Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

The Black Thorn

April 18, 2019

41lCC6CPC2LJust finished reading “The Black Thorn”  by John Desmond. John Desmond is also a history teacher at Billerica Memorial High School. Our son, Mike, had him for an AP History course back in the late 90’s.

This is the story of Eamonn McDonagh, a Irish tenant farmer in the 1850’s who struggles against his English landlord in his town. He creates a secret society called the “Black Thorn” that proceeds to fight the oppression by the English.

He son, Joseph, witnesses the death of his father at the hands of the English. Joseph leaves Ireland in a “Coffin Ship” bound to America. Then the story tells of Joseph’s life in a coal mine and then in infantry of the Civil War.

Then Joseph comes back from the war to the coal mine. He then proceeds to form a union to fight the unfair labor practices of the mine owners.

Then there is violence in the murder of one of the mine owners. Joseph and his men get the blame and go to trial.

If I said anymore it would be a spoiler alert.

The story is historical fiction. The characters are not real but are based on real events in the Irish potato famine and the civil war.

Great read. I learned much about the civil war and other events of the time. I could hardly put it down. It took me only about five days to read cover to cover.

Green Book

January 24, 2019

Last night was “Date Night” again. This time we went to see “Green Book” at the AMC theater in Torrance. What a great film! This time we didn’t even have to pay for a sitter for Mary because our friend Roberta was visiting us and offered to watch Mary for the evening. We have been try to catch up on seeing all of the Oscar-nominated films this year. We never get to see all of the films, especially since the academy expanded the Best Picture nominees to 10 films.

Green Book stars Virgo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Also, the actual green book was the star of the film. It is the story of a booklet called the “Negro Motorists Green Book” that was used by black people traveling in the South during the “Jim Crow” era. The book was published from 1936 until 1966 by Victor Green, a mailman in the NYC area. [Click here for more information from Wikipedia.] The book was intended to help Black motorists find lodging and accommodations while traveling.

So back to the movie. Mahershala plays the part of a black classical pianist (Dr Don Shirley) who hires Mortensen (Tony Lip) to be driver for a concert tour through the Deep South. The movie details their journey.

Tony Lip was an Italian-American who worked as a bouncer at the Copa-Cobana Club in NYC. So Tony had lost his job at the Copa when the club had closed for renovations. Then, Dr Don Shirley hires Tony Lip as his driver and assistant. Tony would be constantly getting Dr Don out of trouble.

So they started their tour through the south in this a beautiful baby blue 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVilles. What a beautiful car.

Also, I loved the music from the film. Dr Don Shirley leads a trio with a piano, cello and bass fiddle. When we got home I logged in to iTunes and bought the sound track album right away. [Click here for iTunes and here for Amazon.]

So finally, we stopped for dinner on the way home. A lot of times we feel we need to get home right away since we are paying for our sitter by the hour. Most of the time we will get take-out food. (Perhaps, KFC, burgers, Chinese, etc.) This time we decided to stop at Taxco Mexican restaurant around the corner from our condo. Paula and I both had a delicious margarita and some Mexican food. Very tasty. [Click here for the Yelp entry]

Mary Poppins Returns

December 29, 2018

Friday night was date night again. We arranged to have Dawn over to take care of Mary. then off we went to the movies. We went to see “Mary Poppins Returns” at the Terraces Cinema. The film stars Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Terraces is about half the price of AMC theaters plus it’s a lot closer. Tickets last night were $6 a person (Senior Rate).

I am usually underwhelmed at movie remakes, but I was pleasantly surprised at the “new” Mary Poppins. Emily Blunt does a great job doing Mary Poppins. As in the past she arrives floating down from the sky under an umbrella.

Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack, the lamplighter. So, who knows what a lamplighter does for a living?

We ran into a couple of friends who came to see “Mary Poppins Returns”. In fact, there were only the four of us in the theater. Our friend Frank had never heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Who hasn’t heard of Hamilton. One of these days we will save up enough money to see “Hamilton” when it comes out this way again.

The sound track was completely revamped. Alas, there was no “supercalifrasticexpialidiocius”. Not to worry, there were plenty of tunes that get your toes tapping. I will probably download the sheet music to some of the tunes to play at our next lodge or OES meeting.

Okay, SPOILER ALERT.

If you haven’t seen the film and are planning on seeing it. Stop reading here.

One of the joys of the film was cameo appearances late in the film of Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. Folks of a certain age, might remember that Dick Van Dyke appeared in the original “Mary Poppins” back in 1964. I don’t quite get the appearance of Angela Lansbury. She didn’t appear in the original Poppins. So what’s the hook? Also, Julie Andrews did not appear in the sequel. Dick Van Dyke still has that twinkle in his eyes.

After the movie we got Chinese take out from the Lucky Star Chinese restaurant. I do love their Hot and Sour soup. All in all, it was a fun night.

Bohemian Rhapsody

December 2, 2018

Saturday night was another “Date Night” for us. Paula and I were wanting to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” for a while now. We thought it might be getting to the end of its run in theaters by now. But we got tickets on the AMC app for the 6:40 pm show.

What a great movie. Paula says four stars all the way. It brings the story of Freddie Mercury and the rock band Queen to the big screen. You don’t want to watch this on your DVD player. You want to watch this on a big screen with the full theater Dolby sound system.

Freddie had an amazing voice. He could cover 4 octaves. (I can only cover 4 notes, let alone one octave.) I was impressed that a four piece band (drums, bass guitar, lead guitar and singer) could make such loud, beautiful sound. (Click here for the full Wikipedia article on Freddie Mercury.)

Freddie was born of Parsi parents on the island of Zanzibar and later in India. He later moved to England with his parents.

The finale of the movie is the performance at the Live Aid concert in 1986. Freddie Mercury died in 1991 of Pneumonia related to the disease AIDS at the age of 45.

So last night I downloaded the soundtrack album from iTunes and listened to it on the way to and from church. Nothing like the tune “Bohemian Rhapsody” rattling around your head during church. Maybe, I’ll play it at our OES meeting tomorrow.

Click here for the trailer on YouTube.

The Tatooist of Auschwitz: A Novel

November 15, 2018

TatooistI just finished a book titled “The Tatooist of Auschwitz” about a young Slovakian man who was imprisoned at Auschwitz during World War 2.

I could hardly put the book down. This is the story of a young Slovakian man named Lale who was imprisoned in 1942 in Auschwitz. Somehow, Lale survives and manages to get a job of  “Tatooist” which was a person who inscribed inmates with their identification number on their arm.

It is a story of one man’s survival in a German prison camp. Lale manages to survive and even thrive. He manages to not only survive but meet a woman named Gita and fall in love. Then, after the war become his wife.

One of the skills that Lale had that helped him survive was that he was fluent in over four languages. He was useful to the Germans. I really enjoyed this book. I could hardly put it down. I went through it in about three days which for me is light speed.

Go ahead and download it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Crazy Rich Asians

September 20, 2018

Crazy Rich AsiansWednesday night was date night again. This time Paula and I decided to go see “Crazy Rich Asians” still playing at the AMC in Torrance. It stars Constance Wu and Henry Golding. Been meaning to go see this movie but didn’t quite have the time or baby sitter availability.

The movie is based on the best-selling novel of the same name.

This is a story of a young Chinese woman, Rachel Wu (played by Constance Wu) who travels with her boy friend from New York City to Singapore to meet his family. So you get the impression from the get-go that his family is very rich

He is in Singapore to be best man at his best friend’s wedding. They travel first class all the way.

The story begins with a scene where Eleanor Young travels with her three children to the Calthorpe Hotel in London where she is told that she doesn’t have a reservation (for obvious racist reasons). She is turned out in the rain to call her husband who proceeds to buy the hotel. She returns triumphantly to have the manager clean up the mud on the floor.

It was a fun movie. There was lots of pomp and rich trappings displayed. Major friction between son and mother. Go see the IMDB page for the full plot synopsis.

It was nice to get out without Mary. We stopped for KFC chicken on the way home.

Nissan Rogue

August 22, 2018

So I have had my new Nissan Rogue for about a month now. Time to write about the things I like about the car and the things that are not so great.

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First, here are the things that I really like.

File Aug 22, 1 08 08 PMBlind spot detection. There’s a little light in front of each side view mirror. So when you are driving down the highway, the light comes on when there is a car in your blind spot. One has to get used to checking for the light before you change lanes. You can’t see it very well in the picture. I would need to be moving to get it to light up. That wouldn’t be very safe.

Automatic Seat Adjustment When you start the car up, the driver’s seat moves forward to your preselected spot. When you shut it down, the seat moves all the way back and down. Makes it easier to get in and out. There are two saved seat selections. So Paula can have her selection and I have mine.

Adaptive Cruise Control So I’m cruising down the highway on cruise control. The car detects that you have a car or truck moving slower in front of you. The cruise control detects the car in front of you and eases off on the gas. Pull out to pass and cruise control steps on the gas.

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Automatic Unlock Push the black button on the door once, driver’s door unlock’s. Push it again, all doors unlock. All you need is to have the key fob in your pocket or purse. Getting out of the car, push the button, doors lock. There is a corresponding black button on the right front passenger door.

Color I love the color. I was getting really tired of choice of white or black. It seems to me that most cars these days are either black, white or silver. Boring.

2018-08-05 12.13.15Gas Mileage The car is a hybrid. Right now I am getting about 30 mpg. Much better than the Jeep. Not dropping $70 a fill-up at the gas station. It feels a bit weird to have the car shut off at a traffic light. Remember in CA, gas is running at about $3.75 /gallon for regular. It’s also taking a little getting used to having the filler pipe on the right side.

Rear View Camera Put the car in reverse and the rear view camera is turned on. Gives you a nice wide angle view of the space behind you. Has guidelines on the view to give you an idea about the path you will take. Great for getting out of tight spaces.

Here are things that I don’t care for.

Navigation I’d rather use Waze on my iPhone. So I am heading up to Hollywood. The route is to take I-110 north to Rte 101. Then head towards Hollywood. The GPS will warn me to make a left turn in 5 miles on the 110. Well, there is no left turn after 5 miles. What it is really telling me is to stay on the 110 and not take the I-405 exit. Confusing to say the least. So it is telling me to turn left when it really means keep going straight and not take the exit.

One nice thing is that it shows you the lanes you should be in before the turn or exit.

Nissan Connect App The free app is very clunky and not very intuitive on how to use. You can download a destination to the car or remotely unlock or start the car. Nissan gives you the service for free for the first six months, then they charge $8 or $9 a month. It does what it is supposed to do, but a struggle to figure out how to make it happen. Needs work. I doubt if Nissan will do it though. Next winter I will need to decide whether to keep the service.

Control Panel. Hard to see. I can’t make it bright enough. If I wear my sunglasses, the panel is impossible to see. Also, the buttons on the steering wheel are kind of small. Also, hard to see. I suppose eventually I will know them by feel. Muscle memory, etc.

One more thing. Last week my permanent license plates arrived. So I removed the dealer temporary plate and frames with the dealer’s name on it and threw them in the trash. I replaced them with my new Red Sox frames. I don’t feel that I need to give free advertising to the dealer.