Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Love Affair with Robots

                                                                 


The very first robot I remember seeing was at Lit Brothers’ Department Store during the Christmas holiday around the year 1950. I was about four years old and Jane was almost three. My parents, the famous Fred and Lucy, had taken my sister and I to see Santa. We stood in a long line of parents and children that moved at snail speed around the different departments of the store, including the toy section.
Finally, it was my family's turn to enter the inner sanctum that held the red throne and good ole Santa. Right before we walked through the door, my gaze fell upon a very strange toy nestled in with the various sizes of baby dolls and teddy bears. It was a metal man. It had an antenna sticking out of the top of its head.
"I want that," I said to Fred. He was tugging me towards the man with the white beard, but I dug my heels into the rug and pointed at the table. "I want that," I repeated.
"Ask Santa," Fred said.
I did ask Santa for the metal man, but that Christmas morning, metal man was a no show. Fortunately, one of my cousins received a robot for his birthday that summer and I was allowed to play with it. It was a great toy, but it couldn't fly. Anthony and I figured this out after we dropped it from the second story window. Oops!

                                                                  

Robby
The year was 1956. I was taking my sister Jane and brother Michael to the  creature double feature matinee at our neighborhood theatre. The youngest, Lucy, was too little to tag along. My siblings and I had boloney sandwiches in the brown paper bags that we carried. After buying our popcorn for the food fight, we settled into our seats to watch Forbidden Planet.

                                                                

As soon as Robby the Robot came onto scene, my love affair with robots began in earnest. This robot could move and talk and fight bad people. I wanted one and so did my brother Michael, but Christmas was months away. What could we do in the meantime?
Fred had loads of cardboard boxes from the stock he bought every week for our grocery store. I'll have to admit, we kids were quite inventive. We pilfered a few rolls of aluminum foil from the stock room to cover the boxes. Wire hangers were used as our robot's antenna. Knobs were whisked away from all the bedroom furniture to make great control buttons, that is, until  mom made us put them back.
On Christmas morning, Michael got his robot, which I'm pretty sure was a duplicate of Robby, but all I got were more stupid baby dolls. My mother could not understand my fascination with robots.
Robots have become a  welcomed staple in many a science fiction film and I have loved every one of them, even the scary ones like Hector from Saturn 3.

                                                                  


I still love robots. The world of robotics is here and it's amazing what they can do now. We have Nano robots, space robots, helper robots. Check out this site for more: http://www.roboticstoday.com/  and http://www.popsci.com/tags/military-robots

We've come a long way since Robby and that's the way it should be. Robots can be used in dangerous situations, helping to keep people from harm. Can robots take over the world; take over us? I doubt it, but if we don't stop trying to blow up the planet, they might have to.

                                                                  


I've published my first book in an apocalyptic series called Roof Oasis. I've included a robot as part of the story. Her name is Patty. She starts out as a child's companion in book one. In book two, Saving Solanda, which will come out this summer, Patty is evolving; becoming self aware.

                                                                    


She's quite demanding and I have no idea what trouble she'll get into by the time book three and four our finished.
 
 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The New Ladies of Fairy Tales

                                                           


In the olden days, the formula for a successful fairy tale was: Princess in trouble + Brave Prince Charming + Prince rescues Princess =  Happy Ever After. Yeah, right!

Maybe I bought this formula when I was five years old, but by the age of ten. I knew better. I was a child from the era that gave us, The Korean War, The Cold War,  Civil Right's Movement, the bra burning Women's Liberation Movement, the Space Program and, last but not least, the war in Vietnam. You realized right away that the world did not offer happy ending fairy tales. I was born to Italian Immigrants in good ole South Philly. We were a middle class working family. The entire family worked in my father's grocery store. As soon as we four siblings reached the age of seven, my father tied an apron around our waist and said, "Get to work!" 

                                                          


We four kids worked seven days a week along with my mother and father, the famous Fred and Lucy.  We went to Catholic school where the nuns focused on teaching the necessary skills to turn us into productive tax payers, even if they had to beat the lesson plans into our skulls. The nuns of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had no patience for fragile princesses in their classes and, they tolerated a Prince Charming even less.

                                                                     


South Philly girls were tough. We had to be. The world in which we lived in was not conductive to princesses or fairy tales. Unfortunately, the Disney Fairy Tales from my generation, did not mirror my upbringing or my daughter's. Sad! I was never a weak maiden in need of rescuing. I was the one usually rescuing others. This may be why I love "The Walking Dead's female heroines Carol and Michonne. 



I brought up my daughter to be a strong woman, also. She's a tiny package looking more like Snow White...that is until you try to hurt her family...then she becomes Wonder Woman... who will gladly send you flying into the next fairy tale. So you can imagine our opinion of weak princesses in Disney Films.

                                                                


This is why we both enjoyed Walt Disney new take on "Doesn't Need Saving" Princesses. Here are two samples

Yes indeed! Walt Disney Pictures/ Roth Films has brought fairy tales into the future and Malificent was proof of this. Women have always been able to do the same jobs as men and, just recently, the military said women could fight on the front lines.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/24/us-military-lifts-ban-women-combat

                                                                  


It was with the premier of the film Malificent starring Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning and Sam Riley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maleficent_(film) that I noticed the new direction,  the Disney Studio had taken.

It was Angelina Jolie's Malificent's kiss that woke the princess, and then, saved Princess Aurora from the selfish, demonic King Stefan. It didn't matter that it was Malificent who placed the curse on Aurora in the first place; Malificent was a little pissed off with the treacherous Stefan for stealing her powerful wings by the time Aurora was born. She took her revenge out on the person she assumed meant the world to Stefan.

                                                                 


What Malificent didn't count on was for her and her shape changing familiar (Sam Riley) to become the secret protectors of baby Aurora. The infant's guardians, who were also fairies, were comically incompetent. Malificent grew to love the child and the child, her.

In the end, it was the love of a strong woman who saved the fair Princess Aurora and her Prince Charming. This was the best version of Sleepy Beauty that I've seen yet.
Angelina Jolie did a stunning job in the film as the angry fairy queen of the forest who falls in love with the child she' cursed. Love conquers all!

                                                               

This past weekend I went to see Cinderella with my niece and great niece. I had wondered if Disney Studio would do as good a job with this film as they did with Malificent. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella_(2015_film)

Cinderella which starred Lily James in the title role was a visual feast for these old tired eyes. Richard Madden (Game of Throne's Rob Stark), Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter and the very talented Nonso Anozie from the series Dracula.

The story went by the normal formula of princess saved by prince except for a few twists which I picked up on right away. Yes, the stepmother played deliciously wicked by Cate Blanchett was selfish and abusive to Cinderella, but we see what sparked the hatred.

                                                                       


When Cinderella's father (Ben Chaplin) died away from home, he sent one special gift back and that was for his daughter. The wife received nothing, not even a note proclaiming his love. Lady Tremaine lets slip that she was a happy wife and mother to her true love, first husband, until his untimely death.  Maybe she married Cinderella's father for convenience and security for her and her two brats, but I think she had also allowed herself to dare fall in love again with husband #2.  Lady Tremaine realized that she was not treasured and she took out her revenge on Cinderella. 

                                                              


Cinderella was a sweet, forgiving girl, but her courage did not reveal itself in battle. No, Cinderella proved her bravery with her refusal to allow Lady Tremaine to take advantage of the king's love for her. Cinderella was willing to stay the family slave in order to protect the new king. Bravery comes in all forms and I'm hoping we will see more kick ass princesses on the horizon.

Side note: I wasn't sure what my great niece took home from the film. This being her second movie date of the year with me. Yesterday, she came home from school and asked me to dance with her; a waltz; just like Cinderella and Kit danced. I asked her if I was to play the part of Prince Kit because I would need to lead the waltz. Isabella looked me straight in the eye and said, "Aunt Marie, I'm a princess and I'll lead my own waltz."

                                                           

Damn right, you will!!! Long live the Warrior Queen! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Steampunk Granny Rants

                                                               
 
My husband likes to point out the more serious goof-ups that our elected officials commit. I think he enjoys seeing my reaction to stupidity. Today, he showed me a story about a District Judge ruling against SEPTA and allowing advertising from a private group to be placed on city buses. The ad will feature Adolf Hitler meeting with Haj Amin Al Husseini a man who supported the lower than rat shit, Nazis. The judge said that since SEPTA featured ads against fracking, animal cruelty, teacher seniority, religion and contraception, that this ad was okey dokey and fit in with the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
                                                              

                                                                      
Free Speech?

The ad wanted us to stop giving financial aid to Islamic countries. Okay, but why put this on the side of the bus and, why only stop funding Islamic countries. Let us be unprejudiced and include everyone. ‘We the people’ are getting a bit tired of supporting the world. It hasn’t made the people living in other countries any better off and, it has bankrupted us. When we lend money to countries, the lender begins to feel that they can give ultimatums to the borrower. The borrower becomes bitter, resentful and, eventually they become our enemies.  Let’s keep friends by zipping up that purse, forever!

Maybe the ad should read like this:

Stop funding other countries! Keep our freaking tax money here in this country for our own people! Now that’s a message you want to see on a bus.

If Septa is required to feature ads to keep down the cost of a ticket to ride the buses and trains, then let them advertise independent businesses, healthy eating, better schools, clean water and untainted food.

SHUT UP!

The second part of my rant has to do with the hateful shaming and juvenile remarks made by the members of the Tea Party and Republican Party about President Obama and his family. I don’t care what they say, the attacks on our president have been dehumanizing from the get go. Shame on you! You can’t fool this granny. I’ve lived long enough to know bad manners and hate when I see it. The two parties have been so radically hateful towards the President, that other countries are now comfortable with insulting his wife; horrid and intolerable. Hello Congress! Don’t you realize that your nasty remarks have made us appear clownish to the whole world.

Is it the Fracked Water?

I am seriously trying to figure out why people in authority or on television are saying the most hateful and dumb ass shit. Excuse my %#*%$ language. I am certain that it has to be something in the food or water that is causing an entire political party to act like ding bats from hell. Is it the genetically modified seeds used to grow our food? Is it the water run off that happens wherever fracking is done? Maybe it’s a combination.

My sister says it’s because big oil and foreign corporations own our government and politicians and, by nature of the beast, politicians have large pockets that beg to be filled. Is everyone in politics, corrupt?

I’m still leaning towards the water and food causing the stupidity. In my apocalyptic series, Roof Oasis, greedy men under the guidance of one leader, contaminate the food and water to control the populace. It backfires, there’s a French Revolution type of zombie uprising, hence the apocalypse.
                                                                  
I began to listen to the BBC for my news. I could not stand to watch the news on television. It was causing me to become physically sick. There is only so much toxic waste one should be forced to take into one’s body and soul. Every once in a while, a story comes out that causes me to rant.

Rodner Figueroa, the host of Univision’s Say y Pimiento, appeared on the morning show El Gordo y La Flaca on Tuesday to discuss Paolo Ballesteros, a make-up artist who transforms into various female celebrities, including, Kim Kardashian and First Lady Michelle Obama via make-up. What got Figueroa into trouble and fired was his comment about Michelle. Here it is.

“Mind you, you know that Michelle Obama looks like she’s part of the cast of ‘Planet of the Apes,’ the film.”


                                                                     

Conclusion
There is too much hate in this world! We should respect people and not kill them just because of religion, race, age, gender, or origin. Men and Women are equal. Period! If you can’t handle it, then it’s tough. You can move to the moon and grow the fuck up! You are not allowed to force your religious beliefs on me. I’ll believe in the Creator my own way. Keep religion and politics a separate beast.

                                                          
                                                              
 
The World is on the verge of a total melt down, but no worries. I have a feeling that we, like the dinosaurs, will go extinct, and maybe, the rightful heirs of Mother Earth can take over.

Insects rejoice!
 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Steampunk Granny's Review of 47 Ronin

                                                                
My post was originally featured on Biff Bam Pop, but it's been on cable again and I wanted to re-share my review. Enjoy!
I swear if my grandsons could move to Japan, they would…but until they can, they watch and read everything Japanese. When 47 Ronin opened on Christmas Day, guess who was dragged to the movies with them?
                                                                 

 
47 Ronin premiered in 2013 and is a fictional account of the forty-seven Ronin, a real life group of samurai in 18th century Japan. This fantasy action film, which was produced by Universal Studios, was directed by Carl Erik Rinsch and stars Mr. Matrix himself, Keanu Reeves along with Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, and Rinko Kikuchi as the witch. Did I like the film?
Plot
Kai (Keanu Reeves) the offspring of a British sailor and a Japanese peasant woman was left in the swamps to die; half breeds, especially illegitimate ones, being frowned on during that time period. He’s found and reared by some brutal mystical creatures resembling lizards.
                                                                  

Years later, the young Kai is taken in as a servant by the kindly Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) and his young daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki). Although Mika loves Kai, the samurai warriors that serve Lord Asano shun the half breed. The loudest objector to Kai’s presence on Lord Asano’s land is Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the leader of Asano’s samurai.
The Reception
When news of an envoy of the Emperor is coming to Lord Asano’s home, a reception is arranged to honor Shogun Tsunayoshi (Cary-hiroyuki Tagawa). One of the guests invited is the evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi). Lord Kira wants Lord Asano’s land and his daughter as a bride and he will do everything in his power to obtain both.
                                                                         

With the aid of Mizuki, Lord Kira arranges a series of misfortunes to occur which not only has Kai sold into slavery, but shames Lord Asano in front of the Shogun. Lord Asano is forced to commit seppuku (formal suicide) and Mika obliged to marry Lord Kira at the end of the year. Lord Asano’s death leaves his samurai without a leader, and thus, they are now, Ronin. I guess it’s like a demotion, because the ex-samurai are chased out of town. Lord Asano’s lands are in ruins and his people are mistreated by the soldiers of Lord Kira. Oishi is thrown into a pit for one year. When he is released, Kira thinks Oishi is a broken man.
Mizuki
This lady would be perfect in a Disney movie as a wicked witch; quite nasty. She’s a shape shifter extraordinaire, be it spider or dragon.
                                                                  

She spends her time spying for Lord Kira or terrifying poor Mika who is held captive until the arrival of her wedding day.
Oishi
Honor is very important to the Japanese and especially to the samurai, who lived their daily lives under a strict code of loyalty, sacrifice, persistence and honor. Oishi is honor bound to restore the good name of his dead Lord. His first act after he’s released from the pit is to find Kai before searching for the other samurai. Kai leads the samurai to the dangerous swamps and to the mystical creatures that saved him when he was abandoned as a baby. These creatures don’t care too much for mankind, but at Kai’s insistence, they give the much needed weapons to the samurai for their battle against Lord Kira.
                                                              

Conclusion
I absolutely loved this movie. If you get a chance to watch it, please do. The acting was superb, the clothing and scenery a treat to the eyes and, although Keanu Reeves is the star, the story was really about Oishi and the other samurai. Mizuki is stunning as the evil witch/dragon. The film is a tribute to the samurai code of honor. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Steampunk Granny's Review of Babette's Feast

                                                           

I love watching foreign films. Babette’s Feast premiered in 1987 as Babettes gaestebud. It is a Danish film directed by Gabriel Axel and produced by Just Betzer, Bo Christensen and Benni Korzen. It’s based on a story by Isak Dinesen (Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke). It was the first Danish film to win The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Plot

The film starred Birgitte Federspiel as Martine and Bodil Kjer as Philippa as two elderly, pious, Christian sisters who lived in a small village in 19th century Denmark. Their father, who was a pastor, is now dead and the sisters are now providing for the congregation. He was a selfish man and turned away all the suitors that came to the village wishing to marry his beautiful daughters.

                                                                        

Many years later, the spinster sisters receive a letter from Achille Papin, the opera star from Paris who had fell in love with Philippa. The woman who delivers this letter, Babette Hersant (Stephane Audran) is a refugee from the bloody French Revolution. He begs the sisters to take Babette in as a housekeeper. The sisters can’t afford a housekeeper, but Babette solves that little problem by working for free.

Babette came to the sisters with only a small suitcase and a lottery ticket. A friend in Paris buys her a new ticket each year. She never tells the sisters what she did in Paris before coming to the desolate village of Jutland. Over time, the sisters consider this quiet French woman as a friend. They don’t understand her ways, but they really care about her.

Babette

You can tell from the start that Babette was from the upper class in Paris by the way she carries herself with people and by the way she cooks. As caretakers of their father’s congregation, the sisters delivered food to the shut-ins. Their cooking leaves much to be desired. It sucks! But, when you’re bedridden, you eat what you’re given. Babette takes over the cooking and the delivery of the food to shut-ins. The food is good; the meals slurped up in pleasure. The sisters never know how to handle the modest but tasty variations of their menus. Their bland meals considered more appropriate for a Christian home.

                                                                          

One day, Babette receives word that she’s won the lottery. 10,000 francs is a lot of money and, I expected Babette to use that money to go back to Paris or anywhere other than Jutland, but she didn’t. The sisters have been good to her and even though the congregation considered her strange, they opened their hearts to Babette as well. Babette has her nephew spend the money on food. Babette plans to create a feast for the village.

The Dinner


Babette has a choice, return to Paris and her old lifestyle or prepare a feast for the sisters who took her in. Babette picked the feast. The sisters invite the congregation to this feast including one of Martine’s former suitors who is now a famous general married to a member of the Queen’s court. Lorens (Jarl Kulle) is in the village visiting his aunt. Lorens is a man of the world and familiar with gourmet dishes. While the other guests eat, but withhold complements because they think the food, overly lavish, unchristian and perhaps sinful, the general raves over each dish that is served. He has good reason to be so enchanted.




                                                                        
                                                                     

Babette, before the revolution, was the head chef of the CafĂ© Anglasis. As Babette works her magic in the kitchen, we are no longer a woman preparing a meal. Babette takes that food and creates a love story for the senses that is just as beautiful as any painting in the Louvre. By the time desert is served, the frugal congregation realizes this simple truth and they leave the sisters’ home satisfied physically and spiritually.
                                                                         
                                                                      
The story is simple, but it draws you in gently stirring your appetite and your soul into a soufflé of delight. You should do yourself a favor and rent this film if you can. Do it on an empty stomach. Then while the credits role at the end, enter your kitchen and create your own masterpiece.
 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Steampunk Granny Loves Adult Wednesday Addams

                                                       
                                      Photo by Land O' Goshen

A fellow writer shared a site with me this week. I checked it out and was instantly hooked on a YouTube site called Adult Wednesday Addams staring Melissa Hunter. Melissa is also the writer for these clips and let me tell you, they are funny. Here is her web site: http://itsmelissahunter.com/


                                                         
                                          Photo by Land O' Goshen


Here is a sample of her work:






Melissa is raising money to do a second season. I think you'll want to help her after you've seen her videos. They are awesome!!!!!