Friday, August 31, 2018
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Here But Not Here by Lillian Ross is a non-fiction memoir about her life with William Shawn and her time with The New Yorker magazine. She was a renowned writer, Shawn was the fabled editor, and together there was a forty year love affair. He remained married to his wife and Lillian Ross respected that marriage. The wife knew about Ross and gave the relationship her blessing. Yes, this is a bit bizarre to contemplate, and yet it worked. She felt she had a “normal” life and never dated others, never considered her “single” life sad. She did not make demands of Shawn. The time they could spend together at work and go out in New York City proved enough. He did not shirk his kids, etc. This was a case for him of being immersed in love – a married love, and an amazing connection love.
The book covers the 1950s to Shawn’s death in 1992. Ross writes about meeting Shawn, her respect for him, her writing career, her time in Hollywood covering a John Huston film, and her life in New York. Here But Not Here is fascinating. It’s not creepy weird. Yes, real life is stranger than fiction. And so is love. They had an intellectual connection that transcended conventions.
Lillian Ross’s descriptions of being a writer for The New Yorker, her respect for the magazine and it’s writers, her respect for the editors is rather interesting and pertinent for today. The amount of work and editing and quality required was enormous. I’ve read other books by Ross – i.e. a collection of her articles and essays. She’s a talent, and this book – a memoir – is well done. Quite a tale!
Monday, August 27, 2018
Friday, August 24, 2018
I was recently back East and caught up with my friends at Helen's shore home.
l-r Terri, Joan, Lisa, Trish, Me, Helen (Mary Ellen is photographer)
We took turns and read The Trumpeter's New Clothes by Robyn Alana Engel/ illustrated by Steve Ferchaud aloud. Each of us read two pages each and showed the pictures. Plenty of guffaws, chuckles, and comments galore. And then at the end....applause. Everyone was in awe of this book and planned to buy a copy (or two)
Trumpeter is a modern day spin on Hans Christian Andersen's classic children's tale, The Emperor's New Clothes. The story it tells in rhyme is current, topical, hilarious, and ends in a very heartfelt message. The illustrations are fantastic.
Robyn Alana Engel is a talented writer with a way of looking at our world with wisdom and passion. I highly recommend this book despite some Fake Quotes about this book - i.e. The fake arthur is a - you know a total looser, a total looser! Sad! - King
on Amazon and
follow her blog Life by Chocolate
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Ancient polaroids fading into nothingness........
Monday, August 20, 2018
Crazy Rich Asians met all expectations based on previews. Great cast, good story, some depth, and gorgeous backdrop. It’s a rich film to see on the big screen. Huge thumbs up. It’s directed by Jon M. Chu adapted from Kevin Kwan’s novel. It’s a swoon worthy romance. Funny, poignant, and entertaining. Constance Wu is Rachel Chu – Chinese American economics professor from Queens who grew up with a single mom. She’s achieved the American dream. Dating Nick Young (handsome Henry Golding) after a year, he wants her to join him in a trip to Singapore to meet the family. He’s a best man in a wedding. Should be a fun trip….
Turns out Nick comes from mega wealth – a Singapore dynasty. Rachel is the interloper – an American who has no clue. The film covers the visit. When Nick’s mother Eleanor (the fantastic Michelle Yeoh) meets Rachel, the icy reception is hard to miss. But Nick is so in love, he’s sure that Rachel will charm his grandmother, mother, and family. Oh dear, that’s sweet but so naïve. There’s a lot more depth to the story – the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the backstabbing Singapore family, the welcoming family, Rachel’s old college friend (and true support), and the on-screen energy between Nick and Rachel. This film works and you root and cringe as the story plays out. There is a lot more to the story – power, parentage, values, money, and love. Singapore looks gorgeous. The concept of really, really rich is brought to the screen. But money doesn’t always buy happiness or security as we see in some side stories.
The key is Nick and Rachel and they are really good together. Go see Crazy Rich Asians and root for them. This is such a nice end to summer movie season – a film with culture, conflict, passion, and fun film making. Aah…young love……..Jon
Friday, August 17, 2018
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-stein is a memoir that takes you behind the scenes inside the Obama White House. Now, don’t tune out here. This has some political overtones, but it’s not going to beat you over the head. The key to this is the inside look at just working in a presidency – being in the White House, riding in Air Force One, blending into the background to record history. Beck Dorey-Stein answers a Craigslist ad and ends up in 2012 working as a stenographer in the Oval Office.
Cover blurb – The ultimate D.C. outsider, she joins the elite team who accompany the president wherever he goes, recorder and mic in hand. On whirlwind trips across time zones, Beck forges friendships with a dynamic group of fellow travelers – young men and women who, like her, leave their real lives behind to hop aboard Air Force One in service of the president.
This book is rather fascinating. It’s quite a life to work 24/7 for our president, whomever is in office. There’s glamour, drama, intrigue, and a lot of protocol. There are hook-ups, plenty of alcohol, and then amazing moments – chances to see places that the normal , average American will never experience. The author writes with the right amount of awe – she did appreciate her opportunity to witness history and be a part of our government in action. She was also young and I got a tad tired of her obsession with Jason – a total cad and jerk who knew how to play all of the ladies. I skimmed a bit when he was in the picture. But overall – the book has merit. She got very good at blending in with plants and/or finding a corner to record the transcript moment (tough to do in an Oval Office). Good book with a different perspective.
Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Songs by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and more - look at that list. I'm not up on my blues, but the singer/actors at the Jubilee brought this show to life. Chelsea Bridgman, Jamall Houston, Natalie King, and Cherish Robinson had fabulous voices full of heart, soul, and guts.
The sets and production are rich, the theater is small, but the voices are big. All I can say is WOW!
Go find a live show to experience. You don't have to pay a fortune to appreciate so much talent.
Monday, August 13, 2018
Eighth Grade. Junior High. Age thirteen. Any fond memories of junior high? No?? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I don’t know about you folks, but junior high for me was a mouthful of braces, bad skin, dorky glasses, bad greasy hair, and barely in a bra. (Too much information, but hey, we’re adults now.) Writer/director Bo Burnham captures the horror perfectly in the film Eighth Grade. This film is Oscar worthy, and the performance by Elsie Fisher (Kayla) is spot-on perfect. In ninety minutes, Burnham presents the final week of eighth grade. Kayla is voted Most Quiet much to her chagrin. She’s invited (by the mom) to one of the “cool” girl’s birthday swim party. She comes out in a one piece – slightly chubby – and looks around at all of the girls in two piece bikinis. It’s a slow death moment. (I’ve been there).
Kayla’s a smart girl, cute, and as you watch the movie you know she’s going to be fine. She’ll hit her stride in high school and truly blossom in college. But for now – this week – is filled with the anguish, torture, uncertainty, and naïve hope that is being thirteen. And there’s boys. ‘Nuff said. They are idiots. But there’s the super cute one voted “Best Eyes”, and she wants his attention.
Plus Kayla is being raised by her father (Josh Hamilton) who’s at a loss for how to deal with a kid becoming a woman. He’s used to the adoring little girl. Now he’s got a teen who rolls her eyes, grits her teeth, and stares at her phone. Anything he says is wrong. He’s helpless but cares so much. Fortunately there is a moment in the movie near the end where he says the right thing, has the right amount of silence, listens, and the love of a father/daughter shines through.
Ninety minutes of moments are captured perfectly. Eighth Grade is excellent quiet film making. I chuckled, I squirmed, I re-lived some of the horror, and I was grateful to NOT have grown up in the age of social media. It’s a cold cruel world at thirteen. This film is brilliant.
Friday, August 10, 2018
and that's the birthday fun for Ray last week. Summer in TX - the only way to celebrate is poolside.
Sorry I didn't save you folks any watermelon. Darn tasty.
Happy Friday and weekend. I'm off to Philly to see Dad for a few days.
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh transports you to 1950s Kenya. The British Empire is fading and sweeping change rumbles. Rachel returns to her home after six years in an exile of sorts. She was sent to live in England with a stodgy aunt and uncle after her mother is killed in a car crash. Now graduated, a young lady, she’s eager to dig her hands into her late mother’s garden, ride her horse over the lands she loved as a kid, and breathe in the air, hear the hoots, growls, and haunting howls of the animals. Swahili phrases return to her, and she’s eager to resume her African life.
But alas, many changes cause upheaval. Her father’s new companion is an intolerant woman who’s removed traces of Rachel’s mother and appears to resent Rachel’s return.
Cover blub – The political climate of the country is growing more unsettled every day. Looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau – a secret society intent on uniting the Africans and overthrowing the whites. As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home, she initiates a secret relationship. One that will demand from her an act of betrayal. But she has some secrets of her own. Her knowledge brings her power.
The author obviously did research to bring this fictional story to life. I found the backdrop fascinating and the characters are rich. You root for Rachel to find her footing, redeem the hard work her mother put into embracing Kenya and its people, and you root for Rachel to overcome evil forces (hint – I’m talking within her own household family) and survive. The leopard represents a silent, lurking, smart creature that might not be seeking your best interest. Beware of footsteps in the night.
Monday, August 6, 2018
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann is a non-fiction work of literary journalism that reads like a mystery. It concerns the Osage murders and the birth of the FBI.
Cover blurb – In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. Oil was discovered beneath their land and the money poured out of the earth into a life of mansions and cars.
Then the murders began. We see the story from the viewpoint of Mollie Burkhart as her sisters became prime targets and relatives were shot and poisoned. Others in the Osage nation died under mysterious circumstances, and even those doing investigations ended up dead. The death toll rose and the overall case was taken up by the new FBI and young director, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover turned to Tom White, a former Texas Ranger. He in turn used an undercover team that included a Native American agent. They infiltrated this last remnant of the Wild West, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Gann’s research is thorough and his writing is clean. You meet the characters, learn the backgrounds, and are invested in the Osage and their families. Not everyone is clean and pure, but the cold hearted deaths are inexcusable. This book shoots straight in its presentation, and the words will pierce your heart. Killers of the Flower Moon is an enlightening read.
Friday, August 3, 2018
Mission Impossible – Fallout is incredible movie making and a top notch addition to the whole series. Tom Cruise (plays Ethan Hunt) is aging but still believable as he foils the plot of M16 operative turned anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). Cruise dives, dashes, zooms, careens, and also climbs into a helicopter. His derring-do stunts are legendary and gasp worthy. His sidekicks played by Ving Rhames (Luther), Simon Pegg (Benji), and Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa) are reliable and add some humor and drama to the movie.
There are plenty of double-triple crosses. Vanessa Kirby’s White Widow brings a lot of energy to the film – is she good or bad? Henry Cavill’s CIA operative is assigned to shadow the group. Oh, he’s a cool cucumber and there are some tight scenes with Cruise. Angela Bassett is a top dog and she and Alec Baldwin go toe to toe in regards to the departmental power struggle. There’s plutonium out there with the potential for disaster. Tick Tock Tick….
Lots of travel, action, kick moves, and more. The plot almost goes too quick – I had to think a bit to keep track of who was doing what to whom and why? But there’s heart in this film too – some golden moments with Ethan and his people demonstrating a little fatigue, some world weary concern. Whew! This is a quality summer blockbuster. Cruise runs and runs, defies gravity at times, hangs from a rope, and more. He is his own mission impossible against time. But I recommend you use your time to see MI – Fallout