Agent Carter: Bridge and Tunnel – Surviving Toxic Masculinity

Written by Eric Pearson, Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus, Jack Kirby, and Stan Lee
Directed by Joe Russo

Following the end of World War II, things changed and didn’t at the same time. Women and minorities contributed greatly to the victory, and weren’t content with going back to “their place.” This eventually led to the Civil Rights movement and the sexual revolution. Peggy Carter is suffering through those changes as she tries to solve a mystery while not being marginalized to much.

Bridge and Tunnel opens with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) listening to a Captain America radio broadcast while at the Automat. She’s perusing ads looking for an apartment now that she lost her roommate. Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca) suggests she move into her place, but Peggy demurs. Instead, she turns to Jarvis (James D’Arcy), who hooks her up with one of Howard Stark’s apartments for the time being.

She’s treading a dangerous line, working outside of the SSR while at the same time investigating the explosion at the refinery like they are. When she does go into work, she learns they are looking for something that could tie them into the disaster at the refinery.

When the SSR is brought in to test Red Hook Refinery employees to see if it’s an inside job, Peggy is drafted to be there to scan the female employees. She’s worried about testing positive herself. When one of the men she saw that night comes to be scanned and passes, Peggy figures out that they won’t catch anyone this way and suggests a new tactic, which prompts Mr. Van Ert (James Urbaniak)to bolt.

While her SSR buddies are interrogating Mr. Van Ert, Peggy and Jarvis are hot on the trail of the milk truck driver. Unfortunately, the SSR confirms his identity as well and they are soon on their way to Cedar Grove while Peggy is attempting to learn more about what’s going on.

Once again she meets Leet Brannis (James Frain). He, too, knows about Leviathan and wants to stop it. Unfortunately, he succumbs.

The mystery deepens a lot this episode, all while Peggy is getting away with working right under the noses of the men who are underestimating her. This is against the backdrop of a Captain America radio play that has “nurse” Peggy Carter as the typical damsel in distress. There’s a great sequence where Peggy is fighting with the milk truck driver while the radio play is having its own battle in the background.

There’s a lot of good action sequences in this episode, without feeling like it’s being overdone. Peggy uses her wits, but there’s a physical ability she has as well. She holds her own as well as any man would in the same situation, but must almost play a different character when in front of her co-workers.

There’s a great moment when Jarvis has a heart to heart with Peggy as he’s stitching her up, coaching her that she has to let people care for her. She decides to take the apartment where Angie lives. This is a good but of development for Peggy as well as for her relationship with Jarvis. She has to move on a bit from the losses she’s suffered and learn how to live again.

This episode keeps the action level up while at the same time giving viewers a bit more character development. Peggy’s co-workers are a bit more fleshed out. The friendship between Peggy and Jarvis deepens quite a bit. The acting is great. Hayley Atwell and James D’Arcy really seem to have a non-romantic chemistry on the screen that make them fun to watch.

The series is a good compliment to the events of the Captain America film. The shows really don’t work independently, but are more of an ongoing story-arc, so not watching them in order will leave viewers lost.

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DVD Review – Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black & White Volume 2

Following the popularity of the first collection of black and white vintage Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts, Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White, the good folks at Disney decided to do a bit more digging and see what they could come up with from this era of animation. The result is a supplemental two-disc DVD set of black and white animated shorts featuring the Mouse, many of which were not seen for decades prior to this release.

Although Walt Disney made a Technicolor cartoon in 1932, Mickey Mouse was still consistently seen in monochrome black and white until 1935 because it was so expensive to produce a color cartoon. Since these shorts are presented from the original negatives, they are sometimes seen with rounded corners due to the lack of uniform aperture standards of the time. The images are clear, crisp and a treat to watch. There are some flaws in the print, but overall I would swear these were made recently, not 70+ years ago. Only a few of the cartoons seem to have been restored from terrible shape, and those are easy to pick out of the group. The sound quality isn’t so hot, but I have a new appreciation for just how far we’ve come in all those years! Some of the cartoons are missing the music in the title sequence. This seems to be one of those things that didn’t always survive the aging process too well.

Leonard Maltin gives the introduction with clips showing how popular Mickey Mouse had become in the world. The six to seven minute shorts were often billed above the main attraction on theater marquees. Some of them contains more controversial subjects for our time. These have been bundles together on the second disc in a section titled From The Vault.

Animated shorts in this category are prefaced once again by Maltin doing a general “disclaimer” as to the decidedly “not politically correct” aspects of the cartoon where he cautions parents to watch the cartoons with your kids “so they don’t get the wrong idea.” In Mickey’s Mellerdrammer, for example, Mickey and the gang portray characters from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This was one of the most popular stage plays in it’s time, so there was noting wrong with it in it’s day and I’m not quite sure what’s controversial about it now since Mickey doesn’t seem to represent a particular ethnicity or race. In fact, I would think this might stimulate children to ask a bit more about the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel and lead to a great learning opportunity.

However, some of the shorts in this section do depict racial or ethnic stereotypes. Despite this, Disney has released them uncut and unedited for content. I would think that most people who would be interested in a collection such as this would already know enough to take the subject matter in the context of the times, but apparently Disney does not give viewers that same credit or is afraid of backlash for releasing this subject matter without that introduction. I can deal with it, especially if it means Disney will someday release Song of the South with the same disclaimers… pretty please?

The two disc set is once again inside a collectible tin. Instead of the tin itself being stamped with the series information, it’s on a Certificate of Authenticity inside. I don’t care about the collectible value of the set, as it’s the cartoons I’m really interested in. Apparently the folks at Disney listened to some of the criticism on their initial “Treasures” discs and outfitted newer releases with a PLAY ALL feature allowing viewers to watch all of the short subjects on a disc without having to be brought back to the menu at the end of each selection.

I’ve had the black and white cartoons on with my children and I was surprised at how much they enjoyed watching them with me. No, these are not the slick, fast-talking, action-oriented cartoons we’re used to seeing today. Maybe there’s a time and place for just some lazy entertainment that’s not quite that intense. It’s not something they ask for, but it’s something that I know if I put it in the DVD player the entire family enjoys watching it together.

Titles on the discs:

The Barn Dance – 1928
The Opry House – 1929
When The Cat’s Away 1929
The Barnyard Battle – 1929
The Plow Boy – 1929
Mickey’s Choo Choo – 1929
The Jazz Fool – 1929
Jungle Rhythm – 1929
Wild Waves – 1929
Just Mickey – 1930
The Barnyard Concert – 1930
The Cactus Kid – 1930
The Shindig – 1930
The Picnic – 1930
Traffic Troubles – 1931
The Castaway – 1931
Fishin’ Around – 1931
The Barnyard Broadcast – 1931
The Beach Party – 1931
The Mad Dog – 1932
Barnyard Olympics – 1932
Musical Farmer – 1932
Trader Mickey – 1932
The Wayward Canary – 1932
Mickey’s Pal Pluto – 1933
Mickey’s Mechanical Man – 1933
Playful Pluto – 1934
Mickey’s Steam-Roller – 1934
Mickey Plays Papa – 1934
Mickey’s Kangaroo – 1935
The Haunted House – 1929
The Moose Hunt – 1931
The Delivery Boy – 1931
The Grocery Boy – 1932
Mickey in Arabia – 1932
Mickey’s Good Deed – 1932
Mickey’s Mellerdrammer – 1933
The Steeplechase – 1933
Shanghaied – 1934
Mickey’s Man Friday – 1935

Bonus Material

• Mickey Mania: Collecting Mickey Merchandise
• Mickey’s Portrait Artist: John Hench
• Mickey’s Sunday Funnies: A Virtual Comic Strip
• Background Painting Gallery
• Animation Drawings Gallery
• Mickey’s Poster Archive
• Mickey Mouse, Fully Covered

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2021 Road Trip Day 5: Waterloo, IA to Omaha, NE – The Day The Music Died

I stayed overnight in Waterloo, IA in preparation for another place I wanted to see, which was in Clear Lake, IA. This was a place I wanted to visit for whatever reason long before I started geocaching. I can’t explain why I wanted to see it so much, but I did.

First up, though, was an earthcache about glacial erratics. Earthcaches do not have containers to find. Instead, when I go to the coordinates, there are science-related questions I must find the answers to. In Madison, NH we have the largest known glacial erratic in North America, but these rock are an anomaly on the prairie.

The Surf Ballroom is where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper played for the Winter Dance Party on February 2, 1959. Their bus was broken down so Holly chartered a plane to take them to the next gig. The rest is history. The cache here is a virtual one, so I took a picture at the box office and found the answer to the question.

The actual crash location is a field near Clear Lake, IA. There’s a memorial of Holly’s glasses at the edge of the dirt road and the field, and then it’s about a 1/3 of a mile walk to the actual crash site. People like to hang sunglasses on the glasses memorial as well as at the marker at the actual site. I have to say it felt very spiritual to be there. I don’t necessarily think it’s due to it being the crash site, but from all the spiritual energy of all the people who have made a pilgrimage here over the years. I shed some tears, despite this being before my time.

Iowa farmland is interesting. As I drove around on back roads after visiting The Day The Music Died sites, I came across factory farm after factory farm. I tried hard to see this when it was all family-owned farms, but it was hard to picture. I had never driven across the prairies before, so this was a new sight for me.

Iowa also has places that have recreated the old Burma-Shave signs ending with “Our Iowa” instead of Burma Shave. A number of these had caches nearby, so I saw a number of them.

I had a picnic lunch by a creek as I drove around the state. My goal for the day was to finish in Omaha. I lost track of time driving around and ended up having to stop caching to drive straight to Omaha from near Des Moines.

The cool cache of the day was in a rest area and modeled on The Sword in the Stone. There’s a bit of a trick to pull the cache out of the fake rock, and I managed to do it! I felt like Thor when he got his hammer back! I AM WORTHY!!!

I finished my day in Omaha where I found a great Mexican restaurant just across from the hotel. I was just across the street from the minor league ballpark. Unfortunately, there was no game going on (probably why the hotel was the cheapest in the area). I would have gone to a game if I could have.

Book Review: Dead by Dawn by Paul Doiron

I received an advance reader copy of this book after winning a drawing at Goodreads.

Those of us who have faithfully followed the exploits of Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch usually now what to expect. Author Paul Doiron teased the story over the winter a bit on his author page. I thought I had a good idea what this was about and what would happen.

Boy was I wrong.

Mike Bowditch is having a bit of a crisis in his personal life. His sometimes girlfriend, State Trooper Dani Tate, is in line for a new job that will separate them even more than they are now. It’s Christmas and she wants to spend it with her mother. Mike is deliberating between that and visiting his close friends Charlie and Ora, but their daughter (and his former girlfriend) Stacey has come home, setting up a possibly very uncomfortable holiday there.

Against this backdrop, as he tries to think through everything and make a decision, he receives a letter from a rather well-to-do Maine resident who thinks the investigation into her father-in-law’s death was botched by his fellow wardens. She cast the right bait and Mike decides to have a conversation with her when he has to take his wolf-dog, Shadow, to the vet for a checkup.

Later that same day, his Warden vehicle is sabotaged and sent to the bottom of the river. Mike and Shadow survive, but are being hunted down for a reason he’s not entirely clear about. In Maine in December, surviving a stormy night is not an easy thing to do, even when you aren’t being stalked.

The novel changes point of view each chapter, from the build-up to the crash, to Mike trying to survive afterwards. This works very well as it keeps the tension high without giving it all away at the beginning of the book. Mike’s investigation and personal revelations take on a different meaning when viewed from survival mode. The pace is good, keeping the tension high and the reader guessing until the end.

Although Dead by Dawn can be read without having read previous novels in the series, it’s much better knowing Mike’s back-story and the details of his past experiences, both as a game warden and in his personal life. Some of it does come back into play here.

When rating this on Goodreads, I gave it four stars. The only detraction was that Mike does come off as something of a super-hero with how much he goes through without so much as breaking a bone. He reminds me a lot of the fallible character of Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly’s novels, as both are driven by a need for justice and learning the truth, but their methods might make you shake your head sometimes. Bowditch had great depth after twelve novels, but I think he needs to suffer some human consequences.

I did love Dead by Dawn and read it in about 3 days. I do believe it’s the best of the series in terms of action and tension. The pacing is great. If you want more depth to Maine Game Wardens than what you see on North Woods Law reruns, this is a great book.

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Star Trek: The Mark of Gideon – Failed Execution in Many Ways

Written by George F. Slavin, Stanley Adams, Arthur H. Singer, and Gene Roddenberry
Directed by Jud Taylor

Sometimes a story sounds great on the surface; I can hear the pitch for this one now: “You’ve got this planet that’s overpopulated because they’ve eradicated disease and they concoct an elaborate ruse to steal Captain Kirk’s germs…”

Okay, maybe not all that brilliant….

The Captain (William Shatner) prepares to beam down to the planet Gideon. They are debating joining the Federation, so this is an exercise in diplomacy. However, instead of finding himself on the planet, he ends up back on the Enterprise. It is seemingly deserted. It takes a few moments, but he finds one other humanoid on the Enteprise, a female who calls herself Odona (Sharon Acker).

Meanwhile, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is contacted by the Gideons who claim Captain Kirk never arrived there. There is a lot of circular talk by the Gideon Ambassador which boils down to them not allowing Spock or anyone else to beam down and search for the Captain.

The Captain arrives on what seems to be the bridge of the deserted Enterprise. He sees that they are still orbiting Gideon, but he is unable to contact anyone on the ship except for Odona. Later, he looks at the viewscreen and they have apparently left orbit. He has no idea where they are.

Odana describes her planet in a way that sounds like it is very crowded. When she and the Captain are kissing, there appear faces on the viewscreen, but he doesn’t see it. He then hears a noise coming from outside the ship. He opens a viewing port and they see people outside the ship, before they disappear to a starfield.

There are so many obvious problems and plot-holes, I have to address some of them. How would the Gideons know what a Federation Starship to create such a complete and convincing replica? They aren’t even members of the Federation. Second, on a planet that is supposedly so crowded people are packed together like sardines, where did they find the room to build this elaborate replica?

Wouldn’t the story make better sense that they are reaching out to try to find different worlds for their people? There seem to be a lot of Federation colonies out there – maybe the Gideons can join them or start a few of their own.

The ability to completely duplicate the Enterprise in such detail would seem to suggest the Gideons are quite intelligent. However, nothing else they do this entire episode suggests the same thing.

If the purpose of The Mark of Gideon was to suggest what would happen on a world with overpopulation and little disease, it misses the mark. Yes, we are generally living longer as a society thanks to medical advances, but the depiction here is unrealistic. Depletion of our natural resources would doom us to starve or die of exposure long before it got to the point that we were packed onto the planet like sardines. Also, they revere life too much to consider anything like abortion or birth control, yet they are willing to basically Jim-Jones a healthy portion of their population. This episode actually makes the case that perhaps Thanos had a point and was more humane than they were.

The best part of The Mark of Gideon were the verbal dances between Spock and Ambassador Hodin (David Hurst). Spock must have worked retail or hospitality at some point in his life as he exhibits the patience of a saint with a stupid customer the ambassador. The dialog between the two is well-written and executed.

However, The Mark of Gideon is flawed in too many ways to suffer through the episode merely for the verbal sparring. I know some of it had to due with writing stories that would work under the budget constraints, but this one really suffers for it.

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Book Review: One Pitch Away by Mike Sowell – What Happened During & After the 1986 Baseball Season

Being a New York Mets fan, the 1986 baseball season was the ultimate high in my life. I say that even having had three children, that’s how much of a fanatic I am. However, after the euphoria following the World Series win, I always had moments where I mused over the fate of Bill Buckner. He’d had a pretty good career up until that fateful play in the last inning of Game Six of the World Series, when the Boston Red Sox seemed on the verge of winning only to throw it away. The final insult was the ball that dribbled through Buckner’s legs on what should have been a fairly easy play. Was that all he would be remembered for in baseball and not the years of being a top player and winning batting titles and awards?

In One Pitch Away, author Mike Sowell recounts the events of the 1986 Playoffs and World Series. Being a Mets fan, I hadn’t paid much attention to the series between the California Angels and Red Sox, except in regard to who would be the opponent of the National League Champions. Sowell narrates the events, having interviewed players, managers, and coaches, with what was happening behind the scenes, how the players were feeling and thinking, and what was being said between the people involved.

Sowell manages to capture the excitement of the League Championship Playoffs and World Series in the first part of the book, setting the stage for the second part. He has gone back years later and interviewed some of the players who were on the various teams. Not all the players are interviewed, but there are enough that it gives a good overview of what happened in the series.

One particularly tragic story is that of Donnie Moore, the Angels pitcher who felt as if the reason the Angels lost the series was because of him. There were other issues in his life that led to the headlines he made a few years later when he attempted to murder his wife and then committed suicide, but Sowell details here through a series of interviews with friends, teammates, and family how Moore continually beat himself up over the 1986 American League Playoffs.

One question for me as a Mets fan was always the dominance of Mike Scott in that playoff series. Accusations of his doctoring the ball after he suddenly became an unhittable pitcher followed him all season long, but never with the fervor that the Mets players and the New York press gave it. As Mets players collected baseballs pitched by Scott showing scuff marks all in the same place the noise level was ratcheted up. It became clear that if nothing else, Scott had the Mets psyched out. So does Scott admit to Sowell in an interview that he was doing something to the ball?

Of course I was anxious to get to the part where Sowell interviewed Bill Buckner. He doesn’t sound bitter in his interview but does admit that the infamous play has dogged him for years, although he denies that’s the reason he left the Boston area or that he sold the World Series ring.

The interviews where Sowell sticks to baseball are fine. Even the parts that dealt with the aftermath of the series and the ends of various careers was interesting. Hearing the bitterness in Doug DeCinces’ interview about his abrupt dismissal from the Angels shows the darker side of baseball. Players are often painted as “million dollar cry-babies” but you don’t hear the other side of it too often when the owners counteract with shabby treatment of players who stick with teams despite offers of more money from other cities.

Where Sowell misses is when he details too much of what the players are doing at the time he wrote the book. A brief paragraph is fine, but I don’t need to know all the details of the various financial investments they have made. Reading that Mookie Wilson goes around as a speaker to church and community groups is one thing, hearing the details of him getting a financial consultant license is another.

I think the interviews could have been pared down a bit because of this, and it’s one of the reasons I put One Pitch Away down several times before finishing it. I did find it interesting to read the players’ perspectives on this part of the season many years later. Even Gary Carter admits that Mike Scott had the Mets players more psyched-out than anything else; it didn’t matter what he was throwing anymore.

Over the years I’ve read books by some of the players involved in this season, some who are also interviewed here. I think taking it all together really helps form a picture of the entire season and post-season, and I do confess I liked some of the players’ books better than One Pitch Away.

For baseball fans who look beyond what’s played on the diamond, this is a decent book to get a look at the wider picture of the game, and how the effects of a good or bad play can linger for years or overshadow a career. This was definitely one of the most (of not the most) exciting Playoffs and World Series in baseball history and makes me want to locate videotapes of the games to watch with a different perspective that only knowing how it affected someone like Donnie Moore can give.

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2021 Road Trip Day 4: Tinley Park, IL to Waterloo, IA – Geocaching, Star Trek, and Baseball

So many places to see, so little time….

Initially, my outline had me staying in Davenport, IA overnight. I didn’t make it that far, so I still had to get through all of Illinois this morning.

They do like their corn here

I drove pretty much right across the state only stopping in the rest areas. I made it to Moline, IL, where I had a virtual cache at the John Deere Pavilion on my list to find. I wish the store there had been open. The kids’ toy trucks inside looked really interesting.

Across the river in Davenport, I found one of the few remaining webcam geocaches around. The idea here is to get a picture of yourself from a webcam to qualify as “finding” the geocache.

Just left of center there are two cars near the back of the row. The blue one closest to the camera is my “Tardis”

The next stop was in West Branch, IA. I didn’t know when I planned it out that it was the hometown of President Hoover. I just knew I had seen a few interesting geocaches there.

Unfortunately, most of the interesting places around town were closed either due to the pandemic or construction that was goin on. Time was tight anyway and I had two places I wanted to get to today, if I could. Fortunately, it was still morning since I’d gotten my start at 6 in the morning.

Riverside, Iowa was my #1 destination for the day. With the blessing of Gene Roddenberry and Paramount, it has been declared the “future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk.”

There’s a bronze statue to the man in a park in town. It’s not supposed to look too much like either of the actors who have portrayed James T. Kirk, but I think it looks like a young William Shatner.

Across the street from the statue is a Trek museum. It’s free to enter. Every year the city hosts Trekfest. The model of the Starship Riverside outside of the museum is one of their parade floats. They have other things that have come off of floats inside the museum, as well as some nice pieces.

I followed a great multi-geocache around town too. This is a geocache where you start at one place and gather clues to the next location. Some multi-caches are two steps, some are many, many more. This was a fairly easy 3-part multi-cache. The hardest part was finding parking and walking to the final location.

I checked the time when I was finished in Riverside and wondered if I could make it to my next destination. If I skipped any other geocaches on my list and just drove to the second major destination for this day, I could make it before it closed.

If You Build It They Will Come

I really wanted to visit the original Field of Dreams outside of Dyersville, IA. I got there at 4:30 and they close up at 6PM. They stop doing house tours at 4PM. I was okay with that since I wasn’t interested in seeing the inside of the house.

I sat for a while on the bleachers just enjoying the view. The corn hasn’t grown yet, so it doesn’t look like it does in the film. Still, it was very peaceful to be here.

The field in the back where the lights are is where the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox will play a game on August 12th

There were two geocaches here. One is a trivia cache that I did the legwork on at home, so I had the right coordinates. The second was a small one right by the entrance sign. I also talked with the girl at the entrance booth about geocaching. She didn’t know about it and after talking a bit she said she was interested in doing it!

I also spent entirely too much money in the gift shop here. But hey, it’s baseball!

Me, in front of the gift shop

It was late in the day at this point, and it had been my longest day so far. Still, I accomplished way more than I thought I would when I started out that morning. I was sure I would be staying overnight in Dubuque and going to Field of Dreams in the morning. Instead, I headed to Waterloo, IA and prepared for the next day.

Movie Review: Brubaker – The Arkansas Prison System Exposed by One Man

Written by W.D. Richter, Arthur Ross, Thomas O. Murton, Joe Hyams, and Bob Rafelson
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg

Once upon a time in Arkansas there was a prison ripe with corruption. Inmates were forced to work for local merchants while prison officials and guards raked in the money. Food intended for the prison population was sold off to local restaurants. Men routinely disappeared or were outright murdered in front of the other prisoners.

Robert Redford is Brubaker, a man who goes undercover at Wakefield Prison to get a feel for what’s really going on there. After witnessing the corruption and violence going on first-hand, he announces that he’s the new warden. He’s come in as a prisoner to get a feel for the prison and is now determined to clean up the corruption while at the same time maintaining discipline and order.

However, he faces resistance not just from the prison staff and locals who have benefited from the corruption all these years, but from some of the inmates themselves. Brubaker comes off as one man fighting the system as he slowly loses support the more single-minded he becomes about getting to the root of what has taken place at Wakefield.

Make no mistake, these are hardened criminals and I didn’t feel as if I were supposed to pity them. However, they were shown to be human beings who as such were entitled to a certain amount of decency. Brubaker was made in 1980, and I don’t know if the current general society where we shrug our shoulders at the horrors of Abu Ghraib Prison and the murdering of black Americans on camera will have that same sense of decency due a prison population.

The story is based on the story of Thomas Murton who penned the original novel about his experiences as a warden in Arkansas. Much of what is portrayed in Brubaker parallels those experiences although some liberties have been taken.

For the most part, the acting is well done. I thought David Keith did a terrific job as a skeptical inmate who ends up being Brubaker’s biggest ally. Yaphet Kotto is another inmate who is difficult to pin down throughout the movie. At times he seems to embrace the changes Brubaker is making; at others he’s resistant. It takes most of the film to figure him out.

Jane Alexander holds her own as virtually the only woman in the cast. She’s strong without losing her femininity at a time when women were just starting to break through some of the social barriers which prevented them from holding a position such as hers. It’s a hard line to straddle as too much strength would had her tossed aside as either a “bitch” or lesbian.

Morgan Freeman is also in Brubaker as a prisoner confined to the solitary room. He does a terrific job with what is really a small role and shows signs of what his career would be in ten years.

The biggest problem is Redford himself. He did an okay job as the warden, presenting a strong façade in the face of all opposition. However, he looked too good for the role. He stood out above the prison and guard population, which would have been fine if he came across more animated. During his time as an inmate, he stayed quiet and seemed to possess a “deer in the headlights” look the majority of the time. Once he revealed himself, what was supposed to be portraying strength just didn’t convince me.

I was surprised at the excellent quality of the movie on DVD after all these years. The prints have been kept well and the DVD picture was really good.

As far as prison movies go, this one isn’t horrible. I think there was possible mis-casting with Redford, but it’s not horrible by any means. The violence – both graphic and insinuated – might turn some people off but it’s not gratuitous by any means. Overall, I’d recommend it for viewing as I think we really have to challenge our views at times in regard to what is the level of respect due to someone as another human being.

Special Features:
– Theatrical Trailer
– TV Spots
– Fox Flix Previews

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Book Review: These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Laura and Almanzo’s Romance in Color!

When I was about nine, a friend of the family gave me my first Little House book. I was immediately captivated by the stories within and read them over and over through the years. The copy I had contained wonderful illustrations by Garth Williams to accompany the story. Eventually I was given all of the books in the series, plus a few other collections of Laura’s writings. I gave my set to my oldest daughter and it soon became scattered in their room. I ended up purchasing another set.

About a year ago I wanted to read the books again for myself. Unfortunately my daughters could no longer assemble a complete set between them. I wanted a set of books for ME now that would be hand-off for the rest of the family. When we traveled to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri I saw exactly what I wanted.

These Happy Golden Years begins subsequent to the events at the end of the previous novel, Little Town on the Prairie. Laura has accomplished what she set out to do – become a schoolteacher to help her family. At a time when teachers had to be sixteen, Laura was granted a teaching certificate a little more than a month shy of that birthday. Pa is taking Laura to the home of Mr. And Mrs. Brewster, who will house her while she teaches school nearby.

For Laura, this marks her first time away from home. Mrs. Brewster seems to have an inconsistent mental disposition and her erratic behavior at times makes Laura fear for her life. Three of the five students she is teaching are older than her. Laura is challenged to try to find a way to teach one student who is intent on making her job all that difficult by refusing to study the lessons she assigns.

To mitigate all of the difficulties Laura finds away from home, she finds herself being whisked home on Friday afternoons by Almanzo Wilder. Laura doesn’t know what to make of the attention he’s giving her. Almanzo has a great deal of patience and gives Laura the room she needs to realize her own affection for the young farmer.

These Happy Golden Years is really the story of Laura and Almanzo’s courtship. Although there are other events, such as Laura teaching school two other times, Mary’s visits home, terrible storms that come across the prairie, and even another terrible encounter with Nellie Oleson, the main focus of the book is the courtship between the two. Laura’s written this in such a way that it’s not overt; it’s not like every page I read talked about romance or had Laura gushing over Almanzo. Over the course of the three years the book covers the relationship is always there, whether it’s Almanzo coming by on a Sunday afternoon to take Laura for a buggy ride or her receiving a special, surprise gift at Christmastime.

Laura’s also grown into a young woman, and even like the girls of today, she’s become more concerned about fashion. She takes a job sewing in town to earn money to have some nicer clothes. Another time, she spends part of the summer with one of the seamstresses she’s worked for helping her to hold down a land-claim. At the end of each harvest season, though, Almanzo comes back around.

Reading about Laura riding with Almanzo either in the buggy or the cutter sleigh is fun, especially when they are trying to break the unruly horses. Laura writes of this time with such a distinct fondness I could tell this was a very positive memory for her.

With my own daughter about to turn fifteen, it’s hard to think of her in terms of being a schoolteacher and doing some of the things Laura does in the book. I think most teenagers would really e in awe if they read these passages and sat down and thought about it. Laura never once thinks of asking her family for money for clothes and the like, and is very eager to contribute to the family when she can.

There are familiar people in These Happy Golden Years as Laura and Almanzo go on buggy rides with Mary Powers and Cap Garland, Ida Brown, and the previously-mentioned Nellie Oleson. Almanzo’s sister Eliza Jane doesn’t make an appearance, but is the primary reason behind the hasty wedding between Laura and Almanzo at the end of the book.

I spent several weeks reading These Happy Golden Years at night before bed with my daughters the first time we read it through together. Laura’s descriptions of the setting and events is excellent, and comes with years of practice being the “eyes” for her blind sister, Mary. I don’t find her descriptions to be overwritten and bogged down, but fascinating. The way she describes the trip she takes with Pa across the prairie to her first teaching job is so detailed I could just picture the two of them in the bobsled together, even without the illustration which accompanied it. This is true of many of Laura’s descriptions. The story of Almanzo and her racing to escape an impending storm is done so well I could picture the clouds building in the sky and the amazing energy gathering all around them in their awesome expanse of the prairie.

My new edition of These Happy Golden Years is a paperback bound book with the same beautiful illustrations by Garth Williams that I grew up with. The difference is that they are now in color, rather than the pen-and-ink style drawings I first saw all those years ago. Sometimes I think a bit of extra color was added – after all, when you have a brown sled against a stark, snow-covered prairie it’s nice to add a lavender blanket to the mix. However, illustrations such as the drawing accompanying the story Laura’s Uncle Tom tells about being run out of Indian Territory are very well done as the illustration now shows the bright orange flame against the brown of the stockade walls. I loved the illustration of Mary’s first trip home after being away at college. For some reason the color really brings out the drawing here more, especially seeing Mary’s light blonde hair against the blue of the dress she’s wearing.

In any of the earlier books, I noticed an increase in the font size with the new editions. That doesn’t seem to be the case with this edition of These Happy Golden Years . When I read the story with my girls, the chapters were the perfect size to read one each night at bedtime.

If you’ve never read the books, I definitely feel they are worth it for adults as well. I am enjoying reading them again just by myself for the first time in years. If you have children, it’s a wonderful experience which will spark lots of conversation and questions about life so many years ago.

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2021 Road Trip Day 3: Macedonia, OH to Tinley Park, IL

Brandywine Falls, Northfield OH

Once again I set the alarm for 6AM to get on the road before many other people were. I drove towards the Starbucks down the road, only to find they didn’t open until 3PM on Sunday! Well, this was a problem.

Good fortune smiled on me at Brandywine Falls. I had been talking about this place with my friends I dined with the night before and lo and behold it was on my list! There was an earthcache here (where I had to answer a series of science-related questions to log the find) as well as a virtual one.

My goal was to get to Iowa today. I didn’t make it, but I ended up finding many geocaches in Ohio and then kind of speeding along through Indiana, only stopping at the rest areas. Still, I saw some really cool places.

Milan, Ohio was a gorgeous small town that happened to be where Thomas Edison grew up. It still looked so historic I had to snap a few pictures at the village green.

There were also a few caches in a Nature Preserve that I walked around in. It was great to stretch my legs here!

Do you know who Mildred Wirt-Benson was? She was one of the authors of the Nancy Drew books who wrote under the pseudonym “Carolyn Keene.” I visited her gravesite in Toledo.

Here I am, in 3 states at the same time! There was a great virtual cache here, but a physical cache nearby appeared to be missing.

There were some great caches I found today that challenged me a bit.

The cache on the lower left was in a cemetery on the back roads of Ohio. The cache itself was in the piece of wood attached to a corner fence-post of the cemetery. Although you can’t see it, there are two pins near the bottom of the piece of wood that I had to pull out, and the cache container dropped out of the bottom. It is very clever and not immediately obvious when in the area.

The cache on the lower right was just outside of a service area in Indiana. I walked out the back of the fence to this telephone pole. On top of the white tube is a fake pine-cone. When I lifted it up, the cache container was attached to it.

All in all, this was a productive day, although the next day I would start seeing some of the destinations I’d made it a point to seek out this trip.