Friday, August 17, 2018

Book Review - From the Corner of the Oval

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-stein is a memoir that takes you behind the scenes  inside the Obama White House. Now, don’t tune out here. This has some political overtones, but it’s not going to beat you over the head. The key to this is the inside look at just working in a presidency – being in the White House, riding in Air Force One, blending into the background to record history. Beck Dorey-Stein answers a Craigslist ad and ends up in 2012 working as a stenographer in the Oval Office.

Cover blurb – The ultimate D.C. outsider, she joins the elite team who accompany the president wherever he goes, recorder and mic in hand. On whirlwind trips across time zones, Beck forges friendships with a dynamic group of fellow travelers – young men and women who, like her, leave their real lives behind to hop aboard Air Force One in service of the president.

This book is rather fascinating. It’s quite a life to work 24/7 for our president, whomever is in office.  There’s glamour, drama, intrigue, and a lot of protocol. There are hook-ups, plenty of alcohol, and then amazing moments – chances to see places that the normal , average American will never experience. The author writes with the right amount of awe – she did appreciate her opportunity to witness history and be a part of our government in action.  She was also young and I got a tad tired of her obsession with Jason – a total cad and jerk who knew how to play all of the ladies. I skimmed a bit when he was in the picture.  But overall – the book has merit. She got very good at blending in with plants and/or finding a corner to record the transcript moment (tough to do in an Oval Office).   Good book with a different perspective.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Jubilee Theater - Blues in the Night

Support local theater.  Yep - I'm saying it again.  A Sunday at the Jubilee Theater in Fort Worth TX was good for the soul. It was like going to church - 1930s, a cheap hotel backdrop, it's dusk to dawn, and oh they are singing the blues.

Songs by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington,  and more - look at that list. I'm not up on my blues, but the singer/actors at the Jubilee brought this show to life. Chelsea Bridgman, Jamall Houston, Natalie King, and Cherish Robinson had fabulous voices full of heart, soul, and guts.

The sets and production are rich, the theater is small, but the voices are big.  All I can say is WOW!

Go find a live show to experience. You don't have to pay a fortune to appreciate so much talent.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade. Junior High.  Age thirteen.  Any fond memories of junior high?  No??  Yeah, I didn’t think so. I don’t know about you folks, but junior high for me was a mouthful of braces, bad skin, dorky glasses, bad greasy hair, and barely in a bra.  (Too much information, but hey, we’re adults now.)  Writer/director Bo Burnham captures the horror perfectly in the film Eighth Grade. This film is Oscar worthy, and the performance by Elsie Fisher (Kayla) is spot-on perfect.  In ninety minutes, Burnham presents the final week of eighth grade. Kayla is voted Most Quiet much to her chagrin. She’s invited (by the mom) to one of the “cool” girl’s birthday swim party. She comes out in a one piece – slightly chubby – and looks around at all of the girls in two piece bikinis. It’s a slow death moment. (I’ve been there).

Kayla’s a smart girl, cute, and as you watch the movie you know she’s going to be fine. She’ll hit her stride in high school and truly blossom in college. But for now – this week – is filled with the anguish, torture, uncertainty, and na├»ve hope that is being thirteen. And there’s boys. ‘Nuff said. They are idiots. But there’s the super cute one voted “Best Eyes”, and she wants his attention.

Plus Kayla is being raised by her father (Josh Hamilton) who’s at a loss for how to deal with a kid becoming a woman. He’s used to the adoring little girl. Now he’s got a teen who rolls her eyes, grits her teeth, and stares at her phone. Anything he says is wrong. He’s helpless but cares so much. Fortunately there is a moment in the movie near the end where he says the right thing, has the right amount of silence, listens, and the love of a father/daughter shines through.

Ninety minutes of moments are captured perfectly. Eighth Grade is excellent quiet film making. I chuckled, I squirmed, I re-lived some of the horror, and I was grateful to NOT have grown up in the age of social media.  It’s a cold cruel world at thirteen.  This film is brilliant.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday Frolic

 Chris, Kevin with Dakota
 I love Dakota's whale spout hair
 Skylar - "I can do it myself"
Chris is going to give Makyla a flight dunk

and that's the birthday fun for Ray last week.  Summer in TX - the only way to celebrate is poolside.
Sorry I didn't save you folks any watermelon. Darn tasty.

Happy Friday and weekend.  I'm off to Philly to see Dad for a few days.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Book Review - Leopard at the Door

Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh transports you to 1950s Kenya. The British Empire is fading and sweeping change rumbles. Rachel returns to her home after six years in an exile of sorts. She was sent to live in England with a stodgy aunt and uncle after her mother is killed in a car crash. Now graduated, a young lady, she’s eager to dig her hands into her late mother’s garden, ride her horse over the lands she loved as a kid, and breathe in the air, hear the hoots, growls, and haunting howls of the animals. Swahili phrases return to her, and she’s eager to resume her African life.

But alas, many changes cause upheaval. Her father’s new companion is an intolerant woman who’s removed traces of Rachel’s mother and appears to resent Rachel’s return.

Cover blub – The political climate of the country is growing more unsettled every day. Looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau – a secret society intent on uniting the Africans and overthrowing the whites. As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home, she initiates a secret relationship. One that will demand from her an act of betrayal. But she has some secrets of her own. Her knowledge brings her power.

The author obviously did research to bring this fictional story to life. I found the backdrop fascinating and the characters are rich. You root for Rachel to find her footing, redeem the hard work her mother put into embracing Kenya and its people, and you root for Rachel to overcome evil forces (hint – I’m talking within her own household family) and survive.  The leopard represents a silent, lurking, smart creature that might not be seeking your best interest. Beware of footsteps in the night.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Book Review - Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann is a non-fiction work of literary journalism that reads like a mystery.  It concerns the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI.

Cover blurb – In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. Oil was discovered beneath their land and the money poured out of the earth into a life of mansions and cars.

Then the murders began. We see the story from the viewpoint of Mollie Burkhart as her sisters became prime targets and relatives were shot and poisoned. Others in the Osage nation died under mysterious circumstances, and even those doing investigations ended up dead. The death toll rose and the overall case was taken up by the new FBI and young director, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover turned to Tom White, a former Texas Ranger. He in turn used an undercover team that included a Native American agent. They infiltrated this last remnant of the Wild West, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

Gann’s research is thorough and his writing is clean. You meet the characters, learn the backgrounds, and are invested in the Osage and their families. Not everyone is clean and pure, but the cold hearted deaths are inexcusable. This book shoots straight in its presentation, and the words will pierce your heart.  Killers of the Flower Moon is an enlightening read.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Movie Review Madness: Mission Impossible - Fallout

Mission Impossible – Fallout is incredible movie making and a top notch addition to the whole series. Tom Cruise (plays Ethan Hunt) is aging but still believable as he foils the plot of M16 operative turned anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Cruise dives, dashes, zooms, careens, and also climbs into a helicopter. His derring-do stunts are legendary and gasp worthy.  His sidekicks played by Ving Rhames (Luther), Simon Pegg (Benji), and Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa) are reliable and add some humor and drama to the movie.

There are plenty of double-triple crosses.  Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow brings a lot of energy to the film – is she good or bad?  Henry Cavill’s CIA operative is assigned to shadow the group. Oh, he’s a cool cucumber and there are some tight scenes with Cruise. Angela Bassett is a top dog and she and Alec Baldwin go toe to toe in regards to the departmental power struggle. There’s plutonium out there with the potential for disaster. Tick Tock Tick….

Lots of travel, action, kick moves, and more. The plot almost goes too quick – I had to think a bit to keep track of who was doing what to whom and why? But there’s heart in this film too – some golden moments with Ethan and his people demonstrating a little fatigue, some world weary concern. Whew! This is a quality summer blockbuster. Cruise runs and runs, defies gravity at times, hangs from a rope, and more. He is his own mission impossible against time.  But I recommend you use your time to see MI – Fallout

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Happy Birthday Ray

Today's the day  - Hip Hip Hooray........Ray's my guy and it's his birthday......

Happy Birthday, Ray!!!

Love you lots.  We have SO much fun


Monday, July 30, 2018

Book Review - The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is an excellent read.  There are two stories entwined:  1947 – After WWII, Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and hoping to find her cousin Rose. Charlie travels to London determined to find her. What incurs is half of the book and very exciting.

1915 – Eve Gardiner is recruited to work as a spy.  She’s trained by the fabulous Lili, aka Alice, and joins a network of amazing women. The Alice Network is fierce,  deep, and full of heart and soul. Right under the enemy’s nose, these women work in restaurants, etc. and discover amazing Nazi secrets.  Now thirty years later, Eve is a drunk – but becomes engulfed in a search by Charlie for a lost soul named Rose. Oh, and so many other skeletons surface.  The truth is difficult to face, but so necessary for many.  The name Rene Bordelon will live long in your memory. He is evil incarnate!

The name Finn is fabulous – oh yeah, he’s a hero for Eve and Charlie.

The intertwined stories here are well done and so intriguing. You will keep turning pages and rooting for good over evil, life over death, and women power extraordinaire.  I highly recommend The Alice Network.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Won't You Be My Neighbor

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Is a documentary about Mr. Rogers – a television pioneer in children’s programming.  Wow. Take tissues. And I am giving this an Academy Award now. So well done. The research, film clips, and overall manner of this film is classy.

Fred Rogers, an ordained pastor, finds a need back in the early 1960s for appropriate children’s television programming. He did not like slap stick or signs of violence. He advocated a peaceful learning situation and his neighborhood was filled with diversity and a chance to address kids. His show grew from a PBS station in Pittsburgh PA to a monster show. He actually listened to kids. He respected kids. He showed the use of silence…it can be useful to draw out folks. His neighborhood had the black policeman stop by and cool off his feet in Mr. Rogers small pool.  This subtly addressed the issue at the time of segregation and “white’s only” pools. He truly brought issues to the forefront without bashing folks or kids over the head. Mr. Rogers truly exemplified Christian principles.

Speakers in the film include his wife (a no-nonsense very likeable woman), his two sons, his film crew, and other family friends. The outpouring of love and respect shine through. Fred Rogers, the man on the TV screen, was the same man at home and in real life. He truly loved people, respected people, and just lived as he learned as a preacher – a dorky clean life. He was a reluctant hero of sorts, with a vision. It was easy to make fun of him, and yet this documentary shows the value of his work today. If only…..people would show respect to each other, think before speaking (or tweeting!!!)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Is very worthy. I recommend it highly. Ninety minutes of quality film-making.  Watch, think, and take pause…a silent moment to reflect….on a very Christian message (and I use this terminology in the positive way it should evoke a sensibility. )  Enjoy

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Ant Man and Wasp

Ant Man and the Wasp is just goofy fun. It seems like Marvel-lite, just a bonus of a Marvel hero/duo.  Paul Rudd just gets better as he ages. He still looks so boyish and projects amusement. His patter alone is worth the movie. Evangeline Lilly as Wasp can kick butt and FLY!  He even protests, “Hey, Wings? Seriously?”  And I love Michael Pena as Luis – Ant Man’s work partner in his “real” time security company job.  Pena is awesome in serious movies, but he obviously has a sense of humor and enjoys letting his freak flag fly. Some of his lines are laugh out loud funny.

I can’t begin to discuss plot. Let’s just say the word “quantum” is used a lot. Somehow, Wasp’s mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) is still floating in the quantum tunnel. Is she still alive? Hmmm…….
Wasp’s father (Michael Douglas) has been working on a way to get her back. Meanwhile, there’s some poor creature (the ghost) who is between worlds and needs the tunnel to go suck energy from Michelle. Samuel L. Jackson has been helping her. So there is a scientist war going on, a quantum war, and a whole lot of other people trying to get Douglas’s lab.  I won’t go further, and frankly just don’t ask too many questions.  This movie is just sheer movie-making effects, fun, patter, and summer don’t use your brain too much kind of movie.

The acting is fine, the effects are good – small and tiny. Paul Rudd carries the amusement and I give him props. This is a big tub of popcorn and a vat of soda worthy flick. Just laugh and go with it. Stay for the two extras at the end. What the heck! Support the Ant-Man and Wasp

Monday, July 23, 2018

Crazy from the Heat

Dateline - Texas (i.e Hell, Hades, Satan's home)  I have whined a lot this week and Ray's put up with it.  Earlier today this weather station showed 108. Ugh. I had brunch at a friend's house. When I came out my car thermometer read 112. Double Ugh!

Our pool is 95 degrees.............think about that. It's a spa, a lobster boil, not very refreshing, even warm for Ray.  Yes, we have a pool and this is a first world problem. I am aware. But I am whining.

Friday I left for work at 7:15 am and it was 85.  Ray (now semi-retired and off on Fridays) planned to mow our yard.  I told him, "Get it done before 9 am or 90 degrees. You only have 5 degrees to work with....).  I don't want to come home and find him passed out in the back yard. Triple Ugh!

I've used the heat excuse for not really cooking, not really doing anything, and not doing a decent blog post.   This is my lazy Monday post done on Sunday night. I'm not proud of myself. I've been reading. I've been to some movies. I lack motivation.

So I'm turning off the comment section. I know you kind folks. You'll offer sympathy on the heat, and generally excuse my slack-off behavior.  Do not enable me, my friends. I shall get my act together.

A "cool" spell is might be only 99 on Tuesday and I shall kick back into gear. Until then...enjoy your "weather" wherever you are. And if you are whining at 80 degrees or so...yes, I'm calling you a wimp. Suck it up, buttercup!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Whitney

Whitney is a documentary directed by Kevin McDonald.  This is a class act production and not sensational crap.  We see Whitney break out in a private church film song. Oh , that glorious voice as a teen. Then we see her truly break out on Merv Griffin, MTV, etc.  She’d been groomed by her mother, Cissy Houston, a singer in her own right. An interview with Cissy says, “I trained her to use her mind, heart, and gut. She had it. It was in her spirit.”

Such a pretty baby, girl, and young woman. The eyes and smile showed spirit – she sang in Newark, the church of her home town, and blossomed from there. Just no stopping her.  Interviews with her brothers, sister-in-law, other family, and friends give a true insight into Whitney Houston.  That voice had Clive Davis at Arista Records courting her. He won and helped groom her into a worldwide sensation. The climb was meteoric. Her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl is the absolute top version. She conquered the world.

However, the film shows the cracks in the demeanor, the demons, the inner doubts and sadness.  Yes, she married Bobby Brown and was in love. Yes, she had Bobbi Cristina and tried to be a good mother. But there’s so much that’s deeper, as she had to travel and sing and meet her fans and commitments.  No excuses.  Drugs was always in the picture. The key was the excess that did occur.
And trying to stay married and deal with Bobby’s ego.  When she became a film star in The Bodyguard, life was dialed up 1000 percent.  There was no turning back from disaster.

This documentary is sadly poignant.  Just SO much talent. The clips of her singing at every stage is joyous.  And then it hits rock bottom. Voice gone, that pretty girl with the sparkle in her eye is gone.
Bring tissues because you can’t help but tear up at the loss of such talent at age 48. Yes, she made her choices. The film doesn’t excuse it, but it digs deep and offers insight into how her entourage/family/friends just couldn’t save her.  And they do feel blame and heartache.

But her legacy of music lives on . You can’t help but crank up her tunes, raise your arms, and sing “I Will Always Love You” or “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”…at the top of your own off-key voice. Oh Whitney…if only….

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Incredible 2

I am very behind on movies - cannot keep up with Alex Cavanaugh. But here I am with a review. Better late than never.

It took a long time but it was worth the wait – Incredibles 2 has that Pixar magic. Animation, story line, voices, and energy make for a very entertaining two hours for young and old alike.  When we last left the family, super heroes have been banned. So Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) has slogged in the insurance world, and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) has stayed home with the kids – Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack. But trouble is brewing and a very rich entrepreneur Winston D.(Bob Odenkirk – yes, doing his Better Call Saul kind of voice) wants to make super heroes cool and necessary again.

So he wants to promote Elastigirl. After much discussion, Mr. Incredible is home with the kids – oh, that gives some funny scenes. He’s exhausted with Violet teen angst, kid’s New math (Dash), and Jack-Jack exploding into his super powers. The kid can vanish and go through walls, he can become a demon and burst into flames, and he can duplicate into many. Yikes. The dad has his hands full and tries to make it sound like it’s under control.  Meanwhile, through some careful organized saves, Elastigirl is proving woman power, super hero power, and is becoming a legend.

However, a very evil villain – the Screenslaver- threatens the whole atmosphere.  I won’t give anything else away.  Let’s just say that Mr. Incredible gets to don those tights again. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) totally does his thing. Other super heroes contribute, go bad, and then recover.  The kids are older and more valuable and skilled. And Jack-Jack is tremendous. Plus you have Edna (voiced by the director Brad Bird) in a great sequence – she chooses to babysit Jack and design his little baby super hero outfit. It’s genius!

So much fun is packed into this film. Lots of laughs and you care about these animated characters.  It’s worth the wait.  Classy project, animation, and the pre-movie little animated flick Bao is rather poignant.
Get that tub of popcorn, buy those sodas, and spring for a really fun family outing. They are Incredible….2

Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday Moments

Orange Beach, AL

Nature is a mutable cloud, which is always and never the same - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fort St. Jean Baptiste

Our beach vacation began with a road trip, and that does mean a historical pit stop is required. Ray's a good sport and indulges me on our adventures.  We stopped in Natchitoches LA - quaint historical town on the Cane River. It was time to stretch the legs and mind.

Fort St. Jean Baptiste is a replication of the 1714 site - French Colonial life is depicted.  Over 2000 pine logs form the palisade and over 250,000 board feet of lumber went into the building construction.  Hinges and latches were handmade at a nearby foundry. It was interesting to tour the living quarters, the old kitchen, see the big outdoor bread oven, a church, and the jail.

It was quite humid. I can't imagine wearing the heavy layers of clothes folks wore back in colonial times. Whew!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Monday July 2 - Day 1 of vacation:
"Hey Ray, let's take a walk on the beach before breakfast."

Did you see those dark clouds?  It monsooned.  Deluge....hey, a little lightening in the distance....
We were wet anyway....

Ray is so gullible. I thought it would be an awesome start...

It did clear up later. Turns out weather at Orange Beach,  Gulf shores AL is very unpredictable.
Stick with me for adventure.  Never boring.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Farewell Aunt Jane

Just a quick one day post. My Aunt Jane passed at the age of 87 on Monday. Oh, she was a force of nature. Tiny with an infectious laugh.  This picture from back in the day pretty much exudes her personality. I always wanted to be blonde and vivacious like her. She was "fun", unlike my dear practical mother who had a boatload of common sense. ( That was my teen me perception)

Alas, the spark diminished and slowly the embers burned out these past years. It was time for her to go.

And now today, Tuesday July 10th, my mother will have been gone exactly 26 years. She passed at age 60 in 1992

Tough week, but good memories.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Review - The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The Leavers by Lisa Ko is a powerful debut novel full of rich characters, a very current immigrant tale, a story of family love, family loss, and it’s a coming of age story too.

Cover blurb – One morning Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon – and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It’s a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past.

At age eleven, Deming is mystified and bereft. His life is turned upside down and he’s signed over to an adoption agency and placed with well-meaning white professors. He’s moved upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. Kids are resilient and yet, Deming/Daniel drifts – trying to please his adoptive parents and yet not feeling as if he fits in anywhere. He seems to screw up what he touches – school, his music, being in a rock band, and friendships. He’s wary, always ready to be left.

The author tells the story from different viewpoints – Deming as a kid, Daniel as a young man, and from Polly. We do learn what happened to her and how she also had to adapt and survive. Her choices left her with many regrets and she always felt the loss of Deming.  There are lots of questions in this book and no easy answers.

p.48 after Daniel is adopted   One week later, tucked into a double bed sheathed with red flannel, Deming Guo awoke with the crumbs of dialect on his tongue, smudges and smears of dissolving syllables, nouns, and verbs washed out to sea.

The Leavers is poignant and sticks with you – to me that’s the sign of a really good read.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday Fun

 I've been having fun all week (at least I assume, as I write this, that I am).   Ray and I are on vacation at Orange Beach - Alabama Gulf Shores.

These pics are courtesy of Gulf Shores tourism.  I shall have some fresh ones of my own to post later.

Meanwhile, I am not working. I am slathered in sun screen, lolling in a beach chair, wriggling my toes in the sand.  Inhale that salty air. Listen to gulls squawk.

Beach rejuvenation is the best.

I assume I'll be back next week??!!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July

Freedom is always within the framework of destiny - Martin Luther King, Jr

There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free - Walter Cronkite

The great threat to freedom is the concentration of power - Milton Friedman

Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose - Kris Kristofferson

Enjoy a safe and festive July 4th!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Monday Moment

Born to be Wild!

haas motomusum in Dallas.......lots of shiny Wow!