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!

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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.

Smith & Wesson SD9 VE

Photo-0018Okay. Yeah. I’m the proud owner of a Smith & Wesson SD9 VE. I’ve heard that a lot of people consider this pistol to be junk, but I don’t see that it is. Faulty trigger, they’ve claimed. What’s wrong with the trigger? It seems fine to me. It functions just right, far as I can tell. Some have said they hated the gun for other reasons, but whatever those reasons are, I’ve come to love my SD9 VE and I know people who also love the SD9 VE as well its twin, the SD40 VE.

Not everyone agrees that any particular pistol is good, so if you don’t like the SD9, that’s fine. But me, personally, I think it’s a great gun, very reliable. The SD9 VE holds 16+1 rounds. That’s a nice load to have if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself from more than one criminally intent person. I guess such a circumstance is rare, but it could happen, you never know.

Okay, so, I love my SD9 and I find it to be a great pistol. But I’ll be honest, when I first got it, I wasn’t so sure. I took it out of the box and went out to shoot it. The first problem I had was loading the magazine. I had so much trouble putting the first bullet in and after I managed to get the bullets in, I couldn’t fill the magazine. It’s a 16-round magazine, but I could only fit fifteen rounds in it. After so many failed attempts to get that sixteenth round in, I decided that this was a flaw Smith & Wesson needed to address, that the magazines did not actually hold sixteen rounds as Smith & Wesson claimed.

So, with fifteen rounds in the mag, I decided it was time to do some target shooting. I put a few rounds through the pipe and then got my first jam. It went on like that for a while, a jam for every few shots. I was really beginning to have doubts about the quality of the gun.

But you know what? All that was just the break-in period. As I continued to use the gun, it began to function better. The issue with the magazines not holding the sixteen rounds that they were supposed to was just that the springs needed to get some usage. Eventually it was easier to load the magazines and fit sixteen rounds in them.

I figured out later that when you buy a brand new gun, it’s best to oil it before taking it out to shoot for the first time. Oiling the gun before the first shooting will likely make the break-in period more pleasant. It’s a practice I stick to now.

So, for me, the SD9 VE turned out to be a very good pistol and I’m glad I bought it.

The Way (2010)

1819How long ago was it since I first discovered The Way on Netflix? Two years ago? I guess it wasn’t more than two years. Since the initial viewing, I had watched it several more times. It’s just one of those movies that entered my heart and will stay there. Anyone who hasn’t seen The Way, I recommend it highly.

Martin Sheen is the lead actor. He plays Tom, an eye doctor. Emilio Estevez plays Tom’s son Daniel.

Daniel quit medical school so he could travel the world. Tom is not a big supporter of this idea, but he accepts it  A couple years go by and Tom gets a phone call from a French police officer who informs him that Daniel was killed in a storm while hiking.

Tom goes to France with the intention of collecting Daniel’s body and heading straight home to bury it. But while Tom is in France, he learns about the journey Daniel was on when he died. Tom decides he and Daniel will finish the journey

Great acting, wonderful sound tracks, and a beautiful story.