Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wordless Wednesday


That's Ray's bowling ball and how he plays the game. 

Hope your Wednesday is a swirl of green ambition and intensity in whatever you choose to do.

(Then again, to keep the world in balance, I plan to be really lazy all day - even at work. Care to join me?)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Review - Our Souls At Night

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is a rather pleasant, low-key read. Haruf’s style is quite folksy, and he develops rich characters. Even with a slow pace, you want to hang out and visit with these people. Have a beer and/or a glass of wine with Addie Moore and Louis Waters, and see where it takes them.  Holt, Colorado is a small town with plenty to gossip about and when Addie and Louis start to be seen together (why, he’s knocking at her door after dark!), well…shut my mouth! 

Turns out, Addie knocked on Louis’s door with a proposition. Why not come over and spend the night? No, not in THAT way, for goodness sake. Just companionship. Both spouses passed a while ago, and the nights sure do get long. Louis contemplates this turn of events and calls her – I’ll be over tomorrow night, if that’s okay.  Sure. And there you go – a budding new friendship is in the works.
They ask each other questions and talk. They also sit in companionable silence. But there’s something to be said for just hearing breathing, having a touch of a hand, and a meal together.

Things blossom. Their adult kids are shocked and question what’s going on in their lives. And unfortunately, some senior health issues come into play.

I recommend reading the book first and then watching the Netflix version starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Excellent pairing/acting and fairly close to the book until the end. Typical Hollywood. But that’s okay. If you read the Our Souls at Night first, you’ll know the author’s intent.

P.S. Kent Haruf’s lack of quotation marks drove me crazy.  He said. She said. None of that at times. It took me a bit to get into his rhythm. Harrumph.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman refers to P.T. Barnum, but it could also refer to Hugh Jackman, who portrays him in this musical. What can’t Hugh do? He sings, dances, and charms on screen. This is an excellent movie for his talents, and a fun two hours to watch.  Born incredibly poor and unloved, P.T. Barnum vows he’ll be a success someday. His father is a tailor and does work at a fancy estate. That’s where PT falls in love and vows to marry the daughter. He’ll show the father that he can provide. She (Michelle Williams) falls in love with P.T. for his energy, enthusiasm, and his dream. She slogs through as he loses job after job. The family is happy.

Then he buys a museum of oddities. He sees potential. It’s the early 1800s and folks do seek entertainment. The museum builds, of course, into a circus and it’s fun to see the permutations arise. P.T. Barnum likes to make a buck, is willing to take chances, and he respects but will use society outcasts – tiny Tom Thumb, a giant, bearded lady, dog boy, and more. Ultimately he seeks some acknowledgment, for the sake of his daughters. By wrangling a rich dandy (Zac Efron) into joining the business, Barnum hopes for legitimacy. He also branches out with Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) – vowing to make her famous in America. But she has eyes for him, wants to compromise him, and again he steps too close to fire.

The Greatest Showman is a spectacular film – colorful, full of pleasant tunes, an American rags to riches tale with a sideshow of memorable characters. And Zendaya flies overhead on her trapeze. Step right up folks and buy your ticket. Let Hugh entertain you in his top hat and red coat. Fill up on the cotton candy dream.

P.S. Barnum & Bailey Circus closed for good in 2017.  Just see the story on the big screen

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Book Review - The Nest

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is quite a family tale. Lots of dysfunction, but well drawn characters and entertaining lines. You want to wring our bad boy Leo’s neck, and yet he can be so endearing.

Here’s a bit from the Prologue -  As the rest of the guests wandered the deck of the beach club under an early evening midsummer sky, taking pinched appraising sips of their cocktails to gauge if the bartender was using the top-shelf stuff and balancing tiny crab cakes on paper napkins while saying appropriate things…….(fill in more description that is superb)….and here’s the kicker line –
Leo Plumb left his cousin’s wedding with one of the waitresses.

Uh-oh. Let’s just say that Leo is charming, gorgeous, spoiled trouble. He’s the baby of the family, been catered to  and forgiven his whole life. What could go wrong?

Leap forward to find Leo being released from rehab.  The siblings – Melody, Beatrice, and Jack – have called a meeting to discuss the predicament caused by Leo. See, everyone was counting on the nest egg that’s been accumulating. We learn everyone’s problems and debts in some back story. Now it’s simmered and stewed and their mother used the nest egg to save Leo – send him to rehab. Now what? Did they have a choice? Did they want their brother to live, get saved…well, yeah…but NOT with “their” money.

Cover blurb - The Nest is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend on one another, and the ways we let one another down.
Money can sure mess up a good or bad thing. The author captures family dynamics perfectly, especially siblings – love, hate, frustration, and that undying tie to blood.  I really enjoyed this book and felt as if I knew these people through the author’s prose.  This is a debut novel and I am jealous. Kudos to Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney for leaving The Nest for us to read.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Movie Review Madness - I, Tonya

I, Tonya is a hoot.  It’s a mockumentary version of the crazy shenanigans that occurred with the U.S Figure Skating program leading up to the Olympics. Tonya Harding, scrappy unconventional skater with the ability to turn axels versus the ice princess, Nancy Kerrigan.  We hear “interviews” with Tonya, played by Margot Robbie, saying she did not know anything about the plan to get Nancy out of her way. The husband, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), is not the brightest guy in the world. His buddy and Tonya’s bodyguard, Scott, are bumbling idiots. And finally, La Vona Golden, Tonya’s mom, is brilliantly played by Allison Janney (who won a Golden Globe for this role) and she’s harsh. She pushes Tonya to excel. She smokes, drinks, curses at the rink, and is just a piece of work.

All in all, did Tonya know that Scott was going to arrange for Nancy’s knee to be whammed by a steel bar? Did Jeff really arrange for this to occur or was he just going for threats?  We’ll never know and you have to watch this film with tongue in cheek appreciation. It’s snarky and hilarious.

From a review in EW – “absurd, irreverent, piercing portrayal of a life and career in unchecked and checkered glory”.   I, Tonya proved to be a fun film to see on a cold day. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review - Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton was discovered after his death. It’s a tad rough around the edges and started a bit slow. But the story kicks into gear and turns into a fun interesting read. It’s a touch of the old west with hints of Jurassic Park to come. Who knew fossil hunting could be so dangerous, rewarding, and thrilling?

William Johnson, a spoiled Yale student, joins a world renowned paleontologist (Marsh) on a summer expedition to the Wild West. But the (cover blurb) paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis Cope. He abandons William in Cheyenne, WY, a locus of crime and vice. William joins forces with Cope and stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions. With this extraordinary treasure comes exceptional danger.

Fossils, Darwin’s theories of evolution, Wild West characters, gold rush towns, and more abound. Dragon Teeth is a decent romp led by a na├»ve young man:

p. 9   You, sir, have made a wager,” I replied. And in that moment I realized that, through no fault of my own, I would now spend the entire summer in some ghastly hot desert in the company of a known lunatic, digging up old bones.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wordless Wednesday - New Digs

 I don't have before pics, but trust me the place I work, Omega Research, just moved into the 21st century.  New laptops, computer stuff, and more space

 my view from my desk
two big monitors - now I can actually see stuff. 

Will I be more productive?   Hmmm.........that remains to be seen

Monday, January 15, 2018

Book Review - Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is a well-researched novel based on a real life New York socialite. Caroline Ferriday, as liaison to the French consulate, made a huge difference in WWII for French orphans. She also impacted Polish women from Ravensbruck concentration camp who suffered unspeakable horrors. Caroline managed to get them to the USA after the war for reconstructive surgery and help in returning to “normal” life.

Cover blurb: Kasia Kuzmerick is a Polish resistance fighter sent to Ravensbruck. Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor, is sent to work at Ravensbruck and committed to horrific surgical experiments on camp women. Caroline Ferriday is a woman on a mission. The stories cross continents as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. This debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades.

Lilac Girls is  a rich debut novel filled with well-drawn characters and compelling drama. As the stories unfold, you will be shocked at what occurred and the strength of humans to survive.

p. 440  Caroline waved toward the lilac bushes that swayed in the breeze. “It’s fitting in a way – lilacs blossom after a harsh winter.  It’s a miracle that beauty emerges after hardship.”

Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end. Kelly’s  path to finding this story and bringing it to life in novel form is fascinating. The life of Caroline Ferriday was admirable and worthy of more attention. Her strength and persistence made for a compelling read. I finished the book in awe. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Pitch Perfect 3

Pitch Perfect 3 is silly, campy fun and a great way to spend a winter two hours. Hang out with a tub of popcorn, listen to tunes, laugh, and come out smiling. The Pitches are back in fine form. 

Well, the Bellas are out of college and in the real world, and that’s a bummer. Anna Kendrick’s a music producer but feeling discouraged with the kids and crap she has to deal with. She quits. Now what?
Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson – so fabulous. Her throwaway lines are gems) is bumbling along. At a Bellas reunion, the ladies all agree they’ll do anything to sing together again. How about a USO show? They have a connection and suddenly are landing at a base in Spain. Hilarity ensues. Of course there’s a riff-off with the other bands (and they have instruments…shocking!)

Are there love connections? Yes. These ladies are on a military base for goodness sake.
Are there some daddy issues? John Lithgow appears from a long ago past to connect with Amy. But his nefarious past proves troublesome. Just go with the plot line. Rebel is vulnerable and strong.

Pitch Perfect 3 has awesome mash-ups and plenty of girl power. Don’t judge. I got my five dollars of matinee entertainment.  And hey, can’t go wrong with a George Michael finale tune – Freedom 90. Seriously, so uplifting. The Bellas are fine and ready for their own freedom in the world. Sing it loud!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wordless Wednesday - Almost

 Christmas highlights - I got a Super Spirograph. I always ask for stuff that we can keep here and play with kids. I loved Spirograph as a kid myself. My father liked. it too. What a hit. If I'm in the mood to do something artsy, I'll be playing with my new toy.
 I don't think you can have Christmas and little girls without the appearance of Barbie. And her hair already looks like a tousled mess from her Corvette ride.
Music - here's the key - bang the maracas on the tambourine....try it.  (That gift left our home!)

Yes, we are brilliant and evil.....

Happy Wednesday

Monday, January 8, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Darkest Hour

 Never Surrender

Those words are the key to Darkest Hour.  Wow – Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill is superb.  Neville Chamberlain does not have the support of Parliament. Viscount Halifax is still an up and comer. Who to tap for Prime Minister? Oh dear. Winston Churchill appears to be the man that can appease all sides. He drinks a lot, smokes those infernal cigars, he’s insufferable and goes through secretaries like crazy. King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) is not a fan. He’s a tad afraid of the man.  Winston’s wife Clemmie (the incomparable Kristen Scott Thomas) asks him to try to be patient, but she’s pleased he’s finally getting the accolades he deserves.

It’s dire times for Western Europe. Hitler is swallowing up countries – Poland, Holland, Belgium, and now in France. The United Kingdom must declare war or negotiate peace. But is Mussolini of Italy the one to work with. Oh dear. Churchill has a quandary. He’s in the War Room, looking at the map with despair. Thousands of young man are on the beaches of Dunkirk – stuck as the Germans narrow the circle. Now what? Civilian boats set sail and it looks as if the plan will work. Winston seeks out his people, the citizens for an opinion – fight or flight? That’s where he sees and hears – Never Surrender.
His great speech to Parliament at the finale of the film is stirring. His words still ring out today. History was made.

Director Joe Wright captures the times. There are many nuanced touches and tough characters. He gives us a slice of history on the big screen and doesn’t waver in showing flaws and strengths. It’s a wow.  I loved a line from the movie in regards to Winston – “He mobilized the English language and sent it off into battle.”

Friday, January 5, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Star Wars Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has more than myth going for it. This is a movie filled with character, emotional arcs, and a real story line.  It’s exciting and rich filmmaking. I still would have cut approximately thirty minutes (yes, I realize I am not the target audience, but some of the air battle scenes go on too long.  We get it – zoom zoom, swish, and shoot)  (And there is one too many trips up and down the mountain with Luke and Rey – we get it. He’s trying to break her down. And gee – she’s persistent).  Picky, picky, I know, but that’s me being a critic.

Otherwise, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is in fine form and showing more and more power. Her confidence grows and she’s learning. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is evil, yet we get more of some emotional undercurrents.  Po, Finn, Laura Dern as a military leader – steely enough, and new Resistance worker bee – Rose – all get to rise to the occasion and be a hero.  I’m not going to delve into more plot line. Suffice to say, the Resistance is battling the First Order and the Supreme Leader Snoke. Take sides and root for winners.

And there’s Leia – the late Carrie Fisher – still in the film, still important. The filmmaking they achieved when she was alive is fabulous. She’s grand, she’s funny, and she lends gravitas. As for Luke, is he the last Jedi? Mark Hamill’s blue eyes are more vulnerable, less piercing. Older, wiser, and weary – Luke is a key to the magic.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one to see on the big screen. I know it came out before Christmas, but if you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? A galaxy far, far away….

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

RIP - Sue Grafton

Alas, Sue Grafton passed at age 77 before completing her alphabet mystery series. A fun, decent writer gone too soon.

A Is For Alibi started it all in 1982. Kinsey Millhone, a young private detective, let us into her life in Southern California and led us through a lot of puzzles. She was dogged, intrepid, smart, wily, and also keenly perceptive about the human condition.

Ms.Grafton said, "I find it more interesting to see what the constant exposure to violence and death really does to a human being, how a person incorporates that into their psyche." (from The Times interview 1985)

Y is for Yesterday was published in August, 2017. That is her final book. According to her family, Sue Grafton never wanted the series turned into movies, TV shows, or allow a ghost writer to continue in any vein. Thus, the alphabet ends at Y. (from her DMN obituary).

Sue Grafton was a solid author with a unique character in Kinsey. She grew in confidence in front of our eyes. By keeping the series in the 1980s, Grafton avoided the ease of too much technology. Old fashioned,hardcore beat footwork was the name of the detective game.

I hoofed along with Kinsey and enjoyed the ride, cruising up and down the CA highways, stopping for a run at the beach, and trying to guess the outcome of the mystery. Sue Grafton's work lives on.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year 2018

Happy New Year

A bit brisk in Texas, and I know it's quite the deep freeze around the nation.

Welcome back. Hope everyone had a good holiday, a week of family, fun, and also reflection and contemplation of what's ahead.

I already broke a resolution. Well.......I contemplated jogging. The thermometer proclaimed 28 degrees and I said, "Hell, no."  So, that's out of the way. Whew!

I do plan on posting more movie reviews, book reviews, and general jargon in 2018. I hope to attend some theater, symphonies, museum exhibits, and more. I'll give you peeks into the arts, and share the fun.

Write more?  Yes, it's a plan.

Fine writing, next to doing nothing, is the best thing in the world - John Keats

He did nothing; he was a poet - Sheila Mooney

I'm a lousy writer but a hellava lot of people have lousy taste - Grace Metalous (Peyton Place)

Let's have a laugh or two, and make the best of 2018.

Blog on!