Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Review - Golden Age

Golden Age by Jane Smiley is the finale of her trilogy which included Some Luck, and Early Warning.  She’s covered a century of life for the Langdon family – touched on America’s history as a backdrop, and brought to life the turmoil and triumphs of generations.  Golden Age opens in 1987 – economic, social, political, and personal challenges face the current tribe.  Michael and Richie, the twins, now work on Wall Street and government – high stakes fields. Charlie, a newcomer to the family, proves a worthy rival, and Guthrie who should run the family farm is deployed to Iraq.

Climate change concerns Felicity and could prove the undoing of the Langdon legacy. Here in the 21st century, the Langdon women find themselves charged with carrying their storied past into an uncertain future. (cover blurb)

Jane Smiley digs deep into the characters and the family. You, the reader, will find an underlying thread of similarity in all family travails. Love, hate, revenge, and faith all play a part as the family works through its struggles to maintain dignity and their heritage. And despite luck and early warnings, it is a golden age of life and writing. Enjoy this saga.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday - Memorial Day

For love of country they accepted death -  James A. Garfield

Ah! never shall the land forget - William Cullen Bryant

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost - Arthur Ashe

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Flows into Memorial Weekend

It's Friday and we are amped for Memorial Weekend. Summer temps sizzle already in Texas. No doubt, we have the grocery list ready - hot dogs, burgers, rolls, chips, and don't forget the beer.

Let's also remember. Let's not forget...our fallen soldiers. Reflect on America and fly your flag. A lot of history brought us to this weekend.

The dead soldier's silence sings our national anthem - Aaron Kilbourn

Stay safe my friends. Use sunscreen. Enjoy your weekend and reflect

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Huntsman: Winter's War

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is entertaining, but could use editing to tighten the story.  This is a prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman and thankfully does not have Kristen Stewart in it.  Eric and Sara are raised in ice Queen Freya’s army. Eric evolves into Chris Hemsworth (oh, he is mighty and beautiful),  and Sara is played by Jessica Chastain (lovely  and fearless). Queen Freya (Emily Blunt) is heartbroken from the death of her child and is frozen in hatred for the concept of love. She rules the north. Her evil sister, Ravenna (the gorgeous Charlize Theron) is trapped in the magic mirror.

Eric and Sara try to hide their growing love, but Queen Freya, aware of their plot to flee her kingdom manages to stop them and both think each other died. They then move, unaware, in fighting circles drawing ever closer to a huge battle between Freya and Ravenna. When they do encounter each other and join forces to nab the mirror from the ogres, there is still a lot of mistrust – abandonment issues. The final epic battle between fire and ice has some excellent special effects. This movie is full of eye candy and well done scenic richness.

The cast seems like they worked well together and enjoyed their roles. I think the writers could have upped the humor quotient a tad, but the drama overflowed. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a good Saturday rental. Order your pizza, settle into your comfy lounge chair, and place your bets on Freya or Ravenna – ice or fire, or….?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Shadows

 Filmy curtain shadow in my reading room
my shadow head on the wall (dang, it's big enough)

What the heck - random pics on a Wednesday
Is it Memorial Weekend YET...?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Jungle Book

The Jungle Book, 2016 version, is beyond fantastic. The CGI animals are uncanny. The jungle is lush and richly filmed. And Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, is just a charmer with his huge brown eyes and resourceful manner. I highly recommend this film for young and old, but for teeny kids there are some scary parts. Heck yeah, I jumped when the tiger leaped from the field. Yikes!!!

Rudyard Kipling wrote this classic story about a boy, Mowgli, raised by wolves and hunted by Shere Khan, the tiger. In his attempt to go to humans, he encounters all sorts of animals and is guided and lured into trouble along the way. The animals are voiced perfectly – Ben Kingsley is the protector panther, Lupito Nyong’o is the mother wolf, Idris Elba is Shere Khan, evil tiger, Bill Murray as Baloo the bear offers humor and zany along the way, Scarlett Johansson hisses as Kaa the snake, and Christopher Walken is King Louis the mighty ape. Through it all, Mowgli has his human tricks to keep himself alive, and he uses and sees the trouble that the “red flower” (fire) gives humans.

The Jungle Book is very worthy of the big screen. This is what movies are all about –a magical world, a classic tale, a journey, and a boy united with the earth and animals.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Book Review - In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

Cover blurb:  In Other Words is a revelation. It is at heart a love story – of a long and difficult courtship, and a passion that verges on obsession: that of a writer for another language.

Jhumpa Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, chose to move to Italy with her family. She immersed herself in the country, in the language, and then chose to write this book about her journey. She wrote it in Italian, her third language. She grew up in India, her native tongue Bengali. Her parents brought her to America and she learned English, becoming a scholar and award winning writer. But she always loved Italian and wanted to immerse herself in the language. Do you comprehend how difficult that is to do as an adult? To dabble in a new language is one thing. To learn it well enough to write a book in it is another. In turn, her original Italian version of this book was translated back to English by Ann Goldstein, a respected translator. Wow.

If you love words, writing, language, linguistics, learning, scholarship, perseverance, and more – then In Other Words is for you. I’ve always loved Lahiri’s writing – it’s quite lyrical and smooth. Her characters are rich and well developed. In this case, working in non-fiction memoir, her character is flawed and frustrated. She writes of her doubts as she tackles this project. She recognizes the risk she takes to put these words to paper – questions the quality. But she climbs the mountain of words, and while still aware of her baby steps, is proud to share the struggle.

Any writer will appreciate In Other Words – the writing, the process, the constant need to check a dictionary, the constant pruning and cajoling needed to finish a thought.
And you’ll want to travel to Italy….. Pronto

Friday, May 20, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Money Monster

Money Monster is a very slick ninety minute movie, directed by Jodie Foster, with nothing really new to say. It’s entertaining and attention grabbing, and yes we know that Wall Street is evil, the little guy has no control, and yes, there’s a reason for financial anxiety.  George Clooney is perfect as Lee Gates, host of a financial advice show filled with props, dancers, and eye popping presentations of money matters and stock tips. He’s the money snake charmer, glib but ultimately has a conscience.  Behind the scenes in the production room, Julia Roberts keeps the ball rolling with a ready rapport and a nose for news. Unfortunately an intruder with a gun, Jack O’Connell, stops the show with his rant, demanding to know what happened with Ibis Clear Capital. How could a computer “glitch” ruin lives.

Julia keeps all the balls in the air as the drama plays out on live TV, and she has reporters and connections scurrying everywhere to find out “what happened”. Was Dominic West (Walt Camby) really in Geneva or were there secret shenanigans with Ibis? Eyes are on the young man pleading about how “they” are stealing from us, but nobody asks how.  Meanwhile, cops are swarming while folks in bars, work, and all over the world are watching this “new reality” play out on television.

Money Monster is fast paced, tension filled, has some humor, and shifts in tone with ease. Solid acting raises the bar, and you’ll be entertained. Then go home and tuck some money under the mattress, just in case.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Liebster of Faith?

Thanks to Nilanjana Bose at Madly-in-Verse  http://www.nilabose.blogspot.com
for giving me a Liebster Award. We are new found blog friends, thanks to A-to-Z and I appreciate her leap of faith to nominate me. 

Here goes nothing


1.  Describe yourself in one word.  inwardly wacky

2.  What is your beverage of choice when you're sitting writing a blogpost?
Diet Coke

3.  Complete the sentence. I can't do without my ..........glasses

4.   Name the top five things on your bucket list  - travel, travel, and travel
attend an Olympic event, attend Mardi Gras??

5.   What is your relationship with James Bond?  I'd like a ride in an Aston Martin, preferable zooming through Italy

6.   If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Back to Australia - I loved that country and people and want to see more

7.    What is the message that you would send out through your blog? Your life?
Have to laugh.  the world and people are crazy

8.   Every adult is a guardian to the children in his/her community. Agree?
yes - have to stay involved in the schools and parks/activities. But I admit I'm lacking in doing what I say

9.  Technology is making life...........better and also more complicated. It's a balance

10. Have you read any poetry beyond school? If yes, whose? Name a favourite poet.    Billy collins and Mary Oliver. I've been more open to poetry (and write some too) since school days (back then it was a chore)

11. Spring, summer, autumn or winter? Why?  Autumn - I was born in Ocotber, and I'm very good at raking leaves

Nila requested 11 random facts about myself. I'm being a rebel and giving 5 - 
1. I never broke a bone or tore anything until this toe tendon issue. Took me 57 years of clumsy close calls

2. I love photos or paintings of doors

3. Back when I was in college, I wrote a letter a week to my grandmother and she wrote back. We kept the postal service in business. To this day, I still enjoy old fashioned letter writing

4. Favorite comic strip - Pearls Before Swine

5. First thing I pack for a trip is reading material

Now I nominate some favorite folks for the Liebster Award
Betty at http://viewsfrombenches.blogspot.com

Andrea at http://maybeitsjustme.blogspot.com

Stephanie at http://stephie5741.blogspot.com

And I'm going to just have you folks give 10 random facts about yourself plus answer one key question - Where do you see yourself five years from now??

Congrats and enjoy being a Liebster

Thanks again to Nila Bose - Madly in Verse!!!


If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award and you choose to accept it, write a blog post about the Liebster Award in which you:
·                     Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog in your post.
·                     Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”.
·                     Answer XX questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
·                     Provide X random facts about yourself.
·                     Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers.
·                     Create a new list of 5 questions for the nominees to answer.
List these rules in your post (copy and paste from here). Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
·                     Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book Review - Reporting Always by Lillian Ross

Lillian Ross’s Reporting Always is a collection of journalistic pieces from The New Yorker magazine.  As a staff writer since 1945, Ross, in writing entertainment profiles created scenes, almost like a novel. She included humor and details that “bring her subjects to life on the page. Her style has been studied and imitated.” (cover blurb).  Her articles and Talk of the Town spans sixty years – meet Robin Williams and Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Winston and the world of diamonds, Ernest Hemingway drinking champagne and shopping for a coat, John Huston on set, and John McEnroe on a tennis court.

She always considered herself a reporter. She was a pioneer and influence on writers. In the Forward, David Remnick writes, “Her hallmarks are her keen eyes and ears and an austere, straightforward style. As a storyteller, she has an abiding faith in the magical properties of facts. She has an antipathy to analysis, flourishes, and showing off. With an almost cinematic use of scenes, she makes her dramatic points by showing what she sees and hears, relying on the cumulative power of what happens.”  Show, don’t tell is the writers’ mantra.

Lillian Ross declared, “A reporter doing a story can’t pretend to be invisible, let alone a fly; he or she is seen and heard and responded to by the people he or she is writing about. A reporter is always chemically involved in a story.”  In her introduction she also says, “Innocence is an often ridiculed and abused word. To me it is a reliable one. And it naturally translates into humor. It is what has always let me to my subjects.”

Her heroes in writing are Hemingway and Salinger “because both had the strength to hold on to themselves…..More than ever, I respect them for their courage to have been like no one else on earth. And what they had in common was deepest innocence.”

I recommend Reporting Always by Lillian Ross for its writing, perspective, and reporting example. Her love of her job, the people she encountered, and her interest in the famous or the mundane shines through. I’m guessing you don’t last this long in the business without being a class act. And that shines through too.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a tour de force, and I highly recommend it. He “deftly interweaves the lives of Marie-Laure (blind girl) and Werner (talented orphan), he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.” (cover blurb)  All this against the backdrop of World War II, France and Germany. This book is splendid, well written, and will keep you turning pages.

Marie-Laure went blind at age six but this didn’t limit her world. Her father, the key master for the Natural History Museum, builds her a miniature model of their neighborhood so she can memorize it and navigate her way in the neighborhood. At age twelve, she and her father must flee the Nazi occupation in Paris. They go to an uncle’s citadel by the sea in Saint-Malo. There they are protected and Marie’s father might be guarding the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

Meanwhile, Werner is a radio expert, a talent which gains him stead in Hitler Youth and a special intelligence assignment in tracking the resistance. “More and more aware of the human cost of this intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, and finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.” (cover blurb)

This is a very personal and heartwarming story. Yes, the backdrop is war and there is sorrow and pain involved, but also resilience and hope. You will enjoy and root for Marie-Laure, her father and uncle, and Werner, the pale persistent boy. The magic of radio – voices in the night – is a shining beacon. You will track the myth of the dangerous diamond – who has it, who wants it, who will find it, and who will win?

In All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr shines with his words and characters. He illuminates the way, and you will enjoy the journey.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Make Believe

A writer friend who home schools posted this pick on Facebook and I asked her permission to use it.

The kids are playing "train"

Just cracked me up for a Friday. Hope it brings a smile to you. What will you "play" today?

Enjoy the weekend, everyone

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

since I blogged A to Z in April - we are now catching up on some older stuff.

It’s too long. I might as well start every review for an action hero movie with that line. It’s true and generally it’s the final big bout of mayhem that goes on and on and on. I get the idea – good vs. evil, blah blah. However, I realize I am not the target audience. I am not a male between the ages of ten and one hundred. I recognize that fact, so use my comments at your discretion. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is worth seeing on the big screen and is entertaining enough. I realize that professionally paid critics have slammed it, but most folks I’ve chatted with gave it a thumbs up. Based on the dollars spent at the theaters, we’ll be seeing sequels, that’s for sure.

Ben Affleck is fine as the new Bruce Wayne/Batman. He’s a good looking guy, been working out, and is a formidable presence on the screen. He’s a tad cranky and has reason to be. Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/ Superman is darn pretty and very buff, but he does lack that certain sparkle that my fave, the late Christopher Reeve, brought to the screen. These guys are so darn serious – c’mon, lighten up a bit. You’re running around in tights, for goodness sake.

Gotham is under attack from evil General Zod. Superman’s battle causes damage to the city and Bruce Wayne Enterprises. Hence, conflict. “We’re all criminals,” says Batman. “No one stays good in this world,” says Superman. Jesse Eisenberg is the demented Lex Luthor, full of tics and fast talking. Amy Adams is Lois Lane, running about in high heels. And Gal Gadot is the mysterious Diana Prince/Wonder Woman – joining in the high jinx. I thought things picked up when she was on screen. The plot is convoluted and the goal is a huge cinematic battle. We are ultimately building toward some Justice League movies.

Face it – it’s DC comics fun brought to the big screen. That’s what  you are paying for and that’s what you get. Eat a huge tub of popcorn, drink a soda, and immerse yourself in another world. Are you team Batman?  Or Superman?   We all win when it’s Batman v. Superman on the big screen.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A to Z Reflections - 2016

Another Blogging from A to Z Challenge conquered, and I'm happy with my April presentation.

I met some new steady readers and I hope they continue to enjoy my blog. My theme for 2016 was very short poems for the letter of the day and the impending transition to the next day. I wanted a flow from Apropos to Zeal. I meandered from serious to light (and got folks hungry for waffles). All in all, it seemed as if folks enjoyed the journey.

In turn, I browsed the A to Z list the first week and landed on a selection of blogs that I chose to read every day. I had planned to explore more of the list but was time challenged.

Thus - some new found friends and faves include:
www.nilabose.blogspot.com - tremendous limerick, poetry, and mad writing skills. I'm blown away

www.stephie5741.blogspot.com - she explored unsolved mysteries. Good writing.

www.andrea-maybeitsjustme.blogspot.com - a fun look back at movie soundtracks. Oh we must have been music buddies back in the day.

www.viewsfrombenches.blogspot.com - Betty gave us a tour of Arizona. She brought the heat in a cool way

www.rhymetime24.blogspot.com - Pat Hatt's wacky rhyming ass had me laughing every single day

www.lifeafloatarchives.blogspot.com - I sailed away and learned about living aboard a boat

And I have to give a shout out to two steady faves - Al at Penwasser Place and Robyn at Life by Chocolate. Standing ovation and kudos to their humor and presentation. YUGE,  Absolutely YUGE.

Another good blog friend is Sue McPeak at Collectin Texas Gal - an artistic mix of pictures and words

And thanks Alex Cavanaugh for being everywhere in blog world - amazing and generous

As far as the A to Z team - thanks for all of the support. I had minions visiting - they were everywhere. I think it's all well presented and well documented as to how to participate. The artwork letters are gorgeous. The only frustration is going to the list and spending time clicking on links where folks aren't participating or give up. I don't know how (in the world of software) you could auto delete them due to lack of activity (?).

I look into the blog pool and reflect on the talent in this world. I am in AWE of April A to Z.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day and Graduation

Pictured - My brother David,   Jeffrey Crowther - his son the proud graduate (on time!!!) of Kutztown College PA, my sister-in-law, Cherie Gallen Crowther

My mother, Juanita Shutters Crowther, never met Jeff.  She's been gone almost 24 years now.  Oh, but she'd have gotten a kick out of the kid. He was a chunky boy with a mischievous smile. He's gotten into some very minor scrapes over the years (yes, payback is hell, David). And my mother always had a soft spot for boys. She was extremely fond of her younger brother, Rick, and David reminded her of him. While Jeff favors his mother in looks, he's got some of the impish Shutters' gene in him.

She'd have been very proud of Jeff's older sister, Lisa (not pictured) and loved her to pieces. But she'd shake her head at Jeff's antics and probably slip him that extra buck or two.

So, cheers Mom. I bet you've been looking out for Jeff through the years. Now, he's graduated and has to put on the big boy pants, find a job, make a living, and move on from the nest. Keep doing your magic, so this young man has a bright future.

Happy Mother's Day!!!!       Happy Graduation!!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Book Review - M Train by Patti Smith

Patti Smith’s M Train is an odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of cafes she has worked in around the world. The book is a “roadmap to my life”. (cover blurb)
Every morning in Greenwich Village, Patti Smith gets black coffee at her favorite spot. She sits with her notebook and ruminates – dreams, reality, poetry, and prose. Her travels and writing cover the gamut from Mexico to Rockaway Beach to Michigan, and beyond.

Braiding despair with hope and consolation, M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature, and coffee. (cover blurb) 

p.211 But a writer has no partner. He has to step back and ask himself – tell me what you see.

p. 249 I believe in movement. I believe in that lighthearted balloon, the world. I believe in midnight and the hour of noon. It fluctuates like light flitting over a pond.

p.253 There were no dust clouds, no signs of anyone, but I paid no mind. I was my own lucky hand of solitaire.

M Train by Patti Smith is a unique view into a creative mind, and I found the writing beautiful, weird, and wonderful. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Here's the Truth

Normally, if you see a movie poster, I'm bringing you a review. Alas, I'm still a bit indisposed. The doctor is happy with my toe tendon progress, but the pin is still in and I can't drive. Bummer.

But I wanted to share my secret with my blog friends. You remember I said I hurt my toe with a clumsy "stub the toe on a paver stone" story. Well.................

I'm actually Scarlett Johansson's stunt double. Shocking, I know. We had a small incident on the set of Captain America: Civil War.  Chris Evans still isn't handy with that shield of his, and clobbered my toe. Man, it hurt. He was apologetic. Scarlett felt bad that I took one for the team, but she still hasn't sent flowers or a get well card.

That's my tale and I'm sticking to it.   Happy Friday everyone. Have a great weekend

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Eye in the Sky

The Wall Street Journal calls Eye in the Sky a tick-tock thriller and I agree. It’s fast paced, tense, has well drawn characters and acting, and makes one think about current issues. Basically British military and government officials have hours to decide whether to order a bombing strike on terrorists in Kenya. Multiple views are given and it shows there’s a lot more to a drone attack than just pressing a button. So hold your breath and watch this movie unfold.

The always excellent Helen Mirren is Col. Katherine Powell and from her base in the UK she’s finally found location evidence for two radicalized terrorists. They are out of ground forces reach. In the foreign situation room, the Major (Alan Rickman in his last role – alas) is seeking to help her. The affairs minister (Jeremy Northam) and other politicians must discuss the ethics of these deaths versus a capture and some collateral civilian deaths. There are constant math updates – assessments on numbers. There’s a small spy drone in the terrorists home showing them preparing suicide bomb vests. Meanwhile, in Nevada two American drone specialists await orders to fire. However, their concern for a little girl selling bread in the kill zone brings the true face of terrorist war to the forefront.

In this age of drone spying and video surveillance, it’s nerve racking  to watch. One wavers with each statement, one can see multiple reasons to say “Go” versus “Stand down.” I will not spoil the end decision. Just know that Eye in the Sky will have you on the edge of your seat. …….   And war is hell. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day

May Day and an update.  While the A -  Z posts magically appeared, I've been sitting with my foot up after the toe tendon surgery. I shall not share the Frankenstein toe picture - Let's just say it's gross and Dr. Taylor is a messy seamstress. However, I am healing nicely. He's pleased. And I've not had to use my air horn to summon Ray.

Ray is beyond awesome, taking very good care of me. Next year, when he has his knee replacement, I'll have pay back, no doubt. (But I'm hiding the air horn!!)

Happy May Day, everyone. It's a gorgeous day here