All posts by dixonl2014

Blonde: The New Movie

I recently viewed the movie Blonde which just came out on Netflix. I read the book Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates this summer and I wanted to compare the book to the new film. So, I took out a new subscription with Netflix to have this experience because I was disturbed by some of the online comments. In this day of trolling and negativity, I wanted to form my own thoughts. 

The book Blonde has 738 pages, and I took in every line. Joyce Carol Oates refers to this look into Marilyn Monroe’s life as a fictionalized account and wisely so. However, she did in-depth research and the book was published twenty-two years ago. Of course, there is bound to be controversy.  

With the book’s content fresh in mind, I sat back and watched the new movie which is almost three hours long. Those who have read the book are better prepared for the onslaught of uncomfortable scenes. Therefore, they will not see the movie as being overly exaggerated or harsh. Let’s face it, Marilyn had a difficult time as many artists do. That is the dichotomy and thus, an artist was born. 

Andrew Dominik, the film director, did a phenomenal job. He was able to take so much material and put it into one flowing piece for viewing audiences. He had to leave out some years which also shaped Norma Jeane (Marilyn Monroe) such as her extended time in the orphanage and in foster care.

Her foster mother forced her to marry while she was still in high school because of her husband’s roving eye. She wanted her out of the house and Marilyn Monroe never forgave her and did not answer her letters once she became famous. As expected, that marriage, did not turn out well nor was it shown in the movie. 

I think that Ana de Armas totally embodied Marilyn. The movie stayed with me for hours after watching it and I think she did a masterful job. I did not detect her accent though some wrote that they found it to be a distraction. She was brave for even attempting to walk in Marilyn’s shoes. 

For those who study art, this is for them. It is amazing how the scenes go back and forth from black and white to color frames. When Marilyn was about to face another abortion, I liked the way they showed a small human being forming in her womb. Then, all could understand the depth of her pain and loss.

When she was involved in a threesome with Cass and Eddie, they just showed a merged, blurred picture of elasticity like a rubber band. This represented their physical and emotional interconnectivity.

The entire cast was superb! There was a lot of new talent on display and not surprisingly, Adrien Brody was great as Arthur Miller. This movie is keeper for those who read, first. Otherwise, three hours might be a bit much for those looking for a quick spin on 36 years of a memorable life. It took a New Zealand-Australian film director and a Cuban-Spanish actress to put our beloved American Marilyn Monroe back in the spotlight again! 

Lynn M. 
October 1, 2022 

Cycling through France!

Susie Kelly and her husband Terry cycle through the countryside of France in The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette. She is riding an electric bike while Terry pedals a regular one as they travel 500 miles in 17 days. Susie takes us on the ride with them as she sprinkles in tidbits of French history, battles, and new green spaces that now cover former tragedies. 

Initially, we see them start out in Versailles and cycle to Paris and stay at a hotel close to the Gare du Nord (train station).  Then, they set off and cycle halfway across France. She has studied the life of Marie Antoinette, so she consciously traces the steps of the lives of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Through Susie Kelly’s descriptions, we can see her as a young Austrian child-bride used as a political pawn by her stern mother. Young Louis had a hard time accepting his married state but over time, they learn to love each other, mourn their lost children and nurture the remaining two children. The oldest daughter, Marie-Therese survives the Reign of Terror and tells the tale of what happened to her family, 

As Susie and Terry cycle through the various French towns, she humorously gives descriptions of the hotels, eateries, and the characters that they encounter along the way. There are several “laugh out loud” moments and she is even able laugh at herself when she thought she could not continue the feat. Once, she overhears an absurd conversation with a child who continually asks his parents why about six times. Amazingly, he received six full explanations and Susie just shook her head in the other room.  

They follow the plight of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from the prison at the Tuileries all way to the guillotine where Louis is beheaded long before Marie Antoinette. Her wait time continues as well as her suffering until her final moment finally comes. Again, Susie tells the tale with such lightness as she goes back and forth from their time in the late 1700’s to the present. She allows her readers to enjoy the beauty of the French towns, cathedrals and other pristine moments and takes us back to a more in-depth tour around into Paris. I am so happy that Val Poore recommended this book!  

Sainte- Chapelle of Paris

Lynn M.
September 24, 2022

Bullet Train: A Movie Review

Seeing Bullet Train was a great escape for me and certainly two days after the Queen’s death. I needed to be on a different stratosphere for a few minutes and I was convinced that Brad Pitt could get the job done. He always brings a light touch with a slight sense of humor and of course, there is his undeniable charm.

In this caper, Brad Pitt (Ladybug) is a hired assassin in Tokyo, Japan. Once he enters a speeding bullet train, he is not able to get off because the action moves at the same speed as the train. It is non-stop. Several colorful characters, who are also passengers on the train, have their own agendas. They clash leaving dead bodies often in a grisly fashion, but still with a comedic twist. There are a lot of bumps, bruises and contact fights while all of them are in pursuit of the silver suitcase which houses the loot.

Ladybug regularly answers his ringing cell phone with his female handler on the other end who consoles him, encourages him and gives him his orders. In between calls, he runs into a host of other assassins who have their own varied methods of execution. He just wants to get off the train as viewers get a peak into modern Japanese culture and technologies. There is a memorable children’s car with human, disguised Disney-like characters who may well be another combative assassin.

Towards the end, few are left to tell the tale as Ladybug finally gets off the train after it crashes and burns. The woman that had kept him grounded on the phone then shows up and it is a shocker as she makes her cameo appearance. I won’t reveal her identity here.

Bullet Train is a great way to forget about the real and present world for a couple of hours. I crunched through a huge bucket of popcorn long before the excitement was over and it was worth every cent!

Lynn M.
September 20, 2022

There in Spirit!

I had always meant to get to London during Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime. As an English major who taught Shakespeare and studied him in college, I thought I would get there in time. I had always planned to add  a trek to Stratford-Upon-Avon while there.

As children, we sang “London Bridges…, my Fair Lady.”  I could see Big Ben in my mind’s eye as I read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I hear the phrases from English Literature classes such as Lady Macbeth crying, “Out! Out, damn spot,” as her guilt overtook her. Or I hear Hamlet pondering the validity of his existence in his “To be or not to be” soliloquy.  We had to recite that speech in front of our Shakespeare classmates taught by the indomitable Dr. McMillan at the then, Chicago State College.

When I taught Macbeth to tenth graders, my coworker Glenda and I loved his speech, “Bring me no more reports!” For he knew that it was just a matter of time before Macduff would find him and exact revenge for the murder of his family.  Or I think about Julius Caesar’s look at his friend during the moment of betrayal when he turned and asked, “Et tu, Brutus?”

Thus, I thought I would get there while Queen Elizabeth reigned, but I did not.  However, over the years I have watched several documentaries on how she conducted business, interviews and meetings with heads of state. She timed her meetings with them and simply said “Otherwise, the meetings would never end.” This is a simple, but powerful fact and great food for thought in our business dealings.

Yet, I was blessed with a wonderful piece of memorabilia. I was temping as an Executive Assistant at Gillette in Boston.  A coworker told me that she was going to London during the Queen’s 50th Jubilee. I was so excited for her because she was a woman of color and able to attend this historic event! I asked her to bring me a memento and she concurred. She brought back the above stationary card of Queen Elizabeth II by Andy Warhol which she purchased at the Victoria and Albert Museum Main Shop.

Also, as a young child in Detroit, me and my sisters were all Christened and given what we called God names from women in the Bible. Mine was Elizabeth, though this Biblical woman was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. That was another special connection that I had to Queen Elizabeth who became queen when I was about two and half.  Quite like most people, she has been on the throne for all of my cognizant life.

Someone said that this loss is a seismic shift for the world because this is a person whom we thought would always be there. It is comparable to me losing my own grandmother, who we assumed would always be up there on Alma Street in Memphis. But when she was gone, there were shifts in the family dynamics but mostly there was a huge hole that no one else could truly fill.

So no, my liege, I did not make it to the UK during your lifetime, but as long as there is life, there is hope. I still plan to go the UK one day, but just know that I am already there in Spirit during this sad time.

Lynn M.
September 17, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II: A poem

The Queen taught me grace and stability,
Her long reign enhanced my ability.

Her commitment to duty and to serve,
Her country and the world make us bow, curve.

Good manners and soft-spoken, but succinct,
Her many words of comfort? Now in ink.

She set standards for this unruly place,
Yes. Her mere example makes a strong case!

*Rest in peace, dear Queen Elizabeth II

Lynn M.
September 10, 2022

Serenaded by Babbie Mason

Babbie Mason

Sometimes people don’t know what they mean to you because you have never verbalized it. This post salutes Babbie Mason, an inspirational singer and songwriter that helped me on a daily basis. I was listening to the Moody Bible Church radio station in the late 90’s while living on the north side of Chicago.

I was feeling uncertain about my life and my future and then this woman’s voice came on the air. She started singing and for me, time stood still. She talked briefly and said that she had flown into a foggy Chicago night sky, but she felt that she had to get there, no matter the weather.

That was how I was introduced to the moving music of Babbie Mason. Shortly thereafter, I moved to the East Coast and landed in Boston for four years. I went to a music store and purchased her CD’s. They sustained me as I sorted out many things in my life through my daily promenades.

I did not have a car while in Boston, but I walked daily often with my headphones on, and my portable CD player attached around my waist. And Babbie sang to me. She comforted me. She reassured me. She boosted my confidence and mostly, she gave me hope and my faith increased. Her songs are not the traditional ones, and she has added her own unique spice from her personal observations of life.

In her song, God Has Another Plan, she wrote:

“So, when the rain falls hard
And the storm winds come
And you think it will never blow over
Trouble under your feet
Nothing over your head
And you find yourself running for cover
Oh, God has another plan.”

I listened to her as I walked the Back Bay area and circled the walkway at the Charles River.  And, after returning to the Midwest, I listen to her when I drive or on my iPad. She always gives me that umph and energy to press on. Babbie Mason offers that pick-me-up comparable to a smooth rub on the shoulder, once again letting me know that it is going to be alright.

The Charles River-Boston

Lynn M.
September 3, 2022

Summer Has Been-

Summer has been –
Cool breezes sitting by blue Lake Michigan. 
Long snoozes during the light of day and 
Lots of good cooking and healthy eating to boot. 

Summer has been –
A Zoom library conference and a visit to an exhibit, in person, 
Along with several written blog posts while immersed in quiet time, 
To think clearly and clean out that mental cache. 

Summer has been –
Reading books and peering into the lives of legends, 
Adding in research to further heighten the awareness. 
Yet taking time to chat with sainted friends and dear ones.

Summer has been –
Stress free. No airports nor jet lag to recoup from.
Just calm evenings listening to noisy cicadas doing their thing. 
A special staycation to regroup and refocus before the onslaught of the new! 

Lynn M. 
August 27, 2022 

Just Listen!

The other day I was talking with a friend about the Michigan library that was defunded over a controversial book. One conversation led to another, and we ricocheted over to a book called Push by Sapphire. A high school librarian shared with me that she had to keep it under lock and key, a few years back. Otherwise, the copies kept disappearing. That speaks volumes about what was on the minds and hearts of those young patrons. 

Push, from which the movie Precious was based, deals with a teen that is being abused by her mother’s mate. The mere fact that so many young women at the high school wanted to keep the book announces that they identified with its main character. They obviously were having similar experiences and often those traumatic emotions are dealt with in isolation along with self-recrimination. 

Too often, the victims are not believed, silenced or shunned by those who they should be able to trust. Some women or mothers do not know how to deal with their daughters’ developing sexuality and certainly cannot face the fact that their beloved mate has a roving eye. It is easier to tuck one’s head inside the turtle shell and act as if it is not going on or to blame the daughter as if she in some way invited the unwelcome attention. 

I recently finished the book Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. When Norma Jeane was about 15, her foster mother married her off to the first man that she could because she did not like the way her husband looked at Norma Jeane. When she became famous, Marilyn Monroe never answered the woman’s letters because she never forgave her for pushing her into marriage to simply get her ‘out of the way.’ Of course, the marriage did not go well. 

It makes me think of the countless stories where women or men have repressed the sordid occurrences and when they try to tell someone in the family, they are often cast off as if they have a plague. In the movie, Prince of Tides, the mother makes all her children keep the secret that they had been sexually assaulted by some escaped convicts. The don’t tell anyone syndrome is as old as the sun. They kept the secret, but it landed the sister under suicide watch in a hospital. 

I read that one star tried to tell her family about her father’s abuse and once again, she was not believed nor taken seriously. Those who refuse to be silent are too often labeled as mentally disturbed or someone who should not be heard. We are not armchair psychologists, but if someone opens up about such a sensitive topic, we can at least listen. It would never occur to me think that anyone would make up anything about abuse. 

That is truly a turtle approach because those who refuse to hear it,” Can’t handle the truth,” as Jack Nicholson shouted in A Few Good Men. Of course, there were no witnesses. Abusers don’t operate in the light of day with an audience. But I can say from working around both young girls and boys, if they are acting out or unusually angry, its often a symptom of something else. If someone took the time to get to the heart of the problem, there just maybe some inappropriate activity taking place somewhere. But most people do not have the time nor mind to delve deep enough to see what is really going on. 

We should listen to both our girls and boys because usually the perpetrator or the one causing the hidden stress is in the next room or somewhere very close by. I would say, “Parents, take off the blinders. Don’t be In Love and In Trouble like the title of one of Alice Walker’s books. Listen. Pay close attention to your child that may be harboring the unthinkable. Get rid of the creep and nurture your God-given gift (your children), so that they can rise to their true potential! 

Lynn M. 
August 20, 2022 


If you once built part of your dream,    
And lost the artifacts? Don’t scream. 

There’s an everlasting fountain, 
To help you rebuild your mountain. 

That inner substance within you, 
Will aid in creating things new. 

You either have it, or do not, 
But you do! So, restore your lot! 

Lynn M.
August 19, 2022

Art Remains!

This summer, I have been reflecting on the biopics that are hot topics in 2022. Two legends come to mind which are Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. The new Elvis movie and the upcoming movie called Blonde is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ book Blonde. I recently read and reviewed the book. Both of their lives were tortuous in some ways, which happens too often with our great artists. 

Like the oyster creating that precious and sought-after pearl, the irritations, aggravations and agitations churn together to develop something extraordinary and timeless. The fascination with these two lives never dies and the beauty of technology allows us to revisit them over and over again. Our lives today are much richer because they lived and endured as long as they could withstand the onslaughts.

Nikki Giovanni wrote a Poem for Aretha many years ago. She penned, “We eat up our artists like there is going to be a famine in the end.” She added, “She (Aretha) has to pass out before anyone recognizes she needs a little rest.” Her words spoke volumes then and continue to ring true today as we watch our artists burn out and expire right before our eyes. The list is endless.

Our gifted ones are too often pushed beyond the brink and their bodies give out from exhaustion. Janis Joplin pleaded for some time off but they are seen as cash cows for the big marketeers. Few are protecting their physical and mental heath so that they can rest and rejuvenate like ordinary human beings.

Those in their close inner circles who are now known as their handlers, as if they are livestock, both revere and revile them. Some, harboring hidden envy of their magic, are complicit in their demises by working them like mules. Many may not know that they have private traveling doctors on hand to constantly inject them like inflatable balloons. Then they push them on stage whether they are clothed in their right minds or not. They drown them with pills, indulge them in alcohol, or surround them with their drug of choice, just to keep the dollars flowing. 

The Elvis movie exposed some of this but it did not tell all of the story. After researching, I discovered that while he was technically in Las Vegas, they were still having him perform nightly in cities around the country. Back then, travel alone was an exploitative piece of the puzzle. So, by the time he got to the next city, he may have been gorged out of his mind. And yes, he may have forgotten the lyrics to some of the 450 songs in his repertoire. But, thank goodness, he had Graceland to retreat to where it all ended.

Judy Garland, who started as a child actor has homeless at the end of her journey, according to the movie, Judy. And Marilyn was basically homeless being moved from house to house that the studio provided until she finally had her own house for a few months before she passed on. Both women made millions for the movie industry for which they could never be adequately compensated. In Marilyn’s last days, her make-up artist would paint her white for up to five hours like a porcelain doll to try to conceal the evidence of her ravaged body before she finally made it to rehearsal or onstage because ‘the show must go on!

The beauty of it all? The art remains and their work remains. Both obviously had the inner stuff and could put it together like no other. They are simply unmatchable. Young people are Googling them and eyes are still oggling them. This year, a young Hollywood star even wore Marilyn’s iconic dress. Elvis has sold over a billion records, more than anyone else in record industry history. I am certain they enjoyed wearing those high fashions and specially designed pieces on their good days . Elvis and Marilyn are now smiling down from heaven and sighing, “Oh well. It worked out!”

Lynn M.
August 13, 2022