August 2013

Bookshelf21 Aug 2013 04:08 pm

There is so much in history that I’ve never learned or hasn’t been taught. It never ceases to amaze me when I stumble upon an account of an historical event that escaped me previously. I have two examples of that today, set a mere 50 years apart, but in worlds that seem centuries apart.

American Phoenix – Jane Hampton Cook

In the early 1800s, America was a fledgling nation with little clout on the global stage. We had won our independence from England, but were still largely considered a British subsidiary nation. Earning a place a world power would take another war and unparalleled diplomacy. Both requirements were fulfilled by the War of 1812, an oft-overlooked engagement that provided a platform for the United States to flex their military might and for John Quincy Adams to demonstrate a diplomatic deftness that shifted the world powers.

Cook weaves historical research, private diary entries, and personal correspondence to craft this tale of American establishment. This book is quite thick and the pages are flush with facts and speculation, but it reads (at times) like a well-worn paperback novel. (It is quite dry other times, but it balances out.) American Phoenix offers an in-depth look at incredible acts of heroism from a future first family at a crucial time in history and provides a new level of appreciation for America’s position as a global power. It will take a while, but it’s well worth the read.

Manhunt – James L. Swanson

Fifty years later, America found itself in the midst of another crisis of identity. This time the struggle was from within, as the nation was divided over the issue of slavery. And though the assassination of Abraham Lincoln is covered in most history classes, the details are often glossed over and rarely shared. Swanson fills in the gaps with an extensive exploration of the events before and after the heinous act. This topic has become quite popular in the culture as of late and it’s no wonder why. This is a fascinating piece of American history and this book captures it quite well.


Movies16 Aug 2013 04:31 pm

Hey strangers. I went to see Planes last weekend and wanted to write about it. So, I did. Here it is.

First, the Previews…

Grace Unplugged – Maybe the Katy Perry story?
LEGO Movie – Seems silly and fun enough. The Littles were excited.
Walking with Dinosaurs – meh.
DisneyNature Presents Bears – Very exciting. Littler Boy loves all things bears.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 – I never saw the first movie, but am completely won over by the puns littering the trailer.
Free Birds – saving turkeys from Thanksgiving. Looks full of funny moments.
Frozen – cute trailer, but still no real indication of what this movie is about. (I think it’s a princess movie.)

Now, on to the show… (non-spoiler section)

Look! Up in the (Buick) Sky(lark)! It’s a T-Bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s… well, yes, it is a plane. A whole bunch of planes.

A segment of a vehicle society. In their very own movie. There’s a hero who races. A lovable sidekick who makes up for a lack of sense with supreme loyalty. An arrogant, cut-throat rival racer. A bitter old mentor with a haunting history who grumbles about all things racing, but finally relents to teach our hero how to race. A forgotten small town that’s hard to find on a map and rarely visited. No, it’s not Cars, I promise. It’s Planes.

So, obviously, I came into this movie expecting a bit of a retread from the Cars movies. I expected similar characters and storylines to match the similar animation marking the franchise. And I expected it to be okay because I assumed it to be a Pixar movie and we all know that Pixar’s trademark storytelling trumps all.

Except the opening short was missing at the beginning. And Luxo Jr. was missing from the opening credits. And suddenly, it dawned on me that all the advertising for this movie referred to it as “DISNEY’S Planes.” And then, I worried. Still thinking it would work out to be a worthwhile movie, I pushed my fears aside and settled in for Disney’s Planes. A little less excited, but, hey, it’s pretty much the same people working on the film. It’s still going to be fine, right? [continue reading this post…]