Stories Written by M. Scott Morris
By M. Scott Morris
“Lucy” was a stealth movie for me when it came to its marketing campaign.
But after seeing only one trailer a couple of weeks ago, I was ready to watch this science fiction thriller. My level of happiness bumped up when my radio counterparts agreed to see it.
It stars Scarlett Johansson as the title character, a party girl who finds herself in trouble as soon as the movie starts.
She’s coerced into delivering a package that turns out to be a new drug meant to get people high all across Europe.
But a large amount of the substance gets into her system, and it changes Lucy in amazing ways. She gets smarter to a ridiculous degree, and gains control over television and cell phone signals, among other powers.
Morgan Freeman plays Professor Norman, and we get to enjoy that rich Freeman voice as he describes his research into the human brain. I doubt anyone would’ve fallen asleep at school if Freeman was giving the lecture.
It seems that Lucy is living out Norman’s theories, so she searches him out.
At the same time, a gangster and his crew are searching for Lucy so they can get their blue substance back and dish out some revenge.
Up to this point, I’m in the tank for “Lucy” and its festival of violence. Then the final 30 minutes of the movie happens and everything turns to mush.
Don’t worry: There will be no spoilers.
It should be noted that writer and director Luc Besson is a master storyteller, so even as I was annoyed during the climax, I still cared how “Lucy” ended. He delivers suspense in an original way, so cheers to him.
The problem is a stupid, little plot point that becomes a stupid, giant plot point. What’s worse is it could’ve been avoided with a few changes to the script.
So I left the theater with a significant dip in my happiness level.
I give “Lucy” a C.
It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or email@example.com.
By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Emily Gatlin and her husband have been eating at their couch since May.
They have good reason: Their dining room table is filled with about 150 hardbacks and paperbacks that have been signed by the authors.
A former manager at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore, Gatlin is a book reviewer for www.bookriot.com, so it makes sense for her home to overflow with books.
But the ones on her table – “Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling, “A Dance of Dragons” by George R.R. Martin, “The Last Kind Words Saloon” by Larry McMurtry and the others – aren’t Gatlin’s books.
In a way, they belong to victims of the April 28 tornado. The books have been donated by publishers, literary agents and authors.
“Immediately after I got out of the basement that day, I had messages from New York,” Gatlin said. “My friends in the publishing industry asked what they could do to help.”
The result is an online auction on eBay, with the proceeds going to CREATE Foundation’s Northeast Mississippi Tornado Relief Fund.
That signed book by Rowling was on sale for $350, and it came with a batch from Gatlin’s friends at Parnassus Books in Nashville.
The retail price for the McMurtry book, a limited edition, was $250.
Who knows what they’ll fetch at auction?
Bidding will close for most books on Monday, but some will be available until Tuesday. Use the search term “Books for Tupelo” at eBay to take part.
If you’re new to eBay, you’ve got company because this has been Gatlin’s first foray.
“I have an app on my phone, so every time someone bids I get a notification,” she said.
The other day, she tuned in around midnight when two people must’ve been competing. One put down $40, then came $60, followed by $75. The back-and-forth cooled at $150.
“My phone’s been pinging all the time, at the grocery store, everywhere,” Gatlin said. “It’s very exciting.”
Romances are included, as well as how-to books. The Barefoot Contessa’s “Foolproof” is among several cookbooks on offer.
For kids, “Locomotive” by Brian Floca is a Caldecott Medal Book that one of Gatlin’s friends picked up in Washington, D.C.
For serious readers, there’s a copy of “The Orphan Master’s Son,” Adam Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize winner.
Mississippi authors Neil White and Michael Farris Smith are featured, and a friend of Larry Brown donated a copy of “The Rabbit Factory.”
Louisiana writer James Lee Burke sent along two of his books.
“I’ve never met him,” Gatlin said, “but he sent me the nicest hand-written note.”
Tom Clancy? Got it.
John Green? Oh, yeah.
Elizabeth Gilbert? Bingo.
There’s even a book that isn’t a book. The only audio book in the collection is Amy Greene’s “Bloodroot.”
Some are being auctioned individually, and others are in lots of like-minded genres. Browse all the titles at www.booksfortupelo.com.
Those 150 signed books on Gatlin’s dining room table are a literary feast.
She can’t keep her hands off because she unpacked them and will ship them to their eventual owners, but she’s kept her eyes off them.
“It’s been tempting,” she said. “It’s kind of made my ‘to-read’ list grow exponentially.”
By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Directions? Who needs directions?
About 30 kids put their original Lego art on display at the Lee County Library on Monday.
The Lego Fair was the brainchild of Shruti Gupta of Tupelo, who wanted to challenge her kids to get creative with their blocks.
“I do a Lego club at home. We meet once a month and some of my friends bring their kids over,” Gupta said.
Club meetings run about an hour, and Gupta wanted to see what the kids could produce given more time to plan and build their projects.
She enlisted her friends to help, then spread word about the Lego Fair on Facebook.
The event was practically made for Achintya Prasad, a 15-year-old from Tupelo. He built intricate scale models of a battleship, an aircraft carrier and a destroyer.
He researched the Navy vessels and scaled them down to size, then used about all the gray Legos he could find.
“I had to order special ones for the deck tiles,” he said. “I got 500 tiles and they were barely enough.”
Achintya’s mother, Sunita Prasad, said he doesn’t watch much television and steers clear of video games. Legos are Achintya’s favorite pastime, and he passed the affinity to his 9-year-old brother, Archi.
“Both of my kids, about the only thing they like for Christmas, other holidays or birthdays in Legos,” she said. “It’s the only hobby they have, and I’m thankful they’re imaginative and creative.”
Daniel Plunkett, a 12-year-old from Saltillo, came up with his own version of a four-by-four truck that’s climbing over a jumble of rocks.
The vehicle “isn’t supposed to look like anything, especially,” he said. “I based it on a bunch of different ones.”
Daniel finished his Lego sculpture about a month ago, but he’s been adding to it since then. His sister, 15-year-old Regan Plunkett, also made little changes over time to the house she dreamed up.
“I knew I wanted to do a fireplace,” she said. “As I built it, I had to tweak it to make it work.”
Before the exhibit began, Regan checked out pieces by the other young builders and said they were “all really cool.”
Gargi Koul, 11, of Tupelo, earned rave reviews from parents and kids for her Lego lamp, complete with a functioning light bulb and a string to turn it on and off.
“I was exploring with the pieces and sort of made the shape of a lamp,” Gargi said, “so I decided to do it.”
Kabir Gupta, a 7-year-old Tupelo resident, was inspired by the classic game, Clue. He used Lego pieces to create a three-dimensional board, including the study, ballroom and conservatory, as well as a variety of ways to kill a fictional character.
“You can actually play the game on this board. It is possible,” Kabir said. “I am going to do that this evening.”
TUPELO – Members of the Mississippi Painter’s Society will put their best work forward at the GumTree Museum of Art.
The group’s annual show will begin with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, and everyone’s invited.
“It’s a great thrill to exhibit at the GumTree and just have people come by,” said Allison Schuchs, a society member from Fulton.
There’s also some money on the line for the artists. Bill Wilson, a Jackson-based artist and publisher of Mississippi Aesthetic magazine, will be the judge. Winners will be announced at the reception.
“It’s fun to have the competition with the other members,” Schuchs said.
Daphne Works, president of the society, said the exhibit will feature mostly oil paintings, but there will be acrylics, watercolor and pastels included.
“It’ll be mainly representational art, realistic representational, not photo-realism,” Works said.
She said “wine and a conglomeration of food” will be available at the reception. The food will be on platters by Kudzu Pottery, an exhibit sponsor.
Fairpark Grill is another sponsor, and there will be a drawing for a gift certificate to the restaurant Friday.
“Please come, support the arts and fellowship with us,” Works said.
The museum will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays. The exhibit will be up until Aug. 23. Call (662) 436-0522, or visit www.MSartists.com.
NPR interviewed a guy who’s out there hunting for true quiet. I picture him with a recorder slung over his shoulder, a microphone with a long handle in his hand, and headphones over his ears, as he steps over briars and ducks under limbs in search of the sounds our ancestors took for granted.
In the radio piece, I heard rustling leaves, chirping birds and a gurgling creek, then I heard the tell-tale sound of an aircraft crossing the sky.
According to the guy, there aren’t many places left where you can really and truly get away from it all because it all eventually tracks us down in this modern age.
Now, I like our times for the most part. Because of complications at my birth, I wouldn’t have survived being born just a decade sooner. This is my time and I’ll take it.
But one of today’s blessings is one of its curses. This age of ours is filled with what Paul Simon called “staccato signals of constant information.”
It’s happening at this very moment because I’m trying to get some kind of point across to you (and I’ll be happy to tell you what that point is as soon as I figure it out).
From early childhood we construct our filters, which are as necessary as they are potentially harmful.
With our filters, we can tune out that which would overwhelm our senses, that which would waste our time, and that which would distract us from our goals, whatever they may be.
The downside is sometimes our senses need a good rattling, sometimes a short delay is the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B, and sometimes an outside perspective can make our goals easier to attain.
I’d go so far as to say one of the biggest challenges in life is figuring out which of those staccato signals to ignore and which to allow in through our filters.
That guy probably isn’t the only one looking for a quiet state of being somewhere on this earth, but I’d bet it’s a tiny club.
According to a study I read online, people would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit alone in a room with their own thoughts.
That tells me we’re conditioned to receive constant information from the Mighty Daily Journal or an infinite number of other sources.
Maybe that’s good for us, since all manner of ideas, images and party lines are ready to keep us from getting bored.
But I admire that guy with his headphones and his quest for quiet. I hope he finds it.
If he does, he’ll probably be wearing brand-name shoes and a pair of pants with a logo, or his equipment will be stamped with pride by the manufacturer.
I guess my point is there’s no real escape from our modern age, but that shouldn’t keep us from trying.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org (662) 678-1589.
By M. Scott Morris
Comedy is a hit-or-miss kind of thing, and I must report that “Sex Tape” misses more than it hits.
Is it funny? Sure, just not as much as I’m sure audiences would’ve preferred.
It’s the raunchy, R-rated story of Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel), a couple who’ve always enjoyed the more physical aspects of their relationship.
Then they got jobs, got married and got kids, and the fun they once enjoyed at every opportunity became a rare and fleeting thing.
So they’re obviously excited when they get a free night, except something’s missing. This performance anxiety affects both of them until Annie comes up with the idea of making a sex tape.
The resulting video somehow gets uploaded to the “cloud,” that mystical place where data seemingly lives forever.
So Annie and Jay are in a race to recover their three-hour sex tape before the world sees it.
They have run-ins with their best friends (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper), and an extended and odd visit with Annie’s potential boss (Rob Lowe).
Jack Black shows up to offer the most profane marriage advice I’ve heard in a while, and it sort of makes sense.
Diaz and Segel are seasoned comedic actors, so they deliver throughout the movie, but the material, which was partially written by Segel, doesn’t do them any favors. The “F word” has a lot of uses, but it was never meant to be a substitute for wit.
Still, Annie and Jay sucked me into their mad quest, where they must lose their dignity many times in order to save it once.
Had I found this movie on cable when I could’ve easily turned the channel, I’m pretty sure I would’ve stayed with “Sex Tape” just to see how it ended.
And at the end, I probably would’ve said, “That should’ve been funnier.”
I give “Sex Tape” a C minus.
It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.
Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.
By M. Scott Morris
It’s not Kayla Neal’s responsibility to create more understanding between human beings and cows.
“No,” she said. “That’s not it.”
In June, she was named Mississippi Beef Ambassador by the Mississippi Beef Council. It’s her job to spread the benefits of eating beef and to share recipes.
Those are things cows probably couldn’t endorse.
“I can still eat chicken,” the 17-year-old Auburn community resident said.
But steak is her favorite, especially ribeyes.
Neal was selected as an ambassador based on her 4-H involvement, her academic work at Mooreville High School and her interview skills.
Those interview skills will be put to the test in September, when she’ll travel to Denver, Colorado, to compete with kids from about 20 other states to become National Beef Ambassador.
“You have to tell them your knowledge of beef,” Neal said.
The national title comes with scholarship money that Neal would like to spend at Mississippi State University, where she hopes to study veterinary medicine.
“When I become a vet, I want to work with all animals, even the crazy ones, like – I don’t know – lions or something,” she said.
To prepare for the career, she works at Tupelo Veterinary Hospital.
“I do a lot of kennel work. I take care of the animals. I give them their medication,” she said. “I also hold the animals during their exams.”
She has her own personal barnyard at home that requires care and feeding.
“One time, our neighbors had goats and I wanted goats so bad. I talked my mom into it and got some, and it sort of started from there,” Neal said. “Now, I’ve got all types of animals. I’ve got goats, sheep, donkeys, ponies, pigs, rabbits. I’ve even had a pet opossum.”
She’s shown cows with her sister in the past, but admitted she has plenty of studying to do to increase her beef knowledge by September.
It also might be worth her time to learn how to work a barbecue grill, something her mom usually handles.
“I never have, but I’ve seen her do it,” Neal said. “I’m sure I could do it.”
Her Mississippi Beef Ambassador duties will include talking to Boys & Girls Clubs, and she’ll probably visit classrooms when school’s back in session.
She’s especially looking forward to Aug. 17, when she’ll travel to Starkville, home of her beloved Mississippi State Bulldogs.
“I’ll get to feed the football team steak,” Neal said. “That’s going to be great.”
Members of the team don’t have to worry about Neal’s lack of training behind a grill. The cooking will be done by members of the Mississippi Beef Council and the Mississippi Cattleman’s Association.
By M. Scott Morris
Blood stains are a real hazard when hand-sewing a quilt.
One finger on the back side of the fabric tends to get abused by needles. The sticks usually aren’t deep enough to draw blood, but it happens.
“That finger gets stuck pretty good, but finally …,” Dorothy Dailey, 82, said.
“… it kind of gets dead after a while …,” added Norma Grissom, 77.
“… so it doesn’t hurt anymore …,” Dailey said.
“… then when you get through with the quilt, it gets back to normal,” Grissom said.
Normal is relative because Dailey and Grissom move from one project to the next, grabbing whatever free time they can to sit in their recliners – Grissom’s is in Corinth and Dailey’s is in Burnsville – to sew away.
It’s relaxing and enjoyable, they said.
It’s also a consuming passion.
“I don’t clean house. I don’t do anything whenever I’m quilting,” Grissom said. “My husband, I’ve heard him say, ‘I do not talk to her. She might miss a stitch.’ He says that, but he’s just kidding.”
Dailey said fixing dinner is something she does after she finishes a quilt. These days, she tries to finish one a year, though she’s put as much as three years into a single project in her drive to get everything just so.
“You work hard to be perfect, but you can’t hardly make it,” she said.
Grissom has worked up to two years on a single quilt.
“I was quilting on it every spare moment,” she said. “Sometimes I’d work until 10 or 12 at night, and put in 6 to 8 hours a day on it.”
The type of dedication Grissom and Dailey devote doesn’t go unnoticed. The Mississippi Quilt Association created a Mississippi Quilt Legacy Committee to honor the work of great quilters.
Two quilts by Dailey, including the one she spent three years on, and two quilts by Grissom, including the one she spent two years on, will be on display at the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum in Jackson until October.
“The first quilt hanging and facing the new entrance was Dorothy’s ‘Bluebird Garden’ quilt,” Grissom said in a press release about the exhibit. “If you go in from the left, my ‘Hearts & Flowers’ was the first quilt hanging and facing the entrance.
“You could see both of them before you entered the right or left. I thought that was quite an honor for both of us and it was more special since we were from the same guild.”
They’re members of the Needle Chasers Quilt Guild of Tishomingo County, and Dailey is a founding member. Grissom is also a member of Cross City Piece Makers in Corinth.
Finding the time
Dailey’s introduction to quilt-making began when she was a child by her mother’s side. But working and raising a family didn’t allow much time for hobbies.
The same goes for Grissom, who focused her efforts on practical matters.
“I was always sewing,” Grissom said. “I made everything my daughter and I wore until she got a job and started buying her own clothes.”
They found their time in retirement, and the two took different paths to acquiring their skills.
Grissom studied patterns and books, and took classes to learn new techniques.
“I take classes all the time,” she said. “You always learn something. I think they’re fun.”
Dailey certainly checked patterns and books, but trial-and-error was her teacher.
“I mostly learned by myself,” she said.
Their stories show how different roads lead to the same destination. They’ve both reached a point of mastery, with first place and best of show awards from quilting contests around the South and the Midwest.
“There are people in Mississippi who know our names, if not us,” Grissom said.
Both have had their work appraised, with numbers ranging from $3,200 to $3,800 – not that they expect to get people to pay such amounts.
“Nobody understands how much it takes to get a whole quilt finished, how much time and money we put in,” Grissom said.
“I never sold them,” Dailey said. “I’ve given mine to nieces and nephews, my children and grandchildren.”
“I give them away, too,” Grissom said.
She keeps photographs of those quilts in a journal, while Dailey has a package of photos that she hasn’t gotten around to putting into an album.
Not all quilts go to others – theoretically, at least.
Grissom loves bright colors, so she made a multihued quilt that really popped.
“I thought it was going to be mine,” she said. “My son walked in and said, ‘Who’s quilt is that?’ I said, ‘It must be yours.’ I named it, ‘It Once was Mine.’”
Dailey’s daughter came with a request that turned into a challenge and something of a mother/daughter project.
“She said, ‘Why don’t you make a quilt of a peacock?’ I said, ‘I don’t have a pattern for a peacock,’” Dailey said. “She went to a library and ran off a bunch of pictures of peacocks.”
The resulting piece is a well-planned dance of purples and greens, complete with the kind of attention to detail that stops just short of perfection simply because Dailey is only human.
Grissom also strives for a personal standard, and she’s bothered by inevitable mistakes.
“I told my husband, ‘There’s a error,’ and I pointed it out to him. He said, ‘Don’t tell anybody because they won’t notice,’” she said, “but I knew it was there.”
To the finish
A reporter at a quilt show in Des Moines, Iowa, once asked Dailey to describe her favorite part of quilting.
“I told her, ‘The best part is getting one finished,’” she said.
When the women get rolling, it can seem like a race with the devil, especially near the end.
“The last two weeks, you can’t wait to be done,” Grissom said, and Dailey nodded along with her.
Toward the end of their projects, significant others know to tread carefully, and their much-abused fingers become numb to the pain of thousands and thousands of tiny sticks.
“You really have to watch out,” Dailey said, “or you’ll end up with blood on your quilt.”
A baby boomer has told me multiple stories about growing up in Tupelo as a free-range kid, who walked, ran or rode his bike all over town for fun and distraction.
One day he and his friend found some dynamite.
Yeah, they got their pyrotechnic jollies with a dilapidated structure – everything went BOOM!
No one was hurt, and his mama’s been dead several years and can no longer worry about what could’ve been.
(You might be shocked to learn how much responsibility those kids grew up to wield.)
I’m from Generation X. We’re the ones who were going to bring down America, like the baby boomers were supposed to do before us.
Now it’s the Millennials who are destined to destroy our great and powerful country, and I think they can do it, too.
Millennials are a little bit too nice, don’t you think? They’re so darn pleasant that they must be up to something.
But back to me, a Gen-Xer.
I also was a free-range kid. I never blew anything up, but I was in a couple of stupid bottle rocket battles that I would appreciate your not telling my mother about.
Speaking of my mother, there were times when I was ordered to get out of the house. It didn’t matter where, just out.
The point is my childhood came with ample freedom and I survived, just like the baby boomers did.
If you’re reading this, you obviously survived, too, so congratulations, though I don’t know if yours was free-range survival or more of a gilded cage type of thing.
My kids – I haven’t heard if their generation has a name yet – are of the gilded cage variety.
(Hey, I’m going to go ahead and put forth Gilded Cagers as a potential generation name. Consider it for a while, talk about it amongst yourselves and get back to me. No rush.)
Why would I want my kids in a gilded cage? Well, I don’t, but there are reasons for it.
First, I could’ve been killed or maimed at least three times that I remember, and there could’ve been more dances with death that slipped my notice.
Second, there are more people on the roads these days, and many of them use fingers that should be on steering wheels to type the letters “lol” on their phones.
(Another side note: I would hate for my last communication to the world to be the letters “lol” but I’d feel privileged to actually laugh out loud a moment before the darkness overtakes me.)
The third and worst reason to keep my kids in a gilded cage is because everybody else is doing it.
The current situation can’t stand. I know the kids need more freedom, mainly because Millennials might fail to destroy America.
Who’ll be left to accomplish the deed? My kids, of course. They’ll need to be ready.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or email@example.com.
By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – State Sen. Chris McDaniel and some 65 supporters shared a sense of outrage during Friday’s meeting at the Summit.
It was part of McDaniel’s “Truth and Justice Tour” that began in Olive Branch on Thursday and continues into next week.
“The conservative movement in this state feels betrayed,” McDaniel said.
He received more votes than U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the June 3 election, but not enough to avoid a runoff. Cochran won that June 24 runoff, helped in part by appealing to traditionally Democratic voters.
McDaniel said Friday his campaign recruited 30,000 more Republican votes between the primary and the runoff.
“My opponent added 40,000 Democrats to his total, a Republican record,” McDaniel said.
He said Cochran’s campaign hired democratic operatives and used race-baiting phone messages to get black votes.
“By extension, they said all of you were racists, which is not true,” he told the crowd, many of whom had blue McDaniel signs. “It is not race we see; it is principles we see.”
Jordan Russell, Cochran’s spokesman, told The Associated Press outreach to African-Americans was based on relationships the senator developed over four decades of service.
“If Chris McDaniel had asked African-Americans to vote for him rather than complaining about them participating in the process, he might have won the election,” Russell said.
McDaniel said his campaign’s investigation into the election has resulted in “more than 10,000 irregularities,” and his team still hasn’t been granted access to the voting records of 22 counties.
He said he’s committed to carrying on his investigation and considering filing a legal challenge, no matter what Mississippi Republican Party leaders would prefer.
“Let me tell them something: Justice has no time table,” he said, and several in the audience responded with “Amen.”
Santo Arico, 76, drove from Oxford to attend the gathering. He’s campaigned for other Republicans in the past, but he’s not sure how he will vote in November.
“With what the party leaders did with this election, they crushed the will of hard-working conservatives in the state,” Arico said.
Starkville resident Mary Cole, 72, said she fears for the country’s direction and believes McDaniel is the man to help turn things around.
“I’ve been a Republican all my life, but today, because of what happened, I’m not a Democrat, I’m not a Libertarian and I’m not a Republican,” Cole said.
McDaniel spent nearly an hour and half at the Summit, and much of that was for questions and answers. He’ll be in Jackson today, followed by stops in D’Iberville on Monday and Hattiesburg on Tuesday.
“Conservatives, we are just getting started,” McDaniel said. “This will not be my last trip to Tupelo.”