What to watch next

A few recommendations on what to watch next

If you find yourself stuck at home with not many places to go for some reason (like I don’t know…Coronavirus has shut everything down) and you’re looking for what to watch next, here are a few suggestions.

Undone

When I saw that the series is set in San Antonio, it became a must-watch for me. I love seeing my hometown in its animated form, but the interesting story and well-developed characters are what kept me watching.

Undone is about a young woman trying to find her way in the world. She doesn’t want to get married and have kids and do all the “normal” things most people want to do (and her mom wants her to do).

When she survives a near-fatal car accident things start to get weird. Nothing is as it was before, like time, the natural world, and what she knows of her own family history. Undone, Season 1 (8 episodes) is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Click here to go to the series page on Amazon.com.

Miss Americana

The Miss Americana site says it best: In this revealing documentary, Taylor Swift embraces her role as a songwriter and performer — and as a woman harnessing the full power of her voice.

When I see superstars like Taylor Swift I don’t usually think about what got them there, the sacrifice, price of fame, and what it takes for them to stay at the top of their game. But this documentary shows all that, from footage of a little girl dreaming of being a singer to the very real disappointment at not being nominated for a Grammy (that one time).

We see Taylor Swift’s story as a gifted singer-songwriter who grows up in the scrutiny of the public’s eye, works hard, wins a ton of awards, experiences heartbreak, struggles with body image and, through it all, discovers who she is and what she stands for.

Miss Americana is a Netflix original movie. Click here to go to the movie page on Netflix.

Babies

Also on Netflix, this 6-episode series explores the science of babies’ development in their first year of life.

Episodes titles are:

  • 1. Love
  • 2. First Food
  • 3. Crawling
  • 4. First Words
  • 5. Sleep
  • 6. First Steps 

Fascinating stuff and as a grandma of an infant : ) this show is teaching me a lot.

Click here to go to the series page on Netflix.

American Factory

An Ohio town is hit hard when the big manufacturing plant in town shuts down.

So when a Chinese manufacturing company reopens the factory, people are excited and eager to get back to work. American Factory is about the struggles the workers and leadership face to make the venture a success.

And it’s about how culture is deeply embedded in each of us, in what each of us does, thinks, believes, and behaves. In ways we don’t even think about. 

Click here to go to the movie page on Netflix.

Need more ideas about what to watch? 

I saw this article and slide show published on the San Antonio Express News website, mysa.com, but it was first published on Stacker.com.

How long it takes to binge ‘The Office,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ and 50 other famous TV shows  

The list is extensive and includes run time of each show. Hours and hours of entertainment!

I’d love to hear from you! What movies or shows can you recommend?

Dolly Parton's America

Have you heard Dolly Parton’s America?

I’d heard about Dolly Parton’s America podcast, had seen it come up as one of the most popular podcasts on my phone (Applepodcasts).

Not sure why I passed it up at first. I like Dolly, but I’m not a huge Country Music fan. I only know her pop songs, like “9 to 5” and “I Will Always Love You.” I couldn’t see the point of the podcast.

But it kept coming up so I decided to give it a listen.

Just a few minutes into Episode #1, I was hooked. 

Dolly Parton’s America is a 9 Episode podcast that dives into Dolly Parton, the Unifier. 

She’s everywhere

The show came about when Had Abumrad, a journalist who grew up in Dolly’s home state of Tennessee, attended a Dolly Parton concert in New York city.

He had never given much thought to just how big Dolly was, never thought much about her presence.

Until the concert. He marveled at the wide range of people of all races, ages, nationalities, and income levels who love her. He wondered, How could this country singer from Tennessee bring all these people together? Could she be a Unifier even in the current climate of political polarization? 

He wanted to learn more. And, it turns out, he had an “in” to getting an interview with Dolly Parton. His dad knows her! (Seems odd, but the show covers the connection.)

He started with one interview which turned into the WNYC’s 9 episode podcast: Dolly Parton’s America.

I found the podcast interesting, funny, and entertaining. You don’t have to be a fan to get something out of it, but especially if you love Dolly, it’s a must listen.

Takeaways

Dolly Parton’s story is a rags (literally) to riches story, for sure. But she’s also super smart, talented, candid, and seems to genuinely care about people.  

My big takeaways and what I learned from Dolly Parton on this podcast: 

  • Work hard
  • Stay the course
  • Believe in yourself
  • Look for the good in people
  • Keep your sense of humor
  • If you’re going to be the butt of a joke, beat ’em to the punch
  • Know what you believe
  • Stand up for yourself

Ask me anything.

The conversations about her work, career, beliefs, and attitudes are entertaining and enlightening.

Here’s a list of the Episode titles and a little bit about what’s covered in each:

Episode 1: Sad Ass Song 

Covers her persona, her songwriting and music tradition, and the lasting themes in her music

Episode 2: I Will Always Leave You

She answers questions about her long career, how she had to stand up for herself, and how following her intuition made all the difference 

Episode 3: Tennessee Mountain Trance

We learn about Dolly’s roots and how her songs about home resonate with people on a larger scale

Episode 4: Neon Moss

Expands on the idea of home and the longing we sometimes feel for something long gone

Episode 5: Dollitics

How Dolly handles politics by not handling politics

Episode 6: The Only One For Me, Jolene

How many different ways can you interpret a song that seems to have an obvious message? If the song is “Jolene,” a whole bunch of ways.

Episode 7: Dolly Parton’s America

There is a class at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville called Dolly Parton’s America. This episode discusses America in the context of the South and Appalachia as it is explored in the class.

Episode 8: Dixie Disappearance

A “Dixie” controversy at Dollywood and the larger issue of addressing the injustices of the past and the symbols that commemorate them.

Episode 9: She’s Alive!

Dolly talks about religion, her faith, and her plans to have her music far outlive her. 

Also, 2 bonus episodes feature her music performed by other artists. 

For more information, click here to go to the Podcast webpage

Movie theater Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

4 Great movies from 2019 you might have missed

From the movie recommendation files, here are 4 great movies you might have missed from 2019.

Brittany Runs a Marathon

I had no idea what to expect from this movie. Had seen the previews and it looked like a sweet film about a young woman named Briattany who—guess what—runs a marathon. 

What I hadn’t expected was what made the movie so endearing to me.

Brittany’s decision to run a marathon puts her on a journey of self-discovery that force her to face some longstanding limiting beliefs about herself (like body image and trust issues) and how deeply those beliefs are ingrained in her.

Still, Brittany is all in and committed to go from couch potato to marathon finisher.

But, as in life, complications ensue and that’s when she’s faced with her most difficult challenge of accepting that she is worthy of love and acceptance. 

Brittany’s struggles were so relatable. I found myself totally invested in her success and wanted to cheer her on to the finish line.

For more information: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Yesterday

What would happen if there were a worldwide blackout and somehow The Beatles and all their music were wiped out of existence and memory. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo weren’t a thing. What if no one had heard of them, except for one guy?

That’s what the premise of Yesterday.

The guy who, by some strange and magical force, knows who they are and knows their music is a struggling musician himself. Crazy things start happening when he starts playing all The Beatles music as his own. His career takes off.

Suddenly, everything is awesome! He’s a global sensation. More popular than he ever imagined.

But his new-found fame turns his world upside-down. He knows he must examine his own values, to decide for himself what makes a life worth living at the end of the long and winding road. 

The premise of Yesterday is completely implausible and will not stand up to the scrutiny of examination (how could he be the only one who remembers?) but if you can accept the story as fiction and just go with it, you may find the ride as wonderful as I did.

Movie page: Yesterday

The River and the Wall

There are so many things I loved about this movie that chronicles the 1200-mile trek along the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso to the Golf of Mexico.

The River and the Wall captures the breathtakingly beautiful, rugged wildlife and scenery of the area. That, alone, makes the movie worth watching.

If you have a chance to see it on a big screen, I highly recommend it. The open spaces are breathtaking and I felt a deep sense of protectiveness for the land and a deep sense of our connectedness.

For me, it complicated the whole issue of border security and immigration. And that’s one of the things that makes the movie outstanding. It takes this simple idea of a river and a wall and shows you how it’s not all that simple.

You have this big issue of immigration and protecting US borders and those are important.

But then you look at the people affected by a wall and the stories about how it will change people’s lives and their livelihood, and about birds and animals don’t know anything about treaties and undocumented migration.

The issue seems way more nuanced.

The land was here thousands of years before we got here and will be here thousands of years after we’re gone. To build a wall feels like the most excessive, ridiculous way to solve the problem. It’s like performing surgery with a sledgehammer. An expensive sledgehammer.

Movie website: theriverandthewall.com

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

When I first saw that Tom Hanks was playing Mr. Rogers, I thought, Tom Hanks can’t possibly pull it off. 

Well, I was wrong. He pulls it off beautifully. But what surprised me more was the way the story came about and how the movie wasn’t really about Mr. Rogers. 

The film is based on a true story about a reporter who gets an assignment to write about Mr. Rogers. He’s not a fan and tries to get out of it, but he can’t so he approaches the whole thing with a “let’s get this over with” attitude. 

The movie is about what how that assignment changes everything for him. So it’s about Mr. Rogers but not a biopic.

This was one of those movies that when it ended, I thought, Omg. Everyone should see this movie.

The message of love and compassion and forgiveness and the way we’re all connected and capable of building each other up is something we need so badly right now.

One line that I think about often is when the reporter meets Mrs. Rogers and asks, “What does it feel like to be married to a saint.” Her reaction is a kicker. She says she doesn’t like when people say that because it makes it seem like what he does is unattainable. But it’s not. He works at it just like we can all work at it. 

I loved Mr. Rogers (the real Mr. Rogers) and didn’t expect to love this movie, but I found it uplifting and beautiful and powerful. A must see.

Official website: abeautifulday.movie

What do they have in common?

I found myself wondering what theme or message ties these together and resonates with my own writing?

You definitely will see the character arc, but the big message is how we can build up or break down. That our actions, beliefs impact us, yes, but also the people around us and maybe people we’ll never meet, that we create a ripple effect in the world. We’re connected and our actions (or inactions) affect others.

We each have our own stories to tell. And they may not make headlines or create a buzz, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. You never know who you’re inspiring with your actions.

In case you missed my recent post about going to the movies, check it out here.

Movie theater

A movie at a movie theater is still the best

I want to take a few minutes of your time to talk about going to the movies. I know, it’s kind of a strange thing to talk about because what’s there to say, really? You either like it or you don’t. 

But I want to dive deeper into this activity, going to the movies, not just the medium. Sure there are a gazillion movies you can stream at home for a fraction of the cost of going to a movie theater. 

And depending on the circumstances, that can be fine. 

But I believe there’s nothing like the experience of watching a movie at a movie theater so I’m going to talk about why it’s still the best way to experience cinema.

The screen.

Mark and I went to a special screening of Jaws last year and I don’t think I’ve been as scared of that mechanical shark since I first saw it in 1975 when it was first released.

Jaws was a summer blockbuster that year. My cousins and I waited in a line that wrapped around the Century South Theater building. (You don’t see that much anymore)

I’ve seen Jaws on TV tons of times. Still good, but not scary. 

But omg. ***spoiler alert in case you haven’t seen Jaws**** When the shark comes after the guy at the end, his blood-curdling, high-pitched, agonizing shriek made me cringe for real. It was horrible. Maybe the sound system added to the experience. 

And one scene when they’re out on the boat and it’s twilight, I never noticed in all the times I’ve seen the movie, what a beautiful shot that is or the shooting star flashing across sky. 

Nothing can make a bad movie good, but a good movie is better at the theater. And maybe intended to be experienced on the big screen. 

It’s a communal event.

Getting out and seeing people and sharing the movie experience is a thing. You may not talk to fellow movie-goers, but you now have a shared experience. Mark and I usually sit through the credits and we always talk about what we saw.

Sometimes it’s a short conversation, like Wow that was really good. And then we talk about why. I’m not saying this type of dialogue isn’t possible at home, but at home we’re more likely to switch it to something else immediately and it’s just not the same.

At one of the movie theaters we go to there’s an older crowd and I believe they must have a movie club. I think that’s a great idea, like book clubs discuss what you read, movie clubs discuss what you saw, what you liked, what you didn’t like. What a great way to connect with people. 

Gets you out of the house.

You know the animated science-fiction Pixar movie Wall E? Earth has been destroyed and humans hover on a home ship waiting for the all clear to go back to earth. Well, in the Wall E world, humans don’t have to get out of their chair for anything, not even a drink, because they have an AI/robot doing everything for them.

Does that sound just a teensy bit familiar?

We can stream just about everything from home, get our fast food and groceries and whatever else we desire delivered…it’s almost like we’re conveniencing ourselves right into the Wal E future. Agh!

It might be easier to stay home and watch a movie, but easier is not always better. Going to the movies gets you out of the house. And there are tons of theaters now that will serve you once you’re there. 

The many elements of moviemaking

Years and years ago, I took a film class at San Antonio College. It was a summer session class and our final assignment was to make a short film, 4-5 mins. We shot on an 8 mm camera and had free reign of the campus. Of the 7 or 8 films made in that class, only 1 came even close to being decent (not my group’s) which was suprising as heck because we’d seen the raw footage. Terrible. As bad or worse than the rest.

Somehow, that crappy footage was pieced together to be funny and interesting. The magic was in the editing.

Making a movie is really hard to do.  When you watch a movie you’re watching the result of maybe years of effort, collaboration, coordination, prepation, and work. All for you.

It’s kinda cool when you think of it that way, isn’t it?

I’d love to know what you think. Do you go to the movies? If not, why not? If you do, what about it do you like?

Read more about going to the movies on the blogpost: Going to the Movies

End of Your Life Book Club

Book recommendation: End of Your Life Book Club

This is a book recommendation for The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. (I listened to the audiobook version read by Jeff Harding.) 

Last December, I was looking for something good to read and found this title on my running list of books someone has recommended, either somone I know or some other source, like a magazine or newspaper.

I didn’t remember what the book was about or who had recommended it, but the audiobook was available on Libby so I decided to check it out.

A 2-person book club?

The book is the story is of a mother and son, both readers, who start their 2-person book club when the mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. They will spend many hours in conversation as he accompanies her to doctor appointments and chemo treatments and agree to read the same book so they can talk about it.

Judging from the title alone, it seems like the story would be gloomy and sad, but I didn’t find it so at all. 

Here are a few things I loved about it:

I love that the core of the book is conversations between a mother, Mary Ann Schwalbe, and her son, Will Schwalbe, the author of the book.

Through the long hours of chemo treatments with his mom he gets to know her like he never had before. He learns about her younger years and life choices, and what shaped her into the woman who became his mother. 

Through these conversation the reader learns about this extraordinary, smart, humble, and compassionate woman. She believed she had a responsibility to help people if she could. And even though she knew she couldn’t do everything, she knew she could do something. And so she did. Alot, including working with refugee families in Afghanistan and work tirelessly to build a library there. 

And, oh yes, books

As you might have guessed, The End of Your Life Book Club is about books, how reading can change your life. It’s about how stories relate the shared human experience. 

I’m grateful for the opportunity to sit in on this 2-person club. And I’m grateful for a chance to meet someone like Mary Ann Schwalbe. Her legacy lives on through this story.

If you’re looking for a good read, I recommend it. 

End of Your Life Book Club is available in audiobook, ebook, and print. I encourage you to look for it at your local library and Libby.

For more information about the Libby app, read Want to read more books? Maybe Libby can help.

Listen to this

“Becoming Wise” podcast offers morsels of wisdom

I was looking for a podcast to listen to, something short, but packed with insight. That’s how I stumbled on the podcast called “Becoming Wise”

The name intrigued me because, How do you become wise? And what is wisdom anyway?

But as I perused, I saw that the podcasts are short, around 10 minutes long, so they’re like morsels of wisdom, and feature big-idea people like Brené Brown, Seth Godin, and Desmond Tutu.

The last episode was published July 2019 so it looked like the podcast may be done, but I decided to give it a listen anyway.

Compassion changes everything

One segment title caught my attention: Compassion for Our Bodies. I thought, Oh yeah. Let me check out what they have to say about having compassion for my ever-changing, menopausal body.

The podcast host, Krista Tippett, introduced Matthew Sanford, an innovator of adaptive yoga who’s been in a wheelchair for 30 years, since an accident that killed his father and sister when he was 14 -years old.

Mr. Sanford says, “Your body, for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living. That’s what it does.” This from a man who has endured numerous operations and painful recoveries. He says of his experience, “My body didn’t ask to get hammered and break, and to have its spine shredded, and many bones broken. But it went, ‘Ok. Let’s regroup. Let’s go.’” He also says, “I look at places — skin on my body, old pressure sores and old stuff that happened — where you can see the skin is struggling to stay and hold. I don’t think, ‘It’s not holding, dang it.’ I feel like, ‘Man, it’s working as hard as it can.’

Whoa! How true! 

That philosophy is something I’ve tried to practice for a while now, but what a great reminder. The interview got me thinking, How can this idea help me as I age and my body changes and I’m less able to do what I used to do?

Mr. Sanford’s insight opened me up to have more compassion for my body and gratitude that it “for as long as it possibly can, will be faithful to living.”

How can I dislike any part of my body when it does nothing but work for me, even when I eat too much, skip my workout(s), or don’t get enough sleep?

The episode had me saying, Thank you, body. You’re amazing and wonderful and I’m sorry I don’t treat you like it sometimes.

A small bite of food for thought

If you’re looking for a small helping of something of substance, I recommend “Becoming Wise” Podcast. I like to listen to an episode and mentally chew on it for a while.

Here’s a sample of some other episode titles:

Courage is Born from Struggle with Brené Brown
Beauty is an Edge of Becoming with John O’Donohue
We Choose Our Own Tribes with Seth Godin
Healing Through Story with Desmond Tutu
The Everyday Gift of Writing with Naomi Shihab Nye
Evil, Forgiveness, and Prayer with Elie Wiesel

That’s quite a sampling, don’t you think?

There are a total of 37 episodes. Happy listening!

For more reading on the blog about “Aging” read Getting older and how to be okay with it

For more information about Becoming Wise or Krista Tippett’s other work, go to The On Being Project at onbeing.org.

If you have a chance to listen, share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!