Posted tagged ‘Review’

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]

Date Night

April 24, 2016

Jungle BookSaturday was date night. We really needed to get out without Mom even if only for a couple of hours.

So, we went to see the movie “The Jungle Book“. I guess we are getting cheap in our old age. Jungle Book was available in iMax 3D, Regular 3D and old plain 2D. 2D was $7 a person for Seniors. iMax was $17. We did the old fashioned 2D. Characters were voiced by Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken and many more fine actors and actresses.

The film is rated PG and rightly so. There are parts that are pretty violent and might be a bit scary for little kids. I wouldn’t take a kid to see it under the  age of 8 or 9.

We loved it. We went to a 4:45 showing and there were a lot of families with kids in the theater. I particularly liked Baloo voiced by Bill Murray where he starts singing the “Bare Necessities”. We also liked the scenes with King Louie.

Here’s the Bill Murray version from Youtube. I will be playing this tune at Lodge in a couple of weeks.

When you compare this version with earlier versions you can readily see how far the animation technology has come. This film was filmed completely in Los Angeles.

I would give the film 8.5 stars out of 10. We loved it.

And by the way, you can download the Kindle version of the Rudyard Kipling Book from Amazon for $.99. What a deal.

Now for dinner part of date night. We had hoped to try the Hopsaint Brewery restaurant in Torrance. Saturday night was not a good time. We couldn’t even find a parking space. We’ll try another time when it might be less busy.

We came up with a plan B. We decided to go to the “San Franciscan” in Torrance. I was itching to have a good steak. We don’t have a barbeque grill at our place (forbidden my HOA). It was busy too, but at least we found a parking space. Had to wait 20 minutes for a table.

I had a 9 oz Filet Mignon. Paula had something called a “Drunken Sam”. The menu descrbes it as

“Filet mignon, pan fried in burgundy wine and brandy. Served atop fried eggplant and topped with an Ortega chile and jack cheese”

I had a taste. It was very good. Paula cleaned her plate. This is not fancy and the decor is rather plain but food is excellent. This is our place to go to when we have a hunger for steak.

Date Night

March 31, 2016

zootopiaFinally, we had the chance to have another date night last night. Paula and I went to see Zootopia at the Terraces. We went to the 4:30 pm show for  $4 each for seniors. Price for regular folks was $6. Sometimes it’s just fun to go to a kids movie without the kids. Zootopia was no exception. There were many jokes that were clearly aimed at the grown-ups in the audience.

Zootopia is the story of a young rabbit who goes into the big city of Zootopia to become a rookie cop. The rabbit named Judy Hopps doesn’t want to stay on the carrot farm with her parents anymore.

So rookie Officer Hopps joins forces with a cynical con artist fox named Nick Wilde to solve a sinister conspiracy in the great city of Zootopia.

They do a really great scene where the pair goes to the DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles) to look up a license plate. Of course the clerks at the DMV are all sloths. They work so slowly. What a hoot. Wonder where they got that idea?

Good film, take the kids too. Runs about an hour and a half.

20160331_020800030_iOSSo we were done with the movie by 6:30 pm. Time for dinner. Date night dinners are a chance for us to unwind and talk about how things are going with Mary’s care without her listening.

We decided that it had been a long time since we’ve had Chinese food. So we decided to try the PV Palace on PCH in Lomita. Restaurant was pretty much empty when we arrived. Decent service. We had Mu Shu Pork, Shrimp Fried Rice, and Kung Pao Scallops. All very tasty. The waiter even filled the Mu Shu pancakes for us. We both had a glass of chardonnay. Plenty left over for lunch tomorrow.

Today we are off to the storage locker to clean out a few more boxes of junk (or treasures).

Black Mass

September 28, 2015

Last night Paula and I had an opportunity to go to the movies. Mary K was off at some party up on the hill. So we had enough time to see a movie and have a brief dinner at KFC. We didn’t have enough time to have a decent meal out. KFC had to do.

BulgerSo we decided to see Johnny Depp in “Black Mass“. Saturday night at 6:30 pm. $12 for the two of us. Sometimes being an old fart is a good thing. So there were about five people in the movie including us. I guess that the story of Whitey Bulger isn’t a big thing out here on the West Coast.

I really enjoyed Depp as Whitey. Johnny Depp didn’t look anything like a pirate. I saw on the news where he made a visit to a children’s hospital in the pirate costume while he was attending the opening in Boston. The kids loved it.

He really nailed the role. I read that Johnny Depp had tried to get an interview with Whitey in the pen where Whitey is staying. Denied.

Benedict Cumberbatch played Billy Bulger. Good performance but he didn’t quite get the Billy Bulger accent and mannerisms that I remember.

The rest of the cast did a decent job of portraying some pretty nasty people. I thought it was worth seeing. Alas, other folks in LA may not have found it interesting. So if you live in LA, you better get out and see it before it gets dropped.

There was an excellent book written by Keven Cullen of the Boston Globe about the whole Whitey saga up to his capture in Santa Monica a few years ago. Might be better to read the book before seeing the movie. Here’s the link for the book.

COIN V2

August 26, 2015

IMG_2281Well COIN pushed an update to their app on iOS today. Part of the update was to add a feature to add a nickname to each credit card stored on the Coin device. Okay, to refresh your memory, Coin is a device that allows one to store up to six credit cards on the device. It has the same form factor as a typical credit or debit card. The deal is that you can reduce the thickness of your wallet from six credit cards to one.

The problem was that one had to remember the last four digits of each credit card so that one could select the one that you wanted to use. So for example, now you could assign a nickname like WF for a Wells Fargo card or BA for Bank of America. A feature that would be welcome and useful.

They also announced that would be a V2 version of the device. Current owners/users could upgrade for free. Well that’s nice. The V1 device seems to have some issues around acceptability at some merchants. ie. not everybody accepts it. That’s a big problem because it means that you have to have a real backup credit card in case the store can’t read the COIN.

The V2 COIN is also supposed to support NFC (Near Field Communication). This allows one just to wave the card on top of the POS terminal. This is the same feature that is used by ApplePay or GooglePay. If stores start supporting NFC, why would I need a card? I could just use my iPhone, Most stores aren’t anywhere close to accepting NFC,

Here’s the main problem. The V2 COIN won’t start shipping until Q1 2016. What they mean by that is the end of Q1 2016. Corporations often have a weird way of telling time. If I told my wife that I would be home by 9 pm and I walked in the door  at 9:55 she might be justifiably be upset. I said I would be home by 9. It’s still 9 o’clock. Time to duck. That’s seven months from now by my math.

Anyways, back to the update. I installed the update. I registered for the update. no problem. I am now aware of their method of keeping time. I managed to set one nickname. But I was unable to set another. At the same time my COIN seems frozen. No sync, Won’t turn on. I can’t prove that the update screwed up my COIN but it seems likely that it’s the culprit.

Time for another email to COIN support. They say to repeatedly push the on button until it unfreezes or let it sit for 24-48 hours. Sigh. My COIN is real close to being thrown in the back of the drawer with all of my other electronic gadgets that promised to change the world but didn’t.

If you’re thinking of buying one of these gadgets. Don’t.

Captain John Smith

July 12, 2015

Great RogueI just finished reading a book titled “The Great Rogue: A Biography of Captain John Smith” by Noel Gerson. John Smith was one of truly great English explorers. He was one of the founders of the colony at Jamestown, Virginia in 1602, The book was actually written quite a while ago (the copywright notice says 1978). It was only recently published on Kindle.

The book tells the story of his early life and through his exploring and colonizing of the new world. The Jamestown colony came almost twenty years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

it was enjoyable read. A couple thoughts seemed to jump out at me. First that the English investors in the New World had this idea that gold, silver and precious jewels would be found as soon as the colonists landed in the new world.

The second idea was that the path to the Pacific Ocean was just around the corner and up the stream. It took John Smith a long time to persuade the investors that there wasn’t gold in every hill.

He did however that other natural resources were just as valuable. Those resources included lumber, furs and many other goods that were traded with the indians. He also discovered that fish and whales were abundant. Whales were valuable for their oil (used in lamps) and ambergris. Ambergris is a substance found in the digestive system of whales that was valued by perfumeries.

John Smith wanted to go on the Mayflower expedition but the leaders didn’t think he was a good fit. Instead they chose Miles Standish.

John Smith an outstanding job of mapping the New World. When he returned to London in 1609 after suffering serious burns, Smith returned with maps, charts and data about the new world. He never got to return to the new world but he certainly affected the development. It’s a good read.