Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The "One For The Money" Trailer On TV!!!

At long last, Lions Gate has starting running a version of the "ONE FOR THE MONEY" trailer on TV.
So far I have only caught it when watching late shows on Lifetime. (Cut me some slack - I like sappy Christmas movies).
After a year plus of keeping the movie "Top Secret" this is a milestone!
Now I need to find out who is running a sneak preview in Bryan or College Station.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

97 Years Ago Tonight - The Christmas Truce

I want to offer a special thanks to my friend, James "Hangman" Hale for requesting this story.

One of my favorite stories is the Christmas Truce of 1914. I believe it was at an evening Christmas Eve church service when I was a little boy that I first heard this wonderful story. The story told by the Reverend sounded like something from a TV show. I have since discovered that most of the strangest, and best, stories are true.

For the best part of fifty years I have collected versions of the Christmas Truce Story and learned another universal truth - when an event is attended by hundreds, maybe thousands of individuals details vary. Having said that, I don't think one can do better than the account of someone who was there.

I am indebted to Mr. Tom Morgan for providing not only an excellent article about the event, but also several first hand accounts.

Captain Sir Edward Hulse, Bart., 2nd Scots Guards

"At 8.30 a.m. I was looking out and saw four Germans leave their trenches and come towards us. I told two of my men to go and meet them, unarmed, as the Germans were unarmed, and to see that they did not pass the half-way line. We were 350 - 400 yards apart at this point. My fellows were not very keen, not knowing what was up, so I went out alone and met Barry, one of our ensigns, also coming out from another part of the line. By the time we got to them, they were
three-quarters of the way over, and much too near our barbed wire, so I moved them back. They were three private soldiers and a stretcher-bearer, and their spokesman started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a Happy Christmas, and trusted us implicitly to keep the truce.

He came from Suffolk, where he had left his best girl and a three-and-a-half horsepower motor-bike. He told me that he could not get a letter to the girl, and wanted to send one through me. I made him write out a post card, in English, in front of me, and I sent it off that night. I told him that she probably would not be a bit keen to see him again.

We then entered on a long discussion on every sort of thing. I was dressed in an old stocking-cap and a man's overcoat, and they took me for a corporal, a thing which I did not discourage, as I had an eye to going as near their lines as possible. I asked them what orders they had from their officers as to coming over to us, and they said none; they had just come over out of goodwill.

I kept it up for half-an-hour and then escorted them back as far as their barbed wire, having a jolly good look round all the time, and picking up various little bits of information which I had not had an opportunity of doing under fire.

I left instructions with them that if any of them came out later they must not come over the half-way line, and appointed a ditch as the meeting-place. We parted after an exchange of Albany cigarettes and German cigars, and I went straight to HQ to report.

On my return at 10.00 a.m. I was surprised to hear a hell of a din going on, and not a single man in my trenches; they were completely denuded (against my orders) and nothing lived. I head strains of "Tipperary" floating down the breeze, swiftly follwed by a tremendous burst of "Deutschland Uber Alles," and, as I got to my own Company HQ dugout, I saw, to my amazement, not only a crowd of about 150 British and Germans, at the halfway house which I
had appointed opposite my lines, but six or seven such crowds, all the way down our lines, extending towards the 8th Division on our right.

I hustled out and asked if there were any German officers in my crowd, and the noise died down. (At this time I was myself in my own cap and badges of rank.) I found two, but had to speak to them through an interpreter, as they could talk neither English nor French. I explained to them that strict orders must be maintained as to meeting half-way, and everyone unarmed; and we both agreed not to fire until the other did, thereby creating a complete deadlock and armistice (if
strictly observed.)

Meanwhile, Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged, addresses given and received, photos of families shown etc. One of our fellow offered a German a cigarette; the German said, "Virginian?" Our fellow said, "Aye, straight-cut." The German said, "No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!" (Sort of 10 shillings a hundred man, me. It gave us all a good laugh.)

The Border Regiment was occupying this section on Christmas Day and Giles Loder, our Adjutant, went down there with a party that morning on hearing of the friendly demonstrations in front of my Company, to see if he could come to an agreement about our dead, who were still lying out between the trenches. The trenches are so close at this point, that of course each side had to be far stricter. Well, he found an extremely pleasant and superior stamp of German officer who arranged to bring all our dead to the half-way line. We took them over there, and buried 29
exactly half-way between the two lines. Giles collected all personal effects, pay-books and identity discs, but was stopped by the Germans when he told some men to bring in the rifles; all rifles lying on their side they had kept carefully.

They apparently treated our prisoners well, and did all they could for our wounded.
this officer kept on pointing to our dead and saying, "Les braves, c'est bien dommage." When George heard of it he went down to that section and talked to the nice officer and gave him a scarf. That same evening a German orderly came to the half-way line, and brought a pair of warm, wooly gloves as a present in return for George."

I would like to think of Captain Hulse sharing this story with his grandchildren years after the war, but I believe this was his last Christmas.

There are many British views of the Christmas Truce, but Mr. Morgan also perserved this account from a German participant.

Leutnant Johannes Niemann, 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment

"We came up to take over the trenches on the front between Frelinghien and Houplines, where our Regiment and the Scottish Seaforth Highlanders were face to face. It was a cold, starry night and the Scots were a hundred or so metres in front of us in their trenches where, as we discovered, like us they were up to their knees in mud. My Company Commander and I, savouring the unaccustomed calm, sat with our orderlies round a Christmas tree we had put up in our dugout.

Suddenly, for no apparent reason, our enemies began to fire on our lines. Our soldiers
had hung little Christmas trees covered with candles above the trenches and our enemies, seeing the lights, thought we were about to launch a surprise attack.

But, by midnight it was calm once more. Next morning the mist was slow to clear and suddenly my orderly threw himself into my dugout to say that both the German and Scottish soldiers had come out of their trenches and were fraternising along the front. I grabbed my binoculars and
looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy.

Later a Scottish soldier appeared with a football which seemed to come from nowhere and a few
minutes later a real football match got underway. The Scots marked their goal mouth with their strange caps and we did the same with ours. It was far from easy to play on the frozen ground, but we continued, keeping rigorously to the rules, despite the fact that it only lasted an hour and that we had no referee. A great many of the passes went wide, but all the amateur footballers, although they must have been very tired, played with huge enthusiasm.

Us Germans really roared when a gust of wind revealed that the Scots wore no drawers under their kilts - and hooted and whistled every time they caught an impudent glimpse of one posterior belonging to one of "yesterday's enemies."

But after an hour's play, when our Commanding Officer heard about it, he sent an order that we must put a stop to it. A little later we drifted back to our trenches and the fraternisation ended.
The game finished with a score of three goals to two in favour of Fritz against Tommy."

There are many other eye witness accounts in Mr. Morgans excellent article at the following link.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tips for Visiting Santa

For many of us Christmas isn’t complete without visit with Santa, and a picture with him with the kids.

I spent a number of years as Santa at a mall here in Texas and had a wonderful time, and I would like to share some of my experiences.

To start with there’s a good chance the little ones are going to be scared, and for good reason. From the time they can comprehend language we warn them about strangers and read them stories about Big Bad Wolves. The little’s known good and well they’ve never seen anyone like me before. They also figure anything with that much hair on its face just might be a wolf!

If they are nervous, one of the best things to do is just stand near Santa’s stage and let them watch for a bit.

The worse thing to do is force then. The result is a screaming, hysterical child. I would think no one would want a picture of a terrified, crying baby begging its parents to save it from Santa. You would be surprised how many of them I posed in.

Another problem is that crying is contagious. You can watch the ripple effect in Santa’s line as one child after another starts crying. Santa doesn’t get upset with a frightened child, but its coal and switches for those parents.

Everyone knows Santa is magic. He see’s all, knows all, and never forgets a face, and then there’s me. I believe the slowest day I ever had, I saw one thousand children. There are those who stand out, but for the most part it a blur.

Most of the time Santa listens to a kid’s wish list, gives them a candy cane, and sends them on their way. Other times it’s a fact finding mission, and that’s fine, but tell us first. A father once asked me after his daughter left the stage what she wanted for Christmas. The only thing I could remember what that she liked horses.

Santa has posed with his share of high school foot players and cheer leaders. Personally, I never objected to teenagers visiting with me, provided they kept things respectful and didn’t spoil the fun for the little’s.

Last, please understand sometimes, visiting Santa takes a little longer. There was the little boy who wanted his father to come home from prison. There was the little girl who wanted her late grandmother back. Both of these were young enough to think I could actually help. You don’t shove a candy cane in their hand and kick them off the stage after that. Santa also needed a moment, folks shouldn’t see him cry either.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

...And The World As We Knew It Came To An End.

As I look at the clock it occurs to me it was almost exactly seventy years ago that the Japanese Fleet launched the first wave of warplanes to attack Pearl Harbor. The largest air armada to ever hit American soil climbed into the dark pre-dawn sky and made their way to a small cluster of islands more than two hundred miles away.

In fairness, the Japanese had not intended the attack to be a complete surprise. The plan had been to declare war when it was too late to do anything about it. It was problems at the Japanese embassy in Washington D.C. that delayed the formal presentation.

The War was old news to Europe and China. Our government was giving as much aid to England as possible, and China under the table. With that attack the United States was not just in sprite, but in fact in World War Two.

The Generals and Polications made no grand claims, like "The War To End All Wars". The world knew better by then.

Still, there was a profound change that came over people all over the world. The generation that survived it knew "The World as we knew it came to an end." If you were five years old or seventy five, your live was split into two parts - before and after World War Two.

You might find my eariler post on this subject interesting.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What We Are Thankful For

Thanks Giving has come and gone, and as usual this is late. We had our good friends the Hale's come and spend a couple of days with us. Lot's of catching up to do. Part of it was about their middle son, Tommy, who spent this Thanks Giving over seas as a medic with the Army. Our prayers went out to him as well as the men and women he is serving with.

Thanks Giving it's self was hosted by our son Matt and his family at their house in Calvert. In addition to Turkey, we provided a couple of rabbits. One of the highlights was the hog our Grand Daughter Ali shot at HomePlacce not to long ago. Matt made a ham from one of the leg quarters, and it was great.

Part of the Thanks Givings adventures was working on our truck. Matt, his friend Steve and Hangman put in three days worth of hard work and head scratching. I helped for the most part by staying out of the way and fetching what was needed.

In the end we got the gaskets were changed out, the timing reset, and it actually started without starter fluid.

I am thankful for many things, but family and friends that would spend three days of Thanks Giving Weekend working on our truck, and call it 'part of the fun' are at the top of my list.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Big Things Happening With Stephanie Plum

This is a busy time for Stephanie Plum, and her fans.

In June of this year SMOKIN' SEVETEED was released. The bond office had moved into 'The Mooners' RV temporally after...for that you need to read SIZZLING SIXTEEN. I don't want to ruin it for you.

In SMOKIN' SEVETEED Stephanie ends up with several bad guys trying to get her. Ranger and Joe Morelli are franticly trying to keep her safe, but you won't believe who finally takes the villains out. It's been a busy year and it ain't over yet.

The next book will be EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN. It was hinted that either Joe or Ranger would be coming to Hawaii with Stephanie, but we don't know which.
The next book opens with a grumbling Stephanie coming home after a disastrous vacation. Getting on the plane in Hawaii alone for the return trip is the highlight of the next few days.

So when is the new book coming out? I believe that depends on how you're going to get it. The release date is Novemer 22, 2011 - Tuesday of this week. Unlike the Harry Potter Novels, there are no midnight release parties for Stephanie Plum.

Or Are There?

More and more of us have started using electric media. The release for the Nook and Kendal versions are also listed as November 22, 2011 but I am guessing that will mean after midnight Monday. Its possble night owls could be reading EXPOLSIVE EIGHTEEN tomorrow night!

For years Helene and I have gotten the Plum books in audio format. It prevents fisticuffs over who will read it first. Then there is the "have you gotten to the part - DON'TTELLMEDON'TTELLME!DON'TTELLME!" With the audio books we hear it together.

So are we out of luck? I don't think so.

Audible.com has all the Stephanie Plum books available to date. I'm pretty sure EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN will be available at 00:01 AM Tuesday morning. We have already started gathering the pop corn, pizza, wine, cheese and crackers and enough tuna and raw meat to keep the cats off our food.

Along with EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN a movie tie-in edition of ONE FOR THE MONEY is being released on November 22. There is an electronic version of this as well. We may pick up a copy next time we are in town, but we won't be reading it until January.

January 27, 2012 is the long awaited release date of the Stephanie Plum Movie adaption of ONE FOR THE MONEY. You may find Plum fans a bit 'Testy' over the wait we've had. The date was changed so often the faithful were gathering torches and pitchforks. Now we have a trailer and several sites have stills from the movie. I posted some eariler in the year.

One Site I can highly recommend is STEPHANIE'S OBSESSION. Her listing for the trailer is a September 23, 2011 entry. If the link doesn't work cut and paste it into your search bar. In addition this site has lots of articles and interviews related to the movie.

The tralier can be found on U-Tube as well. The pictures can be located with most search engines.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Favorite Part Of Halloween

Trick 'er Treating was a bust at HomePlace last night. Helene and I had our bonfire and stood by with Chocolate Treats and roasting marshmallows.

Bear is a champion Trick 'er Treater. Sadly (in his eyes) he never gets chocolate, and very few marshmallows. The dog treats, however, are all his.

The only thing missing was the undersized monsters. Then again, as we live three miles out of Bremond, I wasn't really expecting any. There havn't been any goblins in the last ten years.

So it was just Helene and I, and Bear, and the outside cats drifting in and out, and the chocolate and marshmallows. Not bad, not bad at all!

And today my favorite part of Halloween begins -

the Halloween Candy Sales!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shades of Star Wars

I was beginning to think I had imagined this.

In the 1960's I saw a brief article about a 'Walker Truck' being developed by the army for use on rough terrain. The article went on to say the beastie could be mastered after "A few hours training" and was doing well in field trials.

I think I must have been the only person in the Texas Panhandle who read that article. No one else knew what I was talking about and I couldn't find the article again. Tonight on a whim I googled Prototype US Army Walking Truck and there it was!

The beastie was built by GE. The good news is that the engineers got it to work after fashion. The bad news is the description of training and handling was a bit exaggerated.

The driver controlled the front legs with their hands, and the rear legs with their feet. The speed was estimated at five miles an hour, but the operation was exhausting. The designer said about fifteen minutes was the usual limit.

Stability also left something to be desired. When being texted indoors it was hooked up to an overhead crane to make sure it stayed upright. Outdoors it had 'outriggers' to keep it from falling.

Cargo was a quarter ton, give or take. The beast also burned about fifty gallons and hour. All told, it was more trouble than it was worth.

One of the articles I read made an interesting point. 'Driving the walking truck was so taxing becase in the 1960's everything was manual. Today computers could correct a lot of the problems that made the walking truck such a bear.

So could computers make a walking truck managable? Consider the 'Big Dog' cargo robot. Would the walking truck be viable if the control problems were tamed?

I don't think so.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears...in Ohio!

A few days ago James at hellinahandbasket had a post that awakened memories and nightmares.

When I was a kid Walt Disney made a movie called A TIGER WALKS. It was about a circus tiger that escapes from its transport truck enroute to the next show. In the process the tiger killed its abusive handler, but truth be told every kid in the audience was cheering for the tiger. Problem is now there was a tiger loose in the woods of Middle America.

The hero of the movie was the local Sheriff, played by Brian Keith. The Governor complicates matters by sending in the National Guard. While seeking the tiger in a heavy fog one of the soldiers accidently shots a civilian, wounding him thank goodness. The Governor is persuaded to call off the National Guard and give Keith a crack at bringing down the tiger with a tranquilizer gun.
The plan didn’t come off without a hitch. There is a delay between hitting the tiger with the tranquilizer gun and the tiger going to sleep. Keith was raked on one arm before the tiger ran out of steam, but it was ‘just a flesh wound Ma’am.’ There have been dozens of such movies, but this one was my first.

Sadly, things go a lot smother in the movies than in real life.
A couple of days ago an Ohio man named Terry Thompson set in motion a nightmare scenario the wildest Hollywood director would never have dreamed of. For reasons best known to himself Thompson released his considerable collection of exotic animals into the woods around his ranch near Zanesville, Ohio before he took his own life. The net is overflowing with theories as to why. I never knew Mr. Thompson and will not pretend to be qualified to understand his motives.

Hats off to the Ohio authorities who sprang into action as soon as they were alerted to the dangerous situation. School was canceled and folks who were home in the danger area were advised to stay inside. If you were away from home, don’t hurry back! The animals were tracked down and dealt with by the safest and most efficient means. You must remember that Thompson’s collection was not tame pets. They were wild animals that spent their lives in cages. That makes them more dangerous than their counterparts in the wild – they had no fear of humans. So what did Thompson release and what was their fate? The numbers and sprcies of the animals vary from source to source. What follows is my best information at this writing. Read on;
There was one Baboon in the collection. It was killed. Why you might ask? Take a good look at this picture.
There were also three monkeys but I haven’t found a listing of species. Two were captured and one may have been killed, or is still at large. It looks like one of the cats may have gotten that one.

The collection had also included at least two wolves. Both were taken down by hunters.

I have had the privilege of seeing Grizzly Bears in the wild and have always been delighted there were no wild ones running free in Texas. The thought of a Grizzly running loose even in the countryside of Ohio is horrifying. Thompson released two!I was glad to learn one of them was captured unharmed. The second was not so fortunate.
There were three Cougars in the collection. All of them had to be put down. Before any of you express outrage, remember the jogger in California a few
years ago. Being a child of the 50’s I grew up with stories of hunters tracking man-eaters. Leopards figured prominently in these tales. I was stunned that three of them had been released, and pleasantly surprised to learn all three had been re-captured. Of all the animals released I didn’t expect a happy end for these. A Tiger Walks dealt with the panic and mayhem of one escaped tiger. Thompson released EIGHTEEN of them. This could have been a disaster. For the tigers it was, none of them survived.
There were six Black Bears in the mass release. Unlike the Grizzlies, all were put down by authorities.
Last but not least were the African Lions. Again I get different numbers, but I think there were nine males, and eight lionesses. As near as I can tell they were all destroyed. I know a lot of you are saying "with tranquilizer guns these creatures could have been saved."

Part of the problem is time and place. If a dangerious animal is spotted it has to be dealt with then. I don't know about where you live, but the Police and Sheriff's Department in Falls County, Texas don't have tranquilizer guns in their cars. By the time someone gets to your location with a dart gun the Lion or Black Bear you've spotted could be long gone - doing God knows what.

The other problem is darts are not universal. A dart that will work on a Tiger for example will kill a Wolf, but only make a Grizzly Bear very angery. Even if you have the right dose, the drugs are not instantious. It can take as much as twenty minutes for an animal to pass out. A lot of that will be spent in a killing rage.

Tranquilizer guns are a practical solution in zoos where you prepair for each animal, but less than perfect in the field.

I have referred to 'A Tiger Walks' several times in this piece. In one case real life was better than the movie. Other than Terry Thompson, no people were killed or injured.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mixed Thoughts on 'Harry's Law'

Helene and I missed 'Harry's Law' this week, but caught the rebroadcast Saturday night. The story was about cyber bullying / suicide. Harry, to be fair, did not defend the actions of the teenage bloger, but got her acquitted. I don't think she came down on the right side of this one. That being said isn't my biggest problem with the series. One of my guilty pleasures last year was Harry's Law. It features a sixtyish patent lawyer who is fired by her firm and ends up hanging her shingle on an abandoned shoe store. She was followed by her old secretary, the shoe mad Jenna and her associate is Adam, the young lawyer who hit her with his car. It sounds crazy, but they made it work.

Harry is a delightful character. She is rude, ill tempered and abrasive. No one is safe you would think, until she shows her human side. When her people are attacked she lashes out with a razor sharp tongue. When the local 'protection racket' showed up Harry cooled his jets with a Smith & Wesson Model 27. She pays no money but trades legal fees for protection. It's not the last time we see the .357 though. I love crazy old ladies with guns. Anyone who thinks Jenna is just the token blonde has missed the point. She provides humor to be sure, but in many ways was the heart of the show first season. Jenna both cared about and took care of the people around her. Helpless fluff? In a way Jenna is like the toy poodle that doesn't realize how big the great dane is. She has backed down some scarie people in that office. On more than one occasions she sticks up for herself against Harry no less. Adam is seen as a kid early on, but very soon is also standing his ground and doing well in court. He also has his battles with Harry, and with Harry's image. On more than one occasion he deals with clients who want "the old lady" instead of him. He changes their mind.
One of their first clients is Malcolm, an inner city kid facing trial, I believe a drug charge. Not only do Harry and Adam get him off, but he became a law clerk in their firm.
Tommy Jefferson is the lawyer made to hate. He starts out as an opponent, and before you know it he's also on the team. Watching him and Adam go after each other gives you new respect for the younger, more grown up associate.

All told Helene and I were looking forward to the next season. Well, it's here.

The premier was worth the wait, a three part murder mystery with a vicious twist ending I never saw coming. I was disappointed in other ways.

The first scene opens on the new law office. They have taken over the second floor, leaving Jenna and the shoes downstairs. There is lots of new personal. Tommy Jefferson now has his office there. By the end of the three part murder trial the guy who fired Harry from her old firm has moved in as well. Somewhere in between the first and second season the store-front office law office and shoe store died.
Malcolm has been 'off to school' this season. Understandable, but he could have gone to school locally. Jenna has had walk on's the last few weeks, almost as an after thought. Tonight she finally got some lines. She announced she had been offered a new job, and was shuffled off the series.

There are lots of lawyer / law firm TV shows. Now Harry's law is another one of them.