Monday, December 11, 2017

Book Review - Origin by Dan Brown

It’s tough to read a Dan Brown book featuring his Professor Robert Langdon, and not imagine actor Tom Hanks running around exotic locales figuring  out the mystery. The movie is already on the pages. Origin is no different.  Edmond Kirsch is a genius billionaire and futurist who is about to make a bold announcement that will stun scientists and the world. He was a student of Langdon, and claims his breakthrough will “answer a fundamental question of human existence”.

In a huge presentation, guests are immersed in a multi-media event. But chaos erupts, there’s a murder, and the “discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever.” (cover blurb). Robert Langdon must escape the Bilbao museum with Ambra Vidal, the museum director and fiancĂ©e to the prince of Spain, heir to the throne.  Ambra was a good friend to Edmond and now worried about a conspiracy. Key religious figures are disappearing, and perhaps the Cardinal is to blame. “Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon must evade a tormented enemy.” Modern art, symbols, and the usual mumbo-jumbo lead Robert Langdon to clues to uncover answers.

Origin by Dan Brown is an amusing read. It’s breezy and skimmable, a fluff thriller that throws in a lot of blather to make it sound edgy. And it should be another chance for Tom Hanks to run around exotic locales. Thank goodness, he has job security.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Movie Review - Lady Bird

Lady Bird is the first artsy movie in a while that’s been on my radar, lived up to expectations, and is worthy of Oscars. High praise. Saoirse Ronan is a formidable young actress and her portrayal of Christine “Lady Bird” is amazing. She’s  a senior who wants to leave…just leave Sacramento – ready to fly the nest – head to NYC or anywhere. So her math grades aren’t awesome and she has an attitude, but she’s very open to new experiences. Chomping at the bit. 

She’s a young lady with doting parents. The key is her mother played by Laurie Metcalf (also Oscar worthy). The mom is a nurse/counselor for a psychiatric hospital and works hard. She also puts up with and fights “Lady Bird” on many levels, but it is with care and concern. There are too many great moments to mention in this “little film”. It’s about life, day to day interactions. It’s about Lady Bird surviving Catholic school. She cares and yet bursts at the seams to not be Catholic. She’s excited about her first boyfriend (Lucas Hedges) and then is disappointed. This movie is about traversing that senior teen year when you just aren’t quite a grownup but think you are.  And meanwhile, your parent knows you aren’t a kid, but just can’t let go.

Lady Bird is a gem with so many good moments. It’s quiet even when it’s loud. It’s funny even when it’s poignant. I am gushing and could see this again in a heartbeat. Go flap your wings, remember your potential at eighteen, and see this film.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - almost

Thanksgiving Sunday - gorgeous day at Sundance Square in Fort Worth. I met a long time friend - Trish and her husband for brunch at Yolk.. Very tasty.

We do not have many pics of the two of us. So this a rare sighting together. Long time friends - we met poolside at Lincoln Green apartments - we were reading books! was fate!

Happy Wednesday many years later..........

Monday, December 4, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Coco

Coco is Pixar’s Hispanic reworking of the Wizard of Oz. I have not read that anywhere, but that’s what struck me.  There’s no place like home or family is at the heart of the story. It is a lovely story and movie. The animation is gorgeous. The story is rich. The actors who voice the characters are excellent. I highly recommend this movie for ages 6 and up. Based on the audience I sat with, those kids sat still, stayed quiet, and enjoyed the flick. Any child younger – NO. Do not bring them. Get a babysitter – no, I do not care if you are trying for family bonding. That is rude for the rest of the audience.

So – Miguel wants to play music, but it is forbidden in his family. On the Day of the Dead celebration, the family salutes the ancestors but one man is cut out of all pictures. Miguel is sure it is Ernesto de la Cruz – the greatest musician ever. So he steals Ernesto’s guitar from the mausoleum and is suddenly sent to the afterworld in a transitory state.  He must get approval from an ancestor to return and be able to pursue music.  But alas there are complications. Miguel gets help from Hector who worked with Ernesto. But there’s far more to that story……spoiler alert that I will NOT divulge.

Let’s just say it’s a race against time for great –great grandmother Coco to not forget her true love. This is the key to Miguel’s future.  There’s murder, there’s death, there’s humor, and there is the theme of life and family. All truly heartwarming and of course, it ends well.  Root for Miguel. Enjoy the brilliant palette of animation.  I really loved this movie and highly recommend it.

The Day of the Dead has a whole new meaning for me……

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review - The Burning Girl

Claire Messud has another compelling read – The Burning Girl.  I really liked The Woman Upstairs, so when I saw she had a new book I got on the library waitlist. It was worthy being in a queue.

This is a coming of age book. Julia and Cassie have been friends forever, but the dynamics change in adolescence – friendship, goals, and actions. From the cover blurb – The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality – crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.

The author captures the ups and downs of girls, the struggles and competition when boys enter the picture, and the issue of family. Julia’s family is solid and caring. Cassie’s changes with a new stepfather. I enjoyed this story and felt the pain and heartache of lost and found friendship, deep history and concern even when paths diverge. Claire Messud’s writing is very smooth and her characters and story flow will keep you interested. Thumbs up on The Burning Girl. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express is a lush remake of an Agatha Christie tale. If you’ve never read her work, I suggest you march to the library and check out one of her books. She was a prolific talented writer with some very defined characters, good plot twists, and that old English humor twinkle in the eye.  So, for this film, there’s a large gathering of seemingly random characters all with a backstory, a reason to be guilty, and a dead body on a train. Whodunit?

I can’t write any more about the plot. You need to go see this movie and watch the twists and turns evolve. Kenneth Brannaugh directed and stars as Hercules Poirot – the most brilliant detective in the world. He’s an extremely fussy, fanatic man with an eye for detail and a mustache that deserves its own Oscar.  Everyone else has their quirks and suspicions. Dame Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Penelope Cruz, and more are along for this ride. The scenery is spectacular, the filming works well – at times you feel the confinement and rocking of the train.

Murder on the Orient Express harks back to an old timey flick in a good way. Punch your ticket and go All Aboard for an entertaining two hours. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Hollywood Hits

Sunday November 5th, I sat in plush seats at Bass Hall and enjoyed another Fort Worth Symphony program. I settled in when the opening John Williams notes soared - Theme from Raiders of the Lost Arc

The Hollywood Hits kept coming including a whole James Bond theme section. Very cool to hear Live and Let Die, Goldfinger, etc.

A vocalist -Kelly Levesque - sang some lovely numbers too. The guest conductor, Brian Byrne, was an Irish fellow with a pleasant manner and a good sense of humor. He talked about some of the numbers, and conducted his own theme from Albert Hobbs, a movie that starred Glenn Close.

The finale included grand movie themes - Tara's Theme from Gone With the Wind, Lara's Theme from Dr. Zhivago, and of course we finished with Rocky's Theme. I left the symphony ready for victory, but I had already won - my heart was filled with music.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all

I wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Whether you travel afar or hang at your hearth, may your heart and stomach be full.

But if you are hungry, come by at 3 pm for desserts and Cowboy football. I bet it will be noisy at our house.

Enjoy and take care

Monday, November 20, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Thor - Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is a Marvel romp. This movie has star power and humor. So many of these super hero flicks get so serious with world mayhem and destruction. Oh, Thor: Ragnarok has plenty of battles, but it also has a stunning Chris Hemsworth – his locks are shorn, but his snark factor grew. He has great comedic timing and it’s put to plenty of good use. The dialogue is whip smart whether he’s talking to Loki (I love Tom Hiddleston), or teasing the Hulk (a rueful Mark Ruffalo), or bantering with his evil sister Hela (a fabulous Cate Blanchett).

I won’t go into plot line. Needless to say there are plenty of Marvel character appearances, plenty of power grabs, and  Hela stirring up fiendish trouble. When she dons her crazy black reindeer antler crown, you need to brace yourself for some serious action. She’s crazy good. And then there’s Jeff Goldblum. He takes wacky to a whole other level and is perfect for this role.

This movie is huge tub of popcorn worthy. Stay through the two bonus scenes during the credits, and enjoy the glory of Thor-Ragnarok on the big screen.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review - Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Norwegian author of Autumn, writes to his unborn daughter and adds an essay a day on random subjects. This is a very unique personal meditation with acute observations. I enjoyed reading this work, and I would stop and look around my little world and contemplate descriptions of the mundane. Some of his musings cover – apples, wasps, teeth, twilight, chewing gum, and silence. This is the first of four volumes – Autumn, with future Winter, Spring, and Summer. I look forward to the rest of the seasons and his marvelous writing.

Cover blurb and opening:
I want to show you our world as it is now: the door, the floor, the water tap and the sink, the garden chair close to the wall beneath the kitchen window, the sun, the water, the trees. You will come to see it in your own way, you will experience things for yourself and live a life of your own, so of course it is primarily for my own sake that I am doing this; showing you the world, little one, makes my life worth living.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Maverick Speaker - Roland Fryer

Oh Ray wanted to leave for his deer lease after work on Thursday 11/2. But no, he had agreed a month or so before that he would attend a Maverick Speaker Series talk with me. (He's my night driver). Anyway, despite a reluctant start, we had a splendid evening. First, dinner at Italianni's - yummy manicotti for me and chicken parm for Ray.  Then we heard Roland Fryer talk about education, race, economics, reward systems, and more.

This Harvard Economist and Professor was excellent. He discussed being raised by his grandmother and her words of wisdom that kept him on the right path. He talked about mentors that boosted his esteem and let him know he was capable of hard work. He learned about preparation - study for tests, study for talks, do the advance work necessary to succeed. He talked about the need to give kids attention and expectations.

He is concerned about kids and education - said it is absolutely the key to all of our futures. His research and work has made some inroads, but there's way more to be done. Just throwing money at education is not the solution. Early reading programs, daily tutoring, and attainable goals are just the beginning. His hour long talk was an overview. He left me wanting to hear more.

And I agree - no excuses, just hard work is needed to fix education for all.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review - The Hamilton Affair

I read The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs with the Broadway soundtrack of Hamilton playing in my head.  This was unfair to the author because I felt like I was getting a rerun of history and it was not to a rap beat. However, Cobbs obviously did plenty of research and she gives a faithful and decent rendering of life highlights in her historical novel on Alexander and Eliza Hamilton.

From the cover blurb – Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Revolution and featuring a cast of iconic characters such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette, the book tells a sweeping, tumultuous true love story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler, from tremulous beginning to bittersweet ending – a dueling ground along the Hudson.

From scrappy bastard in St.Croix to the writer of the Federalist Papers and creator of the U.S. Treasury, Alexander Hamilton had a way with big ideas and concepts. He could flourish his quill and also fight on the battlefield. His love of country, his fierce loyalty, and his long abiding faith in independence and democracy allowed him to soar as an American patriot. Oh, he was a man of many flaws (and an affair) too, but his wife, Eliza, remained steadfast and supportive. Aaron Burr shall live in infamy as the man who cut short Hamilton’s life in a famous duel.

The Hamilton Affair is a solid piece of historical fiction.  (The book is cheaper than a Broadway ticket, too) Brush up on your Hamilton lore, be inspired, and don’t waste your shot in life.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Future Friday

Yes,this is a picture of a snow globe, but use your imagination. Now do you see a crystal ball?

What's ahead for your future?  Can't see that far ahead?  How about what's happening this weekend?
Okay...still no ideas....then what's for lunch?

Ponder that and more as you read quotes I found on the future.  Food for thought (until you decide on that lunch)

The future is a convenient place for dreams - Anatole France

The future remains uncertain and so it should, for it is the canvas upon which we paint our desires - Frank Herbert

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past - Thomas Jefferson

Hit the future as hard as your money and brains will permit. Otherwise you will be out of date tomorrow - John Baptiste Yeon II

( I see pizza in my future)   Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Movie Review - Victoria and Abdul

Victoria and Abdul is a British costume drama directed by Stephen Frears. And who better to star as Queen Victoria than Dame Judi Dench?  She’s always so good and indeed commands the screen. We first see her going through lots of dinners and ceremonies for a jubilee celebration. Yawn. She’s bored, old, and tired. Then she perks up. A young humble man (he’s chosen because he is tall) from India (played by Ali Fazal) arrives to present her with a mohur – a ceremonial coin. He dares to look her in the eye and his energy and bearing give her a spark. She commands his presence and eventually gives him the title of Munshi – a teacher. She becomes more interested in India and is keen on learning some language, history, etc.

Slowly, Abdul seems to have too much power over her. Her staff and son (played by Eddie Izzard) conspire to find a fault in Abdul, to find a way to banish him from the court. However, the Queen is feisty and with a twinkle in her eye she does not buckle. She might be short and fat, but she stands tall. The movie is based on old journals found long after Abdul was back in India and died. It’s a unique snippet of history and the movie takes a lot of liberties with the story.

However, for entertainment value, I was amused. I enjoyed Judi Dench’s performance immensely, and Ali Fazal was a worthy foil. Victoria and Abdul is a pleasant way to pass some time and step into a royal setting.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Review - The Boy is Back

The Boy is Back is a silly romp by Meg Cabot. It’s  a no-brainer read and that’s a good thing in the fall. Sit on your patio with a pumpkin spice beverage and laugh as you read her compilation of texts, emails, and humorous dialogue between a family and friends in a small town. Reed Stewart escaped Bloomfield, Indiana by hitting the pro golf tour. He’s rich and famous, and now he’s back to help sort out his parent’s estate problems. His parents caused a small town scandal by not paying a local restaurant. Social media explodes and the Judge is under fire. As Reed and his siblings uncover his parents hoarder tendencies (gavels and cat statues), their lack of money despite country club pretenses, and  health issues, it’s time to call in a senior relocation specialist. 

Cue dramatic music.

The specialist is none other than Becky Flowers,  Reed’s former girlfriend who was ditched by him on prom night. Can you say awkward?  Or is it a chance to fall in love again?  I bet you can guess where the plot line heads and that’s okay. Meg Cabot has an ear for current lingo. She keeps the ball rolling with plenty of catch dialogue and laugh out loud moments. The Boy is Back with a vengeance. Very amusing read.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Movie Review - Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes is entertaining and brings back a slice of history. Emma Stone transforms into Billie Jean King, age 29 – the number one female tennis player in 1973. She’s fiercely competitive, conflicted in her life, and takes on the tennis establishment by breaking off into a splinter group.  Her Virginia Slims sponsored tour seeks better pay for women athletes. Billie Jean forged a path for women’s rights and is still respected today.  In the film, she faces Jack Kramer, the smug director of the USTA, and says, “It’s when we want a little bit of what you’ve got. That’s what you can’t stand.”

Steve Carell plays the bumbling Bobby Riggs, age 55, who’s a gambler, a hustler, and is still trying to live off the glory of his past tennis career. He’s got a wealthy wife, but is bored. He issues a challenge that a woman can’t beat a man at tennis. What starts as a joke turns into a full court battle/show. He mugs for the camera, poses with scantily clad women, and is confident he can win. Billie Jean trains and ultimately takes this very seriously. It’s a bold statement for her to win this tennis match.

The movie packs a lot into its two hours. You get background, you get sport, you get the bombast, and the buildup. In 1973 it was a major television event. Spoiler alert – Billie Jean won in three sets. She truly was a trailblazer for women. Emma Stone glows with the energy and vibrant spirit of Billie Jean. She’s not just a girl, she’s a woman taking on a man, tennis, and a bit of the world.  Battle of the Sexes is an energetic entertaining film. Game.. Set.. Match

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review - Sing, Unburied, Sing

Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is serious literary fiction. I can appreciate her writing, but I can’t say I liked the story. And maybe it was a bit deep for me. I did find myself skimming.  From the cover blurb -  an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present examining ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.

I liked JoJo, the thirteen year old boy who’s trying to be a man. His white father is being released from prison. His true role model is Pops, his black grandfather. His white grandparents choose to not acknowledge him. His mother, Leonie, is a druggie mess who loves JoJo and his baby sister, but is selfish and inconsistent in her parenting. Leonie’s dead brother appears to her in visions. JoJo also can see dead spirits and is guided by a young man who died in prison. (Here’s where it gets heavy with some history burdens of the Deep South weighing on his soul) All in all the book touches on fathers and sons, legacies, violence, and love (cover blurb)

There are some powerful moments, and perhaps as I write this review, I’m seeing the book in a more favorable light. It’s worthy of a deep book club discussion. This is not easy breezy reading for escape.  You’ve been warned. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

I've Got My Eyes on You

Happy Halloween spirit

I wish you plenty of treats this week and no tricks

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dream of Stars - Anousheh Ansari

Ray and I enjoyed another interesting speaker at UT Arlington. Their Maverick Speaker Series brings in vibrant folks who encourage us to dream and dare. Anousheh Ansari was the first female private space explorer. Also the first Iranian and Muslim in space. Her eight days aboard the International Space Station completed a dream she had as a little girl, and also pushed her to think further about science, technology, and the future.

Ansari is the co-founder, chairwoman, and CEO of Prodea Systems - a company constantly seeking innovations in global access to technology. Her talk was very interesting. As a young girl in Iran, she drew pictures of rocket ships and dreamed of space travel. Her parents were able to flee the worn torn country in upheaval and come to America. Here, she pursued a math career but always had her head in the stars. Obviously a smart entrepreneur, her hard work did pay off.

She was able to pay for a trip in a Soyuz. Her discussion of the training, the ride in the Vomit Comet test, learning beginning Russian, etc was humorous. The preparation was rigorous. The pictures aboard the ISS - weightlessness, doing experiments, and the views from space - were awe-inspiring.

Now back on earth, Anousheh Ansari works to promote STEM education, especially for girls. She hopes to inspire youth to dream big and not give up. Look to the stars and see a future.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Whatever Wednesday

Whatever on a Wednesday - hope everyone is having a good week.

Sometimes things just strike me as I'm reading. I'm a paper person and I rip out pages in the newspaper or magazine and put them in a pile to digest again.  Here are two little blips that struck me - enjoy

From Time Magazine 10/30 issue - in regards to a collision of two neutron stars 130 million years ago that just reached Earth signals recently, scientists learned a lot.  Here is one finding that amused me:

The universe is speeding.  We know the universe is expanding and a gravitational signal from a galaxy at a known distance made it possible for the first time to measure how fast: 43 miles per second per megaparsec.  Here's the line that cracked me up - That's astronomy talk for "really fast."


And here's another comment from the Time Magazine 10/30 issue from author Philip Pullman who wrote the Golden Compass and others in a series. In regards to what he wants folks to take away from his writing, " The meaning of the book is never just what the author thinks it is. It's a great mistake to rely on the author to tell you. We don't know. The meaning is only what emerges when the book and the reader meet."

Ponder that on a Wednesday and carry on.  Happy writing and reading.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review - Today Will be Different by Maria Semple

Today Will be Different by Maria Semple is different.  I really liked an earlier work of hers, so I opened this one with a good attitude. Semple has an odd sense of humor (that I like) and her writing is smooth. However, I found the characters a bit annoying, and some of the quirkiness seemed forced. I did not stay engaged and reached a point where I did not really care what happened to Eleanor. I even sympathized with the husband and his need to explore other avenues. Plus her son acted as more of an adult than she did, and I found some of his comments to be stilted. So, I am returning this book to the library, glad that I did not pay for it. Seek out her book Where’d You Go Bernadette? Now that was a good read!

From the opening page:  Today will be different. Today I will be present…Today I will take pride in my appearance, I’ll shower, get dressed in proper clothes, and change into yoga clothes only for yoga, which today I will actually attend. Today I won’t swear….Today there will be an ease about me. Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.

Hmmm, let’s just say that goals are not met today. ‘Nuff said.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Fun

 feeling frisky on a Friday with two new pics from the State Fair of Texas.  October is such a fun month.  The pumpkin carving demo was fabulous. Farmer Mike can wield a knife.
This tower ride looked fun and the sky was stupendously blue

Always look up.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Pumpkin Mania Part 2

more pumpkin mania from this year's Dallas Arboretum Fall Spectacular.  Plus a whole lot of purple.  Too early for the mums to pop. I need to go back soon.

I pay a membership fee and I like to consider this "MY GARDEN".  They do such a good job here - my money is working hard.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mouthful Monday

Feast your eyes on this new State Fair fried food winner. It's heaven.  Only 14 coupons ($7.00). Yowza.  But trust me, worth every penny. And when you convert your hard earned money into coupons, it's like monopoly money - practically free!

This is called Fat Smooth and OMG, hell yes.   Three cream puffs fried in Cafe Du Monde beignet batter, then doused in powdered sugar with a drizzle of caramel and chocolate sauce. 

It was tough, but I did share with Ray.

(we did walk over 10,000 steps that day. I feel good about it - absolutely)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Fall Friday Frolic - The Great State Fair of Texas 2017

 Oh yes, everything is bigger in Texas.  The State Fair is a marvel. It runs for a month and is SO much fun. There are shows, exhibits, fried foods galore, and how about this wall of butter carving......Crazy, right?
 Award winning quilts in the creative arts building. Folks are so talented
 The Hall of State is a gorgeous permanent building in Fair Park.  The exhibit this year was Texas and WWI. Quite fascinating.  But I've always loved this wall sculpture.
 The Esplanade. Art Deco buildings are all around. Huge auto show is inside. Ray test drove the 2018 Chevy Colorado.  No purchase yet....
and cool statues abound.

More pics in a later post.  Happy Friday - gotta love October

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wordless Wednesday - Pumpkin Mania

Fall at the Dallas Arboretum 2017 - it's pumpkin mania..............Kerpow for Orange Power
Plus crazy gourds

Leaves me speechless

Monday, October 9, 2017

Book Review - I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool

I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool is a great title. It sums up this collection of humorous essays from the mother daughter combo of Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella.  Light and breezy, this book encompasses musings on all aspects of life and from the perspective of a sixty year old twice divorced successful author who lives in the Philly suburbs,  and a thirty year old single up and comer living in New York City.  From the cover blurb – They offer a fresh and funny take on the triumphs and face-palm moments of modern life, showing that when it comes to navigating the crazy world we live in, you’ve always been your own best lifeguard.

From Lisa’s chapter Collect Them All
Either way, I have too many books.
I know, I don’t think it’s a problem either.
The only thing is they’re overtaking my house. 
 She goes on to discuss putting book shelves in her kitchen, the only room without such shelving. It’s a funny chapter and one I could identify with.

From Francesca’s chapter Hi, My Name Is
“It’s a good networking opportunity.”
If there’s a more anxiety inducing sentence than that, I don’t know it.
Networking is the worst. I like people and I’m outgoing, but I like connecting with people on a real level. I make friends. I don’t make “contacts”.
She goes on to describe an event, and being the awkward outcast standing in a corner. We’ve all been there.

Lifeguard is a very fun non-fiction book I plucked from the library shelves. If you need a chuckle or two, this is the book for you.  Enjoy. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Movie Review Madness - Home Again

I paid $4.33 for Home Again and it was worth every penny.  I just wanted a movie at this time (2 ish) that was not too long ( 96 minutes) and that required NO thinking whatsoever. Home Again completed the mission as a total fluff piece.  Thank you Reese Witherspoon for delivering a worthy performance that only required looking adorable. Her big blue eyes never looked bluer or bigger. Her smile was never more radiant. And she pulled off that cute wrinkle the nose look.  As for the young men in the movie – oh so cute. Generically good looking, okay acting, and yes, total fluff puppy dog eyes. The girls playing Reese’s daughters were equally way too adorable. Michael Sheen is fine as the on-the-outs artsy husband. Candice Bergen (good to see her) is Reese’s mother.

This is a Nancy Meyers production and the writer/director is her daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer. That says enough. Absolutely fabulous LA home setting with a kitchen to die for, and of course the pool, guest house, etc are decorated to perfection.

Shall I discuss plot? Nah. Why muddy the waters? I didn’t go to think. I went for fluff, light drama, humor, cuteness, and a happy tidy ending. BAM!!!  Totally nailed it.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book Review - The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly changes gears from old Harry Bosch. This time in The Late Show he introduces us to young Renee Ballard, a tough detective trying to prove herself. She’s been shoved into the midnight shift due to some office politics – punishment for filing a sexual harassment complaint against a supervisor. It’s frustrating, but she’s working hard to do her job and move on. The book leaps into two cases that will keep her busy. First a prostitute is badly beaten and left for dead – a sign of an evil killer at large. Then a nightclub shooting has all the earmarks of gang activity and a possible cop on the inside. Oh the web tangles and Renee has a lot of work ahead of her.

From the cover blurb – As the investigations entwine, Ballard is forced to face her own demons and confront a danger she could not have imagined. To find justice for these victims who can’t speak for themselves, she must put not only her career but her life on the line.

Renee Ballard is an exciting new character and I look forward to reading more of her in Michael Connelly’s books. The Late Show proves to be a page-turner. Fast paced and riveting – everything you want in a crime drama thriller. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Arts and Letters - Artful Musings on a Sunday afternoon

Enjoyed a Sunday afternoon program at the Dallas Museum of Art. The theme of Artful Musings was Fame.  It consisted of letters about fame from the famous. Four performers - Todd Beadle, Jamie Maschler, David Quicksall, and Jen Taylor presented a program with letters, a slide show, and an accordion accompaniment. It was all quite entertaining, amusing, and enlightening.

The show was in four parts - the struggle, fame, stardom, and fleeting aspects. It began with a letter from a 14 year old to a magazine, hoping for acceptance. The author...Stephen King. Other letters included David Bowie writing back to his very first fan letter from America  - his response was incredibly gracious. Another letter read aloud was from a young Bruce Springsteen to his landlord explaining why he was late.

There was quite a variety - some from authors to their publishers along with a response (sadly a rejection or two). There was a very funny letter response from the Monty Python troupe - John Cleese wrote, then Michael Palin did a follow-up, along with Eric Idle. It was a hoot.

The program flowed and the performers read with verve. This was a well curated collection and performance piece. Fame - quite a concept.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Kimbell Art Museum presents Casanova - The Seduction of Europe

 Another splendid exhibit is at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, and it's there until the end of December. Casanova - the Seduction of Europe looks at the 18th century through the eyes of Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798). He traveled widely in Europe, dined with the stars - Catherine the Great, et al, He studied law, wrote, painted, and pursued love most of all. Let's just say he was quite the player.

The exhibit offers plenty of Canaletto (i.e. The Entrance to the Grand Canal), Fragonard (lots of cherubs), costumes, sculptures, and even a section of (sshh!) naughty etchings.  This is a very thorough collection of works, and a marvelous way to explore this time period. I always learn something and feast the eyes.
Here's my Casanova, Ray, posing at the entrance area. We had a really nice time in Fort Worth's Cultural District.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review - Into the Water

I had high expectations for Paula Hawkins’ next book after her excellent The Girl on the Train

Into the Water proved worthwhile but did not blow me away. From the cover blurb the book is an addictive new novel of psychological suspense about the slipperiness of truth – and one family drowning in secrets.

Nell Abbott had been researching the various deaths by drowning in the local river. All young females, all mostly declared suicides. Now Nell is dead. Was she influenced by her research? Was she suicidal? Or was this murder?  Nell’s daughter – a vulnerable angry teen is being taken care of by Nell’s sister, Jules. Jules and Nell had been estranged, so the family dynamics are messy and Jules is not comfortable with dealing with her niece. Various detectives offer their narrative too. Plus we have the strange local flavor of the town psychic, etc.  Also, Hawkins reverts to the past to give viewpoints from previous drowning victims.

I like first person chapters, but this book had too many people telling their story and it was hard to keep a continuing thread for forward progress. Into the Water is well written. It ultimately zooms along rapidly at the end to tie everything up. The book was good, not fabulous. There was a lot of deception and hidden secrets in a small town.  

From the cover blurb – Beware a calm surface – you never know what lies beneath.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Book Review - Life in Code

Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology by Ellen Ullman is an excellent nonfiction read.  This book will get the brain cells churning as you think about technology and how it has changed you and the world.  The author was in San Francisco in the 1970s as a computer programmer. She worked in this predominant boys club and her perspective is interesting. Her viewpoint as an early coder looks at the sweep of technology, cultural, and financial revolution. She writes in very clear concise concepts and terms and is very thoughtful in her assessment.

p.83 At the time, I had my reservations about the web, but not so much about the private, dreamlike state it offered. It seemed like surfing was a sometimes interesting, sometimes trivial waste of time, but in a social sense it seemed harmless.   Something changed….Fall of 1998 she saw a huge billboard in San Francisco that said, “now the world does revolve around you.”

p.87  Companies now make you believe that only you can take care of yourself. The lure of personal service is being withdrawn. In the internet age, under the pressure of globalized capitalization and its slimmed down profit margins, only the very wealthy will be served by actual human beings. The rest of us must make do with web pages, and feel happy about it.

p. 243  In regards to programming, one must develop a high tolerance for failure, learn to move forward from discouragement, find a ferocious determination, a near passionate obsession to solve a  problem, meanwhile summoning the pleasures of the hunt.

p.303 I wanted to race in and shake young people out of their internet dreams. I wanted them to see the damage the web is doing to our culture, banishing privacy, widening the divide between rich and poor, hollowing out the middle class.

She wants folks to stay vigilant. Be aware of the good and bad uses of the internet. Still depend on people. Try to not let the world revolve around you.
 Life in Code will push some buttons if you read it.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Feast for the Eyes: Plexus No. 34

Ray and I checked out the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth. In their atrium is a large-scale installation called Plexus No. 34 designed by Gabriel Dawe. It will be there for two years and includes more than eighty miles of multicolored thread.  Truly a nifty sculpture that changes in the light. As you can tell by my photos (that don't do it justice), this is truly spectacular.

Go to your local art museum and be wowed
Happy Friday and Weekend, everyone