Monday, 8 February 2016

Entertainment Monday: New Music (Monday February 8, 2016)

Entertainment Monday:New Music (Monday February 8, 2016)

I wanted to share some new music that I like on this week's Entertainment Monday.  I am fortunate that the music stations I listen to often update their play lists so I get exposed to a lot of new music. I tend to share music from bands that I like on most Entertainment Mondays but sometimes there is a band I may not be as big a fan of and yet they have one or two songs that I love.  It's that music that I do not often share.  So here are a few new songs that I have really taken to.

Dancing on Glass by St. Lucia

I like a few other songs I've heard from St. Lucia but Dancing on Glass stands out head and shoulders above their other music for me.   Whenever I'm in the car and Dancing on Glass comes on I have to crank up the volume and sing along.  I don't go out to clubs anymore but if I did, this would be one of the songs I would want to play on the jukebox. 

Genghis Khan by Mike Snow

Mike Snow had a song called Animal a few years ago that I really liked, but aside from that tune I had never really heard anything else from him that stood out to me.  Recently he came out with some new music and when I heard the song Genghis Khan I liked it immediately. 

Giving Up on You by Wilde Belle

Sure the lyrics describe a relationship where a girl total hates a guy's guts and is glad to be rid of him and wouldn't mind doing him some bodily harm, but much as Dancing on Glass from St. Lucia this is an absolutely awesome song to sing along with or dance to and such a catchy tune. 

The last song I wanted to share on this Entertainment Monday is the song Magnets by Disclosure and featuring Lorde. 
Magnets by Disclosure feat. Lorde

While I can easily acknowledge how talented a singer Lorde is I kind of questioned something about her singing voice in songs like Tennis Court, Royals and Team.  She always sounded a little weird to me, more like she was speaking the songs then singing them.  So I could not really come to grips with her and whether or not I really liked her music.  Rather then growing on me I kind of grew away from liking her music the more I heard it.  Well, in Disclosure's Magnets I have no issues with Lorde's voice what-so-ever.  I love the sound of her singing and this song is so very different to me then what I've heard from her in the past.   Unlike her earliest music, Magnets grows more and more on me each time I hear it. 

Friday, 5 February 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- Review by Carlyn

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is the timeless classic about growing up in Alabama during the 1930s. The main character is a little girl named Jean Louise Finch or Scout as she liked to be called, who lives with her brother Jeremy “Jem” and her father Atticus. Scout, Jem and their friend Dill Harris are obsessed with their neighbor Boo Radley, who has been a shut in for many years. They don’t know what he looks like but they have heard many stories about him. They have heard that Boo Radley is an eccentric and has been forced to stay inside by his family. The children attempt to make contact with Boo but are discouraged by their father. Boo’s life is intertwined with the Finch children even though they don’t know it.

The Finch family faces major upheaval when Atticus, who is a lawyer, is asked to represent Tom Robinson in a rape trial. Tom Robinson is an African American man accused of raping Mayella Ewell who is a white woman. This was a time of racial segregation in America and racial tensions were high. Some of the towns folk would rather see Tom get lynched than go to jail. Friends and family disapprove of Atticus representing Tom Robinson but he refuses to drop his client. Scout even gets into fights at school, defending her father.


Almost all the towns people show up to watch the trial including Scout, Jem and Dill. Scout is too young to understand but everything is noted so that the reader knows what is occurring.  It becomes clear that Tom is innocent but the racist attitudes may stop justice from happening.

I watched the movie before and you can read my review here. I enjoyed the movie and wanted to read the book to gain a better insight. I thought the book was excellent and it was easy to see why it was a classic. The most interesting part of the book was the trial especially the testimonies and the background of the Ewells. The first mention of the Ewells comes from when Scout starts school for the first time and there’s one of the Ewell children in her class. The Ewells are a poor family who are illiterate and dysfunctional. The child is foul mouthed and leaves after just one day at school. The truant officer after years of trying to get the Ewell kids to school is finally satisfied if they turn up at the start of the school year and have their name put on the roll. 

The head of the family is Bob Ewell, who is father to numerous children. He is a drunk and an outcast who beats his kids and lets them run wild. He goes to the trial expecting to be treated like a hero but becomes angry by the disgust that people show him when the truth gets revealed. He is deeply racist of the African Americans as he is only second to them in the order of social standing. It’s sad to read about a person who blames everyone else for his own misdeeds.  

As a teacher, I couldn’t help thinking of the dysfunctional families I have met and how the cycle of poverty and dysfunction continues. The Ewell child in the book reminded me of a child I knew when I was a student teacher. The child had been skipping school for so long that the family was going to be taken to court. So that child finally came to school after being away for almost the whole of the school year.  We were on the last month of school at the time. The child could not count up to ten, he could write his name but he could not read at all. The sad part was he was in grade 7. The child didn’t have any learning disorders to account for his illiteracy. 
He was illiterate because he didn’t go to school.
I read his entire school file and learnt all about his background. He also belonged to big family and all of them had trouble going to school. When the children did arrive at school, they would be dirty, unwashed and smelling of urine, without any school equipment or lunch. The report showed that numerous times, the school tried to intervene but to no avail. The family was always on the move so they were hard to track down. One time, the father was questioned and he said, “You’ve got no right to tell me how to raise my children.” And to “Mind your own business”.

The child had the same rude attitude as his father. He instigated bad behaviour which escalated quickly. I never saw him again after that one day when he went to school. He wasn’t suspended or anything. He just didn’t turn up the next day. Anyway, I felt deeply sorry for the child because of all the lost opportunities he would have for not having an education. I do hope that one day, something gets through to him and he’s able to break the cycle.

The Boo Radley side plot reminded me how there’s always that one place in the neighborhood that’s pretty spooky.  Sometimes, I think it’s my destiny to end up as old eccentric that scares the neighborhood kids. The Finch children’s attempts to speak to him is to be expected as children are so curious. I probably would have done the same things as them at that age. I hung around my older brother when I was growing up and I could picture him poking around the Boo house just like Jem did.  At the end, it is revealed that he’s a misunderstood character but he wants to be left alone just the same.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a classic American book. I am aware of the sequel, Go Set a Watchman and will read it someday. The movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird is pretty faithful to the book and a classic in its own right. 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Entertainment Monday: Julie & Julia ( 1 February 2016)

Julie and Julia feature two true stories. In 2002, a young office worker named Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) attempts to cook all of 524 recipes from Julia Child’s revolutionary cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Julie kept a blog on her endeavors which became very popular and eventually a book and movie were made about her adventures in cooking.


The other true story starts in the 1950s, with Julia Child (Meryl Streep) living with her husband Paul Cushing Child (Stanley Tucci) in Paris. Julia decides she must have a hobby so she learns French cooking. Later, Julia and her friends Simca Beck (Linda Emond) and Louisette Bertholle (Helen Carey) decide that they want to write a French cookbook for American household cooks.

I felt that Julia Child’s story about getting her manuscript published was more interesting than Julie Powell’s attempts to cook everything in the book.  It was Julia’s charm and the beautiful Parisian landscape that won me over. I was charmed over Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child. I didn’t know anything about Juila Child before watching the movie but I was enchanted with her cheerful and energetic spirit, her love of food and the passion she had for her husband. It is known that Julia and Paul Child were very in love with each other and he was supportive of her writing a cookbook. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci had good chemistry and it looked like they were a real married couple.


I could relate to Julie’s life as well. She was about to turn thirty and in a very stressful job which did not give her fulfillment. Julie turns to cooking to gather some meaning in her life.  She relates on how her mother cooked one of the recipes from Mastering the Art of French cooking and describing the taste as magical.


 I’m currently 29 years old and still trying to establish my career while trying to have a work/life balance and finding meaning in my life.  We’re both bloggers so I could understand her struggle with how much to reveal about her personal life.  Julie’s blog existed when blogging was still a new thing and so was publishing novel goals that I found it amusing when she had to explain blogging and why she was cooking. In the movie, Julie doesn’t take any photos of her food for her blog which I found unusual because I thought she should show proof of her cooking endeavors. Maybe she did and it wasn’t featured in the movie or maybe it wasn’t important in those times. Nowadays, a blogger would have posted pictures on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and made a video for Youtube. Julie Powell’s blog has since been deleted so I can’t account for it.

This is a lovely film to watch with your foodie friends. The film will have you drooling for French cooking. The movie is a bit sexual though which may not be appropriate for some families. Julia and Julie both have loving relationships with their husbands. There’s nothing graphic of course, just some making out before they go off to bed and it cuts away from there. I hope you enjoy the film as much as I did. 

Friday, 29 January 2016

January 2016 Goal Progress

I read on a blog that a good way to keep track of your new year’s resolutions is to make small monthly goals that tie into your overall plans. So I made some little goals for January.  I didn’t do everything on my yearly goals as I felt that it would be too much. Here were my little goals for January:

Exercise regularly
My original plan was to do aerobics, Pilates and yoga at home but I didn’t end up doing it.  The heat got to me (it’s summer in Australia).  I also felt bored by doing the same old routine. So I decided to go for walks instead and do vigorous housework.  I found walking with friends to be fun and they helped push me to walk further. I also get satisfaction from keeping a clean house. I think I should still do some toning exercises so I’ll have to look into that next month.

Spend more time outdoors
I had one task to do for January which was to replant my plant. It’s a desert plant and it’s really flourishing in this weather. I am pleased because last year, I thought the plant would die. I wish it would flower though. It had flowers when I bought it last year but they withered away. 
the old me

I’ve been a good Carlyn on this one. I have been able to withstand temptation. My strategy has been to make do with the things I already own.

Take more risks
My goal for this month was to apply to three jobs. It’s not a lot of jobs but I’ve recently come back to job hunting. I currently work as a relief teacher (substitute) but I want to become a permanent classroom teacher. I applied for jobs regularly last year but I felt demoralized after a lot of rejections. So I took a hiatus from the job hunt.
I also started a LinkedIn profile and my goal was to network a little on various teacher groups. I was a bit shy about it because I was among other professionals who have more experience.

Me time once a month
This month I bought myself a boater hat. A boater is a flat bottomed straw hat that was typically worn when sailing. Some private schools also have boater hats as part of their school uniforms and barber shop quartets like to wear them too. Anyway, my hat has a bigger brim because I bought it for sun safety. I also bought it because I like boater hats. I like that the straw doesn’t lose its shape and how you can wear the hat without it obscuring your vision like other hats. I have this hat:

Give to charity
I’ve donated books to charity and I bought some more at the Lifeline bookfest! The Lifeline bookfest happens throughout the year at various locations in Australia.  Lifeline is an Australian charity that specializes in helping disadvantaged people .They also have many thrift stores to earn money.  The bookfest is a huge warehouse sale of all their second hand books. The books are priced from one dollar and upwards.

 Read 40 books
My yearly goal is to read forty books.  I have read five books so far which is a good amount given the slow rate I normally read at.

Be positive/Happy
This month I decided to stop focusing on my shortcomings and be positive with what I have achieved. I’m normally hard on myself if I fail to do something even on small stuff like not getting all my errands done. I should probably get that book, Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I’ve also taken to making my bed in the morning. I heard that it’s good to make your bed because it can be your first achievement in the day. Last year, I was a bit lazy about making my bed. I normally would make it but in the middle of the day or even before I went to bed. I know it’s silly to make a bed before going to sleep but I do it to check that no insects have slipped into the covers. Now I make my bed in the morning and I even do hospital corners for the sheets. I think it looks nicer than untucked sheets and it keeps it cleaner. My sheets use to drape all the way to the floor. I can now look under my bed without having to lift up the blankets.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Entertainment Monday: Tribute to Alan Rickman (Monday, January 25, 2016)

Tribute to Alan Rickman 

you tube video tribute to Alan Rickman *from CNN

Today's Entertainment Monday is a tribute to Alan Rickman.  I wish to share
some words and thoughts about the man and his career. 
Rickman, who passed away on January 14th is a British born actor who played
many memorable rolls in films like Die Hard, Robin hood: Prince of Thieves, 
Sense and Sensibility, and  Love Actually among many others.  
While best known for his ability to play the villain, Rickman was a 
versatile actor who's professionalism and commitment to his craft exuded
from the movie screen in a way few actors can replicate.  You don't 
need a roll call of awards or honors to appreciate what a talented actor
Mr. Rickman was. 
His most memorable performance for me and many young adults and children 
today was his portrayal of Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movie
I love the Harry Potter films and  Rickman's ability to bring Severus Snape
from off the pages of JK Rowling's classic to the big screen was unparalleled
among what can easily be called an all star cast of many of Great Britain's 
greatest actors. 
I don't think it is easy to get lost in the characters that a person plays
when you see them in multiple films.  Often times there are challenges in
capturing the essence of a character and making them unique in a such a way 
that they stand out. What Rickman did so masterfully was to make you forget
past characters he portrayed in past films, because he always so embodied the
roll he was playing at the time. 
Rickman would make me forget those other films and I could simply admire the
character that he made his own in each and every film roll he took on.  

Of course, fame and the entertainment industry allows the general public a
certain level of access to people whom we may have otherwise never met.  As 
such while we  try to identify with many celebrities in reality we often know
little about who they really are. Our opinions are largely shaped and formed by
the media or through film.    While I never knew Alan  Rickman and I 
never met him, I don't want to ignore the fact that he had a personal 
life and a family as well as personal relationships that he made with 
the many people he worked with professionally.   The many online 
tributes I have read and the televised tributes are all a testament to 
the way Mr. Rickman touched the lives of the people whom were closest to
 him and not just his fans. 
These tributes are not passing sentiments but I've read many in depth and personal
accounts of admiration and appreciation for Mr. Rickman on line after his passing.  
So  God Bless his family and friends as they do their best to remember the 
best of Mr. Rickman as a man and honor that legacy, which seems to have 
dwarfed even the amazing legacy he has left the cinematic world. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Lady of Palenque: Flower of Bacal by Anna Kirwan- Review by Carlyn

This book is part of the Royal Diaries series by Scholastic. It is a series of fictional diaries of famous royal women from around the world.  The Lady of Palenque is about Chac Nik Yak Ahau Xoc (called Princess Yaxchel or Green Jay in the novel), who was the daughter of Pacal the Great. She lived in pre-Columbian Mayan civilization and her story starts in 749 AD.  There isn’t a lot of information about the Lady of Palenque, so the author has a lot of creative license for the diary. Kirwan did do thorough research and consult with experts for the novel though.  The diaries are not entirely accurate of course but this is a work of fiction after all.

What is known about Yaxchel is that she was married to K’ak Yipjaj Chan K’awil (Fire Keeper) who was lord of the neighboring kingdom of Xukpi. It was a political marriage arranged by her father. This diary is about Chac Nik Yak Ahau Xoc’s journey to her new husband. Yaxchel travels with a huge entourage from Lakamha (located in Belize) to Xukpi (located in Honduras) with her huge entourage of attendants by foot, canoe and on litters (a platform that is carried by servants).
The journey takes many months and they face a lot of difficulties. They have to avoid enemies, survive tropical storms and being shipwrecked. Some of her entourage even dies along the way. There are moments of respite as well, when they reach different villages and towns. Yaxchel doesn’t complain at all because she has to be strong for everyone else. Everywhere they go they are able to hunt for game and gather edible plants. I admire that self sufficiency and the lack of squeamishness about exotic meats that they ate. Of course, the meat wouldn’t be considered exotic to them but exotic for modern day people.

Yaxchel writes in her diary which she intends to give to her future husband. It is so he knows how his villagers are faring, what rope bridges need to be repaired and her hopes for their marriage. She has never met her future husband and wonders whether they will like each other. They are about twenty years apart in age which wasn’t unusual in that time period.
What I enjoyed about this story was the journey which lasts for the whole book. It’s the only book where the princess is travelling for the entire time. I hoped that the journey better be worth it at the end. I liked the lush descriptions of the environment and I could really imagine the dampness of the rainforest and all the other sights and sounds.  I also liked the descriptions on the food like when they all ate crabs.
The journey is arduous where if I had been on it, I would have returned home. However, it would have been a waste to do so after the amount of people who die on the journey.  I can imagine how slow communication would be among the kingdoms.
Palace at Palenque

What I found difficult about this book was the names of the characters. Some of the names were literal translations of names such as Lady Cottonblossom, while others were just English translations like Tzunuum. I prefer the authentic names the most because I felt the most literal names were jarring and took me out of their world. It seemed that there were so many secondary characters and all with unique names that I found it hard to remember what relationship they had with Yaxchel. Luckily, there is a glossary at the back of the book. There are also pictures so readers can see what Yaxchel’s world was like.

This book is the last book I needed to read to finish the series. I have been collecting the Royal Diaries series since I have a teenager.  There is no order to the book series as each book is a standalone book featuring one royal person.  I just collected them by purchasing whatever was available at the bookstore and online. I now have the complete collection of twenty books.

The series features well known royal women such as Marie Antoinette and Cleopatra to lesser known royals like Lady of Ch’iao Kuo and Nzingha. My favourites was Queen Elizabeth of England’s diary , Lady of Ch’iao Kuo, Marie Antoinette and Jaharnara of India.  I think young girls who like princesses and historical fiction will like these books. I have learnt a lot from reading the Royal Diaries series. One day, I’ll put in on my future class’ bookshelf. Hopefully someone will read them and I’ll look forward to discussing the books and encouraging their interest in history. 

Monday, 18 January 2016

Entertainment Monday: Million Dollar Arm (January 18 2016)

Initially, I thought that Million Dollar Arm was going to be the true story of an amputee athlete who gets a bionic arm. However, I was dead wrong. It’s the true story about American sports agent, JB Bernstein who goes to India with the idea that cricket bowlers can make great baseball pitchers.  To gather publicity for the search, he creates a contest called Million Dollar Arm. The best two players receive a cash prizes as well as the opportunity to fly to America to become baseball players. 


JB Berstein (played by Jon Hamm) and his business partner Ash Vasudevan (Aasif Mandvi) run an independent sports agency. They fail to attract new clients which put their business at risk. So, they decide to look for the next great sports talent in India. India has a population of 1.2 billion people and with the right athlete; they could generate enormous revenue on sponsorships and merchandise.


The two winning contestants on Million Dollar Arm are Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) who both come from poor backgrounds and have never played baseball before. Suddenly, they are whisked away to America to train as baseball players. The process is physically and mentally overwhelming for them. They are both aware that they are big investment to many people and they have no guarantees that they will be signed to any baseball team. 

Suraj Sharma and Dinesh Patel were excellent as the athletes. They managed to convey the excitement of their fortunate circumstances as well as being fearful and insecure that it could all be taken away from them. They are helped along the way with their plucky translator Amit Rohan (Pitobash Tripathy) who is used for comic relief.  I really felt for the Indian characters as they had so many people depending on them. They all had families back at home to support, JB’s business was on the line and this was the best opportunity that they ever had. Winning a contract would mean that they have financial security and respect.

This is a good family film with a mix of east and west and a lot of heart without being too cheesy. It is interesting to see the business side of sport, which is a nice change in the sports genre. The blend of two sports goes seamlessly and it reminds me of another Disney movie called Cool Runnings. That movie is about a Jamaican bobsled team. I’m a sucker for inspirational underdog movies especially if it is a Disney film.  After watching this movie, I learnt that Suraj and Dinesh go on to have successful careers but I won’t spoil it for you.
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