Tag Archives: movies

Love Stories With Clowns and Elephants


Yes, this essay is supposed to be a book review of Sara Gruen’s lovely, enthralling circus story Water for Elephants.  But you know me.  My writing gets overwhelmed and filigreed by my obsessive urge to dive into the ocean of things that excite me to purple paisley prose.

It is a fascinating love story involving a depression-era travelling train circus, a young man who suddenly finds himself a penniless orphan days before he can complete his degree in veterinary medicine, an elephant, a beautiful horse-riding show girl and circus star, and her cruel but charming ring master husband.

I don’t think I am spoiling anything by telling you that Jacob Jankowski, the main character of the tale falls in love with both the beautiful Marlena and an apparently untrainable elephant named Rosie.  And I also shouldn’t actually be ruining the ending by telling you that the murderer who ends the story is revealed in the opening pages, but is still a surprise when masterful story-teller Sara Gruen re-reveals the murder at the end.  This is a plot-driven novel that completely catches you up in a doomed relationship, a complicated romance, and an artfully re-created world of depression-era train circuses that ranks right up there with Cecil B. DeMille’s movie spectacular The Greatest Show on Earth.

Yes, I had to equate this book with an old 1950’s movie that I love because of the similarities of plot and spectacle.  Both the movie and the book have a faithful clown friend who lives a tragic life.  Both Buttons the clown, played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie, and Kinko the clown, the dwarf Walter in the book whose only friend is Queenie the dog before he gets involved in the main character’s problems, play a crucial role as a supporting character.  There is a romantic triangle in each.  Jacob, Marlena, and Marlena’s husband August in the book mirror the complex relationship between the circus runner Brad Braden, his girlfriend the trapeze star, Holly, and the circus’s newest trapeze star, the Great Sebastian in the movie.  And in each story there is a huge disaster that threatens the existence of the circus.  But I am in no way suggesting that one is merely a copy of the other.  Each story is unique and enthralling in a thousand different ways.  They are two entirely different stories told by two different master story-tellers that happen to be built on the same basic framework.  And both of those things teach you a great wealth of carefully researched details about the magical world of real travelling circuses.

Oh, yes… And I forgot to mention, the book Water for Elephants was made into a movie in 2011.


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Filed under book review, clowns, commentary, finding love, humor, movie review

The Force Awakens (with tornadoes thrown in for excitement)


At long last I got to see it, another thrilling Star Wars movie.  I couldn’t wait for it to reach the dollar movie theater where I could actually afford it, so I saved up my money to take the family to the theater in Valley View Mall off LBJ in Dallas. (This is a doomed and dying mall that no one ever goes to, so the tickets cost only half as much as elsewhere… but it was still necessary to go an hour early to get tickets before it sold out.)  I have seen every single Star Wars movie within the first two weeks of its run, dating back to the original Star Wars which I saw in college at Ames, Iowa in 1977.  And I confess to loving every minute of every one of the movies.  I even like Jar Jar Binks as a character, which gets me kicked out of the Serious Star Wars Aficionado Club for reasons I still don’t understand.

I was predisposed to passionately love this movie.  And I understand why the critics are saying that it is the exact same plot as the first Star Wars movie, Episode IV; A New Hope.   I am not going to review this movie here because I could not do it without those dreadful spoilers that I had to duck for weeks in everything I read about the movie.  Things happen in this movie that directly parallel the first movie, and that means an unexpected death that tore my heart out as much as when Vader kills Obi Wan Kenobi in the original.  Over time, through movies and books and role-playing games, these characters have become real people to me.  I care deeply about what happens to them.  I almost had to care deeply about what happened to us as well.


Yesterday was a bad-weather day in Texas.  Tornadoes ripped through the Dallas area  last night.  Eight people were killed as three different funnel clouds touched down and did damage in the area.  As we left the theater and started out for the restaurant where we would get a meal, a tornado warning started ringing on our cell phones and the tornado siren started blaring.  My sister-in-law and her family, visiting from San Antonio, took refuge in the mall we had just left.  They told us that the theaters on the top floor of the mall were evacuated as they sheltered there.  If we hadn’t gone to a matinee, we would’ve been interrupted during the movie.  As it was, we made it to Chili’s Restaurant just ahead of the wind and rain.  We had dinner while the rain poured down, and the Independence Bowl on the restaurant televisions kept getting interrupted by weather coverage like you see above.  We watched the danger zones creep by on three sides of us as we ate burgers and tilapia  in a glassed-in restaurant.  Needless to say, our relatives were unable to join us as they cowered back at Valley View Mall.  The after-movie party and discussion proved to be almost as thrilling an adventure as the movie itself.


But I simply can’t help myself.  No line or threat of sell-out or adverse weather condition is going to come between me and a Star Wars Movie.  I loved it.  And if I’m still alive when the next one comes out, I’m watching that one too… no matter what.  I love Star Wars!

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Filed under humor, movie review, science fiction

Old Timey Stuff

Okay, here is something to look at if you are ridiculously old and out of date like me.  If you have read any of the doll collecting posts or the Pez dispenser posts I am constantly and obsessively posting, then you know I have hoarding disorder almost as bad as my Grandma Beyer, the old string-saver.  She had a collection of used Christmas wrapping paper in her basement that went back to the 1930’s.  It cost her nothing to collect and keep that hoard.  She merely had to be loony about never letting anyone tear their wrapping paper when she wrapped presents.  So, inspired by that, I have found many ways to collect and hoard many kinds of free collections.  This is one I keep on my computer, hijacked images from the internet that remind me of my past.

I’m sorry if you don’t know who or what some of these things are.  Drive-ins, Davy Crockett, The Captain and Mr. Moose, NBC in color on Grandma Beyer’s RCA color TV… these are important things from childhood in the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s.



Do you know who and what they all are?  Does it matter to you like it matters to me?  This is just a glimpse of the museum inside my mind.  I can’t help it.  I am almost 60, and I have been absorbing the detritus of culture since I was four.  That’s a lot of images to collect and catalog.  Have fun making your own collection.  It doesn’t cost anything… as long as nobody sues me over copyrighted images.


Filed under autobiography, collecting, humor, Uncategorized

Movie Monsters

Movie Monsters

I am fascinated by the tragic-romantic monster-heroes of the silver screen. The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy… Christopher Lee, Lon Chaney Jr., Boris Karloff… so much visual monstrosity and wild fantasy of the most terrifying sort. I love it.

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February 6, 2014 · 2:55 am