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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Thursday Review: Matthew McConaughey talks to Dwayne Johnson

 

When I read an announcement about another celebrity book being published, I usually roll my eyes and move on. Not so when I saw the news about Matthew McConaughey's new book Green Lights. As a Native Texan, I think I'm obligated to like MM, but even if I wasn't he's an easy celebrity to like.

Most people my age think of MM as he was in Dazed and Confused, which came out the year I graduated High School. To be honest, I've never watched the entire movie and remember very little about it that isn't regularly shared on social media. What I do remember when it comes to MM, is his awesome portrayal of lawyer Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill. That is a movie I will never forget, though I think I've only seen it once.

So, his acting chops in that movie are usually the first thing I think of whenever his name runs across my social media. But, being a Texan, I've seen various tales of him just generally being a great, down to earth guy at various times. The talk aired online by B&N this past Tuesday only reiterated my opinion. From the advertisement I expected it to be Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) interviewing Matthew McConaughey about his new book. However, it was actually more like MM interviewing DJ. They spoke about the book and it's premise of there being green lights in our life, basically good things that come along, or opportunities we're given. They also spoke about yellow and red lights and how they've dealt with them.

One of the more serious parts of the talk happened when MM brought up that both of them have lost their fathers (which I didn't know). DJ spoke about being evicted from his home at age 14 and the effect that had on him. Seeing his mother cry was a driving force in him striving to be the successful man he is now. MM spoke a lot about his father and how much he misses him, which was very obvious in his voice. It was such a real, human moment to witness between these two men that can seem to far above us. 

Probably my absolute favorite part, was when MM talked about knowing at age 8 what he wanted to be when he grew up. You'd think actor or artist, right? Someone famous and/or important. Actually, he said a father. That just melted my heart. I thoroughly enjoyed the talk, and the Q&A MM held afterward, answering questions that had been sent in before the event. Though I haven't received my copy of the book yet, I expect Green Lights to be just as satisfying as hearing that talk.

Now that virtual events are our new normal, I look forward to attending more author events such as this. A few weeks ago, I attended one hosted by Fresh Fiction in which they interviewed Lorraine Heath. If you follow me on Goodreads it's pretty obvious I've recently become addicted to her books. I plan to also host some virtual readings of my Gargoyle Masters series. Hopefully, book three will be ready soon. Once that date is set I'll plan three events where I read from each of the books and discuss their world. I hope you'll join me.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday Reflection: Suburbs and Subdivisions

Growing up, until my Freshman year of high school, we lived within Houston city limits. It wasn't like living "downtown" exactly, but it wasn't the suburbs either. If you're not familiar with Houston, a glance at the map to the left shows it's HUGE. Over the past thirty years, since I lived within city limits, the suburban areas outside of Houston have exploded and expanded. Recently on Twitter I came across a post about suburbs being started as a segregation tactic. There were other posts, all negatively referring to suburbs as basically things of evil. I find this funny because back when I was in high school, I would've agreed.

At the time of our move out of city limits I was a lonely teenager with zero friends or acquaintances in the school district I was moved into as a Freshman. We moved into a "subdivision", which honestly freaked me out a little bit. The only things I knew about subdivisions at the time were from Rush lyrics, and none of it was flattering. That put a definite damper on my expectations of my new school and classmates. It actually turned out really well for me. I graduated with good friends, many I'm still in touch with, and tons of great memories. Did I conform? Yeah probably. At the time I didn't think much of it, but I realize now how much of my Mexican culture I sacrificed during my teen years. However, all teens go through the transition of identity phase and that was mine.

Years later, after many more moves, I talked my husband into moving back into the general area of my high school years because of those fond memories. We wound up, and still live, in a subdivision in the suburbs. But let me tell you about the suburbs where we live. It's quite diverse. I'm not surrounded by white housewives when I go to the grocery store. I don't see a plethora of Trump for President signs as I drive down the street. There's a feeling of community here, even though most of us stay to ourselves and only smile and wave to each other in passing. Once when walking into the local grocery store, a lady was struggling to push her cart and pull a carpet cleaning machine behind her. I immediately headed her way, but before I could help her two other people got to her and aided her to her car.  

Another time, my husband and I were walking into the same store on a rainy day and a lady slipped and fell in front of us. The manager rushed out and a few other people stopped with us to help her. The store manager, who I knew well, talked her into letting me drive her home while my husband followed. No one thought anything of it because we're all neighbors. We're all a community. Sure, we have our problems like anywhere. I see Ring and Nextdoor alerts of stolen packages and car break-ins, but luckily it's not a daily occurrence. As mentioned, there are Trump supporters just like there are Biden supporters, but I've yet to see any public arguments. Everyone walking into the local grocery store wears a mask. When lost pet notices are posted people respond to help. I like living in my subdivision in the suburbs.

That being said, I DO NOT find Mike Pence in any way sexy or attractive. In fact, I laughed out loud when I saw that making the rounds on Twitter. I think a big part of the problem with the negative view of suburbs right now is the misconception that only one type of person lives in them. Well, that's certainly not true where I live and I have a feeling it's not true for a lot of suburbs around the U.S.



Thursday, October 8, 2020

Thursday Review: Metallica's S&M2

     
High school marching band was a savior for me. As a Freshman I moved not only to a new school, but a whole new district. I knew absolutely no one and, having gone from the city to a suburb, had no idea how to fit in. Then I was put into band class and suddenly had something in common with about 300 other students. It was a game changer. The very first show, where I just kind of stood on the sidelines, was also a huge eye-opener. Up until then I had listened to very little Classical music. I knew who Beethoven and Mozart were, but that about summed it up. Hearing that first show created a love for Classical music that has expanded over the years. 
I've never been a big fan of recorded live shows. Too often, live music doesn't live up to my expectations either because the songs sound too different, or the band just doesn't sound as good live. However, Metallica has never had those problems. I've seen them live a few times and each time has been a great experience that stayed with me for weeks, if not months, after. They are one of my top five all-time favorite bands, so getting not one, but two CDs that mix Metallica and Classical music rates in my top favorite all time things of 2020. 
Live music is what I miss most in these Covid times, so I really enjoyed listening to this 2 CD set of live Metallica. It starts out with my favorite of their instrumentals, The Call of Ktulu, and the symphony slips so seamlessly into the song that it's as if they've always been there. Disc one hits on at least four different albums, with an enthusiastic crowd singing along with James throughout. 
Disc 2 starts out with Lars thanking and welcoming Metallica Club members. He thanks San Francisco and points out the many countries represented in the audience. Then he introduces the musical director, who thanks the symphony and Metallica. Then the symphony (alone) plays the Scythian Suite, a short tribal sounding piece that's very drum heavy, which I like. After that Metallica joined them for The Iron Foundry. The rest of the disc includes more classics, including my favorites Wherever I May Roam and Master of Puppets. Hearing James sing an almost acoustic Unforgiven III is a reminder that the man has an awesome voice.
But, the absolute highlight of the whole thing was the tribute to Cliff Burton with the symphony's take on (Anesthesia)-Pulling Teeth. It began with a slow standing bass solo that I could honestly listen to for hours. Then Robert Trujillo joined in to add the electric bass sound. Not gonna lie, it gave me goosebumps.
Overall, it was money well spent and I honestly enjoyed it more than S&M 1, which I think I only listened to all the way through once. If you're a Metallica fan who has been missing live music you'll like the Metallica songs on this 2-disc set. If you're a Classical music fan who's favorite section of the symphony is the percussion section, you'll like disc 2 for certain. If you're like me, both a Metallica and a Classical music fan, you'll enjoy both discs even as they make you yearn to attend a live show again. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sunday Reflection: Getting Older

 

It's October, which for me means something a little more than Halloween. Time is chugging on. On October 1st my mom turned seventy, on October 3rd my third child turned twenty. Where has the time gone?! If they're getting older then I am too. I'm no longer the toddler covered in chocolate with way too much curly hair as pictured to the left. I'm a mom, a wife, a daughter, an aunt, a sister, an author, a professional, and a woman who can look back on my life (even during this horrifically crazy year) and be satisfied that I've accomplished much and had many moments of true happiness.

When I was in high school I was an aunt to four rambunctious boys and one rambunctious girl. I loved all of them dearly but swore I wouldn't be having any of my own anytime soon. My plan was to become a photographer for either Sports Illustrated or National Geographic, hopefully both, and travel the world indulging in my passion of photography. I graduated. Started college, then life happened. By the time my second child made herself known I realized my plans had been forever altered. I don't remember ever mourning the life I thought I'd live. I remember nothing but happiness when I first became a mom, even if it hadn't been in my plans. Plans change and people change, and I think it all worked out.

So, now I'm forty-five and indulging in writing, something that wasn't even on my radar back in high school. I've always loved to read and write. As a child I'd make up stories all the time but not write them down. I was the kid sitting on the playground reading a book instead of running around with everyone else. Though I'd never expected to become an author, when I think back to various times in my life I realize I probably should have considered it. The spark was always there, I just hadn't noticed it.

I know a lot of people hate getting older. They hate having their birthdays acknowledged and fussed over. I'm the complete opposite, not only about my own birthday but about those of my loved ones, too. Since we couldn't throw the big bash I wanted to give my mom for her milestone birthday, we hired mariachis to play at her house. My sister made signs for her yard and her sister baked a cake, covered in seventy individual candles (she's the youngest and had to rub it in mama's face). For my daughter, we drove up to Denton for the day to have a small celebration at her apartment. It wasn't all I'd hoped to do, but it was enough. 

Getting older isn't a bad thing if you can look at what you've accomplished in the years you've lived. If you're happy with the person you are today, then all of the hardships have been worth it. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Thursday Review: Mulan

 

The Disney animated movie Mulan is one of those that sticks with you long after you've watched it. If your family is like mine, you trade quotes at random times (usually from Mushu), sing the songs together, and recount the funniest parts over and over. It's one we've loved and watched many times since it's release onto VHS. So, it was with great excitement that my family looked forward to the release of a live-action Mulan. Understandably, my kids were skeptical about this one being as good or better than the original but we decided to watch it anyway.

Shortly after the movie became available word got out online that the main actress and at least one actor had some troublesome political views. To be completely honest, in a good year I might not know what's going on in other countries, especially on other continents, that is causing unrest among their citizens. Everyone knows this has not been a good year, however, my son explained some of it to me so I wasn't completely unaware when we chose to rent the movie. My son decided to stay in his room while the rest of us watched the movie.

*Spoilers ahead*

It started out well. I liked seeing a glimpse of Mulan as a child that wasn't given in the original. It was odd seeing her have a sister instead of her wise and amusing grandmother, who had seemed to be the only one to cut her a little slack. But then the plot twisted into something far different from the cartoon. This wasn't a smart only child who was trying to make her father proud of her because of her love for him. This Mulan has inner power that she must keep secret because she's female living in a male-dominated world. Her parents are exasperated by her. Her father offended rather than the loving animated character who, while full of pride, still loves his daughter deeply enough to look past her flaws. This isn't necessarily a Mulan little girls could or would look up to when what they see in the mirror isn't who they hope to be.

The movie follows the events of the original for the most part, but then a different villain is thrust upon us. We meet a witch who is very powerful, but for some reason acts as a minion for the true bad guy, Böri Khan. Why? The entire characterization of Xianniang makes no sense whatsoever. She is the one sent in first to clear the way for Böri Khan and his elite group of baddies. He talks down to her and basically treats her like shit, but she follows him anyway. Why? What hold does he have on her, a magical witch who can turn into a bird and fly away at any time? What makes even less sense is the ending when she sacrifices herself to save Mulan based on little more than one meeting where she admits they have a lot in common (which Mulan disagrees with BTW). Xianniang was a very unsatisfactory addition to the movie. Without fleshing out her character, she shouldn't have been added at all.

Then there's the Big Reveal. In the cartoon, Mulan is injured saving Li Shang, a character that sadly didn't make the cut into the live-action version. Now, she fights the witch, loses, then I guess has an epiphany? The witch basically dares her to reveal herself so she strips off (and throws away!) her father's armor (probably a family heirloom BTW) and rides back into battle sans armor and with her hair down. This is the part that doesn't make a lot of sense to my American mind. Her hair had been up, but the guys still had to know it was long, right? I mean, I can fit a lot of hair into a bun, but her bun wasn't exactly small and discreet. Anyway, she rides in and saves the day. They appreciate it but immediately recognize she is a woman and must be banished. This is the part of the movie I liked the least (because I didn't really hate any of it). It makes no sense to throw away her dad's armor before heading into a battle. It makes no sense to reveal herself at that point in time. The animated version played this out much better.

I'm not going to go into the ending too much other than to say I understand now why Jet Li didn't want to be in the movie. Apparently his daughter talked him into it, but really, they could've had a carboard cutout play the emperor for all the life they gave him in this movie.

Overall, it wasn't the worst remake I've ever seen. It wasn't the worst movie by a long shot. But I did miss the comedy and the music of the animated version. I do prefer that movies about other cultures stick closely to the truth of those cultures though, so I'm going on the advice of others to look for the 2009 version of Mulan, which some believe more closely follows the original poem.