Monthly Archives: July 2019

Top Reasons to Watch-Stranger Things

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Many of you have heard of this popular show, available on Netflix, about the strange happenings in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, and the group comprised of mostly kids and teens who find themselves in the perilous position of saving the world from a hostile takeover from another dimension.

Now currently in its third season, Stranger Things has attracted a wide audience, and inspired merchandise ranging from books and tee-shirts to coffee mugs and Funko Pops.  Why are we so taken with this show?

Science fiction and fantasy combined.  The characters are regularly pitted against creatures from the “Upside Down,” an alternate reality that first appears to be an invention of Will, the would-be comic book artist, and which would easily fit into a sci-fi or horror movie.  With the exception of Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown, the team are not equipped with superpowers or special weapons.  This group of underdogs uses their brains, their friendships, and their luck to battle things the government won’t acknowledge or can’t handle. (At least until it comes to the cleanup and the obligatory non-disclosure agreement.)

I love the 80’s culture.  Stranger Things takes place in the 1980s in the states, and embraces this, in all its glory. Big hair, shoulder pads, legwarmers, and popular movie/TV references abound, as does the music, from groups like Huey Lewis and the News and Wham.

Lucas waxes poetic about New Coke in one episode, which also features a reference to Chief Hopper as Magnum P.I.  A Russian assassin, Grigori, appears in the latest season that bears a certain resemblance, and attitude, comparable to The Terminator.  Add in government cover-ups, Russian sleeper agents, and conspiracy theories that are not just theories and you have the plot of the perfect 80’s show, but with writing and special effects that demonstrate modern tech.

Nerd Love.  The “core” group of friends embrace their intelligence and differences freely. Dustin compliments Erica on her math skills “You’re a nerd!”  They spend their free time playing Dungeons and Dragons, and use their knowledge of these games to theorize about the denizens of the Upside Down, and even to name the creatures from there-the Demogorgan, the Mind Flayer.  They use their connections with the audio visual club to help uncover vital details and ham radio equipment to communicate with each other, long before cell phones are common.

In the second season, the core group of boys-Dustin, Mike, Will, and Lucas- go to school dressed as The Ghostbusters for Halloween. Little do they know, but those costumes will soon become strangely appropriate.

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Hardcore Females.  While not all the heroic characters in this ensemble are female, there are plenty of girls in this equal opportunity action series to please even the pickiest of viewers.  Of course there’s Eleven, the preteen telekinetic who’s something of a superhero despite having spent most of her life confined to a laboratory, but she’s hardly the only female character that stands out in the lineup.

New character Robin, the nerdy ice cream server, uses her gift of languages to decipher hidden Russian codes and help veterans Steve and Dustin infiltrate a hidden Russian base under the mall.

Nancy, the teenage angst-star from previous seasons, has evolved into a Nancy Drew-esque would-be reporter who chases down the truth, even at the cost of her job and in pursuit of rapid mutating rats.

Joyce, the mother character played by Winona Ryder, has proven over and over that she pulls no punches when it comes to protecting her children or doing what is right.  This season alone, we see her wielding shotguns, chasing after Russian spies, and yelling at both clandestine government agencies and conspiracy-theorists alike to accomplish her goals.

Beat the boredom of summer reruns on cable and check out this amazing show on Netflix!

 

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Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked by Gregory Maguire
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years, #1) by

Douglas Smith (Illustrator)
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Amy Caudill‘s review

What to say about the book that spawned an award-winning musical by bestselling author Gregory Maguire?  I had meant to read Wicked for years, but I finally found time to sit down and conquer this 500-page tome over the last week.

This very adult re-telling of the classic Wizard of Oz story goes into a great deal of behind-the-scenes action and into the minds of multiple players to rend far more detail into the world of Oz and its denizens than ever hinted at in the original story by Frank L. Baum.  Each section of the book contains enough detail and depth of storylines to form a separate volume of a series, but the author grants us the entire tale in one massive hardcover.

Maguire goes into detail about the origin of the “witches,” their backgrounds, and motivations, painting a picture of three-dimensional characters that are far more than mere bad guys, enough so, that when we are finally introduced to Dorothy in the very last section, we are able to feel sympathy, if not outrage, of the witch sisters’ plights.

While this story contains a great deal of political and religious debate, developing a complex world for the fabled land, the author uses a folk tale format for much of the story that entertains the reader and utterly ensnares them in his creation.

Witness the birth of Elphaba, the Munchkinlander afflicted from birth with green skin, and Galinda, the spoiled, vain Gilikinese maiden who are thrown together in the most unexpected of ways, to become rivals, friends, and finally stand on the opposite sides of the story.  Witness also Elphaba’s sister, sheltered and crippled, who rises to leadership in a revolt only to become a hapless victim of natural disaster.

The author leads the reader to question who actually is good and who is evil in the story?  Surely those labels are contrary and interchangeable at points, as the nature of beloved and not-so-beloved characters from witch, to wizard, to loyal or rebel citizenry are questioned.  The arrival of a small girl from Kansas just may be the powder keg that sparks the change of everything.

This is a story well worth the read, and easily earns five stars for fans of paranormal, fantasy, and modern retellings of childhood classics.

Interesting Myths and Facts about the Moon

This coming Saturday marks the fiftieth anniversary of the one of the most iconic events of the twentieth century- the lunar landing of the Apollo 11, where the American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the surface of the moon.  This amazing feat was an incredible testament to human ingenuity, determination, and willingness to reach for seemingly impossible dreams.

astronaut standing beside american flag on the moon
Saturday, July 20, 2019, marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Long before this event, humans have been fascinated by our closest neighbor in the sky, and have used it as a source of inspiration and superstition.  Here are a few of the more interesting stories our ancestors have told to explain the existence of this celestial body:

  • Many cultures worshipped the moon as a goddess. The Greeks and Romans even had three separate goddesses to describe the phases of the moon; Artemis as the new moon, Selene as the full moon, and Hecate as the dark side of the moon.
  • The ancient Chinese explained lunar eclipses as being caused by an enormous dragon that swallowed the sun, and so they made as much noise as possible to scare the dragon away.
  • Multiple cultures have told stories about the “man in the moon.”   Most of these variations say that he was put there as punishment for stealing, some even for the attempted theft of the moon itself.
  • The moon’s phases have historically been linked with madness, and the word “lunatic” comes from this belief. Ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder believed that a full moon affected the water in a person’s brain, causing irrational behavior or insanity.
  • Our modern holiday Easter is actually calculated by the moon.  We celebrate on the first Sunday following the first Saturday after the first full moon after the spring equinox.  This tradition has its roots in archetypal symbols involving femininity, fertility, rebirth and the lunar cycle.

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    Our closest neighbor in the sky.  Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And a few interesting facts:

  • Humans have attempted to track the phases of the moon for at least 13,000 years, based on an eagle bone artifact found in France that appears to have been used as a counting stick.
  • The oldest known map of the moon was found carved into a rock in a prehistoric tomb in Knowth, County Meath, in Ireland.  It is estimated to be about 5000 years old.
  • A full day on the moon, from one sunrise to the next, lasts an average of twenty-nine Earth days.
  • Common cell phones today are 400 times more powerful than the computers used to guide humans to the moon in the 1960s and 70s.
  • There is an Outer Space Treaty in affect that gives the moon the same jurisdiction as international waters.  The treaty allows the moon to be used for peaceful purposes by all nations, and prohibits military bases and weapons of mass destruction from being placed on the moon.

For more interesting facts about the moon, you can find plenty of resources such as this one.

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Michael’s Blood

Michael's Blood by S.S. Bazinet
Michael’s Blood (The Vampire Reclamation Project, #1) by

S.S. Bazinet (Goodreads Author)
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Amy Caudill‘s review -Four stars to Michael’s Blood

 

This interesting but confusing book is the first in a series about redemption, specifically, that of a reluctant vampire named Arel.  Arel’s guardian angel, Michael, is attempting to heal Arel of his curse, but to do so, his charge must be willing to face the demons of his past lives, learn to forgive himself and accept that he is worthy of love.

How do you cure vampirism?  Apparently by feeding said vampire Michael’s angelic blood.  This intervention sets off a process that nearly kills Michael multiple times as it begins to transform him.

Arel doesn’t make it easy for Michael; he’s arrogant, demanding, and needy in turn, not to mention depressed and sometimes suicidal.  He stubbornly refuses Michael’s help over and over again until he is rendered unable to cope anymore.  Still Michael, with true angelic grace, is there for Arel time and time again, picking him up and caring for him till he’s ready to stand on his own two feet again.

Everything changes when Arel meets a group of people who are as drawn to him as he is to them.  Each of these flawed, but giving individuals figured prominently somewhere in Arel’s past lives, and as they become aware of their past relationships, struggle to integrate those old emotions and knowledge into this new life where they are all intertwined again.

While on the surface this story involves a number of different factors- i.e. vampires, angelic guardians, past life regression, the underlying plot is really a study of the human condition, equally parts uplifting and heart wrenching, until the conclusion which ends on a high note, save for an ominous message from someone in Arel’s vampiric past, thus setting up a cliffhanger for the next book in the series, William’s Blood.

I picked up this book as part of the author’s recent promotional giveaway, and shelved on my TBR list for a time.  I finally decided to sit down and read it this past week, and I’m not sorry that I did, because despite the surprising mix of genres, the book is very moving and uplifting, as this extraordinary group of individuals, both human and angelic, face everyday crises and come out the stronger for it.  The overall message of faith and hope is inspiring, and I recommend this series to any who need a little encouragement or who simply like a good read.

Happy Independence Day!

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Happy Fourth of July!  Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tomorrow is officially the day we celebrate our Independence in the United States, but the festivities have already started!  (In my neighborhood, we’ve been hearing firecrackers go off in the evening all week!)

On this most important of national holidays, we recognize that our country, despite our differences, our problems, and our political debates, we all share a core of ideals and values.  We acknowledge that though we are far from perfect, we still have such potential, along with the freedom to choose our own destinies.

Tomorrow, and this week, is the perfect time to set aside our petty arguments and embrace that which makes us all Americans.  Take a moment to remember that we have servicemen and women overseas even now, sacrificing to keep our values and our safety intact.

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Happy Independence Day! Photo by Aaron Schwartz on Pexels.com

However you choose to celebrate, by going out to one of the many parades or fireworks shows around the nation, or by just staying home and grilling out in the backyard, I hope this Fourth is your best yet!