A different kind of reading…

Last weekend was a longer break than typical since it was Labor Day, which typically signals for many people, that summer is over. (Not by temperatures since around here, we’re still in the 90s during the day, but in terms of the monthly calendar.) Seeing as we didn’t have a lot scheduled, I planned to do some shopping (shoes :-}) and a lot of reading.

(Outcome was successful, although I’m truly dreadful at buying shoes. We’ll see how this pair work out for me! But come on – leopard-skin Keds? How can you go far wrong with those? I’m trying to be on-trend this autumn (for the first time in ages), and apparently, fake leopard is very in. 🙂 )

To the reading: The Superhero had to work on Monday which meant a quiet day in our house (apart from Nova Dog barking at all those people who have the gall to walk by our house without a hall pass). I happened to clean out the magazine rack and in doing so, was reminded of two mags which I’ve had for more-than-enough time to read them. Yesterday was that day. (See pic above for deets.)

The first was a special issue from the New Yorker with a bunch of true crime stories that they had culled from years of earlier issues, and that included the old chestnut from Truman Capote (the first installment of “In Cold Blood”). I haven’t read this since my freshman year in college when I was fresh off the boat from England, so didn’t really remember much of it, but it was such a good read that now I’m interested in reading the entire book by Capote. It was the one of the earliest examples of narrative nonfiction (or longform nonfiction) and I’m pretty sure that I didn’t appreciate it for what it was when I read it back then. Now it’s on the list for the next visit to the library.

Other true crime stories were spread over the last forty years of the twentieth century but I wasn’t really familiar with the crimes they mentioned. Still – overall, a pretty good read. Glad I’ve read it, glad it’s off the pile, but one day later, pretty forgettable. :-}

The other mag that I had pulled from this pile was from a writing conference I attended last year about writing narrative nonfiction. This journal was put out by the sponsoring university and included the year’s best writing (as chosen by judges from the conference). A good selection of pretty diverse nonfiction, but as above, one day later, I can’t really remember any of the individual stories. (I am now worrying whether this says a lot about me as a reader! Maybe I need to start being a lot more intentional when I read!!)

I enjoyed this taste of nonfiction essays and learned a lot about how to structure a similar one should I end up writing something along these same lines. It was a good change of pace from longer reads and fit my Monkey Mind of the other day! Plus – off the pile and out of the house.

Win-win.

Screen Time…

So, as sometimes happens, we’ve been sucked into a few really good TV series, mostly Netflix and all good. Not my typical fair, but as I’ve learned, different can be good. 


First up was the Netflix documentary series on the Formula One racing season. Called Formula 1: Drive to Survive, it chronicles one cut-throat season of Formula One racing by following eight of the 10 Formula One teams as they compete around the worldwide circuit. This was utterly fascinating and engrossing for me. 

I know. I am as surprised as you are at the level of interest this series created for me and the SuperHero. I’m not usually an avid follower of Formula One, had little knowledge of the sport and even less knowledge about the cars, but by following the documentary team as they shadow the different teams, the more that we learned about the drivers and the sport, the more interesting it became. 

(You may not know this, but I must have been a former Formula 1 driver in my past life at some point. If I happen to catch it on, I love watching it. I know, weird, but there you go.)

So, as the episodes pass, we as viewers were pulled into this elite world of professional very focused racing drivers and learned about the top teams and how they fare. I just loved it. Honestly, if you are interested in a fast-moving highly demanding sport with drivers with fight-to-win personalities, you’ll like this series. We got just sucked right in.

(AND – get this. I happened to be working out at the university rec center, when I noticed that one of the car license plates in the car park happened to be “HAAS-F1”. Haas is the name of the F1 racing teams who compete in the F1 Series. There’s only ten teams total. Small worlds.)

On a different topic (but still good), we’ve been caught up in the series called Hanna. IMDb calls it a cross between a high-concept thriller and a coming-of-age drama, and the plot revolves around the life of an unusual young woman raised in the forest by her father. The series tracks her journey to discover the truth about her life while avoiding a focused CIA agent out to kill her. 

Again, another out-of-the-box series for me, but this is also really riveting. Plus, she is a kick-ass young woman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Can’t wait to see how this ends up… (She reminds me of Katniss or perhaps the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo character in some ways in terms of how tough she is.)

Speaking of women with unusual lives, we also blew through the PBS’ series of Mrs. Wilson, a three-part program from the BBC. As always, high production values and a story that just gets stranger and stranger by the minute. This is actually a true story inspired by the lead character’s real-life grandmother’s diary which makes it even more interesting. (The true story bit is so circular and spiral, that you wonder whether anything else can possibly happen – and then it does.) 

Protagonist Alison Wilson believes that she is happily married in 1960s London until her husband dies, and another woman arrives at her house claiming to be Alec’s wife. What the heck…? And are there any more of secret Alec-related families? Who was Alec really?

What is true? What is false? It’s hard to find out, but it’s another riveting story (based on fact), and now I’m interested in tracking down the original source material online somewhere. Honestly, this was another winner in the TV world.

My advice would be to binge-watch this so that you can keep the complex narrative arc sorted out in your head. Just saying…

And then, someone at work found a streaming live-cam of a kitten rescue placeso all week, we’ve been keeping an eye on this batch of four (maybe five?) kittens and their incredibly patient mother. So entertaining… 

Life has been pretty darned good lately. I hope you can say the same. 

Movies, movies, movies…

As part of Black History Month celebrations, our local cinema screened a viewing of “Selma” (2014) which details the long march undertaken by Martin Luther King, Jr., and his group to secure equal voting rights. What was really cool was that the showing of the movie was followed by a panel of professors from the university’s law school, mostly constitutional law specialists but all of whom added a new level of interest to the whole thing. 

Anyway, back to the movie: this is a true story that follows a three-month period in 1965 in Selma, Alabama, when King and other members of the Southern Leadership Christian Conference were focused on voting rights and voter access for the African-American community at a time when there were many people still against it and when segregation was still common across the South. It culminated in the Selma-Montgomery march which ended with the (in)famous crossing of the bridge to enter the city. 

It’s a fascinating story to watch how the two sides waged war – the people who were anti-segregation and those who were for it. There seemed to be v little overlap between the two groups, and any contact between them was a tinder-box ready for flames, and the film does a really good job of showing how King, Malcolm X, and the other SLCC leadership had to work on many fronts to make any forward progress. 

If you’re interested in historical social justice, in voter rights, in politics, in American history, this would right up your alley. It definitely opened up a lot of rabbit holes down which for me to enter… 

(For a different perspective on this same event, check out Rep. John Lewis’ graphic novel called The March trilogy.  Or perhaps check out this autobio of Melba Pattillo Beals who was one of the Little Rock Nine, the small group of brave students who attended the first high school in Little Rock that became desegregated in the 1960s. Fascinating and horrifying at the same time.)

Author James Baldwin.

Last night, we watched an Independent Lens documentary called “I am not your Negro” which relies upon documentary footage and the words of writer James Baldwin to tell the story of race in America. It utilized a mix of historical footage and more present-day events (Ferguson etc.) to show how far America has (and hasn’t) come) in racial relations, and although I might not have been the biggest fan of Baldwin’s book Tell it on the Mountain, this documentary showed how powerful his words could be in the oral tradition. A whole other world when you hear it, and I encourage you to seek out this documentary. It’s very good.  

And then we also saw “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” starring Melissa McCarthy in a film about Lee Israel, another U.S. writer but this time one who had come upon hard times and who decided to create forged letters from famous authors for her to sell to collectors in NYC. Israel herself doesn’t seem to be a sympathetic character, but the story was fascinating (especially if you’re interested in reading, writing, books etc.) It’s worth tracking down to see. .

And then it’s Oscar season as well…. Happy times.

Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

General Catch-Up…

catch_upSo it’s been a while since I’ve done a general catch-up with life, so I thought it might be nice to bring you up to speed on my absolutely riveting lifestyle. 🙂

The semester is going very smoothly. I’m teaching two sections of Media Writing, and I seem to have some really good students in both of those classes. (Wheee!) Focused students are really great to work with, so I’m lucky. I’m really enjoying teaching as well, much more than last semester, and I think that’s because I have a much better idea of what to expect and the general game plan. It’s a different world, TBH.

Movie-wise, I’ve been seeing quite a few lately. Saw the awesome Three Billboards… (Frances McDormand et al.) which was really good, and followed that up with a watch of The Post (about the Pentagon Papers and Nixon et al.). Learned a lot about that, so that was enjoyable. I do rather miss the typewriter days and using paper, but probably the e-office set up works a little more swiftly and smoothly now we have the technology!
Three_billboards

Also happened to go to the movies to see a selection of Oscar-nominated short documentaries which were just great. (Glad that I don’t have to choose which one to win, as I enjoyed them all.) This category is filled with short (in length), but big on content documentaries which have been split into two sections (just because of the time commitment). The three that we saw were:

  • Edith and Eddie – A look at inter-racial and elderly romance, this film covers the relationship of Edith and Eddie who got married when they were 95 and 96. The romance is pretty straightforward, until Edith gets diagnosed with early dementia and one of her two daughters wants to sell the house where the couple live and force Edith to go and live in Florida with her family, leaving Eddie behind. It’s never explained exactly why this daughter thinks that that is the humane thing to do, but the film documents what happens rather than explain things. Good, all the same though.
  • Heaven in a Traffic Jam on the 405 – this doc portrays the fascinating life of American artist Mindy Apler who works primarily in papier mache. Suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental challenges, the film shows how art is a survival technique for Alper, particularly during the ten years when she was without speech. Great artist with an intriguing story to go along with it.
  • Traffic Stop – In 2015, an African-American math teacher was stopped in Austin, Texas, for a minor traffic violation, but it turns into a violent arrest. The documentary follows Breaion King as her life is turned upside down by callous police behavior and racism. It really makes you think about things…

oscarCheck out this article from IndieWire for more details. I’m not usually the biggest cinema person, but I love documentaries so this was a good way to spend an afternoon! An added bonus is that some of these selected docs are available to watch for free on YouTube… 🙂

Moving on to other things:  My ankle is slowly healing from its surgery back before Christmas. I had no idea that it would take almost three months before I could drive again, but it did, and now, thank heavens, I am back in the driver’s seat and walking (carefully) around. The Superhero was fantastic shuttling me around everywhere, but I’m glad to have my independence back. (I think he is as well!)

And then one of my favorite months, Black History Month, wraps up as March arrives with its windy weather. I ended up reading a load of African-American books and stories, either written by African-Americans and/or about a person of color, and it was fascinating. I’m planning on diversifying my reading for the rest of the year since it’s been so fun, so hoping to keep that going on. Race can be such a divisive issue, and even though I consider myself to be very aware of this, there are still times when I unconsciously have white privilege running for me, so I’m trying to be even more aware of that, in order to reach my students, both white and POC. It’s a fascinating journey.

So, we’re almost coming up on Spring Break (mid-March), and with that week off, I’m going to fly to Washington D.C. to meet my lovely mum flying in from London, and then we’ll see the sights (dependent on how comfortable my ankle is). I’m thinking that with lots of coffee breaks and some cake, we’ll be ok. 🙂

Life is good. I hope that you can say the same!

wing-clouds-and-andes-mountains-from-airplane-window_wjrbieseh__F0000

Movie: Chicken People (2016)

chickenpeople_movieEvery now and then, the Superhero and I like to catch a movie at home, and last weekend was time for me to choose the title, and full kudos to Superhero for going along with this, as he’s never sure what exactly I’m going to select and he’s going to watch.

At first, I was veering towards a rather stern documentary on North Korea (a country with which I am fascinated at the moment), but seeing his expression when I mentioned that title, I thought that a different title might sit better. Scrolling through my movie list, I stumbled upon another documentary that was described as “charming and uplifting”, so that’s the one we watched. It was actually really good.

Called “Chicken People” and directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes, IMDb describes it thus:

Chicken People is a funny and uplifting look at the world of show chickens and the people who love them. Starting at the largest national poultry competition, likened to the Westminster Dog Show for chickens, Chicken People follows three top competitors over the course of a year as they grapple with life’s challenges while vying to win the next year’s crown. Both humorous and heartfelt, Chicken People is an unforgettable celebration of the human spirit.

And it was such a good film. It’s always fascinating, I think, to learn about other people who are very serious about their hobbies (regardless of what that hobby is), and as we watched these three people try their very best to get the “perfect” chicken to show at this big event, we really became wrapped up in the whole thing.

It would have been easy for another director to turn this into a mockumentary (a la Best in Show et al.), but the documentary was done with respect to these people – no one was mocked or made fun of, and you ended up feeling just so happy that you’d been allowed to follow them on their individual journeys to end up at the hugely important event in the U.S

I would never have learned about the characters or the world of the show chicken if not for this film, and I have no idea where I found the title, but if you’re interested in seeing people who adore doing their hobbies (and are pretty serious about it), then you’ll like this. Slightly off the beaten path, but well worth seeking out.

If you’re interested in any chicken-related reads:

Catch-Up Time…

 

catch_up

So, thought I’d give you a looksee into the inner circle of the life of Just One More Page. It’s fascinating, let me tell you. 🙂

book372Finished up a quick (and must admit rather forgettable) read of “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. I remember it being hilarious when I read the first time, but this time, meh. (And that’s the risk you run with rereads, I think.)

So – ok read but no need to put it up on the TBR pile any more. Out the door with you, Bill.

 

 

Peaky_Blinders

We’ve been sucked into the fantastic BBC/Netflicks series called “Peaky Blinders”, a series that follows some Birmingham (UK) travelers who form an organized crime network that grows and grows and grows… The actors are great, but let me give a warning about the accents: Americans may well need subtitles until you get the hang of it. Truly – this is riveting stuff and it would be very very easy to binge-watch this series. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a summer TV series.

 

vivian_meierWhen my sis visited me, we ended up watching the documentary “Searching for Vivian Maier” which is truly an intriguing story about a young man who buys a box of negatives and photos in an auction. Opening the box, he finds some high-quality photographs so, curious to know more, he follows the clues to who the photography was. The journey leads to a nanny who took more than 100,000 street photos, but kept them all private. Who was this person and why did she keep the photos secret?

(Along with this detective trail, the question is also raised that since the nanny/photographer is now dead, do we actually have the right to show her photos without her permission? Interesting…) My sis and I are contemplating going to Arlington to see an exhibition there of her work…

Anyway, a fascinating look into a very private person…

And then I’ve been doing some cross-stitch. I had put it down for a while and then picked it up again. Sucked in as usual (which is rather fun)…What’s up in your world?

crossstitch1

Screen Talk.

movie

It’s been a movie time of the year at our house recently, and so thought I’d chat about which movies made the cut…

miseryMisery (1994), the adaptation of the story by Stephen King and sooo good. (Nod to Halloween and holds up well despite being 20 years old), and so even though we know the story and what’s going to happen, it was still an excellent movie to watch. Definitely a good psychological thriller to watch that’s scary without being nightmare-inducing horrifying. I’m still horrified of hobbling!

 

 

 

how-to-dance-in-ohioAnd then ambling about Netflix, we came across the documentary called How to Dance in Ohio that covers the preparations a small group of teenagers on the autism spectra as they learn the skills that will be needed for their first real school dance. (Amazing film, a winner at Sundance, and uplifting whilst being realistic at the same time.)

 

 

 

And then, we’ve been sucked into the BBC’s Great British Bake-Off. Me – the non-cooking person sucked into this series all about baking – go figure. But loving it and we have the final tonight. (I know – we’re  behind but it’s still a surprise as we’ve avoided all the on-line spoilers.) Whee!

The-Great-British-Bake-Off

 

Movie Talk

sugarman_movieSearching for Sugar Man (2012).
After some friends had lent us this movie saying it was great, we watched it with clear palates as we had no idea what it was about, apart from it being a music documentary. However, it’s so much more than that and even if you’ve never heard of the characters or the story, it’s a fantastic poignant film about a mostly unheralded mostly forgotten artist who gets the surprise of his life. The Sugar Man in the title is introduced as a folk singer from the 1970’s who was on the cusp of being a super star in the U.S., but then the music deals just slipped away and he slipped into mostly oblivion. However, unbeknownst to the artist (named Sixto Rodigruez), his music has a huge fan base in South Africa and there, he is a mysterious musician bigger than Elvis. This is a documentary that films what happens when two South African fans try to track down what happened to Rodriguez 25 years later. It’s rumored that the singer has killed himself, but no one is sure so they search for answers. It’s a riveting journey for these two South African journalists and it’s great to see what happens when (or if) they meet the elusive singer.

This is definitely the best move that I have seen for months. Even if you’re not familiar with the singer or not that big a fan of music history, this is just a great story in its own right. Well worth watching. Note: The first thirty minutes of the film aren’t that great, but then it picks up and you’re hooked.

American Hustle (2013). American_Hustle
Meh. Way long in parts and almost never-ending towards the finale. Good story, but too much plot packed into too much film. Who’s hustling who? Great twist at the end if you can make it there. Loved Amy Adams though…
HerHer (2013).
Sweet and rather strange approach to relationships (romantic and otherwise) in the (near) future. Who’s to say that things won’t be like this at some point? Makes you think about who should define a relationship and how to do that… And, again, the love continues for Amy Adams…