The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 2

Yesterday, we finished up Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale for the second time. Getting ready for Season 4, we started over with season one and are making our way through. At the end of season one, we find Offred had semi-escaped and was on the run just as she learned that she was pregnant.

THE HANDMAID’S TALE — “The Word” — Episode 213 — Serena and the other Wives strive to make change. Emily learns more about her new Commander. Offred faces a difficult decision. Offred (Elisabeth Moss) and Nick (Max Minghella), shown. (Photo by: George Kraychyk/Hulu)

The first part of season two is during her escape. We learn so much more backstory here on how Gilead formed and where everyone was at the time of take over. We also get a lot of backstory on Offred/June’s mother. This plays an important role for the season.

June’s mother was an activist, always looking to make right in the world. She is hardly there for June because her causes were more important. This is key for the season finale.

June does not get free during season two. She is recaptured and has her baby, who is taken away from her as soon as the baby is born by Mrs. Waterford. We see a lot of the conflict between these two women, June and Mrs. Waterford. There also is a very brutal rape scene in this season that you can’t believe happened.

Ultimately, you see a small truce between the two of them and almost feel sorry for Mrs. Waterford. In the end (season finale), you see that soft side to our female villain. Offred has the ability to escape, again, but this time chooses to go back and fight. Hence the connection with her mother’s story. June becomes a fighter and activist in Gilead.

We’re going into season three, which I don’t remember a lot about. I think we only watched a couple of episodes so this is all new charted area for me. Let’s see if we can get this finished this week.

The In-Between (2019)

Waiting and waiting and waiting… I have finally been able to watch the 2019 film, The In-Between, starring Jennifer Stone and Mindy Bledsoe. And I am so glad that I did.

The In-Between movie poster

Jennifer Stone has been my celebrity crush since her days on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place and I have never had a crush for this long. There is just something about this girl; so when she co-wrote and produced this indie film, I was a strong supporter of it on social media.

Following the activities of these artists on Instagram, I watched them take to the road for the filming of the movie that almost mirrors real life. Jennifer Stone plays Mads, who has type-1 diabetes. Mindy plays Junior, who has Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Both actresses struggle with these diseases in real life, so it made the writing of this road trip story very close to home and very real.

Both characters have a reason for the road trip and from the beginning, you can feel a connection between them. Although it was almost hard to follow in the beginning because I didn’t feel there was much set-up, you learn about them through their travels. It wasn’t until the end of the film when we truly understood it all and their acting shined during the conflict and argument that brought the entire film together.

The film is short, only an hour and 18 minutes, but what it lacks in time, makes up for in quality. The In-Between won quite a few awards on the film festival circuits including Best Feature at Women Texas Film Festival. With my wife only watching films by female directors, I was happy to be able to support this film, not only because of my love for Jennifer Stone but for Mindy as a female director. It was definitely worth the watch.

Titans – Season 1

I spent my day off watching the first season of DC’s Titans on HBOMax. This was the series that tempted me to purchase DC Universe streaming channel but I held out when I heard they were bringing all the DC shows to HBOMax when they created the service.

Titans is an adult and live-action version of the animated series, Teen Titans, with Dick Greyson as the lead character. In season one, we find that Dick has left Gotham for Detroit as he is trying to distance himself from Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Quickly we are introduced to another handful of DC characters that will eventually make up the Titans. We have Starfire, Raven, Gar, Dove, and Hawk. Others we meet along the way is The Doom Patrol, Donna Troy, Jason Todd (the new Robin), and our villains. Even during the finale, we get a little Batman and Joker action.

Season one is more of an introduction of characters and some backstory, but not a lot. We get glimpses of who the characters are but the story arc revolves around Raven (Rachel Roth) and stopping a lot of people from killing her. It takes all season to find out why people want her dead and season two will be that reason.

DC and Warner Brothers really didn’t skimp on the quality of writing or special effects. While I think the acting could have been better, that is what you get with a lot of unknowns. Ultimately, the first season has caught my attention and I am ready to watch season two. I was able to finish the first in one sitting.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – Season 2

Season 2 of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist dropped this weekend and while I am sad to see it end, I am kind of glad about it.

Last season, something happened in Zoey’s world that allowed her to hear people’s innermost thoughts through song and dance. What a genius show and what a fun show. I loved everything about it and could not wait for a new episode.

Besides the fun of the music, Lauren Graham was on the show and that made me super happy. At the end of season 1, we lose that. We also lose the fun of the romance as Zoey falls for a co-worker at the same time her best friend falls for her because in Season 2, Zoey hooks up with Max. Then breaks up with Max. Hooks up with Simon. Then breaks up with Simon. This off and on became very tiresome, very quickly.

It was different when she couldn’t decide but Zoey became too moody and melancholy throughout the entire season, you wondered how she still had friends.

I don’t know who I am rooting for Max or Simon; and at one point during the season, I wanted all of them to just quit and give up. Maybe the season finale redeemed itself. If you have not watched the season and hate spoilers, stop right now…

Because at the finale, Zoey chose Max and for the spinner… Max can hear her innermost thoughts via song. It might make season 3 a little more interesting.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 1

After watching Mad Men, I wanted to watch The Handmaid’s Tale because of Elisabeth Moss. We watched it as it originally aired but recently went back to watch it with the announcement of season 4. When we originally watched, we only made it through season 2 so we are a little behind.

In season one, parts of the United States were taken over by a religious cult that embodies the life before woman’s lib. Men controlled everything; women could not do anything. And this new country has an odd hierarchy or social classes to it. You have commanders, their wives, the handmaids, and the Aunts.

While the show’s first season does not get into detail about how this actually happened, the show begins already in progress. Flashbacks of Offred (Elisabeth Moss) show how she comes into the program of being a handmaid, which is a surrogate for the infertile wives of the commanders. Handmaids are essentially raped by the commanders because they were enslaved to the job from the old country.

The first season really gets into detail on the rituals of the handmaids and the story of June Osborne and her life as a handmaid. The watch can be pretty grueling and at times the torture is a little hard to watch. Even for me, it was hard to watch at times. The second go-around, I am tougher and can tolerate it.

Elisabeth Moss is excellent at her role and deserved every award she won for this season. We are on to season two now. We’ll discuss more later.

Writing Assignment: Third Grade Classroom Day

In Judy Blume’s Masterclass, this assignment reads:

Judy advises that you reinhabit your childhood. One vivid way
to do this is to remember being in school. For example, put
yourself back in your third grade classroom. Try to remember
your teacher, the students around you, and what you did in a
specific moment. Focus on the details. If you’re not able
to conjure up your own memories, visit a school (with
permission) and observe the environment. Write up a page or
two of memories or observations from your school experiences
and share them in The Hub. Maybe you will spark an idea
from your school days or see something in someone else’s
recollection that speaks to you.

I decided to write a fictitious account of my elementary school based on one memory I have during that era of my life. The people are real and the song is very real. Here is my third-grade self telling a little story about Cinco De Mayo::::

Today is Cinco De Mayo, the fifth of May and we are going to have an assembly if it does not rain. We have been practicing our song all month. I am excited about performing it in front of everyone at our school.

I feel too excited to sit still at the long table that sits closest to the door. Next to me is my best friend, Julie, and across the table are Mohammad, Shehab, and Damon. We started elementary school together in the first grade with another twenty kids. In first grade, they picked five of the smartest kids in our class to go into a second-grade classroom. In second grade, the five of us had a third-grade teacher and we shared a room with the third graders.

Now, we are in third grade and are sitting in the fourth-grade classroom. The fourth graders do not understand the excitement I feel today, and the teacher has told me too many times to sit still and pay attention. It is hard to pay attention to things that are not important like spelling words when my mind is filled with the words to this fun song.

Cinco De Mayo is holiday time. Holiday time in Mexico.

I look at the clock. It is only nine o’clock. When both hands on the clock go straight up to the number twelve, that is when we will leave the classroom and line up for our song. We get to skip an hour of class to get into our outfits before the show. That is always fun to miss school and not get in trouble for it.

My teacher writes on the board today’s words. We copy them on our paper and must write them in cursive on the lined paper she gave us. I hate cursive because my loops are not as pretty as Julie’s. Ms. Hicks gives me bad grades on cursive. I do not even try to make my loops pretty because I cannot think about loops.

Cinco De Mayo is holiday time. To the fiesta we go-go-go.

My head turns to the door as I hear thunder outside. Normally, I would be afraid of the noise but not today. It just makes me a little sad because when you hear thunder it usually has rain with it. If it rains, we might not be able to sing our song and dress in the Mexican hats. I learned last week that in Spanish, a hat is called a sombrero. And the fiesta is a party.

“Kids, eyes up front.” Ms. Hicks says because everyone at my table looked at the door. After all, the thunder was so loud that it broke through the door.

Everyone except me turned their attention back to the chalkboard. I stare door still. I wonder if my mom will be mad if she misses work for the program and they cancel it because of the rain.

Sha-la-la-la-la. Go Go Go!

The bell rings and we are excused to go on the playground for a break. It is only a short one before lunch and before it gets hot outside. Our afternoon break is sometimes too hot, and we sit in the shade and do nothing.

When I run outside, I am happy to see that the ground was still dry. No rain yet. We still have a chance. Julie runs out in front of me and I catch up to her. We make it to the swings before anyone else. Everyone likes the swings. You would think the school would pay for everyone to have their own swing. If everyone had their own swing, I would not have to run to get one of the empty ones. Mine would be there waiting for me; even though my teacher says running is good for me.

Julie and I swing next to each other. We always try to see who can go the highest. I just want to get high so I can jump off. That is the difference between us. She just swings and I want to jump off them as Damon does. He always gets high up; one day he will go so high that he will go completely around and fly upside down. That would be cool.

The bell rings and I jump off the swing and land on my knees. I do not cry but it did hurt. As everyone is running back to class, the rain starts. I stop running and stand in the middle of the blacktop. It cannot be raining. Now they will not have the program.

Everyone is inside except me because I am so mad that it is raining. My arms are crossed in front of me, and my bottom lip is puffed out.

The teacher hollers at me. “Come inside, now.” When I do not move, the teacher runs out in the rain and grabs my arm. She drags me in while saying, “Stop this little attitude of yours.”

Nothing I can do but start crying. The fourth graders laugh as I am put in the corner of the room because I told the teacher outside that she needed to stop her attitude. She did not seem to like that. Well, I did not like it either. She does not understand that my mom is losing time from work for the program and the rain is going to cancel it. My mom never misses work unless it is something important because it is only me and her and we do not have a lot of money.

I wanted my mom to see my show so badly that she stayed home today so she could come to my lunchtime program, which looked like they would cancel it. Rain is so stupid. I do not even know why we need rain. It just makes everything all wet, and we must wear those stupid yellow jackets. My arms are still crossed in front of my chest as I sat Indian-style in the corner.

Cinco De Mayo is holiday time. Holiday time in Mexico.

When the little hand landed on the eleven, the door to the classroom opened. Mr. Golden called my name, as well as Julie, Mohammad, Damon, and Shehab. I jumped up from the corner of the room where I sat. It was time. It must have stopped raining. This excitement is making my stomach butterflies go crazy.

When I step outside, the rain is pouring down. Mr. Golden tells us to go next door. All five of us run with him to room number 3. We were in room 5. We all got wet even though we did run as fast as we could. The other third graders, who were not as smart as the elite five, were in the room. They were already dressed in their Mexican sombreros and panchos. We get dressed to match them.

After we get dressed, I ask Mr. Golden, “Are we going to put on the show if it’s raining?”

He says, “We moved the show into the cafeteria. We will perform while everyone eats.”

“And are parents?” I ask.

“They will be in the cafeteria with us.”

Julie and I jump up and down together because we know my mom and her mom will sit next to each other. After about an hour of butterflies, both hands of the clock are straight up. It is time. We make a single file line and walk slowly out of the room and into the cafeteria. As soon as we enter, the music starts. We sing our song in our classic Mexican hats and jackets. We dance and I try not to mess up the steps while I look for my mom in the audience. She is in the back of the room standing next to Julie’s mom. I smile and sing as loud as I can.

Cinco De Mayo is holiday time. Holiday in Mexico. Cinco De Mayo is holiday time. To the fiesta we go-go-go. Sha-la-la-la-la. Go Go Go.

Crash/Push (Flash Fiction)

Crash!

Michelle awoke from a foggy daze as she sat behind her favorite blonde in Spanish class that she knew as Melanie. Her best friend, Jason, had hit a vase of flowers that were sitting on the edge of the professor’s desk that she had gotten that morning from her husband for her birthday. Jason was clumsy and ran into more things than anyone she knew.

Water ran between the broken pieces of glass on the floor and the little stream of water headed Michelle’s way. She watched the water coming towards her; she forgot everything, even herself. Lost in a dream…

Push!

Again, Michelle woke up from her gaze by another student in her Spanish class, Joanie, who did not like Michelle. Without even a sorry, Joanie pushed Michelle’s body sideways, closer to the water. Michelle felt as she was falling overboard, about to drown within her thoughts of the blonde in front of her.

Michelle heard a whisper, slow, deep, and quiet from in front of her. “Hey, meet me at my locker after class.”

She looked up from the floor; the water was gone. Jason had cleaned up the mess he made, and Michelle wished he could take care of the one that was growing in her stomach but that was something only one person could calm. Michelle’s eyes gravitated to the blonde that Melanie’s lips, the room silent except for her voice.

Michelle barely heard it but knew what she said. Wanting to reach out, Michelle suffered because she felt that this passion that ached inside her was not mutual; but even so, between the day and the night, Melanie was her twilight; still dark, but a light at the end of her tunnel.

Lost in her thoughts, Michelle leaned forward staring at Melanie’s strawberry glossed lips. She could not control herself. Michelle hoped that Melanie would be there to catch her.

Michelle snapped back to reality, holding herself back. As she focused her eyes on Melanie’s intriguing smile, Michelle knew at that moment, she was falling, falling for Melanie. What was it that Melanie did to make her feel that way?

In her mind, Michelle begged for help. She was losing everything that she knew and everything that she was. Dammit, Melanie. What did you do to me?

After class, Michelle stalled. She let Melanie, Jason, and her classmates go ahead. She needed a moment to gather herself. This was not something that happened all at once, the feeling had grown over time, months. Maybe it was that moment when they hugged a little too long when she got won an award for a paper she had written. Maybe it was when Melanie helped wipe the cocoa off the front of her shirt when it spilled. Or maybe it was when they were both running for Melanie’s cell phone and bumped into each other, falling on the floor, and not getting up right away. A long loving glance? Michelle knew Melanie had to know how she felt.

Out the door, it was a straight line that led to Melanie and her locker. She paused, waiting… anticipating… Michelle wished she could next to her, to smell her perfume; there was no safety. There was only one road to take, and Michelle was going crazy inside.

Michelle heard the whisper again, it was sweet. Melanie’s voice was in her head; it was calling her. She read Lilly’s lips, “Michelle, come here.”

Michelle asked herself what it would be like if their lips were near. Could she feel Melanie’s breath just before they met?

Again, Michelle felt a moment where she was falling, falling over this girl, who had been her friend for forever and a day. What was Melanie doing to her?

Crash!

Locker doors slammed shut around her. Michelle had lost herself again, she was frozen. Afraid that if she were to open her mouth that nothing would come out. In another whisper, Michelle saw Melanie say something to Jason. Nothing, Michelle heard nothing.

Push!

Michelle felt a hand on her back, the strength of Jason was pushing her toward Melanie. The push stopped once Michelle was in front of Melanie. Do not open your mouth, Michelle thought.

Melanie handed Michelle an envelope as Jason walked away. Michelle stared at it; afraid it was a letter that started with “Dear Michelle.”

Michelle handed it back to Melanie.

“No, silly, open it,” Melanie said with a smile and encouragement.

Michelle felt as if she were drowning again. She saw the water on the floor, heading toward her, as her finger glided along the edge of the envelope, tearing the top of the letter in two.

As the top opened, Michelle reached in and pulled out a card. Designed in hearts and bears and rainbows, the top of it read “Happy Valentine’s Day”.

She opened the card and saw ink swirled on the inside, forming words. Melanie smiled with a shy, almost worried look. Michelle read to herself, “I don’t know what you did, but catch me, darling. I have fallen for you. Love, Your Melanie.”

Michelle smiled, lost with words. The bell rang, but Michelle did not hear it. There was another whisper, but it was loud, strong; it traveled down her body and stung her heart.

“I love you too, Melanie,” Melanie said, helping guide Michelle to form a sentence.

Crash!

Michelle’s heart was beating with Melanie’s for the same purpose, the same reason.

Push!

With a laugh, Melanie pushed Michelle down the hall. “Get going to class, we’ll talk at lunch.”

Just before Melanie got around the corner of the school hallway, Michelle hollered out. “I love you too, Melanie.”

No need for help, Michelle had fallen… and would be enjoying the crash!

Book 12: Deenie by Judy Blume

Another one day read; or more like a half a day. I picked up this hardcover at the local library today about 12:30 and was home by 1pm to start reading. Finished this by 5:30pm. Judy Blume’s Deenie is a book that is recommended reading for the MasterClass I am taking. I didn’t even know it was a banned book when I checked it out at the library.

Ultimately, I was not a big fan of the story as a whole but I understand it it. Again, we lower ourselves to the level of the children and feel what they are feeling and can believe we are this child who is told she pretty over and over again. Just to find out that she has a scoliosis and has to wear a brace. I don’t know one child that would say this is cool or feel alright about it at first.

During the MasterClass, Judy doesn’t got into this book about the scoliosis aspect but from the aspect of the character and sex. Apparently the book was banned because the tween masturbates many times throughout the book like it was a natural part of growing up. Judy tells us to look at our own lives quite often in the MasterClass. In my world, curiosity about sex was rampant so maybe it is/was normal or maybe not. Deenie never really finds out if she is normal or even if she was the only one of her friends to do it.

What I learn from Stephen King is that if it doesn’t move the story or enhance it, it should be left out. I do believe that those scenes were unnecessary in the bigger picture of the book. Overall, the book was okay… I liked Blubber and Tiger Eyes much more than Deenie.

Book 11: Blubber by Judy Blume

Next up on my reading challenger and my homework for Judy Blume’s MasterClass is the book Blubber. Originally written in 1974, not much has changed in the world of kids. Bullying is just as problematic now than it was in the 70’s. Elisabeth told me that I would probably enjoy this book because of how I grew up.

I don’t know a kid growing up that wasn’t bullied in some way, or was the bully themselves. I don’t think it really hit me until junior high. I remember wearing the same neon green sweatshirt as a pretty girl in my class. Someone said to her, look you guys are twins. She replied something to the effect that the difference was that mine was the size of a tent.

Sometimes, I think bullying is caused by the things you do. Maybe if I had not stood up in front of the entire junior high and dance a one-man Menudo concert (not once, but twice), I might not have been that easy of a target.

The book Blubber talks completely about bullying and how even the one’s who stand up get the tables turned on them. It’s easy to see why kids don’t want to stand up for others and how easy it is to fall into peer pressure. Don’t know if this is recommended reading in schools today, but it should be.

Blume tells the tale without preaching and that was her main goal with writing this book. She let the tables turn even though it was wrong just so that kids realize that everything you do has consequences. The consequence of teasing Linda was the teasing turned to her.

Book 10: The Mouse and The Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

Next up in my 52 Book Challenge, I had to read a book by Beverly Cleary from my MasterClass homework. I didn’t even know who Beverly Cleary was until I looked her up on the library’s digital books to see what I could read. She’s the author of the Ramona series (kid’s books). This will be book #10 for the year.

The reading prompt for a Beverly Cleary book was to read her style and how she captures the young reader and puts that reader in the role of the character. The character is a little mouse that longs for adventure when he finds a toy motorcycle that belongs to a young boy. Through the love of motorcycles, the boy and mouse could communicate with each other. They found a friendship with each other that was based on respect for who they are; human and mouse.

This is my first book by Cleary and while I understand how she took the character and made you look at the world through mouse eyes, I was not all that found of her style. It might be because it was written back in the sixties the words didn’t flow all that well with me. And oddly for a children’s book, I had to look up the definition of a few words.

It was an okay story but it did its job. I felt like a mouse on an adventure.