Thursday, February 25, 2021

TV Series: Why I Stopped Watching Madam Secretary

I came late to Madam Secretary and loved it until halfway through series 4, when Nadine left and the script took a decidedly radical left wing/woke/loony liberal swing. On the plus side, the cast is perfect and there are some lovable characters like Blake, Matt, Daisy, Mike B (let's not forget canines Gordon and Waffles) et al. Tea Leoni and Tim Daly are a real-life handsome couple and they have the right charisma and spark between them to make the screen relationship credible. Their family is played by great young actors who are all so believable. Pres. Dalton and Russell Jackson (who has some of the best lines delivered with Machiavellian and devilish charm) are also excellent. The problem is the consist playing on left wing social themes and dragging these into the politics of the script. Viewers have it drummed into their heads that unless they go along with the woke policies the producers are clearly espousing, they, like the 'bad' characters, are racist/bigots/Nazis or worse.

The stories got so boring after a while that, sadly, I did not even finish Series 5 and I am disappointed - but I could not sit through yet another episode of woke virtue signaling. The character of Kat Sandoval was a mystery to me and a shabby replacement for Nadine played with such charm and grace by Bebe Neuwirth. Kat's gender confusion, bad wardrobe, and hideous hairstyle says nothing about the character except she was clearly the LGBTQ poster 'girl' for the series. The actor played her with enthusiasm and energy and that's all credit to the performer. But producers need to reassess what an audience wants. If you have a political series, keep it that way. (Another good production that went down the same dismal woke drain was the third series of Designated Survivor with a dreadful last season that alienated viewers and played out every possible left liberal policy imaginable.) Back to Madam Secretary, I could not believe they even had that insufferable Hilary Clinton on the show. That was just too much for me. 3/5


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Book Review: Ethan Murphy and the Quest for the Minal

Ethan Murphy is just an average boy living an average life… or so he thought. The only thing marring it is the fact that his dad broke a promise. Four years earlier, he promised to come back from one of his expeditions and never did. On Ethan’s thirteenth birthday he receives a gift from his grandfather, a very strange gift of some of his father’s belongings and an invitation to visit his grandfather’s house. That visit changes everything for Ethan who discovers that his archaeologist father was far more than that, his Aunt Matilda has been kidnapped, and that his family is involved in a secret organization! Moreover, his dad went missing while searching for a fabulous emerald, the Minal, supposedly belonging to Cleopatra. From an ordinary boy Ethan is turned into an extraordinary young investigator, relying on his wits, his skill in solving puzzles and acrostics, and his love for his family. With two new agents helping Ethan, this team of young agents must survive encounters with the bad guys, work out some very cryptic clues left by Ethan’s father, rescue Aunt Matilda, and retrieve the Minal before it falls into the wrong hands. When Ethan must finally go it alone, can he do it? Who can he trust? Who is a friend and who is a foe? Can he save his aunt and his new friends?

What a rollicking adventure! Ethan Murphy and the Quest for the Minal is full of action, many surprising twists and turns, nail-biting suspense, danger, history, mystery, and intrigue. The journey takes them to Egypt, and into a completely different geographical location, one they have never experienced before. Author Anita Mishra perfectly captures the mindset of this reluctant young hero and his compadres and the dialogues reflect teen concerns. Readers who are explorers at heart, who love mysteries, riddles and clues, and enjoy deciphering codes will devour this book. The puzzles are cryptic indeed, the clues are confusing at times, and time is running out! The dangers come thick and fast and Ethan must get to the bottom of the mystery because lives are at stake. 

Themes include loyalty, family, trust, betrayal and disillusionment, as well as courage, perseverance and hope, and not forgetting staying alive. I also really enjoyed the fact that there are no electronic communication devices (you never know who can hack in) so Ethan and his friends must work things out the old-fashioned way, using their minds. Egypt is a fascinating place and for the young reader interested in geography, new cultures, and faraway places, this is the perfect story to whisk them off to an ambiance of mystery and mayhem. A five-star story!