Jul 30

Summer Series Watch – The Wire

Keepin the devil down in the hole.

The_WireI decided to take the time this summer to watch The Wire. Yes. I’m way late. Too late to be really relevant, but I had read so much about how great the series was that I had to take the time to at least watch the first season. And of course, I have to give you my opinion about it, because that’s what the Internet is for…giving opinions.

I’ve seen The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and I’m currently watching Better Call Saul, Narcos (Netflix) and Stranger Things (Netflix). That’s my street cred for series. I watched a bit of Hell on Wheels, until it got kinda spotty and I watched the first season of The Walking Dead before I decided the graphic novel was better. Mad Men and Dexter never really appealed to me.

But back to The Wire. The first season was truly incredible. I couldn’t take my eyes off the rotted hulk of Baltimore City. The atmosphere was one of true hopelessness, what with the boarded up town/row houses, the addicts shuffling along looking for their next fix and the young age of the drug dealers that ruled the roost from the orange sofa. There was also a bit of nostaligia, what with the payphones and the fashions. I must say, the cinematography was pretty amazing. The camera shot and angles made Baltimore real.

The characters. Well, first off, I did not care for McNulty, nor did he grow on me during the course of the series. I saw him as a kinda gross, self serving drunk whose American accent kept slipping. I found him annoying and not the anti-hero he was set up to be. I guess he kind of redeemed himself by the end of the series, but his screen time made my eyes roll.

Bunk. I liked Bunk. Yeah, he was kind a scum bag, the way he cheated on his wife, but he was fun and dressed well. Kima was okay, just kinda meh to me. The drama with her home life rang trite to me, just another job vs. family conflict that anyone with as much television, movie and book experience as me has seen before. Making her a tough lesbian didn’t do that much to interested me in her character. She was fun, tho, I will say that.

Lester and his dollhouse furniture. Really liked him. “Thirteen years….and four months.” He was a character that grew on you. I’d venture to say he was one of my favorites of the police officers.

On the crooked side we had Stringer and Avon Barksdale. Idris did a good job as Stringer, effective in making me dislike him and how he was manipulating Avon. I never cared for the actor playing Avon, so the character was kinda meh to me.

The Farmer in the Dell

The Farmer in the Dell

But Omar. Wow. I had only seen Michael K. Williams as Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire and loved him in that. Now, I see why he was cast. He is a great actor and not hard on the eyes either. The Farmer in the Dell will never sound the same to me again.

Anyhoo, the first season hooked me, the second season was pretty good, the third season was rather meh, the fourth season was….okay and I lost patience with the fifth season. The fake serial killer and the newspaper drama just seemed contrived and ridiculous. The side stories were still good, but the main arc flopped for me in the fifth season.

Honorable Mention to Snoop Pearson. Her scene in the fake Home Depot had me cracking up.

There you go. My take on The Wire. Once summer ends, I can go back to my movie watching and reviewing. Keep watching this spot!

Also…..Omar coming!

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Apr 22

Let PostCron Do the Heavy Lifting

As an author, I’m always looking for ways to make promotion and connecting with people online easier. Even with cell phones, tablets and the like, it’s impossible to keep up with everything, every minute of the day. I’ve dabbled in other online methods of scheduled posting, but when I helped host a Facebook event in October of 2015, I turned to PostCron.

PostCron is a web application which empowers users to schedule links, image and text posts ahead of time. Even in its free configuration, PostCron is a powerful tool. I was able to create images and posts, and schedule them for the three-day Facebook event. It was as if I was never away from the computer! Scheduling information about guests, contests, and links to visit was automated with ease through PostCron, and I was able to participate in the ongoing event without constantly checking the clock to see when I needed to post next.

PostCron doesn’t skimp on usability. I’m sure we all had that time where we were on online and saw a picture or a quote we wanted to share on our own timeline. Well, by installing the PostCron app for Chrome, you can schedule any post you find on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages. I’m even able to share interesting posts from Reddit. In addition, the extension makes it super easy to do the same to any web link. It saves so much time. Rather than copying and pasting and saving for later, you can accomplish the same thing in the matter of a few clicks.

What I like best about PostCron is they offer a lot of utility for free accounts. You can schedule up to ten posts at a time over your accounts. If you’re a daily user, this just might work for you. If you are a power user on a paid account (and why wouldn’t you be?), PostCron offers up the ability to schedule posts via a CSV file. Don’t worry. They give you a Google Docs spreadsheet as an example. Easy peasy!

Another great feature is the watermark. Simply upload your logo, and PostCron will allow you to edit the location, size, and even its transparency. Now, all your uploaded images have your watermark. When the post is shared, your logo is also shared, which can increase name recognition online.

Post Cron
Social media is all about engagement, not about throwing links out by the handful. Sharing useful content is what PostCron supports. Following this, PostCron has a nifty little feature called “Content Recommendations” where you can put in your choice of keywords and get link recommendations from people of your choosing. All you do is choose a set of keywords you’re targeting. In my case, it might be “writing romance”, “romance novels,” “science fiction romance” and “the art of writing”. Then, I’d go to Twitter and select users who are my trusted experts in the field. PostCron takes the information and searches Twitter for the links shared by these people and deposits them right on the dashboard, ready for sharing with my audience. It doesn’t get any easier than that! The suggested content can save hours of time of searching online for that perfect article.

If you need even more content, you can import RSS feeds to share with your followers or search Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Flickr for even more content to share. PostCron places all this power right on the dashboard, at your fingertips.

Right now, you may be asking, how do I use it in my author career? Well, I must say it’s pretty great. In addition to being able to post to Facebook events, as I mentioned above, I can create picture quotes and schedule them to publish at pre-defined posting times. I can say good morning to my followers even if I’m just stumbling out of bed. Then, later, I can log on and respond to the greetings. I can share snippets of my writing to my social media friends who don’t keep the same hours I do. If I find an informative article about the writing craft or news from the world of publishing, I can share/schedule it in less than a minute. PostCron can help you stay in touch twenty-four hours a day for a week using only an hour or so of dedicated time.

Being able to plan your posts and schedule them allows you to create a steady stream of content that is cohesive and builds your brand.
For all of you who work from your phones, PostCron has added even more functionality. Simply navigate to their website on your phone and you can schedule your posts, links and/or images on the go. It’s a great way to send up-to-date pictures across all your social media platforms.

PostCron makes scheduling posts simple and straightforward, leaving me free to participate in current online conversations.

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Apr 21

Horror Movie Review: Final Girl

Title: Final Girl
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Tyler Shields
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2124787/

HERE MAY BE SPOILERS

Portions of the movie may or may not be revealed.

 

Synopsis:

A man teaches a young woman how to become a complete weapon. Later she is approached by a group of sadistic teens who kill blonde women for unknown reasons. The hunting season begins.

 

final girlFor goodness sake.

I knew it was all going wrong when Wes Bentley appeared on my iPad screen.  That deadpan expression and that draggy way of talking he has.  So, I was eye rolling within the first few minutes of the movie.

Then the training sequences began and I became intrigue.  Was she going to be a spy?  Was she going to hunt serial killers?

This movie was highly stylized and seemed to take on the characteristics of a play being presented on film, much like Glengary Glen Ross or Oleanna.  The staging was stilted and the costumes and sets were very….play like.  But I stuck with it.

These four guys in tuxedos are supposed to be serial killers. They take blondes into the forest, give them a head start, then chase and kill them.  Apparenlty, no one cares about these girls enough to report them missing  – high school girls no less – and there is not one whisper of a police presence in the town.

killers from final girl

Who dry cleans their tuxes after a night out hunting?

Okay, I think, suspending disbelief.  No problem, I wanted to see how she was going to fight all these strapping young men and become “FINAL GIRL” (roll credits).

Boy, was I in for a sorry disappointment.  The concept was good, but the acting and the sets and the lackluster fight scenes…I couldn’t suspend everything.

I will say this.  I did like the style of the movie, the use of color and the bizarre lighting of the forest.  The visuals did keep me interested in the end.  However, the story didn’t hold enough water for me.  The dialogue was rather boring.

I don’t regret watching it, but it left me kind of meh.

Grade: D

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Apr 03

Downtime – Gardening

Spring

Not me when I garden.

This is the time of year I wander into the garage and find my dusty old gardening gloves.  Once I find them, I immediately throw them away and rush out to Home Depot to buy new ones.  From there, I examine the tools that have endured the winter weather and figure out which ones to keep and which to replace.  Then, it’s checking for the last frost date and making the rounds of the nurseries to see who has the best seedlings at the best price.

Gardening is my summer stress reliever.  It’s a way for me to get out into the sun to get that essential Vitamin D, as well as get a good workout pulling weeds, digging holes and all around garden care.  Plus, I get the added bonus of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and herbs. The nature of gardening is that it has the ability to restore one’s spirit, to heal with the richness and vitality of the earth.  It’s also a peaceful activity that can be a solitary one or expanded to incorporate the family. In fact, teaching children to garden is such a joy as well as a useful skill….just in case of a zombie apocalypse, you’ve got to know how to grow your own food!  It’s also healthy and fun!

Because my daily work involves so much of the computer and other technology, the clickity clack of the keys and the colors of the screen can become monotonous, so I welcome the time that I spend with my lovely plants, both indoors and out.

My father, who passed away three years ago, was a master gardener.  When I was growing up, there was a half-acre of land in the back of our 200 foot deep lot that was carefully tilled and prepared every spring.  From that fertilized and tended ground grew white potatoes, zucchini (which will grow anywhere, I swear), several kinds of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, yellow and green peppers, squash and cantaloupe.  His firefighter’s schedule (3 days, 3 off, 3 nights, 3 off etc) allowed him the flexibility and time to cultivate the garden within an inch of its life, and you’d better not step on the freshly-tilled dirt….and don’t let the dog in there either! Somehow, though, the dog shimmied her way in, mashing down some seedlings with her dog paws.  Don’t chase her either – that’ll make it worse.

I am looking forward to spring, new seeds, new seedlings and variety of new plants.

Here’s hoping the weather falls just right for a healthy harvest come August, those dog days of summer when the sun is beating down on  your head and the sweat trickles down your spine.

 

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Mar 25

Thriller Movie Review: Bound to Vengeance

Bound-to-vengeance-copy
Title: Bound To Vengeance
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Director: Jose Manuel Cravioto
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1230213/

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.
Do not read this review if you don’t want portions of the movie revealed.

This movie was recommended to me by an author friend of mine. Given that I don’t shy away from the sometimes terrible thriller/horror movies on Netflix (except the ones that are CLEARLY Lifetime movies), I didn’t hesitate to give this one a shot.

Synopsis: A young girl, chained in the basement of a sexual predator, escapes and turns the tables on her captor.

First of all, the protagonist was a young woman, not a young girl. Young girl implies to me a ten year old. Second, after I viewed the movie, I went back to the imdb listing and discovered that two men wrote the screenplay, which didn’t surprise me at all.

One big thing for me with this film: Black woman dies first. WTF? We haven’t got past that yet? Seriously? Enough with this already.

Basically, young woman escapes, then realizes dude has women trapped up all over the place. He tells her, if he dies, they all die since he’s the only one who knows where they are. So, young woman makes the choice to try to rescue all the women.

One complaint I read about the movie was that if she’d just escaped, she’d be all about going to the police. I give the movie a pass, because, her decision to go rescue the other girls hooked me into the movie.

So, like I said previously, she goes to rescue the black woman first, and she dies by accident. The second rescue goes just as badly. But even as stuff went down, I found myself asking “Why are you letting the psycho dude do all the talking? You know these women must be a little nuts…at least TRY to talk some sense into them, don’t just sit back and let him run his mouth.”

These two incidents happened at the beginning of the action and kind set me against the movie. The flashbacks are interesting, but reminded me of Cloverfield. As a woman of a certain age, I was like “why the heck is all this being filmed, how boring”, even as I knew it was being filmed for a payoff at the end. Chekov’s video footage, if you will.

The confrontation with the secondary villain was just strange and not very compelling.

I will say that the main actress played the part to the hilt and she did an excellent job. The issue of sex trafficking and kidnapping is made real without being super obvious. The material itself, however, was not up to par and parts of the movie had me scratching my head.

This could have been much more than it was. I wouldn’t give it a second viewing, but I don’t feel it was a waste of time.

Grade: C

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