Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book: "The Magpie Murders" by Anthony Horowitz

Wow! I haven't read Anthony Horowitz before "The Magpie Murders", but now, I'm going to find and read his prior material. As a child, I was fond (still am) of Agatha Christie's mysteries, in particular, her Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. In movies such as "Murder on the Orient Express", "Death on the Nile" and "Death Under the Sun", Poirot came alive through the fine acting of Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney. Poirot - a caricature via the actors if you may - came alive again in the embodiment of one Atticus Pund, the detective investigator of "The Magpie Murders".  Here's summary from 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.  When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.  Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.  Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murdersis a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.

...and I couldn't agree more!!!

 But there is a twist!
In this clever, superbly-written whodunnit, there is a book buried within a book - a format I have never read - nor thoroughly enjoyed - until "Magpie". In other words, Horowitz has create a character (Alan Conway) who himself has created a character (Atticus Pund). But when fiction and reality-fiction collide, that's where the ingeniousness of Horowitz is on display. 

The Saxon-upon-Avon murder story, the one I am more fond of, has multiple suspects: a guilt-ridden doctor; an aristocrat landowner and his philandering wife; a busybody housekeeper, her brave son and his tender and protective fiance; a vicar and his wife with, quite literally, nothing to hide; an ex-con and his wife who are proprietors of an antique shop; and a groundskeeper with a past as mysterious as that of Saxon-upon-Avon itself. All combine in a wonderfully crafted mystery as an homage to the English mystery writers of not that long ago. 

Horowitz writes with much detail - one almost is bound by such written "law" when it comes to mysteries; but he also writes with much respect for the intuitive nature of the reader, encouraging and stimulating the reader to solve the mystery as well as Atticus does. Within the detail, Horowitz shows an even greater command of subject matter, character development (backstories) and, of course, the climactic resolution. But, his cleverness is shown in the SUB-story of the book, the death of fictitious-real-fictitious Alan Conway, the "writer" of the Atticus Pund novels. Here, the plots, characters and even resolutions cleverly and intelligently align. The writing is smart, succinct and all blends well to create a mystery-within-a-mystery. 

Looking forward to reading more Anthony Horowitz writing. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book: "The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo" by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Perhaps no one celebrity has come as close to the many marriages of Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky as Evelyn Hugo, the title character of the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid. But while Taylor is/was reality, Hugo is purely fictitious. And that gives Reid the latitude to tell Hugo's story, her whole, complete story, with as much gusto, feeling, heart and compassion as possible. 

Here's a synopsis from
A legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine. Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?  Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. 

Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.  Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

This was such an entrancing read. Reid writes Evelyn with enough spitfire to light a thousand tiki torches and her tale is truly one that only Hollywood could write. Unabashed, unashamed, and truly regretful, Evelyn recounts her life on a vibrantly painted canvas, mixed with the colors of betrayal, abuse, un-requitted love, egoism, selfishness, selflessness, forgiveness and true passion. Evelyn's story unfolds in stark reality and at the end, I felt a pathos for her life; moreso for her compassion. Reid writes well; well enough to have held me spellbound while I HAD to read until the ultimate climax of Evelyn's life and times; and without giving away the ending, it truly is quite shocking. 

The novel speaks to so many issues - LGBTQ, agism, racism, sisterhood, physical abuse...all of these themes are acutely put into Reid's cocktail blender and are part of the book's dialogue. 

PopsugarU.S. interviewed Reid: 
PS: What is the one thing that you hope readers come away with after reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo?
TJR: I want them to feel like if, at some point, they want to pull an Evelyn Hugo that they're ready and capable of doing it. As complicated as Evelyn Hugo is, I think Evelyn Hugo can teach us a lot about how to get what we want out of this world. It's time for women to get ours. We've got to go up there and take it. It's going to be uncomfortable, but I think that the rewards will be there for us. We need to find the confidence in ourselves to say, "Pay me what I'm worth. Promote me when I deserve it. Don't take advantage of me. Don't underestimate me."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Opinon: "The Problem with Filipinos" by Sade Andria Zabala

I dug out some old articles I had saved last year. 
this was among the more interesting ones that i 
found most interesting....

JUNE 21, 2016
The Problem With Filipinos
The problem with Filipinos is we get a 
boner for anything Pinoy. 
Filipino contestant in X talent show abroad? 
Hollywood celebrity
with .000018% Filipino ethnicity? 
Double yes! 

We’ll sniff out the tiniest drop of 
Filipino blood, but only, only if you get 
recognized internationally. 
“Filipinos mixed with another 
race always gives a good result!” 

As if these are the only things we excel in, 
as if breeding is all we’re 
ever good for because we 
have too much pride, 
and not as much to be proud about.

The problem with Filipinos is we’re overprotective. Not of our culture, of our identity, of our resources – but of our pride. We have so much pride, too much pride, we even made a tagline out of it #PinoyPride

We’ve become overly sensitive, easily offended at the slightest of jokes, the slightest of criticisms that we end up refusing not to better ourselves because we’d rather be right and win an argument, than admit to be wrong and improve.
The problem with Filipinos is we cannot say sorry. We’d rather say, “You’re wrong, it’s your fault, you’re stupid. BANNED!” Alec Baldwin is banned. Claire Danes is banned. The Beatles were banned. The people writing the Filipino-doctor joke on Desperate Housewives are probably banned. As if white people cared enough to stress about you after they raped your Lolas and your Lola’s Lola.

The problem with Filipinos is we can’t take a joke. Joke harmlessly about the country and “Fuck you racist American pigs! Filipinos are hardworking! Do not come to our beautiful shores!” Joke about Filipino stereotypes and we will literally want to kill you. The problem with Filipinos is we make everything a joke. A politician jokes about raping a woman, and “It’s okay, fucking calm down where’s your sense of humor?” 

A University student calls the new actress for Hermione“Ugly nigger, was she stuck in the toaster?” and you’re supposed to take it lightly. Which is it? Which is it?
The problem with Filipinos is you can’t make a joke about us, but we can about you.

The problem with Filipinos is Manny Pacquiao sitting in the senate. 

Is condemning “CORRUPTION!” 
with one hand and accepting vote buying with the other. 
Is tweeting about the beauty of our lands 
with one hand and littering with the other. 
Is us talking more about Taylor Swift than 
about being blacklisted from 
Foreign Aid by France due to our own negligence.

The problem with Filipinos 
is we are quick to hate 
and quicker to forget.
Forget the dictator
and his family for 
violating our rights
Forget the white men 
and their destructive 
because guapo, guapo, guapo! 

Marry a white man because 
he will save you from poverty; heroically take you from this wasteland of a country.

The problem with Filipinos is we kiss white people’s feet. We lick it with such gusto we allow every fair-skinned person to walk over our farm-broken backs. Because everything American is “better.” 

Because everything white is “beautiful.”Because putang ina ang corny mag-tagalog, kaluod mag bisaya!Do you not understand your fear? Have you not analyzed the instinctive shyness and submission that overcomes your brown body whenever you’re in the presence of someone white? Have you not dissected the veneration you so readily give Westerners, and so readily deny your Lumad brothers, Muslim sisters? 

The problem with Filipinos is we value perfect English grammar over hungry Filipino lives.

The problem with Filipinos is we go to Church, but do not listen. 
We pray, but do not practice. 
We leave all responsibility 
with God and take none 
for ourselves.

The problem with Filipinos is we value word-sparring on Facebook more than the 
fight for freedom our ancestors bled for.
Because conspiracy theories are more interesting than facts. 
Because our soap-operas have taught us drama is easy.

The problem with Filipinos is it took a movie for us to see the folly of our history. 

The problem was nobody cared enough to look in the first place.

The problem with Filipinos is we’re too nice. 

The problem with Filipinos is we’re not nice enough.

The problem with Filipinos 
is we don’t know who we are.

The problem with Filipinos is you. 
Is me. 
Is the fact we both know 
no matter what I say or what you say, 
it’s all pointless because

The problem with Filipinos is 
you’ll probably be more 
pissed at this article, 
than you ever were about 
racial injustice, police brutality, 
sexism, poverty, 
littering, hopelessness.

The problem with Filipinos is the wrong things offend us.

The problem with Filipinos is we rarely stand up for the right.

The problem with Filipinos is you. Is me. T

The problem with Filipinos is ourselves. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book: “Camino Island” by John Grisham

The passion for books and writing, a grand theft of rare manuscripts, a forgotten novelist turned spy and characters as vivid as real-life people all combine in John Grisham’s new novel “Camino Island”. Set on the shores of a summer resort off the Florida coast, Grisham’s plot weaves a tight, page-turning story of intrigue and what-happens-next that I found irresistible. His characters are well flushed out as is his introductions to them amidst the storyline.

Four thieves, working in conjunction with a hacker, plan and execute the theft of the century…five original hand-written manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novels, The Great Gatsby being one of them. Callousness leads to a few of them being caught while the remaining thieves, through a series of connections, sell the priceless treasure to middle-men and rare book collectors. Enter Bruce Cable, earnest, hard-working owner of Bay Books on Camino Island whose passion for rare and collectible first editions is as headstrong as his passion (and jealousy) of writers and their talents. Does he or does he not have the stolen manuscripts? That’s Mercer Mann’s mission to discover. A published novelist whose last work gained her accolades seven years prior, Mercer is now an about-to-be-fired literature professor with a mountain of student debt. That’s when an offer too-good-to-refuse comes her way and sets her not only on a direct collision with Cable, but a confrontation with her past….all on Camino Island.

Like other Grisham novels, “Camino Island” is a great read, full of suspense, even humor. Grisham knows how to tell a story well, quite well actually, and does so with a good command of character development which I appreciated. I also found the writers’ encounters particularly humorous and Cable’s “notes” about what and how to write quite amusing.  I found myself jealous of Cable – his life, his being able to afford the luxury to do nothing but read all day, every day – and of the life that Grisham paints on Camino Island….relaxful, worry-less, sun and sand.  It’s a great book to start the summer reading campaign.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Book: "One of the Boys" by Daniel Magariel

An impressive debut from a first-time novelist, "One of the Boys" is an examination of the survival of the human spirit as told through the eyes of a young boy.

When a determined father removes his sons from their mother's clutches after a nasty divorce, the three jettison their lives, leaving memories of mental and physical abuse from Kansas as they seek refuge and a new life in New Mexico. For the youngest of the sons, this is a welcomed respite from a world he only knew existed as violent and brutal. But as the brothers slowly see their father succumb to the ravages of drug addiction, it becomes frightening clear that they haven't left everything behind. Imprisoned in an apartment made to secure and shelter them from the outside world, the brothers unite in triumph, tragedy and betrayal to find a way out of their own lives in hopes of finding peace and refuge. Alas, this too becomes fallacy.

Written with savage, intense and often times heartbreaking terseness, Daniel Magariel weaves a captivating tale of despair and depression. He enriches these characters with both hope and failure, pride and jealousy, family and isolation, anger and forgiveness, sometimes all in the same sentence. What emerges is a powerful behind-the-scenes look at abuse - how it is doled out, how it is handled (or mishandled) and how, despite everything wretched a child can experience, there can ever be any kindling of hope left deep within the human spirit.

I'm hoping Magariel continues to explore the savageness of the human condition, exposing more of that which makes us both saint and sinner.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sharing: "A Man Goes on a Journey"

By Sridhar Pappu - June 2, 2016
Ron Silver, the owner of the Bubby’s restaurants in Manhattan, was fighting with his business partner. His marriage was collapsing. So he decided to disappear.

He told people he was going to California, to visit his uncles. But on the morning of his departure, he decided on Mexico.

In the cab he had a new idea: Havana.

In Cuba, he began to feel like himself again. He spent time with what he described as the internal posse he carries around in his head — Robert Frost, Plato, T. S. Eliot, Shakespeare — and he fell in with people who had nothing to do with his life back in New York.

“You’re like a stranger in the world at that point,” said Mr. Silver, who made his sudden trip to Cuba in 1996, when he was 34. “Nobody has any expectations. Nobody knows your history. Nobody knows what they want you to do.”

The theme of self-transformation through travel has been a staple of literature since before Homer. You can find it in Mark Twain’s “Roughing It,” Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” and on and on, all the way up through Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.” For those who depart from the hard-worn path for points unknown, such a journey can be more than just a vacation.

“On the second day I was there,” Mr. Silver said, “I was outside of central Havana, sitting at this makeshift cafe sitting with eight or nine other kids, and we were all drinking beer, and there was live music playing, and the sun was out, and it was hot. That was a moment of, ‘All right, everything is just chilled out.’”

Mr. Silver, 53, hadn’t contacted anyone he knew for roughly three weeks when he called his wife to say he would be home soon. (They ended up divorced.)

Although Mr. Silver came to see that Havana was not the answer to his troubles, he believed he had gone through a genuine change during his time away. A confidence he had lost somewhere along the way returned to him in force.I was able to take a moment and say, ‘I’m being too affected by other people’s weaknesses,’” he said. “Going to Havana helped me to rethink and get clear about what kind of man I am and to come out swinging, hit it, when I came back home.

“When you’re in a day-to-day situation and dealing with people’s problems, it’s like having a bunch of rocks in your shoe. Whereas, if you’re on your own, you can take out the rocks. Or you don’t have to wear shoes at all.”
Sartori in Des Moines

After feeling isolated in Los Angeles, Ross Langley found himself building a treehouse just outside Des Moines.

“This was the happiest I’d been since I was a kid,” Mr. Langley said. “I would sit in Des Moines at night, looking over cornfields, sipping whiskey and listening to sounds I’d never heard before — like deer, which make very unpleasant sounds, but mostly loons in the lake. You’d hear these loons at night and you’re watching fireflies dance in the air, and you realize how unhappy life has been.”

Mr. Langley was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. Having trained as a classical actor, he went to Los Angeles with big ideas, only to discover he was unprepared for a life of near-constant auditions, few callbacks and superficial social interactions.

In May 2014, an old friend called him with the idea of a road trip. Mr. Langley was hesitant. He worried that if he were to leave, if only for a day, he might miss out on something big. To support himself, he was working in construction. One lunch break, he told a co-worker about what he was going through, and the man said, “Is that how you’re going to live your life?”

That was that. Mr. Langley joined his friend for a two-week trip through the American West. Upon his return, he received a call from a woman who asked him if he would be her date at a wedding in St. Louis. He said yes, using the new trip as a springboard for another journey.

He stayed away from Los Angeles for close to two months, during which he built the treehouse, on property that belongs to his wedding date’s father (she accompanied him for part of the trip). He also drove through the Badlands and the Black Hills, through Native American reservations and to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. He spent time on an island off the coast of Washington that had once been a kind of family homestead, where he saw his grandparents’ initials carved into a sea wall.

He had dinner at campsites and morning coffee looking out onto lakes with people he had just met. No one cared about what roles he had gone out for.

“I think the whole experience, for me, was just about knowing who I was,” said Mr. Langley, 26, who now works as a web designer in New York. “There’s this feeling of being in a place like Glacier National Park and being dwarfed by nature that’s equally terrifying and freeing. I realized the experience I was having in Los Angeles, even in an ideal world where I was successful as an actor, would never truly satisfy me.”
Going It Alone

After college, Jonathan Kesselman returned to his hometown, Los Angeles, in 1999 with the notion that he would work for a while before attending the graduate film program at the University of Southern California. But he proved good enough at his job, working with medical databases, to earn six figures. When he was rejected by U.S.C., he felt the golden handcuffs tightening.

He bought a one-way ticket to Australia. For three months, he traveled extensively with no clear idea when he might return. He drank, smoked marijuana, took Ecstasy. He danced on tables. He sky-dived. He slept around.
“I’ll tell you what I discovered when you travel alone,” said Mr. Kesselman, now 41. “You’re only alone when you want to be alone. You make friends so easily, and when you get tired of people, you hop on a train for somewhere else.”

After his return, he was accepted by the U.S.C. program and went on to direct a cult comedy, “The Hebrew Hammer,” and more recently, “Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero.”

“The person I was when I was in the states was not the person I was when I traveled abroad,” Mr. Kesselman said. “I had all the baggage from my formative years. I was tightly wound and intense. I loved traveling by myself because it made me feel like a man. I thought if I could do that, I could do anything in the world.”
Goodbye, Finance

Jeff Wardell, 51, spent nearly two decades as a financial adviser. By 2008, he was working at Lehman Brothers, managing the fortunes of well-heeled clients. Two days after the firm filed for bankruptcy protection, he left for another investment bank. There, he did his best to rescue people’s assets from the financial crash. Some days he felt he might have a heart attack.

He stayed in the business just long enough to tie up the loose ends. He had to get away from San Francisco, away from America, away from the news. And he had to be on a motorcycle.  He found one, a BMW R1150GS, in Milan. He had no set path, just a return date three months from the day he started. Some days he would ride 50 miles. Others, 300. He gunned his way north, to Scandinavia.

“My day was non-tech-driven,” Mr. Wardell said. “My concern was, ‘Is the motorcycle running correctly?’ You don’t want to be in the middle of nowhere and have something go wrong. You’re whittling around these corners, and that’s where the attention and focus is. You can’t concentrate on anything else, because you’re trying to stay alive.”

He made a point of visiting repurposed buildings, like old grain mills and factories, that had found new lives. He had been interested in design his entire life, and had even considered architecture school at one point. By the trip’s end, he knew a life in finance was not for him.

Mr. Wardell now runs an art consultancy and design firm with his girlfriend, Claudia Sagan. One of his projects is the search for what he describes as an “adaptive reuse structure,” in Portland, Ore., inside of which he can carve out a hotel. Mr. Wardell hopes the business will be ready to open in 2018.

Aside from helping him to realize that he was on the wrong career path, the three-month trip did something else for Mr. Wardell. It “reaffirmed my belief in the human spirit,” he said.  “I bought this massive chain lock with an alarm, thinking, ‘I’m going to have to use this or my bike is going to disappear.’ Then I started heading into these towns and putting this lock on, and people were just laughing at me, asking: ‘Why are you doing that? Your bike is not going to get stolen here.’

Book: "No Middle Name" by Lee Child

I first got hooked on Lee Child's Jack Reacher series after reading "Tripwire" (I was glued to the page-turner and read it one sitting) and have since read all (?) of the Reacher books, the next one being conceived and written better than the last. The latest Child book featuring the lone soul is a collection of short stories entitled "No Middle Name" (appropriate since Reacher HAS no middle name), 12 concisely, well-conceived and well-written stories featuring Reacher as a child, as a teenager and as the man-of-the-world he has become.

Child's writing is a sparse and as interesting as ever, moving the action forward with precise words and short sentences that doesn't leave the reader in a fog of flowery word flow. Nope, like Reacher himself, Child is straightforward, sparing no extra illustrative imagery and painting a virtual canvas of realism (at least in Reacher's world) that is both compelling and fulfilling. Each story unfolds quickly and by the time the end of the story is told, you'll be kicking yourself whispering "why didn't I see that coming" or "why didn't I figure that out".

More importantly, the reader gets a fuller picture of how Reacher became who he is...there's a tale involving his parents, one where he and family are transferred to Okinawa, even one where he meets the serial killer Son of Sam amidst a city-wide blackout whilst a teenager. This book adds more depth to Reacher's back story and now moving forward, I can see through all of the books, the reasons why Reacher thinks the way he thinks and acts the way he acts. "No Middle Name" cast such a rounder light through which we can see Reacher through other prisms of his life. 

Can't wait for more!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book: "The Impossible Fortress" by Jason Rekulak

The inside of the jacket of "The Impossible Fortress", the debut novel from Jason Rekulak, says the book is "A Love Letter to the 1980s", which was, essentially, why I selected it. I'm a product of that era, a time where music, fashion, society and politics defined who I was and who I was becoming; so it was with great pleasure to read Rekulak's fun-filled story about a nerd (not unlike myself at the time), his friends, their quest for a copy of Vanna White's Playboy edition, and an understanding of what life itself meant at the time.

Fourteen year old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey is happy hanging with his friends, Alf (yes, named after the alien television character) and Clark. All they want is a good time....and, when it comes out, a copy of the Playboy featuring Vanna White, who at the time was America's favorite sweetheart (this point, I had forgotten). But for Billy, this priority changes when he meets Mary Zelinsky, the daughter of the store proprietor housing the wanted magazine, who also happens to write programs for computer games (which, at the time, was THE BIG thing!). After Mary's invitation to work together to master Billy's own computer game, "The Impossible Fortress", they do so, meeting everyday after school in order to submit the code to a computer gaming contest in the hopes of, alas, winning a better computer. Alas, things don't always work out as planned, and Billy's plans in working with Mary, along with the gangs' plans to pilfer the Playboys from Mary's father's store, all fall apart.

Rekulak's debut novel touches on references to 1980's pop culture that I had forgotten but was quickly reminded of when I read the novel. It is such a welcome read, a human story with life lessons, the innocence-to-experience theme, what friendship and caring and family mean and most of all, what it means to discover that which is possible within yourself.

Book: "Testimony" by Scott Turow

I just finished the page-turner "Testimony" by Scott Turow. The lawyer turned writer has been a stellar and steady feeder of law-based thrillers for quite some time and some of his work has been made into feature films. But "Testimony" took me on an unexpected journey and gave me an ending that I did not see coming (although, in retrospect, I probably should have read more into the dialogue and pieced it together).

Bill Ten Boom, a fifty-five year old former prosecutor takes a job at the International Criminal Court - the body charged with prosecuting crimes against humanity - in The Hague and is assigned perhaps the most challenging case of his career: investigate the supposed massacre of 400 Gypsy (Roma) natives in Bosnia towards the end of that country's savage war. The case will take Ten Boom into Bosnia itself and will offer a myriad of essential character including a faithful translator, a mysterious Gypsy attorney with an eyewitness to the crime, a former disgraced Army General, and a former defense contractor now playing both sides of the post-Bosnian conflict. Through the investigation, Ten Boom begins to piece together a cover-up and a real possible motive for the supposed massacre, a secret that, if exposed, would carry grave consequences for the US military.

Turow, yet again, writes with purpose and clarity, laying the proper foundation for a story that unfolds into a surprising ending. He infuses Ten Boom with enough legal savvy and experience to connect the pieces together and gives enough background into the characters to make the story both suspenseful and intriguing (I'm so jealous!).

What I appreciated about Turow's character development was the extent to which Ten Boom talks about his life, in relation to his work (the novel is told in first person). Through the relationships Ten Boom makes with his colleagues, with the women he meets and with the formidable characters he meets along the way, the reader is treated to an accompanying insight into Ten Boom's rationale.

On why he took the job at ICC, Ten Boom says: "I know this much: Justice is good. I accept the value of testimony, of letting the victims be heard. But consequences are essential. People can't believe in civilization without being certain that a society will organize itself to do what it can to make wrongs right.  Allowing the slaughter of four hundred innocents to go unpunished demeans the lives each of us leads. It's that simple."....and so eloquently stated. [June 4, 2017]

Film: "Wonder Woman"

I was eleven years old when I was watching television one evening (November 7, 1975 to be exact) and "Wonder Woman" blasted into the living room. I remember being stunned as I watched the premiere of yet another superhero come to life on the small screen (we already had "Spiderman", "The Incredible Hulk", "Captain Marvel" and "Isis" to watch) but this series followed, more closely, the origins and escapades of the DC superheroine's life I had read in the comic books - everything from the bullet-deflecting bracelets to the golden lasso to the invisible airplane and her tiara. And, of course, it helped (a great deal!) that Wonder Woman was portrayed by the stunning Lynda Carter.
Lynda Carter

The series ran from 1975 until 1979, with CBS picking up the ABC rejected series after just one year and bringing the characters into the 20th century. I do have to admit that the series lost it's luster after finding a new television home and there were mundane plots and themes that flat-lined the original intent of the show to the point of non-salvation. Still and yet, the original series was a hit and resonated with an audience, not just of superhero fans like myself, but also with the growing feminist movement and a prevalent nationalistic pride that dotted the social and political landscape of the era. Basically for me, it was fun...cartoon-ish in a way, but nonetheless fun.

Note: There was an attempt about a year and half prior to the series that brought Wonder Woman to the small screen as a made-for-television movie. It starred the then little known Cathy Lee Crosby as Diana Prince but the character relied more on sensibilities and experiences rather than on physical strength and superpowers and it didn't have the mass appeal that the series did. People did dismiss it as a lame attempt to bring the character to life and had there been a better writer, story line and effects, it probably would have been more than a mere blimp on the television landscape.
Cathy Lee Crosby

Note 2: About six years ago, David E. Kelley started to helm an updated television series of the Wonder woman that starred Adrianne Palicki in the title role. While the 2011 effort was never released on television, the pilot episode, which can be searched for and seen on the internet, did include some nice fight choreography and sincere effects, not unlike its inspired "Xena" predecessor.
Adrianne Palicki

In the forty-plus years since the Lynda Carter series ended, there has always been speculation about a feature film for the superheroine. The seeds of one were no doubt planted when DC forged ahead with Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy, which led to "The Man of Steel" and "Batman vs. Superman" and now to the upcoming "Justice League". Somewhere in that mess of planning, "Wonder Woman" the feature, developed and just yesterday, June 2, "Wonder Woman" made her international film debut.

Like all superhero movies, "Wonder Woman" is an origins film, taking care to illustrate the beginnings of Diana, Princess of Themyscira through her growth as the title character. Director Patty Jenkins spends enough time showing Diana learning the ways of her Amazonian family in the Island Paradise from a young child to adulthood. According to her mother Hippolyta (played by one of my favorite actresses, Connie Nielsen), Diana was formed from clay and was summoned to life with the breath of a dying Zeus "when time was new"; and, under the tutelage of her aunt Antiope (played by a very physical Robin Wright who also speaks with a very obtuse accent), she learns the ways of the warrior. And just in fortuitous time too, since Captain Steve Trevor crash lands within the invisible protective shield of Themyscira bringing with him a host of German soldiers.
On Themyscira, Princess Diana (Gal Gadot, second from let) is protected by her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen, second from right) and trained by Menalippe (Lisa Loven Kongsli, left) and Antiope (Robin Wright, right)
Under the spell of the lasso of Hestia, Trevor truthfully confesses that he is a spy with British intelligence in the "war to end all wars" (the film is set during World War I) and that millions of lives have already been lost in over four years. As we learn, this must be the work of Ares, the god of war, and the reason for the Amazons' exile from the ancient. It is also the impetus for Diana to leave Paradise, to accompany Trevor to the outside world, confront Ares and end the worldwide suffering. "You may never come back," says a woeful Hippolyta as Diana prepares to leave..."and who will I be if I stay?" answers the Princess. Indeed. 

Gal Gadot carries the Wonder Woman character with full force bringing both compassion and fortitude to the role. Obviously, her training as part of the Israeli Defense have given Gadot the agility and strength to execute the demanding physicality of the role, but she also exhibits a gracious, sincere vulnerability that feeds into the compassionate, humanitarian-like quality of Diana. She is both warrior and woman, and Jenkins has allowed the script to feed those dimensions of the character quite well. 

Chris Pine's Steve Trevor is not the one-dimensional character that was depicted in the series and in the comic strip. Here, Pine gets to be wing-man, sidekick, hero and even lover which is a more fully developed role for the actor. And he does so quite well and seems un-intimidated taking a back seat to the title character and even to Gadot herself. It was actually quite refreshing to see a him in this particular role where he is both a victim of Diana's idealism and co-culprit in her mission of justice. 

Chris Pine as Capt. Steve Trevor cautions Diana to see a bigger picture other than seeking Ares' death. 
The plot itself revolves around Diana's eventual confrontation with Ares in an epic battle, but it was just so refreshing to see her as a new character in a world ravaged by war, disillusionment and suffering. When times call for Diana to act, she does and does so very well. The actions scenes are shot with stop-action, slow-motion effect and the Diana in this movie works wonders with sword, shield and lasso. 

I'm not quite sure about the fuss being made by Patty Jenkins as a female director donning the captain's hat for a superhero flick. She follows a long line of successful women directors who have made outstanding, critically acclaimed and award-winning contributions to film: Barbra Streisand ("Prince of Tides"), Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle"), Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation"), Susan Seidelman ("Desperately Seeking Susan"), Penny Marshall ("Big" and "League of Their Own"), Gurinder Chdha ("Bend it Like Beckham"), Ava Duvernay ("Selma"), Jane Campion ("The Piano") and Katherine Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), just to name a few.  What is compelling, however, is that the lens through which Diana's story is told indeed has more compassion. I do agree that Jenkin's vision is unique to the superhero universe only in this respect and it would be interesting to see what she, and other women directors, would do with other superhero franchises. 

"Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins with Gal Gadot
In the end, it is Gadot's new take on the character that is utterly compelling. As an audience, we do feel her compassion and her let-downs, her fortitude and her victories. For all that is going on in the world today, Wonder Woman is both a call to action and a reminder of who we intrinsically are as a people and as a global community. 
[June 4, 2017]

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Time...Commitment...and Me

I haven't blogged in quite some time
Life happened
I moved (closed two escrows in less than 30 days)
Then I had surgery (first time in my life!) to repair herniated disks
I stopped watching film
I stopped reading books
I stopped producing
I stopped writing

But I kept wondering
and dreaming
and thinking
and growing

And I'm trying to take care of me
Which is not, as I'm finding out at this stage of life,
Not quite so easy.

So, I hereby re-commit to me...
to being me...
to treating me...
to healing me...
to helping me...
to feeling like the old, new me....

...and, I'm hoping...
It will be a wonderful ride!