Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Review - Sweetbitter

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler defines the crucial transition from girl to woman, from living in a place that feels like nowhere to living in a place that feels like the center of the universe. (cover blurb)
Our heroine, Tess, is a flawed slightly na├»ve young lady who gets a job at a known Manhattan restaurant. There she learns the art of eating – a celebration of palate, sweet, bitter, salt and the textures involved in food. Simone the all-knowing connoisseur senior server teaches Tess about the fine art of service. Jake, the elusive bartender, is a mystery and teaches her heartbreak.

Champagne, oysters, cocaine, lust, love, and dive bars  - Tess runs in a nonstop world. The book covers a year and the pace is fast and tantalizing. Danler’s writing is wry, descriptive, and rich. She immerses you in the restaurant world.  I wanted to visit her fictionalized places – eat, drink wine, and enjoy New York nightlife or lowlife.   

p.6  Salt:  your mouth waters itself. Flakes from Brittany, liquescent on contact. Blocks of pink salt from the Himalayas, matte gray clumps from Japan. An endless stream of kosher salt, falling from Chef’s hand. Salting, the most nuanced of enterprises, the food always requesting more, but the tipping point fatal.  Now if I eat something that’s too salty I think about that fatal terminology. Danler captures food, the process, and the insanity of the restaurant world.

Sweetbitter is ultimately about the power of  what remains after disillusionment, and the transformation and wisdom that come from our experiences, sweet and bitter.  (cover blurb)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Farmer's Market Adventure

 Something different on a Sunday - a jaunt to the Dallas Farmer's Market.  It's rather small, but definitely in a growth phase.
 old fashioned tractor
 view back to Dallas
It was off season on a Sunday - not much produce. We enjoyed breakfast tacos at a new taqueira. More restaurants are coming along with other touristy shops in The Market area.  Ray and I enjoyed our walk around the area and I would come back to try out new places.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Announcing Wordsplash Hodgepodge

Wordsplash Hodgepodge  by Joanne Faries brings a mixture of whimsy to your day. Hodgepodge is a hash, a jumble – a word stew. The author’s poetry from A to Z exudes energy, reflection, and food. Eat a waffle for dinner as you waffle over life choices.

Dash through a sprinkler or shed a shoe as you experience other random poems.

Want a quick read? Splash in the flash – six wee stories with some tiny twists to surprise and delight.

Finally, is a memoir ever truly done? Enjoy three more tales – additions to My Zoo World and Athletic Antics. 

Available now on Amazon - paperback or Kindle

Friday, August 19, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Florence Foster Jenkins

1944 New York City.  Florence Foster Jenkins ( the always talented Meryl Streep) is a wealthy socialite who once played the piano at the White House as a child. Now she’d like to get back into “her music”. Her husband St.Clair Bayfield ( the ever charming Hugh Grant) arranges everything – a famous voice teacher, a new pianist Cosme McMoon (funny Simon Helberg), payoffs to the newspapers, small friends-only dinner party/concerts. Money buys discretion because Florence can’t sing. Truly awful – flat, pitchy, and laughable.

But….but this is a true story and it’s about how Florence Foster Jenkins sang at Carnegie Hall. This is a small movie with a big heart. Florence did a great deal for music in NYC during WWII. She supported the troops and the arts. She was ill (you’ll find out more as the movie progresses) and yet she rallied when performing. She loved and embraced music and the movie deals with how folks came to embrace her. Florence Foster Jenkins is a movie with low key charm that shines through. Its humor is pleasant. You’ll laugh out loud when Florence first opens her mouth, but you’ll come to root for her by the end. Great acting, rich sets, and a nifty old fashioned tale.

Sing loud, sing proud!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Bad Moms

Bad Moms is very R and very hilarious.  I went by myself, but this was obviously a ladies day out type movie. Lots of groups of women were howling up a storm (in a good way). The energy in the theater was palpable.  Mila Kunis as Amy truly has a star turn in this movie – she is perfect as the working mother who’s trying to keep up with life. Life is winning – it’s tough to pack the perfect lunch, bring the super healthy baked goods for PTA, juggle a (cheating) husband, and support your kids.

Christina Applegate is Gwendolyn – she seems to be the super mom who leads the PTA like a Nazi. She and her posse are the mean adult girls. After a particularly horrendous day, Amy arrives late to PTA and says, “No.”  No to volunteering, no to rules, no no no……….well that does not go over well and a war ensues between Amy and Gwendolyn. Amy stops making her kids breakfast and lunches. She stops doing the special homework. She goes out drinking with her new renegade mom/friends played by Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn (laugh out loud funny. She is comedy joy).

The movie gets a tad outrageous and the language can be rather blue, but the overall story is worthwhile and well done. The kids learn how to be a bit independent. Amy shows you can be a good mom without being a helicopter. There is an emphasis on friendship and empowerment.  Stay through the end credits where the actresses and their real life moms answer a few questions. It’s really cool.
Bad Moms is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen this summer. I did not have high expectations and was very happy and entertained. Grab some friends and go have a laugh together.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Book Review - The Girls

The Girls by Emma Cline is an indelible portrait of girls and of the women they become (cover blurb).  Northern California, 1960s – Evie Boyd is a bored teen who comes across some free spirits in the park. She’s drawn to their sense of freedom and danger. She’s in thrall of Suzanne, the older girl, who accepts her into the group. Happy to have friends, a place to hang, and a wide-eyed look and participation in drugs, drink, and sex, Evie is grateful for the attention. She finally feels like she belongs to something. Her parents are newly divorced and are finding their way with new relationships. Evie, ever the good girl, rebels and it seems to her like no responsible adult in her life really cares.

Russell is the charismatic cult leader. The group squat on a ranch, dumpster dive for food, and count on theft for money. Evie in her desperation to be accepted  does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong. (cover blurb).  While the story (think Mansons) seems familiar, Cline does a superb job of creating fresh characters, giving us a past and present perspective, and a slightly different spin. The writing is fresh and vivid.

p. 28  All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that told me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you – the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.

p. 276  Her planning wasn’t actually about making anything different – she was just rearranging the same known quantities, puzzling out a new order like life was an extended seating chart.

p. 281 Whatever instincts they’d ever had – the weak twinge in the gut, a gnaw of concern – had become inaudible.

The Girls by Emma Cline is a tight taut read. You’ll hold your breath at times and exhale loudly at the end.  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Crazy from the Heat

 We hoped for rain this weekend. As of Saturday evening, this has not occurred. I whine. Oh, feel sorry for Ray because I whine this time of year.  August in Texas is a true glimpse of hell..........

Friday - 7:51 am it was 86 degrees F.  Yowza.........
When I walked across the prairie field at 1 pm to fetch our work mail, I returned and said, "It's you-almost-want-to-throw-up hot."  and my worker bee guys agreed. Soul sapping
Leaving work at 3:04 on Friday, the car registered 104F - that is insane.........

I got home and it was back to a "cool" 95.  So, yes, I am whining. Friends back east who claim it's "hot" - pshaw.......

I have faced hell, I am in hell, it's Dante Inferno hell...........

Cheers!   (And that's why I go to the movies........the cinema is air conditioned to the max - worth every bit of my $5 matinee price)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Legend of Tarzan

We all think we know the Tarzan story, but this new movie Legend of Tarzan is an excellent version. We meet Lord Greystoke (Alexander Skarsgard) and his wife (lovely Margot Robbie) in London. He’s been called by a council and asked to return to The Congo to see what King Leopold is up to in regards to trade and money. In theory this is as an ambassador but in reality, as Tarzan, he is being lured in as part of a barter – a nefarious scheme by a crooked captain (played by the always evil Christoph Waltz).  Fortunately an American (Samuel L. Jackson) is along for the ride, and quickly becomes an ally in a deadly battle against slavery, diamond dealing, and revenge (a tribal king played by Djimon Hounsou is not pleased).

The early scenes in the Congo are one of welcome. Tarzan’s old tribe greet him warmly and life is grand. Alas, the captain has his minions capture tribesman, the wife, and set fire to the village. Mayhem ensues.  Enraged, Tarzan and Jackson head out to save the wife, free the slaves, and get to the bottom of the Congo’s secrets. Fortunately, Lord Greystoke sheds his shirt (wow!), swings from vines, communes with the gorillas and other jungle creatures, and fulfills the legend.

This movie is lush and well done. The acting is above par, the Tarzan aspects are not cheesy, and the film is action packed. Alexander with his gray green eyes, chiseled face and body, and brooding demeanor is a worthy Tarzan. Do your best jungle yell and swing in to see Legend of Tarzan.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Book Review - The City of Mirrors

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin gives a thrilling finale to a trilogy.  It has been awhile since The Passage and The Twelve, but the story rushes quickly into action and Cronin is kind enough to throw in breadcrumbs to remind us of people, places, and things (like virals).  Civilization fell after a great blood disease swept the land thanks to the bite of virals. But some humans survived and slowly built The Colony. Now from the cover blurb:

The Twelve have been destroyed and the terrifying hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls – daring to dream of a new future.  But far from then, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy – humanity’s only hope, the Girl From Nowhere who grew up to rise against him. One last time light and dark will clash…

Oh this is quite a saga. Past and present. Strong characters with sons and daughters carrying on – eager to farm the re-birthed land, eager to welcome children, and willing to mourn their dead. But something was coming, Lucius could feel it. He knew it the same as he knew his own heartbeat, the wind of breath in his chest, the carriage of his bones. The long arc of human history was headed toward a final test… would be a time for warriors. (p.18)

Excellent writing pulled me forward in this journey, reading quickly, holding my breath, rooting for our heroes. History is more than data, more than facts, more than science and scholarship. History is a story – the story of ourselves. Who are we? (p. 568).  You will find out, dear reader, and you will question your role in the history of mankind. Will you see yourself in the mirror, eager to remain strong, and to fight for what is good – family, friends, and life?

Superb trilogy and The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin is a tour de force finale. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Star Trek Beyond

Star date 2016 – another successful mission logged for The Enterprise. Go see Star Trek Beyond.  This franchise stays a winner thanks to director Justin Lin’s filmmaking style. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine – slowly maturing into a worthy leader), Dr. Spock (Zachary Quinto – worthy sidekick), Bones (Karl Urban – grouchy in a good way), Ulurhu (Zoe Saldana), Checkov (sadly, the late Anton Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho), and trusty engineer of anything Scotty ( Simon Pegg) round out a cast we care about. Especially when Irdris Elba as Krall is lurking beyond……..beyond the nebula into vaster, deeper space.

Before they leave on their mission, we see Kirk chat with his boss – is he contemplating a desk job? Spock chats with fellow Vulcans and learns of a loss (all hail the late Leonard Nimoy – this is a good tribute). Thus, is he contemplating another life? Well, leave that behind as The Enterprise heads back on a mission beyond the nebula to find another space crew and help a lost commander. But is she good or evil with an ulterior motive? Oh no!!!

Star Trek and the Federation talk of unity, peace, and goodwill, but like today’s Earth the ideas are good but tough to implement. Tough to comprehend when your ship is being attacked and all the warp speeds and shields don’t seem to matter.  Crashing and trying to save his captured crew, Kirk joins forces with a woman who seems darn resourceful. She’s managed to resurrect an old ship – the USS Franklin, and she has many reasons to seek revenge against Krall.  So, as the Star Trek cast slowly work their magic – communicate, reinvent, and reinforce friendships, we’re along for the ride.

Strap in and turn on your phasers for a fun journey. Star Trek Beyond is a solid summer movie adventure into space – the final frontier.  Live long and prosper

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sprinkler Dash

Sprinkler Dash

walked the neighborhood the other day
said hello to a young man
he moved a hand sprinkler around his yard

as I watched the water flow

back and forth

                                back and forth

                                                                back and forth

I yearned to put on my swim suit and dash through the spray

oh such a treat when mom conceded to our pleas
my brother and I had such a splendid time
leaps, bounds, cartwheels, and silly dances
giggles rippled as the water cooled

our bare feet, arms, and legs

now I stand and watch a young man move a hand sprinkler
around a front yard, no kids in sight

except this big kid who took off her sandal
stuck her foot into the spray
and giggled

 by Joanne Faries

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Movie Review Madness - 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane is part suspense/thriller, part fantasy/science fiction. It’s not normally my type of movie, but the previews were intriguing and the movie proved to be good. It starts with a girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packing a bag and leaving her home in distress. Driving down a dark road (never good), there are blinding lights, a swerve, and a blackout. (Uh-oh). She awakens in a room with a broken leg and she’s chained. (More dread).  What happened? Where is she?

Thump. Door opens. Here comes John Goodman (such a good solid actor who’s really excellent here). The girl begs for her life and asks to be set free. He says he can’t . He claims he saved her life, that’s it not safe outside. The world is under attack and he had the foresight to prepare. She has flashbacks to her crash. Some things just don’t add up. And there’s another guy in this bunker (John Gallgher, Jr). He seems a tad dim, but loyal. He vouches for the man – claims he knew to come here to live. Had done work for the preparation and wanted to survive.

The first part of 10 Cloverfield Lane will have you jumping and on edge. You are with the girl as she keeps trying to escape, and yet some things keep her there. Parts of the story make sense, and then something happens to send your heart reeling to panic.  It is very suspenseful and well done.  The final third of the film went over the top for me. I won’t say what happens, but to me it lost its edge. Nonetheless, this is a well-made tight film and worthy of rental. Turn off the lights and hold your breath. You’ll be nervous the next time you drive down a dark lane. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Movie Review Madness - Jason Bourne

Bottom line – Jason Bourne, the new film), is a boring retread. I had high expectations and they were crushed by a yawn inducing tale of a network of terror and technology with unchecked power.  

Once again Jason (the always decent Matt Damon) is having flashbacks and remembering stuff. It’s been ten years since he went off the grid, but he’s back in sight thanks to Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), his former contact. Well, the agency is tracking her hacking and it’s a vicious circle of exposure. A weary director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) wants Bourne erased. A newby agent Lee (Alicia Vikander) sees her chance for a power grab and she tries to lure him in. Oh so innocent, she’s not aware of Dewey’s orders and the evil Vincent Cassel who wants revenge on Bourne for past problems.  Plus, now there’s a super internet mogul who’s partnered with the devil Dewey and has no idea of the ramifications of getting in bed with the government.

Chase after chase after chase after chase. Been there, done that.  It’s a shame that nothing new is brought to the excellent Bourne series.  With furrowed brow and curled fists, Damon does his best to fight evil and he’s always one step ahead.  That’s the good part. Unfortunately I needed Dramamine for the film’s shaky camera – have you feel like you are in the middle of things – perspective. Whew. My head was spinning by the end, and not in a good way.

Save your money and stream Jason Bourne someday.  I regret saying this is not worth popcorn and a soda. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Happy Birthday Ray

 A salute to Ray as he turns 60 today  - August 1st.
Sixty looks good on Ray
cowlick sticks up like a little boy
hair a tad tinged with gray

knees creak a lot
step’s a bit slower
not eager to sleep on a cot

he leaps up to hunt
maybe ooze is a better term
many activities deserve a grunt

but Ray is game for fun
a chuckle, a laugh
text a pun

oh he counts down to retire
so many projects in his brain
he’s ready to perspire

I wish him birthday joy
Ray’s much loved
he’s still Joyce and  LD’s little boy

sixty notches in the belt of life
what’s in a number
as long as there’s no strife

happy birthday Ray we loudly sing
eat cake, drink a toast (or two)
Be Sixty, You are our King