Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Night Circus should be read again and again

A long time ago I read EW’s (that’s Entertainment Weekly) review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and I thought, “Hmmm…maybe.” I downloaded a sample of it on my Kindle (love that feature, BTW), but I never got around to actually checking it out. Fantasy is usually not my thing, and other titles kept stepping up in front of it.

Now that my daughter is at school two hours away and I’m making that drive once in a while, I needed something to help pass those times alone in the car, so I started listening to audio books. And I finally got around to The Night Circus. And I loved it. I may have to actually download the whole book and read it again. It’s that good.

It qualifies as fantasy because the whole plot of the book revolves around magic and Morgenstern creates a unique—and incredible—world within the circus itself. Otherwise, though, it’s very, very real.

I won’t tell you much about it because to do that would be unfair to you and the story. The Night Circus needs to be discovered by each of us individually. Morgenstern alludes to that in the final pages of the book, and I have stolen that paragraph and taped it to my mirror. It’s now my mantra as a writer.

Here’s what I will tell you, in case you haven’t heard of this book and I’ve piqued your curiosity: There are two magicians who like to compete with each other by setting their students against one another in a competition. The night circus is the venue for the competition. One day it’s not there, and the next day it is. Inside the tents are all sorts of amazing, fantastical sights. (Morgenstern’s descriptions evidence her other calling as an artist. I think this book is going to be a movie, and it will be a dangerous one to make because all of us who love this book are going to have very definitive ideas as to what the movie should look like!)

Within the book are stories of pride, love, loyalty, friendship, courage, strength, and betrayal. You may get teary eyed at the end. I did.

The Night Circus is so unique, so good. I can’t wait to read it again.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sons of Anarchy - Andare Pescare: Gemma's sacrifice

Tuesday’s episode of Sons of Anarchy was called “Andare Pescare,” which is Italian for (basically) “to go fishing.” It works, doesn’t it? Eli is fishing with the Sons to get his hands on Frankie for Frankie’s part in Eli’s wife’s death. Jax is fishing for proof that Clay was behind the break-ins, and he’s using Gemma as bait. I don’t usually have a lot of sympathy for Gemma, but that’s starting to change.

My opinion for the first four seasons was Gemma made her bed a long time ago—and played a part in the death of JT—so she deserved to get hit by any shrapnel that exploded around her. Ever since she took that beating from Clay last season, though, I’ve started to look at Gemma differently.

She was 19 when she fell for JT and became an old lady. She’d had two kids—and lost the oldest one—not too many years after that. As she herself put it, she was “all in” from Day One with JT. Her man, her club, her babies—that was her life, and she did whatever she thought she had to do to protect them. She still does. She’s a grown woman living the life a teenager designed for her, and she’s trying to make the best of it.

I don’t think she loves anyone more than she loves Able and Thomas—not even Jax. And now, Jax is leveraging that love to get what he needs from Clay—a confession—so that he can finally push Clay from the table and maybe even kill him. He’s becoming more Clay-like with each episode. When Gemma told him about how happy and “light” (I loved her use of that word) she felt when she was with Nero, I really thought Jax might give her a pass, that he might say, “You know what, Mom, I want you to be happy. Forget about what I asked you to do.” But he didn’t, did he? Clay wouldn’t have either.

So, Gemma is sacrificing a part of herself so that she can still have her grandchildren—and her son, I imagine to some degree—in her life. Her eyes looked so dead when she showed up at Clay’s house with the cortisone. I don’t know what will be left of Gemma when this is all over, and even with every bad thing she’s done, my heart (finally) goes out to her.

And then there’s Juice.

I love Juicy. I’ve loved him for a long time. He’s another one that got in way over his head (with Eli and the feds) and doesn’t know who to trust or how to fix it now. I think Juice has been swinging from that tree, gasping for breath, for a very long time now. It’s only a matter of time until gravity does what gravity is best at and he breathes his last. I will cry, truly cry, when we lose Juice. I agree with Bobby: “I’m tired of burning brothers.”

This has been a gut-wrenching season of SOA. Sutter (who is fantastic as Otto, IMHO) is fearless when it comes to his story lines, and I admire him for that. But I hope we’re about done losing Sons. I think Juice’s loss is inevitable, but I hope he’s the last one for Skeeter for quite a while.

Don’t forget … next Tuesday’s episode of Sons of Anarchy is 90 minutes! If you don’t (or can’t) watch it live, set your DVR accordingly. See you then.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sons of Anarchy: Laying Pipe -- Opie!!

I watched this week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy, “Laying Pipe,” and I’m still in denial. I never, ever, ever would have expected events to unwind the way they did. Major spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the episode yet, read no farther.

For those of you who watched, WTH? Right? How can it be possible? The Sons have gotten out of so many different jams I was just sure they were going to get out of this one. Romeo was going to save them. They were going to fight—and win—their way out. But that’s not what happened.

Pope’s request for a dead son to even up the score for the dead Niner and the dead cop isn’t really an unusual demand. I remember another gunfight in Laroy’s bar when the Sons went in with the Mayans and the score was evened up right there in the bar—although it wasn’t a Son that had to die. The games they play have high stakes. Everybody knows that.

But … Opie?

I can’t get my head around it. At one point, when it was just Jax and Opie in the cell and Jax was coming clean, I halfway wondered—and so did Husband—if Opie would volunteer to be the one. He’s so lost. He’d just found out the truth about his dad and Clay. So, when he stepped up and hit the guard, I wasn’t completely surprised.

But … Opie? Dead?

I didn’t think it would really happen. I thought something would save him. He was doing well right at the beginning of the fight, and I thought he was going to come out of it. I was wrong, and it sucks. I appreciate the fact that Sutter is willing to sacrifice major characters for the sake of the show and the story. That takes guts and integrity. I do appreciate that. But man, I’m gonna miss Ope.

Before I move on from talking about this episode, I ought to touch on Jax. What did you think of his change in terms that he delivered to Pope? What do you think of his willingness to hand Tig over to Pope when he’s done with him? He’s blaming Tig for Opie, don’t you think? Husband says it’s not Tig’s fault. (I was holding Tig accountable for Opie.) So, I said, okay, it’s Clay’s fault, not Tig’s. Husband says no, it’s just that they’re at war and that’s what happens. Awfully philosophical of Husband, and he’s probably right, but I’m still blaming Clay. I hope he gets his. And I hope we get to watch.

The feud between Tara and Gemma (and Wendy) is interesting but pales in comparison to losing Opie. Tara continues to become more and more Gemma-like, and she still annoys me. She’s no better than Gemma and I’m tired of her acting like she is. Nero must really like Gemma considering the money she cost him when she bashed in that girl’s face. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with Nero, but maybe it won’t. Maybe he’s just a civilized pimp with no violent tendencies. Really? Maybe he’s exactly what he seems to be, which would be a rarity indeed for this show.

I’m almost scared to see what Sutter and Sons of Anarchy have left to give us, considering we’re only three episodes into this season. But I guess that’s part of the appeal.

I’d like to tune in next week and see that Opie didn’t die. But I know it won’t happen. RIP Opie. Not sure who Jax will be without you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sons of Anarchy: Tig and the Fire

If you read my last blog previewing the premiere of Season 5 of Sons of Anarchy, then you know I had a bunch of questions about where the story might go in the next few months. Some of those were answered pretty quickly, and I’ll get to most of them, but we have to start with Tig.

I asked in my last blog, “How loyal IS Tig to Clay?” That answer seemed fuzzy enough after Clay’s “admission” to killing Piney. (What a rat, right? Turning it around and making it Piney’s fault, saying he was acting in self-defense when he blew a hole in Piney’s chest?) Tig really had a problem with that whole thing—not only the fact that Clay killed one of the First 9, but also that Clay’s lie about it being a Niner who shot him is what sent Tig off the deep end and put him behind the wheel of the death of Damon Pope’s daughter. I was relieved that Tiggy (as Gemma so endearingly calls him) didn’t give Clay a pass on the whole thing as Clay so obviously thought he would.

But Tig was in a whole other place by the end of the episode, wasn’t he? We’ve seen some pretty bloody, violent, graphic deaths on SOA. Sutter’s got a knack for making me wince. But when Tig saw his daughter Dawn in that pit, the sound in his voice as he begged her to wake up pushed me to the edge of my seat—literally. And then, when Pope’s guys dumped in the gasoline and Pope flicked his cigar into the pit (proving he is as horrible as we were warned), Tig’s howling grief sent me back into the cushions. I thought Clay’s beating Gemma was the most brutal act I’d ever seen on TV. I think this topped it.

So what happens now? Tig’s daughter was burned alive because Clay lied. Clay has betrayed Tig in almost every way possible. How will Tig respond? I do think he’ll get his revenge against Damon Pope, but it’ll take a while. I just don’t know what he’ll do or say to Clay, but I do know, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Moving away from Tig, I want to talk about Gemma for a bit. Or should we call her Rose? Nah, she admitted pretty quickly to Nero that wasn’t her real name. That opening scene had me laughing out loud—the morning-after conversation between Gemma and Nero was priceless. What I find interesting is that she gave him her number. Did that make you go, “Hmmmm…”? And then, how interesting too that she called him up for a favor when her prince and his court needed a hiding place. Nero’s all smiles and good will now, but don’t you have the feeling that’s not gonna last? He’s gotta be connected somewhere to something or someone that’s gonna come back and bite Gemma and the Sons in the ass. (Yeah, I know, it kinda looks like he’s already bitten Gemma on the ass…and she seemed to like it.)

My last ramblings are reserved for Tara. I think part of my problem with her is that she won’t fully commit to either side. She dresses like Gemma. She talks like Gemma. She smokes weed like Gemma (although I’d go out on a limb and say Gemma wouldn’t have turned off the baby monitor so that she could smoke her weed in peace and quiet). She condones murder—or at least looks the other way when Jax says, “It had to be done.” And yet, she’s all high and mighty with Gemma. She’s all about, “We’re getting out of this. For our boys. We’re leaving this all behind. We’re better than this.” Blah. Blah. Blah. Everybody else in the family pretty much owns up to who they are and what they’re lives are like except for the Good Doctor. Pick a side Tara—I’m weary of your wavering and your hypocrisy.

There are few other tidbits of interest: Clay looks a whole lot like Piney now, doesn’t he? (Thanks, husband, for pointing this out to me. You’re good at catching that stuff!) Bobby’s out of jail, but we don’t know if Jax has told him EVERYTHING yet. Opie’s mopey, but you can’t blame him. I don’t blame him for not wanting to sit at the table with Clay, but I wish he’d come back. I wish Jax would just tell him the truth too.

Clay said he’s “all outta play” and he looks it, doesn’t he? He walks all stooped over. His clothes hang on him (another good catch, husband). He can’t hold up his bike. Gemma knocked him to the ground. And because Ron Perlman is so good at what he does, Clay LOOKS beaten. But I just don’t think he is. Do you?

See ya next week for further ramblings on the next episode of Sons of Anarchy. And if you’re so inclined, tell me who your favorite character is and why. You tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sons of Anarchy Season 5 Premiers Tonight!

Are you ready for the Season 5 opener of Sons of Anarchy? I sure am!

The husband and I spent the last week or so catching up on Season 4, and I’m so glad we did. There are so many different story lines running, I think I would have been poking him in the ribs every other minute, saying, “Why’d Jax stay?” “Why’s Clay still alive?” “Isn’t Romeo some kind of cop?” “Why’s the paralyzed dude (Harold Perrineau) from Oz on this show now and why’s he so pissed at the Sons?”

Well, in case you need any of the reminders that I did, here’s a quick catch-up:

• Jax didn’t kill Clay with the blood thinner Tara gave him because the CIA has threatened the Sons, although Jax did draw blood and swipe Clay’s president patch.
• Romeo IS working for the CIA who needs the gun deal to happen between the Irish and Galindo’s cartel.
• The Irish will only deal with the Galindo cartel if Clay is part of the deal.
• Jax couldn’t leave the Sons because if he had, Clay would’ve been right back at the head of the table, gavel in hand, and Jax loves the MC too much to let that happen. (And even though I’m glad he’s still alive because his character is such an evil snake, I’m glad he’s not at the head of the table because he’s such an evil snake!)

If you’ve been paying attention to the trailers for Season 5, you’re probably wondering the same things I am:

• Did Gemma really sleep with Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits)? Do they have a history, and if they do, what the hell is it? Who IS this guy?
• Obviously, Damon Pope (Perrineau) is out for blood thanks to Tig’s rogue killing of Pope’s daughter. But how MUCH blood will be enough to satisfy this gangster?
• Is Clay really “all outta play” as he says in the trailer? Nuh unh. I sure don’t believe it, and I can’t wait to find out what his next play will be – and who will follow him. How loyal IS Tig to Clay?
• Will Opie take Jax up on his offer and become the new VP? Will he even show up to chapel?
• When will Bobby get out of jail?
• And even though I don’t find her character as intriguing as many of you do, I am curious about how much like Gemma Tara will become. (Remember the last still shot of Season 4 – Tara standing behind Jax just as Gemma stood behind JT?)

It’s a whole new ride, and I can’t wait! Cue the tune and rev the engines … “Ridin’ in this world, all alone …”

Season 5 of Sons of Anarchy premieres tonight. Watch it, cuz I’ll be gabbing tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Tribute to Dad

Because of my dad...

Because of my dad, I can stand still in a quiet meadow or a forest of trees and be utterly content in the beauty that surrounds me.

Because of my dad, I will forever laugh when boating across rough waters as I remember his tale of Mayma asking him to “miss those bumps, sonny.”

Because of my dad, I will always gauge the growth of corn and beans and hay as I pass by fields of them, whether I know who farms those fields or not.

Because of my dad, I will always harbor a fondness for safe cars—and regular oil changes. (Although mine needs it right now.)

Because of my dad, I will always offer guests in my house food and drink, and likely I’ll offer them more than once regardless of how they responded the first time I asked.

Because of my dad, I have a desire to own and ride another horse.

Because of my dad, I know how to drive a stick shift.

Because of my dad, I know the satisfaction that comes from a hard day’s work, and I’m grateful for that lesson.

Because of my dad, I hope to never know a stranger.

Because of my dad, I know the value of good, patient conversations; steady laughter; and a wink of the eye.

Because of my dad, I can appreciate ways of life (Swamp People, anyone?) that I will never live myself.

Because of my dad’s love for my mom and hers for him, I know what a solid, loving, lifetime marriage is.

Because of my dad’s love, I know what it means to be accepted and treasured for the individual I am.

Because of my dad, I know strength. I know love. I know laughter. I know friendship. I know generosity.

Because of my dad, I know what it means to live a life worth living.

Robert R. Flora was a soul on this Earth for almost eighty years.

To those of us who were blessed to walk alongside him, he will be a husband, a father, a grandfather, an uncle, and a friend for eternity.

Until we meet again…

I love you, Papa.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

As Bright as the Sun: A dog's life AFTER dog fighting

I never knew much about the dog-fighting world until I read Cynthia Schlichting’s As Bright as the Sun. If you think you know something about it, click on the link I provided, go to Amazon, and buy it. I doubt you know enough.

Cindy and her husband, Brian, are the proud parents of (currently) three “fur kids.” They have Foster, Jane, and Bella. Foster, a German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, was their first adoption, and he was soon followed by Jane, a Rottweiler herself. Cindy and Brian love their kids the way parents of two-legged, non-fur-covered children love theirs. As Bright as the Sun is as much an homage to these kinds of families as it is the story of Bella, the former bait dog.

In the book, Cindy opens the door to her and Brian’s life and invites the reader in with a genuineness that makes you feel right at home. You get to know Cindy as a single girl with two cats, and then Cindy and Brian with two cats, and then you get to meet the dogs. She shares their love for each other and for the animals who share their home, and she describes the thoughts she and Brian had before each adoption as well as how those adoptions progressed. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll love these stories.

But when Cindy discovers Bella, a rescued Pit Bull-mix who had been used as a bait dog in a dog-fighting ring for years, her and Brian’s life changes forever. Cindy uses some creative license to reconstruct Bella’s life for the reader, and she does a wonderful job of this. Through Cindy’s eyes, we get to see where Bella was born, where she grew up, and how she was stolen by the dog fighters. We suffer with Bella as she is tortured and starved. And we rejoice with Bella when she is rescued and given her “forever home” with Cindy and Brian.

Cindy wrote this book because she wanted to shed more awareness on the world of dog fighting. She wanted people to understand how prevalent it is, how incredibly horrible it is, and how we all can do something to help the innocent victims of those dog-fighting rings. She is donating 40 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the book to Eagle’s Den Animal Haven and Rescue, Inc. (where she and Brian found Bella) and to Where Hope Lives Humane Society, so you can help right away just by purchasing her book!

Cindy and Brian are proud parents to Foster, Jane, and Bella. You’ll see their love shines As Bright as the Sun when you read the book. You’ll be touched by the story as I was.

I’m proud to call Cindy and Brian my friends—and Foster, Jane, and Bella too!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Obama and his idea of "work"

Guess what Obama’s up to now. We’ve already established that he really likes big government and wants to keep growing it, right? He wants people dependent on the government so that they will continue to support the big government that supports them. We’ve got that straight, right? Well, listen to what he wants to do with “welfare reform.” It’s another end-run around Congress.

In 1996 President Clinton signed into law The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. This was truly welfare reform. The 1996 act required people who were receiving time-limited assistance to work or to participate in job-training programs, and the federal government rewarded states that had high percentages of people moving from welfare to work.

Under the 1996 law—passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, remember—after two years of assistance, recipients had to go to work. If families had been receiving assistance for five cumulative years, they were no longer eligible for cash aid from the government.

So what does Obama want to do, you ask? He wants the White House—not the federal government because that would mean he’d have to change the law LEGALLY and go through Congress—he wants the White House to issue waivers to people changing the definition of what it means to “work.” Are you ready to hear what he considers “work”? I don’t think you are, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Obama wants to grant people “work” waivers if they:

• Are on bed rest
• Engage in motivational reading
• Get massages
• Exercise
• Engage in journaling
• Engage in personal care activities
• Stop smoking
• Engage in weight loss promotion
• Participate in parent-teacher meetings
• Help a friend/relative with chores

How can people support this man? He wants as many people in this country dependent on the government as he can possibly make happen. Look what he’s done so far. Think about what could happen in another four years.

Please, vote to save our United States of America in November.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Breaking Bad: Magnets, anyone?

The Season 5 premiere of Breaking Bad started off as most of the seasons have—flashing us forward and then sending us back to right where we left off with Season 4. So how much of a glimpse did we get of the final episode of the series when we saw Walt open that trunk and stare at that machine gun? Where will the 14 episodes in between last night’s and the final one take us? Who will die? And will Hank finally figure out who Heisenberg is?

I regretted not re-watching Season 4 as soon as the episode started. With hubby’s help, though, I soon got caught up: Gus is truly dead (I wasn’t sure, right at first). Jesse’s still got Walt’s back. (It cracks me up that Jesse still calls him “Mr. White.”) Hank’s still hot on the trail. Skyler is still a force to be reckoned with—even though Walt scares her now that she knows he’s responsible for Gus’s violent death. (Ask Ted Beneke how much Skyler scares him!) Okay…You’re caught up pretty well now too.

When Mike found out that Gus was dead, I couldn’t figure out where he was going so fast until he almost (literally) ran into Walt. Never underestimate the loyalty an injured underling feels for his crime boss. I loved Jesse when he jumped in front of Walt to stop Mike from killing him right there in the middle of the desert. And I loved it that Jesse could stop him—Mike really grew to like and respect Jesse last season.

The trio’s mad dash for Gus’s laptop was all for naught, though, and Mike was ready to run while Walt was bent on fixing the problem—the problem being the cops had the laptop with all of the video footage of the basement lab implicating all three of them. Jesse’s next-best scene came when he sat there in the background saying, “Or a magnet.” A little louder. “Or a MAGNET!” And then, “OR A MAGNET!” I was laughing out loud as he finally got their attention and the light bulb went on over Walt’s head.

As is usually the case, the show made me laugh as Jesse, Walt, and Mike committed a major crime. The magnet in the truck, the truck on its side, the evidence sticking to the wall in the evidence room—that’s some good stuff—and it was their ticket (they hope) to escaping detection for their part in the making of the meth.

I was also glad to see smarmy, slimy Saul back in action. The look on his face when Walt told him, “We’re done when I say we’re done,” was great. I’m not worried about him. I’m sure he’ll make out fine in the deal. Even if he did help Skyler hand more than $600,000 of Walt’s money to a man who was sleeping with Skyler. As Saul said, Walt was “kinda busy with other things.”

I’m so glad Breaking Bad is back, and I’m glad it doesn’t seem to have slowed down one iota. I’ll miss Walt, Jesse, and company when the season (and the series) is done, but I can’t wait to see where they take me before the end.

Buckle up. Breaking Bad is back and Heisenberg’s driving.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Child Lost in Flight -- Review of a Memoir

On June 18, 2009, the worst thing that can happen to parents happened to Mohan and Suja: their baby died. In an effort to work through his grief, Mohan wrote A Child Lost in Flight, a brief memoir that chronicles in excruciating detail the death of Aditya as well as Mohan and Suja’s struggle to move on after the tragedy.

I give little away if I tell you that Mohan and Suja are Indian immigrants who lived in Canada when Aditya was born. For a myriad of reasons, they decided to return to their homeland, where their families lived, so that they could raise their son with a much bigger support network than what they had in Canada. I also give little away if I tell you that Aditya died very suddenly on the flight to India.

Aditya’s death and the events that took place once the plane landed will wrench out your heart. Mohan spares no details as he describes what happens once he and Suja disembark from Flight 229. I sobbed as I read what transpired in India over the next few days, and I bet that most people who read his story will shed at least a few tears.

Ultimately, I think that’s what Mohan needed and hoped for when he wrote the book. I think he needed to reach out and let others feel his pain so that maybe he wouldn’t have to feel so much of it. I think he also wanted to let other parents who have suffered similar losses know that they’re not alone, even if they feel completely isolated from the world in their grief.

It doesn’t matter where we live or what God we pray to. The pain of losing a child is recognizable in any language. Faith, love, and family are what we need to move on in our lives when fate deals us such a violent blow. Mohan and Suja survived their loss, and in A Child Lost in Flight, Mohan offers their experience as a testament to show that it can be done—that the deepest, darkest night will end.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Walking Dead: "Beside the Dying Fire" Season Finale

In “Beside the Dying Fire, the finale of Season 2 of The Walking Dead, a huge question is answered, bigger questions are raised, and survival is—as always—the name of the game.

Carl and Rick don’t have much time to discuss Shane’s death, his rise as a walker, and his second death before they realize a humongous mob of zombies is pouring out of the woods toward them. (If you puzzled over where they came from like I did, here’s what I deduced from the flashback: the helicopter attracted them, they started to follow it, and then, because they’re incapable of independent thought or reason, they just kept walking and walking and walking in that direction. Is that what you decided too?)

Rick and Carl run for the barn and Rick decides to try and attract as many of the walkers as he can, hoping they’ll follow him into the barn. It’s not a bad plan—there are just too many zombies for the fire that he and Carl set inside the barn to be of much benefit. Some of the walkers die, yes, but not enough of them. The farm is under siege.

It’s chaos as everyone tries to flee. My husband and I dubbed the very minor members of Hershel’s farm family—Patricia and Jimmy—as “red shirts,” and it was an appropriate moniker as they both died bloody deaths trying to escape the mob.

Lori is frantic because she doesn’t know where Carl is, but she jumps in a truck with T-Dogg and Beth and escapes. (I hate Lori, by the way. “Shane was always there for me. I love Rick. I needed Shane. I don’t know whose baby I’m carrying.” Gag.)

Hershel is determined to die trying to save his farm, but when Rick and Carl find him, Rick makes him leave with them. “It’s my farm!” hollers Hershel. Looking at the swarm of zombies, Rick tells him, “Not anymore it isn’t.”

Carol seems to be a goner until Daryl spies her and rescues her, the two of them escaping on his motorcycle. Glenn and Maggie make it out. That leaves only Andrea, and although I don’t really like her, I do admire her strength. So I was disgruntled—not quite sad, but definitely bothered—that she was left behind. What a fighter she is…and what will happen to her now that that dark-robed figure has found her. One of the big questions for next season.

Once the whole group is reunited, they turn to Rick for guidance but many seem unhappy with his decisions—especially the decision he made long ago to keep them in the dark about something the scientist told him at the CDC: all of them are infected with the virus. That’s why Randall and Shane turned after they died even though they hadn’t been bitten. And that, my friends, is the basis for the biggest questions for next season.

How will the infection affect them from here on out—both physically and mentally? Will the group continue to trust Rick, now that they know he kept this from them? (Should he have done so?) What does this mean for Lori’s baby? Will it be born in some weird, mutated form, infected from conception? And how will Lori and Carl relate to Rick now that they know he killed Shane?

It’s such a compelling show that always makes me wonder what I would do if faced with such terrible choices. I can’t wait to see what they do with Season 3 of The Walking Dead. Was that the prison in the distance?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Walking Dead: Rick killed Shane in "Better Angels"

In “Better Angels,” the next to last episode of Season 2 of The Walking Dead, we see Shane push the boundaries farther than he ever has, and we see him pay the price. Unfortunately, others get caught up in the wake of his actions.

Shane hasn’t been himself since he shot Otis and left him behind for the walkers—and let’s face it, Shane’s original character left little to commend. Leaving people behind for dead wasn’t new to him. Sacrificing others for his own good wasn’t new to him. But this act seemed to stain whatever good might have been present, and he became nothing but a destructive malignancy within the group.

Were you surprised when Shane led Randall off into the woods and broke his neck? Nope. Me neither. I was surprised, though, when Randall showed up as a walker. What the heck? We knew how he died, and it wasn’t as a zombie meal. So what’s up? The last episode reveals that answer.

When Shane slapped himself upside the head after killing Randall and then rammed his face into a tree, his deterioration became even more apparent. When he and Rick took off together to try and find the “escaped” Randall, did you have that sinking feeling in your gut that they both weren’t coming out of it alive? Me too. Were you ready to say goodbye to Shane? I was. It was time for him to go.

When Rick finally faced off with Shane and stood seemingly defenseless against him, his gun innocuously outstretched in his left hand, I thought maybe Shane was going to get away with it. (How could the show go on without Rick, though, you ask? I don’t think it could. That’s why I said “maybe.”) The knife Rick drew and shoved up into Shane’s torso surprised—and thrilled—me. I am so glad he’s gone.

He almost wasn’t, though, was he?

What the heck is up with these dead people coming back as walkers? Again, the final episode reveals the truth—and it’s a doozy.

I’d be negligent if I didn’t comment on Carl’s well-timed appearance and his amazingly good aim with Daryl’s gun. Carl saved his dad’s life, but again, at what cost? Carl loved Shane. When will all the baggage that boy is carrying become too much for him to handle? The growth of his character has been one of the most interesting ones in the show.

There’s only one episode of Season 2 of The Walking Dead left to blog about. And there’s a mob of walkers on the way.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Walking Dead: Kill Randall? in "Judge, Jury, Executioner"

If you had been part of the group in The Walking Dead episode “Judge, Jury, Executioner,” how would you have voted? Should they have killed Randall or kept him prisoner?

There were convincing arguments to kill him: he’s got 30 scary friends, he knows where Rick & Co. are hiding, and he’s another mouth to feed. There were convincing arguments not to kill him: if they’re civilized, they wouldn’t do it; he hadn’t done anything to them; they saved him in the first place.

The arguments to kill him came mainly from Shane. Dale spoke up—mostly alone—against killing Randall. Sounds true to both characters, doesn’t it?

For the record, I was in favor of keeping him prisoner. I wouldn’t have been comfortable killing someone who hadn’t hurt me or the people I love. My daughter felt the way I did. My husband didn’t want to kill him either, but he did want to take him far away and drop him off.

We’ll never know which would have been the best choice.

But it is interesting that the voice of morality and reason is the one that was silenced in this episode. Will others wear the hat? Will they honor Dale as they said they would?

And what about Carl? The lost boy…the boy who doesn’t believe in God or heaven. The boy who antagonized a walker. The boy who stole Daryl’s gun, who intended to kill that walker. The boy who blames himself for Dale. And, finally, the boy who took the gun his dad offered him. What is going to happen to Carl? Who is he becoming and who can control it?

There was also one sweet moment, wasn’t there? When Hershel gave Glenn the watch—and his approval? Did that give you the warm fuzzies? It did me, which is nice because usually The Walking Dead only gives me the creeps…in a really good way.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Walking Dead: Live or Die in "18 Miles Out"

Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “18 Miles Out,” had at its center the choice we make to live or die when faced with extraordinarily difficult circumstances. If you lived in a world where there were more zombies than live human beings, would you continue to fight for some sort of life or would you give up and welcome death?

I just finished reading The Giver with my eighth graders. If you haven’t read it—don’t worry—we’re beginning to live it. It’s the world of Sameness. Everyone lives in the same kind of dwelling. There is no upper, middle, or lower class. The government chooses your job for you. The government feeds you. The government chooses your spouse for you and provides children for you via “birth mothers”—surrogates who are impregnated three times in three years and then become laborers. (I enjoy the irony in that every time I read it.)

No one wants for anything because the government provides it all. No one has to think for himself or herself. There is no creativity. There is no color. There is no music. No one minds because it’s been like that for so long that the only person who remembers anything different is The Giver.

The government also decides when you’ve outlived your usefulness, when you’ve become a burden on society, and they “release” you from the community. They put a syringe in your arm and kill you. Anybody remember Obama’s statement when he was campaigning about giving Grandma a pill when she’s diagnosed with a terminal disease?

It’s a horrible world in The Giver when contrasted with the world we still have—the world where we can educate ourselves, choose our own paths, get up off our own asses and make our own lives. My eighth graders still recognize that the world of choice and personal freedoms is a better place to live than the community of Sameness in the world of The Giver.

When we finished the book, one of my students asked me if I would “apply for release” if I lived in The Giver’s world. (The community members can do this; they don’t know they’ll be killed.) Would it be better to die than to live in such a world?

I think in both instances I’d choose life. I’d believe that somehow, someway, we’d make a life and the zombies would eventually really and truly die. We’d be able to start over.

I think if I lived in The Giver’s community and I knew the difference between Sameness and a world of personal freedoms, I’d fight against a government that denied me the life I have now.

In fact, that’s what I’m doing.

Cherish the choices you have. Guard them. The government does not know better than you what is best for you. You do not need them to take care of you. You are not entitled to a better life simply because you’re living and breathing. You’re entitled to the best life you can carve out for yourself. And you’re living in the best country in the world to make the best life for yourself because of the Constitution of the United States.

Don't choose the easy way out.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Government knows better than Mom what preschooler should eat?

With the new FDA guidelines that schools have to adhere to, we are now living in a country where the government can tell school-age children that their parents aren’t feeding them properly, but the government will take care of them and do it right.

When a school-age child brings a sack lunch from home, food inspectors have to check that sack lunch to ensure it meets dietary guidelines. If the inspector decides it does not meet those guidelines, then the school “supplements” the child’s sack lunch with a school lunch, often charging the parents for that school-provided meal.

I’m not making this up. Read this article from the Feb. 14 issue of the Carolina Journal. A preschool child had a sack lunch with a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips, and apple juice. The inspector said she also needed a vegetable and made her take a whole tray of food from the cafeteria. What did the child end up eating? Three chicken nuggets from the tray. Nothing else. She took her sack lunch home, untouched.

The issue is not whether or not the lunch provided by the mother met the guidelines (which it did). The issue is that there are guidelines that parents have to follow when packing their children’s lunches. The issue is that the government has the power to say, “You’re not feeding your children right. We know better. Let us take care of you.” That is the issue. That is the message this government wants our children growing up to believe.

I treasure my personal freedoms provided to me by the Constitution of this great country. The same great country, may I remind—or inform, if you didn’t know this before—my readers that was maligned by Barak Obama’s “former” preacher. The preacher whose church the Obamas attended for more than 20 years. The preacher who married Barak and Michelle Obama. The preacher who was caught on tape saying, “God bless America? I say, ‘Goddamn America!'”

And I would say our president is taking that message to heart. He is damning our country and those of us who live here. He and his policy makers are stepping all over our freedoms. He is hell-bent on making us dependent on the government for more and more and more. He is hell-bent on dividing us and pitting us against each other. He is hell-bent on creating a generation of citizens who believe they are entitled to things they haven’t earned simply because they exist.

I work. I strive to be successful. I take pride in my work and in my success. I don’t want a handout. I want the FREEDOM to grow and live and learn. I want to know there are people who have accomplished more than I have because they give me something to dream about, not just for me but for my daughter and for her future children.

I want to continue to live in a world where I’m allowed to write a blog like this, knowing I won’t be arrested for it. In many countries in the world, I couldn’t do this without risk of great harm to myself and those I love.

Don’t give away your freedoms. Don’t ask for the government to provide for you. Before you know it, the government will be deciding where you live, where you work, and how many children you can have. It’s what he wants.

Be scared. Be active. Vote him out.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stephen King's 11/22/63: Lengthy, but worth it

The size of Stephen King’s behemoth 11/22/63: A Novel put me off it at first. It might you, too. At 850 pages, I wondered if it would hold my interest for the entirety of the book. And when I hit about 60 percent (I read it on my Kindle), I almost put it down. I’m glad I didn’t. Let me tell you why.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the premise of the story, Jake Epping travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of JFK. My first attraction to the book was to Jake’s time-traveling. I really like the way it happens—and the way it un-happens. (I won’t explain that further; you need to read it.) I will say that my affection for the time travel itself remained constant throughout the book.

The book is as long as it is because when Jake travels back in time, he steps into 1958, putting a gap of five years between himself and his purpose for taking the leap. King has to fill those five years with narrative, so Jake assumes an alias and begins a whole new life in the past. He reinvents himself to a certain degree—which is fun to witness—and he makes choices that both resonate with his “prior” life and rebel against it.

A whole new story, separate from and yet ultimately connected to the Kennedy storyline, develops in those five years. Jake moves around the country and meets people who become important characters both to him and to the JFK assassination. It’s during this part of the story that I almost gave up on it. King writes it well, and he made me care about the new characters being introduced, but I felt as if we were never going to get to that fateful day in November 1963. What I didn’t realize at the time was that we needed all that middle stuff to make it to the goal. (I trusted Uncle Stevie that it was necessary, or else I wouldn’t have kept reading. But I have to admit to cussing at him a few times in the process.)

I won’t give away whether or not Jake succeeds in his goal of preventing JFK’s death. After all, that’s what kept me going when I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep going. I wanted to know if he was going to be able to do it.

What I ended up caring about more, when it was all said and done, were those characters King introduces in the middle and Jake’s relationships with them.

It will take you a while to read, but 11/22/63 is worth the effort. King knows what he’s doing, which is why, I guess, he does what he does.