Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Book Club"

On Friday night I decided to see this new film after having seen a poster for it in a local cinema. It stars a Who’s Who of senior Hollywood actresses: Mary Steenburgen, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, and Jane Fonda. All more or less play themselves as far as personality traits go. Ms. Steenburgen’s character is a wife who wants to spice up her 35 year marriage. Ms. Bergen is a federal judge who tries online dating while also trying to get over her husband after a long-ago divorce. Ms. Keaton is a widow whose daughters treat her like a doddering old lady (but she has the last laugh after a romantic tryst with her pilot boyfriend). Jane Fonda is nothing if not a strong lady both in reality and in this movie. Thus, it’s not surprising that she’s reluctant to completely give herself over to an old romantic flame she runs into after 40 years. Although this movie is nothing if not predictable in every way, it’s still quite entertaining and a good evening out with a girlfriend (extra points if you’re a guy and want to please your lady). Looking around the cinema that’s exactly what I saw – pairs of ladies and one or two gentleman out with their spouses/dates for the evening. Take a chance on love and take a chance on this movie. You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

"A Quiet Place"

Last night my husband and I went to see this movie in lieu of doing anything else for Cinco de Mayo. The movie was the directing debut of John Krasinski (from the American version of “The Office”) and starred both himself and his wife, Emily Blunt. As I’m not normally a fan of horror films (though I did quite like “The Blair Witch Project” and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” trilogy), I probably wouldn’t have gone had we not seen a clip from the movie, and heard the two actors discussing it on our favorite British talk show, “Graham Norton.”

In a nutshell, the world has gone to hell in a handbag after being invaded by some sort of alien creatures (which may or may not have arrived via meteorites according to a news headline I read in the background) which stalk their prey based on sound (any sound). This movie is about a family of survivors: Evelyn (mom), Lee (dad), Regan (their adolescent daughter), Marcus (their slightly younger son),

and Beau, the baby of the family at a precocious 4 years old. Also, if just surviving day to day isn’t enough, we quickly see that Evelyn is pregnant and due soon. I read a review that compared the situation to a “ticking time bomb,” which is certainly an apt description.

I was pleased to see the ingénue, Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress who also starred in “Wonderstruck” playing the role of their daughter, Regan. Having been a fan of the ABC Family network show, “Switched at Birth,” I have some idea how Regan took in her surroundings. One might think deafness ideal in a world where everyone has to be silent, but, as you might imagine, she had no idea of when or what sounds things made, so slip-ups are (and were) certainly possible.

Not to compare the movie in an unfavorable light, but it did strike me as a little bit like “Tremors” meets “Jurassic Park” with a bit of “Signs” thrown in for effect. Whoever designed the aliens had obviously seen “Alien” since they bear quite a few similarities.

Even if you’re not a fan of horror films, this isn’t your traditional slice and dice boogie man thriller. A lot of thought went into this film, and if you can’t imagine a scenario when all has gone quiet (try imagining an EMP outage if you really want to know), take in this film to have your eyes opened.

Kudos to Kasinski and Blunt. I only hope their efforts pay off at the Oscars next year.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

"The Isle of Dogs"

Friday night we went to see the newest Wes Anderson film called “The Isle of Dogs.” We’ve been long overdue to see a movie as I can’t remember the last time we went to the cinema.

Even though Andrew felt the movie unfairly discriminated against cats (at least in the sense that they were hardly featured in the movie considering how much the Japanese like their cats – I mean Hello Kitty anyone?), he still enjoyed the film and agreed with the article in the New Yorker about “What ‘Isle of Dogs’ gets Right about Japan.” *


Basically all the dogs in Japan are banished to Trash Island following an epidemic of Snout Flu. A young boy (reminiscent of The Little Prince) flies to the island crash landing his plane while looking for his childhood companion, Spots.

Some of the movie is in English, some in Japanese (only part of which is actually translated, but you don’t miss much). I found the young boy’s (named Atari) English commands to be rather amusing and the refusal of one of the dogs to take orders (he must have rebel tendencies).

Overall a really cute film without being overly sentimental. My only question is what did the few children in our audience think of it? They all sat through it patiently, so I guess they must have liked it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Art & Books

My apologies for not updating my blog last weekend. I’ve been busy soaking up a bit of culture the last two weekends. Last Saturday was the annual CCAD Art Fair and this Saturday was the annual Ohioana Book Festival.

Neither my husband, nor I, had ever attended the CCAD (Columbus College of Art & Design) Art Festival, and I heard about it from an advert on WOSU morning radio. Tickets were only $5 and proceeds benefit CCAD student programming. The Festival contained three floors of art being sold by ‘top alumni and students.’

In a way, it’s like a tiny slice of the Columbus Arts Festival that’s held downtown by the river in early summer. It probably goes without saying that these are some very talented students with a bright future ahead of them. Had I had an unlimited budget (i.e., no husband controlling the purse strings), or a bigger house in which to display various items, perhaps I might have bought more, but we did our best to support the students.

Probably my favorite two purchases were the pink t-shirt that says, “Home is where the Art is,” (with a picture of a room in a house) and a necklace made out of a penny and a dime that almost resembles a $2 Canadian coin. Someone asked the artist, “Is it legal to make jewelry out of money?” Apparently it is not unless you plan to continue to try to use the coins as legal tender.

I also bought a cactus pin, a colorful, floral coin purse, an Ohio-shaped wooden coaster, a couple booklets, some stickers and a bunch of postcards. Andrew and I decided to get some art for our house, so we bought a couple mixed media pieces from an artist by the name of Mary Miller.
One is hanging on our living room wall (after mending a couple holes and repainting the area),and the other is displayed on the lower eave near our front door.

This Saturday I attended the annual Ohioana Book Festival which was held at a hotel in downtown Columbus. Andrew and I had only ever attended once before when it was held at the Ohioana Library located elsewhere in Columbus. Holding it at a hotel was a good idea because I think there were a lot more attendees at this one than when it was held at the other venue.

According to the program brochure, there were 120 authors of all different genres invited to the event (though I saw a sign indicating one or two weren’t able to attend due to extenuating circumstances). My friend, Karin, mentioned the festival to me, so I am grateful to her for reminding me about it. I’m only sorry she couldn’t attend.

After looking at the program schedule, I wanted to make sure to meet David Giffels, author of Furnishing Eternity,
his latest book about him and his father building a coffin together. I read about his book in the December 2017 issue of Ohio magazine, so I already knew I was going to purchase it at some point. I’m just lucky that he was attending the festival, so I also got my book personalized (To Cindy, with thanks and eternity…). During one of the panels he spoke on he told the audience the coffin is now serving as a bookshelf until needed, and is the first thing he and his wife see every day reminding him that every day is a gift.

I attended four different lectures with a cross section of authors.

The first one I sat in on was called “Gone to the Dogs: A conversation about man’s best friend, from inspiring stories of photographing rescue dogs to the selfless loyalty of canine service animals.” There were three panelists – two who had out photo books (Peanut Butter Dogs by Greg Murray & Rescue Dogs by Susannah Maynard), the other was a blind poet (Stephen Kuusisto) with his own seeing eye dog. 
His latest book is called, Have Dog Will Travel. Surprisingly or not, he was more of a subject of fascination than the other two authors. In fact, there was a blind girl sitting in front of me who had all sorts of questions. Though I didn’t purchase any of their books, I hope to buy the next one the two photographers have coming out, and will probably get Mr. Kuusisto’s book from the library.

The next lecture I attended was called “Close to Home: Biographical and Autobiographical Stories of Family.” As Mr. Giffels was one of the panelist, I made a point to attend this one. Without any offense to the other authors, I had a hard time relating to them, so I found myself studying the program to see where the various authors were sitting so I could go meet some of them afterwards and get more books signed.

The third panel I attended was an unconventional choice for me being that I’m not very familiar with the genre, but always try to keep an open mind. “Cozy Mystery: Grab a cup of tea and a furry friend and enjoy this chat about the cozy side of mysteries.” Probably the closest I’ve come to reading a cozy mystery is the occasional Debbie Macomber book. I like the idea, but to me just feels a little frivolous and I need to be in the mood for that as I rarely ever read anything that’s not a memoir.

According to Wikipedia, “Cozy mysteries, also referred to as "cozies", are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. Cozies thus stand in contrast to hardboiled fiction, which feature violence and sexuality more explicitly and centrally to the plot. The term "cozy" was first coined in the late 20th century when various writers produced work in an attempt to re-create the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.”

I have to say that the lecture proved to be very interesting from a publishing point of view. For instance, I didn’t realize that cats are integral to Cozy Mysteries because they sell books. In fact, Olivia Matthews (author of a series of religious themed mysteries she described as a bit like Sister Louise meets “Murder She Wrote”) said her publisher’s assistant once asked if she could add a cat to her story (even though the book was nearly ready for publication).
She said she felt like a fraud because there’s a cat on the cover, but no cat in the story. I found that quite funny, but hardly surprising. I wish the author of Death by Eggnog, Alex Erickson, 

had been on the panel. It would have been nice to have heard a male point of view in what seems to be a very female-dominated market (not surprising).

I should probably give a shout-out to Lisa Karon Richardson,
author of a series of Nancy-Drew like Cozy mysteries with titles like, The Counterfeit Clue and The Case of the Clobbered Cad (both of which I just bought on Kindle) and have the silhouette of a female on the cover, in a similar style to Nancy Drew books.
Speaking of Nancy Drew, I also bought Missing Millie Benson by Julie K. Rubini, which says on the cover: “The Secret Case of the Ghostwriter and Journalist Nancy Drew.” I had heard of this book quite awhile ago, but hadn’t yet gotten around to reading it (my life story!) When I saw it on a table amongst a stack of other autographed books, I picked it up and purchased it, then noticed that the author was actually there, so I got her to personalize it, “To Cindy, Happy Sleuthing.” (She came up with that on her own).

The last lecture I attended was also quite interesting, and I frantically took notes in between the various anecdotes. This one was simply called “The Creative Life” and featured Tom Batiuk (comic strip artist of Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean), David Giffels, Susanne Jaffe, and Margie Shaheed. Out of all the authors, I think I could probably best relate to Mr. Batiuk 
who said he often has a hard time just concentrating on just one project at a time, and has notepads scattered all over his house (and one in his car) for jotting down ideas. He also said he sometimes procrastinates by doing things like “reorganizing my bookshelf.” Like most writers, I can relate to that. I got the impression that the other three authors are a lot more disciplined.

I may also feel simpatico with Mr. Batiuk as we’re both Kent State alumni (he graduated one year before I was born and Kent State forever went down in history). I am also familiar with both his comic strips, though I wouldn’t say I’m exactly a regular reader. I probably prefer the curmudgeonly Crankshaft to Funky Winkerbean (I was never in band, so perhaps it’s a little harder for me to relate).

Probably the best part of being somewhere like the Ohioana Book Festival is being among my “tribe” of fellow readers, though I don’t read nearly as much as I used to and usually prefer to read in small doses. I liked reading everyone’s bookish shirts
and noticed the book bags they all seemed to have. I brought my “dictionary” bag and wore my “So Many Books, So Little Time” (Café Press) shirt. I also like that there were a couple dozen tables representing various libraries and bookstores, writers’ associations, etc. I picked up some free swag including a pen that lights up, a pair of sunglasses, a water bottle, a cute little cuddly toy, and lots of free brochures. I can’t wait to go back next year!