Sunday, August 31, 2014

Western Movie Review Summary

****^ True Grit (John Wayne, Glen Campbell, 1969)
****^ Angel and the Badman (John Wayne, Harry Carey, 1947)
Big Jake **** (John Wayne, 1971)
**** Hondo (John Wayne, 1953)
**** Cowboys and Aliens (Harrison Ford, Daniel Krieg, 2011)
**** Cahill: U.S. Marshall (John Wayne, George Kennedy, 1973)
**** Bandolero (Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin, Raquel Welch, 1968)
***^Rio Lobo *John Wayne, 1970)
***^ King of the Pecos (John Wayne, 1936)
***^ Rainbow Valley (John Wayne, 1935)
***^ McClintock (John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara)
***^ Sons of Katie Elder (John Wayne, Dean Martin, 1965)
***^ Man of the West (Gary Cooper, 1958)
***^ The Dawn Rider (John Wayne, 1935)
***^ Rawhide Pilot: Incident of the Tumbleweed (Clint Eastwood, 1959)
***^ Neath the Arizona Skies (John Wayne, 1934)
***^ Silverado (Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, 1985)
***Two-Fisted Law (Tim McCoy and Joyne Wayne, 1932)
*** Broken Arrow (Jimmy Stewart, 1950)
*** The Star Packer (John Wayne, 1934)
*** Daniel Boone: ***Trailblazer (1956)
***The Sage Brush Trail (John Wayne, 1933)
*** The Texas Terror (John Wayne, 1935)
*** The Trail Beyond (John Wayne, 1933)
*** Against a Crooked Sky
*** The Idaho Kid (1936)
**^ Gunfight at the OK Corrall (Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, 1957)
**^ Blue Steel (Johns Wayne, 1934)
**^ True Grit (Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, 2010)
 **^ The Lone Ranger (Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, 2013)
** Rango (Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood, 2011)
** Yellowneck (1955)
*^ Enter the Lone Ranger (1949)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

TV Review: John Wayne Special: Swing Out, Sweet Land

This T.V. special has been released on DVD as John Wayne's Tribute to America.  This version was presented on 1970 an NBC television.  This is John Wayne in a different type of a role, as the M.C. for a patriotic presentation.  This T.V. special has a myriad of actors doing musical and comedy sketches.  There is Red Skelton playing a newspaperman with Tom Smothers.  Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Dick Martin and Dan Rowan, Dan Blocker, Lorne Green, Michael Landon, William Shatner, and many more.  Some special music from Johnny Cash "Ribbon of Steel" Roy Clark "Oh Sussanah" Glen Campbell "This is a Great Country" and Leslie Uggams singing "Clementine."  A couple groupp songs fell a bit flat.  They actually sang the Declaration of Indipendence, and it got a bit boring.  However the high light of the presentation was the last number, "God Bless America."  Many of the actors sang a line.  It was terrific and very emotional. 

Movie Review: **^Blue Steel (1934)

John Wayne portrays John Carruthers, a U.S. Marshall who is undercover trying to smoke out a notorious bandit.  The Sherrif (George Hayes) sees him after a heist, and thinks the Marshall is the culprit, and begins to follow him.  Circumstances are such that the Marshall saves the Sheriff's life, and they become partners, but the Sheriff still figures he will need to arrest hm at some time.
The bandit is not the worse of the town's problems.  The leading citizen, Malgrove (Edward Piel Sr.) is leading a group of thieves to convince everyone to vacate the town  He has discovered there is a rich vein of gold running underneath everyone's farms.  He has been stealing all the supplies coming into town, and the citizens are about ready to give up.  The town has sent a pack team to carry in supplies, and they too are waylaid.  A young woman, Eleanor Hung (Betty Mason) and her father are part of the team.  They flee the bandits, and the Marshall and Sheriff intervene.  However the father is killed.  They all make it to town, and Malgrove agrees to take Eleanor to his ranch to care for her in her grief.  A side plot is Malgrove has always thought of marrying her.  She overhears their scheming, uncovering the plot, so they kidnap her and take her to their hide out.
Now we have to rescue the girl, rescue the town and get the bad guys kind of a movie.  Lots of fights, some poorly staged.  Not a lot of gun play, buy dynamite comes in handy when you are trying to get away.
It seems the horses are always going fast in these shows.  They ride them all out and you wonder if they come through OK.  There was much too little grief for the murdered father.  But everything is right in the end as the Marshall proposes to the girl and taking her to Sacramento with him.

Movie Review: ***The Idaho Kid (1936)

This is a movie about a boy coming home to resolve the feud between his father and the man who raised him.  His mother died in childbirth, and his father was so distraught he wouldn't bring the baby home, so a fellow rancher took him in, and this resulted in a feud between the two families.  He ran away, hoping this would resolve the conflict, but things just got worse.   And now some fifteen years later he returns, not letting anyone know his true identity, but calling himself Idaho (Rex Bell).  He meets "The Kid" (David Sharpe) who is in on the identity of Idaho.  He takes a job for his father, Clint Hollister (Earl Dwire) but they are only interested in shutting off the other family, The Endicotts from water.  Idaho has a thing for their daughter Ruth (Marion Schilling).  The feud continues.  When his father's men attempt a murder, Idaho leaves and heads to the other ranch.  He is able to restore a supply of water and saves the cattle.  Hollister's men decide to go to town and have it out with Idaho.  However the gun play doesn't go their way.  Things don't get any better.  In the next gun battle between Mr Endicott and Hollister, Hollister shoots Idaho.  It is then "The Kid" reveals his identity--"You shot your son."  And as his son doesn't die, Endicott is given a chance to repent.
There is lots of good horsemanship in this movie, but they treat them so roughly, some of the horses must have been hurt.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Movie Review: ***^King of the Pecos

King of the Pecos, Republic Pictures, 1936.
This is a black and white John Wayne movie.  This movie pits him as a lawyer against a land and water baron.  John Wayne portrays John Clayborn.  As a lad his folks were killed by Alexander Stiles (Cy Kendall) and his men.  They left Clayborn alive, but beat him good.  We then fast forward ten years and Clayborn has become a lawyer, but also has practiced pistol play every day since then.
He returns to town, hiding his identity and is intent on breaking Stiles' monopoly of all the water in the area.  He arrives the same day as a young woman, Belle Jackson (Muriel Evans) and her father.  They make a deal with the cattle baron to get started, but everyone knows he is now caught in a trap.  He will have to sell to Stiles and prices Stiles wants to pay.
Clayborn takes Stiles to court, and the judge rules most of his water claims are illegal; you can only have one claim.  However he still has a monopoly as all must go through his ranch and water to get to market.  This is the ranch he stole from Clayborn's parents.  When Clayborn reveals his true identity to Stiles the gloves are off, but by then there are enough cattlemen to make it a fair fight.
This movie has plenty of action.  It makes fun of a gentleman who is hard of hearing; but people weren't sensitive to that in 1936.  It seems they would have been more sensitive to life, but people are being murdered all over the place.  Even Jackson's father is murdered.

Musical Music Review: Sherry!

Sherry! The Broadway Musical, 2003
Sheridan Whiteside played by Nathan Lane, Maggie Cutler played by Bernadette Peters, Lorraine Sheldon played by Carol Burnett, Beverly Carlton played by Tommy Tune, Banjo played by Mike Myers and Bert Jefferson played by Tom Wopat
This is a musical based on the play “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”   The story plays out Sheridan Whiteside “Sherry” for short, is a popular radio personality and critic.  He breaks his leg at a friend’s house, and takes up residence there causing havoc to everyone with his need to be pampered.  X-rays come back negative for a broken leg, but he insists Dr. plays along as he continues the role of the invalid.  Socialite, Lorriane Sheldon,  would like to bag him, and every other man around.  Maggie Cutler is his secretary, and he has cajoled and kept her around and away from other men for many years.  He couldn’t survive without her.  Beverly Carlton is Sheldon’s suitor.  Bert Jefferson is the suitor of Cutler.  Banjo is a second act role to add comic relief, but he also participates in Whiteside’s schemes. 
This movie at times disintegrates into havoc.  Such is the condition for the Christmas Eve radio show.  Most of the music is forgettable, but you don’t forget Bernadette Peters.  She sings a show stopper song I the first act, “Maybe It’s Time for Me.”  That is a song that stays with you.  Carol Burnett sings the title song, “Sherry” and it is humorous and enjoyable.  She also sings ‘Putty in your Hands” which talks of her hopeless addiction to men. 
Maggie is intent on getting away, and having a life of her own.  Sherry does everything in his power to keep her on the ground.  He finally decides maybe the best thing to do would be to marry her himself, and then he can keep her around.  He decides against this, and lets her go.  In the last scene Sherry really does break his leg, and he send Maggie and Bert away to find happiness.  The son “Imagine That” Peters takes the lead, but then Nathan Lane adds a duet part which is very effective.
The original Broadway Production had poor reviews and ran for 67 shows.  The set was taken apart and burned, and the score was thought lost.  After 30 years it was found, and from that we have this studio version of the musical. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Music Review: Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster

Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster (2004)
This is a compendium of songs written by Stephen Foster, and performed by a variety of performers.  We all know Stephen Foster songs, but rarely give him credit.  They are considered to be old folk songs, which have always existed.  Stephen Foster published music from 1848 until his death in 1964 at the age of 37.  One of his early song, “Oh Susanna! Became a favorite of the California gold miners.  One of his most popular songs is “Camptown Races” and the version in this CD is well done.  Judith Edelman sings “No One to Love” and her voice gives the song a beautiful haunting quality.  “My Old Kentucky Home (State song of Kentucky) is also a favorite.  He wrote a song for his wife, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.”  Another love song is “In the Eye Abides the Heart.”  “Ole Folks at Home” is also included in this collection.  And one of my favorites growing up, which was published after Foster had passed away, “Beautiful Dreamer.” 
Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
starlight and dewdrops are awaiting thee.
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Led by the moonlight have all passed away.

Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo the with soft melody.
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,

Beautiful dreamer awake unto me.
Beautiful dreamer awake unto me!
In all he composed over 200 songs.  It was hard to make a living writing songs, as copyright laws were not as strict, and anyone could publish your work.  The versions in the C.D. are interesting, from upbeat to slower songs.  There is banjo, violin and piano and of course guitar.  A couple are instrumental.  For the most part this music is very enjoyable. 

Movie Review: ****Onward Alone
No longer available

This movie, available through BYUTV tells the stories of the women left behind by the Mormon Battalion.  It makes its presentation through modern dance, song and narration.

The Mormon Battalion was mustered to support the Union in the Mexican-American War while the Saints were in Iowa, after being driven from Nauvoo.  500 men marched from the Midwest to San Diego.  They pioneered the trail from Yuma to San Diego.

I had never considered the stories of the women who stayed behind.  This movie will increase your appreciation of this history.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom’s Cabin ot Life Among the Lowly, Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1952.

This is a fascinating book.  It was written many year ago, and published in 1852 as an antislavery novel.  It was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  It was the most read novel of the 19th century, and more copies of this were sold than any other book with the exception of the Bible. 
The story of this book is very exciting.  It shows many different kind of slave holders, and even though some are kind and good, it also tells how those who are kind and good, make it possible for the tyrant to exist.  This book actually tells many stories, but mostly it tells the story of Eliza, who runs away when her baby when he is sold to a slave runner, and Tom, who refuses to run away when he has the chance, saying he would rather honor his master by doing what he thinks is right, rather than run away.  Eliza is successful in making her escape.  She crosses the Ohio on floating ice, jumping from one ice flow to the next while holding her baby.  Her escape, and that she could keep her baby safe, is a miracle. 
Tom throughout the book has a sense of honor, and a pride which shows through in his Christian living. 
In writing the book, Stowe often goes on you person tangents, i.e. “now you see” so as to make her points about the cruelty about slavery.  One of things she attacks most about slavery is that it tears families apart, and she talks about this in telling several different stories. 
Towards the end of the book we are introduced to the tyrant master, Mr. Simon Legree.  Legree would prefer to use up his slaves and buy new ones, getting all he can from them, and beating them cruelly if they don’t perform.  He beat Tom cruelly, and eventually has his two overseer negroes beat him to death.  However, when they see Tom’s Christian nature, the repent.  They say they will refuse to do anything like this again.
This book does a great job of getting its message across.  Reportedly when President Lincoln met Stowe he commented, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”  Records of this statement were not recorded the night of the meeting, but her son remembered it later.   Whether the statement is true, her book was very influential.  It also is good at describing the attitudes of many towards slavery and African Americans.  The Northern church that supports slavery by investing in slaves, although not participating; the laws that were made to appease slave traders, and slavery in general, including the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  (Later she explains that this motivated her to write the book.) 
Tom is a person with bad luck, but always loyal and hard working.  He has a good master, and pretty much runs the place.  However, the master gets in debt, and is forced to sell Tom.  Tom has a wife and children, and is separated, with the promise they will buy him back when circumstances are better.  He is bought by a good family, Augustine St. Clare who has a daughter Eva.  Eva wants the slaves to be freed.  She is sickly, and gets her father to promise to free them before she dies.  St. Clare is going to do this, but he is murdered in a bar fight, and Tom is sold farther south to Legree.  Legree is determined to break tom, to make him so he is no longer a Christian.  Legree fails.  In this aspect, the book seems like Job, but Legree does kill Tom in the end. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Movie Review: ***^Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

This movie is really very fun.  Each of the characters has his own back story.  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) was kidnapped just from earth after his mother passed away.  He was raised by smugglers and thieves. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) was orphaned.  She is green, and was raised by Ronan (Lee Pace), the psychopathic killer, and served him as an assassin.  Rocket, (Bradley Cooper) the talking raccoon came about because of illegal experimentation and manipulation.  Of course this manipulation was painful and left considerable scarring. Groot (Vin Diesel) is Rocket's partner.  He is a walking tree.  We really don't learn much of his background; but he is unique.  These four have a chance meeting which leads to their arrest and imprisonment.  Quill discovers an orb, which is high desired for its powers.  Gamora is sent to kill Quill and get the orb.  Rocket and Groot recognize Quill as someone with a bounty on his head, and they want to collect.
In prison they meet Drax (Dave Bautista) whose desire in life is to revenge the murders of his wife and daughter at the hands of Ronan.  He first takes his vengeance on Gamora, but is convinced Gamora may be used as bait to attract Ronan.  become a team, and work at breaking out together.  They even recover the orb, and Quill's cassette tape of Earth songs.  However Ronan is after them.
They get to the buyer who is going to make them rich, but Ronan intercepts the orb, and leaves them mangled and disheartened.  Ronan is set to use the orb to cause mass destruction.  The team find their better, heroic natures, and are after Ronan to keep him from destroying the world. 

Music Review: Aquabats: Myths, Legends and other Amazing Adventures (2000)

I don't know how this music got on my computer.  It is just weird, and a listened to it but feel cheated out of my time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movie Review: ***Eloise at the Plaza

This is a 2003 Disney movie based on a children's book by Kay Thompson.  This is the story of a six year old girl, Eloise (Sophia Vassilieva) who lives in a hotel along Central Park in New York, because her mother is off doing what rich mothers do.  She does have a nanny (Julie Andrews).  Even so, Eloise manages to get into plenty of trouble.
The boss at the hotel is Mr. Salomone (Jeffrey Tambor).  He warns everyone to be on the look out for the Prince coming to visit them, but shows his father's picture.  As a result, no one recognizing him when he arrives.  He is dealing with the death of his mother, and alienation from his father who wants to send hi to boarding school.  He befriends Eloise, who takes him in and shows him the hotel, not knowing he is the prince.
A cute scene is where she is looking through her telescope at Central Park looking for the prince.  She wants to dance with him at the upcoming ball to be held at the hotel.  And there he is right next to her.  Of course she does not find him.  Later she is even part of the search for him, but she still doesn't realize who he is.  It is much later that she puts things together.
With all of her bumbling, Eloise is able to effect others in a positive light, giving them knew courage with her own, and her own directness. 
This movie is cute, albeit a bit canned with the precocious child.

Musical Review: Tangled Soundtrack

This is the music from the Disney Musical Tangled.  The music was written by Alan Menken with lyrics by Glen Slater.  The story is based on the tale of Rapunzel by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.  I must admit, the song "I see the Light" I play over and over.  I find this song as enjoyable as the songs from "Frozen." 
All those days, watching from the windows
All those years, outside looking in
All that time, never even knowing
Just how blind I've been

Now I'm here, blinking in the starlight
Now I'm here, suddenly I see
Standing here, it's, oh, so clear
I'm where I'm meant to be

And at last, I see the light
And it's like the fog has lifted
And at last, I see the light
And it's like the sky is new
And it's warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted

All at once, everything looks different
Now that I see you

All those days, chasing down a daydream
All those years, living in a blur
All that time, never truly seeing
Things the way they were

Now she's here, shining in the starlight
Now she's here, suddenly I know
If she's here, it's crystal clear
I'm where I'm meant to go

And at last, I see the light
And it's like the fog has lifted
And at last, I see the light
And it's like the sky is new
And it's warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted

All at once, everything is different
Now that I see you

Now that I see you
This is the song that the main characters, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) and Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), sing while the are floating on the lake watching the floating lanterns.  I really don't care for the music of the old witch, (Donna Murphy) but Moore sings a couple other nice songs,

"When WIll My Life Begin" with a couple reprises and "The Tear Heals" which is very emotional. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Music Review: David Archuleta: Begin

David Archuleta: Begin: 2012.
This a song of easy listening selections that is just  beautiful to listen to.  I very much prefer his rendition of Beautiful to that of Cristina Aguilera.  He he has different lyrics:
Every day is so wonderful
Then suddenly, it's hard to breathe
Now and then, I get insecure
From all the pain, I'm so ashamed

You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can't bring you down
You are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can't bring you down, oh, no
So don't you bring me down today...

He sings several other familiar tunes, including "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "True Colors" which are classic songs and David does a good job with them. 
However the highlight of this CD is the final song, "Be Still My Soul:"

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

This is a beautiful rendition.  Between the second and third verses David just sings "Be Still my Soul" several times and it is just beautiful. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Movie Review: ****^Jack Weyland's Charly (2002)

This is your classic Mormon love story.  Sam (Jeremy Hoop) falls for his boss' neice who is in town for the weekend.  He was suppose to show her a good time.  Turns out Charly (Heather Beers) returns his affection, even though there is a live-in boyfriend to deal with.  Charly listens to the missionaries, and repents, joining the church.  However Sam has a hard time because her past life style has not been Mormonish.  He has a hard time, and lets her get away.  His mother helps him see his error, and he chases after her, traveling to New York to win her back.
This movie thrills me; maybe not as much as reading the book for the first time which left me in tears.  However it is a good book and movie.  I challenge you not to be in tears for that last Ferris wheel ride.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Music Review: 9 to 5 the Musical

9 to 5 the Musical: Original Broadway Cast Recording, music and lyrics by Dolly Parton.  This stars Allison Janney (Violet Newstead) Megan Hilty (Doralee Rhodes) and Stephanie J. Block (Judy Bernly)
This is a musical based on the original movie, and has some positive things to offer.  However some of the language is too graphic to consider this family entertainment.  They us the some song (“9 to 5”) Dolly Parton sang for the movie, but add lyrics to introduce the main characters.  “Around Here” is a catchy song with ensemble and the main characters explaining their job to the new employee.  We get to see more of the character Dolly Parton played in the song “backwoods Barbie.”  In this song the character explains that she dresses the way she does because it is country glam, not to gain sexual points with the boss.  However a couple of songs stand out above the rest.  There is a nice love song, “Let Love Grow.” 
Love can grow in the strangest places,
Might find love in strangers faces.
Waiting just around the corner for all you know.

Love can grow where you least expect it,
Take and chance and don't reject it.
Love will grow if one just lets it,
Let love grow.
However the song I most enjoy is the postive thinking song.  There is a bonus version sung by Dolly Parton, and that is my favorite. 
Hello...I know you've got a world of problems.
And you think you can't do anything to solve ?em;
But I am here to tell you you can.

Somethin' got you down got you chained and bound
Well break it. (Face it)
If you've built a wall and know it needs to fall
Then shake it. (Replace it)
Somethin' that you know is dammin' up the ­flow
Tear the damn dam down.
Let me explain it.
If you don't take the reigns it's going to stay the same
Nothin's gonna change if you don't change it.

You got somethin' on your mind that's naggin' all the time
Well nix it. (Resist it)
Somethin' in your life that just ain't sittin' right
Well ‑face it. (Just kick it)
If you've lost your place somethin' in your face
If there's an empty space and you can't name it.
That feelin' in your gut that's got you in a rut
You're made of better stuff and you can change it.

1st Chorus:

Change it
You don't want your little light to never shine.
Change it
Turn it up on bright and get your goals in line.
There's a great new world out there
For those who dare to claim it.
A better day is on the way and only you can change it.
This is a show that confronted sexism and sexual harassment in the work place.  It does a very good job of this.  Dolly Parton’s music hits the mark in this regard, and she is a talent.  It is wonderful that her talent was portrayed on Broadway.

Movie Review: ***^Gods and Generals

Gods and Generals 2003 based on the book by Jeff Shaara: This is the prequel to Gettysburg, and more than anything it tells the story of Stonewall Jackson (Stephen Lang).  Stonewall was a pious man, with his own idiosyncrasies, and this move reflects this.  My first view of the movie, it seemed to get bogged down somewhat in this, but I enjoyed it more this time around.  I guess I understood better where is was coming from.  This movie shows a much longer history than Gettysburg, starting with Secession, first Bull Run, Fredericksburg and then ends with Chancellorsville.  
We follow Stonewall Jackson from his days at Virginia Military Academy, through his stint in the Valley and at First Bull Run, and then covering the Confederate flank at Fredericksburg, and then leading the bold flanking move at Chancellorsville, and being shot by one of his own men in the confusion at dusk as he tried to press his advantage.  He lost his arm, but worse yet contracted pneumonia.  "Let us cross over the river and rest in the shade of the trees" were his last words.  
Joshua Chamberlain is again portrayed by Jeff Daniels (as in Gettysburg).  His most important role is the assault of Fredericksburg, were he spends the night on the hill below Mayre's Heights and stacked dead bodies in front of himself to offer some protection from the men on the hill.  
General Robert E. Lee is portrayed by Robert Duvall.  In this movie we don't have the worries about his heart like in Gettysburg.  However we do have the charismatic leadership, and positive results, except for the loss of Jackson.  "He has lost his left arm, but I my right.:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Music Review: Harold Budd and Brian Eno: The Pearl

Harold Budd and Brian Eno with Daniel Lanois: The Pearl 2005.
I must admit, there are some things I don’t get.  One of those is modern dance sometimes.  You either like it, or it just falls flat.  Another is some of this new age music.  This is supposed to be easy listening instrumental.  I guess it is easy in that it is slow.  Slow notes, sometimes not even seeming to be tied to the note before, with random sounds, electronic, or birds or something.  I just don’t get it.  I didn’t find it all that relaxing, and sometimes it was actually grating.  This music may be more appropriate for a scary night rather than relaxation.  “The Pearl” is the only song that seem to have cords, albeit broken. 
I could scarcely pick out even one song that I would like to keep except for “An Echo of Night.”  This would make a great sound for Halloween night.  There was some really spooky sound in this one. 
Other than that, the songs seemed to make my tinnitus worse rather than providing relaxation.

Book Review: Northanger Abbey (2014)

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, Grove Press, New York, 2014.
This book is a modern reworking of the classic Jane Austen novel of the same name.  This novel hangs on an assumption to make it even sound plausible—that Catherine Morland’s reading of vampire books would lead her to suspect the family she is staying with of being vampires.  I just couldn’t buy that premise and so this book didn’t quite work for me. 
It had the lure of a trip to Scotland for a book and drama festival; the social life of the North Country.  It also had the mystery surrounding Northanger Abbey, where the mother had passed away from cancer and they were all still dealing with this wound.  Northanger Abbey had been redecorated for the most part, so there was not the castle façade, but that of a modern home. 
And then there was a brother and sister who looked alluring, but in the end were not, and the love interest in Henry, the handsome dancer who works as a lawyer.  In the end, to profess his love, he must go against the wishes of his father.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Music Review: Carrie Underwood: Carnival Ride

Carrie Underwood: Carnival Ride, 2007
“Sometimes even crazy dreams come true.”   That quote, from the song “Crazy Dreams” makes this whole C.D. worthwhile, although it has other things to recommend it.  Underwood is quite the singer, and her powerful voice dominates this entire selection of music.  Underwood sings of love; mostly have men who have fallen away from her, and how she is getting over them.  However in “I Told You SO” she sings from the other perspective, of what if she went back to a guy she left, but she won’t bug him anymore because she has finally found someone else.  This song has a really good feel and it brings me back to listen again.  Other songs I liked where “Just a Dream” where she sings the pain of a woman who has lost her love in war; “All-American Girl” where she sings of a father’s and then a husbands love; and “So Small, where she points out that sometimes we make our troubles seem like mountains, when in fact they are so small when we figure that love is the thing that really matters: 
'Cause sometimes that mountain you've been climbing is just a grain of sand
What you've been up there searching for
forever is in your hands
When you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else
seem so small
They final number is where we get the title of the C.D., “Wheel of the World: reminds us that life is like a carnival ride, where some are getting off and some are getting on:
God put us here on this carnival ride
We close our eyes
Never knowing where it will take us next
Babies are born and at the same time, someone's taking their last breath
This is good stuff and very enjoyable.  Maybe “country” is my thing.  When Underwood sings with more perspective, reflecting on life, and babies and death, her songs carry a deeper meaning than those dealing superficially with relationships. 

Music Review: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: Deja Vu

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: Déjà Vu, Atlantic Records, 1970.
This is the first album as a quartet, although Crosby Stills and Nash did have an earlier album.  This album strongly features the harmonic blend of these four as singers.  This album spawned four singles.  Two of these our classics.  “Our House” written by Graham Nash about his life with Joni Mitchell.  It has a catchy melody, as well as harmony.  It builds until they sing   “Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy cause of you and our la, la, la:
It is just cool.
 The other song which is classic is “Teach Your Children.” Again this is a classic melody.  This song was written by Graham Nash as well.  (All of the artists contributed to the song writing of other songs.)  This song expresses two points of view,  The parents first:
Teach your children well, their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
And then the kids:
Teach your parents well, their children's hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix,the one you'll know by.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
Some other songs are worth note.  ‘Déjà vu” gives the album its name.  Joni Mitchell wrote “Woodstock” about their experiences getting there.  A bit hard for my tast however. 
I like 4+20 as it has the harmony I enjoy.  “Carry On” has a very nice melody.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Music Review: Jim Brinkman: Grace

Jim Brinkman: Grace, 2005.
Jim Brinkman plays piano.  For the most part this is his piano version of several gospel songs, but on a couple of songs he has guest artists providing vocals.  For example Michael Bolton sing “Hear Me (Tear into Wine) in which he asks God to help turn his troubles into blessings.  Ginny Owens sings “Amazing Grace.”  Mario Frangoulis sings “Ave Maria.”  He sings with a group, Selah, for “Be Thou Near to Me.”  “How Great Thou Art” is a favorite, and with the piano the melody comes out clearly and you remember the words and this song is beautiful.  However the two songs I like the best are strictly piano.  The first is called “Joyful” and is a version of “Ode to Joy.”  I love this music.  The second he calls “Jesu” which is a version of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”  I think these two are a couple of my favorite songs of all time, and his version are very nice.  However in Jesu, he wonders with his fancy playing a couple of times, so I actually prefer Joyful.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Music Review: The Music Man (2003)

The Wonderful World of Disney: The Music Man (2003)
Happiness is listening to Kristen Chenoweth sing, and she plays Marian in this version.  She has a beautiful voice, and Mathew Broderick who played Harry Hill also does well.  However, you have to wonder if he wasn’t a bit self conscious singing opposite Chenoweth. 
This is the C.D. of the music which was very well done.  The energy between Hill and Marian is evident even without they video or the entire performance.  I really like “Goodnight, My Someone” which is beautiful in its simplicity.  Chenoweth sings this beautifully.  Also Broderick singing “You Got Trouble” is very pleasurable, and the story and con comes over so plainly.  “Till There was You” is the climax of this show, and it is so well done it gives me chills. 
This was an excellent listen, and I plan on enjoying it for a while.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

T.V. Review: Doctor Who: Season Seven

I had on of those weekends.  I discovered Doctor Who season seven available on Netflix, and had to watch the whole thing right now--sixteen episodes. 
This is great stuff as the Doctor (Matt Smith) battles against the Daleks, and many other old and new enemies.  We are introduced to Oswin Oswald (Jenna Coleman) in "Asylum of the Daleks" who later becomes Doctor Who's side kick in another form.  Rory (Arthur Darville) and Amy (Karen Gillan) are also with the Doctor as they try to turn of the force field so the Daleks can destroy the planet which holds all the deranged Daleks who they fear are gong to escape.  It is with the help of Oswald that the are able to do this, but she dies in the effort.  (She had previously been turned into a Dalek, but had an imaginary life as a continued woman making a souffle.
The Doctor then saves Dinosaurs the the next episode, and fails to slave a man who committed war crimes, but does save his victim, a man told warrior through cybernetics.  This has a western theme, and our half man half robot becomes the sheriff. 
"The Power of Three" is a very interesting episode.  This episode takes place over a year.  Strange black boxes show up, and people put them everywhere.  In the end however, the all activate together; and emit an electrical pulse which kills people by stopping their hearts.  The Doctor discovers the Shakri are behind this.  They have condemned humans to extinction.  He is able to manipulate the boxes so the zap everybody back to life. 
"The Angels Take Manhattan" is the end of the road for the Ponds.  Rory gets zapped back in time, and Amy decides to join him.
We have a precreation of Clara in "The Snowmen."  In this episode we are introduced to the major nemesis for the season, the "Great Intelligence"; in this case snow with intelligence, which is wanting to take over the earth by adding snow and human DNA.  The Doctor is able to intervene,  but Clara dies in the efforts.  However the Doctor realizes this Clara, and the Oswald who previously passed away are the same person. 
The next episode the Doctor find a present day Clara.  She is a nanny, but is attacked by the Wifi.  The Doctor is able to thwart their effort, and get Clara's soul back.  The "Great Intelligence" was using peoples' souls to become stronger. 
Clara decides to join the Doctor, and the go to someplace exciting, "The Rings of Akhaten" where we see a girl, singing her way to be sacrificed by a great monster.  Singing seems to be an important part of this season.  The music is beautiful, but leads to the young girl, princess, being taken by the entity to be sacrificed to the old god, a parasite feeding off people's memories.  Clara and the Doctor team up to defeat the monster, with the help of still more singing.  
The Doctor prevents the Cold War from becoming hot be convincing a long forgotten "Ice warrior" from Mars that a researcher found in the Arctic ice, not to fire nuclear missiles.  He is rescued by the last remains of his own people. 
In "Hide" the Doctor is able to rescue a woman caught between two universes, and also help the monster who is just searching for love. 
The TARDIS is captured for salvage on "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS."  The TARDIS was damaged, and in fact exploded when captured--but this hasn't manifested as the TARDIS froze the explosion.  However then comes the attempt to find Clara who is lost in the TARDIS, confront monsters of yourself, and go back and get a do over.
In the "Crimson Terror" The Doctor needs rescuing, as he has become a rejected victim of the red plague.  Some characters Salurian, her wife, and Strax a Sontaran, help with the rescue,  They have been helping fight the "Great Intelligence."  Our evil witch, under the influence of a parasite plans to release the red plague; however the Doctor and his team intervene.
"Nightmare in Silver" the Doctor and Clara face the Cybermen.  However it is Porridge, the lowest of all it seems, who saves the day.
The season concludes with three episodes, "The Name of the Doctor," "The Day of the Doctor" and "The Time of the Doctor".  In the first we discover why Clara keeps showing up at different spots in the life of the Doctor.  In the "Day of the Doctor" we get to see three different doctors including David Tennant, and many others, although perhaps just in poster form. as he goes back reviews the decision he made to destroy his own people and the Daleks.  The result is not the same.  And finally, someone across the different Universes is asking for the Doctors name, which is a key word, and if given will lead to great war.  The Doctor lives through his live, hundreds of years, defending the people of a town called Christmas.  The Doctor eventually dies, but in that death comes new birth, which rebirth sets many things right.
Doctor Who always entertains. 

Music Review: Mormon Tabernacle Choir: Called to Serve

Called to Serve: Craig Jessop and Mack Willberg conductors, 2008.  Miranda bought this as part of a four-pack from the distribution center of music for missionaries.  This set has some very exciting music.  I love "Redeemer of Israel" with its brass fanfare.  It is just so exciting.  The Mack Wallberg arrangement of "I Believe in Christ" is also fantastic the way the cords change and the choir gets broader in the last couple verses.  It creates a real emotional reaction to the music.  The men sing, "Ye Elders of Israel."  "High on a Mountain Top" also has the brass fanfare.  "Come, Come Ye Saints" has always been one of my favorite, and this version has lots of energy.  "The Spirit of God Like  Fire Is Burning" is the final number of this set.  This song is also very well done.  This C.D. is very moving and uplifting.  A god C.D. for any missionary.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Music Review: Carlos Maceiras: Guitarra Latinoamericana

Carlos Maceiras: Guitarra Latinoamericana
This C.D. of guitar music is much more enjoyable than that the previous instrumental I listened too from Chet Atkins.  I have always enjoyed Latin guitar.  However there are a couple of pieces which didn’t work for me.  There are a couple of waltzes, but I always thought that would be dance music.  I have a hard time hearing the beat, and if I had the beat right the music is much to fast to dance to, without physically causing an injury. 
However a couple of the pieces were very nice.  “Terasca I and II” had a very nice feel, and the rhythm kept me entertained.  Also “Sons of Carrilhoes” had a nice feel.  There was one song called “Tango” which started very nicely, but then got bogged down with trying to be artistic, with stops in the music a couple of times.  This song didn’t work for me other than the beginning and the end.  “Guarania” was also a nice song and very relaxing.  This music would be great at playing as a background to relax, like in a store or someplace.  Plenty to like in this album. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Music Review: Bob Dylan: Together Through Life

Bob Dylan Together Through Life 2009.
I guess I just don’t dig Bob Dylan, at least none of his songs really turn me on.  The closest I came to really enjoying one of the songs on this C.D. was “Shake Shake Mama>”  This song has a very nice blues beat and is fun to listen to.  There were a couple of other songs which approached being enjoyable, “It’s All Good” and “Have You Ever Been to Houston.”  However, I don’t think I have really gotten into Bob Dylan.

Music Review: Paul Simon: You’re the One

Paul Simon: You’re the One, 2000.
As much as I like Simon and Garfunkel, this is not that type of music.  This is Paul Simon exploring different musical styles, and though sometimes it works, for the most part it misses.  For example, he sings a song entitled “Love” which also repeats the word “love” but seems more about anger and hate than love.  “Love
Love Love
The price that we pay
When evil walks the planet
And love is crushed like clay
The master races, the chosen peoples
The burning temples, the weeping cathedrals”
There are a couple other songs which are just weird.  “Pigs, Sheep and Wolves” falls in this category.  A couple songs I enjoyed, “That’s Where I Belong” and “Look at That,”  Simon uses his ethnic arrangements to make this song fun.  Another song I enjoyed is Hurricane Eye where the hurricane is contrasted with the peaceful eye of the hurricane. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Movie Review: ***Twelve Years a Slave (2013)
My history blog on this story

This movie tells the tragic story of Soloman Northup (Chiwetil Ejiofor), who was a free slave living in Saratoga, New York.  There he had a wife and children.  However he was lured south, to Washington D.C. by a couple of men who claimed to be looking for a violinist to help in their act.  However after betting to D.C., where slavery was legal, they drugged him during his dinner.  He woke the next morning in chains at a slavery holding pen, from where he was sent father south, and sold into slavery.  He was a slave for twelve years, having to change his name to Platt.
As for a movie, I cannot recommend this movie.  However as for a story, I heartily recommend it.  There are scenes, which were not needed to tell the story, which earned the movie an "R" rating.  However one scene, where a slave woman is brutally beaten, was a necessary scene, and really brings to light the brutality of the slave system.  Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o), the woman beaten, had been the rape victim of the master, and thus earned the hate of the master's wife, who knew what was happening. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Music Review: Neil Sedaka: Waking Up is Hard to Do

Neil Sedaka: Waking Up is Hard to Do  This is Neil Sedaka, singing different lyrics to some of his most popular songs, and giving them a children’s twist.  “Waking UP is Hard to Do” puts a health twist on his popular song.  It even starts with an alarm clock.  Many of the songs have children singing or laughing in the background.  One of those is “Laughter in the rain.”  IN this case it is a song about dressing appropriately in inclement weather.  A song he wrote, “Love Will Keep Us Together” has a different message and it is “Lunch Will Keep Us Together.”  However the wong I liked most from this set is “Baby’s First Christmas Lullabye.”  It has a very nice melody and feel, as he sings of a father’s love for a baby.  Papa sings a Christmas song
And it's so sweet that Nana sings along
The music notes fall from the sky
It's Baby's First Christmas Lullaby
The angels smile and spread their wings
And if you listen you can hear them sing
And through the room reindeers dance and fly
That's Baby's First Christmas Lullaby
Charlotte wakes when she hears the croons
Of candy canes and singing spoons
Hush, Amanda, now don't you weep
Your dolls will sing you back to sleep
Santa comes with Rudolph too
And here's a special gift they bring to you
And you can sing it if you try
That's Baby's First Christmas Lullaby
The Christmas tree begins to sway
And all the toy balloons just seem to say
Don't let the music pass you by
It's Baby's First Christmas Lullaby
Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
Are harmonizing 'neath the tree
The mistletoes let out a sigh
They're telling you, you must not cry
Join with me in this Christmas song
And you'll feel good if you can sing along
So sing it loud and don't be shy
That's Baby's First Christmas Lullaby
(I Love You, Papa Neil)

Book Review: Closer

Closer by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, Chicken House Scholastic, New York, 2011.
This is the fourth book in continuing saga “Tunnels” about Will and his family and friends as they travel through the underground tunnels they have found, and battle the Styx, their ruthless adversary, and the Rebecca twins who pretended to be Will’s sister  but now have become his worst enemy.  They want him dead, and he them.  They get their chance, and cause great emotional pain but do not quite get Will.  Both Will’s parents have been subject to the evil of the Styx. 
In this book we have a twist; a schism among the Styx themselves.  Eddie, Elliot’s father (the girl that has befriended Will and his companion Chester who is half colony and half Styx) wants to over throw his own leadership, and uses Drake, Will and his friends to help him in this cause, while pretending to be the friend who is wanting to see his daughter safe. 
This is still a roller coaster underground.  There is more to come.