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!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fierce Friday

Haas Moto Museum and Sculpture Gallery is way awesomely cool.  I'll be posting more in July.
Meanwhile enjoy this fierce sculpture  Through the Wall: Shattered, Plastered, and Stoned by Bobby Haas

Happy Friday!  Break on through to the other side my friends....

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday Wonders

The latest exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art is  The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana.  It features over 200 fantastic pieces of ceremonial furniture, state swords, head gear, and other pieces in the world of gold trade. Wealth in this area began in 1701 and the Asante region reigned with prosperity and sophistication.

The pieces were glorious and some of the short film pieces showed ceremonies. Very interesting. I also got a kick out of some Asante folk wisdom and sayings.

My favorite:  One should never rub bottoms with a porcupine     
(i.e.  Don't get into a fight with someone who can hurt you more. )

Monday, June 25, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Solo

I went into the new Star Wars prequel Solo with no preconceived ideas.  I am not a fanatic and I was fine with a backstory for Han Solo. No -  Alden Ehrenreich does not look like Harrison Ford. He’s his own person and frankly imbues the young Han Solo with the right amount of arrogance and bravado.  Director Ron Howard pulls out a decent ride in the Millennium Falcon (now we know how it became Han’s ship). Solo is a fun entertaining two hours or so with plenty of air battles, bad guys, good guys, and Han as our intergalactic rogue hero.

Here’s a scrappy young man just trying to live, trying to break free from life on his crappy planet. We find out how he does escape, but what happens to Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) his love? Han hooks up with a band of mercenaries (Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton) to pull off a heist. Well – drat they collide with Crimson Dawn and that’s not good.  Is he reunited with Qi’ra and under what circumstances? Will she kill him? We learn how he meets Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and begins a lifelong friendship. Who is Lando (a charming Donald Glover)?  How did Han get the Millennium Falcon from him?

There’s a lot of double crosses going on, air battles, air pirates, crazy creatures, and of course evil abounds. Through it all, Ehrenreich is earnest and endearing. Oh he’s slick and has his street smarts. He’s a fantastic pilot with mad skills. He’s still a bit trusting, but is learning. He leans toward being a loner….and yet he’s loyal to Chewbacca. And then there’s Qi’ra – good/evil comes in small packages. With her large eyes and soft accent, Emilia Clarke, pulls off her part with panache. She’s a survivor, that’s for sure.

I came out of Solo thoroughly entertained. Frankly it was better than I expected. Thumbs up for my five dollar investment on a summer Saturday morning. Soar with the Falcon!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Book Review - Red Sparrow

I found Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews intriguing and annoying.  It’s a normal length book but at times I felt I was slogging through the Gulag. Then other times it was fast paced and interesting. I kept reading, skimming, reading because I wanted to know what the heck happens to the girl.

It’s present day Russia and Dominika is recruited to be a “Red Sparrow” – trained seductress, spy, and assigned to American CIA officer Nate Nash. That’s all well and good. I liked her story line and I liked Nate’s . I liked their interactions and what ultimately transpires between them. However, there was a lot of other background material with a lot of Russian names that were damn confusing. Hence, the skims at times.

The writer is a former CIA officer and obviously knows his stuff…maybe too much.  To me, there was almost too much about many of the other horrible Russian agents, and then the annoying cat and mouse games. I am committing sacrilege but it’s like reading John Le Carre (always praised by critics).  I say – Jesus, get on with the story, man……

The cool things about Dominika is she sees in colors –It’s like an extra sensory skill and that helps her cull out trouble and evil from decent and good.  Nate has a purple aura – he’s a “good” guy.
The movie starred Jennifer Lawrence. It got so-so reviews, but after reading the book I’m now curious for it to show up on Netflix. I wonder if they cut out many of the annoying bits and hit the key plot points.  A friend lent me this book, so I got to read it for free.  That’s the best….so if you think you are interested, go find Red Sparrow at your local library.  Da! And a vodka shot for you

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Review - Explosive Beginnings by Susan Flett Swiderski

Explosive indeed - this book is filled with richly developed characters with plenty of secrets. I read it in one weekend because I wanted to know what the heck was going to happen to these folks. Archie is complicated and I can't say I liked it him, and yet he truly is human with flaws and flashes of redemption. Maddie - saint or sinner? Kids - Scott and Samantha - have a lot of spunk. Often kids get shunted into cliched writing, but not in this book. I can't write more about the plot line because it goes from tiny pops to huge blasts in no time. I've read the author's blog and previous works, appreciating her humorous takes on life. Explosive Beginnings has a deft touch with some funny quips, but it's far deeper as a family saga with mystery, drama, and plenty of life land mines. I highly recommend Explosive Beginnings by Susan Flett Swiderski for a charged weekend of reading.

Available on Amazon

Monday, June 18, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Ocean's Eight

Ocean’s 8 is a glossy fun goof filled with a great cast, fantastic jewels, nice clothes, a spiffy NYC, the fabulous of the Met, and an awesome larceny.  Sandra Bullock, Debbie Ocean, is out of jail but her life is crime and she had plenty of years to perfect the best heist possible. The Met Gala, a Cartier necklace, starlet Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), and an awesome crew = hi-jinks and a slick plan.
Lou (Cate Blanchett), Rose (Helena Bonham-Carter), Nine-Ball (Rihanna), Constance (Awkwafina), Amita (Mindy Kaling), and Tammy (Sarah Paulson) all bring a skill set – petty crimes, tech guru hacker, street hustling tech support, diamond expert, design, and a swindler. No guys allowed. Well, maybe for part of the fall.

We get some back story. We see the plan pull together. We see a few chances of hiccups, but these ladies are quick on the fix. There’s snappy dialogue, eye popping settings, friendship, and female dynamics. Ocean’s 8 is crooked, breezy, and it’s a joy to watch Sandra Bullock lead a film. They are all good, and Anne Hathaway’s Daphne is annoyingly awesome. You can tell Hathaway had a blast playing her. Summer movie time deserves a chance for the ladies to stretch their legs and pull off a killer heist – no guns needed. No blasting, no death, no destruction. All you need is a blind spot or two – anything is possible.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day Weekend Wheelin'

 Ray with youngest son Kevin
 clean and tidy and ready to roar
and the results of Father and Son 4-wheeling weekend.   I told Kevin, "Bring your father back in one piece."

Happy Father's Day to all!

 I chatted with my dad. My sister is there doing yard work - weeding, mulching, etc. My brother will join her this afternoon to make my dad's place respectable.
  I'm the lazy far away daughter.  There's one in every family!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Book Review - Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan is a historical novel with a noir feel to it. The world is populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Anna Kerrigan is twelve when she accompanies her father to a meeting with Dexter Styles at his beach home. She senses money, power, and is mesmerized by the sea.  Years later, Anna’s father is mysteriously gone. The country is at war and Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard.  Striving hard to become the first woman diver, she encounters resentment in the tough world of the docks. But this is a young woman with a strong character and a commitment to succeed. Meanwhile, she meets Dexter Styles again at his nightclub. He does not recognize her or remember her from his past. She however does and works to uncover the connections with her father, the mysteries of the underworld.

This book had an ebb and flow to it. I liked Anna as the diver and her current situation. When the book went to the past and to the father’s side of the story, I tended to skim. However, Jennifer Egan is a rich writer and Manhattan Beach kept me turning pages.

A rather symbolic passage and good writing –

p. 433   “Look her father said, “Here it comes.”
She was surprised to find him watching the fog. It rolled in fast: a wild, volatile silhouette against the phosphorescent sky. It reared up over the land like a tidal wave about to break, or the aftermath of a silent, distant explosion.
Without thinking, she took her father’s hand.
“Here it comes,” she said.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wacky Wednesday

 Ray and I headed to Dallas on Saturday....the ultimate goal was Maroon 5 concert that evening. Whee!  Meanwhile, we stopped for BBQ at Ferris Wheelers.  Damn tasty BBQ and unique setting. I took these pics after we ate indoors (it was too freakin' hot outside).

 I loved this one!
And our destination hotel - W at Victory Park.  Here's our view from the room - not shabby on the 5th floor.  I did not take a pic but the infinity pool on the 16th floor was way cool....filled with 20/30 somethings imbibing a great deal of alcohol.  All seating was reserved.  We stood around awkwardly, then got sodas. The young lady serving just said they were "on the house.". I'm calling it the Pity Pepsi...."please, 'old folks', take your free soda and go back to hide in your room."   It was funny!

Happy Wacky Wednesday.  Please let the rest of the week zoom by.....

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday Moment

Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth is featuring works from Lands of Asia through mid-August.
I like to promote time at a museum. This exhibit has stunning costumes, Buddhist statuary, porcelain, ivory, and jade carvings. Sam and Myrna Myers collected for over fifty years - they appreciated a broad panorama of Asia's cultural heritage and unique customs.

China, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam are represented and honored. It is quite an array of beauty, splendor, and history.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Movie Review - Book Club

Book Club, the movie, is a good Sunday morning matinee -  beat the heat of TX summer – chick flick time killer. I went in with low expectations and came out amused. I like all of the actresses and I try to support “more mature” women.  Entertainment Weekly summed it up well – enjoy the novelty of four of the best actresses of their generation splash around in a film that actually lets them live, not just tastefully fossilize in some designated elder-citizen corner of the screen.

The book club meets monthly – federal judge Sharon (Candice Bergen), widow Diane (Diane Keaton – my fave), chef Carol (Mary Steenburgen), and hotelier Vivian (Jane Fonda). Vivian decides to liven up the club with E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey – shocking. The group protests and groans but end up reading it secretly embarrassed and yet fascinated. From there, we have sensual re-awakenings, however contrived. Diane meets a pilot (Andy Garcia) on a trek to  AZ to see her daughters who are convinced mom should move to assisted living. Sharon tries on line dating and meets Richard Dreyfuss – a normal schlumpy guy just trying to connect. She realizes there is more to life than her cat. Vivian runs into an ex (a very scrumptious Don Johnson) and learns that maybe she should not just love ‘em and leave ‘em. And Carol works to put some spark back into her marriage to Craig T. Nelson. He’s newly retired and has issues of his own.

There are funny lines, lovely homes and d├ęcor, and great fashion. The ladies look great and aren’t plastic scary. There are some poignant scenes along with some silly stuff. This is fluff – plain and simple. I think critics gave it a solid C.  I’m more generous and was entertained – I’ll go with B.  B for Book Club

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday Wow

 Captain Jack Sparrow - Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Caribbean
 Lara Flynn Boyle wore this in Land of the Blind (I never heard of it but the dressing is breathtaking)
 Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility
Keira Knightley in The Duchess

Cut! Costume and the Cinema is an exhibit at the Arlington Museum of Art  (  Thanks to Cosprop Ltd - England for sharing a fabulous exhibit.  Over 43 costumes from 27 period films - many Merchant Ivory winners.  Phantom of the Opera, Sherlock Holmes, The Prestige, and more.

The detail and sewing is stunning. And the waistlines for these actresses are tiny.
They did have a two leather coats from Daniel Craig in Defiance.  One was quite fresh, the other had been beaten with a hammer and aged for late in the film.  Nifty to see.

Beat the heat at a museum and feast your eyes on treasures of any sort.