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review 2017-03-22 19:37
Review: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams
The Glass Menagerie - Tennessee Williams

I talked with my husband and decided to spend an extra night in London so I could see the St Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday. So after saying goodbye to my friends on Saturday afternoon and finally finding a hotel room, I was ready to look at what the nightlife in London has to offer (besides clubs and bars, as I don't drink by myself). I stumbled upon a small (I mean small) theater (the Duke's Theater on St Martin's Place in the Trafalgar Square section) showing a limited run of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. Since the cost of a ticket was just about as much as I paid for a 3D screening of Beauty and the Beast the night before, I decided to take a chance on seeing the play.

 

Here is what I know about Tennessee Williams and his works: he is an American playwright. That's it. I didn't know what the play was about at all, other than there was four characters because the posters outside the theater had pictures of the actors. So I went in totally blind.

 

I am so glad I took the chance - there were moments of laugh out loud one-liners that lighten a rather desperate situation of a family living in St Louis in 1937. The stage was sparse, but functional to help me separate scenes being played out. The actors' performances elevated the material; to be quite honest, I would have DNF reading this play, as the characters would have gotten on my last nerve. This is a play that needs to be seen and heard (so possible audiobook choice) rather than read.

 

 Cherry Jones, playing the role of the mother, took an obnoxious twat of a character and made me care for and hope along with Amanda that her children have better futures than her. Tom was kinda of an asshole character, with a selfish streak a mile wide; however, in Michael Esper's hands, the audience also senses the guilt, the burden of responsibility place on his shoulders, and his frustrations for wanting to live his own life and explore the world. I thought the character of Laura as pretty much simpering wall paper until the James shows up and love brings her out into the world - Katie O'Flynn and Brian J. Smith had some real chemistry and I rooted for them to have a HEA. Alas, it was not meant to be (Betty can go get bent for all I care!).

 

This revival is up for 7 Oliver Awards (the UK version of the Tonys) and I really hope Jones wins in her category and the overall stage production takes home at least one prize. A lovely way to spend a couple of hours. But I am still not going to read this because without the actors', the hissy fits from the mother, Laura, and Tom would just anger me.

 

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review 2017-03-21 16:32
Hatchet
Hatchet - Gary Paulsen

Hatchet is a great book about Brian who ends up lost and alone in the woods. He learns how to survive and use resources until he is rescued. His time and adventures are something that many students would enjoy reading about.

 

I would use this book with an older elementary grade. Having students read this as a class or in a literature circle would be a good use for this book.

 

Lexile Level - 1020

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review 2017-03-20 11:24
Another Colourful Book about Trains
The Romance of the Railways : The Question and Answer Encyclopedia Series - Harvey T. Grant

After reading a bunch of train books that my brother owned I started to realise that they pretty much all say the same thing. Well, not all the same things because some of them focus more on one area than on others, but they all tend to look at how trains were first developed, and then how they work, and then some of the record breakers that are around. The other problem is that these books were written quite some time ago, namely when we were kids, so a lot of the things in the book are out dated. Okay, not the history and details of the steam trains, but rather the more modern aspects of rail transport and the records that have been broken.

 

However, as I mentioned, they still make mention of things that haven’t changed. For instance the longest railway in the world is still the trans-Siberian railway (and I’m not entirely sure if it is actually possible to beat that record, unless you build one from Terra del Fuego to Alaska), and the longest, straightest railway is still the track that crosses the Nullabor Plain in Australia. The other thing worth mentioning is that in Australia most railways are still only used for freight, and in fact passenger rail has declined even further since this book was written, with the Overland between Adelaide and Melbourne only running twice a week.

 

The book itself was a rather fun read though, since it is structured as a series of questions and answers. The other thing is that it also has pretty pictures, and the kid in me still really enjoys non-Fiction books with pretty pictures. Okay, you get some books that have a collection of plates in the middle, but they aren’t anything like the pretty pictures that these children’s books have. Okay, maybe my ability to read the English language has increased substantially since I was a kid so I don’t actually need pretty pictures anymore, but on the other hand, I there is nothing stopping me from buying such books in French and German, though I suspect the way they teach French and German to adults is somewhat different to the way they teach communication skills to kids.

 

Anyway, here is a pretty picture of a steam train for your amusement:

 

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/82/58/fc/8258fc1dbc70677372874f98af1ec87a.jpg

 

 

The book was entertaining, and half the reason I read it was because I went on a ride on the steam train down at Victor Harbor, a seaside town near where I grew up. For those who are interested, here is a blog post on my travel blog on that little day trip, and another post on steam trains on my other blog. To round everything off, here is a link to a video of some rather extreme railways.


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1947079113
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review 2017-03-19 01:04
Not Everybody wants to Live in the Fast Lane
Mr. Slow - Roger Hargreaves

Can you believe it. I read Mr Busy, which is about how Mr Busy and Mr Slow go on a picnic and Mr Slow then decides to hide because he likes to take his time doing things and enjoying life, while Mr Busy, like me, tries to cram as much into a day as possible. Well, I go into my study and sure enough, the next Mr Men book sitting on the pile just happens to be Mr Busy. Actually, I'm not entirely sure which one comes first, though I suspect it is Mr Busy because Mr Slow actually talks about the time that he and Mr Busy went on a picnic. However, this story is about Mr Slow, and how he tries to find a place in this world.

 

Look, I won't go into details, but he does try out a lot of jobs, and the problem is that pretty much all of these jobs need him to be really fast. In fact this seems to be the case with the world in which we live – speed and accuracy are the two things that are valued the most in the business world. Actually, I note that the word business actually contains the word 'busy' (or 'busi'), which suggests that the whole purpose of business is to keep up busy, maybe because if we are busy then we are distracted, and if we are distracted then we aren't going to be in a position to rock the boat. Actually, for most of us we are either busy or poor because if we are rich, and don't have to work, we aren't going to rock the boat because that is going to work against us.

 

Anyway, the thing about Mr Slow is that he enjoys life, and in fact he has learnt that taking things slow has its benefits. The thing is that I wish I could take things slowly, like spend a lot more time taking in the beauty of the paintings and the sculptures at the Musee D'orsay, or be able to appreciate the weirdness of the art in the Tate Modern. However the problem is that time gets away from us, and before we know it we wake up, we are fifty, and we are wondering what happened to that time between when we were running amok as teenagers and now.

 

The same goes with books, but the thing with books is that there are so many out there that I simply don't have the time to not only read, but to enjoy, them all. Mind you, there is always the problem of finding a good book and finding a bad book, and with people like me, I simply cannot put a bad, or a boring, book down until I have finished it. It is the same with movies – I can't stop watching a movie until I get to the end, no matter how boring it happens to be. Mind you, that probably has a lot to do with me not being qualified to write a review until I have finished reading the book or watching the movie.

 

At least Mr Men books are short, sharp, and shiny. However, we should all be like Mr Slow and instead of burning through our dinners and our desert, that we should take our time and really savour the taste.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1945691945
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review 2017-03-19 00:43
You’re Never As Smart As You Think You Are
Mr. Clever (Mr. Men and Little Miss Series) - Roger Hargreaves

Well, this was a rather interesting little book. It starts off in a place called Cleverland where everybody is awfully clever, and it is about Mr Clever who happens to be really, really clever. In fact he is so clever that he loves to remind everybody of how clever he is. Mind you, the guy is pretty smart, and I suspect he happens to be an engineer because he has invented a multipurpose alarm clock, a toaster that toasts his bread, spreads butter and jam all over it, and then cuts off the crust. Oh, and he also invented a toothbrush that squeezes the toothpaste onto the brush. In fact the ideas make me want to go out and build them for myself (despite not being an engineer).

 

The problem is that while he is really clever when it comes to engineering projects, it turns out that he actually isn't as clever as he thinks he is (or he claims that he is). Sure, he can build a fancy house, and create fancy inventions, but when it comes to everyday things, like telling a joke, or baking a cake, or even offering some advice, he really doesn't know where to start. It sort of goes to show that while me may be clever in one area, there are no doubt areas where we really fall down.

 

It actually makes me think of the renaissance men, such as Leonardo da Vinci. Sure, he was an inventor, and he certainly had an ability a paint people, but I wonder if he knew how to tell a joke, or whether he knew how to bake a really delicious cake. The same goes with Michaelangelo – sure, he certainly had a knack when it came to painting ceilings, but I wonder if he could offer a bit of advice to a friend that was having problems with a rebellious teenager (not that they actually had teenagers back then).

 

It also reminds me of a story about the rich and famous. Apparently they don't know how to drive a car, namely because they are so used to having other people drive them around, and having their own maids and cooks, that when it came to actually cleaning their house and cooking a meal they are at a loss. In fact I wonder if they even know how to put a frozen meal into a microwave and heat it up? Probably not. I do remember watching a Micheal Moore episode where he was trying to get CEOs of various companies to actually do the job that the average worker in the front line of their business does – such as making a big mac. It turned out that the only person to take him up on the offer was the CEO of Ford, who proceeded to show Moore how to change the oil in a car.

 

Well, I guess the moral of the story is not to go around telling everybody how awfully clever you happen to be because sooner or later somebody is going to come around and basically show you up as a fool.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1945683228
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