All the more reason to order a burger

I’ve read about the bombings in Syria and a passenger dragged off a United Airlines flight, but I think the news story I read most recently that’s going to haunt me is this one about a decomposing bat inside a prepackaged salad.

Generally I like salads, but I have an almost irrational fear of bats so finding one in my salad would pretty much send me screaming like an imbecile to the bathroom to induce vomiting by whatever means necessary. Actually, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t need any help vomiting.

The thing that’s a little weird about the articles I’ve read about the incident seems to be the focus on rabies and not the dead bad. Like it wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the rabies. Ummm….no. It’s bad regardless because there was a freakin’ dead bat in food that people were consuming at the time it was found.

(Shudder). Yeah, no more prepacked salads for me.

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When it comes to kids in restaurants, empathy should go both ways

I’d originally read this article a few months ago, then it popped up again last week in the “recommended stories” feature on another website. This is a first person account of a parent with small children out to eat at a busy restaurant. Another patron made a snarky remark about the children’s behavior and Mom escalated it with a snappy comeback.

While the account itself is not particularly unique, the comments that follow offer a window into a hugely polarizing issue: small children at dining establishments. I’m not talking about kids at fast food joints. No one expects much when dining there. I mean sit-down restaurants. Some higher end places have banned children because of bad behavior and that decision also has supporters and detractors.

I’ve been a food server, a parent and a restaurant patron trying to dine sans kids for a night so I can see points on each side. But these are the two questions I always come back to when I see child meltdowns during the dinner hour: are the parents actually doing anything about it? Are the parents trying to minimize the impact on other patrons while they deal with the situation?

Because I’ve been there. My two-year-old once decided he did not want to leave the ball pit at the play area at Burger King (that was when I was young and dumb and didn’t realize those things are absolute germ pits). He refused to come out and I had to go in after him — while I was pregnant and taking off my shoes was no guarantee I could get them back on. When I caught him, he howled. I had to wade out and get my shoes on. I tried to get his shoes on but gave up and decided to carry him. I was near tears and he certainly wasn’t happy. Another mom made a snarky remark to me and really, had I not been dealing with so much crap at that second I would have been tempted to punch her in the face. I mean kids are kids and I was clearly trying to get him out of this situation. Normally, I could tell him “five more minutes” and he’d leave the play area just fine. Today, well, he tested me. I could have caved and sat there another half hour but I had things to do and me being a pushover sent the wrong message. You’d think another mom would have my back, but sometimes we can be so judgmental about other people’s parenting.

So I get the mom’s defensiveness in the article. Kids aren’t robots who can be programmed to act exactly as we want.  But…

I’ve witnessed abysmal behavior under the guise of “kids will be kids.” I waited tables in college and I’ve seen kids allowed to pour syrup all over the table, play in a fire pit with an actual fire burning, race up and down the aisles while waiters are trying to carry their trays and have a tantrum while the parents ignore them. I’ve had my date night with my husband pretty much ruined when seated next to parents more interested in their smartphones than their kids. So I get the patron’s side, too. Was she rude? Yes, but while Mom didn’t think the kids were that bad, she may not have been the best judge of the situation given she was busy talking to their dinner guests.

Some of the comments targeted Mom for letting her kids play with an iPad as a distraction, but I disagree. As a mom who once carried a pad of paper and box of crayons in her purse at all times, I think having some distractions is a darn good idea. But I get the other side, too. At some point, kids do need to learn to sit and carry on a conversation, wait patiently for their food and generally function in society. That should be every parent’s goal. It’s easy to sanctimoniously judge another parents’ skills. But I’m willing to bet, if we’re honest, all of our kids at one time or another displayed not-so-great behavior. I’m willing to bet we ourselves have displayed some not-so-great behavior. My mom loves to tell those stories about me, by the way. Something involving me and a teddy bear when I was a toddler. So we should have each other’s back.

But don’t expect people to excuse bad behavior if you aren’t doing anything about it. I’m not speaking to this particular article because I wasn’t there — it’s just one side. But really, it’s not fair to expect other people to forgive your kids’ antics while you are playing Candy Crush on your iPhone. Courtesy goes both ways. If you want a little sympathy, you have to have some empathy for your fellow patrons who may have paid a babysitter to get their night of peace and quiet.

Looking for some good journalism?

Here’s a shout out to the Los Angeles Times for the series it ran last week called Framed.

I’m often on the fence about narrative journalism, telling the news like a story. Sometimes it works wonderfully. Sometimes not so much. This is an example of it working really well.

I had not heard this story initially when the facts were being reported so I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter each day to see what happened. This is reporting that goes beyond the bait-click mentality; instead it tells the story in segments to add more depth rather than string readers along. I’d love to see newspapers do this more often.

So if you’re a fan of true crime and a really bizarre tale, check it out!

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And if you are a fan of newspapers and the future of journalism, check out this video on YouTube from comedian John Oliver. Be forewarned, the language is a bit colorful, but his message is spot on.

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Squirrel on the Move

I work in the business office of a University. Today, a newly-hired professor called to ask if she could use some of her relocation allowance to cover the cost of moving her pet. The answer was no, but my coworker, being ever-so-curious, had to ask what kind of pet.

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I have seen some really strange things on expense reports and requisitions, but this easily makes the top five. Time to go home. Tomorrow bring more coffee and maybe a few nuts.

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

I saw this article about the fan backlash against critics regarding the new movie “Suicide Squad” and it made me laugh.

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It’s hard to imagine DC fan boys and girls giving a rat’s butt about critic reviews but apparently some of them do, enough to try to shut down the movie site Rotten Tomatoes. It seems some DC fans are buying the idea that there is a conspiracy against DC’s superhero movies. I have bad news for them. They are probably wrong. How do I know? Because I watched “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” last weekend and it really had some issues.

I’m really not one to put a lot of stock in critics. I have seen way too many highly-rated movies that I thought were awful. And some of the movies I love have been panned. I like Rotten Tomatoes because it offers the critic score and the audience score. When both are good, I think it’s a safe bet to see that movie. When both are bad, the movie is usually a stinker. What I find intriguing is when the two scores are vastly different. Then you have to do your homework to see if it’s a movie worth watching.

Superhero movies are big at my house and normally I enjoy them, too. And I don’t really play favorites between Marvel and DC as long as the movies (or TV shows) can tell a good story and offer characters that don’t do stupid things for no reason other than the script needs them too. I am all for some cool CGI and impressive stunts but when it takes away from the plot or makes me say “Huh?” then you’re gonna lose me. I’m pretty good at suspending disbelief for books and movies, but if you push too far, then I’m done.

That was the problem I had with B v. S. Yes, the Batman costume was cool and Ben Affleck looked like a total BA when he took out all those guys to save Martha Kent. But he was also kind of … not smart, which is something I’ve never seen with any version of Batman except the campy Adam West incarnation.

I’m not buying that Batman would be so easily duped by the heavy-handed plot of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg playing it way too manic). And sure, Batman’s anger that Superman brought his fight with Zod to Metropolis is justified, but he’s stewed about it for a year and a half. During that time, Superman has been doing good things. And he doesn’t decide to find out more about Superman? Nope, if there’s a small chance he’ll harm the world, let’s just kill him without getting the facts. This does not sound like the comic world’s greatest detective.  And don’t get me started on the whole “Martha” thing.

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Suicide Squad, based on reviews, seems to follow in the same vein, which is disappointing considering the trailer looked decent. I get why fan boys and girls are upset. It stinks to have your beloved source material tainted by a bad movie. I feel that way all the time when one of my favorite books makes a lousy transition to the big screen (The 5th Wave anyone?). But muzzling critics is ridiculous. And blaming Marvel is just as much so. Go see your movie, enjoy what you can, know that it will make a ton of money, but realize the critics are going to view the actual movie, not the movie you had hoped for. And while you might love seeing your favorite hero on screen with flashy costumes and intense stunts, it doesn’t negate the need for good storytelling and characterization, too. So maybe the rest of us also have a shot at enjoying the film.

Here’s hoping to something better with Wonder Woman and Justice League! But in the meantime, I’m waiting to watch Captain America: Civil War.

P.S. Yes, I’m cheap and wait for movies to come out on video.

When a good book goes bad…

“The 5th Wave” made its big screen debut over the weekend. It’s one of my favorite books in recent years, and had all the stars lined up in my favor, I would have made it to the theater this weekend to see it.

But…

Well, let’s just say the more I watched the trailers and read about the project, the more I worried that my beloved book was in the wrong hands. Or maybe shouldn’t even be a movie at all. I don’t want to blame Hollywood directors and writers when a book-to-screen adaptation goes sideways. Some books just don’t easily make the leap to the big screen.

Whatever the problem, it seems my fears were justified. Not even Liev Schreiber, one of my favorites and a great choice for Vosch, could save it. Critics and audiences were underwhelmed. The sad thing is that reflects on the source material, unfair as that may be.

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Rick Yancey’s story of survival following an alien invasion, from just a cursory glance, seems like it would be in the same vein as other YA dystopian tales. But Yancey really separates himself from the pack by asking hard questions, questions about survival and what it means to be human. The scene with the “crucifix soldier” (as told in the book) is particularly haunting and heartbreaking. The description of Cassie’s weeks alone in the woods, thinking she could be the last human alive, is both terrifying and thought-provoking. He doesn’t shy away from those themes and that’s why the book is so darn good.

Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record for book-to-screen adaptations. For every good one, there are dozens that fall woefully short. My husband usually avoids watching any movie with me when I’ve read the source material because I become a complete psychopath when the movie roams too far afield. I knew I was in trouble with “The 5th Wave” when the trailer showed Evan (played by Alex Roe) shirtless in the water because THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE BOOK!!!! AND WHERE IS THE SNOW FROM THE BLIZZARD??? IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE WINTER!!!!

(deep breath)

Rick Yancey shared this review on his Facebook page, and I give a huge shout out to the reviewer (who had clearly read the book, or at least did a great job of faking it) for separating the film from the source material. It was refreshing, for a change, for the reviewer to not look down her nose at the book because she didn’t like the movie.

I wish Hollywood would stop thinking of just dollars when selecting these books for production. I know a rabid fan base can translate to movie ticket sales, but it’s time to just stop. I read the rights have been purchased for another favorite trilogy of mine, “Red Rising,” and if I had any pull at all, this book would not be a two-to-three-hour movie. The book is way too long, too much world-building, too many characters. It needs to be a 13-part TV program along the lines of “Game of Thrones” or “Wayward Pines.” Three seasons, one for each book. Please. Pretty please.

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I think these episodic programs have done wonders for storytelling. I wasn’t an iota interested in seeing the “Jessica Jones” series on Netflix, until I watched the first episode and was hooked. Great character development and plenty of time to unfold the plot without the dreaded information dump. Same reason I love “Sherlock.” Ninety minutes allows way more time to develop the story. And “Justified.” Elmore Leonard’s short story and great characters came to life over six seasons. I really wish TV would get more involved with these book-to-screen adaptations. I think the success rate would be better.

I’m not saying all book-to-movie screen adaptations are bad. I have the movie version of “The Martian” on hold at the library and can’t wait to see it since I loved, loved, loved the book.

As for the movie, critic reviews were good; audience reaction was great. But, this book was more action-based than thought-provoking, which probably made it a better candidate for big screen adaptation. Just a guess.

Oh, and then there’s Matt Damon. That didn’t hurt either. 🙂

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Happy 2016!

It’s 2016 and while I’ve definitely had some good memories (and not so good ones) from this past 365 days, I’m looking forward to the year ahead. While some of the things I’m excited about are personal (my youngest graduating from high school), I also am awaiting some less-than-monumental events this coming year.

“Morning Star” by Pierce Brown

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Seriously, I wish I had a way to get a copy of this book, then magically make all the responsibilities in my life go away until I could finish this final book in the Red Rising series. Unfortunately, not only is that not likely to happen, I’ll probably have to arm wrestle my youngest for first crack at this book.

This is Brown’s first series, and he accomplished the very rare task of putting out a great first book, then topping it with a sequel that was even better. So I have high hopes for Book 3. Bahhh! I can’t wait.

“Red Rising” was first touted as YA and I’m glad that moniker has kind of faded. It’s definitely adult fare, even if the protagonist is in his late teens. Kind of violent but socially relevant. Great characters, great plot. Did I say already that I can’t wait?

And along those same lines….

“The Last Star” by Rick Yancey

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His first book in the series, “The 5th Wave” is going to be a movie this month, but I’m way more psyched for the final book in his trilogy. This is YA, but it asks some hard questions about survival and what it is to be human following an alien invasion that devastates the planet.

His protagonist, Cassie, is smart, funny and kicks butt in her efforts to save her little brother. As a warning: The book includes some profanity, including the f-bomb, but considering it’s the end of the world, it’s not exactly out of place.

And one more book….

MINE!

“Extreme Measures” is still the working title, and I expect this to be out by summer at the latest, maybe even late spring. The draft is done and ready for editing. I know a mother isn’t supposed to have a favorite child — and I still don’t officially — but I really like this book so far!

More Benedict Cumberbatch? Yes, please!

I am a “Sherlock” junkie. I’ve always had a crush on the literary version of Sherlock Holmes and this BBC adaptation is awesome. While it will be 2017 before the next full season is released (sad face), a special episode will be aired in early January. Since I don’t get cable and the closest movie theater showing the episode is more than three hours away (bigger sad face), I’ll have to wait for it to come on Netflix or on video. Either way, I should be seeing it some time this year. Yay!

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And — I’m aware of this only because my youngest is a complete comic book nerd — Cumberbatch will star as Doctor Strange in a Marvel movie in the fall. So, while I may know nothing about the comic book, I’m game to go. Really, I’d watch Benedict Cumberbatch read from the phone book. It’s not a “oh-he’s-so-hot” thing. I just think he’s a very likable and talented actor.

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But it can’t all be good…

Election 2016

I’m already really tired of the presidential election campaigning and it’s only going to get worse. By August, I expect to be boycotting online media outlets and all commercial television. I still have a bad taste leftover from 2012.

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Yep, this image pretty much sums it up! 🙂 Happy New Year!