Friday, April 29, 2016

Movies with Brian: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (No Spoilers, but there is a corgi dressed as yoda!)

Duhdadadaaaadaaaa duhdadadaaaadaaada…. Star Wars! Let’s be honest you weren’t really sure what that onomatopoeia was all about at first, am I right?
The Force Awakens is the most recent installment of an ever-expanding fictional universe, and has finally made its way to DVD/Bluray/Digital for your home viewing pleasure. Originally I saw the movie in theaters with my wife, and left somewhere between disgruntled and disappointed. There were several reasons for that:
  1. We got to the theater late and ended up sitting in the second row – Han Solo’s face was so droopy we wondered if he’d had a stroke.
  2. The crowd wanted the movie to be good, and listening to the desperately forced laughter at parts that were not worthy of a cackle or guffaw made me resent paying money for this “experience”.
  3. My expectations were off base because of how well reviewed it was. I lost sight of the fact that you really need to suspend your disbelief; granted there are significant moments that, even in that state, this movie stretched too far.
Suffice to say my initial descriptions of the movie fit into the four-letter category. Has anything changed since then? Yes.
It’s not that the DVD presented a different, more palatable film, but I watched it with my kids (ages 6, 4, and not quite 2). They were enthralled and excited by the action, the story, the world, the universe they were viewing did not have the staleness it did for me (somebody familiar with the first Star Wars films). Was it perfect? Not by any means, but it became a family experience. It was something fun that added value because it was shared, because the story itself (although a complete rehashing of  A New Hope, although filled with logical flaws that cannot simply be explained away “because the force”) is about good versus evil, and the reality of danger and pain and suffering, but in a safe way.
In a world that is growing more and more confused about everything from gender identity, to just wars, or even if there is such a thing as right and wrong anymore it is good to be able to tap into something with an underlying absolute value at its core.
With all my thoughts I still hold that the Honest Trailer is the most accurate assessment of this movie. It is not perfect. It does not capture the mystique of the original three, but it is a good sequel. In the end I think this movie will have been a perfect gateway into something bigger and more expansive than George Lucas was able to create. With a preview for Rogue One now out, and the knowledge that there are seven films to be released over seven years this is an exciting time for the Star Wars franchise and its fans.
Overall this movie was good, well worth watching, especially in preparation for the coming expansion.
Happy viewing,

Can't teach an old dog new Jedi mind tricks...:
Addition by Wesley. This is as close as I've gotten to a Star Wars movie. #realtalk

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rapid Fire Book Review #9

The Job by Steve Osborne - A short story collection from the author's long career as a member of the NYPD. You get the whole range of emotions reading this book - you laugh, you cry, you get to see that sometimes buying a hot dog is an act of kindness people don't expect. Officer Steve also talks about his 9/11 experience which serves as a reminder about how we need to support the people who ran into danger on that day. There's also a sad story about a dog. (Don't read this book, Rita!)

Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner -
Im going to kind of sound like a jerk about this book, but it is what it is. The best part of this book is Kennedy and hearing about how he overcome and all caps UNFATHOMABLE childhood in Kenya. He worked hard and saw things that needed changed in his community and helped to start the changes needed. And then this girl comes over from middle-upper class America and they fall in love and blah blah blah. They are trying to do big things and I wish them all kinds of success but she was all kinds of clueless sometimes and it drove me nuts.

Book of Aron  by Jim Shepard - A story about a young boy who works as a smuggler in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. This book is not for the faint of heart. There is talk of kids with so much lice their hair looks silver, dead bodies on the street, and a kid who has to pull gold teeth from his dead Dad's body so he can use them to buy food. Not an uplifting book, but an interesting story told from an angle I hadn't heard before.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savrit - I really liked this book, but somehow it fell threw the cracks on getting reviewed, as happens occasionally. Anna finds herself alone on the streets of Poland after her dad gets picked up by the Nazis for being an intellectual. She is in desperation when a friendly stranger on the street starts talking to her. Through a series of weird events and near captures by the Nazis they spend the next few YEARS roaming the countryside together trying to stay away from the Nazis AND the Russians and others who mean to do them harm. The writing in this book was just so fantastic. I loved it. It's "technically" a YA book, which surprised me because some sh*t goes down! Anyway, thought this great book with it's magical realism element (my favorite!) was truly great)

And we finish on a low note, haha:


You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexanda Kleeman. I picked this one up from the library for readathon and just couldn't hack it. I gave it the standard 100 pages and it just wasn't drawing me in. I probably would have just stuck with it and finished it but I have a pile of other great sounding books that need reading and I just didn't want to spin my wheels on something. Others have raved about this book though, so if you're intrigued give it a try!


Monday, April 25, 2016

Things I Never Thought I'd Say at Work

So, way back in late June/early July I started a job at a medical school. I'm the administrative go-to for a group of faculty whose primary area of research is the brain. Having come from a law firm background, this was ALLLLL new to me and I find myself saying things that I never thought that I would say. Like.....

"I know this (human organ/or other organic part that used to come off of something living) is in a box of dry ice and sealed or whatever, but I feel like we need to get it in the fridge just in case. I'm not dealing with a leaking box with a (whatever) in it."

"Is today brain moving day?"

Me: "Is that dangerous?" (Motioning to colorful vials of liquid)
Coworker: "Well it depends what you mean by dangerous."
Me: "If I drank all of them at once would it kill me?"
Coworker: " Well, no. I mean you'd get really sick and probably wish that you were dead but you wouldn't die"

(I would NEVER EVER EVER put anything REMOTELY near my face that was in the lab area - even though most of it is probably harmless but I'm always so curious. Though I guess I might ask this question too much because I have one coworker who, whenever I walk past him and he's holding a vial of something says "Wesley, don't drink this, ok?". He might have real worries that I taste test things when everyone is in seminars or something).

And then there are the things that I say all the time:

"I only understood about half of what you just said. Can you run that by me again?"

"I don't know the answer to that question, but I'm sure I can find out for you. Can I call you back?"

"If that is what you are doing today can you warn me so I don't accidentally walk by and see it?"

and the by far most popular

"I'm not a scientist. You'd have to ask someone who does the science".


Friday, April 22, 2016

Dewey's 24 hour readathon is taking place this Saturday!

One of my favorite days of the year is happening tomorrow! It's readathon day!

If you are unaware of readathon, it's basically that participants across the globe sit and read for 24 hours straight. Or try to. It's a pretty impressive feat to make it 24 hours. My personal best is not anywhere near that. Or if you want to double your fun, you sign up to be a reader AND a cheerleader. Cheerleaders are sorted into teams (I'm #TeamGoldfinch!) and you are given a group of readers to cheer on and encourage in their quest for 24 hour domination. I obviously love reading, but cheering is my jam. There are also PRIZES, twitter chats, mini challenges and more! So you might see some extra action from me here on the blog, on instagram or on twitter. I will be on twitter A LOT this weekend.

Major props go our to Andi, Heather, Katie and everyone who puts an astounding amount of time and energy to get this enterprise up off of the ground twice a year. We all appreciate it greatly!

All of the information that you could ever need is on their wonderful website and don't forget to use the hashtag! #readathon.

My TBR stack for readathon is pretty small because I'm probably going to focus my energy on cheering, but what I do have I am excited for:

I was supposed to be done with this a few days ago for Jamie's Inklings discussion but I fell behind due to work insanity. Will be finishing up this guy first and then getting over to Jamie's blog to discuss!

I walked past this book in the library and I feel like I heard good things about it from people (I feel like maybe Julianne or Shannon) So I thought I'd give it a whirl.

I am so so so so excited for this book. Got approved for the ARC on Netgalley and I can barely wait until Saturday to get my hands on it. It will be grand! (I hope! Fingers crossed)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book review: "The Never Open Desert Diner" by James Anderson

Ben Jones is the antihero of this slow burn of a novel. Ben is a truck driver on an almost deserted stretch of highway in Utah. Ben doesn't have many customers (paying or otherwise) on Route 117 but the ones he does have are, uh, colorful. Walter is the man who runs the titular diner and is probably Ben's best friend, though Walter can be "a cranky asshole" sometimes he will surprise you with an offer to make you breakfast.There is also two brother who live in train boxcars very far from any railroad, and a preacher with a migrating cross, and more. Ben has a lot on his mind one day when he pulls of the road to take a pee  break when he stumbles across a naked woman playing a beautiful cello in an abandoned model home.....

The book unravels slowly, but in a pleasing way not a "oh my gosh get on with it already" type of way. Everything, including some very interesting stories in regards to the backgrounds of Ben's customers and Ben himself. The fun fact that Ben is half Native American and half Jewish would be interesting enough but there's so much more!) There is also the most disgusting recipe for a "birthday cake" that I've ever heard. And someone gets cut in half by barbed wire.

I enjoyed this book because of: realistic and complex characters, interesting and unexpected twists and an ending that was surprising but satisfying. (Though I'm still on the fence on the cover. I like the silver and black and white but is it too many fonts on one cover? I don't know....) A high 3.5 stars out of 5 from me!

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books

Monday, April 18, 2016

Book review: "Finding George Orwell in Burma" by Emma Larkin

For this month's Ex-pat read, our ex-pat is a famous one. George Orwell. You may know him from such incredibly classic books like "Animal Farm" and "1984". I have to say that after reading this book my fingers are itching to get a hold of and reread those two. What you might not know about George is that he lived for a time in Burma, and though it wasn't a topic of many of his writings (though there are some) it effected his writing, and life, a lot.

For the sake of continuity I will call Burma Burma and not Myanmar, because that's what it was called when it was under British colonial rule. Burma is really the centerpiece of the story, a whole character unto itself. I should also note that this book was published in 2004 and that some changes have happened with Burma taking tiny steps closer to freedom but it remains a very closed off place with a staggering history of  human rights abuses. (Examples: imprisoning anyone who protests the government, censoring of press, basically no free speech. Please see here , here  and here for more information). 

Ans just in case someone doesn't know where Burma is....

Map of Myanmar (Burma)

Our author travels to Burma to see the places that Orwell had lived and worked and to see if there are people reading Orwell. Orwell was, basically a British policeman during his time in Burma and there seems to be a lot of differences between how he felt about Britain's colonization of Burma and how other British officers felt. He sounds like he was kind of a loner, not much of a party animal like some of his compatriots could be. Author Emma goes to some of his old haunts but they totally have the Miss Havisham vibe going on -  if they are still around they are decrepit and empty but you can see how beautiful they used to be. Mostly there is nothing there. And sometimes she gets followed around and watched by government spies basically. 

I think the most interesting parts of the book is her interaction with the Burmese. Whenever they talk about Orwell and his writings it has to be in very hushed tones because his books are pretty subversive. I don't want to give too much away but to a lot of the Burmese, Big Brother isn't some frightening dystopian fantasy, it's their everyday life. I wonder how Orwell would feel if he saw Burma now.

This book made me want to reread some classics that I haven't read since mmy early teens,and it educated me immesnly on a country that I knew very little about. It's worth reading just for a short little Burmese parable about the knights and the dragon (page 107 in the paperback). I give it 3.5 stars!


Friday, April 15, 2016

Rain boot bonanza!

I have a slight obsession with rain boots, which is good because our springs in Wisconsin have a tendency to be rainy and therefore muddy. So here are some cute rainboots that I rounded up from the internet! Click on the pictures for links! Happy Friday everyone!

Chooka Top Solid Mid Rain Boot 




 Moschino rain boots