Sunday, September 28, 2014

Outlander / Godzilla

No, I'm not insane, merely distracted. (That's what I tell myself anyway.)  I've been meaning to write a review of the latest Godzilla film that's now out on video.  And after last night's season finale for Outlander, I want to at least comment on it.

So first to Outlander.  The Starz network has done a brilliant job translating the first book in this best selling series to television.  It's a quality production all the way and a pleasure to watch.  The season finale ended last night on a HUGE any good continuing series.

It's due to be back in early April and I for one will be waiting. 

Okay on to Godzilla (known to the Japanese as Gojira...)  Does anybody remember the line from the version starring Matthew Broderick? The plucky young would-be reporter gets the info on the monster currently attacking NYC and her smarmy anchorman boss steals it, going on the air calling the monster Godzilla.  For which the plucky young lady screams at the tv, "It's Gojira, you moron!!!"

Don't get me wrong, I loved this most recent incarnation of Godzilla, but at times felt like screaming "it's Gojira, you moron!!" to the television screen. Japanese actor, Ken Watanabe, actually does call him Gojira in this film. Of course everyone else calls him Godzilla.

Bryan Cranston opens the film as the harried engineer working at a Japanese nuclear facility where his wife, played by Juliette Binoche, works.  There is a terrible accident in which she is killed and he is crazed for the rest of his life determined to find out why.

Thus begins this saga of the King of Monsters.  Poor Gojira/Godzilla is always misunderstood by the puny humans around him.  Turns out, he's really the good guy, protecting humanity from the real monsters, these spider/rodan/batwing(at least the male) creatures who feed on radiation.  The original Godzilla film was produced in Japan as a cautionary tale against the use of radioactivity which caused Godzilla to mutate into the giant creature he is.  In the US we had a series of movie monsters created by "the bomb", too, most notably the giant ants (or aints if you're from the south) in "Them!" I wonder what happened to the little girl who screamed out the title, "THEEEEEEEMMMM!"  I bet she's even older than I am...geez, the mind shudders at the thought.

Back to the point, this Godzilla movie is the usual fare, lots of stomping over cities and people.  Only this time, the monsters attack Honolulu first causing a tsunami realistically portrayed.  There's a brave dog running from the wave but you don't see what happens to him.  I was upset by that.  I mean you expect people to get crushed, but not a dog.  Geez.

Then in an almost Biblical turn, the monsters head for Las Vegas and lay waste to the modern Gomorrah.  It seems all the US's radioactive waste is buried out in the desert near there.  So the spider beings are attracted to that.

Did I mention there's a male spider monster AND a female one? She is wingless but almost twice the size of the male.  Plus, she's carrying eggs....gross shots of those.

The special effects are spectacular.  I wish I'd seen it in a movie theater, but it's still impressive on my flat screen. There is a huge accident with a speeding train that gets grabbed by one of the bad monsters.  The train is flaming like an inferno and is stripped off a high bridge in a scene reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter.

Anyhow they keep moving until they end up in San Francisco where Godzilla fights both spider monsters.  The spider monsters are completely uncaring about the cityscape and decimate parts of San Francisco, including a huge chunk of Chinatown.  That is where the final battle is fought.  Great shot of Godzilla roaring with his head between Chinese lanterns that are strung between buildings.

Godzilla wins in the end and roars before he walks into the sea and disappears.  Of course he's a hero at the end and the stunned populace watches him walk out to sea, knowing he'll return when he's needed.  Very Japanese version in the end.  That's the way he was viewed in their films.  I mean sure he stomped towns and cities but always in a good cause when he fought other monsters like King Kong, Mothra (remember the little high voice twin women who would sing to Mothra to wake him?)

If such movies are your cup of tea, you'll like this Godzilla.  It's got enough action to satisfy anyone who likes action movies.  There are wonderful actors in small parts.

Rent it, have fun, eat some popcorn.  It will remind you of going to movies as a least it did me.

I've probably lost all credibility as an author with this review, but hey, I am what I am, a pop culture diva and Godzilla is nothing if not pop culture.

Relax, I'll review something serious several good books lined up for you.

Take care, and avoid all giant radioactive spiderbats.  They have no sense of humor.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Genghalia, meet the Roosevelts

I originally intended to post a RAVE review of Ken Burns' new mini-series "The Roosevelts" which is airing for two hours every night this week on your local PBS channel.  He is the genius who brought us "The Civil War", "Jazz", and "Baseball" to name a few of his previous series for PBS.
But then I also wanted to talk about my own identity search...

So first, The Roosevelts.

I watched the first episode last night.  As you may have guessed, I'm a history buff, always have been and always will be.  Most of my fiction is historical (or is that hysterical? - Naaaaahhhh, don't digress.)

ANYWAY, "The Roosevelts" lives up to the hype.  I've seen many of the reviews claiming it's Burns' best one yet.  I concur.  It is an excellent series, well researched and presented in an unvarnished manner - i.e. showing these three people as they really were, warts and all.

The series follows Teddy Roosevelt, his niece Eleanor Roosevelt, and her distant cousin whom she eventually married, Franklin Roosevelt.  Their individual stories are the stuff of legends, but taken altogether, they become an amazing American saga of an incredible family.

Of course Teddy Roosevelt died decades before I was born.  Franklin Roosevelt died several years before I was born.  But I had the  privilege to come to know Eleanor Roosevelt from afar.  She died when I was thirteen.  I was so taken with her work for the poor and the disenfranchised she inspired me into my adult life.  Also, she was an amazing woman who faced great adversity and used it as impetus to make her stronger.

This is a common trait among all three of these people.  They each knew tragedy and sadness enough to break them. But it never did.  Instead they became stronger, reaching goals many would have said were impossible for them to meet.

I may be prejudiced, but I think FDR was our greatest 20th century American president.  I hate to think how the country would have survived the Great Depression, much less World War II without his leadership. That this man who could not walk worked a schedule that would have killed a lesser being and ran the country through its greatest economic disaster to date, and served as commander-in-chief until the last four months of WWII was a miracle in itself.

These three people were larger than life, sometimes with hubris that large as well.  They were fascinating and are realistically seen in Burns' new work.

Watch won't be sorry.  We need inspiration in our current world situation.  You just might find it in these three remarkable people.


I've had a bug in my ear for several months.  I've been wanting to get my ancestral DNA researched.  Like most of us, I only know my heritage back for three or four generations.  Admittedly, I am a mutt (a mixture of several nationalities) - but that's the norm for Americans these days.

Besides as an amateur historian, I know there's a strong possibility that some of my ancient forebears went to some interesting places - I am Italian and those Romans got around...

I've been teasing my dad that we might have Mongol blood.  I told a friend I might even be related to Genghis Khan (or maybe Khan Noonian Singh) she asked me what would I call myself, Genghivita? (among others) I chose Genghalia...

Anyhow, I ordered the kit and yesterday did the deed.

First you have to spit into a that may sound easy, but it took me five times to get enough spit into that little have to fill it to a black wavy line.  I hate to think what anybody would have said to walk in on me spitting into the tube, checking the level, and swearing before I spat again. (oooooohhhh, I get to use spat - good word!) The only witnesses were my Shi Tzus who after an initial head cocking went back to sleep, supremely disinterested in the whole process. Honestly they're that way about most events unless food is involved.

When you have reached the desired level of spittal, you unscrew the funnel from the tube and screw on a new tube to the existing one.  Once they are screwed together tightly enough, the new tube releases a liquid into the tube with your DNA.  You have to shake it five times (I do believe in spooks - I do believe in spooks - I do believe in spooks...) Then you place the whole connected tube into a plastic bag provided in the kit, seal it shut with it's own adhesive band, put it in the postage paid, preaddressed box and drop it in the mail.  Then you get to sit and wait for the results.

So now it's out of my hands...I will sit and wait to receive the email telling me my countries or origin...while I yearn for something exotic, it will probably come out English, Italian, German, with just a hint of Native American...which means my ancestors fought each other a LOT.

Oh well, at least I'll know.  But if it turns out I'm part Norwegian, I flatly refuse to eat ludafisk...tried it once and put it on the same level as poi (sorry Hawaii)...I'm Italian enough not to eat either of those concoctions again...

I'll let you know the reveal ...

Take care and enjoy our rich and varied Pop Culture - made so by the many nationalities who came to our wonderful country and blended together.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Devisive, Derisive, But Dressed Like a Lady

Joan Rivers left us yesterday.  Actually she left us last week, but was kept on life support in the hope of recovery.  Her situation just points out how tenuous our lives can be, reminding us to live each day to the fullest.

Some folks out there won't read this blog because they never liked Ms. Rivers.  That's okay.  She wasn't in the business to make people like her.

There are comedians who operate from a base of pain.  These are the especially brilliant ones, the fast on their feet thinkers with the snappy one-liners that seemingly materialize out of the air. The recently deceased Robin Williams for one - his icon Jonathan Winters for another.  Ms. Rivers fits into that category as well.

She had a hell of a life but still she kept going using her pain as impetus to spark her razor remarks.

In her youth she wanted to be an actress.  In an interview she once said her whole family was funny.  When she went to the theatrical agents' offices, she would tell their secretaries jokes in the hope they would let her see the boss.  Finally one day, one of the secretaries told her "you're very funny.  Have you thought about doing stand-up?"  Hungry, working office temp jobs, Joan took the secretary's advice and a star was born.

I remember her through the years.  Sometimes when I was younger I was offended by the things she said.  I dismissed her as insensitive and willing to make fun of anybody to get attention.

But then, she came to QVC, the premier shopping channel.  For the last twenty years, she sold her line of jewelry, clothing, and cosmetic products.  She was funny on the air, but very sweet with the way she handled the customers who called to talk to her on the air.

She began with copies of imperial Russian jewelry.  Her family was of Russian ancestry and prized some of their pieces from that period.  Joan had a fondness for Faberge eggs - gorgeous creations meant for the ruling family by the world renown jeweler.  The surviving original ones are in museums and storied private collections.  Many are considered to be priceless. She had copies of the eggs made as jewelry, or objects to decorate the home.  They were beautiful.

She had a symbol she kept with her throughout her career.  A bumblebee - and why is that? Because anatomically a bumblebee should not be able to fly, but somehow it does.  It was a symbol for her that anything is possible.  She put out a long line of bejeweled bee jewelry that was very popular.  Each new design sold out in its initial showing.  I have to admit I have a few of them.  I like the idea that anything is possible, because I believe it is.

Her company grew and started making women's clothing and accessories.  Everything something she would wear.  She was usually on the Best Dressed List each year.  She was very successful on QVC.

There was another aspect of her which I admired.  She loved her dogs.  In the beginning, she brought her Yorkies with her to the set and they appeared in the shows with her when she sold her merchandise.  Then one by one, they passed on from old age.  And she did not bring any others with her.  She mourned her little Spike many years after he passed away.  I can relate to that.

I saw her earlier last month on what I believe was her last appearance on QVC.  I noticed how frail she was looking, how much smaller she seemed.  Honestly, having worked with elderly people in my career, I wondered then about her health.

I think the key to Joan Rivers was she was much harder on herself than she was anyone else.  She had a sensitive side in her treatment of her little dogs, her grandchild, and the ladies who called in to talk to her on QVC. Often the ladies would have a sad story to tell about getting the bee pin for someone who was seriously ill, for example.  Ms. Rivers was genuine in her response each time.

She'll be missed in the theaters and clubs she played to sold-out houses.  She will be missed on the Red Carpet, on the WE network where she had a show with her only child, Melissa. She will be missed on QVC by the legions of fans of her jewelry and clothes which made each of them feel like a lady on the Best Dressed List.

Goodnight, Joan, thank you for the outrageous laughs and lovely moments.

Rest well.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Loving Meg by Skye Taylor

Popular author Skye Taylor has followed her introductory novel of the Camerons of Tide's Way series, Falling for Zoe, with another wonderful novel, Loving Meg.

This one is the story of a female Marine veteran of the war in Afghanistan.  Like so many others, she returned to her husband and children, wounded in spirit and sound in body.  She cannot forget some of her experiences.  Her bomb sniffing dog was killed when he got to close to a device. 

Her husband, Ben, trains dogs as service dogs for the police and for individuals.  He is asked to try to rehabilitate a police K-9, whose handler was killed in front of him.  The dog, Kip, has never recovered and shows little interest in the world around him. Ben is the last resort for saving Kip from his depression.

Meg wants nothing to do with the dog as he reminds her of the dog she lost.  She is also confused about the kiss she shared with her commanding officer as he tried to comfort her when the dog was killed.  She is not able to deal with the situation.

Ben wants to help his wife and the dog as well.  But he hasn't a clue about where to begin.  The story tells of the journey of the couple and the dog, how they find redemption.

This is a good, riveting story, by an excellent storyteller.  Keep the tissues handy, especially if you're a dog lover.  You'll probably need them.


When Meg Cameron joined the Marines to get an education, she never counted on being deployed to a war zone. Now that she’s home, both she and her husband Ben are struggling with the toll war, separation, and regrets have taken on their marriage. Meg is tormented by guilt over the death of a military dog and the kiss she shared with her commanding officer as he comforted her.  Her husband, Ben, is the love of her life, how could he possibly forgive her if he knew the truth?

Ben Cameron is just happy that his brave, beautiful wife is home safely with him and their young sons.  Everything is fine – at first. In bed he and Meg are perfect together, until the nightmares come and she calls out a name that’s not his.  She’s hurting and he doesn’t understand, but he’s trying. If only she would talk to him about what’s bothering her.

Then there’s Kip a police K-9 who lost his handler and his spirit to a perp with a gun. Ben has been asked to help rehabilitate the grieving animal. Ben wants to help these two wounded warriors find peace, and convince Meg to trust him with her nightmares, but as Meg debates returning to active duty, a move that would surely take her back into harms way again, Ben’s frustrations and fears climb. What if her pain and confusion take her back into harms way again and he lost her forever?

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