Thursday, January 19, 2017

Deepwater Horizon

I should know better than this, but I watched Deepwater Horizon, another Mark Wahlberg film. This is based on the gruesome incident which took place in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. An oil exploration platform basically exploded, killing eleven of the workers. It is estimated to have to have spewed 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, making it the worst such accident in history. Areas of the Gulf were so befouled, fishing an important industry in that location was suspended for many months. Consequently the prices of seafood to the consumer went up exponentially. Marine life, including fish, shrimp, oysters, and birds was decimated.

In a film with harrowing scenes, one of the worst was before the humans realized the oil was starting to blow. A pelican, by the look of  it (identification was hard because the poor creature was coated in oil.) The bird flew through a window breaking it. Then it kept hitting things as it flopped around in the interior, screaming and panicking. It finally hit its head once too often and collapsed to the decking, a glass shard protruding out of its chest. Yes, I know it was done with CGI, but I couldn't help imagining how rough it was for the biological creatures in the path of the behemoth disaster.

Clearly caused by a gigantic case of hubris from the visiting BP (British Petroleum) execs who ignored warning signs and oil rig workers who pointed out the growing problems on their dials and gauges, this was a tragic situation that could have been prevented.

Led by John Malkovich the visiting execs were well portrayed. In the firestorm caused by the accident, the BP fellows insisted a life raft leave the area only partially filled while others were swimming through fire to get to the safety of the craft. Two of the men were eventually convicted with manslaughter as a result. But were later pardoned...no comment.

Along with Mark Wahlberg and John Malkovich, the cast includes Kurt Russell, his step-daughter Kay Hudson who plays Wahlberg's wife. Also notable is Gina Rodriguez who plays one of the staff minding the dials and gauges. She is responsible for sounding an unofficial "Mayday!" to the crew before her supervisor is sure it's needed. In fact he's chastising her when the whole thing begins to blow.

Eventually, BP had to pay $20 Billion (yep that with a B not M) to the employees, the families of the deceased, and people whose livelihoods (i.e. commercial fishermen) and property were destroyed in the onslaught of oil that coated the northern Gulf of Mexico.

This is an incredible film, even for a disaster movie. I didn't have the guts to see it in the theater. After seeing Patriot's Day late last week in the theater, I really appreciated my choice of seeing this one at home.

Make no mistake, this is a well-made film, entertaining, shocking, and horrifying in places. Somehow I didn't really want any popcorn, though...

This one's available on pay-per-view with the various cable carriers and is available on rental basis or purchase.

Until next time...

Friday, January 13, 2017

Patriot's Day

Today I saw the new movie Patriot's Day - The story of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the film is earnest, hard-hitting, and realistic in its depiction of the crime as well as the carnage.

This is NOT a film for the faint of heart. The malevolence of the terrorist event is shown in chaotic motion, complete with the mix of the noises when the smoke died down and people began to realize what happened.

Have you ever been in a big accident, or near an explosion, or in a tornado which dances its malevolence near your house? The same thing always happens. During the incident, everything is just a confused jumble, then there is a moment of silence as the people/victims breathe for a minute and come back down to earth. There is always a period of stunned silence before all hell truly does break loose.

In an intense film, these moments were the most shattering. It happened when the victims and the helpers were looking around trying to understand what had just occurred. Many of the victims discovered severed legs or arms, their own or those of their loved ones. The screaming was awful, stirring the viewers with multiple emotions, shock, sadness, anger...That scene was masterfully crafted, though hard to watch.

The worst moment for me came when they discovered the body of the little eight-year-old boy who was killed. He lay sprawled in the street, straddling the curb. They covered his small broken corpse with a white blanket through which the blood soaked. The rest of his family members were injured and taken in the confusion to different hospitals. The FBI insisted his body stay where it was as it was now "evidence." The Boston police on the streets, led by Mark Wahlberg's character protested long and loud at this one, without success. So one of the officers, a member of a mounted patrol by his uniform, stood guard over the small body covered by a bloody blanket. They would show shots of him standing at attention during the investigation at the scene. When they finally allowed the body to be taken to the morgue, the officer stood at attention and saluted with tears flowing down his cheeks until the ambulance disappeared down the street.

It will be a long time before that image leaves my thoughts.

The film shows the action before the day of the bombing, introducing the main characters, including the bombers and goes until the younger brother is taken from the boat in which he hid in a Watertown backyard.

All the performances are tight, realistic portrayals of the people caught in this horrendous act.

There were standout performances by Mark Wahlberg (who also produced this film), as a Boston Police Sergeant who worked the marathon as final punishment for insubordination. He worked the case night and day until it was solved.

J K Simmons, my favorite psychiatrist from the old Law and Order series, portrayed the Chief of the Watertown Police Department
.
John Goodman (so much slimmer than in his Roseanne days) portrayed the Boston Commissioner of Police.

Kevin Bacon played the war-weary FBI agent in charge of the investigation.

Honestly, there were more than competent performances given by the entire cast.

At the end of the film, they introduced some of the real people played by actors in the film. They showed the Boston Strong movement and how some of the survivors have recovered and gone on to run in the Marathon.

They also showed the one remaining bomber in custody awaiting execution in prison.

A note - I have a history of motion sickness. It's one of the reasons I rarely fly. It's also why I prefer to watch fast moving film footage on my home television rather than a huge screen at the theater. I was really glad toward the end of the movie I had rushed past the concession stand on the way into the theater.
But it did give me an idea on my first thriller manuscript to beef up the climax scene a bit. You know how authors are...always watching for inspiration.

Take care and enjoy some pop culture. It's a nice change from politics!

Until next time...


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Jackie

Today, New Year's Eve, I finally made it to the movies. I went to see Natalie Portman's portrayal of  Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, known as Jackie to her millions of admirers during her lifetime.

As anticipated, it is a powerful film letting the audience into the private rooms of the White House and the machinations of crisis in the Executive branch of our government.

It is a piece in which the focus jumps back and forth between the present day for the film (after the assassination), the scrambling to make arrangements, and the personal aftermath for the title character. It begins with Jackie's televised tour of the White House and all of the original furnishings she found and brought back to the home of the American President. I remember that interview. My parents and I watched the black and white presentation, the kinetic screen flickering as it did in those days. She was a beautiful woman with a quiet, breathy voice, still the voice of a young woman, but that was before her husband was murdered in an open car in Dallas. He died in her lap before they ever made it to Parkland Hospital. It's hard to live with a goodly portion of your head and brain blasted away.

We all wondered why she jumped on the back of the car, what she was doing after the shots rang out. She was trying to retrieve all the pieces of his brain and head that littered the once immaculate black trunk of the convertible limousine. The cameras were rolling filming the motorcade that day. The awful events have been well preserved for history.

The movie opens with jumping scenes moving with electric speed from the tour mentioned above, to the assassination, and then a later scene where she is being interviewed after she has left the White House and lives in a borrowed estate. It is there she meets with the journalist, the first one she has granted an interview.
She puts up lots of barriers to his questions. Several times when she is candid with him, she tells him he can't use the information. Literally lighting up another cigarette after she finishes the previous one, he plans to depict her smoking throughout the interview. She takes another deep draw and announces she doesn't smoke. She was very conscious of her public image.

The state funeral is portrayed as the historical significance of each phase is mentioned. JFK's funeral was planned on Lincoln's. They used the same cason for the casket of the young president as they had for Lincoln.

The processional march from the Capitol to the cathedral where the funeral was being held was particularly contentious with Jackie changing her mind not once but twice. Plus Rose Kennedy wanted her son buried with the rest of the family in Brookline, Massachusetts. Jackie wanted him in Arlington National Cemetery where he is to this day.

Natalie Portman is incredible in the role.
She is aided by a strong cast which includes:

Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy
Billy Crudup as reporter Theodore H. White
Beth Grant as Lady Bird Johnson (an eerie lookalike to her character we've seen in other things)
Caspar Phillipson as John Fitzgerald Kennedy
John Carroll Lynch as LBJ
John Hurt as Father Richard McSorley

The cast works well together and are believable in their roles.

This is an immaculate representation of the real events. My only criticism is the music score was LOUD and distracting at times. I don't know if that was intentional or a problem with the theater's sound system. It was unfortunate whatever the cause.

I predict Ms. Portman to be a favorite during awards season. She's already culled some nominations. The rest of the cast is competent particularly John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, and Billy Crudup. Unfortunately JFK is only seen in one scene outside the actual assassination. The actor resembles his character, but is a much shorter man. For that matter, Ms. Portman is a petite woman. Jackie Kennedy was about 5'7. But that's easily overlooked. She is very strong in her portrayal of the historical icon.

The film brings the details of the murder into grisly, stark reality. Except for the Zapruder film shot on an old 8mm hand held camera, all the other footage was in black and white. Plus we never saw the carnage in the car either in black and white or color. For that I am grateful, the longshots were rough enough especially for an impressionable thirteen-year-old.

Jackie is a good film which didn't show me too much I didn't already know, except that mentioned above. It held my attention and yes it made me weep. It's hard not to when you remember that "once there was a spot which was known as Camelot." The bitter thing is the romantic glow lasted such a short time.

If you want to see a good film depicting John Kennedy in one of his triumphs, see the film Thirteen Days. It is about the Cuban Missile Crisis, considered one of the finest moments of his Presidency.

I'm sorry but when I think back on this recent election with its' name calling and incivility, I think of "Camelot" and just shake my head.

Until next time...

Be safe tonight.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ming's Recuperation

Hello.

I've been taking care of Ming and basically ignoring Christmas. Decided I wanted to do that this year and it worked pretty well for me. Haven't made it to a movie, though. Ming's had a rough time. I've been reluctant to leave him too long.

We went back to the vet for our weekly visit today. Ming IS healing but it's going slowly. The vet said there is blood flow so he will continue to heal in the eye. Ming is sixteen years old. The vet said they could do more surgery but he doesn't want to, due to Ming's age. I agree with him.

As for Ming, he's making it around the apartment very well. In fact both dogs are here with me in my office, asleep under the ceiling fan.

Yes, folks, it's almost 80 degrees outside today. We live in Florida a few miles inland from the coast. Don't be jealous, we've got a big cold front coming in tomorrow night. Friday's high will be in the lower 50s...which will give me a chance to wear my hoodies. I might wear the one that says "Send me to Hawaii...NOW!!"

Ming is seeing a bit as his eye heals. He sits in the living area and watches the dream catcher revolve suspended from the ceiling fan. There's a bank of windows in that room which  provides lots of sunlight. He also sees things at night when they're silhouetted by the lamp. He's looked up into my eyes a time or two when I've had the lamp on beside my chair.

He's not uncomfortable, especially since I replaced the hard plastic cone he had to wear with a great inflatable collar which looks like a big donut. I have to replenish the air once in a while. But as a trained opera singer I always have my breath.

So we're getting along okay. Now he knows his way around to his water dish, his towel where he sleeps in the living area, his food dish, and his puppy pads, we're pretty much back to normal.

Of course, he can't get groomed and hasn't been for five or six weeks now. The ophthalmologist vet says he can't be bathed or clipped for fear of infection in the partially healed eye. I haven't had Myrna groomed either. Now she looks like a tangled glob of shredded wheat...so she's getting groomed next week. Poor little girl.

Now, then, I am going to try to go to a movie tomorrow. If I do, I will write a post tomorrow.

I haven't been paying attention to Christmas, but I have been paying attention to my Dallas Cowboys!! They're lookin' gooooooood!!!

Did anybody catch the Kennedy Center Honors last night? Among the honorees were James Taylor, Mavis Staples, and The Eagles...I made a big fool of myself singing along and rocking out. But boy, did it feel good. Nothing like an old hippie enjoying her music!

But on a more somber note, I think it's time for me to ditch the blue hair...oh well..

Take care. Rock on!

Until next time...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bah Humbug

It's been awhile since I last posted. In the meantime, my little Tzu, Ming the Merciless has gone downhill a bit. His condition has worsened as we found out when we saw the vet for a checkup yesterday. Needless to say, I'm not happy. Poor little guy. He's on a bunch of new medicine. Also, at the vet's suggestion I bought an inflatable collar at Pets Mart to replace the hard plastic cone. He seems much more comfortable in it. So he wears  it all the time now to keep his paw out of his eye.

Today is the one year anniversary of the day my father died. My niece and I went out to the cemetery today. I thought I'd be very down, but I'm not. It is what it is. I cannot change it

Probably my concern is focused on my little elderly dog.

Last year this was a horrendous day. I was absolutely numb, shell shocked from my dad's rapid decline at the end. During the ensuing year, I've had bouts of depression and bouts of being lost in my work, speeding through the edits for book#3 and through the draft manuscript for book#4.

The numbness lasted several weeks. I didn't want anything to do with Christmas last year but went to my niece's anyway. I wasn't very nice and ended up leaving early.

This year I am not celebrating. My niece is going out of town. I may go to a movie Christmas day. It's a good day to go to the earlier showings. Most people are still celebrating with their families and you can get in to see anything out there.

So the lesson learned over the last year is this:

I expected today to be hard. It wasn't particularly. I did fine. After the cemetery, my niece and I went to lunch at the Cracker Barrel which we both like but seldom visit. We didn't make a day of it as Ming is delicate and I don't want to leave him for a long time like I might otherwise.

I want to make sure he gets his medication on schedule to help the infection stop spreading. Poor little guy. He and his sister, Myrna, are the oldest dogs I've ever had. Like people, they have issues in old age. If he crosses the Rainbow Bridge as a result of this illness, I can't prevent it. All I can do is give him the best care I can. So that's what I'm focused on doing these days.

In the meantime I've got editing to do on Forbidden (Kapu) my first novel in the new Inquisitor series. I've begun writing Honor Thy Mother, the second novel in the Inquisitor series.

When you're feeling anti-social, working on a manuscript is a great way to pass the time. You disappear into that world and work out your feelings in the manuscript. Easiest form of therapy available...

I wish you all the happiest of holidays. Cherish your time together and hold on to your memories. They will stay with you after your loved ones are gone.

Enjoy your holidays however you may celebrate.

And enjoy our wonderful pop culture, whether you listen to Christmas music, go out dancing, or stay home and watch TV.

Until next time...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Update on Ming

Thought I posted the results on FB last night, I thought I'd update my blog readers.

He doesn't have glaucoma. He had an ulcer on his cornea which ruptured.

So the veterinary ophthalmologist grafted tissue from his eye over the area of the rupture. He's on four different kinds of eye drops and two different kinds of pills. We go back in 2 weeks.

Ming is growling occasionally, mad about his condition. Believe me he's not whimpering or crying. But I'm letting him navigate on his own sometimes in the apt. He seems to have forgotten what he knew about the layout.  Right now he's operating from panic, but he's calming down. He found his water bowl after lunch which was good. I'm trying to be patient with him so he will get stronger and more self-sufficient while he's recovering.

I also have to give Myrna, his sister, lots of love and reinforcement, so she doesn't feel neglected.

Oh, did I mention Ming fits in his crate with the collar (elizabethan type) he must wear during recuperation? He fits in there all right. Overnight I was periodically awakened by noises coming from the crate and would tell him "go to sleep. It's all right. I'm here with you..." Little toot was working at removing the collar, which he did...sigh.

It's one big laugh riot at my place ..... NOT!!

But we will get through it.

Thanks for letting me spew.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ming the Merciless

About a year and a half ago, my Shih Tzu, Ming the Merciless, lost an eye to glaucoma. His other eye has it now, which we knew was a possibility. I saw several dogs, particularly Shih Tzus, at the veterinary ophthalmologist's clinic who had both eyes removed. So that's what is going to happen to my brave protector.

He's already lost the sight in the affected eye. He can get around inside our place. And when I carry him outside over the one step and put him down on the sidewalk, he gets to the grass and does just fine.

I watched him today as he navigated to his water bowl, his food bowl (and his sister's), to my office where he sleeps on the carpet while I work at the computer, and into the bedroom where their crates are. He's sitting at my feet right now as I type this.

All last night I worried I'd have to put him to sleep today. But I called our vet first thing this morning and she talked me out of it, telling me he would do just fine getting around using his nose and sense of smell.

I saw a posting on Facebook, a photo of an elderly dog. The caption read something like "Sure you love me as a puppy, but will you still love me when I'm old?" I kept seeing that picture in my mind last night as I tossed and turned.

Ming and his sister Myrna are the surviving members of the puppy trio I got in 2001. We lost Sparky to cancer several years ago. I have to admit Ming and Myrna have aged, but they're not too frail. They are still active with life left in them. So we will go for the surgery and I'll take care of him for the rest of his life.

They are my sweet little Tzus. They got me through the bad times when Dad died and the times when I was so stressed out about him and his behavior due to his dementia. I'm convinced they saved my life a time or two. I can do no less.

Love your dogs and/or your cats. The picture below was taken before Ming lost his first eye.  He's he black and white one.

Until next time...