Strathmore Artist Papers™

Per the website I read The symbol of the thistle may have taken on a different appearance throughout the years, but the quality of Strathmore Artist Papers has remained second to none.

For lasting works of art, Strathmore is the artist’s choice.


Strathmore Artist Papers
2525 N. Casaloma Dr.
Appleton, WI 54913

US torture trainer interrogated (not tortured)

New Criterion Release of Costa-Garvas “State of Siege”



Pros: Montand, Weber, blue look

Cons: torture class made me squirmEtat-de-Siege_State-of-Siege-1972-MSS-poster-3

I saw Costa-Gavras’s (1972) “State of Siege” on its original 1973 American release, before the overthrow of Salvadore Allende, who personally approved shooting in Chile the movie about what had happened in Uruaguay a few years earlier. The relevance of the US government training of torturers in the guise of promoting “democracy” has not dimmed since then, as the current administration continues to aid in suppressing evidence of US torture and has ramped up stifling whistle-blowers.

More macabre than knowing the movie was shot where Kissinger, ITT, et al. would soon overthrow a leftist regime is that within the movie both the Americans and the Uruguayans speak French. Yves Montand, well known as a man of the left, was herein a formidable USAID-covered counter-insurgency trainer. (Torture was definitely a counter-insurgency technique taught not only by US officials, but in US schools for foreign police men, including the International Police Academy in D.C. and the School of the Americas in the Canal Zone. The movie shows a large class on electroshock (cattle-prod) techniques at the former.) The American in the movie named Philip Michael Santore was based (by C-G and Franco Solinas [Battle of Algiers, Burn!]) on Dan Mitrion, who was kidnapped by and eventually executed by the Tupamaros in 1970.

C-G aimed not to make a thriller (as “Z” was) , not to make a whodunit. The discovery of the body is near the start of the movie, and there is never any question that the Tupamaros killed him. C-G said: “The idea was not to play with… will he be killed or won’t he be killed. It was to follow the story a different way: Yes, he’s dead, but who was he, and what was he doing?”

menu_state_of_siege_m03_blu-rayI was impressed both the first time (the theatrical release) and again (on Blu-Ray) with the lead Tupamaro interrogator, Hugo (Jacques Weber,  pictured above), who is masked in the interrogations. Hugo systematically forces Santore to acknowledge what he and the US were doing with the police he trained in Brazil and the Dominican Republic before Uruguay. Hugo counters Santore’s bold-faced lies with documentary evidence at every turn. Both remain calm and even polite. The Tupamaros don’t want to kill him, but are backed into having to do it, as Santore understands, saying “If you kill me, it will be an act of cruelty and powerlessness; if you don’t kill me, it will be a sign of weakness.”

The Criterion DVD has seven minutes of excerpts from NBC reportage of Mitrione (from a perspective quite unlike the movie’s! with no consideration of the violence that he had been promoting, which NBC’s reporter characterized as “the development of democratic policing” requested by “democratic governments” of Latin America), and a half hour interview of C-G by Peter Cowie, who often annoys me on Criterion releases, but does not rub me the wrong way in this one. His questions are pretty softball, however. There is also an insert essay by Mark Danner focused on Mitrione, whose motto was reportedly “the right pain at the right time in the right place”—to break the interrogated quickly, so that she or he would not have to be tortured as often.

The movie was banned in Latin American countries at the time and at the Kennedy Center in D.C., where it was supposed to have its US premiere. It angered both the international left and the US government.

As with C-G’s “Z” (1967), the score of “State of Siege” was written by fellow Greek Mikis Theodorakis (best known for his score for “Zorba the Greek”) and does not sound Latin American.


The award-winning World at War is still must-see TV 40 years after its first broadcast

The World at War (2010 Blu-ray Set)

World at War Blu-ray


Pros:  Better video quality, subtitles for deaf/hearing impaired viewers

Cons: The restored version was reformatted for widescreen TVs.

In 1971, a young British television producer named Jeremy Isaacs and a team of writers, directors, editors, and other production staff began work on  The World at War a 26-part documentary about World War II.

Isaacs knew that the war is too vast and complicated a topic; not even 26 hours of television air time (including commercial breaks) is enough to cover every campaign, battle, or major personalities.  After consulting with Noble Frankland, then the director of the Imperial War Museum, Isaacs decided to cover 15 decisive campaigns and battles, with the rest of the episodes devoted to such specific topics as the rise of Hitler in Germany, life in occupied Europe, day-to-day life inside the Third Reich, and the Holocaust. 

The emphasis of the series is not so much the history of the war but rather the human story, not only because simple dry facts and endless clips of censored war footage are mind-numbingly dull, but because television works best when presenting a dramatic narrative.

So while there are many minutes of combat scenes culled from the archives of all the major warring powers, there are many interviews of civilian, political and military participants, ranging from low-ranking British “Tommies” who fought in North Africa to Traudl Junge, Hitler’s youngest secretary. These personal recollections, interwoven with animations, maps, a sparse narration (each episode has around 2,000 words of written narration), and war footage, helped make The World at War one of the best documentaries made for television.

The World at War was a big hit  in Britain when it premiered in 1974, and it had equally good viewership when it crossed the Atlantic, earning an International Emmy Award for best documentary and becoming a staple on public television and such cable networks as A&E and its spinoff, The History Channel. 

The World at War  co-produced by A&E Home Video, Thames Television and Fremantle Media, is a 9 Blu-ray box set that not only presents all 26 episodes  digitally remastered with a Dolby Digital Stereo audio track, plus  the Special Presentations : “Secretary to Hitler,” “The Two Deaths of Adolf Hitler,” “Warrior,” “Hitler’s Germany: 1932-1939,” “Hitler’s Germany: 1939-1945,” “The Final Solution,” and “From War to Peace” 

Although the series was hampered by the limitations of the television medium and the fact that the breaking of the German Enigma code was not made public until after the series aired in early 1974, The World at Waris still one of the best history-themed series to date, partly because of its excellent production values, but mostly because Sir Jeremy Isaacs and his team attempted to be fair and balanced in their coverage of the war.

The World at War contains no dramatizations, no overt attempt to pass judgment, and no revisionism or attempt to present World War II through the extremes of nostalgia on one hand and the imposition of 1970s cynicism on the other.

Instead, the series strives to engage viewers and asks them to make their own minds based on what the series shows. In the case of the episode “Occupation,” the viewer is challenged to think about what he or she would have done during the Nazi occupation of a country such as Holland. In “Whirlwind,” the episode about the Allied bombing of Germany, not only are there interviews with the British and American bomber crews that dropped the bombs, but also with German survivors of the air raids.



2015 – Second Annual Summer Sweeps!! Winners posted!!



Everybody can use a little extra dough in the summer, right?  So why not write some reviews, and enter our summer contest?  You just might find your pockets a little fuller!






Members who post completely original reviews on between Friday June 5 and Tuesday July 21 will become eligible to win a Visa or gift card.  Reviews must contain a minimum of 500 words.  Content that has been published previously, in any proportion, will not be considered for the 2015 SUMMER MONEY SWEEPS.

This year, we’re gonna shake things up with something for everyone!

Every review will count as an entry into the sweeps. In addition:

Categorically relevant reviews posted in “Electronics”, “Home & Kitchen” and “Pets” will count as two entries.

Got a Honda you’re fonda or a Dodge you disdain?  This year, Car Reviews = three entries… that’s right – review that bucket-‘o’-bolts and triple your chances of winning!!!

For those Media Mavens among us:

While book reviews = one entry,
Books published 2014 or later = two entries.

While movie Reviews = one entry,
Reviews of Movies Originally released 2014 or later (movie release, not DVD release!!) = two entries.

And finally, this year we are including a Techno-Bonus!

Reviews posted in Any Category that include a Reviewer-Generated Original Video will add another entry to the mix.  Descriptive video of your Volvo, Vacuum or Versace Velvet Loafers will accelerate your chances of winning.  Pedal to the Metal, Dude!!!

Following the July 21 closing date, the top 4 (four) prizes will be awarded to winners chosen at random.  The prizes will be awarded in the form of a Visa Gift Card, which can be redeemed at any establishment in the United States where gift cards are accepted.

2 (two) First-Prize Winners will each receive $50.00

2 (two) Second-Prize Winners will each receive $25.00

In addition, 3 (three) Runners-Up will each receive a $10.00 Gift Card!

Odds of winning are based upon the total number of entries, so have a SUPER SUMMER SWEEPS and “Don’t Forget to Write!”



Not registered on No problem!                                       Just click here to create your account

Unsure how to get started after registering? Take a look at the tutorials here.  You can also post questions or email the staff directly with any questions.



ps: Don’t want to participate, but still want to write reviews?  No problem, just leave a comment on this posting, or send an email to the staff saying you wish to opt out of the contest.


Here are the winners:

1st place dlstewart
2nd place andy armageddon
3rd place Stephen_Murray
4th place Henry Thoreau
5th place merle_levy
6th place Tomsdattar
7th place sleeper54


Congratulations, All !!!