All posts by Rob Darnell

Black or White (2014)

MV5BMTYyMzE2NTE5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDI3ODI2MzE@__V1_SX214_AL_A friend and I like to watch movies together, though we live a thousand miles from each other. We just pick something off Netflix and chat on Facebook. I know it sounds corny, but I guess neither has much going on, so this is something to do.

Last night we watched Black or White.

Kevin Costner plays Elliot. This is the second movie I’ve seen where Kevin Costner plays Elliot. Can you guess the other movie he plays Elliot in? Anyway, in Black or White, Elliot is a successful lawyer and an alcoholic. At the very beginning of the movie, we learn that Elliot had just lost his wife in a car wreck.

But what’s more, Elliot has a granddaughter named Eloise (Jillian Estell) who was left in the care of him and his wife when his daughter died giving birth. Now that Elliot’s wife has also died, he is Eloise’s sole guardian.

Or is he?

Eloise’s paternal grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer), wants custody of the girl. Rowena believes Eloise would be better off raised by her. Elliot objects to this, mostly because of Reggie (Andre Holland), who is Rowena’s son and Eloise’s father. Reggie has a criminal and drug history and Elliot does not want him around Eloise.

And so there’s a legal battle over who gets custody of Eloise.

My friend and I agree that this is a beautiful movie.

Cobra Denali

Photo-0006The Cobra Denali is another pistol I own. It’s small, smaller than my hand. I often just stick it in my pocket. Yeah, it rides pretty well in most of my pockets. The Denali is a .380 ACP. Holds five rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber for a good 5+1.

Before I bought it, I did research on it, as I tend to do with any gun I’m thinking about buying. I read articles and watched videos. Most of the articles described the Denali as a problematic pistol, reporting constant jams, and the videos showed the Denali jamming constantly.

But then I came across a piece that said just put a little oil on the feed ramp before taking it out to shoot for the first time. I decided to put faith in that piece of information and bought my Cobra Denali. Before taking it out to shoot for the first time, I put a little oil on the feed ramp. There were no problems. None. It was fantastic.

So far, my Denali has only jammed on me once and that was after I’d gone through a couple of boxes of bullets. I just needed to clean it and it was good to go again. I’m very, very pleased with my Denali. It handles very sweetly.

I’ve run only PMC ammo through  it. That’s one of the three ammos Cobra Firearms recommends.  So, if you’ve oiled your Denali’s feed ramp, but are still having problems, it might be the ammo you’re using. I’ve also heard that some gun oils don’t work so well with certain guns. I don’t know which oils those might be, but I use Hoppe’s 9 and have no complaints about it.

The breakdown process for the Denali is a little frustrating, I admit. It doesn’t come apart the way most other semi-auto pistols I’ve used do. When taking the Denali apart to clean it or whatever, you got to be careful or the parts will fly all over the place. But that’s my only issue with the Denali and I consider it to be a minor issue.

I heard that all Cobra firearms are handmade instead of machine made. I think that’s nice. The people making these guns do a good job.

Added December 2, 2016:
If you’re looking for a holster for the Cobra Denali, see my entry: What’s a good holster for the Cobra Denali?

Life of a King (2013)

91zBguoF59L__SY445_Another great movie is Life of a King, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Gooding plays Eugene Brown, a man just released from prison after serving a seventeen year sentence for armed robbery. After failed attempts to find honest work, he lands a job as a janitor at the local high school.

So, while Eugene is doing janitorial work, in a classroom the detention monitor, Ms. Gadbaw,  is scared away by Cliff, a large teenager, and she does not return. The principal, Ms. King,  needs to find somebody else to monitor the detention room. While searching for a replacement, she happens by Eugene working in the hallway. She asks him if he can keep an eye on the kids in detention while she continues her hunt for someone more official to monitor the detention room.

The moment Ms. King leaves the detention room, the kids are out of their seats and acting up. Eugene tells them several times to sit down. They ignore him each time. But then Cliff said to him “Or what? You some kind of tough guy?”

Eugene stepped into the challenge. He came around the desk and walked right up to Cliff. I mean, man, a dude who just got out of prison after seventeen years is probably someone you don’t want to pick a fight with. Eugene and Cliff stare at each for a minute, and then Cliff turns away, goes back to his desk and sits down. The rest of the kids soon sit down as well.

They realized Eugene was not a pushover and they had better respect him.

The next day Ms. King comes across Eugene in the hallway and expresses how impressed she was with how he handled the detention kids.  She then tells Eugene that Ms. Gadbaw is not coming back and it turns out Ms. King had not been able to find another detention monitor. She gives the job to Eugene.

Eugene sees this as an opportunity to teach the kids Chess, which he had learned in prison. He believes Chess is more than just a game, that Chess can be useful in all life events, because it teaches you how to think before you act.

Later, when his prison history comes to light, Eugene is fired. But he soon buys a house and turns it into a Chess club called Big Chair Chess Club.

Life of a King is based on a true story. Eugene Brown is a real person who did start Big Chair Chess Club as a means “to teach inner-city children a lesson of life he learned the hard way.”

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James

1819Oh my, Fifty Shades of Shit. Not. Really, I didn’t think it was bad. It was silly in places, weird in other places, but otherwise I thought it was a decent book. Those who pay attention to me on Facebook might remember that I decided to read E.L. JamesFifty Shades of Grey because of all the negativity I was hearing about it. I mean, jeez, a lot of people seriously trash this book. They treat it like it’s the most horrible thing ever written. They insult people who admit they read and enjoyed the book. It’s just my opinion, but I think some of these people–not all of them, mind you–are fucking jerks.

No one should be ashamed of what they read. Read whatever you want. Don’t let anyone tell what you should and should not read. If you enjoyed a book, anyone who insults you over it is an asshole. Stories are subjective, same as any art. What one person enjoys, another person might hate. That’s understandable. But what’s not understandable is the amount of trash people are throwing at the author and the people who enjoyed the book. That’s bullshit, especially when the content of the book doesn’t even seem to be what all the negative reviews are claiming.

A lot of people say the book is badly written. But I don’t understand. Why do people say Fifty Shades is badly written? I read the whole book and I kept thinking “if this is bad writing, then all of your favorite authors owe you an apology for their badly written books.” The writing in Fifty Shades is no better or worse than the writing in any other book I’ve read that wasn’t self published.

Is it that the author doesn’t use very heavy prose, that she keeps the language pretty simple? Is that why people say the book is badly  written? If so, I’d hate to burst your bubble, but sometimes using simple prose makes it easier to read. I found Fifty Shades very easy to read. It had a comfortable, relaxing flow to it. How is that bad writing?

Or is it that Anastasia Steele’s thought process contains a lot of jeez, oh my, holy fuck-shit-cow? Is that why it’s badly written? If so, I don’t see why that’s a big deal. Every inch of this book is in Anastasia’s point of view and I found all those silly thoughts to be true to her character. I know people who seem to think the way she does, so I found all that realistic.

If there’s some other reason why so many people feel the book is badly written, I can’t put my finger on what it might be. I can see how the writing might not have worked for you, but I wouldn’t say it’s bad writing.

The story rolls in a way that makes me think of an Aaron Spelling soap opera.

Anastasia Steele seems to be a bit naïve, but she knows what she’s looking for in life, career and relationship-wise. She thinks for herself. She speaks her mind. She’s not an incredibly strong person and she doesn’t have the best self-esteem, but she makes her  own decisions much of the time. At least that’s what I saw.

I guess the biggest problem people are having with Fifty Shades is they feel it’s promoting rape culture. I really don’t think it is. I didn’t see it that way.

Yes. Christian Grey is a control freak. Yes, he’s also into BDSM. And he makes a contract full of rules that he would like Anastasia to follow. He’s pretty extreme about all this. Yes, he’s weird.

But he didn’t force her to do anything. He didn’t rape her. He talked her into letting him spank her and that stuff. But he let her decide what she was comfortable with and what she wasn’t. They were boyfriend-girlfriend. Christian was a jerk a lot, but he was also good to her too.

The book wasn’t all sex, sex, sex, spank, spank, spank. There was actually more to the story than that. Christian has a lot of issues, but he was aware of them. He even put in effort to be more of something Anastasia would be happy with, because he wanted their relationship to work. Anastasia was doing the same for him, trying to be something that would make him happy.

During most of the BDSM scenes, Christian did not hit her very hard. And he only did these things with her consent. Only at the end of the book, after he talked her into letting him do it, did he spank her hard. And you know what? She decided to leave him because of that. She realized that she wasn’t cut out for that kind of thing and decided she needed to leave.

How about that? Anastasia left Christian Grey and he let her go.

I think a lot of people read this book with a biased mindset. That they had already heard all the negativity about it before they read it for themselves and had already decided they weren’t going to like it. I say this because there are so many claims about this book that I didn’t see. I don’t know what these people are talking about.

Furthermore, this isn’t a story about you or anyone you know. It’s a story about Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, who are fictional characters.. Whatever goes on between them, who gives a shit if it’s right or wrong, it’s just a story. What are y’all so pissed off about? You’re like the people who insist Santa Claus is white not black. It’s also interesting that the people who want to rid the world of Fifty Shades of Grey are the same people who get uppity about censorship.

All right, now, did I like Fifty Shades of Grey?

Eh, not as much as you were probably thinking. I read the whole book. I don’t see anything wrong  with it, but at the same time, I don’t feel very strongly about the story. I can see why it has done so well on the market. I think it deserves to be the best seller that it is. In some ways I did like it, but in other ways it was kind of boring. Not saying it was badly written, it just didn’t interest me much.

So, no, I probably won’t read the rest of the series.

I feel like there was more I wanted to say,  but I guess it slipped my mind.

Gifted Hands (2009)

91vJ84Kyx9L__SY445_Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Ben Carson in Gifted Hands. Ben Carson is the famed surgeon known for separating conjoined twins in a way that allows for both to survive. The movie tells us about his life from childhood to his great success as a surgeon. We learn of his family troubles, his struggles in school and medical school. Eventually he is recognized as a genius and performs amazing deeds in the operating room.

As always, Gooding put on an outstanding performance. The movie was convincing and enjoyable. All of the actors and actresses did fantastic jobs. It’s definitely a movie worth watching.

3 Days to Kill (2014)

91vJ84Kyx9L__SY445_3 Days to Kill is another one of those “My dad is a badass” action thrillers that seem to be common these days, but this time it’s Kevin Costner’s turn to be the badass dad. Costner is Ethan Renner, a badass CIA… um… hitman? A mission goes wrong and there’s a whole crapload of shooting, with Ethan Renner making some pretty awesome moves while dealing with a medical condition that puts him on the ground like he’s having a heart attack.

Afterward, Ethan returns to his home in Paris, France, where he attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter, who is angry with him because he wasn’t around for years. Eventually Ethan takes on the real fatherly role and bails his daughter out of bad situations in totally badassery ways.

If you like badass thrillers, you would probably like 3 Days to Kill.

Turkey!

Photo-0035

So, at my mom and dad’s house today, I walked around to the backyard and saw this. I got excited, dug my cellphone from my pocket as quickly as I could, before they noticed me and took off. I took the picture, went back inside to tell my dad, and he tells me they are the turkey decoys he bought.

Sheesh.

Breathe Me and the Six Feet Under Finale, and what it means to me

I loved the HBO series Six Feet Under, but I had missed the last couple seasons. I didn’t see this video until a friend posted about it on Facebook a couple of months ago. Breathe Me quickly became one of my favorite songs, and the video, it’s one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen.

I’ve watched it many times, taking in the music and the video each time. For me, it makes me think about what’s really important, what I need from life before it’s too late. There is someone I love very much, who I wish I could be with again, but I don’t expect we’ll ever get back together. The idea of living the rest of my life without her is kind of frightening.

I wanted to embed the video here, but it looks like the owner of the video has that option disabled, so I’ll just put in the link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNwARV9tPUw

And Buddy turned six this month.

Photo-0029That’s right. My cat, Buddy, he’s six years old. I don’t know if I’m one of those people who keeps track of the ages of their pets, but I got Buddy’s age pinned down. I’ve been living on my own since I was twenty-three  and I’ve only had three pets in all that time.

I got Buddy in September 2009 when he was still a kitten. I remember how small he was. But he quickly grew into the big purring monster that he is now. I mean he’s huge and quite heavy. He weighs more than my dog. Though he lies around the house a lot, he’s healthy and happy. He’s the best cat ever.

He ended up getting the name Buddy because when I first got him, I didn’t know what name to give him. I was just calling him buddy because I didn’t know what else to call him. After a couple weeks of that nonsense, I realized Buddy should be his name. It fit. He likes it.

Buddy”s my buddy. Though it looks like he was annoyed with me taking his picture this morning.

Hardball (2001)

51R4A6RG4XL__SY445_If you haven’t seen Hardball yet, I’m probably going to spoil it for you. There’s just a bit that I want to say about this movie. I watched it for the first time the other day and watched it again the next day. I was very touched by the movie. It’s another one of those kids’ sports movies, but then not exactly. It kind of makes you think of the original Bad News Bears, but with a harsher tone. Rated PG-13. Probably does have the go to be classified as a kids movie, but at the same time I’d say it’s a movie for adults.

Keanu Reeves is the star. He plays Conor, a gambler who is deep in debt. In order to help payoff his debt, a friend offers Conor a job coaching a kids’ baseball team.

What really caught my interest is the baseball team and the field they play in is at the old Chicago Public Housing Project known as the Henry Horner Homes, nicknamed the Hornet, because the buildings resembled hornet nests. The Henry Horner Homes were demolished in 2008, but the movie is from 2001, so the buildings were still there at the time. Though that was the year the demolishing began.

I first heard about the Henry Horner Homes from the book There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, by Alex Kotlowitz, which I read in high school. It was a non-fiction book and the story really stuck with me. The Hornet was a terrible place to live and kids who grew up there saw so much hell that many did not expect to reach adulthood.

So that was what really hit home for me in Hardball. The movie didn’t sugarcoat the life. It showed the fear the kids felt, how they were desperate to get home before it got dark and what living conditions were like inside the buildings. Toward the end, two brothers trying to get home were caught in the middle of a gang fight. The younger of the brothers was hit by a stray bullet and died in the older brother’s arms. That was life at the Henry Horner Homes.

So, while the movie has much comedy, it has a harsh side to it too. It’ll leave you thinking about those living in ghettos across the United States. I’m glad the Hornet is gone and I hope the people who once lived there have found better lives.