Random Film Reviews

Over the past few days I’ve viewed four films that I thought were all worthy of a mention. I think all of them are from a few years back, which shows how current I am on the latest films.

The first from 2009 was Precious, about an extremely uneducated and overweight black woman and her struggles to overcome her life’s situation. It won some academy awards, at least for the actress in the title role as I recall. It was a much better film and story than I expected. A sad and moving story, well worth the time to watch.

The second from 2015 was TRUMBO about the blacklisted screenwriter, and communist sympathizer Dalton Trumbo. A well written, well-acted story illustrating the true events and characters at that time in politics and old Hollywood. As usual, Bryan Cranston is superb in the title role.  The only film that I’m aware of him writing was SPARTACUS, from 1960 also one of my favorites. I'm sure their were many other credits to Dalton Trumbo under many other names.

The third film, also from 2009 is one simply called MOON with actor Sam Rockwell in the lead role. This is an interesting story with a very small cast and some intriguing ideas.  I missed the opening scenes so it had me guessing from the beginning, and trying to figure out what was going on.  I don’t know if there were any set-ups in the beginning that gave away any of the surprises. It’s kind of like The Martian from 2015. Similar in a way but different in that the story revolves around one guy based alone on the moon. In this story, the main character is working for the big corporation, maintaining a vital mining operation, and learning over time that things were not exactly what they seemed.  I liked the film MOON a lot and will probably watch it again.

The fourth film I watched early this morning called Cinema Verite, with Tim Robbins, Diane Lane, and the late James Gandolfini among others. This is an HBO-produced film and is a retelling of a real documentary about the Loud Family, which was one of the earliest examples of reality television. The original documentary, a production of An American Family, a 1973 PBS television series was controversial in its day, due to the effects of the filming on the subjects, namely the lives of the Loud Family members, and the manipulation pushed upon them by the director and the networks to create some conflicts to exploit. One of the reasons I like this is because of the 1970’s setting, they captured the vibe of the time very well. I give this one a thumbs up too.

Review: "The Tao of Writing" by Ralph L. Wahlstrom

The Tao of Writing: Imagine. Create. FlowThe Tao of Writing: Imagine. Create. Flow by Ralph L. Wahlstrom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some interesting ideas here, and some good exercises at the end of the book, but over all I found the book kind of dull and bland. This is one where you can take what you like and leave the rest. Your mileage may very. I'm sure some readers will gain much more insight from this than I did. Much of the book covered old ground with an eastern Taoist slant. Great if your in tune with that kind of thing.

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Review: "The Art of Fiction" by John Gardner

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young WritersThe Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't recall the exact date I bought this book but it had to be some time around 1989. It was during that time than I began to think more seriously about writing fiction. Much of my reading before that time was directed more at the area of non-fiction. Life being what it is, it wasn't until I finished writing my first novel that I finally found the time to finish this delightful book. Now that I've released my first novel as an e-book, I can look back at John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction" and I can understand it through a whole new lens. I went back to the beginning of the book and began reading it again, and now I get more of what he was talking about than I first began reading it so many years ago. Now I can see the great sense of humor John Gardner brings to his writing. It's the kind of laugh out loud, dry humor that I enjoy. I plan to read this book again. I highly recommend it.

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Cruising the GAP!

Everyone jumped into a car, and drove around town looking for adventure.

I grew up in a small town on the west coast of the US. In those days, the population of Grants Pass was somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 people.  Today there are somewhere around 30,000 people. Some things have changed, many things remain the same.

In the early 1970's, before cell phones, ipods, or really any small portable device beyond a simple transistor radio, there was this thing that happened every Friday and Saturday night call Cruising the GAP.

I don't really remember who came up with the term, but it seemed to come directly from our own age group as we grew through the rite of passage called High School.  As I understood it, the GAP was short for the town of Grants Pass. We learned at the age that the unofficial name for our town would forever be the GAP.

This was the teenage ritual practiced in our little town, part social experiment, part mating ritual, part escape from the small town boredom infecting our generation long before any e-toys had really been invented.

We cruised the GAP from one end of town to the other over and over and over again.

Much like a scene out of the movie American Graffiti, cruising the GAP was a very real experience for all of us. The down was basically set up on an North/South axis, with a split off to a east/west portion at the south end.

We only had a few options in those days. There was the Bowling alley known as Caveman Bowl -- Caveman was the town mascot, the idea we all rallied behind as a sport name for Football, Basketball, Track etc. It's what gave us some sense of identity and belonging, a sense of school spirit etc.

Then there was the near by Rollerdrome, a multipurpose roller skating rink and dance hall where local bands could play and teens could get together for some fun, maybe some smooching or cigarettes in what was known as the make out room. It was always dark in there, no matter what was happening out on the big floor.

Our band frequently played at the local roller skating rink called the Rollerdrome.

Aside from that there was either the local walk-in movie theater, or the drive-in theater. We only had one of each and so the variety was severely limited. Most people didn't have cable television in those days so there were only two TV channels, and radio reception was also very limited due to the surrounding mountains. We had two basic radio stations, one the was more or less country and middle of the road standards from Hollywood, kind of an easy listening station, and the other that play mostly TOP 40 and news programming.

To make a long story short, our options were limited, so the one thing we were able to do was Cruise the GAP.  Several of us, usually with our closest friends, would pile into one car or another, pool our coins, and drive from one end of town to the other, which consisted of an approximate six or seven mile loop, more or less. At the top end were a few restaurants, like a Denny's, or some other chain of national eateries, where we would often end up congregating for a late plate of fries or something more substantial depending on what we could afford before we ended the night and headed home.

Small town social groups were vital to us, maybe as important as our daily schooling. It was while Cruising the GAP that we learned some of our most important life lessons.  But that really is a longer story. It will have to be part of an upcoming book at some point.

Surely there are a million stories across the country and from around the world so some sort of variety of Cruising the GAP.  What was your experience?

The Time Keeper's Journal Podcast #2

The Burnside Prophecy is available in an eBook version. The eBook can be found on Amazon.com under my Author name Jeff T Patterson, and the title: "The Burnside Prophecy."

You can buy "The Burnside Prophecy" from Amazon.com




A photographer, a young girl singer, together with her band, must persevere through a case of mistaken identity, after finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their world becomes threatened by an organized group of international criminals, and a strangely terrifying prophecy.

The Burnside Prophecy eBook is available through Amazon.com

The Time Keeper's Journal Podcast #1

Here is a new podcast I am creating for this Blog -- The Time Keeper's Journal. This is episode one and is a simple short introduction for both readers and listeners. This is one of my first efforts, there will be more to come in the days ahead. Thanks for listening.

Questions Journal -- Make a Habit of Collecting Questions

One of the more interesting writing habits I've developed over many years is the habit of collecting questions.  I've collected all kinds of questions from random self-reflecting kinds of things, to very specific and business oriented questions. 

I've had a long and varied career working in everything from music and the arts, to high tech manufacturing, software quality assurance, and to world wide product support and project management with some quite successful ventures.

These experiences led me to create long lists of questions for thousands of situations.  Here's one that I captured in my journal along with a personal response.

For a person you loved deeply, would you be willing to move to a distant country knowing there would be little chance of seeing your friends or family again?
My answer to this question is probably different from what it would have been a few years ago. But even then, I had already begun to consider making a move to a distant place to try and find a better life.  

That's when I first made a trip to the Island of Guam, thinking I might move there more or less permanently at that point. I also realized that I might not see many of my most important friends or family members for a long, long time, or possibly never again. 

It was both exciting and sad as I recall. But due to many unforeseen circumstances a permanent move just didn’t work out for me and I returned to the mainland of North America. I spent much of the next several years working in the high tech industry, until circumstances changed again, and life again turned in a new direction.

On the one hand,  it would be possible to make a major move and not look back, but at the same time, I feel as though I’m less likely to do something like that now, even though I do have friends who have made that choice. I’m concerned about the state of the world, the rise of more and more terrorist activities, especially involving air travel. That kind of thing makes me just want to stay put, keep my feet on the ground and not take part in any unnecessarily risky behavior.  So, I’m hesitant to even think about it these days.
But to answer the question more specifically, for a person I deeply loved and who I believed shared the same love for me, I would consider it. But honestly, I would have to be so confident and sure of the relationship, and the success of our being together before I would seriously even think of taking a chance of not seeing family or friends ever again. 

I know it's easy for some people to take this kind of risk, but most of them are approximately 20 years of more younger than I am now.  Twenty years ago I was willing to take that risk, even without a person I deeply loved, just for the adventure of it. Today I feel less need for the big adventure as I've already lived out many of my dreams of adventure. 

I know that there are still many adventures ahead, and plenty of things to see and do in the more immediate world around us. Sometimes the greatest adventures, the keys to joy and bliss can be found right in our own back yards.

Like Dorothy in the film version of The Wizard of Oz found;  every thing she dreamed of was not to be found in some far away land, but in her own heart, and with those nearest to her.  To quote performance artist Laurie Anderson "Heaven is like where you are right now, only much, much better."