31 Jan 2020

A year ago today

A month ago I was looking forward to the start of a new year because it meant I could - symbolically at least - start over fresh and hope for a better year than 2019. And it's a very low bar to be better than 2019. Only requirement is my family has to stay alive.

So 2020 should be better (I hope!), but as I'm discovering it's still going to be very painful. Because it's going to be pretty much a whole year of "A year ago today..."

A year ago today my dad had brain surgery. And came out of it unscathed, and with his sense of humor intact - he spent the following weeks talking about the hole in his head and showing off his Frankstein-look with a scary long line of staples along the side of his head!

A year ago on January 9th my dad went in for a brain scan (MRI) at a private clinic (looking into the cause of some symptoms that appeared the previous summer and got progressively worse over the fall), and the next day at doctor friend at that clinic called him and said "go straight to your the ER at your local hospital and have them admit you and get you to see a neurologist". The scan showed something in the brain that shouldn't be there, and the radiologist's expert opinion was tumor. But more studies would be needed to confirm what type exactly (although it was apparently quite clear).

A year ago on January 11th my dad was admitted to hospital and spent several weeks having tests done while neurologists, neurosurgeons and oncologists put together an attack plan. For starters relatively positive: it was in an easy place to access, minor risks for secondary effects, there was a chance it was benign...

A year ago tomorrow (or some day next week, the exact moment the initial suspicion was confirmed is lost in the fog of my mind) the neurosurgeon told us the tumor's name: glioblastoma multiforme, grade 4. Supposedly about as bad as it gets. Composed of various cell types that don't all respond to chemo in the same way. Super-fast growth. Spreads to other parts of the brain no problem... Average survival rate (or until a 2nd tumor appears, which is not always possible to remove through surgery): 2 years if it responds well to chemo/radiotherapy (with the occasional 5 year miracle case). If it doesn't? Less.

9 months later. It was over. The bastard was resistant to the chemo & radio, a scan in July showed new growth in the incision site and two new tumors in the other side of the brain. A strange crisis / tremor / spasm (to this date we still don't know how to describe it) had him back in hospital on July 29th. Home a few days later but unable to walk much without support because apparently one of the new tumors was affecting the right side of his body (hand, leg) and he needed a walker. Then a wheelchair, then no more leaving the house, then no more leaving the bed... And then

On October 23rd we'll be saying a year ago today he left us. On October 24th we said goodbye.

Will our hearts still be broken in October 2020? Oh god I hope not! But it's been 3 months and I feel worse instead of even marginally better.

Maybe one day I'll share about how wonderful everyone was last year. How much love was in our life, pouring in from around the world. But not today. Today I'm just pissed. Because a year ago today I had hope. And a year ago tomorrow I didn't.


21 Apr 2019

Movie Magic - Celebrating the marvelous achievement that is the MCU (part 2)

Continuing the exploration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU), we move into Phases 2 and 3 (so once again my "part 2" does not coincide with the MCU Phase 2). 

Whereas we could have considered the Phase 1 (+ Captain Marvel) movies the warp of the tapestry that is MCU, with its series of origin stories for the principle heroes - and their first coming together to form the Avengers - as the foundation of the MCU, the movies in Phases 2 & 3 should be considered the weft, filling in the story further, adding colour & texture (sometimes through further developing familiar character and places, others by introducing new ones), making the overall design more apparent, while of course each movie is still telling its own story. Each film is designed as its own thing, but woven into it are the threads that connect back to the larger cinematic universe.

With regards to the order of viewing, and wanting to keep it in chronological order within the MCU (as opposed to release date), it was a bit difficult to figure out which events took place before which others. Doing a bit of online research (a.k.a. Googling), I came upon a proposed order by AMC Theatres that makes a lot of sense to me, both in terms of organizing them chronologically and thematically. They propose going straight into the second Thor movie after the Avengers, as it directly takes up Thor and Loki's storylines. Then continuing with the two Guardians of the Galaxy films (the second is set mere months after the first), to continue with the cosmic side of the MCU, before coming back to Earth to look into the consequences of Avengers for the Earth-bound characters, leading into their next team-up.

So that means for part 2 I'm going with: Thor: The Dark World (2013), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Iron Man 3 (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). This order brings a Phase 3 movie into the grouping (GotGvol.2), and pushes a Phase 2 movie (Ant Man) into Part 3. Although, to be honest, Ant Man should have always been considered a Phase 3 movie since it was released (and takes place) after Age of Ultron. Just saying... 😉 (that or you could consider it a coda to Phase 2, setting up a new plane - the quantum realm - for Phase 3)


28 Mar 2019

Movie Magic - Celebrating the marvelous achievement that is the MCU (part 1)

Whether you're a fan or not... I don't think one can help to be impressed by what Marvel Studios has achieved in the past decade with the MCU. They have interwoven 22 mostly distinct films (some more, some less - or so it appeared at first - connected to the rest) into a vast tapestry that really is a cinematic universe! Each movie has its story to tell, and while for some of them it would be highly recommended you see other related ones (in particular the sequels), they can all be enjoyed independently of the other. Of course the experience is much enriched by having seen all of them and keeping track of the threads that weave in and out and tie so many of them together.

Tony Stark, the epitome of "cool"
Marvel put together this universe with a collection of characters from its wide roster of superheroes and villains, some who were already well-known to the general public (Hulk!), others were more familiar only to comic book fans (Iron Man). They took these characters and the traits that made them who they are, but often tweaked their origin stories or current ones in order to better meld them into an over-arching coherent cinematic universe and bring the stories into the 21st century. They even started enriching this cinematic universe with TV outings (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter, the Netflix shows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist - culminating in the team-up Defenders, and the Punisher etc.), but between 2 separate branches of the studio responsible for movies vs TV, and the differences between the chronology to put together a TV show and a movie, there's almost no connection or references between the TV/movie outings. The movies definitely don't reference the TV shows (although we'd love to see some of our favorite TV characters get at least a cameo!), and the TV shows only reference the movies obliquely (e.g. calling the Avengers-set "Battle of New York" as "the incident"), except for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which in its first season does bring in a few elements of Captain America Civil War and Thor 2, and in its fifth season has side references to what's happening in New York and Wakanda... In any case, for the present I'm centering on the movies.

Of course with a collection this vast, with a diversity of characters/actors (although to be fair not enough gender or racial diversity - it took them 10 years to have a film with women either as the main lead or directing) and different voices of scriptwriters and directors, playing with different genres, well quality varies somewhat from one to another, as well as people's tastes. For me the highlight of the MCU, what keeps me coming back, are the characters (ok, the awesome spectacle on the big screen as well). Even in the movies that aren't that great, there's always some saving grace thanks to the lead characters and many of the supporting ones! Iron Man 2 and Thor 1&2 are generally agreed to be duds, but Tony Stark, Thor and Loki still shine in them! The exception might be The Incredible Hulk, none of the characters seemed to be allowed to meaningfully grow or let the viewer connect with them...

So, let's dive in, shall we? I started out planning on doing one overall post, but as I've been writing it I realize with 21 movies it's much too long! So dividing it in 3 parts - and NO the "parts" do not 100% coincide with the MCU "Phases" because I've decided to re-watch these chronologically according to the in-universe timeline, not order of release, so Captain Marvel is shifted to the top of the list. Oh! And as I said, I won't review/re-watch the TV shows (not enough time!), but I will include a mention of when they would be set...

The Phase 1 movies were mostly everyone's origin story, and getting them where they need to be to team up in later - so Captain Marvel is a perfect fit!

So for Part 1 we revisit: Captain America (2011) - becoming a super-soldier but retaining that sense and ability to do what's right, Captain Marvel (2019) - discovering who she truly is, and claiming her power through that self-knowledge, Iron Man (2008) & Iron Man 2 (2010) an egotistical billionaire learns he can't go it alone and his actions have consequences, The Incredible Hulk (2008) - not sure really, since so much was ignored later, I guess acceptance of the beast inside, and a beginning of control, Thor (2011), and then of course The Avengers (2012).

Needless to say, SPOILERS BELOW!

6 Nov 2018

Movie Madness: the intensity of BlacKkKlansman and Bohemian Rhapsody

Oh wow! I mean... WOW!!!

I just got back from seeing the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody and man... they weren't kidding when they said "we will rock you"! I'm not sure there are words to describe the intensity of that film... of the music of Queen and their creation process. And those final 15' at Live Aid? DAMN!!!

The film's reviews might be kind of "meh" or "it's pretty tame, they took the 'safe' route in telling Freddie Mercury's story". IGNORE IT! Doesn't matter! Could there have been a more in-depth look at the band's hard partying life? At the choices Freddie makes? Sure, of course. But ultimately the music is what matters. And they are pretty damn insane! Their creative process is unbelievable. And their musical style, abilities for interpreting it, vocal range... you name it, they've got it! 

So go watch it, and I dare you to walk out at the end and not want to walk right back in to another screening... (I might go back on Sunday!) Oh, and someone give Rami Malek the Oscar for best actor right now and be done with it. 

And the thing is... that's not the only awesome movie I've seen this week. Yesterday my dad and I (he also came tonight) went to see Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman and we were equally (but differently) blown away by it! 

I remember going in thinking "ok, how is a black cop going to infiltrate the Klan?!" and came out going "with the help of a Jewish cop?!?!?" The story is so surreal, it could only be believable when you remember it's TRUE!!! Pretty insane! The whole film keeps the tension so tight you could cut it with a butter knife before the end, and yet at the same time it has some absolutely hilarious moments! We couldn't help cracking up laughing time and again (starting with that absurd phone call to the KKK's recruitment number that's shown in the trailer). I'm not surprised this took the Grand Prix du Public at Cannes last Spring!

After a couple of months of movie-drought, I've been blown away several times this past month (these, A Star is Born...). If the awards season is starting out this strong, I can't wait to see what comes next! And am happy I don't have to vote to choose a "best" from among them. 😜

28 Oct 2018

Random Sunday Time-changing thoughts

Daylight savings started today. Or is it ended? I never remember if Winter or Summer is Daylight Savings time! I guess because I was barely aware of it when I lived in the US as a child... In any case, as we'd say in Europe, we switched to "Winter time" and moved our clocks back an hour in the middle of the night.

Does anyone do that? Get up at 3 a.m. to switch the clock back to 2 a.m.? In this day and age most of us probably barely remember to do it, as our cellphones switch automatically. Wristwatches are easy and fast to change... but the car clock is a drag!!! 

On the news today they were talking about the time change... showing the weirdness of the nighttime radio announcing it was 2 a.m. for the second time in the same night, or how people out partying enjoyed an extra hour before pubs closed, or how much it sucks for people working night shifts who end up working an extra hour and not getting paid for it!

But mostly they were talking about how this might be one of the last times we go through this... It's been commented more and more each year. About how annoying it is (twice a year). About if it's really useful/necessary (economists say the savings are basically nothing for the average household). Etc. Then this past summer the EU ran a poll on its Facebook page asking people across Europe to vote in favor of keeping/cancelling the time changes. And a majority overwhelmingly said ENOUGH! So now the EU has asked the countries to consider it... and there will be a vote in Brussels (if it hasn't already happened, I get timings mixed up) and then directive sent out to all governments stating the end of the changes. If that goes through then all EU countries have to stop with the Fall/Spring time change (or it will be confusing for businesses who deal across Europe, not to mention travel!). It will be up to each country to decide if they keep Winter or Summer time...

In the case of Spain the government is also studying replacing us in our "proper" time zone. Right now we're in GMT+1 (a.k.a. CET or Central European Time), but if you look on a map then you'll notice the Greenwich meridian goes right through Spain, we should be at GMT! Same time zone as the UK and Portugal... Franco's the one who moved Spain into GMT+1 out of solidarity with Germany I've heard (not sure as to the accuracy of that why). I wonder if the present Government will move us back when they decide on the time issue...

Personally I can't decide if I prefer the Winter or Summer time... I enjoy the nice long summer evenings, but they're not really necessary. However they also mean longer daylight in the second half of the day in winter. But that means it's bloody dark very late in the morning! I've always appreciated the Fall time change as it makes it easier for me to wake up in the morning (I need sun to awaken properly). But is it really worth exchanging slightly easier wake-ups for shorter days? Dunno!!! 

6 Oct 2018

Movie Magic - A Star is Born (2018)

So I just got back from watching the latest iteration of A Star is Born... and it was simply brilliant! I've known for a while that Bradley Cooper can act, but I didn't know he could sing so well! And vice-versa for Lady Gaga, wow! Both of them simply blew me away with their performances, and the music was simply amazing! Although I'm with Cooper's character Jackson Maine who clearly thinks Gaga's Ally is much truer to herself earlier on, her new manager is leading her in a direction (look, style etc.) that seem to hide her more than reveal her... Or maybe it's just that I'm more of a rock than a pop girl. 😉

I hadn't realized this was actually the fourth version of this story, I thought Judy Garland's 1954 movie was the first (follow by Barbra Streisand's in 1976 - haven't seen that one yet). Looks like I'll have to dig up from somewhere the 1937 original! The movies all follow an almost identical plot (aging, almost washed out star "discovers" a young woman with immense talent and ushers her into the business, her success parallels his decline) and have progressed from being about actors, to musical actors, to musicians... and we've correspondingly switched from the big prize being an Oscar to a Grammy. Come to think of it, I'd say 2011's The Artist follows this storyline quite closely as well (except the original star's decline is not self-inflicted, but a change in the industry itself - silent film to talkies). It's a story that could be retold in each generation as the media of film or music keep evolving. And as long as they take good care of the script and choose good actors who have chemistry with each other, it will continue to be a successful story.

In the meantime, GO WATCH THIS ONE!

Now I'm going to go load the soundtrack on iTunes and listen to it on a loop. 😎

23 Sep 2018

Still here, still writing!

So far so good! 

I mentioned in my previous post that I intended to be more active on the Blogs, and it's been going pretty well now these past five weeks! The one post here in August, another on Cris Crossing the Globe (only a year late that one! 😝) and eight on Adventures in Camelot (and Sherwood). Yay me!

The thing is... September has been relatively peaceful. Four of those eight posts were already well advanced drafts from last summer, and all of them (but one) covered a TV series rewatch (so posting will stop with the end of the season). And I'm about to embark on three months of "where in the world am I?!". Will I be able to keep writing? I'll try! At least about traveling! Maybe here on random thoughts or awesome books or super movies or funny memories. I'll try!

For sure I've got to put something out about finally setting foot on the only continent I've never been to before... 

Summer is over. Autumn is here (although in Alicante it still feels like summer, bloody hot!). So much work awaits me these next three months, but with it so many adventures to come! Colombia. South Africa. Vietnam. England. Laos. Italy. Sweden. Here we go again! 😎

29 Aug 2018

Ignoring the rules when choosing favorites...

Last year my sister challenged me to complete the #challengeonnaturephotography on Facebook. The idea was to occupy FB with nature photographs. Each nominated person had to post a different nature photo for 7 days (and of course nominate someone else to take up the challenge). I got really into it and reposted the daily results here as well as on Facebook. But as I was selecting photos, I figured seven wouldn't cut it. So I chose to share two a day... for two weeks instead of one. Whoops! Carried away much? Nah! That's just me. Rules are more like guidelines, right? Do what you will with them? 😊

Earlier this month one of my Aunts tagged me in another a game on Facebook: the seven day book challenge. The idea was that for a whole week you were supposed to post a picture of the cover of one of your favorite books. No words, and no explanation (and of course challenge one of your friends). 

SEVEN days of favorite books?! How on earth could I possible choose only seven?!?!?! 

I promise I tried... I decided I'd just get up and pluck off my shelves books that immediately came to my mind as I walked around the house. The result:

TEN. 😱And if you look closely you'll notice an extra level of cheating: half of them are actually several books in a single volume! 😇 (I mean, how could I choose a single Narnia novel over another?) 😈

How about you? Ever broken the rules like this? And if not... how on earth were you able to keep the numbers down?!

Oh, and how do you like my books? (I actually ended up switching out the Little Women volume for another one I bought a few days later at the bookshop in the British Museum. Lovely hardback edition... that also includes Little Men and Jo's Boys so another 3-in-1!)

PS: I promise I'm still trying to write! This is actually my second post this week, the other was on one of my other blogs. I've decided I'm going to try and make Wednesday and Sunday evenings writing time. Depending on what I plan to write might be enough time to post something, or might need more work. And will be split between the 3 blogs... First off I need to dedicate some time to wrapping up six posts I left in draft form last summer on the Camelot/Sherwood blog! After that... fingers crossed all 3 will start coming back to life this Fall. Inch'allah.

26 Feb 2017

Oscar Preferences & Predictions 2017

I get teased quite often by family, friends, colleagues about my efforts each year to see as many of the Oscar nominees that I can (not always easy considering sometimes some aren't even out in Spain when the Oscars roll round), but this year's batch has reminded me again why I do it. 

In part it's because I love the movies and the Oscars and want to "try and guess the winners", but also because once the big night comes and goes I might not feel so much "pressure" to go and see the non-winners (I honestly don't think you can call a nominated film a "loser") and I might miss out on a gem. After all, when over 6000 film professionals come up with a list of movies to reward, you can be pretty damn sure those are going to be excellent films with something to say!

This year, if it weren't for the Oscars, I probably wouldn't have gone to see Manchester by the Sea or Moonlight or Fences or Jackie or Lion (or Hell or High Water which I still haven't seen but fully intend to on dvd - or an airplane, was only out for a week in English just after New Years, and the family chose another movie to see). And I would have missed out BIG TIME! All of them surprised me and moved me deeply. The depths of the human experience they allow us to witness, the huge talent of the actors bringing those characters to life, it just blew me away! I just came back from seeing Fences and I'm still in awe. Someone give Denzel Washington and Viola Davis their Oscars already, sorry for any competition (was sure Casey Affleck would win, until just now).

20 Nov 2016


This is going to be different than my usual posts (not sure if I can qualify anything as "usual" though, seeing how little I've been writing these past couple of years).
Will be something of a meandering of thoughts that have been coming at me for the past 10 days.

24 Jul 2016

Milestone birthdays

Why is it that we seem to mark some birthdays as more special than others? Place more significance on them? Dunno really, not even sure every culture around the world does this... And those that do, don't necessarily have the same milestones!

I guess my own mixed cultural background comes in to play here... 

The first big milestone I remember - yet didn't celebrate - was 15. I was living in Mexico then and the "Quinceañera" was a big deal! But I mostly saw that through a friend's birthday two years after mine, as my family was on holiday in the US Southwest (fabulous summer camping in the "4 Corners" area!), and I was actually in Vegas for my birthday! Perhaps if we'd been in Mexico instead of out of the country there might have been a "Quinceañera" flavoring to the celebrations? Your guess is as good as mine! And it's not like many of my friends would have been in town, they were all off on their own summer holiday (international school).

21 Jul 2016

First Lady Michelle Obama Carpool Karaoke

Have you seen this??? Can I just say... how fabulous is Michelle Obama?!?!?! LOVE this!!! :o)

8 Jun 2016

Wearing Blue for World Oceans Day!


Did you remember to "wear blue and share two" today? Two facts about the oceans that is!

I miss the Oceanic Blog-A-Thon very much! One day when I have time for more serious blogging again I'll relaunch it (and hope there are still enough people left reading me who want to join in). But for today, a quick simple post to remember the day.

Considering this year's topic is "Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet", I thought I'd point you towards a HUGE problem for the ocean: PLASTIC. :o(

Here's a really good video from NOAA on Marine Debris and its impact on marine life (link in case the embed stops working in the future)...

17 Apr 2016

Alicante is SWINGING!

So apparently there's a festival going on in Alicante this week called "Eat My Soul" (8th edition, a week dedicated to "Black Music"), starting this weekend, and going all out next weekend with a series of concerts, showings of movies/documentaries, a New Orleans food market and much more (which I'll miss out, out of town!)

I headed into town this morning to catch some of the action, and boy was it a blast!!! Swinging their way through the streets of the old part of town to the tune of "El Refugio Swing Band" (I didn't even know you could play a bass while moving it around!) and watching the people from "Alicante Lindy Hop" swing dancing (wish I could do that! Might sign up for classes in the Fall!). Check out these photos and videos! 

Here are the musicians:
Swinging their way through Alicante!

And here are the dancers!

Alicante Lindy Hop takes to the streets of Alicante!

That last video got cut a bit abruptly as I ran out of space of the phone... Unfortunate 'cause I LOVE that song! 

I've been moving to the rhythm all day... even once back at home! ;o)

PS: And yes this means I'm hopefully back on the Blog(s)! (fingers crossed!)