Get Snapchat and learn something?

Snapchat was never something I was interested in downloading. I always figured it was just for millennials and a way to share irrelevant and/or inappropriate photos and videos. But the other day, I learned something new.

One of my favorite Islamic Facebook pages posted about a “Snap Story” that was (briefly) available on Snapchat about the West Bank, Palestine.  I immediately downloaded the Snapchat app and watched as young people shared a glimpse into their daily lives.

Today, there is a Snap Story about Mecca, filled with scenes of Muslims fulfilling Umrah during Ramanda and specifically during Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power), which is the night that the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Snapchat, like anything, can be used for good and for bad, and I learned that it can give us insights to the lives lived on the other side of the world. They are human, just like us, and we are all better off if we can create connections with them.

Check out the West Bank Snap Story on YouTube: West Bank Snapchat

Let’s talk about “We Need to Talk About Kevin”

Winner of the UK's Orange Prize for literature

I recently finished a book called We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It was a pick from my book club, and to be honest, for some reason I wasn’t all that excited about it. But once I got started, I couldn’t put this one down! (Literally, I couldn’t put the book down… a real book made of paper! I don’t read many of those anymore, since I got my Amazon Kindle last year!)

Anyhow, this book is told in first person by Eva, in letters written to her estranged husband, Franklin. She talks about her life before and after meeting Franklin (she is a successful owner of a travel guide business), her feelings about motherhood, and of course – about Kevin, their son.  I’m not giving anything away to tell you that Kevin conducted a Columbine-style massacre at his high school, and Eva’s letters to Franklin are how she is coping with the aftermath.

This is a pretty dark book… not many laughs, but rather some tears and even shock. Also, be forewarned that you might not like Eva very much… she is written to be a real person, with a real history, real quirks, real fears and real issues. If you’re one of those people who must LOVE your protagonist, this book may not be for you. But, I hope that if you’re one of those people, you will suspend those notions and open your heart to this book, because it is extremely well-written, thought provoking, and intensely jarring.

After I finished this book, I saw on the Internet that it has been made into a film, which showed at Cannes this year, and was nominated for the Palme d’Or.  There’s not yet a US release date set.  I will definitely see this movie, though as always, it will be difficult for the actors to compete with the visions in my mind as I read Ms. Shriver’s words. I am not going to say here who is playing the roles of Eva and Franklin, as they are quite a departure from the faces I saw in my mind’s eye, and I don’t want to prevent you from building your own images of the characters.  I will say that while the leads are both talented actors, they are not who I would have chosen for the roles (but do I ever like movie-from-book casting?? Just look at the U.S. Dragon Tattoo movies they’re doing… but that’s for another day!). My recommendation would be to read the book, then Google it like I did and check out the cast list on 

I hope you’ll read this book!

Available in paperback on Amazon.

Gone with the Wind (Yes, I’m a bit behind)

This week my fiance and I watched Gone with the Wind for the first time.


He has an excuse, probably, not having grown up in America. I, on the other hand, really feel silly for not having seen one of history’s classic films until now.

Let me start out by saying that this movie is close to four hours long. So if you’re looking for a summary, you’re in the wrong place. But here’s a quick setup, if you’re as ignorant as I was: Continue reading Gone with the Wind (Yes, I’m a bit behind)

Invictus (It’s not really all about rugby)

This week my fiance and I decided to watch Invictus. The main reason for our selection was that it was just about to start on HBO [or one of those many HBOs], and we wanted to catch a movie from the beginning.

I'm not crazy about the marketing for this film. But by luck I caught it on cable.

When Invictus came out in 2009, I really had little interest in seeing it — ever.  The commercials made me think it was about rugby, and that Morgan Freeman’s Nelson Mandela was a supporting role to Matt Damon’s starring one, as captain Francois Pienaar.

Boy, was I wrong!

Even the summary on IMDB is a tad misleading:

Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Invictus is really the story of how Nelson Mandela transformed South Africa and Continue reading Invictus (It’s not really all about rugby)

Salt – Have You Seen it Yet?!

Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a Russian spy… or is she?

Recently, I was upgraded on a flight and decided to watch a movie (it being free in first class and all!).  I’m not normally drawn to action movies, but I remembered thinking the previews for Salt looked pretty good.  And indeed, it was!

Angelina Jolie stars in ‘Salt,’ a contemporary espionage thriller about a CIA agent who is accused of being a Russian spy and becomes a federal fugitive.

Angelina did a great job in the title role. She played the part well and was able to present a host of emotions — pain, sadness, shock, appreciation — and transition between them in an instant. Angelina really makes you wonder who Salt really is, and what her motives truly are.

I recommend that you rent this one if you haven’t already seen it.  I enjoyed it so much, I even watched most of it again on my return flight two days later, and rented it for my fiance to see at home!  (One note, the DVD includes a Director’s Cut and an unrated version, in addition to the theatrical release.  I would recommend watching the theatrical release first; I liked that one best.)

Salt is now available on Netflix.

Aguaviva – What a meal!

My fiance and I were recently in San Juan, Puerto Rico for a few days. My fiance really wanted some fresh seafood, and the hotel concierge recommended Aguaviva, located on Fortaleza Street in Old San Juan.

Our server was Andrea, who was fantastic. She was knowledgeable about the dishes, not timid to give her own recommendations, and had a great sense of humor and was just very real. It always elevates a delicious meal to another level when you have a wonderful server.

We loved our meal – everything was delectable!  Check it out after the jump:

Continue reading Aguaviva – What a meal!

2008 Redux – Dirty Sexy Politics

Dirty Sexy Politics by Meghan McCain

I just sailed through Dirty Sexy Politics, the campaign trail memoir by John McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain. This quick read provides Meghan’s perspective on being a scrutinized “daughter of” a presidential candidate.  She shares her trials and tribulations fitting in (or not) to her dad’s campaign, as well as the Republican Party overall.

Regardless of your own political leanings, this is an insightful look into what happens on a major political campaign. Meghan gives her honest and emotional perspective of her dad’s loss, the impact of the Palins to the campaign, and the future of the GOP. Continue reading 2008 Redux – Dirty Sexy Politics

Shakira’s Waka Waka Success

Shakira made news yesterday that her song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup song — Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) — is the best-selling World Cup song ever! Not only that, but the official Waka Waka video received the 4th most YouTube views in history.  When you count the non-official videos, the total is a staggering 350 million views!  Nice job Shaki!

Check it out, then make sure you click for “more” because I have more to say on this subject:

Continue reading Shakira’s Waka Waka Success

HBO’s Temple Grandin

Claire Danes as Temple Grandin in HBO’s biopic

I was inspired by Claire and Temple at the Emmys. As fortune had it, last night Temple Grandin was on HBO and it caught my boyfriend’s eye while flipping channels.  We watched it start to finish and finally turned off the TV around 1am.  (This in itself proves the movie is worth watching, as on a work night I rarely can keep my eyes open later than 11:30pm!) Continue reading HBO’s Temple Grandin

Emmys 2010

So who watched the Emmys last night?

I rarely watch awards shows these days, but tuned in last night about halfway through.

Emmy-winner Claire Danes

I thought Claire Danes received a well-deserved award for her portrayal of Temple Grandin. She really transformed herself in that role. And it was touching that Temple was there to see it for herself. So often these biopics are posthumous and the subject doesn’t get to experience the thrill of being honored and in the public eye. Side note, I don’t think Claire has ever looked more beautiful. Perfect dress, hair and makeup.

Continue reading Emmys 2010