Designed by my good friend Russ Fagle. CLICK HERE FOR MORE OF RUSS. Russ always does great work. There are some versions with different shades of colors, to be unveiled when the time is right. There is a subtle suggestion of the state of Iowa in the fist, did you notice? Also he tells me that since my writing isn't molded by the mainstream, he thinks it is a bit revolutionary -- thus, the fist gripping the pen. What does everyone think?
"I hope no one sees this movie."
Published in the Ottumwa Post, Tuesday, July 30
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When Did They Forget How To Make Good Action Movies?
By JAMES GROB
Ottumwa Evening Post Columnist
I like to say I've sworn off action movies, but that isn't exactly true. I did go see the latest "Star Trek" movie this past spring, the one with all the old beloved Star Trek characters like Kirk, Spock, Scotty and McCoy played by new young guys, and that is technically a sci-fi action movie even though it isn't your typical action movie.
In my mind, I don't list it among action movies because I am a Star Trek fan from way back (don't get me wrong, I have never gone to one of their conventions or dressed up like a Klingon or anything like that. Not saying I wouldn't, just saying I never have) and I feel that I need to watch any feature film based on that alternative Star Trek universe, no matter the genre.
The lame-stream media likes to call us "Trekkies," but I prefer the less derogatory "Trekkers," or perhaps even the politically correct "Trek-Captivated Americans."
Anyway, other than the Star Trek exception, I have sworn off action movies. And based on what I have heard from my movie-going friends, I have not missed much this summer.
It seems Hollywood has spent a billion dollars this summer just to insult the intelligence and bore the hell out of movie-goers worldwide.
Should have known something was up way back in May, when they came out with "Fast & Furious 6." That's right, Hollywood felt it was necessary to make a SIXTH Fast & Furious movie, because how else are they going to set up the complex plot line of "Fast Seven," which is coming to theatres next year? (Not joking here, they actually are planning a seventh installment in this perpetual nightmare series of movies.)
Since May, we've been bombarded with multi-million dollar lame excuses for entertainment with titles like "Man of Steel," "World War Z," "White House Down," "Iron Man 3," "Lone Ranger," "Pacific Rim," "Red 2" and "The Wolverine," just to name a few. And by all accounts, audiences haven't been pleased with what is being presented to them.
Look, nobody expects action movies to be great works of art. Put together some semblance of a storyline around a relatable hero, a cool sociopathic antagonist, some wicked explosions, a couple gripping chase scenes, some righteous hand-to-hand fighting and some snappy one-liners and you've got yourself a blockbuster. Heck, throw in an attractive love interest and a big-hearted loyal sidekick and you've made the action movie of the year.
But Hollywood can't even do that right anymore. The storylines make no sense, and have plot holes that are so big you can fly a flaming CGI-created runaway train through them. (Which is usually what they do, because they are bereft of all other creative ideas and stricken with an imagination drought.)
No one can relate to the heroes. Today's Batman, or Dark Knight, is a pouty baby. Iron Man is a smug jerk. Even Superman is a dim-witted pretty boy. All other action heroes seem to fall into one of those three categories these days. None have any memorable one-liners, and even if they did, no one would care enough to listen to them.
The villains are even worse. Hard to figure out why the heck they're so darn evil when you usually can't even understand a word they're saying. There's nothing clever or intriguing about them, they're just bad, and that's that.
Chase scenes? Fight scenes? Forget about it, you can't tell what's going on. For some reason buildings are falling down and things are exploding loudly all over the place, but it's only because some computer whiz figured out a program to make it look like buildings are crashing down. Combat includes plenty of strange camera angles and sound and lighting effects with lots of close ups of faces, elbows, knees and backs. You can't tell who is punching who, who just kicked who, or how the good guy actually just beat those three bad guys up. Want to see a good fight? Don't go to an action movie, go to a hockey game.
Then there's those "alternative" action movies, films with geeky teenagers fighting to death on national TV, or films that include boring, brooding vampires who sparkle. I just don't have the time or inclination to put myself through that kind of misery.
Simply put, it's more fun to watch two friends play a video game than it is to watch one of today's Hollywood action blockbusters.
It's a darn shame, too. Some of the most memorable cinema moments ever filmed came from classic action movies like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, The Terminator and Predator. (I'm talking about the originals here, not any of the lame but inevitable sequels.) Somehow, Hollywood forgot how to make movies like that.
So until they remember again, I'm just going to forget to give them my money.
Just found out that the Ottumwa Courier let managing editor Jeff Hutton go. I worked with Jeff for about a decade at the Courier, and he is one of the few good guys left in the newspaper industry.
Southeast Iowa lost an important voice. Letting Jeff go was a huge mistake, in a long line of huge mistakes made by the Ottumwa Courier.
In honor of Jeff, I am running a column he wrote a few years ago. It was a column that I really liked -- a simple obituary for an old cookie jar. Jeff had a way of finding the importance in mundane, personal things. That's why he's a good journalist.
The Road Less Traveled: Cookie jar held more memories than cookies
Originally published April 26, 2010
By JEFF HUTTON
OTTUMWA — I don’t have a lot of “treasures” at my home.
I’ve never been one for collecting antiques or knick-knacks. I don’t have the space and I guess I’m not much into sentiment.
Or at least that’s what I thought until I knocked over one of the few antiques I own over the weekend.
My mother was cleaning house last year and gave me her antique 1939 McCoy ceramic cookie jar.
My mother actually won the cookie jar at a small county fair in North Carolina when she was just 11 years old.
And as long as I can remember, that cookie jar had always sat on her kitchen counter in our home in Vinton.
Over time, most of the paint has worn off, there’s plenty of crazing and I don’t ever remember there being cookies in it.
But it was always there, just a reminder, I suppose, of my mother’s childhood and later mine.
When my mother gave it to me, I was actually going to try and see what I might make if I sold it on the Internet through an online auction site.
I did check out a couple of websites, but I couldn’t part with it.
And then earlier this year when Iowa Public Television announced that “Antiques Roadshow” was planning to come to Des Moines this summer, I thought that I might take my mother’s cookie jar to see what kind of an appraisal I could get.
But on Friday, as I was preparing dinner, I carefully moved the cookie jar from the stovetop to the counter.
Sometime during the process of making hamburgers and macaroni and cheese, I must have swung my hand over the countertop and into the cookie jar, knocking it onto the floor.
My heart sank.
There was the cookie jar, broken into a million pieces, or at least enough pieces to make salvaging it nearly impossible.
The jar’s lid survived the fall, but the container, which never held any cookies, but plenty of memories over the years, was destroyed.
I haven’t told my mother yet. I’m not sure what to say.
That old cookie jar, in the end, probably wasn’t worth much monetarily, but now that it’s no longer sitting in my kitchen, I realize it meant more to me than I could ever have imagined.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE, FROM THE CHEROKEE CIVIC THEATRE In RUSK, TEXAS!!
"At 2:15, “Crimes & Rhymes”, by James Grob, will be presented by Grades 5-6 with Judy Faye Garner directing. The Jr. High troupe, directed by Haley Gilmore, will mystify audiences with their 5 p.m. show: “Detective Mimms & the Snaffler” by Geoff Bamber. Sheilah O’Heaney is their producer."
Hope you Texans enjoyed the show!
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Not a love song.
RIP Jani Lane, 1964-2011.
Attended a wedding Saturday, so the Saturday Night Poetry Jam was delayed. (Congrads to Kate and Steele.)
CLICK HERE FOR MORE PROSE AND POETRY
by james grob
i remember not only how much i am loved,
but also the places we lay,
and also the desires for you,
your passions for me
sparkling clearly in eyes
trembling in voice
we've given ourselves
to those desires as they glow
as they burn
as they grow
whispers and screams
listening to dreams
how we count the kisses
when we know it's the kisses that count
how we miss
what we never knew we were missing
how splendid the touch
once we've been splendidly touched
i remember not only how much i am loved
but how much of ourselves we've given
our kindness and trust
our diamonds and rust
under ceilings and skies
sparkling clearly in eyes
trembling in voice
Scorpions - Hurricane live with Berlin philharmonic orchestra.
Lucky lucky Jedi, am I.
Column originally published June 21, 2007
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Just a little luck
By JAMES GROB
A friend of mine is a huge NASCAR fan — a huge fan of all kinds of auto racing, actually. That’s why he hates peanuts.
Don’t see the connection?
I really didn’t either. The guy used to love peanuts, but since he’s become more and more into the car racing, he’s sworn off them.
Sounds crazy to me, but then, I like eating peanuts a lot more than I like NASCAR. I especially like them salted in the shell, when you can crack them open with your teeth and lick the salt in the inside, but I digress.
My friend tells me that it’s bad luck to eat peanuts during an auto racing event. He’s afraid that if he eats them during a race — even if he’s just watching a race on the television — that a driver might get into a serious crash and get hurt or even killed. He tells me that a lot of his other NASCAR friends feel the same way, so they’ve all sworn off peanuts, during the races and otherwise.
So it’s a superstition, you see. And that I understand.
Superstitions and sports go hand in hand. Baseball players are never supposed to step on the baselines between innings. Also, if your pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, never mention the word “no-hitter.” And it’s good luck to spit on your hand before you pick up your bat. I don’t know if it’s all that sanitary, but it’s supposed to be good luck.
Hockey players aren’t supposed to ever set their sticks down in a crossed position. Soccer players should always step out onto the field of play with their right foot first — like the ancient gladiators used to. Rugby players should always dress up like women and go to biker bars the night before a big match.
Okay, I just made that last one up. You caught me.
I’ve heard that Michael Jordan always wore his North Carolina shorts under his NBA uniform. Superstition worked pretty well for him, I guess.
I recall when I used to play football — back in the middle of the last century — I always wore two pairs of socks under my cleats to prevent blisters. This was not a superstition, of course, it was just common sense. The superstition was that I always made sure that the colors of the opponent my team was playing was on the socks that were underneath the second pair of socks. Before the season, I went to the store and bought socks to match the colors of every team on our schedule.
Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?
Well, it probably was kind of stupid, but the thing is, my team made the state playoffs and went to the UNI-Dome my junior year. Once there, we played a team with new colors, and I had no socks to match them.
We lost. Badly. Something like 28-0. So my socks cost my team a shot at a state title. It couldn’t have been that our opponent was just a better team. It had to be my socks.
I’ve seen superstitious coaches close up on more than a few occasions. One time, when I was covering a prep baseball team that was winning a game by several runs in the final inning, I saw an eager batboy start to pick up all the equipment in the dugout and bag it. He was just trying to get a head start on his clean-up duties. The coach took one look at him and started screaming.
“What are you doing?” he said between words that are unprintable in a small town newspaper. “Never start cleaning up until the final out! Are you trying to lose the game for us?”
Another time, on a football sideline, the home team I was covering had a third-down-and-long. One of the assistant coaches, in his first year out of college, turned to the players on the sideline and yelled, “Punt team, get ready!”
The head coach turned as red as a beet, and verbally reprimanded his faithful young assistant with words that could bring the toughest of old sailors to tears. I guess he thought it was bad luck to tell the punt team to get ready before it was actually time to punt.
Superstition isn’t limited to sports, of course. Most folks try to avoid walking under ladders and opening umbrellas inside. And black cats make a lot of people nervous.
A year or so ago, my wife was participating in a theatre play. The day of the performance, a lot of other people in the play kept coming up to her and saying, “Break a leg!”
I thought that was kind of rude.
After all, if my wife were to actually break her leg, she wouldn’t be able to perform. Plus there would be a good deal of pain involved. On top of all that, I would have to be the one driving her to and from the doctor all the time, and I would also probably get stuck with most of the housework and other stuff until she recovered. No, breaking a leg didn’t seem to me to be a very nice thing to say.
Later it was explained to me that in the world of theatre, it is bad luck to say, “good luck,” so they say “break a leg” when they mean “good luck.”
I get it now, but they are weird things, these superstitions. Sometimes I wonder if we do ourselves a disservice when we put so much stock to mundane, trivial details of life at the expense of our own accomplishments and failures. After all, the good and bad things that happen to us are the things that make us what we are, human beings.
But on the other hand, I guess we could all use a little luck once in a while.
So keep your fingers crossed.
This cartoon comes courtesy of the "Hippie Peace Freaks" Facebook page. I like it, it reminds me of my dad and of my dad's Uncle Bob, who have both attempted to reintroduce chestnut trees throughout the Midwest, with some degree of success. There are a lot of chestnut trees in a lot of places that would not be there were it not for my dad and his Uncle Bob.
I don't know who the artist is. If you are the artist, or know who it is, please let me know so that I may give him or her proper credit. Or, if he or she wants me to take the cartoon down, I will take it down. Not my work, and even though it is all over Facebook and Twitter, I have no right to put it on my site if the artist doesn't want it here.
But I do like it very much. It tugs at my heart strings. So I am sharing it for now.
This cartoon comes with a quote:
"The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit."
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This column published Tuesday, July 23, 2013. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE COLUMNS.
Man's best friend, large or small
By JAMES GROB
Ottumwa Post Columnist
I've always been a big dog kind of guy.
Specifically, Labrador Retrievers have been my breed of choice -- none of them smaller than 80 pounds, most of them bigger than that. They are real dogs -- hunting dogs -- with real dog names like "Dakota" and "Chance" and "Spike." Tough guys, these dogs, but loyal and smart and hard-working. Also, very loving and caring and sometimes playful. And often protective. Yep, my Labradors looked out for me and looked out for my family and friends.
Once, when my oldest daughter was about seven years old, she came along pheasant hunting with me and the Big Dakota Dog. She just wanted to get outside and find out what it was all about. The Big Dakota Dog, all 140 pounds of him, was happy to have her along, he had become very attached to this little first-grade girl.
At one point, as we were walking across a picked cornfield, my daughter got very tired. It was tough walking where we were headed, so I advised her that there was an easy path, straight back to the truck which was parked along side of the road. We could see the truck from where we were hunting, and she could see that it was a much shorter, easier walk. I told her she could get in the truck, lock the doors, and help herself to some of the snacks and soda in the cooler while she waited for me and the Big Dakota Dog to finish the hunt.
She did just that. I could see her the entire time, and see the truck, and knew she would be safe.
The Big Dakota Dog, however, wasn't so sure. Normally an intense hunter -- driven and highly-trained with an excellent nose for pheasants -- Dakota became distracted from the task at hand. He kept looking up at my daughter, walking the path alone, then looking at me, wondering if I was really OK with the situation. I told him to keep hunting, and he would for a minute, then he would stop again and take a long look at my daughter, his little friend. walking farther away from us.
Finally, it was too much for him to take. In his mind, there was just too much danger in the world for that little girl to be walking the path alone. He completely ignored my commands and pleas -- one of the few times this outstanding hunting dog ever did that -- and took off toward my daughter. From where I was, I could see everything. He caught up to her very quickly, and through his body language, attempted to get her to come back to where we were hunting. When it became clear that she wasn't going to do that, he provided her with an escort back to the truck, never leaving her side. When she got back to the truck and did what she was told, locking herself inside, he paced around the truck a few times before finally settling down on the side of the road, right in front of the truck, sitting in an alert, protective stance.
He had decided that today, his job wasn't hunting. Today, his job was to protect that little girl. I pitied any person dumb enough to approach that truck on the 140-pound Big Dakota Dog's watch.
Of course, I no longer had a dog, so the pheasant hunting was pretty much over for the day. I returned to my truck, my daughter, and my rather overprotective Big Dakota Dog.
Dakota was just one -- the biggest one -- of a long line of many big dogs in my life, all of them outstanding in their own way, all of them now long since passed.
And so now, there's Little Miss Eva.
Miss Eva does not really seem like a dog to me, when compared to the Labradors. She is white and fluffy and weighs about five pounds. The Big Dakota Dog would have taken one look at Little Miss Eva and wondered if I could put her on a cracker for him, so that he may have a delicious snack.
I am told Miss Eva is a Malti-Poo. That's half Maltese and half Poodle. Everyone knows what a Poodle is. Miss Eva seems to be more Maltese than Poodle. Maltese -- also known as "Maltese Lion Dogs" -- are cute and spirited little animals who are quick to sound the alarm if there are suspicious noises. To Miss Eva, a suspicious noise is pretty much any noise that comes from a place she cannot see. There are lots of those, so Miss Eva tends to sound the alarm with her ferocious barking quite often. Then she will run around in circles, around and around and around, until everyone in the home is exhausted from just watching her. Miss Eva believes she is a goddess, and that it is our job to worship her.
Often times it is my job to take Miss Eva for a walk. I do not like this job very much, not because it is difficult -- it's really easy to walk Miss Eva when compared to walking a Big Dakota Dog. I do not like this job because it is kind of embarrassing.
I am a rather large man, in height and in girth. I often have to duck and sometimes have to turn sideways to get through small doorways. Little Miss Eva is a rather small dog. She could probably sleep in a coffee mug.
So when I take Miss Eva for a walk, it is difficult for the general public to not laugh at the sight of us. Here's this big fellow, walking a tiny little white ball of fluff. Other men, in particular, often burst into laughter when they see us together. Sometimes, when I look into their eyes, I can see a little sympathy and understanding there.
They laugh, but they give me a look as if to say, "Yep. Sometimes I have to walk my wife's dog, too."
And my thought is, "If I had the Big Dakota Dog right now, I would let him tear you to pieces for laughing at me."
But I don't, because the Big Dakota Dog is long gone, and Little Miss Eva is what I am left with.
So sometimes we take our walk late at night, when no one is around, so we don't get laughed at. And other times, we just endure the laughter. It's not her fault I'm so big, and it isn't my fault that she's so little. It's not our fault we look funny together.
And she's not just my wife's dog, she's my dog, too. I don't judge her for her size. She's shown me that she'll look out for me, and protect me and my family and friends from all the suspicious noises of the world.
And I will look out for her, because we are buds, Miss Eva and I. We are friends for life. That's what having a dog is all about, whether that dog is five pounds or five hundred. She's got my back, and I've got hers.
Because I'm a little dog kind of guy.
Thoughts on all topics from the twisted mind of a Midwestern writer. Playwrighting, poetry, journalism, sports, hunting, fishing, rock music, movies, good food and