Thursday, May 26, 2016

Granny Reviews Only Lovers Left Alive

I love vampire stories as much as I do ghost stories. I was a big fan of the “Twilight Series” books and film franchise by Stephenie Meyer...yeah I know I hear the moaning out there, but I really liked the books.
I even liked the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris...even though the 7th season of the True Blood television series and the last book were a big flop. Too bad it was because I loved  doing the review of the show and I loved Alexander Skarsgard’s vampire stud muffin, Eric Northman.
Last night I watched a film that I had only heard about, but never got to see. That was a big shame because “Only Lovers LeftAlive” which is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton is a fabulously sensual different take on the fabled bloodsuckers.
The 2013 film which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival follows Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) a couple of vampires that are very much in love and have been married for centuries. They are living half a world apart from each other and while Adam lives in a rundown Victorian building in Detroit, Eve lives in Tangier. They are connected spiritually and emotionally even with the miles separating them.

The modern humans’ blood has been contaminated by the unhealthy food that they consume and the dirty water that they drink. If Adam and Eve drink from humans, they will die and are forced to seek their blood supply from the local blood banks for a pretty price. Eve is fortunate to have a supplier, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) who was the real author of Shakespeare’s works.

These vampires have lived for centuries and that means that they are very talented and learned entities who enjoy the finer things in life like music, books and art. Adam is a musician who has influenced the careers of many famous musicians and even a few scientists. He powers his car and house with technology pioneered by Tesla. Not wanting to reveal his whereabouts because of his music, he befriends a human Ian (Anton Yelchin) who buys expensive and famous instruments for Adam...

Adam is in a funk after living for such a long time, but his wife Eve travels to Detroit to snap him out of his gloom. Things are going well with the two lovers until Eve’s younger sister/vampire Ava (MiaWasikowska) shows up. This vampire is your typical Los Angeles spoiled brat and it isn’t long before she drinks up all of Adam’s good blood supply. When Ava kills a human, Adam and Eve are forced to leave Detroit.
The handsome Tom Hiddleston is just deliciously perfect as a vampire and just as sexy as he was as Loki in the Marvel Universe Franchise, Tom Hiddleston plays his vampire as an intellect. Who says brains aren't a big turn on?
Tilda Swinton is one of those rare creatures who is so beautiful that you’re never quite sure if she is fully human. Together, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton bring a new twist to an old tale and they do it with sensuality and style and, even when they do decide to feed, we are left cheering for their survival. Watch the film on will love it. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Gilbert Interviews Author, Ewart Rouse

I love being a member of the South Jersey Writers’ Group. Our group provides opportunities and inspiration for all members to reach their goals. Everyone has a story to tell and if you check out our blog, you will learn how many of the members got started down that road to publication. Our group is blessed with many talented people and I was happy to have this chance to interview Ewart Rouse on his books and on his love of Cricket.

Ewart Rouse is the author of the Sticky Wicket Trilogy: Watkins at Bat, Sticky Wicket Trilogy Vol.1; Watkins Fights Back, Sticky Wicket Trilogy, Vol. ll; Watkins’ Finest Inning, Sticky Wicket Trilogy Vol. lll; Watkins’ Overseas Tour. All the books are about a game I don’t know that much about, but Ewart Rouse was graceful enough to explain.
Gilbert: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your days as a reporter in Trinidad and here in the states. Did you always want to be a reporter?
Ewart Rouse:  I grew up in Trinidad back when it was under British rule. Because there were few local authors at the time, we studied primarily British and American literature in school. I decided I wanted to be a reporter after it struck me that many of my favorite authors — including Dickens, Steinbeck, and Hemingway –were journalists.                                                        
There are no journalism schools on the island. Fortunately, the Guardian, the major daily newspaper, ran a training program for would-be journalists who, if they cut mustard, were offered jobs. I applied and was accepted into the program. After three months of following the beat reporters around, attending formal classes that they taught in the newspaper’s library, and covering stories, I made the cut. I was given the court beat, and soon was covering politics, the top beat, at a time of great political upheaval with the island seeking its independence from Britain.

With that background, I landed a reporting job with the Associated Press in New York when I migrated to the United States in the 1970s. After brief stints in the wire service’s bureaus in Newark, Atlantic City and Washington (the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s resignation and Gerald Ford’s swearing in as President was brewing then), I joined the staff at the Philadelphia Inquirer. I worked at the Inky for three decades, primarily as a business writer, retiring as a suburban editor in the paper’s Cherry Hill bureau a few years ago. While at the Inquirer, I also taught newswriting as an adjunct journalism professor at Arcadia, Temple, Rutgers and Rowan Universities.
Gilbert: Ewart, your books are about cricket and the men who play this game. Would you explain the dynamics of the game and what attracted you to it? How long have you been playing? Can women play, too?
Ewart Rouse: First, a little history: my series of “Sticky Wicket” novels originally were published by LMH Publishing. I acquired the rights back to the books and now have republished them, with new covers and material, through CreateSpace. Each volume is part of the same story, but can stand on its own.

Now, they aren’t sports books, but rather novels about immigrants from countries where cricket is the national sport India, Pakistan, the West Indies islands, England, etcetera — who yearn to play the game of their youth in their adopted land. It’s a humorous look at a supposedly “gentleman’s” game, a game considered the granddaddy of American baseball. I take an almost over-the-top approach to the challenges the men face, not least of which are wives who think it’s time the men grew up and spent more time with their families, as well as Little League and soccer moms who don’t take too kindly to these strangers in white uniforms, chattering in myriad languages and with funny accents, who have taken over their playgrounds — “hijacked,” as they tell it — to play a “foreign” game that nobody understands, a game that lasts the entire day, freezing out their kids.
As one angry Little League official demands of Watkins during a confrontational meeting, “You people are in America now. Why don’t you play an American sport?”
That quote tells you it’s a story about a clash of cultures, and that something’s gotta give.
What attracted me to the game? Because it is a national sport in Trinidad, it was natural for me to pick up a cricket bat when I was old enough to lift it, as natural as an American kid would swing a baseball bat at that age.
And yes, women do play the game, at all levels, including international tournaments.

Gilbert: Is the character Watkins based on you, or someone you knew?
Ewart Rouse: That’s one of the first questions I’m usually asked. Watkins and the other characters are composites of people I know ­— men who are so obsessed with the game they are willing to jeopardize their marriages to play it, and women who have given their husbands an ultimatum: put down that cricket bat and attend religious services with me on weekends or the marriage is over.
It’s a scenario with which athletes and spouses in any sport, and readers of any genre, can identify.
Gilbert: Can you explain to the readers what exactly a “sticky wicket” is?
Ewart Rouse: As I explained on my website www.ewartrouse.comthe expression is akin to “being in a pickle.” For example, try explaining to your boss what you were doing at the casino, where you were spotted, after you had called in sick from work.
In cricket parlance, a “sticky wicket” refers to the condition of the playing surface of the game the 66-feet-long by 10-feet wide strip in the middle of the field. When it is adversely affected by moisture, the surface called “the wicket” or “pitch” is likely to cause the bounced ball to behave in an unpredictable manner. It might pop up, go right, go left, or creep like a rat toward the batsman.
Even the most talented of batsmen – the ones with the sharpest of eyes and quickest of reflexes – can be surprised by such a delivery, end up playing the wrong stroke, and getting out.
The novels’ “sticky wicket” titles refers to “the pickle” in which protagonist Freddie Watkins finds himself as he battles the wives and the establishment.
Gilbert: Do you feel that cricket is becoming more popular in the states as more people learn about the game and how it’s played?
 Ewart Rouse Back in the mid-1980s, there were seven established clubs in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area. Today, with the influx of immigrants from cricketing countries, (New Jersey reportedly is among the most popular destination in the United States for immigrants from around the world), there are dozens of clubs in several leagues. Nationwide, there are now hundreds of clubs.
It has remained a largely immigrant sport, but there is a concerted effort by the United States Cricket Association to get Americans to take up the sport, just as they have soccer, once considered a “foreign” game. That effort includes getting schools to follow New York City’s example and make cricket part of the schools’ sports curriculums.
Gilbert: Can you tell us about the Lifetime Achievement Award that you received and the proclamation given to you by the Mayor of Camden.
Ewart Rouse:  The South Jersey Caribbean Cultural Organization holds an annual “heritage day” festival on the Camden waterfront, with lots of music and vendors selling ethnic foods and things Caribbean. The mayor of Camden issues proclamations recognizing the day and the recipients of various awards. In 2013, I was presented with a lifetime achievement award in recognition of my years as a journalist, teacher and my activism on behalf of the cricket community. It was quite an honor.

Gilbert: You have four books out in your Sticky Wicket Series. Can we expect a fifth one?
Ewart Rouse: Following the mantra “write what you know,” I’m going from the cricket field to the newsroom, from humor to thriller. My next protagonist is a crusading journalist who becomes the story after he loses his moral compass and becomes involved in a number of potentially career-ending, headline-grabbing incidents.
Gilbert: What advice would you give to young people who are curious about trying their hands playing cricket.
Ewart Rouse: There’s plenty of info on this website:  USA Cricket Association
Gilbert: What advice would you give to young people who are interested in becoming writers?
Ewart Rouse: Take notes about interesting quirky people, their idiosyncrasies, their pithy quotes and vignettes. They might recognize themselves in your stories and threaten to do bad things to you if portrayed in an unflattering light. When that happens, you have your sequel.
Also read anything you get your hands on, from books and newspapers (before they go the way of the dinosaur) to labels on paint. Each contains nuggets of information that the mind will retrieve for just the right spot in your next project. Embellish them, take them to the extreme and, who knows, maybe you end up with a bestseller. Some might call you a dreamer but, hey, as the saying goes, you can’t have a dream come through if you don’t have a dream.
Gilbert: Thank you, Ewart Rouse for this interview. Too those of you out there who are interested in learning more about the game of Cricket and the men and women who love the game, pick up the Sticky Wicket Books.

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Mother's Day Card


I went shopping for Mother’s Day gifts for my daughter, but while searching for the perfect card for her, I couldn’t help noticing all the cards that would have been perfect for my mom. I guess, I can still buy the card and leave it up in the attic, but...

My parents are no longer alive. This should classify me as an orphan, even though I am older than dirt, but even though both my parents are dead; they haven’t gone to the great beyond. Maybe, it’s because I am the eldest of their four children, or maybe it’s because they liked my house, but for whatever reason, they have taken residence up in my attic. I have some of their belongings stored up there and in the basement, but the attic is where they stay until they take it into their heads that they want to visit my sister Lucy or my daughter, then off they go.
My sister Lucy will usually call me up to let me know that she has company and the same thing goes for my daughter who is a ghost magnet for the entire deceased members of the Maratea family. The fact that my mom and dad hang out together is hilarious because they hated each other while alive. They were divorced and proud of it.

They were not easy people to live with. Both had OCD. Both were a little bit crazy. I guess I can compare my childhood and that of my siblings as resembling the Addams Family. Normal was not a word to describe my family. If you don’t believe me you can check out my blog about growing up with Fred and Lucy here.

My mother had issues. I loved her, but her issues were a double edged sword that caused me to pull away when she needed me the most. I find myself missing her in spite of her issues which made her extremely paranoid and distrustful of her own kids. My mom and dad tell me about Heaven and how it’s nothing like the church has been brainwashing us with. GOD is more forgiving than they expected and HE is not into religion; never was; never will be.
In Heaven, Mom was able to understand her issues and come to an understanding of her life. In death, she has become more motherly and protecting. My sisters and I have found that we are able to enjoy her company, even if she remains unseen. My brother won’t talk about this, but that’s okay. Mom and dad do visit him too even if he is unaware of them being there.
There are many of my friends and family who have lost their own dear mothers. Mother’s Day can be a bitter holiday if you believe that death means the end of life. Death is just our souls leaving the earthly vessel or body. The soul does not die. My father and mother have started to bring other dead people to visit me. I’m not positive, but I think the spirits just want to tell me their stories. I listen.
This Mother’s day, buy that card and leave it for your mom. She isn’t gone forever. She is still with you and she will appreciate the card.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

An Abundance of Questions


So many things have come up this week that I don’t know where to start first. My grandson, Joshua, is now officially in the Navy. After boot camp, he’ll be trained on a submarine. While writing down my address in order for Josh to keep in touch with me, he asked me to print because they don’t teach cursive writing in school. The fact that my grandson, who is very smart, didn’t know how to write cursive actually blew my mind. This kid is planning on working with Elon Musk and Space X but he doesn’t know cursive because he was only taught to print.

My first reaction was to go on a tirade about the poor education system in this country, but I didn’t want to direct it at my grandson. He didn’t make up the rules. So who the hell did? Yeah, I know, everyone uses the computer so why worry about handwriting, but penmanship is an important discipline that works with the eye and hand coordination part of the brain. I’m afraid that in the next few years, someone will come up with a new rule that considers printing unnecessary because you can just peck at the keys of a keyboard.  I guess I won’t be seeing too many handwritten letters from my grandchildren. Maybe that’s why they love texting so much.

Common Core Sucks!

Instead of solving the real problems of education, some nut job had decided in 2009 to place us even further behind in the education race by coming up with something called Common Core. Guess what? It is a big fat failure and kids are graduating from high school unprepared for college. The teachers are now forced to teach kids to pass tests. That’s not what education is about. Teachers are supposed to teach lessons and encourage children to ask questions, do experiments, have debates, and then, come up with theories based on their research...right?
Maybe eliminating cursive handwriting was the first step down that slippery slope to dumbing down our kids. I went to Catholic school for twelve years and I know more about history, social studies and science than most kids today. Why is that? The nuns taught us with one purpose in mind. We were to learn everything about the world and its people in order to become contributing members of society. Yes, there were tests, and yes, we stressed over them because a bad report card was not acceptable to our parents, who took an active interest in our learning. But, the nuns didn’t teach us to just pass tests. They taught us to think for ourselves.                                                            
I think we’ve done a big disservice to our children and our teachers with this stupid Common Core and maybe we should go back to what worked before. I would write a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Education, but they may not know how to read cursive.
Who can fix this?

Can someone tell me how it is possible that our young men and women, who we sent off to fight a war for some rich bastard to make oodles of noodles from invading other countries, are now living in the streets? These are our soldiers! These young men and women served in the military to keep us safe and where are they? They are living in poverty, that’s where they are. Corporations should be hiring veterans as soon as they are discharged from service. It should be a law. Who can fix this, now!

Social Security Vampires
Who started it, I don’t know, but I’m pissed. I’ve been working since I was seven years old. I worked seven days a week in my parent’s grocery store in South Philly. I graduated from High School at 17 and I went right to work at Bell Telephone. I’ve worked many jobs, but I always paid taxes and also paid into Social Security. I’m retired now and I live on a fixed income.  So, why am I confused? Conservatives want to take away my money. They say it belongs to them. Who do I send my neatly, handwritten letter to?
Okay, I am done ranting. What’s on your mind?


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Indiegogo Campain for BIGFOOT, a Christopher Paul Garetano Creation

I receive many requests by the very talented people who follow me on Social Media to check out their work or to promote their latest creation. I do this often wondering if I’m going to be disappointed in accepting their request. I’m happy to say that I’ve never been disappointed. In fact, I am really excited to tell you about this new Indiegogo film that needs your help.

                                            Introducing Paul Garetano

In October of 2015, movie-maker Christopher Paul Garetano set out to create the definitive motion picture regarding what is perhaps the greatest unsolved mystery of our time: the legend of BIGFOOT

I’ve watched the trailer and loved what I saw. You will too!


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Plantings of Spirit

There are two ways to go through this life. You can be a planter, or you can be a tramper. Children are like young plants. They need the necessities of healthy foods and clean water to physically grow and, they need mental stimulation which they get in school and at home, but what about their spiritual growth.
Are we inspiring our young to reach past their limits or family traditions? I watch and listen to how adults deal with the young. We should be mindful of our words. I’ve mentioned this in an earlier post. Our thoughts and intentions can take on conscious form and, our words can be as sharp as a sword to an insecure child. Do we really want this to be our legacy?
When I meet adults who seem insecure, self-doubting, or afraid to speak their voice, I think to myself, “There was very little planting in her or his garden.” Did this person, as a child, constantly here remarks like this: “You can’t do this, because: you’re not smart enough, big enough, rich enough, white enough, male enough, female enough, etc. etc.” You get the idea. Trampers point out the negative aspects while planters point out the positive with words like these: “You can do this, if you study harder, if you’re persistent, if you believe in yourself.”
Planters will not use religion, gender, race or finances to discourage a child. A planter will say, “It might be hard, but you can do it.” It takes one seed to start that garden in a child. One encouraging word will inspire a child to reach above their capabilities. When that seed takes root, the spark of imagination that shows in a child’s eyes is breathless to behold.                                                           
The other day, I was selling my books at the Camden Comic Con. A group of children between the ages of eleven to thirteen stopped at my table to chat with me and a fellow writer. One of the girls asked me if I wrote the books that I was selling. I said yes. She wanted to know how I wrote the book. My reply, “I have all these stories inside me. I just write them down.” She nodded, but there were questions. I could see them in her eyes. I added, “You have a story inside you. Everyone does. Start writing your story.”
Her eyes lit up. I had planted the seed. She could write, too. This little girl’s eyes shone with excitement and she couldn’t wait to get home and try her hand at writing. I hope I encouraged all the children in that group to spread their wings and not take “NO” for an answer.
I hope I also encouraged the little girl with the sad eyes. When I told her to write down her story, her eyes lit up, but then the frown returned. Was she a victim of trampling? I hope not. I hope the seed took hold in her heart. I hope to see her selling her own books one day. Are you a planter or a tramper?


Great Times at the 2016 Camden Comic Con


I’ve been to several Comic Cons on the east coast, but my all-time favorite is the one hosted by Rutgers in Camden New Jersey. Bill Haas and his team do an outstanding job of making sure the event runs in a smooth and organized way at the Camden Comic Con.  

I was so fortunate to have my favorite sidekick at my side for this event. Dawn Byrnes and I have been doing book signings together for several years, starting with selling our writing group’s first anthology, Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Dawn has several stories published and she’s hoping to have her novel finished by the summer of 2017. Check out her blog and check out the South Jersey Writers’ Group site.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Comic Con, but they are so much fun. People wear costumes of their favorite video, comic book or television characters and these fans put a lot of effort and time into making their costumes. We also some really cool vendors at the event.
The young lady sitting at the table next to us was an Anime Artist named Kathy. Her work was fabulous and she had a steady stream of customers the whole day. Here is her site. Check it out.

I sold a lot of books and made new friends. Thank you Beatriz for buying my books.  Dawn and I also met some cool visitors, Jeff Cleve, actor and puppeteer and, Tania Ann Monica, a model and actress.
The busiest table at the Comic Con was manned by the pop culture duo, Glenn Walker and Ray Cornwall of The Gar Podcast. Glenn Walker is also the Editor-in-Chief of the pop culture site Biff Bam Pop! Glenn is also on the board of directors for the South Jersey Writers’ Group. Glenn, Ray and Jeff did ten hours of interviews including one with me and Director Christopher Eilenstine.

As the senior writer for Biff Bam Pop, I’ve interviewed Chris on The Soulless Film here and the upcoming Shadows of the Forest and, I am one of the screenwriters for Shadows of the Forest. Thanks to Glenn, Ray and Christopher, I now have a movie deal for Roof Oasis. Like I said, great things happen at the Camden Comic Con and I’ll be looking for your visit next year.
So, yeah it was a great day, but the moment that touched me the most was when two girls from Pennsauken High School stopped in to say hello to me. For the last two years, I've been invited to the high school to talk to the students about writing. I usually spend the whole morning speaking to the junior classes.

Anyone who puts down the kids today should head over to the Pennsauken High School. These young men and  young ladies were well behaved, intelligent, curious and interested in what is happening in the world. They're much smarter than I ever was in junior year. Check out The Gar Podcast later in the week to listen to the interviews from the Comic Con.