Movie Review: A Disney Cliffhanger? Yes!

Release Date:  1956

Review, short version:   All thumbs up.

Review, long version:

If you had told me that I’d get really caught up in a Disney movie…

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…made in 1956…

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But I did.

It was The Great Locomotive Chase, based on an actual event in 1862, during our Civil War.

The plan then, and the movie’s plot, was for a group of 22 volunteer Union soldiers – led by James J. Andrews, a civilian scout and part-time spy – to cross into Confederate-held territory dressed as civilians.

They’d steal a Confederate train near Atlanta, GA and head north, sabotaging the railroad tracks between Atlanta and Chattanooga, TN, and rendezvousing with Union forces at Chattanooga:

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And any bridges they encountered – burn those behind them, too.

This plan was fraught with challenges; if the soldiers were caught behind Confederate lines in civilian clothes, they could be charged with spying and hung.  There were too few men and they were too poorly equipped with the proper railway track tools and demolition equipment.

And the chase for them began immediately, led by train conductor William Fuller who started off after them on foot, until he, too, commandeered a train to continue his pursuit:


But despite the many challenges, as portrayed in the movie – and I have no doubt, during the actual event – while it lasted, it was a wild chase.

And I got plenty tense.

From a Walt Disney movie made in 1956!

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And since it was 1956, one aspect I noted in particular was that the trains looked like the real deal – no computer wizardry here.

Research revealed the cast of trains included one built in 1856; a 1937 replica of an identical locomotive built in 1836; and other built in 1875.  I’m no train aficionado, but even I could appreciate these beautiful machines:

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Reviewers at the time noted that The Great Locomotive Chase offered excitement, a swift pace and several tense sequences, but didn’t have a Disney feel-good ending.

It didn’t, and neither did the actual event.

But the movie was one heck of a story, and so was the actual event.

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At Home, With Time On My Hands, I’ve Been Wondering…


Every home has a drawer or a box or a bin,
Where we hang onto stuff and just drop it in.
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They’re things I might need, but just – not today,
So they go in the drawer cause I’ll need them – someday.
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But today I am cleaning and now I will see,
What treasures this drawer has been holding for me.
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Here’s that carryout menu from some place named Bill’s,
I’ve never used it but – maybe I will.
There are keys to the front door, my cars old and new,
And six other keys for – I haven’t a clue.
Shoe laces, toothpicks, a cell phone that’s dead,
A rainbow of Post-its in blue, green and red.
post its
I dig a bit deeper and what’s in my hands?
A twelve-year collection of old rubber bands.
rubber bands
Pens that are broken and batteries that died,
And one lonely sock over there on the side.
Recipes for food that I’ve never made,
And bills for things I sure hope that I’ve paid.
An old silver dollar, a quarter and dime,
And a watch that would work if I fixed it sometime.
Oh, good, here’s that snapshot I wanted to frame,
It’s such a good picture, but what was their name?
Now the drawer’s almost empty and I’m almost done,
It’s taken awhile, and it hasn’t been fun.
At the back of the drawer and no wonder I’m tired,
My winning lottery ticket – too bad it’s expired.


Need a Book? Book Review:  Skip This One

Publication date:  July 2019book

Review, short version:  Three skunks out of four (because it wasn’t a total stinker)

Review, long version:

A friend of my parents – who was also an avid reader – said, “I give a book 40 pages.  If it hasn’t grabbed me by then, I’m done with it.”

I took that to heart, and don’t waste my time on a book that doesn’t grab me.

While I can’t say Mary Ellen Taylor’s Spring House actually grabbed me, it was holding my interest – to page 40 and beyond.  It’s of a genre I like – Young-Woman-Uncovers-Secrets-From-Her-Past – and there are lots of these books out there.

The blurb on the back cover reads, “The lives of two women, generations apart, converge in this enthralling novel of love, mystery, memories, and secrets,” and that description pretty much covers it.

Except for the “enthralling” part.

A more accurate adjective would have been “confusing.”  Or “muddled.”  Or, “Who the hell?”  I did a lot of “Who the hell-ing?” with this book.

Taylor starts out with a family tree:

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And when a book has numerous characters, I appreciate that and refer to it.

A family tree is a good road map for who’s who, except when there are a lot of whos (relatives) who aren’t on the tree, yet play roles – some of them significant – in the book.

For example (brace yourself – this will get exhausting), the lead character, Megan NOFT-02 croppedBuchanan, has a cousin, Hank Garrison, who is on the family tree.  Hank has a sister, Rebecca, but she’s not on the family tree.  (From now on I’ll abbreviate that to NOFT, so I don’t get even more exhausted typing it over and over.)

Megan’s great-grandmother, Claire Hedrick, has parents, Addie and Isaac (NOFT) and siblings Diane, Jemma, Michael, Sarah, Joseph and Stanley (NOFT).  Then there’s Samuel NOFT-02 croppedJessup, a relative of Megan’s who is on the family tree.  Samuel has four brothers (NOFT) – Stanley, Joseph, Michael and Aaron, though Aaron marries Adele (NOFT) who’s the daughter of the above-mentioned Diane (NOFT), who married Gilbert (NOFT).

Confusing?  Muddled?  Who the hell?

NOFT-02 croppedThat same Samuel Jessup was Helen’s (NOFT) late husband’s grand uncle.  Helen is the mother of Scott (NOFT).

Scott and Megan are somehow blood relatives, and they’re engaged.

And Megan is…not very bright.  She’s engaged to Scott, “But she had known from the beginning they were not really suited.”

So what does Megan do?  She gets pregnant.

See?  Not bright at all.

In addition to trying to connect and keep track of all the NOFTs, Spring House jumps around to many different time periods:  2018, 1903, 1939, 2017, 1914 and 1918, and then I lost track.

Then there’s Spring House itself, which was the caretaker’s home on the grounds of a mansion called Winter Cottage.  Both were built by Megan’s great-great grandfather, but not for his first wife, Megan’s great-great grandmother, but for his second wife, who is on the family tree but is not a blood relative, and by now…

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A friend was reading my book reviews on this blog and said, “You read a lot of stinkers,” referring to my skunk rating system.

I start a lot of stinkers, but I don’t finish them.

Spring House is another one, which begs the question:

Why did I finish it?

Because the stinkers are such fun…

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A Rhyme For Our Time:  “I’ve Got The Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues”

I see it on my TV, it’s everywhere online,
When I’m drinking morning coffee or sipping evening wine.
Infected numbers rising, the death toll’s rising, too.
I have to say
As of today
I’ve got the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

It started in December, in China so they say,
No one here was worried, cause China’s far away.
But then it started spreading, and heading our way, too.
And came the day
We’re on our way
To the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

Can’t find those precious facemasks, or ventilators?  No way.
Our doctors and our nurses are in danger every day.
The Dow is in the toilet, the economy’s headed there, too.
There is no doubt
We’re all about
The Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

Can’t go to school, can’t go to work, can’t even see our friends,
We’re all just staying home these days, who knows how this will end?
Social distancing’s become the norm, and washing our hands, too.
As the USA
Leads the way
In the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.

So, I’m turning off my TV, I’ll skip that stuff online,
I’ll drink a lot less coffee and drink a lot more wine.
I’m scared that I might have it, and give to others, too.
Can’t get a test
I need a rest
From the Too-Much-Coronavirus-News Blues.


Back By Popular Demand, It’s Numbnuts…

It’s been a while since I featured Numbnuts in the News, but my newspaper had such a collection that I had to share them.

Let’s start with Ian Simmons and Joshua Reinhardt, both 34.  Last month they were pulled over on I-10 in Florida after a trooper clocked them going 95 mph:

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The trooper determined that Reinhardt was the subject of an active felony warrant for violation of probation, so driving that fast and attracting attention to yourselves probably wasn’t their best idea.

No, this was their best idea:

Simmons at bottom

They had a stash in two bags marked “Bag Full of Drugs.”

What a good idea!  If Simmons (above, bottom image) and Reinhardt had forgotten where they’d put approximately 75 grams of methamphetamine, 1.36 kilograms of the date-rape drug GHB, 1 gram of cocaine, 3.6 grams of fentanyl, 15 MDMA tablets and drug paraphernalia…

All they had to do was look around and say, “Oh, thank goodness!  There’s our stash, in those bags marked ‘Bag Full of Drugs!’”

A bit of research and I learned that Simmons and Reinhardt bought the bags here:

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But as you can read in the small print, the point of the “Bag Full of Drugs” is to have fun fooling people into thinking you’re walking around with some “amazing swag.”

Not with controlled substances that can get you 30 in a Florida slammer.

Next up:

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Last fall a guy walked into a bank in Dunfernline, Scotland.  He was carrying a pillowcase with something bulky in it.

The bulky item was a meat cleaver, and he was there to rob the bank.

Before he announced his intention, however, he removed the cleaver and put the pillowcase over his head – a clever disguise.

Except for one thing:

Pillowcase cropped largerHe’d forgotten to cut eye holes in the pillowcase.

This was Matthew Davies, 47, and unfortunately, no image of him appears to be available, so I’ve improvised (left).  Just pretend the eyeholes aren’t there, OK?

When Davies realized he couldn’t see anything, he removed the pillowcase from his head, made a lot of noise and threatening gestures with the meat cleaver, and got away with almost £2,000.

He then strolled out of the bank and headed home, and a brave bank customer followed, then alerted the police.  Davis was arrested at home, where police found cash, a pillowcase and a stun gun in Davies’ house.

In late February Davies was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.Dog no comment cropped cropped

Some stories reported that as Davis was heading home, he stopped to pet a dog.

The dog had no comment.

And finally, this guy:

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Also last month, Adrian Afriyie Ansah-Asante, 23, was driving around Waterford Twp., MI when he was pulled over by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

“Oh, no,” you’re thinking.  “Not another guy going 95 mph with Bags Full of Drugs!”


Push bumperAsante was pulled over because Sheriff Bouchard noticed that Asante’s SUV was fitted out with “big police-style bumpers, an array of lights on the back and a decal that read ‘Emergency Response.’”

The car also featured a radar-type thing on the dashboard and a police-style computer.

The problem?   The police car was a fake, and Asante was a fake – not a cop or a member of any Emergency Response unit.

Adrian Ansah-Asante croppedClearly, Asante had gone shopping at Fake Police Stuff R Us.

His shopping included a loaded gun and a large knife.

Asante’s sentencing included a felony concealed weapons charge and misdemeanor possession of flashing lights, a $50,000 bond and GPS tether.


Now you get to decide which of these guys is…

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Need A Movie? Movie Review: “Puzzle”

Release date:  July 2018movies

Review, short version:  Thumbs up for the movie, thumbs down for the ending.

Review, long version:

I’m not sure why I wanted to see Puzzle.

I’d barely heard about it when it was released, and I’d never heard of the people in it:  Kelly MacDonald, Irrfan Khan and David Denman.

It must have been one of the trailers leading into a DVD I was about to watch, and when I saw that jigsaw puzzles were what the title was referring to…

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And jigsaw puzzle contests were an important element of the film?

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But…there was something about that woman that tugged at my heart, just in that brief trailer.

She continued to tug at my heart all the way through the movie.

“She” was Agnes, played by Kelly MacDonald.

Agnes, wife of Louie and mother of almost-grown sons Ziggy and Gabe, has no life outside taking care of Louie, Ziggy and Gabe.  Housework, laundry, making meals, followed by more housework, laundry and making meals.

In other words, she has no life.

Agnes doesn’t complain.  In fact, she doesn’t express much emotion at all.

We come to Agnes’ birthday, and one of the gifts is a jigsaw puzzle.  The gift is completely out of the context of Agnes’ life, and she puts away somewhere.

But one day, something prompts Agnes to open the jigsaw puzzle.  She spreads its 1,000 pieces onto a table, and starts fitting it together.

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Agnes completes the puzzle.

She discovers she enjoyed completing the puzzle.

She discovers something she enjoys, for herself, that has nothing to do with anything except her.

And she discovers – she good at jigsaw puzzles.

Excellent, even.

Agnes is about to go on a journey that will change her life.easter eggs

One scene that particularly touched me takes place as Easter approaches.  Agnes is at home, sitting at the table, dyeing Easter eggs, and crying.

And I thought, “She’s dying and crying.”

And she was – weary of her monotonous life in which she’s totally taken for granted.  She’s the meal maker and the housekeeper and the errand doer, a fixture like the fridge and the TV and the toilet.

Agnes allows the satisfaction she gets from mastering jigsaw puzzles to take her on that journey, and it will include deception, jubilation, and – horrors! – forgetting to make dinner because she’s engrossed in a puzzle.

Or rather – two puzzles…

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One is the jigsaw in front of her.

And one is – where her journey will take her.

So – thumbs up for Puzzle, except…

Thumbs down for the ending, because it’s ambiguous.

And I like stories that are neatly resolved and wrapped up, all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.

But life isn’t like that, and neither is Puzzle.

Or, as the reviewer at put it,

“Puzzle wisely doesn’t complete the whole picture in easy or obvious ways, but rather gives us the space to consider the solutions for ourselves.”

Tilted heart made of lots of jigsaw puzzle pieces

Remember “Despicable Me 1, 2 and 3”?  Here’s the Real…

Unlike myself, my beloved husband, bless his heart, is not one for bad-mouthing people.

So this past Thursday, when I heard him exclaim, “He’s despicable!” I rushed to his side to see who he was talking about.

He was reading this story:

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What? I thought.  But why?

I read more articles, trying to understand, like this one…

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And this one…

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And they all said basically the same thing – even though Trump has repeatedly insisted states get their own supplies of critical medical equipment necessary to aid patients and protect medical professionals from coronavirus, the federal government is outbidding states on orders.

But none of them explained why.

Why would Trump tell governors to buy their own critical medical equipment, then allow the government to outbid states trying to do that very thing?

Was it for the sake of that smug, self-satisfied look he gets when he’s thinking, “I won, and you lost”?


Was it Trump’s self-gratification from making this (he thinks witty) remark:

“The federal government’s not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping.  You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”

Or was this a harbinger of what’s to come:

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My husband was right.

Trump is despicable:

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