Sole Focus

News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish

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Location: Georgia, United States

Sunday, May 4, 2014

An Early Morning Walk

I went for a walk.
An early morning walk.
In the crisp cool air.
The beautiful sunshine.
The smell of freshly cut grass
And the singing of the birds
Kept me company.
To commune with myself.
To clear my mind.
To feel ready for the new day.
I could feel the beating of my heart.
The worries of life momentarily abated.
As I concentrated only on my stride
I knew that in these solitary sojourns
One can find himself
And feel at peace with himself
To the tune of each breath.
Inhale.
Exhale.
Just be.
I went for a walk.
An early morning walk.
And I felt...
Alive.

Carey Parrish
4 May 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The 2014 Academy Awards - Final Predictions

It is Oscar night! After all the waiting and wondering, the questions will be answered in a few short hours and we will see who takes home a golden statue. Having seen the nominated films, followed the buzz around the nominees, and taken into account who walked away with a Golden Globe, etcetera, I have made my own predictions as to who will win and my final round of choices isn't that far off from my first ideas.

Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave
The story this film tells and the moral implications it imparts are just as profound and just as important in 2014 as they were when the book was originally published in the late 19th Century. The performances are strong and the whole enchilada sparkles with Best Picture potential. I think this one will upset American Hustle, which was my first pick for the award this year.
 
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
It isn't often that the Best Picture and Best Director awards don't go hand in hand but with Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón skillfully combined the film's special effects with a cast that delivered fine performances amid a story that was both powerful and exciting. Cuarón's deft hand wove the whole thing together with a finesse that kept it from becoming a special effects jamboree.
 
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer's Club
My original pick in this category was Bruce Dern for his performance in Nebraska even though McConaughey had the best performance of the lot. And this is why I've changed my prediction. The buzz around Mr. McConaughey is enviable and, again, his was the best job well done this year. He is the Best Actor and as such rightfully deserves the Oscar.
 
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
My mind didn't change on this one. Cate Blanchett is at the head of the class in her category. Her performance in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine was superb. The buzz surrounding her has not waned either. She is well deserving of the award.
 
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer's Club
After a few years away from the film industry, Jared Leto returned with a sizzling performance in an important movie and the results are top of the line. I originally felt that Leto was the best in this category but I found myself leaning more toward Michael Fassbender for his work in 12 Years A Slave because he is "owed" so to speak. But I've changed my tune on this one. Jared Leto should win and I believe he will.
 
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o in 12 Years A Slave
No change on this prediction either. Ms. Nyong'o was my original choice and she remains such. Her performance was splendid and she has been the odds on favorite, not to mention taking other honors along the way, and I do not foresee her walking away without the Oscar tonight.
 
Possible upsets include American Hustle (it did win the Golden Globe for Best Picture) and Gravity (if Cuarón prevails for Best Director and the typical formula holds true) in the Best Picture race. Steve McQueen could take the Best Director award for his work on 12 Years A Slave using the same rationale as Gravity and Cuarón. Bruce Dern might still be given the Best Actor Oscar as a "career award" win. Judi Dench just might upset Blanchett for Best Actress for her performance in Philomena, as could Amy Adams in American Hustle. Fassbender is still a real threat to Jared Leto in the Best Supporting Actor nod. Both Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) and Julia Roberts (August: Osage County) could spell an upset for Nyong'o if the "second statue in a different category" rule comes into play this year.
 
It is impossible to be one hundred percent sure of anything where The Academy is concerned, because with them anything goes. They have been both predictable and surprising over the years and this time will likely be no different. I am never one to believe I will be right on every pick I make but for what it's worth this is my last round of predictions for this year's Oscars. We shall see, we shall see.
 
The 86th Academy Awards will be telecast on ABC beginning at 8:30 p.m. this evening. One thing I do feel safe in predicting is that a lot of switching back and forth between the Oscars and The Walking Dead will take place. LOL.
 
C

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review: Gifts Not Yet Given (And Other Tales of the Holidays) by Kergan Edwards-Stout

 
Following the success of his stunning debut novel, Songs For The New Depression, author Kergan Edwards-Stout returns with an anthology of short stories called Gifts Not Yet Given. And it is another page-turner from this talented scribe.
Each story is centered around a holiday but this is not a book for holiday reading only. The stories and settings run the gamut in terms of seasonal and personal meaning. The book is brimming with characters you’ll love not only because they’re so well written but also you’ll know someone in your own life who could be almost every one of these folks. While “A Doris Day Christmas” and “The Stepping Stone” are personal favorites contained herein, each entry is a masterpiece unto itself. The stories are written with a deft hand by an author who knows how to entertain his audience.
Very few writers can touch a reader’s heart but Kergan Edwards-Stout knows how to do just that. Gifts Not Yet Given easily jumped onto my top ten books read in the past year and it will remain a favored selection in my library. With so many writers competing in the literary world today, it takes a true author to rise above the pack, and Mr. Edwards-Stout is one of those few gifted storytellers.
5 Stars.
Buy the Print or Kindle Edition Here.
 
Visit Kergan Online Here.

C

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The 2014 Oscar Nominations


The 2014 Oscar nominations are out! Every year, I see the noms and I make at least three predictions of who the winners will be. My changing mind depends on different variables: the Oscar “rules” that always apply to the awards, the best performances in each category, and the voracity of the campaigns which precede the final round of voting for the winners. It would be nice if one could base his predictions on the best performances but with the Academy this is not possible. So, based on the facts at hand right now, these are my current anticipations for this year’s Oscar winners.
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years A Slave
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender in 12 Years A Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Best Actor: Bruce Dern in Nebraska
Best Director: Steve McQueen for 12 Years A Slave
Best Picture: American Hustle


Current ideas on why these predictions will win:
Lupita Nyong’o: This is her first film and she was superb in it.
Michael Fassbender: He’s owed after the Academy refused him a nomination for showing his privates in Shameless and because he’s the oldest nominee in his category.
Cate Blanchett: She’s generating the most buzz in this category and she was nominated twice before, without winning, for portraying Queen Elizabeth I.
Bruce Dern: The “Career” award given out every year.
Steve McQueen: His film told a very important story and he told it with a deft hand.
American Hustle: It won Best Picture at The Golden Globes and the temerity of the ingredients which have made it so successful is enviable.


Current ideas on possible upsets:
Best Supporting Actress: Either Julia Roberts in August: Osage County or Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle. Both fall under the “Second Statue in a Different Category Rule.”
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer’s Club. His was The Best performance in this category.
Best Actress: Either Amy Adams in American Hustle or Judi Dench in Philomena. Adams benefits from her position in the lineup while Dench had The Best performance in this category.
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer’s Club. Another Best performance case.
Best Director: David O. Russell for American Hustle. His picture won Best Film at The Golden Globes.
Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave. It didn’t win Best Picture at The Golden Globes and it was really The Best film of the year.


I’ll update you all when I’ve changed my mind. LOL!
C

Monday, December 23, 2013

A New Christmas Carol


Twas the night before Christmas
I was alone in my house
My computer was my company
It was not quiet as a mouse

Greetings poured forth
From friends from afar
Loving and uplifting
They kept me on par

As I sat at my desk
Above on the rooves
I heard the unmistakable sound
Of reindeer's hooves

I have no chimney
So I peered out the window
And saw Santa bungee jumping
To the ground below

I rushed down the stairs
I threw open the back door
He staggered into my kitchen
And fell flat on the floor

I helped him to a chair
And asked what he meant
For a man his age
Had no business trying such a stent

With a glimmer in his eye
He took a glass of brandy
And smiled as he sipped it
Saying: "Now that's just dandy!"

Santa got tipsy
After his daredevil jump
And the reindeer tapped their hooves
Giving the roof a thump

He finally rose to go
Assuring me he was well
He told me he was fine
This wasn't the first time he'd fell

He thanked me for the care
His face all alight
As he fished in his bag
Drawing out something bright

It was a star for the tree
The brightest I'd ever seen
It shined with wonder
Like Santa's brandy induced sheen

Then he went out
And took up his bungee cord
He called: "On Dancer! On Prancer!
Pull me back on board!"

Up, up he went
And then the sleigh flew
Over my head
Into the dark velvet blue

Santa had come
From the North Pole far
And fallen to the ground
Rattling his teeth ajar

Now he was off again
On his appointed rounds
Away from my kitchen
And these humble grounds

I held the star
And watched it twinkle
And then I thought, after the brandy,
Santa should have stayed to tinkle

He waved as he left
Smiling back in my direction
As if to thank me
For assisting with his correction

And I heard him say
As he drove out of sight
Merry Christmas, young man
You made this old elf feel all right!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Personal Request

I have a personal request to make in this writing. It concerns a very dear friend of mine who is in need at the present.
 
I first met Eric Arvin through the miracle of the internet when we were both dreaming of becoming professional writers. Eric was just finishing up his debut novel, The Rest Is Illusion, at that time and I was planning to start a web magazine to help out some of my writer friends who needed an outlet for their work. Eric's novel became very popular, beginning his now massive fan base, and my web magazine came to fruition as Web Digest Weekly, a venture that achieved my original hopes for it... and then some!
 
I finally got the chance to meet Eric in person in the fall of 2009. He and I took a trip together to Michigan to see a mutual friend, writer Salvatore Sapienza, who at the time owned a B&B with his partner Gregg Smith in Saugatuck. I drove from my home in Georgia to Eric's hometown in Indiana and the two of us then went on to Michigan together. We spent a wonderful weekend there, getting to know Sal and Gregg, and exploring the town. I got to see one of the Great Lakes for the first time during that trip. It was a great experience, cementing us in a life long friendship that has grown stronger with time.
 
Eric is sadly now dealing with some very difficult and frightening health issues and will need extremely risky surgery to have a chance at overcoming this crisis. Eric suffers from a condition known as "cavernous hemangioma." This is, quite simply, a benign growth in the brain in which a calcified mass displaces brain tissue as it grows. Eric has already had surgery for this condition once, back in 2005, and it left him with severe disabilities which he has dealt with through sheer determination and the will to lead a normal life.
 
Recently, Eric began experiencing difficulty breathing and was taken to the hospital where he had to be placed on a ventilator. Diagnostic evaluations have confirmed that a hemangioma around his brain stem, which was treated surgically eight years ago, has grown back and is now causing him the problems he is currently dealing with. His options are to have this very risky surgery in the hopes of again relieving his symptoms, to try and preserve Eric in his present state (with a tracheostomy and on a ventilator,) or to do nothing and allow the hemangioma to continue growing until he becomes quadriplegic and eventually succumbs to the disease.
 
Eric is a fighter. He has already overcome this condition once and has decided to have the surgery again. Eric is a very determined person and he doesn't shy away from challenges. Not even one as potentially lethal as this. Before his initial diagnosis and surgery a few years ago, he had moved to Australia and was planning a life there. The diagnosis forced him to return home to Indiana and his family to seek treatment. In the years since, he has not only regained much of his independence, but he has also become a successful, award winning novelist. Nothing stops him from attaining his goals. Eric confronts each and every obstacle he encounters with a firm resolve to come out on top of whatever it is he is facing. And so far, he has triumphed over everything.
 
A few months ago, Eric met the love of his life. He and author TJ Klune have not only fallen in love but they are planning to get married. They want to have a life together which will make them both very happy. They spent the summer together and made some plans for the future which they only recently put in motion, including moving to a new state, just prior to the return of Eric's health problems.
 
Many of our mutual friends have donated to a relief fund that has been established for Eric so that he and TJ will be able to handle the financial aspects of this tragedy. A lot of money has been raised but more will undoubtedly be needed, not only to cover the immediate costs of medical care but also for future rehabilitation treatment that Eric will almost certainly require once he is well enough to leave the hospital. 
 
All of you who know me are aware that rarely ever do I ask for things like this, but if you can, please help Eric and TJ. A donation of even $5 or $10 is greatly appreciated. And keep Eric in your thoughts as he faces surgery in the coming week. He is a brave and courageous individual, a fantastic writer, and a good friend. In plainer terms, he is someone I love very much.

Here is the link to the crowd-funding site for Eric:
http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-eric-arvin/116877
 
Thank you,
Carey

Friday, November 15, 2013

Normal Life

Three weeks ago I suffered a heart attack. In medical terminology, this is called a Myocardial Infarction. It's what happens when a portion of the cardiac muscle is deprived of oxygen long enough that damage occurs. This is what I experienced. I was at work that morning, and fortunately I work in a hospital so I was in the right place at the right time, and I received the care I needed. In the next few days, I will go back to work and resume my normal life.
 
But what is a "normal" life?
 
I've been given three weeks to digest what happened to me. I shouldn't be surprised that I had a heart attack because cardiac disease runs in my family on both sides. Yet I am appalled to know that I did suffer this event. It is something I consider an affront. Maybe this is arrogant of me to feel this way but I do and that's that.
 
These last three weeks have given me a lot of time to ruminate on the details of what happened to me. It has also made me feel very vulnerable in my mortal life. You see, eleven years ago two of my cousins, who were only a little older than I am right now, died suddenly from heart attacks. One was 47 and the other was 52. The latter didn't have to die but he did because the physician who performed the intervention following his heart attack punctured a coronary artery and then didn't respond to the pages from the staff in the heart cath suite when they were trying to reach him once my cousin began "crashing," as we in the medical field say. But I digress.
 
I had a heart attack just like they did. My maternal grandfather died after several heart attacks and my paternal grandfather also had coronary artery disease, which required that he undergo angioplasty to thwart it. My grandmother on my mother's side had a triple bypass in 1989. My paternal grandmother, to my knowledge, is the only grandparent I had who did not have heart disease. My dad also had it, as it was determined about ten years ago that he too suffered a myocardial infarction, although his was considered a "silent heart attack" and neither he or his doctors knew about it until after the fact. So I shouldn't be surprised that I traveled the same path as they all did.
 
But when it's you it feels totally different. For one thing, I am sure that had I been at home when the episode began I would have almost certainly just stretched out on the sofa and waited for the "spell" to pass. I wouldn't have recognized it as a cardiac event. And when they did my heart cath it was discovered that my MI was caused by a ninety percent blockage in a section of my right coronary artery. So that means, had I been home when this happened to me, I would have just rested until the acute phase was over and in a few days the ninety percent blockage would have either totally occluded the artery or a clot would have completed it, and I would likely have died at that point. Just like my two cousins.
 
This isn't comforting knowledge, friends.
 
But things didn't turn out that way. I was already at work the morning this befell me and I did receive the care I required. I was transferred to a hospital with a cardiac unit, had a heart cath and then a stent placement to reopen the artery that was being constricted, and am now on a slew of new medications to help me prevent a repeat of this experience. I am also learning a healthier diet and a better physical exercise regimen to assist me in my quest for better cardiac health.
 
I was just this week released to return to my job in a few more days. I am very relieved to be getting back to my normal routine as well. Three and a half weeks off have been excruciating at times. For one thing, daytime television blows out loud and I've not, for some reason, been able to focus on any writing projects. (How diabolical!) In other words, much of the time I've been bored out of my skull and can't wait to resume a schedule which will keep me occupied physically and mentally for most of the day.
 
Yet not everything about this forced time off has been negative. I've gotten to spend some quality time with my family and for that I am extremely grateful. My mother has been battling some serious physical ailments for the past year and having extra time to be with her has been a godsend. I've also had additional hours to devote to meditation and chanting, that have strengthened my spirit for the journey ahead during which I plan to lead a healthier lifestyle. These "bonuses" are worth their weight in gold.
 
Things I'll miss about being home every day? For one, I have gotten far too used to sleeping in each morning. Rising at four a.m. again will be a jolt to the system. Also, I've let myself become much too habited to having a late morning nap every day. This I will have to forego with my return to work next week. Also, and this is a minor point, but when I was growing up my mother and grandmother always had their "stories" they watched each afternoon. There is only one "story" that I grew up with still on the air now. Days Of Our Lives is something I've never truly given up and since I've been off I've found myself turning the TV over to NBC every weekday afternoon at one o'clock to see the residents of Salem again. The Soap Channel shows each day's episode of DOOL every evening at eight and therefore I can continue watching if I so choose without much of a hiatus.
 
So I've recovered from my heart attack and am now ready to go back to my normal life again. I feel very lucky to be doing so beginning in a couple of days. I struggle with wondering if I will ever feel as secure in my body again as I did before this episode unfolded, but I won't waste time worrying about it because doing so would be futile. No one knows what the future holds and to put off enjoying life to worry about what may or may not happen doesn't make very much sense. I shall simply go from one day to the next enjoying the time I have and planning for my future, but realizing that today is all that is really important.
 
Normal life, I'm ready!
 
And that is my sole focus for now.
 
Love,
C