Coming soon to theaters everywhere: HE NAMED ME MALALA

Coming soon to theaters everywhere: HE NAMED ME MALALA

I saw the movie HE NAMED ME MALALA yesterday and it’s a joy to write this blog post to recommend it.

Malala Yousafzai, as I’m sure you know, is the teenage girl who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014…after being shot by the Taliban for attempting to exercise freedom of speech by advocating on behalf of education for girls.  The fearless girl was 15 years old when it happened.  She was shot in the head, and it’s a miracle that she’s still not only with us, but going strong.

You can get to know the child behind the headlines in this documentary and she’s as refreshing as a beam of the sun.  I was so impressed to see that, rather than lament her fate after experiencing so many injuries in an act of hostility, Malala laughs them off as unimportant.  She doesn’t dwell on what happened.  In fact, she flat-out refuses to answer the interviewer’s questions about the attack.

Current American culture is overrun with endless moaners who glory in making dramas over the slightest small-time molehill, so wow!  This child was the target of a major incident, a hate crime, and there she is, on the screen, dismissing it and laughing it off.  BRAVO, MALALA!


100 Dance Scenes Mashup to “Uptown Funk You Up”

Here’s a treat: 100 dance scenes from movies synched to UPTOWN FUNK YOU UP – enjoy!


Bermuda: Two Beautiful Port Cities in Need of a Cruise Ship

An empty restaurant in Hamilton, Bermuda.

An empty restaurant in Hamilton, Bermuda.

A park without people in Hamilton.

A park without people in Hamilton.

Words probably can’t adequately express just how much love I have for the island of Bermuda.

I’ve been going there since I was sixteen years old.  I first laid eyes on that incredible little country in the midst of the Sargasso Sea in August of 1977.  I was in the most pleasant state of shock imaginable as our Holland America Lines ship, The Statendam, docked on Front Street in the capital city of Hamilton.  Pastel-colored houses with limestone white roofs lined the streets and dotted the gentle hills; palm trees swayed in the humid breeze; British department stores could be found a few steps away from the dock.  So could souvenir shops, including a few tucked away in what looked like an old pirate’s lane.  Tea sets vied with Bermuda hand-blown glass and plastic Santas riding Bermuda scooters in just about all of the stores.  All this I loved on first sight that morning, and it was before getting my first taste of what it was like to jump the gentle waves at Elbow Beach that afternoon.

Bermuda was, and still is, a blend of Great Britain-style propriety and Caribbean islander-casual.  It’s a combination that I love.  It’s an island that would have counted me as a citizen if only it were possible for Americans to relocate there and become one (it isn’t, not unless you marry a Bermudian and stay married at least ten years).  I’ve been on maybe 35 cruises over the years, usually on Holland America Lines or Celebrity Lines, both of which ran “class act” ships, and consider Bermuda “home.”

So I was very shocked, and saddened, by the conditions I found in Bermuda this past week, when I cruised there on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s megaship, the Norwegian Breakaway.  It holds nearly 4,000 passengers.  It features five waterslides which struck me as terrifying, a climbing wall, a zip line course, several pools, and outdoor movie theater.  It also boasts of “freestyle” cruising, which is different from the old Holland America and Celebrity types of vacation, where you were assigned to a dining room and a dinner seating, eating with the same people every night.  All meals, plus your transportation, accommodations, and entertainment used to be included.  Pay the one price, and except for liquor or sodas from the bar, you used to have automatic access to everything.

On the Norwegian Breakaway, I had a choice of five places where the meals were included and could be had at any time, with no assigned seats, but there were many more restaurants that would have cost extra.  There’s a Spiegel Tent with special shows, I think circus acts, but that’s extra.  There’s an ice bar, which sounds like great fun, except just getting inside of it is extra, then there’s the cost of the drinks.  There’s special cabins in a region of the ship they call “The Haven,” with their own special lounges and pool, but guess what?  They’re extra.  Most outrageously of all, though, was their Internet/WiFi package: only one option was available where you had absolutely no choice but to either pay $24.95 per day, for all seven days of the cruise, to have access to your own email on your own phone – or you got no WiFi at all.  It was “pay for all days or get no days.”  Hello?  I don’t like shakedowns, and that clearly was one, so I didn’t get their WiFi package.

Norwegian Cruise Lines cares to make as much money as possible off their passengers. That much was obvious.  It’s the same old story about corporate greed, just on the high seas, this time.  However, it’s what they, and other cruise lines that operate these “mega-ships,” have done to my beautiful Bermuda that really breaks my heart.

The towns of Hamilton and St. George were the two cruise ship port towns…but Norwegian’s mega-ships are too big to dock at either one.  Therefore, they berth at the northern Bermuda locale of the Royal Naval Dockyard, where the 4,000 passengers find themselves in an old for area.  I like the dockyard, which has a mall, many little shops, a museum, a Dolphin Quest attraction, etc…but…the use of this port is all but killing the business in Hamilton and St. George.

Passengers can only get to either place now if they take buses or ferries.  St. George and Hamilton, always so bustling with tourists, both struck me as ghost towns.  It was almost creepy to be walking around an almost-vacant Hamilton on Wednesday, in particular.  Where was everybody?  Why were so many shops all closed up, even the Lemon Tree, where I used to stop with my mother for a soda?  Thursday in St. George was just as empty as Hamilton had been, if not worse.  The old passenger ship terminal was being used as the ferry terminal, of all things.  What?  So many stores were shuttered, closed – gone.  One nice shopkeeper of an off-the-beaten-path store said to me, when I asked what was going on there, “It’s eleven o’clock, I’ve been here all morning, and you’re the first person to walk into the shop.”

I said I knew the store was there and had looked for it.  She told me the problem was the mega-ships.  “All the tourists are at the Dockyard now – nobody comes here anymore.”

Nobody comes there – and it’s such a beautiful place.

This is untenable.

So, cruise ship lines of the world – if you’re reading this – Bermuda has two beautiful port cities, called Hamilton and St. George, and they’re both in need of some cruise ships!  Some smaller ships that can dock in either place, not these 16-deck gargantuan ones.  There’s got to be some ships out there that would love to visit such a destination.  Holland America, Celebrity Lines – come back to our old island paradise!  Your passengers will love it, you won’t regret it, and you might save Hamilton and St. George!

My favorite St. George restaurant, without customers.

My favorite St. George restaurant, without customers.

Shops awaiting customers, St. George. This was where I was the first shopper of the whole morning.

Shops awaiting customers, St. George. This was where I was the first shopper of the whole morning.

Lovely new benches without butts in the seats, St. George, at the once-bustling Square.

Lovely new benches without butts in the seats, St. George, at the once-bustling Square.  Come on, ship lines, go back to St. George and Hamilton, Bermuda!

“The White Magic Five & Dime” and “Fool Me Once” by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco

First in this excellent new series: THE WHITE MAGIC FIVE & DIME

First in this excellent new series: THE WHITE MAGIC FIVE & DIME

Want to read some mysteries that aren’t just riveting but funny?

I always do, so I was delighted one day awhile back when I found THE WHITE MAGIC FIVE AND DIME sitting on a table at my favorite Barnes & Noble.

The series is by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco and follows the adventures of Alanis MacLachlan.  Alanis comes from as unusual a background as it’s possible to imagine: her amoral mother was a con artist who, along with her boyfriend Biddle, raised the child all over the country, moving from mark to mark.  It wasn’t an easy life for a child and she ultimately ran away from it – only to be drawn back into her mother’s sphere, many years later, when Mama gets murdered and Alanis inherits the flimflam woman’s latest endeavor, The White Magic Five & Dime store in Berdache, Arizona – located near Sedona and all the New Age tourist traffic, of course.

Her mother renamed herself “Athena Passalis” while in Arizona and even wrote a book on the Tarot, which Alanis finds in her shop and reads in order to figure out how it’s done.  She’s also trying to figure out how many people in Berdache that her mother scammed, hoping to make amends to the victims, and, of course, hopes to solve Athena’s murder, too.

The series has a whole lot of fun with the scam aspects of the New Age, which seems to attract con artists in droves, while also merrily explaining a lot about interpreting  Tarot cards.  There are times when Tarot cards can be incredibly, almost eerily accurate.  The con artistry of many of the practitioners aside, I have a wonderful Tarot deck called the Medicine Woman Taro, and I’ve often been shocked at what Tarot cards tell me when I read them for myself.  (That’s just it, though: I read them for myself, not anyone else, and certainly would not charge anyone for a reading, or tell them their money was cursed, or pull any of Athena’s other little stunts, either.)

This past weekend, I found the second Alanis book in this great new series at the bookstore, FOOL ME ONCE, concerning one of her mother’s victims who winds up in hot water.  Now, I refuse to put any spoilers on here, so pardon me for being cryptic, but…I suggest that you read them in order, WHITE MAGIC FIVE AND DIME first and FOOL ME ONCE afterwards, since I just finished the second one about a half hour ago, and it ends with surprise that makes me already want to get my hands on the third!  In fact, when I came to the last line of FOOL ME ONCE, I was in a public coffee shop, and had to suppress the urge to stand up and cheer.

I heartily recommend both books!


FOOL ME ONCE, the second book in this series.  Go for it!

FOOL ME ONCE, the second book in this series. Go for it!

Old Pueblo Traders Has Such Contempt for Their Customers They Set You Up to be Robbed!

They're third party billing-scam THIEVES, so don't buy from Old Pueblo Traders!

They’re third party billing-scam THIEVES, so don’t buy from Old Pueblo Traders!

There’s a saying about us writers:

Don’t mess with a gal who buys ink by the gallon!

These days writers don’t use ink so much as we utilize the online fonts of cyberspace, but the basic message still applies.  If you screw over a writer, we know what to do with you: write about it!

The base inspiration for this blog post today is a company called Old Pueblo Traders that I had always previously respected.  A member of my immediate family has been ordering from Old Pueblo Traders since 1950 – long before I was born.  I grew up with their catalog coming to the house, regularly.  However, as much as we always respected Old Pueblo Traders, they don’t respect their customers in return.

They have been putting charges I never agreed to pay on my credit card – fifteen times!  Yes, fifteen times!  Can you believe this?  I hardly can, either!  

According to their paid stooges in their Customer Service Department, I allegedly “signed up for” their “VIP” program, and “allowed” them to gouge me out of a monthly “discount fee.”

Old Pueblo Traders, don’t even TRY it!

First, I do NOT believe in paying for discount memberships.  If you don’t believe me, ask the staff at any Barnes & Noble in Manhattan or Brooklyn.  Those people constantly try to get me into their “membership” program, giving me their sales pitch every single time I buy a book.  I forever say no.  I have no desire to pay for what would amount to a fake discount, since it would mean I’d covered it myself with the payment.  I wasn’t born last week…

Old Pueblo Traders’ situation is a lot more subtle – and criminally lethal.  I believe what they did to me involved a little box, already checked, on their site when you place your order with them in good faith.  If you don’t realize the box is checked, if you don’t uncheck the damned thing, they consider you “enrolled,” and then, they start billing you.

My relative who has done business with these clowns since 1950 is 88 years old and going blind.  Thank goodness she doesn’t know how to navigate the Internet, or these crooks would be stealing from her, too – and she’s on Social Security.

I just went on their site a moment ago to see what it’s like to try and place an order there, though you can be sure I did not complete it.  Currently they have a strange “OPT Credit Card” box on there, already checked for you.  They also have a “sign me up for email” box already checked, too.  Either one might be the way they try to sign you into their “VIP Club.”

They’ve done this before.  I found complaints about this vile company on the Internet.

To make matters even more outrageous, when I tried to find the name of the President & CEO of this Old Pueblo Traders cabal, it was nowhere to be found on the Internet.  Even the Bloomberg website didn’t have a listing for it.  How convenient is it that this thieving company that has so little respect for their customers that they rob them is hiding the name of its own President and CEO?

Did their unnamed, anonymous, concealed President and CEO, perchance, sign off on this Internet scam that they’re running?

Might the IRS not be a bit interested in a website that profits by making illegal charges of customers’ credit cards for memberships they don’t want or care to sign up for?

I will be getting a refund from Old Pueblo Traders for all fifteen of the bogus charges, but still.  Fair warning: customers need to stay far away from this company.  Oh – and by the way, according to their website, it’s not just Old Pueblo Traders that they do business as.

They are also affiliated with Orchard, Blair, Haband, Bedford Fair, Willow Ridge, The Outlet, Appleseed’s, The Tog Shop, Winter Silks, Norm Thompson, Sahalie, Linen Source, Solutions, Gold Violin and Home Forever.

To all of the above: you ALL need to be looked into by the Better Business Bureau, the IRS, and probably your local fraud squad, too.

Know what box I’ll be checking on this blog post?  It’s going under the category of CORRUPTION.

Ah, yes!  Never mess with a gal who buys ink by the gallon!







What an Exhibit: Costumes from the Movie CHICAGO! Song Clips, Too:

Surprise, surprise! Me standing in front of the very costumes worn by Richard Gere (the red suit) and Queen Latifah (the gold dress) in my favorite movie, CHICAGO!

Surprise, surprise! Me standing in front of the very costumes worn by Richard Gere (the red suit) and Queen Latifah (the gold dress) in my favorite movie, CHICAGO!

On Sunday I went, for the very first time, to the Museum of the Moving Image at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, one of the first movie studies in the world.  They were having a screening of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and since I love that movie, I couldn’t resist.  I was with a friend who had, incredibly, never seen it, which made the whole idea of watching it in the museum’s gigantic screening room even more fun.  It’s the story of a wild and crazy chase to find stolen loot.

I had to refrain from doing my imitation of Jimmy Durante saying, “There’s this big double-ya, see?  There’s this big double-ya,” until after the movie was over, so as not to spoil it for my friend, which wasn’t easy, but I prevailed.  Meanwhile, we got there early enough to eat lunch at a cantina and then see the exhibits in the museum before the show started.

Well, I got one of the most pleasant surprises ever!  One of my favorite movies of all time is Chicago with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah.  Know how much I loved it?  I saw it 27 times!  It was playing across the street from my old job.  I would go from work to the theater, eat a hot dog and a soda for dinner, and watch Chicago regularly on my way home.  Without even trying, I have that whole movie memorized from start to finish, as a result.  I think arguably the best musical number in motion picture history is “All That Jazz.”  That said, there’s no such thing as a number in Chicago that isn’t wonderful, including “Razzle Dazzle” and “When You’re Good To Mama.”  Kander and Ebb outdid themselves with their fine and tuneful score.  I’ve also occasionally, whenever attitude is called for, put on the same air of boldness combined with insouciance as Catherine Zeta-Jones exhibited during the “Hot Honey Rag.”  It’s especially effective to bring to mind whenever you have to give some “worthy recipient” the cold shoulder – trust me there, tee hee!

I adore that movie on more levels than there is room for here.  Four out of the five main characters are completely, totally, 100% full of bullshit, and not only that, but they’re proud of it, which makes the movie more true to life than most others!

Getting back to the museum, at the costume exhibit, a suit trimmed with men’s sequins and a gold gown drew my eye.  The rest of me followed, like a magnet.  Both of those costumes looked like they were from the 1920s, my favorite era, and also looked familiar…well, what to my wondering eyes should appear but the signs saying they were worn in Chicago by Richard Gere and Queen Latifah!

Of course they’re familiar!  I saw the movie 27 times!

How could I resist taking that happy selfie in front of them?

Watch Richard Gere giving them the old “Razzle Dazzle” here:

Queen Latifah in the gold gown sings “When You’re Good to Mama” here:

Catherine Zeta-Jones struts her stuff in “All That Jazz” here:

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger perform “The Hot Honey Rag” here.  If you ever need to snub somebody, just think of Catherine’s ‘tude in this one!

Oh, and last but certainly not least, here’s the trailer from It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  Enjoy!



OREGON TRAIL by Rinker Buck Will Make You Want to Get a Covered Wagon

Rinker Buck, the fabulous author of OREGON TRAIL.

Rinker Buck, the fabulous author of OREGON TRAIL.

Ever wanted to not just read about a chapter in history but actually go out there and live it?

Rinker Buck and his brother Nicholas did exactly that!  When Rinker chanced upon the information that the Oregon Trail still exists in most places along its famous route beginning in Missouri, an idea was born.  Rinker decided he’d get a covered wagon, some mules to pull it, recreating the transportation methods circa 1840 – and go west!

The greatest migration of people ever happened between in the mid-1840’s and about 1900 as legions of them relocated across the plains along the Oregon Trail.

This book is fun, enjoyable, filled with riveting backstories…and makes me wish the brothers Buck had taken me with them!  Here they are in their covered wagon.

BRAVO for writing this, Rinker Buck!  If you do this again, have you got room for one more?

Missouri to Oregon in a covered wagon?  Where can I sign up?

Missouri to Oregon in a covered wagon? Where can I sign up?