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Jill Clardy "So many books, so little time...." RSS Feed (Redwood City, CA USA)

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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
DVD ~ Idris Elba
Price: $14.96
71 used & new from $3.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Mandela's Long Walk Encapsulated in Less Than 2.5 hours, July 10, 2014
Until now, I only knew Mandela's story in a superficial way. Of course, everyone knows of his long imprisonment and eventual rise to the presidency of South Africa. However, this film brings to light his early days as a child, his strong family ties, his time as a human rights activist, and his years in prison during which he mellowed into a person of grace and peace. Idris Elba inhabited the role of Nelson Mandela in a credible and impressive manner. He adopted the mannerisms and speech patterns, and made you forget that he wasn't the "real deal".

One of the most interesting things that I learned from the film is that he and Winnie essentially switched roles. She became more strident and in support of violence to achieve equality, whereas he adopted the peaceful route. The film covers a very long time span, and in the process gives only a superficial coverage to the political and social upheaval of the time. Sometimes I just wished for more background or explanation of what was really happening in the country. The turbulence was acted out visually, but lacked substance - it was just violence without explanation.

Nevertheless, it was an impressive production with some sterling performances by accomplished actors.

The Invisible Woman
The Invisible Woman
Price: $3.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Dickens Lives Again - as Ralph Fiennes !, July 8, 2014
I love period pieces, and the acting, sets and costumes in "The Invisible Woman" reinforced that feeling. Ralph Fiennes has never been finer - perfectly cast in both appearance and actions. I've been studying Dickens for a while, having recently completed several Dickens book courses at Stanford University, and Fiennes totally nails the role. The constant note taking, the long walks, the constant attention-seeking, the moodiness - it's all classic Dickens.

Felicity Jones is also a lovely casting choice for the young paramour with whom Dickens became obsessed. It's a well known story - how Dickens threw over Catherine, the wife of 21 years, with whom he had 10 children. Dickens was 45 and Ternan 18 when he made the decision, which went strongly against Victorian convention, to separate from his wife, Catherine, in 1858--divorce was still unthinkable for someone as famous as he was.

Dickens then sets up Ellen Ternan in a series of homes so that she could appear to be a married woman. They both knew that their choice to live in sin would be scorned by society, but they seemed unable to make any other decision. What doesn't make sense in this film, given how lively Dickens was known to be (he was after all a super star in his time), was the somber mood, dark colors and dreariness of the second half of the film. There must have been some joy in the nearly 13 years they spent together, but it wasn't particularly evident in the film.

Fans of Dickens will revel in the part played by Fiennes, and will enjoy the many allusions to his characters and books.

Haatchi & Little B: The Inspiring True Story of One Boy and His Dog
Haatchi & Little B: The Inspiring True Story of One Boy and His Dog
by Wendy Holden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.52
46 used & new from $11.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming Story of a Rescue Dog and the Boy Who Fell in Love With Him, July 6, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The power of love is evident throughout this inspiring story.

Haatchi, a large Anatolian Shepherd, was found on the train tracks when he was about 5 months old after someone apparently left him there to be destroyed. The good news is that this unknown, evil person is the last bad person you will meet or hear about in this wonderful little book. The dog was rescued and taken to a vet who amputated the leg and tail, and the long, arduous recuperation began in a series of rescue homes.

Separately we meet Owen, diagnosed with a rare muscular disease that causes much pain, restricts his mobility and gives him a strained, peculiar expression. He has a very loving and committed family, but is shy and reserved, particularly in public when he attracts unwanted attention. The strains of his care partly contributed to the failure of his parents marriage. When his Dad meets Colleen, a dog lover, she meets Haatchi and falls instantly in love with the big, furry loving animal. She brings him home to Owen, who she calls Little Buddy or Little B for short, and a wonderful instant bond forms. Little B instantly recognizes the dog as another being that is enduring in spite of his disfiguring handicap. The author's descriptions of the warm, trusting relationship that forms between Haatchi and Little B are inspiring and heartwarming.

Both the dog and the boy suffer various physical setbacks that cause them a lot of pain, surgeries, therapy, etc. but they always rely on each other to provide mutual strength and unconditional love. These two were put on the earth to be with each other. It's an unlikely relationship - the giant dog and the little boy - that will have you cheering for both of them.

Little B's parents rely on social media to promote this love story, and also to give support to those who suffer the same handicap as Owen, and to rescue dogs in general. They also run various fund raisers to help with the cost of Haatchi's surgeries and therapy and for a new wheelchair for Owen.

The story ends when Owen is about 8 years old, and facing a new series of challenges from his deteriorating hip joints; but I suspect there will be a sequel to this heartwarming story. There doesn't appear to be a cure for Owen's disease, but the family faces each challenge day by day with determination and resolve, and the support of one giant, loving dog !


My Salinger Year
My Salinger Year
by Joanna Rakoff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.58
66 used & new from $14.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No One Can Read Salinger Without Being Changed, July 4, 2014
This review is from: My Salinger Year (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Joanna Rakoff, fresh out of college at age 23 in 1995, takes an administrative position at "The Agency" (which is never named) working for a boss who is also never named. The Boss represents J.D. Salinger, and has deliberately kept the agency in the dark ages technologically, where agents dictate into a Dictaphone and letters are transcribed on Selectric typewriters with carbon paper. Joanna's main responsibilities are typing and fending off any and all attempts by the public to get in touch with Salinger. Once she has earned the trust of her colleagues, they task her with responding, via a noncommittal form letter, to each letter sent to Salinger. She is so touched by the emotion and angst of some of the letter writers, that instead of sending the form letter advising the sender that Salinger doesn't want to see any of his letters, she starts to answer the letters, sometimes giving advice, sometimes empathizing with the writer.

Her own life is dissatisfying, as she is living in a tiny, shabby apartment with a boyfriend who is an inattentive cheapskate, and probably unfaithful too. He is an aspiring novelist, and completing his novel is the most important thing in his life. She finds a little time here and there to work on writing poetry, which is her passion. She also connects with one of the other agents (not her boss) who lets her read submissions and provide her opinion. She is struggling both financially and emotionally with her somewhat unfulfilling life.

One weekend when the boyfriend is away, she reads every single Salinger novel to try and understand the ongoing appeal he has had to readers of all ages. She finally understood that Salinger had the ability to speak to each person directly as if he were whispering the lines into their ears. She was deeply moved by his characters, and empathized the most with Zooey. She even had direct contact with Salinger in numerous phone conversations, mostly of a superficial nature, and met him once in person.

Her brief association with Salinger seems like a thin premise for a memoir, but by the middle of the book you realize that it's not really about Salinger; it's really about her coming of age, finding her way and figuring out how to move on from both the Agency and the boyfriend.

A very interesting memoir, showing great promise of a writer that I hope to read again.

Cannery Row
Cannery Row
DVD ~ Nick Nolte
Price: $14.20
45 used & new from $11.92

3.0 out of 5 stars Not What Steinbeck Wrote, But A Sweet, Entertaining Story, July 2, 2014
This review is from: Cannery Row (DVD)
If you don't know Steinbeck's beloved novels, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, you will find this a sweet, amusing film with some great character actors. Nick Nolte and Debra Winger have great chemistry on screen, and you just know they'll end up together, happily ever after.

However, that's not the story that Steinbeck wrote. Cannery Row is a deceptively simple novel, a series of tales of Doc Ricketts, marine biologist at Western Biological Laboratory, and the denizens of the downtrodden canning district in Monterey that has seen better days. Mack and the Boys, Lee Chong, Dora the Madam, and others all seem to revolve around Doc, who is the unofficial mayor of the depressed cannery row area. The sardine canning plants are declining, and it's a smelly, dangerous way to make a living. Many are down on their luck, either by choice or chance, but most are survivors, getting by, running a scam, looking out for each other. There are many amusing tales in the book, but there's a dark, serious side too - people killed, people committing suicide, other unexplained deaths and accidents. All the characters are somehow damaged or lonely, looking for human connections.

The book is organized around the very simple premise that Mack and the Boys decide to reward Doc's many kindnesses to them by throwing him a party. In order to do that, they go on a frog hunt to gather frogs to sell them to the Chinaman and earn the money to buy the party supplies. But everything Mack does turns out badly, and this time is no exception. He spends the rest of the book trying to make amends to Doc for the botched effort. But even this fundamental plot line is mangled in the film adaptation. Though the essence of the frog hunt remains in the movie, and is quite hysterical, many other aspect surrounding the frog hunt are omitted. Most of the dark side of the story is omitted, and The Chinaman, Lee Chong, was changed into a Mexican ! The Palace Flophouse, occupied by Mack and the Boys, is missing and they hang out in a series of old pipes and junk heaps. The Bear Flag Restaurant (aka house of ill repute) is far too grand in scale and furnishings as compared to what is depicted in the novel.

There are many puzzling omissions and changes in the screenplay, but what is mainly missing from the film adaptation is Steinbeck's wonderful language.

"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, 'whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,' by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, 'Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,' and he would have meant the same thing." Steinbeck's description of the pearl gray light in a Monterey morning is simply breathtaking. There is an omniscient narrator in the film, and it would have been nice if some of Steinbeck's marvelous language made it into the script.

If you're a Steinbeck lover, you will be disappointed in this movie, which is actually a mash-up of both novels. If you don't know Steinbeck's writings, you will find it a pleasant story, but not particularly memorable.

B+W 67mm Clear UV Haze with Multi-Resistant Coating (010M)
B+W 67mm Clear UV Haze with Multi-Resistant Coating (010M)
Price: $39.99
16 used & new from $31.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Always Perfect Fit and Finish, June 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
B+W are the only filters I buy now. The fit and finish is always perfect, and they offer great protection and enhancement for my growing collection of valuable lenses. I also like the small sturdy foam-lined plastic case in which they are shipped which offers great protection while in your photo bag. The only suggestion to the B+W designers is to allow an easy way to mark the exterior of the case so that you can easily pull the right filter out of your camera bag when out on a shoot. I stuck a labeled Post-It note inside the cover of each my filters so that I don't have to open each case to see what's inside.

Infantino Stuff It 2-in-1 Diaper Kit
Infantino Stuff It 2-in-1 Diaper Kit
Offered by ToysOnline
Price: $29.19
4 used & new from $24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Compact, Attractive and Functional, June 29, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The neoprene pad is waterproof, washable, nicely padded and folds neatly into the pouch, which also stretches to fit a few other necessities including wipes and ointments and a diaper or two. The outer pouch can also hold the wipes. A handy snap on one end makes a handle that allows you to hang the kit from the handle of a stroller. Or just stuff the whole pouch into the diaper bag - it's that small.

Tim's Vermeer
Tim's Vermeer
Price: $3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The end result is a beautiful copy that impressed even the experts!, June 26, 2014
What is most impressive about this documentary is one man's singular focus on solving a technical and artistic question that had been plaguing him: how could Vermeer have achieved such photo realism in his paintings 150 years before the invention of the camera? Tim Jenison is a wealthy entrepreneur, well versed in video and electronic technologies, with the financial wherewithal to pursue this question with a focus that borders on obsession.

After studying various Vermeer paintings, visiting with European scholars, and even viewing the original of Vermeer's "The Music Lesson" in Buckingham, Tim spent 213 days building an extremely detailed and accurate version of the set in a warehouse. Then he sat down at his painting table, with a mirror and handmade lenses, for 130 days to painstakingly reproduce the work of art. His friends, Penn and Teller, acted as producer and narrator for this documentary, and produced over 2,400 hours of film that had to be edited down to documentary length. It is astonishing to see the development of the paint on the canvas, stroke by stroke. Tim painted individual dots (knots) in the rug, which alone probably took him several weeks. The intricate design on the pianoforte was equally tedious to reproduce, but Tim never rushed through it or delegated any of the work. He did admit later that had he not committed to the documentary he probably would have bailed on the project during this tedious phase.

The end result is a beautiful copy that impressed even the experts, who admitted that, though this did not prove that Vermeer used lenses to project the scene onto his canvas for copying, it definitely "could" have been done this way. The mystery of the techniques used by Vermeer during his short life (43 years during which he was believed to have produced 34 paintings) will never be solved, but "Tim's Vermeer" certainly provides food for thought in the ongoing debate.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2014 6:09 PM PDT

Price: $2.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Performances By Bullock & Jones, June 25, 2014
This review is from: Infamous (Amazon Instant Video)
Though "Infamous" is invariably compared to "Capote" (starring Philip Seymour Hoffmann and released the year before), there is room for both films to co-exist as each takes such a different approach to the story. Infamous depicts Capote with all his simpering ways and gossiping airs, but also reveals his basic insecurity and how he struggled to achieve relevance and meaningful relationships. The oddly symbiotic relationship that evolved between Capote and the killer, Perry Smith, is at times heartwarming and at other times almost painful and embarrassing to watch.

I couldn't picture Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee initially, but she also grew to inhabit the role of the straight-talking, plain-looking and pragmatic author - before she became famous for her singular work - To Kill a Mockingbird. She was just a friend and accomplice to Capote, occasionally setting him straight when he seemed to be veering too far off course with his quest to find the human story in the Kansas killings. They are the ultimate "odd couple", but each scene in which they both appear is lively and interesting and compelling.

Daniel Craig as Perry Smith was almost unrecognizable. At first, I wasn't certain it was him because of his darkened hair and eyebrows and brown contact lenses which obscured his bright blue eyes. His raw animal strength and magnetism simply stole every scene in which he appears. It's easy to see why Capote was sucked up into his energy field and fell for him. Who knows whether he really resembled the real-life Perry, but the character he portrayed was complex and compelling.

The film sets veer from stark gray scenes in the prison to the sumptuous dining rooms of the New York City social scene inhabited by Capote. The re-enactment at the Kansas farmhouse where the Clutter family was murdered is unflinchingly gruesome. This is first rate entertainment, and has inspired me to re-watch "Capote" and re-read "In Cold Blood". Good movies do that to me - make me want to view or read more about the story....
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 1, 2014 3:14 PM PDT

InterDesign Horizontal Scarf Holder, Chrome
InterDesign Horizontal Scarf Holder, Chrome
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy, Well Made and Attractive, June 21, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This shiny chrome plated scarf holder is quite heavy and sturdy. The four horizontal rows allow you to hang many scarves. Rather than folding and hanging the scarves as shown in the picture, I looped each one through with a single knot so that each scarf takes only a few inches of rack space. In this manner, I was able to hang 6 or more scarves on each horizontal row. It's nice to have my scarves so organized and within easy reach. The fact that they're hung loosely from the rack means no more creases or wrinkles.

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