Posted on

Review of Netflix Sci-fi Series 3 Body Problem

3 Body Problem (Image from Space.com)

The new Netflix science fiction series Three Body Problem is engaging in its story telling and visually with CGI as it plays out over eight episodes.   The show is an adaptation of Liu Cixin’s three-book series of the same name and maybe a fourth by Baoshu, who wraps up the events of the previous books.  (Baoshu got Cixin’s permission and blessing to write the fourth book.) 

The series opens with the news of the mysterious deaths of esteemed scientists around the world and the interruption or halt of work at hydron collider facilities.  At one facility, Saul Durand stares at screens filled with scientific equations that should have worked but didn’t.  His boss, Vera Ye, thinks Saul can crack this problem, but Saul is not so sure.  However, he is not going to quit his job and never see this office again.  Deep down he does want to figure things out and save his career.   What Saul does not realize is that Vera is going to speed the process up.  She goes into the heart of the collider and jumps into the deep water to her death.  

The shock of Vera’s suicide causes Saul to reach out to their mutual friends from their years at Oxford to come together.  They do so, and they include nano-tech pioneer Auggie Salazar, snack king Jack Rooney, mathematician and scientist Jin Cheng and teacher Will Downing.  Together they reminisce, cry, and comfort one another.  Then their delicate world blows up.   During a visit to a bar, Auggie looks down at her phone, sees a weird electrical event, and immediately sees a digital count-down clock.  She freaks out and leans on Jin, who is with her in the bar, and then on Saul in a different setting.  The three of them try to figure out the mystery of their friend’s death and get rid of the digital clock haunting Auggie.

Auggie figures out the meaning behind the clock.   The clock is ticking down the time until her death unless she gives up her nano-tech work. Auggie wants to live without question, but it is equally horrible to see her hard work and career end for good.  Another clue surfaces after Jin visits Vera’s mother’s home and is given a futuristic headset to take with her. When she puts it on, Jin is pulled into a game that feels and looks like the real world except its from a far away era.  Jin sees it is connected to both Vera’s death and what is happening to Auggie and to the dead scientists. Who made this game, and why could it lead to humankind’s possible destruction?  The story behind it begins with Vera’s mother, Ye Wenjie, and her long ago decision to continue contact with alien life.  

The day after I watched the eighth episode, I looked up the four books I mentioned at the start of this post, and read their jackets.  Immediately, I knew, Three Body Problem should have been given the epic treatment.  I am talking about the likes of Lord of the Rings and connecting to the show writers of this series; Games of Thrones, where am epic story gets told over several years.  However, movie, streamers, and television companies are very finicky about going this route when they buy a book series and decide to adapt it to their chosen media.  If they do go ahead with it, it is usually with a worldwide popular series previously adapted, or a new property so flaming hot and popular – the epic treatment is the only option.

Based on what I read on the jackets, there could be some awesome plots and story telling to come.  My only concern is condensing the story lines and speeding up plot development to tell this epic story in three to four seasons when it deserves twice as much to tell it properly.  

Review of Netflix Sci-Fi Series Three Body Problem
Ruminate Central

Posted on

Review of Paramount+ show School Spirits

Paramount+ series School Spirits (Image from Variety.com)

High school student, Maddie Nears, does not have a perfect life. Her father died when she was young, and her mother continues to struggle with alcohol addiction.   More often than not, Maddie is the one pulling her mother together and taking care of her when Maddie wants her mother to have that role. On the plus side, she has close friends Simon Elroy and Nichole Herrera by her side through thick and thin, and she gets good grades in school.  Her dream upon graduation is to use her inheritance from her father to go to college in Chicago with her friends.  Until things radically change for her.   

Maddie wakes in the boiler room of her high school and cannot recall how she got there.  She makes her way out and, to her horror, finds out she is no longer in the human world but the spirit world and, to make things worse, she cannot leave her high school grounds.

Eventually, Maddie comes around to the idea she has been murdered, and it is up to her to solve the crime.  However, Mr. Martin, a deceased teacher who leads a group of spirit students, feels she must join them in therapy sessions to come to terms with her death.  Maddie fights it and resolves to get them to help her by helping them face the circumstances around their own deaths or murders at the same school.   The only other contact Maddie has is with Simon, who somehow can interact with her spirit.  It is through him that she has Nichole, her boyfriend, and a head cheerleader investigating among the living. 

There are numerous suspects and each one gets eliminated until, in the last episode, there is a huge surprise.  I won’t reveal what it is, but I will write that it did improve my feelings about this series a bunch. Further, I found out School Spirits has been renewed by Paramount+, and I will tune in as soon as the network allows Netflix to air it.   

Review of Paramount+ show School Spirits
Ruminate Central
Posted on

Updated Review of Dead Boy Detectives- Netflix Series

The Dead Boy Detectives image from Rotten Tomatoes


Edwin Payne and Charles Roland are  teenagers who have bonded as ghosts. They strive to help other ghosts find closure and be able to go with Death.  However, neither teen wants to go themselves.   They’d rather keep solving crimes on the ghostly plane until their next case involves a possessed human. 

A female child’s ghost is worried about her teenage medium friend Crystal.  The ghost and the teen used to have fun times together until, suddenly, Crystal stopped seeing her.  Charles and Edwin take the case and quickly determine Crystal is possessed by her demon boyfriend.   They free her, but the teen has lost significant memories of herself.  So Charles talks Edwin into letting Crystal stay with them until her memories do return.  In the meantime, she helps them with various cases.

I have seen three episodes of Dead Boy Detectives. I like the actors, seeing Edwin squirm when he thinks about the Cat King having the hots for him, and the witch who’s mad at Charles for possessing her body. I like these interactions and others  between the actors.   Somehow, though, I do not see Edwin, Charles, or Crystal as teens.  I can buy them as young people in their twenties, but not as teenagers.   The show is also supposed to be funny, but I can’t tell where the jokes are and the drama is light.   

Also, the writers do not want to delve into Charles’s pain from his living days with an abusive father. The drama touches on it lightly when Charles connects to the diary writing of one of the Devlin girls in the episode titled The Case of the Devlin House. Nor do we find out why the demon sacrifice led to Edwin being banished to Hell with no escape till Charles comes along.    I did a Google search for the original comic book on which the show is based. I would never have guessed Charles and Edwin went to the same prep school decades apart.  I also thought Charles died by suicide, but instead he got bullied to death as well.  

 The Benedict Society, which aired on Disney Plus, found ways to show depth of character and touch on tough topics while having minor-age actors be the main characters. Surely, Dead Boy Detective writers could do the same, but with older actors portraying teenagers.  I have wanted to like this show ever since I got a taste of the characters during the Doom Patrol run.  Fingers crossed my wish comes true.

Revised thoughts

I am thrilled to report that the second half of the first season brought what I hoped from the series. I saw how Charles and Edwin met, how Charles died, Crystal getting her memories back by chewing gum balls, Charles going to Hell to get Edwin and much more. I am excited and hopeful for a second season, and you bet I will tune in to watch when it drops.

Review of Netflix’s Dead Boy Detectives
Ruminate Central
Posted on

Review of Netflix’s The Beautiful Game

Image from imdb.com

Widower Mal (Bill Nighy) has a long career in football (soccer). For the last decade, he has been training a group of homeless men for the Homeless World Cup games. Only two of them are soccer players, Cal (Kit Young) and Kevin (Tom Vaughn Lawlor), until Mal sees Vinny (Micheal Ward) playing with a ball from a children’s soccer game.  Impressed by what he sees Vinny doing on the field, Mal invites Vinny to be part of his team.  Initially, Vinny turns him down.  He is not homeless.  Vinny has a job and he has a family. Only Vinny does not actually live with them, he lives in his car.  However, after a talk with his young daughter, he changes his mind and heads to Rome with Mal and the others.

The Beautiful Game is based on several real life stories of homeless men and women who took part in and still do in the Homeless World Cup.   The sports drama is good, and I rooted for many of the players. However, there is something lacking in this Netflix film and that is the background of the players themselves. We do not get much of it beyond a few tidbits.  Nathan (Collum Scott Howells) was a heavy drug user who got kicked out of his family.  Now clean and using methadone to control his addiction, he hopes the games will help him reunite with his family.   Then, there is Cal, who dreams of winning the games and that it will lead to him being able to be with his son without supervision. And a Syrian refugee who must call England home who misses the life he had as a barber.   

While nice to learn all of this, sadly, the film dives more into the games and the road blocks to these wins, then in character development and drama; because by the time of the “big” reveal about Vinny happens, it does not have the great impact it could have had.  Still, I liked this light sports drama just not as much as I hoped.

Review of Netflix’s The Beautiful Game
Ruminate Central
Posted on

Time to Learn a New Skill – How to Stay Calm

Image courtesy of Karen Arnold and publicdomainpictures.net

Lately, depression, pressure, anxiety and fear have piled on me.  Last Friday it manifested itself at work. I had to do an Acord.  It is a type of insurance form that lists specific coverage that a company policy has. Each form is specific to a different area of a company policy. Sometimes one or two types of Acord forms are enough, but other times there can be as many as four different forms.    If I am lucky, a company does an Acord for me automatically or emails it to me and I email the copy to the client.  Another twist to an Acord is that it can also be used as an application to request insurance coverage from a carrier.

 A company I am the agent for needed two Acords by the end of the day. I wanted to go home, but I had to stay in the office and solve this. I did research online on how to do the form. My Dad did his own research.  I also left a message for the underwriter of the policy to see if he knew how to do the form.  The research and a call back from the underwriter got the form completed. 

I have decided to stop what is going on with me. I will tap into an ability my Mom had which she gained from her parents. She could deflate her anger, regain her calm, and then solve whatever it is that needs solving. I wish I could go to her and ask for tips.  Unfortunately, over the last thirteen years, a cognitive impairment that developed into Alzheimer’s has changed who my Mom is and put to sleep other aspects of who she was.  

I began meditation and breathing exercises and added in walking in the fresh air.   I am doing self-talk as well and, eventually, the skill will form. As for the Acord part I signed up for a course to learn them and over the course of this week I am slowly coming to understand them.

Time to Learn a New Skill – How to Stay Calm
Ruminate Central
Posted on

Review of When Can We Go Back to America?

When Can We Go Back To America? By Susan H. Kamei (Image from Amazon.com)

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, over 120,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese citizens living legally in the United States were forced into interment camps.  Between prejudice and fears that the Japanese would infiltrate America, it was decided to intern residents for the long term.   

Susan H. Kamei’s book When Can We Go Back to America, digs deep into this terrible time and the lasting impact it had on Japanese Americans once released from the camps.

 For instance, some young adults who went to high school in the camps and graduated often found it difficult to get into a college or university because their diploma was not recognized as coming from an accredited school. In other instances, when families tried to regain their farms, homes, businesses and more, they could not because either the people they mistakenly trusted to care for them refused to let them go, or they had been sold to others.   

There were exceptions to this. Some young adults did get help from associations like the YMCA and the Quakers to complete college or university enrollment. And there were families who did get their farm, home or business back from the people they trusted in their care.

This is just some of what Japanese Americans faced. There is much more that Kamei writes about in her book.  She also quotes over a hundred Japanese Americans and later in the book writes half to two-page biographies on each of them. All together brings back to life an era many may not have heard about.   If you are interested in Civil Rights, like me, I would highly recommend you pick up this book and either listen to it or read it.  

Review of When Can We Go Back to America? by Susan H. Kamei
Ruminate Central

Posted on

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur on Disney+

Image from Marvel.com

Recently I spotted Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur on Disney+.  Genuis 13-year-old Lunella Lafayette thinks the world of a missing female scientist. So much so, she gets her machine and other equipment and houses it below her family’s Lower East Side New York apartment building, where she slowly works on it and hopes to find out just what it does. 

When Lunella does activate the machine, a portal opens and a big red Tyrannosaurus Rex comes through and terrifies the teenager.  However, she soon finds the Rex is as gentle and he likes her.   The two bond and, before long, with the encouragement of a new friend. 

Casey Calderon, Lunella and Devil Dinosaur, become heroes and learn things about each other as they navigate the world around them.  Outside their superhero deeds, Lunella is an ernest student, a hard worker, and is tight with her family, who runs a roller-skating rink that is popular in her neighborhood.  

I love Lunella! Her intellect, skill, and savvy.  She makes a few foolish errors and, although it may hurt for a few seconds, she is willing to learn from her mistakes. I also love the animation, the music, the story telling, and that no character, including the bad guys, are not cookie cutter. They each get a foundation and backstory.  I sure hope this amazing series gets more than 2 seasons.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur on Disney+
Ruminate Central
Posted on

Review of the Audio Book: Be Useful – Seven Tools for Life

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger & Penguin Audio – Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

My friend Andrew keeps telling me how inspiring Arnold Schwarzenegger can be in his talks about life, his career and in business.   One day while on social media, I spotted the image of Schwarzenegger’s newest book, Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life.  I took a photo of the book on my I-phone and texted it to Andrew with no words.  A while later, he sends me a text back about how cool it is and that he hopes I read the book.  It took a while, but I did get to the book.  I spent a credit on Audible.com,

First, it is not a dull book.   Second, I like how Schwarzenegger connects his lessons with a page out of his own life.  Third, he shares who helped him learn in his, and who influenced him to, as the book title states, to be useful.   Schwarzenegger gives a great road map in a clear, concise and easy to understand way.   

One particular thing I have heard again and again, not just from Schwarzenegger in the book, is to visualize yourself doing something or using visualization to take an idea and grow it.   It is, I believe, an essential thing, and it applies to whatever one does in a career or otherwise.  Most often we hear it about athletes, but it can really be used by everyone.  

I enjoyed Schwarzenegger’s book and if you like me have not heard him give talks or read his other book, Total Recall, and only know him from the film world, Being Useful: Seven Tools for Life is a good introduction to another side of the actor, family man, business person and weight lifter.  

Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life by Arnold Schwarzenegger & Penguin Audio
Ruminate Central

Posted on

Waging a Good War by Thomas E. Ricks

Waging A Good War by Thomas E Ricks – Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

Thomas E. Ricks writes in Waging a Good War, that the greatest victories by Black Americans were won by idealism, paying attention to recruiting, training, discipline, and organization, all of which are found in a military campaign. He also shares that Gandhian nonviolence was an active form of resistance against those the movement confronted.  Additionally, he gives a fresh take on the leaders of the movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer as well as the activists including Diane Nash, James Bevel, Bob Moses and more.

I think Ricks is correct that the Civil Rights Movement had aspects of a military campaign.  During the movement and after Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, those in SNCC and SCLC suffered as did those who fought in war, including physical and mental trauma.  Ricks closes the book with a call to action by outlining the current political climate and how it is important for us as citizens to protect the rights we have and that were hard won.   

Thomas E. Ricks is a masterful storyteller. He backs up what he writes through thorough research and from personal experience he has had as a journalist writing about military and national security issues. I highly recommend reading this book.

Waging a Good War: A Military History of The Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968
Ruminate Central

Posted on

Julian Bond’s A Time to Teach

Julian Bond’s Time to Teach: A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement Book Cover Image from Amazon.com

Recently I have read three or four books on the late John Lewis. I went back to the library to see if I could locate a book on another member of the Civil Rights movement. I read a book by the late Julian Bond titled Time to Teach.  It contains his lecture notes from several major universities he taught at, including Harvard, University of Virginia and then American University.  

Bond details the planning and strategizing that went into the marches and protests of the era as well as the struggle with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations that wanted to take the fight for Civil Rights slowly whereas the movement pressed them to make it a priority.  

The brutality, the beatings, the rape, and murder that took place during those years are difficult to take in, but it must be in order to understand the magnitude of the struggle. I wish that the testimony of the people in the Civil Rights movement along with the brutal images broadcast on television of police on horses charging after peaceful marchers were necessary to have driven the government to act on Civil Rights. 

The writing is compelling, straight forward, and paints a picture of the Civil Rights years vividly. Adding to the power of Bond’s words is an afterward by Vann R. Newkirk II who connects the difficulties past to the present difficulties we experience now.

I will mention this again what we learn about the past can help shape what we do in the future. We need to take them to heart and act before our present difficulties become impossible to stop.

Julian Bond’s A Time to Teach A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement
Ruminate Central