Monday, July 30, 2018

Book Review - The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is an excellent read.  There are two stories entwined:  1947 – After WWII, Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and hoping to find her cousin Rose. Charlie travels to London determined to find her. What incurs is half of the book and very exciting.

1915 – Eve Gardiner is recruited to work as a spy.  She’s trained by the fabulous Lili, aka Alice, and joins a network of amazing women. The Alice Network is fierce,  deep, and full of heart and soul. Right under the enemy’s nose, these women work in restaurants, etc. and discover amazing Nazi secrets.  Now thirty years later, Eve is a drunk – but becomes engulfed in a search by Charlie for a lost soul named Rose. Oh, and so many other skeletons surface.  The truth is difficult to face, but so necessary for many.  The name Rene Bordelon will live long in your memory. He is evil incarnate!

The name Finn is fabulous – oh yeah, he’s a hero for Eve and Charlie.

The intertwined stories here are well done and so intriguing. You will keep turning pages and rooting for good over evil, life over death, and women power extraordinaire.  I highly recommend The Alice Network.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Won't You Be My Neighbor

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Is a documentary about Mr. Rogers – a television pioneer in children’s programming.  Wow. Take tissues. And I am giving this an Academy Award now. So well done. The research, film clips, and overall manner of this film is classy.

Fred Rogers, an ordained pastor, finds a need back in the early 1960s for appropriate children’s television programming. He did not like slap stick or signs of violence. He advocated a peaceful learning situation and his neighborhood was filled with diversity and a chance to address kids. His show grew from a PBS station in Pittsburgh PA to a monster show. He actually listened to kids. He respected kids. He showed the use of silence…it can be useful to draw out folks. His neighborhood had the black policeman stop by and cool off his feet in Mr. Rogers small pool.  This subtly addressed the issue at the time of segregation and “white’s only” pools. He truly brought issues to the forefront without bashing folks or kids over the head. Mr. Rogers truly exemplified Christian principles.

Speakers in the film include his wife (a no-nonsense very likeable woman), his two sons, his film crew, and other family friends. The outpouring of love and respect shine through. Fred Rogers, the man on the TV screen, was the same man at home and in real life. He truly loved people, respected people, and just lived as he learned as a preacher – a dorky clean life. He was a reluctant hero of sorts, with a vision. It was easy to make fun of him, and yet this documentary shows the value of his work today. If only…..people would show respect to each other, think before speaking (or tweeting!!!)

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Is very worthy. I recommend it highly. Ninety minutes of quality film-making.  Watch, think, and take pause…a silent moment to reflect….on a very Christian message (and I use this terminology in the positive way it should evoke a sensibility. )  Enjoy

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Movie Review Madness - Ant Man and Wasp

Ant Man and the Wasp is just goofy fun. It seems like Marvel-lite, just a bonus of a Marvel hero/duo.  Paul Rudd just gets better as he ages. He still looks so boyish and projects amusement. His patter alone is worth the movie. Evangeline Lilly as Wasp can kick butt and FLY!  He even protests, “Hey, Wings? Seriously?”  And I love Michael Pena as Luis – Ant Man’s work partner in his “real” time security company job.  Pena is awesome in serious movies, but he obviously has a sense of humor and enjoys letting his freak flag fly. Some of his lines are laugh out loud funny.

I can’t begin to discuss plot. Let’s just say the word “quantum” is used a lot. Somehow, Wasp’s mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) is still floating in the quantum tunnel. Is she still alive? Hmmm…….
Wasp’s father (Michael Douglas) has been working on a way to get her back. Meanwhile, there’s some poor creature (the ghost) who is between worlds and needs the tunnel to go suck energy from Michelle. Samuel L. Jackson has been helping her. So there is a scientist war going on, a quantum war, and a whole lot of other people trying to get Douglas’s lab.  I won’t go further, and frankly just don’t ask too many questions.  This movie is just sheer movie-making effects, fun, patter, and summer don’t use your brain too much kind of movie.

The acting is fine, the effects are good – small and tiny. Paul Rudd carries the amusement and I give him props. This is a big tub of popcorn and a vat of soda worthy flick. Just laugh and go with it. Stay for the two extras at the end. What the heck! Support the Ant-Man and Wasp

Monday, July 23, 2018

Crazy from the Heat

Dateline - Texas (i.e Hell, Hades, Satan's home)  I have whined a lot this week and Ray's put up with it.  Earlier today this weather station showed 108. Ugh. I had brunch at a friend's house. When I came out my car thermometer read 112. Double Ugh!

Our pool is 95 degrees.............think about that. It's a spa, a lobster boil, not very refreshing, even warm for Ray.  Yes, we have a pool and this is a first world problem. I am aware. But I am whining.

Friday I left for work at 7:15 am and it was 85.  Ray (now semi-retired and off on Fridays) planned to mow our yard.  I told him, "Get it done before 9 am or 90 degrees. You only have 5 degrees to work with....).  I don't want to come home and find him passed out in the back yard. Triple Ugh!

I've used the heat excuse for not really cooking, not really doing anything, and not doing a decent blog post.   This is my lazy Monday post done on Sunday night. I'm not proud of myself. I've been reading. I've been to some movies. I lack motivation.

So I'm turning off the comment section. I know you kind folks. You'll offer sympathy on the heat, and generally excuse my slack-off behavior.  Do not enable me, my friends. I shall get my act together.

A "cool" spell is might be only 99 on Tuesday and I shall kick back into gear. Until then...enjoy your "weather" wherever you are. And if you are whining at 80 degrees or so...yes, I'm calling you a wimp. Suck it up, buttercup!

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!