New Hampshire Rail Trails: Hiking & Geocaching on the Presidential Rail Trail

Rail trails are a popular walking area that have come to many communities. Old railroad lines that have been abandoned are repurposed to recreational trails for the community.

The Presidential Rail Trail is located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It’s 18 miles long, total, from Gorham, NH to Whitefield, NH. The old tracks and ties have been removed to create a nice, flat surface that is great for walking, jogging, biking, and horseback riding. Some sections do allow for ATV use. In the winter it’s used for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

The trail cuts through the mountains for some great scenery, even during our “mud season” before the trees have bloomed and everything looks barren.

We were there for geocaching. There are many caches along this trail. I started working on it years ago when I first started geocaching, and have been coming back to find a few more on each trip.

I’m about halfway through all of the geocaches on the trail.

I took my son and my grand-daughter on a section of the trail I hadn’t done yet. It headed east from Jefferson Notch Road. That road cuts through the mountains and has quite a few geocaches on it as well, but is closed by the Forest Service in the winter months.

The trail is pretty flat and doesn’t have much in the way of an incline. The section we walked ended up being about 5 miles, round-trip. We were tired at the end, but not like when we were hiking in the mountains. We found 15 of 16 geocaches hidden in this section.

One cache we found we couldn’t retrieve. Many people use old pill containers as geocache containers. This was wedged between two trees. As recently as last year, someone managed to get it out of it’s spot. When we arrived, for the first time anyone found the geocache in 2020, it was impossible to remove. The tree had grown around the container and would not let us remove it.

The only people we ran into that day were two people on bicycles. Because the Presidential Rail trail is so far north, many people avoid it as day-trips, preferring places that are closer to the larger cities in the south. It’s more popular with locals, and in the summer when people camp closer to this area.

We also found a pretty nifty swimming spot. If it had been warmer we probably would have done just that. I don’t know if this is as deep during the summer months. With the winter snow-melt, the water looked very inviting and crystal clear. Since there were some easy ways to get to the water around the bridge, I think people did come here and at least get their feet wet and cool off on hot days.

The water was part of the Israel River, which runs all along this section of the trail. It was so nice with all the time we’ve had to spend inside to be able to enjoy a beautiful spot like this.

This is a great trail with terrific scenery. In these days, it’s quiet status is also appealing. Whatever your activity, it’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy yourself some, even if it’s just a walk to take in the views.

Corona Virus Diaries – May 8, 2020

Our county now is showing 35 known cases of Corona virus. I say “known” because we didn’t have abundant testing until very recently. Who knows how many people have had it already. I don’t think it’s been that prevalent – our nursing homes didn’t seem to have an outbreak. We now have a drive-thru testing site about 20 minutes south of us near the State Police barracks. Until there is anti-body testing, it’s impossible to say how many people were exposed in the area though.

2013 was my “year from hell”, to co-opt a Star Trek: Voyager episode. For anyone who doesn’t know, that year I lost my mother to cancer in February. In April my mother-in-law died. In June my oldest daughter committed suicide. My aunt died in October. In December, an internet friend who I knew for many years who shared the exact same birthday as me died of a massive heart attack. I started out 2014 by taking a fall on the ice at the hotel where I was a night manager and sustaining a severe concussion. I had started anti-depressants when my mother was dying. For many years I had struggled with depression and not known it or acknowledged it. With everything that happened in that year, my brain was pretty screwed up. I tried varying medications but I’ve never been 100% again. I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and PTSD (I had discovered my daughter’s body).

PTSD is not fun. I didn’t even know that was what I was experiencing at first when it happened. I would be lying in bed, convinced there was someone in the room standing over me, and it was a malevolent presence. I thought my daughter or my mother was angry with me and was haunting me. (I do believe in “ghosts” but that’s for another time.) I’d be laying in bed, paralyzed with fear until something snapped. Sometimes I’d wake up screaming. There was one time I remember laying in bed, sort of half-asleep, convinced there was someone in the room with us and I woke up screaming for someone to “Get the gun!”. Fortunately, our guns are always securely locked up and unloaded and we were in a hotel room at the time.

In 2017 I got tired of how I felt on all of the medication and quit them. Bad idea. The anti-depressants were added back but not as strong, but I did manage to stop taking the PTSD meds. All has been good until recently. The vivid dreams where I wake-up mid-dream screaming are back. Last night I was having a dream with a vivid argument with my mother and woke up mid-argument, yelling at her. Yes, I was yelling out loud and woke up the spouse.

I’ve been trying to stress from the beginning the mental toll this will take on people. Fear of the unknown is a tough thing. There are so many unknowns with this, especially fear of getting the virus and fear of a loved one getting the virus. America does not have a good social safety net and those fears are very real as well. Up here we’re in the time of year many people make money that carries them through the year, so there’s also a fear of a loss of income, loss of home, loss of vehicles, fear of hunger; just a general fear of what tomorrow brings because not getting the disease can be as big a disaster for people as getting it can be.

It’s one of the reason a lot of people want to get back to work. I watched a lot of friends dismiss this as the rich wanting the poor to get back to work so they can eat out. I’m sure that’s a part of it, but the other part is there’s no plan in place for those on the lower end of the economic spectrum to survive this. Many of those people want to get back to work. It’s not that they don’t fear the virus, but the virus is the unknown. They know they have bills that have to be paid. They know there is rent that might be deferred right now, but eventually will be due. Utilities have to be paid, car payments, food purchased, etc. The unemployment bonus runs out on July 31. My son is on that right now and without that bonus he would be collecting $69 per week for unemployment. I can guarantee oil companies up here won’t be delivering on credit this winter unless you’ve been established with them a long time. It’s hard to figure out how to heat your home and buy food on $69 per week even if you can’t be evicted or have the utilities shut off.

I am fortunate not to have those fears hanging over me, but plenty of people do. It’s a scary time for a lot of reasons, and most people are talking but not listening to other people and what’s going on. If you truly think people should not be going back to work, then you need to be out there advocating for a safety net extended for them through next winter. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would really matter as the current leaders in Washington don’t care much about the “least among us.” That’s not going to change until January 2021, at the earliest, and my feeling is the death toll from this disease is the price we are paying for allowing these past four years to happen.

Movie Review: Erin Brockovich Proves You Can Hate the Main Character, but Still Love the Film

Written by Susannah Grant
Directed by Steven Soderbrgh

Let me say right off the bat that I don’t like the character of Erin Brockovich in this film. I don’t know how true to the real person it is, but the chip she has on her shoulder for anyone who’s educated and/or wears a suit really wore on me about halfway through. Did it not ever occur to her that she was looking down her nose at them just as much as she seems to believe they are at her?

There are other problems with this film as well. As I began researching the background for this review, I came across a few problems with the story portrayed here. Check out the website for the real story. One of the depictions in the film is that Brockovich just picks up on the cancer story all on her own, when in actuality the job of talking with the residents of Hinkley, California is turned over to her by her boss.

That said, this is a good movie. It just isn’t true.

Julia Robert’s Erin Brockovich encounters lawyer Ed Masry (portrayed by Albert Finney) when he takes on her auto accident case and loses. Though it is really Erin’s fault that the case is lost, Erin manages to make the good-hearted Ed feel guilty and give her a job in his firm. Her job is to file. However, she begins to read the files – not necessarily a bad thing at all.

When she finds some strange medical records in a real-estate file, Erin begins her crusade. She bullies Ed into taking on the case of the people of Hinkley, California versus Pacific Gas & Electric (who were, I am sure, positively thrilled that this movie came out).

What makes the movie good is that Erin is not portrayed as a saint. She’s a marginal mother; leaving her children first with “the chicken fat lady” and later with her neighbor and soon-to-be lover, a biker/sometimes construction worker who genuinely likes the kids. Erin doesn’t mind using her body and her sex to get what she wants. She abrasive and rude. At one point she calls Conchata Ferrell’s character, Office Manager Brenda, “Krispy Kreme”.

What she does do good, however, is relate to the people of Hinkley. They talk to her because they feel like she’s one of them, rather than some fast-talking “suit”.

I couldn’t help but laugh sometimes at Erin’s brashness, while at other times I cringed. I was pretty much thought of as the unconventional one when I worked in an office, but I could never imagine treating my co-workers and boss with the complete lack of respect Erin displays here.

It works better when we see Erin as an intelligent woman who never had the opportunity to get the education she so deserved. She was a beauty queen at one point. That may mean that she “cruised” through school the same way many athletes do; never focusing on the subjects at hand, yet being passed by the teachers. It may mean that her parents told her not to worry about her education at a time when her looks could secure her a “decent man” to take care of her (never mind that she’s now had two marriages with little or no alimony or child support to show for it). We don’t know the reason behind it, but we can see that this is a smart woman when she takes the chip off of her shoulder.

The performances here are perfect. I give credit to director Steven Soderbergh who keeps the performances on track and the movie flowing without a descent into self-pity on the part of Erin or anyone else. Ed does not cry out for someone to rescue his firm when he’s in over his head in costs. In the one scene where it is depicted, he is simply stating a fact. Erin makes no apologies or excuses for why she is neglecting her children; she wants the respect she believes this case will give her and says it. (Never mind that if she treated people decently, she could earn the respect that way.)

However, I don’t believe that Julia Roberts’ performance was Oscar-worthy. That’s not to say she didn’t give a good performance in the role; I just don’t see what she brought to the part over a myriad of other actresses. That is my definition of an Oscar-worthy performance: when the actor or actress makes the role their own. This may have been one of the better performances of her career, but there was nothing in her performance that stood out over her work in Pretty Woman or Steel Magnolias. Either the field of nominees that year was particularly dull or she was given the nod on the scope of her work rather than just this performance.

I enjoyed the Bonus Material on the DVD, even if it continued the fallacy that this is a true story. The Spotlight – On Location tells all about the making of the movie. It contains interviews with the actors, directors, writers, and the real Erin Brockovich-Ellis.

There is also a short biographical piece on the real Erin Brockovich, although most of this material is repeated from what is in the Spotlight – On Location piece.

The deleted scenes, however, are a gem. Many of them are scenes which I wish were included in a longer, director’s cut. That’s not to say that this movie is short by any means. It is a long film already, but I thought the deleted scenes added quite a bit to what was going on. There is quite a bit deleted showing Erin and Ed’s involvement emotionally with the plaintiffs. The entire subplot of Erin becoming sick after investigating the case was deleted as well.

These scenes can be watched with the director’s comments which I did and found interesting. It consisted mostly of his reasoning for cutting the scenes when the movie was running so long already.

Also included on the DVD are the usual Theatrical Trailer, Production Notes, Cast & Filmmaker Biographies, and some “Coming Soon” previews of soon-to-be-released DVDs.

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Book Review – Worldwar: Striking the Balance by Harry Turtledove

Worldwar: Striking the Balance is the conclusion of a 4-part series by Harry Turtledove. The genre here is known as Alternate History which means the author takes a historical event – or series of historical events – and says “what if this happened instead?”

In this case, Turtledove poses the question “What if at the beginning of World War II – in the summer of 1942 – an alien race decided to invade Earth?”

If it sounds too science-fiction like, or something out of a bad B-movie, that was my initial impression as well. I hesitated on starting this series of novels because of that.

However, after I was about 100 pages into the first novel, I was hooked. Turtledove has a PhD in Byzantine History and has taught at universities, so he knows his history well. Add to that his creation of characters that I could relate to and that developed more fully as the series has unfolded, and you have the makings of a great piece of historical fiction as well.

City after city on the planet is exploding in atomic fireballs. The invaders – known as The Race or Lizards are still of the mindset that they can subjugate humanity under them and occupy the planet. However, things are not working out as they planned. Although their technology is intimidating to the humans (it seems to be about the scale of our technology in the 1990’s), humanity is too innovative for them and strikes back in some amazing, covert ways. They trot out nerve and mustard gas to use against the Lizards. Before a mass distribution of gas masks can begin, the factory the Lizards are using to manufacture them is covertly destroyed. Couple that with the humans’ realization that the herb ginger has a cocaine-like effect on the Lizards and the ways humans strike at the Lizards becomes full of small, annoying digs at the strength of the invaders.

Leaders of the top nations realize they probably cannot force the Lizards to leave the planet entirely. There are twists and turns at every corner that take the reader by surprise. It is an amazingly suspenseful read.

Turtledove has continued with the same characters throughout the novels. He paints a wide canvas and to follow them he must jump around a lot. At times, that can be confusing. However, it is necessary since Turtledove is not above killing off a main character.

He manages to intertwine his fictional characters – including those of The Race – with historical figures such as Robert Goddard, Mao Tse-Tung, Otto Skorzeny, Josef Stalin, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Menachem Begin, and Omar Bradley. His characters are rich and full by this point in the series. There is Sam Yeager, the former minor-league ballplayer turned Lizard attach??; Liu-Han, the Chinese peasant woman turned rising figure in the Communist Party; Ludmila Gorbunova, RAF pilot in love with Nazi Panzer (tank) Colonel Heinrich Jaeger; Moishe Russie, who has traveled from the Warsaw ghetto to London and now to the Middle East; and many more.

The Lizard characters are also well-rounded, especially because of the background we’ve been given throughout the series. Especially in the case of Ussmak, a Landcruiser (tank) driver, I found myself feeling for the alien. Believing he was doing the right thing, he ends up in a Russian gulag and slowly loses the will to live.

Turtledove does not soften anyone here. He does not make the Nazi’s “nice” simply because the aliens invade. They act with the same superlative attitude thy displayed throughout the Second World War. As the book winds down, the only question becomes if their bravado and blind desire to destroy the Jewish race will result in the annihilation of their country or will fate – and Heinrich Jaeger – save his homeland at the cost of being labeled a traitor?

Another fascinating bit is watching Atvar – who is the Fleetlord, or leader, of The Race – continually be frustrated by the actions of human beings. For example, when The Race manages to get a large amount of southern blacks to work with them, they figure they have their loyalty since they have observed the terrible way blacks were treated in the South. He underestimates their loyalty to their own race when – after being armed – they turn on their base commanders at a Lizard base in Florida.

The small acts such as the rebellion of the blacks in Florida, the continual guerilla warfare used by the Chinese Communists, and the destroying of the gas-mask factory begin to tell Atvar that he will never find peace on this planet with humanity. Even if they managed to occupy the planet, he would probably be subjected to continued tactics such as these against Lizard positions.

There is no easy solution to the situation. The Race is not about to pack up and leave since a colonization fleet is already on its way. The humans have demonstrated that they will destroy the planet rather than allow themselves to be subjected to occupation. How the situation is finally resolved sets it up perfectly for a sequel – the next series is titled Colonization and picks up with many of the characters twenty years later.

Though you could probably pick up this last book and read it on it’s own, to really know the history of characters you are better off reading the series from the beginning.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Arsenal of Freedom

Written by Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, Maurice Hurley, Robert Lewin, Hannah Louise Shearer, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Les Landau

Riker: The name of my ship is the Lollipop
Rodriguez: I have no knowledge of that ship
Riker: It’s just been commissioned. It’s a good ship

Yes, that is an actual conversation from this first season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As the season is winding down, the episodes seem to be getting better. This is definitely one of the better ones.

The Enterprise travels to the planet Minos in the Lorenz Cluster to find out what happened to the U.S.S. Drake. Captain Rodriguez was in command of that ship, and he happened to know Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) back in Starfleet Academy.

What they discover is a planet devoid of intelligent life which was once habited by a race of arms merchants. An away team led by Riker beams down to the planet surface. Quickly they are assaulted by an unknown enemy. After having the conversation above with what is apparently a holographic image of the dead Captain Rodriguez, Riker is encased in a sort of force field presumably for transport to an interrogation center at a later time.

With only Data (Brent Spiner) and Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) on the planet, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) beams down along with the Doctor Crusher (Gates McFadden) to try to free Riker and see if he is injured. Just as Data and Yar manage to free Riker, they are once again attacked. Trying to fool the attacker, the crew separates. It is at this point that Picard and Dr. Crusher fall down a hole into some sort of cave.

Meanwhile, Geordi LaForge (Levar Burton), the blind helmsman of the Enterprise has been left in command of the ship. They are also being attacked by an unknown enemy. There is a sub-plot here where the Chief Engineer feels he outranks Geordi and wants command to be turned over to him.

This episode has good character development for Geordi, Picard and Crusher. While trapped in the unknown hole, Crusher begins to go into shock. To keep her conscious, Picard engages her in a series of conversations which subtly shows there is a deeper attachment between the two of them.

With Geordi, we get to see that at times he is unsure of himself, and the confrontations with Chief Engineer Logan aren’t helping. What isn’t explored, however, is exactly what Logan’s problem with Geordi is. Does he feel that because he is blind he should not be in command? Does he feel that he has more practical experience than Geordi? Does he outrank him? The source of the conflict between the two of them is never established and makes this part of the plot feel forced. It probably doesn’t help at all that the actor portraying Logan is terrible in the role.

The writing is better than some episodes, but not great, so I feel the actors deserve the credit for making this episode work. They seem to be finding their footing in regards to their characters. Jonathan Frakes especially seems to be defining Riker in more human terms rather than as a cartoonish Captain Kirk knock-off. There is also more action here than we have seen previously this season – and not the space-battle type either. Though it is not too suspenseful, it does fit well with the story and manages to entertain.

In the end, the crew surmises what killed off life on the planet and what happened to the Drake: all of what they experience here is an elaborate demonstration of the newest armament system developed by the merchants. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to turn it off until Picard finds what seems to be an obvious solution. It’s the sort of thing that leaves you feeling “Why didn’t anyone else think of that?”

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Corona Virus Diaries – May the 4th Be With You

I’m a Star wars geek from the first movie back in 1977. I saw it seven nights at the $1.50 movie theater in town. I scheduled my driving road test for the same day Return of the Jedi came out so I could take the road test in the morning and go to the movie in the afternoon.

I’ve been watching Star Wars movies all day today, but I still feel just so blah. I know it’s the effects of the quarantine. Usually I have fun with this day. I watched some of the new Lego Star Wars series and my 4 year old granddaughter was watching it with me.

Today I had to cancel the third piece of travel I had scheduled for this year. The first was a cruise I should have been on last week. The second was a trip to the U.K. the end of this month. Today I cancelled a Baltic cruise for September I had planned with friends for over a year. Our pay-in-full date was coming up, and I didn’t think the cruise would happen. Truth is, I think the entire summer cruise season for Europe isn’t going to happen. I’m not willing to tie up more money with the cruise lines at this point. I have five cruise-next certificates with Norwegian sitting out there now, plus another credit for them cancelling the cruise last week. We’re going to apply what we can to a cruise next January for my 55th birthday. Maybe that will actually happen.

That has me bummed as I binged on the Star Wars movies. It’s fun to nitpick on these now. No matter how much George Lucas says he had the stories planned to some extent when the first movie was filmed, I don’t believe him. There are way too many inconsistencies and contradictions. At some point I’ll review all of the movies, but right now I want to talk about one thing. If we’re to believe Lucas’ statement that he had a certain amount of the story in mind from the beginning – such as Vader being Luke’s father – then we have to wonder….

Why the hell is his name Luke SKYWALKER?

At the end of Revenge of the Sith, we are given to believe that Padme Amidala dies of a broken heart or something. I have a friend who believes that in order to live and transform into Darth Vader, Anakin drew life-energy from her and that’s what killed her. Either way, she gives birth to twins. Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi make the decision to separate them and send them off to live away from Vader. Fine, Leia goes to live with Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan and his wife and takes their last name – perfect. Luke, however, is sent to live with his father’s step-brother on Tatooine. Obi-Wan decides to live nearby to keep an eye on the boy. If you were trying to make sure you weren’t drawing attention to the child, wouldn’t you have changed his last name to something other than Skywalker? It’s like a neon sign saying “come get me Dad!” Why not take the Uncle’s last name of Lars? Why not make up some other name?

For that, and many other reasons, I’m certain Lucas was just making it up as he went along. I don’t believe he had a real backstory to his characters from the beginning at all.

May the 4th be with you ~~~ stay well

Movie Review: Planet of the Apes (1968) – The Original, Still the Best

Written by Pierre Boulle, Rod Serling, and Michael Wilson
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner

I can remember my parents first allowing me to view this film when I was about 7 or 8 and it came onto television for the first time. Although they had seen it before, they were quiet, allowing me to experience the surprise plot twist in its original, intended form.

How wonderful that feeling must have been! The first movie-goers who viewed the film back before the Internet was around to leak stories must have walked out of the theater stunned.

Of course, much had to do with the political climate of the times. We were embroiled in the Cold War. I can still remember having air-raid drills in school (although what purpose there was to putting your head down between your knees if a nuclear weapon was dropped other than to kiss your butt goodbye, I’ll never know) and Russia was “the enemy” much the same way those in the Middle East are “the enemy” now. We were taught both Creationism and evolution in high-school science. I was fortunate to have a very good teacher who drew parallels between the two and demonstrated that either the writers of the Bible were a lot smarter than people give them credit for, or there was something more at work. Too bad kids in school don’t get that anymore.

And Planet of the Apes fit right into that political and social climate. It exploited the apprehension people felt about embracing either the theory of evolution or a divine creation; it exploited the fears of our politics exploding is a fireball that would destroy all humanity; it exploited the fact that humans could never seem to get along.

The movie opens with humankind’s invincible ego; Charlton Heston’s Taylor is one of four astronauts on a deep-space mission to a far away planet. The other three have already descended into a deep sleep while he waxes philosophical to the cockpit recorder. His words are for naught, for when they arrive at their destination, the ship lands in a large lake and sinks to the bottom, taking the recording device with it. A glance back before he leaves the ship tells Taylor they are now in a time period 2,000 years in the future.

Three of the four have survived. The lone woman in the group was a victim of an air-leak in her sleeping compartment. Only Landon and Dodge (Robert Gunner and Jeff Burton) are alive to undertake the journey with him. The area they have landed is devoid of life, despite having a water source. With only three days provisions in their packs, they must find a food and water supply quickly. Of course, when they finally do, they suffer a rude awakening. On this planet, the humans are the wild animals and Apes are the more intelligent species, having developed a community as well as medical sciences and religion.

That leads to the battle for who is right and who is wrong. Taylor is an anachronism to all the Apes believe up until this point, and his arrival strikes fear in the leaders of their world. Narrowly managing to avoid the fates of death and a lobotomy that befall his fellow crewmates, Taylor wanders through the film trying to get the Apes to listen to him, when he is considered no more than an animal. While the few humans still surviving on the planet may be used to this, to Taylor it is unnatural.

This movie is all Heston’s vehicle and as that, I think that is one area where it suffers. I’ve never liked Heston as an actor and find that here the character has been drawn more to suit his acting ability rather than the other way around. The character of Taylor has the same tone I’ve seen Heston play in films like The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur as well as many interviews. His pacing is a bit off at times and I just felt like telling him to loosen up a little and let the character flow better. It almost felt like he was portraying the actor who was playing Taylor rather than Taylor himself.

The makeup is astounding for it’s time and is another item that garnered great notoriety for the film when it first was released. Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter are buried beneath very life-like ape makeup for the characters of Cornelius and Zira, two Ape-anthropologists who go beyond the conventional thinking in their community and seek to find the truth of the relationships of apes and humans in their world.. They make us believe them better than Heston does Taylor without the makeup. Their vocal intonations and expressiveness with their eyes conveys more than Heston’s swagger any day.

Some of the best scenes involve Taylor’s somewhat philosophical discussions with the head scientist, Dr. Zaius (portrayed by Maurice Evans). Even as Taylor speaks, we know he will never convince the man of his argument. Evans conveys that he is hiding something mainly with his eyes and it is not until the end when he sends Talor off with his “bride” Nova to find his own way in the world that we finally realize that Zaius has known all along more than he is letting on.

What has made Planet of the Apes hold up so well almost 35 years later is the story itself. Peter Boulle wrote the original novel. However, I believe it is the hand Rod Serling – writer, creator, and producer of The Twilight Zone television series – gives him with the script that keeps it so strong all these years later. I could see and feel his touches with the film, having had the experience of all the Twilight Zone marathons behind me. There are subtle touches to the story that convey the tone of the times without hitting you over the head with it, such as the petting of humans to calm them down, much the same way we do with our own animals.

I also found the cinematography to be beautiful. Most notable are some of the shots in the beginning as the humans are walking through an apparent desert. Later on during the intense chase-scene, the camera is used at odd angles and reminds me a lot of the way movie-makers have recently begun the use of hand-held cameras in films.

Well worth the trouble to find the film, I’d wish everyone could watch it without knowing the surprise ending, then watch it again to look for the clues. Much the way The Sixth Sense had people leaving the theaters in shock, this film manages to convey that same sense of “How did I miss that?”

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Heart of Glory

Written by Maurice Hurley, Herbert Wright, D.C. Fontana, Hans Beimler, Richard Manning, Hannah Louise Shearer, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Rob Bowman

This episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation finally gives some character development to crewmembers other than Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), the teenaged son of the ship’s doctor, and Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart). In fact, we don’t even see Wesley during this entire episode. Therefore, I am not going to bring up his name again in this review!

After detecting a battle inside The Neutral Zone – a zone which serves as a buffer between the Federation and the Romulan and Klingon Empires – The Enterprise rushes in and rescues three Klingons form a badly damaged Talarian freighter.

This turn of events provides the writers with a reason to draw Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) more into the forefront. Up until now all we know about him is that he is a Klingon serving on a Starfleet vessel. His part seems to have been standing there in the background looking menacing. The writers apparently figured out that the novelty of “look, we have a Klingon on the bridge of the Enterprise” was going to start wearing thin pretty soon if they didn’t do something. This is the first time we hear the background of a raid by the Romulans on Khitomer and his survival and subsequent adoption by a Starfleet officer.

We soon see Worf begin to sympathize with the rescued Klingons, especially after finding out they were rebelling against the “traitors of Kling” when they stole the freighter.

This part smacks of bad writing. Worf has graduated Starfleet Academy and been around humans for most of his life, yet as soon as some of “his own kind” come on board the Enterprise, his loyalties seem to waver. He sympathizes with these Klingons who are rebelling against the Klingon authorities who have embraced peace, yet he has no sympathy for all of the Klingons who were killed when they destroyed the pursuit vessel in The Neutral Zone. Captain Picard also seems to not entirely trust Worf during this time.

However, to me these plot holes are secondary to some of great information and insight we are given into the Klingon culture. The Klingon Death Ritual is first seen here. Worf also shows near the end how the Klingons focus more on honor than on anything else.

Another character who gets some development here is Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton). When he is sent to the Talarian vessel as part of the away team, we get some insight into what his world is like. Geordi is the helmsman of the Enterprise, and he is also blind. To compensate, he wears a VISOR (which is actually a spray-painted girl’s banana hair-clip) to let him “see” the world. This functions in such a way that he sees much more than we do as human beings.

The android Data (Brent Spiner) has been working with Geordi testing out rigging a Visual Acuity transmitter to his VISOR. This will allow the Enterprise to pick up what he is seeing. It was fascinating to see the interpretation of how Geordi sees the world and very well done. Instead of seeing clean images, he is seeing light energy and its reflection as well as a variety of energy fields.

Unfortunately, this is not only dropped in the beginning of the episode, but for the remainder of the series. The idea of using Geordi’s VISOR to see things does not come up again until Star Trek: Generations. At that time, the images transmitted back to a scientist named Soran are very different from the images we see here, so there is no consistency.

Some of my favorite Star Trek episodes are those which feature the Klingons. Though this is far from some of the best ones, it is a decent beginning. It is good to see Michael Dorn and Levar Burton finally get some decent air time. Despite the problems with the writing, the character development comes along nicely. Both of these actors are very good and deserve more attention from the Star Trek writers.

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Corona Virus Diaries – May 3, 2020

We’re still holding at 31 known cases in my county. Only problem with that is I recently heard all they were testing were health care workers. Who knows how many cases we’ve had? They’ve opened a drive-thru testing site about a half hour from us now, where anyone can be tested. What I want is an anti-bodies test. The more I hear about the symptoms, the more I wonder if what I had at the beginning of February was Corona virus, not just my sinuses. I had been in Florida for 3 weeks with friends and returned home to vote in the New Hampshire primary before I left on another trip. For about 10 days I was miserable with headaches, congestion, being tired, and nothing tasted good. I never ran a fever though – believe me, I checked several times a day at that point. No one in the house showed symptoms, so either it was just my sinuses, or everyone else contracted it and was asymptomatic. It would be nice to know, especially for my son who’s immunocompromised.

Quarantine depression is setting in again. Several of my friends are reporting the same thing. I felt it right away and upped my anti-depressants when this started (my doctor had always told me I could if I needed to). Yesterday I got our further north and it felt good to be out. Today, I just don’t want to. I know I would feel better doing it, but I have zero motivation to do so and really would like to just go lay in bed all day. It’s going to be a beautiful day, too. Would be great to put the top down on the Wrangler and drive around.

The White Mountain National Forest dialed back the list of trailhead closures on Friday. That’s a good thing. They are keeping the trailheads closed that are close to the population centers up here, but the more remote ones are now open. Since people from down south (and out of state especially) won’t stay home, better to keep them away from the rest of the population up here. I said to my daughter, when we went hiking in Lincoln Woods, the parking lot was empty. If I went to a trailhead and there were a lot of cars, specifically from out-of-state, I wouldn’t hike there. I’ve been going to more off-the-beaten path trails and during the week to some of the more popular trails that we can now use with no issue. People just have to use some common sense. Quite frankly, if people want to kill themselves by being in contact with each other on these trails when there are too many people there, I’m all for letting them. Yesterday there were two cars in the parking lot of the trails I was on. One of them was from New York; Manhattan specifically (I could tell by the license plate frame). I hope it was someone who chose to get out early on to a house they own up here. I can definitely understand that desire. Otherwise, you’re just potentially bringing the virus to an area that can’t handle it. The number of people who have died in NYC alone is about equal to the year-round population of the are I live in.

Will I go out? I don’t know. I bought stuff to make rum punch yesterday, so maybe I’ll just sit on the deck and read and try to relax a bit in the nice weather and have rum punch later. I just know it’s hard to be me under normal circumstances.

The Brothers McMullen: Three Irish Catholic Brothers Struggling with Their Futures

Written by Ed Burns
Directed by Ed Burns

This movie was filmed close to where I lived back when I lived in New York.
Edward Burns is another product of Valley Stream, from the Gibson section. The house that the brothers live in during the movie is in this section and is his parent’s house. This film was made thanks to his father’s faith in him in borrowing the money that Burns used to produce the film.

It is ironic, then, that Edward Burns has written the tale of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who carry a tremendous amount of baggage due to the fact that their father was a child abusing, wife beating alcoholic.

The movie opens with Burns’ character Finbar (or Barry as he’s frequently referred to) at the cemetery with his mother following their father’s funeral. No one seems sorry to see the man go, and his mother is on the first plane back to Ireland to join her true love. She gives her son one piece of advice before she leaves and asks him to pass it on to his brothers: Don’t make the same mistake I did.

The movie then jumps to five years later as the brothers are struggling with their romantic lives, all the while dealing with the emotional baggage left behind. They are essentially living alone in America with both parents gone, while at the same time dealing with the emotional residue from what went on in their lives. Never once during this movie is a good word spoken about their father, leaving the viewer to believe that no one is really sorry that he is gone.

Jack McMullen is the oldest brother. He is supposedly happily married, but when fate throws a beautiful woman who wants no attachments in his path, he is too weak to turn her down. He is afraid of committing heart and soul to his wife, Molly, though they have been married for several years. Following her thirtieth birthday, she wants to start a family.

Molly (Spin City‘s Connie Britton)is a wonderful woman who gladly accepts the chaos in the house her husband grew up in when the brothers move back in with them. This creates all sorts of situations ripe for the comic relief, as well as in-depth discussions into the brothers’ romantic lives (or lack thereof).

Barry is the middle brother, and the one that has the most resistance to committing to anyone. The impression is that he has bounced around from relationship to relationship, moving on as soon as the “m” word comes up. His analogy of how a relationship is like eating a banana is hilarious. Barry is eventually knocked off his feet by Audrey, who pushes him away at first. This probably is what Barry needs – a woman who is independent enough to be able to say “I don’t need you”.

The character I likes best was the youngest brother, Patrick, (portrayed by Michael McGlone). His world is so twisted into so many different knots, I kept wondering how he was going to get out of it. This was the most interesting part of the movie. Here is a man who is a religious Catholic. He is dating a Jewish girl who wants him to convert. Yet – as he point out to her – she goes to Temple once a year and he goes to church once a week.

They have been dating for a number of years, and Susan wants to get married. Patrick isn’t so sure about the whole situation. Complications are thrown in their path and their relationship is on-again, off-again from one minute to the next. Since Patrick is so into his religion, the brothers often come to him with their questions related to Catholicism.

It was interesting to watch the struggle the three of them have as they are torn between their hearts, their mother’s bit of advice, their physical and emotional needs, and their religion. Patrick’s conversation with a girl from high school about trying to be a good Catholic and trying to have a healthy sex life is a great piece of insight as well as being funny.

This is a light-hearted movie which will entertain as well as make you think. McGlone steals the movie from Burns, but all of the performances are good. In directing, Burns seems to get a lot from his fellow actors, but I think he could’ve done a bit better at times with his own performance. However, he makes good use of his location shots around Valley Stream, on the Long Island Railroad, and in Manhattan.

If there’s one quibble I have with the movie, it’s one that many others would not pick up on. When Jack is having the affair, at one point he tells his wife that he is going out for a quick run and proceeds to his girlfriend’s apartment in the city. From Valley Stream to Manhattan is at least 30-45 minutes by train and then it’s still a subway ride to wherever you want to go in Manhattan. That means it would be about an hour each way, plus time to boff Ann (the girlfriend). I think if my husband told me he was going for a quick run and was gone three hours or more, I’d be catching on a lot sooner than Molly is.

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