Went to the Fort Worth Zoo a week or so ago. I snapped this picture of the orangutan - so reflective.
His hand to his forehead...I picture him thinking of all he must do the next week, or pondering some hi-jinks his kids have gotten into, or for today just thinking, "Wednesday is Hump Day"
The first time I heard the song Killer Queen on the
radio, I perked up my ears. This was a new and different sound and the lead
singer’s voice soared effortlessly. 1970 – Freddie Mercury (lead singer),
Brian May (guitar), Roger Taylor (drums), and John Deacon (bass guitar) formed
Queen. The rest is another chapter in rock history. The film Bohemian
Rhapsody brings the Queen story to life, and actor Rami Malek embodies
the heart and soul of Freddie Mercury. He’s uncanny (and should be up for an
I’ve read other reviews that say this film follows the usual
rock story – struggling musicians, the big success, the excesses, the
inevitable clashes, the egos, and the break-up/ final triumphs. Well, yeah –
I’m very fine with that. Mercury was an outsider, in London with immigrant
parents. He was always seeking his father’s approval, but knew he was different
– meant to be a performer. And when he opened his mouth (his very unusual
overbite mouth) – the voice of an angel emerged. Forming Queen – a group of
misfits – the band explored and went beyond the norm. Their album, Night at
the Opera, was groundbreaking. Bohemian Rhapsody, the song,
was six minutes. What radio would play that? What are they singing? Is it
gibberish? And operatic?
I enjoyed the film, the music, and Freddie’s story. He found
true love early, but then strayed –confused, caught up in excess, but
inherently lonely. The band was his family. And he did contract AIDS, was aware
that his life was going to be cut short. He rallied the band back together to
play Wembley stadium in England for Live Aid. Talk about taking a final curtain
call – this was a performance for the ages. We are the Champions, We Will
Rock You, Somebody to Love, and on and on. Bohemian Rhapsody
will stir you, make you want to stomp your feet and clap, and frankly
sing-a-long like Wayne and Garth in a car.
I love Anne Tyler’s writing and Clock Dance
does not disappoint. This is not my favorite of hers – I did like A Spool
of Blue Thread more, but even lesser works are better than most. Trust
me, Tyler knows how to capture ordinary folks (often “older”) – their
thoughts, their lives, and she gives them dignity and understanding. Often
tough to do in this day and age.
Cover blurb: Willa Drake can count on one hand the
defining moments of her life. 1967 – schoolgirl coping with her mother’s
disappearance. 1977 – college coed considering a marriage proposal. 1997 –
young widow trying to piece her life back together. 2017 – yearning to be a
grandmother. Then one day, Willa receives a startling phone call
from a stranger. She flies cross-country to look after a young woman she’s
never met, her nine year old daughter, and a dog. This impulsive decision will
lead Willa into uncharted territory.
Interesting and quirky, Willa turns out to have some nerve
and backbone. She’s willing to say no to her stiff second husband, and continue
her journey of self-discovery. Clock Dance by Anne Tyler is full of
surprises. We’re all fighting the battle against Father Time. This book is a
lot about how we choose to do it – are we in charge? Or is time itself?
Tuesday , November 6, 2018 is another Election Day. We are fortunate in America. The dates are set for elections - it's not random, it's not willy-nilly, it's not after one group dissolves, and others are formed. It's very regular and we get to choose.
Ray and I chose early voting. We are a "divided" household and, no doubt, "canceled" out our votes. But we did it and we'll still be alive and talking on Wednesday morning.
Today is Monday. I hope you've done the same - early vote, or you'll be stopping at the polls on Tuesday between 7 am and 7 pm to give your vote, your opinion, and exercise your freedom.
Wednesday 10/24/18, Dr. Michael Blair, in just ten minutes executed a miracle. He removed a severe cataract from my left eye and did laser stuff that removed my extreme astigmatism. I awoke and could see the clock on the wall without glasses.
That has not been possible since third grade, age eight. ( am not ancient either - just born with bad eye genes. My father has already apologized!)
Wednesday 10/31/18, Dr. Michael Blair, in just ten minutes executed another miracle. He did the exact same thing on my right eye.
I can see........distance........without glasses. For those of you who have always been able to see, you have NO idea of the magnitude. For those of you with glasses....holy cow. I can see the clock when I wake up in the morning. I can see the stupid ESPN crawler at the bottom of the TV screen again.
Science miracles do occur.
Do not take vision for granted. There is so much to see and read. It's fabulous. I am awestruck.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn is a taut
thriller with shades of Hitchcock and other black and white noir films. What’s
up with Anna Fox? She’s a recluse, watches old movies,
chats with her husband and daughter (?), and spies on her
neighbors. Does she witness a murder at the Russell home?
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger?
Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one- and
nothing – is what it seems. (cover blurb)
This book kept me hooked and questioning Anna. Is she
reliable despite drinking a heck of a lot of wine. Did she meet a Jane Russell?
Or is the wife of Alistair Russell the real Jane Russell? Is Ethan the innocent
confused son? Lots of questions to answer with a very unreliable
source. What happened to Anna and her family? Oh, that is key to the Woman
in the Window. Will the police, the psychiatrist, the physical
therapist, etc be able to piece together answers to this puzzle?
Slick writing, sophisticated suspense. I recommend this book
and dare you to piece together the answers. It kept me hooked until the end and
then you say “Whoa!” Enjoy the ride.
A friend, Trish, invited me to join her for a night of Rachmaninov and the Fort Worth Symphony.
I couldn't say no. I took an Uber into Fort Worth, basked in the glory of Bass Hall, and soaked in the beauty of classical pianists. I admit I know nothing about classical music. Many refrains of Rachmaninov are no doubt part of movie soundtracks - I could recognize refrains.
The three pianists sounded awesome to my untrained ears. Plenty of dramatic arm flourishes, rapid riffs up and down the keyboard, and the symphony sounded beautiful. I thought the conductor was thoughtful and encouraged the group.
I did read the review in the paper and OMG - I was SO wrong. Apparently the conductor had no clue, the symphony drowned out key elements, and the pianist I liked the most - Yeol Eum Son, was over dramatic and not worthy.
Big sigh. Best to not know anything. Just bask in the glory of sound, feel the music, and Uber home content.
Support your local symphony and musicians. Do not over think. Let the music wash over you.
The Old Man and his Gun is a charming movie
based on a true story. Forest Tucker liked to rob banks. He was good at it,
too, until he got caught and then he was pretty good at escaping prison
(including building his own boat and sailing out of San Quentin island). But
that’s back story. 1981, We meet Forest (played by the excellent Robert
Redford) as a dapper dressed, polite older gentleman robbing banks in Texas,
Arkansas, and beyond. He appears elusive until John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a
Dallas cop, digs deep to pursue the man. It’s a cat and mouse game, and really
fun to watch.
Meanwhile, Forest meets Jewel (the sublime Sissy Spacek). He
says he robs banks, but she doesn’t believe him. They meet at a diner when he’s
in town, and ultimately spend time chatting and sitting on her lovely ranch
front porch. Oh he spins quite a few stories, says only married once a long
time ago with no kids. Says he’s a salesman. No matter what, he speaks with a
twinkle in his eye and a thoughtful manner. Their screen time together is so
So, in ninety minutes you get to meet the bank robber, his
buddies (dubbed by the news as The Over the Hill Gang), his lady friend, and
the cop. You get the build-up, the behind the scenes planning, the cop figuring
out the puzzle, and you root for everyone concerned. Yes, the old man has a
gun, but this is not a violent movie. So, sit back, enjoy the ride, watch a
masterclass in acting, and enjoy the dialogue and the silence too. The
Old Man and his Gun is quite a true story- you just can’t make this
What doesn’t Bradley Cooper do? He acts, he flashes
that sweet smile and those clear baby blue eyes, and he’s managed to come off
as a real nice guy. Now he’s directed his first feature film AND he sings in
it. In a 2018 remake of A Star is Born, Cooper is Jackson Mayne,
an alcoholic musician with tinnitus, who’s not keeping it together. His
brother, Bobby (Sam Elliott), does his best but Jackson is self-destructing.
Then one night after a show, in search of a drink, he has his driver stop outside
a place. It’s a drag bar, but the young lady featured to sing had been a former
server. Everyone is enthralled with Ally’s performance, and Jackson falls
hard. Ally (a superb Lady Gaga) has tried to get in the business,
but she’s unconventional looking. She’s heard the critiques about her nose,
etc, and doesn’t need the verbal abuse.
Of course, in movie world – boy meets girl, boy gets girl up
on stage, girl takes the crowd by storm, and conquers the music world very
quickly. We watch Ally’s rise and root for her. Lady Gaga can belt a song and
can really act too – she’s the real deal. Meanwhile, even though in love,
jealousy rears its head. Jackson’s alcoholism is on a collision course with
Ally’s success. A Star is Born is solid. The story has good
bones and this version works. The music is current and the singing is
excellent. Cooper and Gaga have chemistry. My only usual complaint – it runs a
tad long. I think Cooper could have edited or tightened it by fifteen, twenty
minutes. Still, I’ll say Bradley Cooper can do it ALL – a director is born!
Sing it loud.
Tommy Orange’s first novel There There is a relentlessly
paced multi-generational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity,
and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people.
He intertwines twelve characters as they travel to the Big
Oakland Pow wow. Each has their reasons – explore traditions, face their
heritage, honor family, and question the life and plight of urban Native
Americans. Here is a voice we have never heard – a voice full of
poetry and rage, exploding on to the page with stunning urgency and force.
(cover blurb) As a member of the Cheyenne and Apache tribes of Oklahoma,
Tommy Orange explores complex history, writes of spirituality, and looks at
addictions and abuse as he introduces his characters. Each character is
interesting and complex. They live in a world I’ve not seen, but I’m aware of
from current news.
This work of fiction is quite strong, relevant, and thought
provoking. I liked his writing and voice and the characters stuck with me even
after the final page. There is a There There worth exploring.
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake offers two
perspectives on the news in 1940. First Iris James, as the postmistress
in a coastal MA town, takes her duty quite seriously. However, one day, she
slips a letter into her pocket, knowing she delays the inevitable but feels
it’s for the best. She reads a heartbreaking letter and does not deliver
it. Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts overseas with Edward R. Murrow.
She feels compelled to make sure Americans know what is happening in Europe.
She doesn’t want folks to not believe that Nazi Germany is building evil and
that it affects the world.
Cover blurb: The Postmistress is a
tale of two worlds – one shattered by violence, the other willfully naïve – of
two women whose jobs are to deliver the news, yet who find themselves unable to
do so. Through their eyes, and the eyes of everyday people caught in history’s
ride, it examines how we tell each other stories, and how we bear the fact of
war as we live ordinary lives.
This is a solid story with engaging writing. There’s a love
story and a story of survival. P. 351 A story like a
snapshot is caught, held for a moment, then delivered. But the people in them
go on and on. And what happens next? What happens? This book
has a sense of urgency and is a worthy read. Another winner. I’ve been on
Thanks, Linda Hoffman – a friend, and a reader who shares
her excellent finds. Shout out, my friend!
A Simple Favor is a delicious, twisty turning
fun film full of deception, beautiful people , a vlog, surprises, and friends?
Anna Kendrick is Stephanie, super single mom who hosts her video blog, makes
the best school food treats, and is conservatively eager to please. When son
Miles and his friend Nicky beg for a play date, she agrees when Emily, the cold
as ice beautiful Blake Lively, invites Stephanie over for a martini. “Momma
needs a reset button.” Oh my!
Stephanie has never met anyone like Emily, who drinks, curses,
wears power clothes, works in the city, has the hot author husband, and dares
Stephanie to be bad. Then the phone call, “Can you pick up Nicky and take him
after school for a bit? I’m swamped at work.” One simple favor
turns into days…where is Emily? Stephanie posts her concern on her vlog.
Shaun (the luscious Henry Golding) involves the police. What’s going on?
Then a body in a Michigan lake turns out to be Emily – DNA and tattoo
match. End of movie grieving?
Oh no. That was only the beginning. I won’t give more away.
Grab the popcorn tub and hang on for a wild ride in suburbia. Good acting. Lots
of twists. And several, “Say what?” moments.
Today, October 8 - I'm officially truly older than dirt.
I can remember black and white TV and clicking the three or four channels. I remember red dye and when cereal said "sugared" and meant it. I remember "smoking" candy cigarettes in the kitchen while Dad had his one Camel.
Ray and I did marry - Justice of the Peace, in jeans, then a fun party that night.
Picture on the right is my very casual author picture....Maybe I should update it.
And here I am with Ray in Cozumel, cruising onward.....I know less than I did back in the black and white era. Still questioning, still stumbling, still a left-handed, green-eyed gal from PA. (a damn Yankee in TX)
Assuming I make it to Halloween, I will then have lived longer than my mother. That's mind blowing.
But cheers! I plan on eating chocolate cake and enjoying my whole birthday weekend - Friday and Monday off. Go to the State Fair, hit a movie, celebrate with friends, and of course, hang with Ray.
Fannie Flagg has been around forever and her books read like
an old friend stopped by to chat. The Whole Town’s Talking is a
light breezy read that entertains.
Elmwood Springs, MO is home to the Nordstoms. Lorder moved
there from Sweden, farmed, ordered a mail order bride – beloved Katrina, became
the town’s first mayor, and chose the place on the hill for the cemetery.
Naturally he was the first to arrive at the resting place. And much to
his surprise, he “woke up” and could hear town folk visit his grave. Soon other
seniors passed away and joined him. All in all, Flagg keeps us posted through
the decades on the folks who are alive and prospering, and the folks who die.
Some pass too young – boys who went to Vietnam. Some arrive and are annoyed
that they still have to hear the town talk (old man Henderson). Some arrive at
the cemetery, participate, and then suddenly leave.
She mixes real life history with Elmwood Springs growth, and
we enjoy the company of the founders, their offspring, and their grandchildren.
This is Americana at its best – chatty, catty, generous, patriotic, and greedy.
The author knows people and keeps her sense of humor as she regales us with
town talk. The Whole Town’s Talking is just plain fun – a
good read on a rainy day that will keep you chuckling as you turn the
pages. After a few chapters, go stroll through your neighborhood and find
something or someone to talk about. Make sure it’s good or juicy! Enjoy.
(cover blurb) She was his best kept secret – a mysterious
Frenchwoman begins work on a dangerous memoir. It is a story of a man she once
loved in the Beirut of old, and a child taken from her in treason’s name. The
woman is the keeper of the Kremlin’s most closely guarded secret. Long ago, the
KGB inserted a mole into the heart of the West – a mole who stands on the
doorstep of ultimate power.
And of course who shall come to the rescue of
civilization? Gabriel Allon - art restorer, assassin, chief of
Israel secret intelligence – is back to reluctantly join in a quest to thwart
treason, restore global order, and of course, arrive home safe to the arms of
his lovely Italian wife, Chiara, and their twins. Gabriel is getting older,
more world weary, and yet those deep green eyes burn when there are wrongs to
Daniel Silva knows how to keep pages turning. Double
crosses. Twists. World travel locations. Whirlwind espionage with the strongest
cast of characters around. I’ve written plenty of Silva reviews on this blog.
Add The Other Woman to my list of compelling reads. Silva is
scary current with a pulse on our fragile world situation. Reading his work is
like having the key to our future. Now, who’s our Gabriel Allon? He can conquer
the bad guys…gotta love fiction. (or scary truth?) Enjoy!
The Wife is a solid flick, maybe a tad
predictable. BUT. And this is a big BUT …watching Glenn Close is a master
class in acting. She is compelling even when silent. Her eyes and face must be
watched. Let Oscar races begin for fall.
Jonathan Pryce plays Joe, the author, awaiting a phone call
from Sweden. Sure, enough he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature and who’s by
his side? Joan (Glenn Close), the wife – ever supportive and caring through the
years. So, the trek to Stockholm brings out family dynamics between Joe, his
son, and Joan. Joe is vain, insecure, and has failing health. Joan is classy,
smart, and stands in the corner watching the whole schmooze. We see flashbacks
to when she met Joe at Smith College in 1958. She’s the talented student in
literature. He’s the young, hot professor in a “bad” marriage. She marries,
they have kids, he’s the talented author.
Oh, but there’s more to that story. We gain insight as
Christian Slater (a reporter, biographer) asks probing questions about Joe and
Joan. He has theories about the body of work and success of Joe. You can see
where this is all headed, but it’s worth the 100 minute journey just to watch
Glenn Close. Good lines, good pauses, blue eyes that can flash anger, signal
disappointment, smile, and show fierce determination. The Wife,
the wife – a woman to be reckoned with, not to be taken lightly. Tight
film and excellent performances. As an author/writer, I enjoyed the literature
aspect of this movie.
Unmasked by Andrew Lloyd Weber is part one of
his memoir. Oh it’s a bit much. The man goes into far too much detail of
his childhood, and he does blather a bit. BUT, this book is immensely skim
worthy. He’s chatty in the humorous British way – he can be snarky and you, the
reader, do feel like you are at tea or perhaps a bar and he’s regaling you with
stories. So, it’s a fun book if you are interested in all things Weber and
His behind the scenes look at the London stage and Broadway
is fascinating. The amount of work involved in putting on a show is amazing.
And certainly , his successes are not to be sneered at, nor does he shy away
from the failures in his book. He dishes on various people and his
collaborations with deep talent – Tim Rice, Robert Stigwood, Harold Prince,
Cameron McIntosh, and Trevor Nunn. There are plenty of details on his first hit
– Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the fabulous Jesus
Christ Superstar, Evita, the groundbreaking Cats, and he ends
this book with the history dazzling Phantom of the Opera.
He’s obviously a brilliantly talented man with interests in
architecture and music. His witty anecdotes of numerous celebrities -
Sarah Brightman, Judi Dench, Mandy Patinkin, Patti LuPone, Michael Crawford,
Betty Buckley, and more will keep you turning pages. There’s a lot to be
learned and shared in Unmasked. If you like theater, this
is a book for you. If you’ve seen Phantom more than once…this
book is for you. If you are a T.S Elliott Cats fan….well, read
for the Memory….like I said, you can skim and hum and chuckle along.
David Sedaris is one of my favorite writers and his latest
book, Calypso, does not disappoint. He’s hilarious. His
observations on people and life can be a tad rude, and yet spot on. From
the cover blurb – This is beach reading for people who detest beaches,
required reading for those who loathe small talk, and love a good tumor joke.
Calypso is simultaneously Sedaris’ darkest and warmest book yet – it is comedy
born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you
realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future.
His twist of phrase, his timing, and his family dynamics
will keep you turning the pages. In each essay, you feel like he’s just hanging
out telling stories. I’ve been to one of his author talks and that’s worth the
price of admission in itself. He’s quirky and knows it and can laugh at
He’s bought a beach house and family can gather. Oh, the
stories there…and his thoughts too -
p.13 When visitors leave, I feel like an actor
watching the audience file out of the theater, and it was no different with my
sisters. The show over, Hugh and I returned to lesser versions of
p.67 I’m not sure how it is in small families, but in
large ones relationships tend to shift over time. You might be best friends
with one brother or sister, then two years later, it might be someone else. It
doesn’t mean you’ve fallen out….just that you’ve merged into someone else’s
lane. The beauty of it is that it’s always changing.
p.91 Memory aside, the negative just makes for a
better story: the plane was delayed, an infection set in, outlaws
arrived. Happiness is harder to put into words.
Well I can state that David Sedaris makes me happy. His
writing is just different in a good way. He’s funny and also can be poignant,
then hit a snarky note that’s perfect.
Joanne Faries, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray. She considers herself fortunate to be able to pursue a writing career after eons in the business world. Joanne enjoys reading and movies, and is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba.