Monday, October 28, 2013

Review of "Enough Said"

I really love The Flicks movie theatre, and I regret that I do not attend more movies there.  Often my roommate and I go to the blockbuster, popcorn films shown at Edwards, but this time I was able to persuade my way into seeing “Enough Said,” one of James Gandolfini’s last films before he died earlier this year.  The movie also stars Julie Louis-Dreyfus, not usually one of my favorite actresses, as a masseuse and Catherine Keener as her newest client and new best friend.  

As Eva, Louis-Dreyfus is funny and cynical in a way that I did not see in her show, “Seinfeld.”  She lugs around her massage table from client to client, listening to their complaints and troubles and providing them with a soothing respite that she herself could use. She meets Gandolfini’s Albert at a party, where they both announce that they are not physically attracted to anyone there, but somehow Albert manages to cajole her into a first date, which leads to a sweet and funny romance.  

Unfortunately, Albert is the ex-husband of Marianne (Keener), who constantly complains about the foibles and quirks that drove her away from him.  As Eva begins almost to aspire to become the sophisticated woman that Marianne is, she realizes that Marianne has been describing Albert, her Albert, the sweet, funny loving man she has been seeing.  Suddenly Eva is questioning her own feelings about Albert.  At a sad but hilarious dinner party thrown by her true best friend (Toni Collette with an accent that was extremely distracting), a drunken Eva begins nitpicking at Albert about his weight, how he eats, and even worse, how he cannot whisper to save his soul.  Of course, the fragile construct must come crashing down on Eva, as she betrays not only her lover, but also her new best friend by continuing to pretend not to know that Albert is Marianne’s ex-husband.

“Enough Said” is not a loud movie; it is a quiet movie about adults who struggle with dating after divorce, couples who strive to remain together after years of marriage, and parents who must let their children grow up and go.  Eva is like many of us, unsure of her own perceptions and wanting validation from others about her romantic choice because she failed so significantly in her first marriage.  The director wraps the movie up, not with a neat and tidy bow, but more like setting a gem into ring, making sure the audience sees both the sparkles and the depths of the stone.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013


My brother was a heroin addict.  While I was on a family vacation with my soon-to-be in-laws, he was supposed to be celebrating being clean for several months, finally having received Social Security Disability Income, and moving into his own nice apartment after living with my ex-husband and me off and on for those clean months.  He threw himself a party, and some of his old using friends showed up with heroin.  For whatever reason, my brother decided to use.  He overdosed. 

His so-called “friends” panicked.  They filled his new bathtub with ice and cold water and placed his body in there to try to shock it.  That did not work.  So they left him.  Alone.  In a cold and icy bathtub.  One of them came back the next day.  I do not know whether my brother was still alive or not at that point, but the person finally called an ambulance.  When it arrived, it was too late.  My 28-year-old brother was dead. 

I was ten years old when my brother was born.  He had a lot of issues growing up.  For one thing, he had ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder).  He had trouble in school.  He did not make friends easily.  He would become hyper-focused on some topic or subject and obsess about it for hours, days, months.  People often took advantage of him.  Our family was not the happiest one on the block, and our parents divorced when he was 13.  I believe that was when he started using drugs.  Over the next 15 years, he lived with my then-husband and me off and on, whenever he was serious about getting clean.  My ex dragged him to hundreds of Narcotics Anonymous meetings.  He went to counseling.  We put him into rehab.  My parents and I actually institutionalized him in a mental health facility once when he threatened suicide because he was so overwhelmingly miserable coming off of the heroin. 

He would disappear for several months and then reappear, scarecrow thin with open sores all over his body and hacking and coughing like he had tuberculosis.  He contracted Hepatitis B.  When his stripper/addict girlfriend became pregnant, my then-husband and I offered to adopt the baby if she would just stay clean for the duration of the pregnancy.  She went behind his back and got an abortion.  He wept for days.  Then he went out and got high. 

For whatever reason, I do not understand addiction.  My first ex-husband is a recovering addict.  Many members of his family are in recovery.  After 18 years of marriage and several different addictions, I finally had too much and left him because of his then gambling addiction.  To my regret, our son is currently incarcerated due to crimes he committed while addicted to methamphetamines.   I have lived with addicts for years, and I still do not understand what drives them to abuse their bodies, their minds, their families, and their souls for one more fix. 

I will never understand why my brother, who had finally seemed to turn his life around, chose to try heroin one more time.  My mother’s biggest fear is that it was a suicide attempt, but if that was the case, then every time he used, he was attempting suicide, and I do not believe that.  I believe he felt his life was so miserable and he was so desperately unhappy, that heroin was the cure for it.  It made all his misery go away.  It also took his life. 

My brother was an addict, and he would have been 39 this year, had he lived.  I still miss him every day.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Young Dubliners

The Young Dubliners are a Celtic rock band that occasionally plays live in the Boise area.  I fell in love with their music after hearing them play "Black and White" on the alternative radio station, KF95 "The River," in Boise, Idaho.  Even though it was late on a Thursday night and I'd worked past 7pm, their songs and interview made me convince my husband to come back downtown to hear them play at a free live concert.  They didn't even start to play until 11pm, but I stayed on my feet dancing (jumping up and down in place, per the other "Dubbers") until they shut the place down later that night at 2am.  The next day I was exhausted and my feet hurt, but I walked to the Record Exchange, an independent music shop 10 blocks from where I worked, and purchased the only two albums they had out at that time - "Rocky Road" and "Breathe."  It's nearly 20 years later, and I have everything they have ever recorded (nine albums), and I have never regretted hearing that song on the radio! 

They play a mix of old Irish tunes "rockified" and their own written songs.  Try giving them a listen at their website and see what you think.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kelley Armstrong's "Omens"

Since I absolutely love Kelley Armstrong’s series “The Otherworld,” I felt compelled to read this first novel in her new series about a town named Cainsville and its various inhabitants.  Her protagonist, Olivia Taylor-Jones, is the only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family one day, and the next, she discovers she really is adopted Eden Larsen, the only daughter of a pair of notorious serial killers who are in prison.  As her world crumbles around her, Olivia flees to a community in the Chicago suburbs, Cainsville, where she tries to determine whom she really is.  Part of that process involves meeting her birth mother and taking on the challenge of discovering whether her parents really are innocent of at least one of the murders for which they were convicted.   She is joined in this endeavor by Gabriel Walsh, her mother’s former attorney and a former resident of Cainsville himself.  She meets many of the town “elders” as she takes a job waitressing at the local diner rather than take money from her adopted family until she feels more comfortable with her new self. 

“Omens” was an interesting novel.  Olivia’s character becomes aware of her ability to read “omens” – potential portents of the future, such as vision of poppies preceding deaths of which Olivia becomes aware and ravens being an ominous sign of trouble to come.  While Olivia struggles with the concepts of someone having the “sight” – the ability to predict potential futures - or the ability to read “omens,” by the end of the novel, she is learning to trust those insights that come to her through the omens she sees that no one else can.

Gabriel Walsh was probably the most interesting character besides Olivia.  As Olivia discovers more about his past, the motives behind the actions he takes make much more sense, and by interacting with Olivia, he begins to change somewhat, like Olivia herself, which is really what happens when two people begin to work closely with one another.  By the end of the novel, he was a much more fully realized character and one that I had come to enjoy.  

The plot moved quickly, and while most of the other surviving characters were never fully formed, I expect that they will become more so as Armstrong proceeds with her next planned novel.  This happened in her “Otherworld” series as well – whenever someone new was introduced in a novel, one of the next novels or short stories focused on or more fully developed that character.   I was impressed enough with “Omens” that I am looking forward to reading the next one – I hope I do not have to wait very long! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Jennifer Roberson's "Sword-Bound"

Casually browsing through the new books at Barnes and Noble, I gasped aloud when I saw a new Del and Tiger book from Jennifer Roberson, "Sword-Bound."  Roberson had announced years ago an end to the Del and Tiger novels, and I had grieved because it truly was one of my all-time favorite series.  To see a new book about Del and Tiger made my little heart go pitter-patter, and I absolutely had to buy it.  THEN to find out there would be another one in a few more months – I practically died right there in the store!

Roberson is famous for her series about the Cheysuli, but I never was able to get into those stories.  I came to appreciate her work from her stories about Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood before I discovered Del and Tiger.  This latest story catches up with Del and Tiger in a good place, with a school for sword dancers and a little girl of their own.  Tiger still occasionally must dance against those who want to kill him for his oath-breaking or for their own validation, but it is a quiet, peaceful life until Tiger’s son accuses him of being “domesticated.”  Of course, the Sand Tiger must challenge that notion, and soon they are on the road to adventures.  Unfortunately, these adventures become a lot more dangerous, especially for Del.  By the end, the plots are wrapped up, but there still are some threads to follow in the next novel.  Now all I need to know is when the newest novel will be published!  

Friday, October 4, 2013

George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire"

TIME Magazine had it right when they dubbed George R. R. Martin the "American Tolkien" because his "A Song of Ice and Fire" series has the same world-building, complex characters, and engaging multiple plot themes as "The Lord of the Rings" series.  I have loved Martin since I read his "Sandkings" novelette – what a statement about human beings and warfare!  Martin also started the epic “Wild Cards” – another series designed and written by multiple authors with similarly amazing world-building, complex characters, and multiple plot lines, established almost like graphic novels with superheroes, villains, etc. 

*****SPOILER ALERT *****

When I first read “A Game of Thrones,” I knew I was in for one hell of a ride.  Martin did something that few authors are willing to do – he killed his main characters.  After investing an entire novel in Ned Stark and his family, Martin dared to execute the King’s Hand, in front of his daughters no less.  Every major character in the novel suffered some major upheaval or unpleasantry in the course of the book, and no one was unchanged at its end.  

“A Game of Thrones” set the stage for the four novels that followed it, and Martin continued to add new major characters in every story.  As characters died, new characters were introduced, and by the time readers reached “A Dance of Dragons,” there were so many characters, Martin could only focus on about half of them in that novel.  Martin also is a master manipulator in the way that he concludes his novels – I could have killed him myself after the attack on Jon Snow in “A Dance of Dragons.”  I suspect we will not see Snow at all in his next novel – I expect we will only discover his fate in the final scheduled book.  What a wicked thing to do to your audience, but what a way to keep them hooked! 

If you are willing to invest the time, emotional, and sheer physical investment of reading this huge story, read “A Game of Thrones.”  Just try not to continue with the series after that initial venture.  If you have watched any part of the HBO series and plan to continue watching, read the books.  As amazing as the show is, the books are even better.  If you choose not to read the books, please don’t be amazed or upset at episodes like the one that killed Ned Stark or the infamous Red Wedding – that is just the charm of living in George R. R. Martin’s world. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Zombie Apocalypse

One of my favorite television programs right now is "The Walking Dead," returning to AMC on October 11, 2013.  I suspect most everyone has heard about the show, whether they've watched it or not, and zombies are a hot item right now.  I really enjoyed the movie "Warm Bodies" earlier this year when it played, and of course, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake is my all-time favorite zombie-raiser/destroyer.  Her latest novel, "Affliction," was terrific - the graphic sex in the novels truly is necessary to the character and the plots that have developed over time (20 years!), and in this particular novel, the focus is less on the extraordinary sex than on the character relationships, which remain especially human.  It also focuses on a potential "zombie apocalypse."

All of which leads me to my main question today, am I prepared for a zombie apocalypse?  No, I'm not. Given my many health issues, I've already established that I would have died at a lot younger age if I had been born even a century ago, let alone earlier than that.  An apocalypse of any sort these days would probably kill me off early as well.  But if I were forced to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, I have given some thought about where I would go.  I would bunker down in a hospital - not only for my current health issues, but also for any others that might occur as part of the apocalyptic chaos.  I figure with others around, we could defend the safe wards in a hospital and have plenty of supplies to survive at least until I die - which we are all going to do at some point.  The issue I have is how would I live during my remaining days? Probably much as I am today - reveling in hot baths (if that's a possibility), reading the tons of books I still have yet to read, and thinking crazy thoughts about matters like a zombie apocalypse.  I hope that I would still remain kind to people and animals, pray daily in thanks for the blessings that I receive, and make the most of the relationships that I have with those around me.