Friday, July 31, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews TIMBUKTU and sees poetry through the pain


Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako

Ms. Hen found it difficult to situate herself in this film at first. She read the description incorrectly and thought it was about Malaysia and not Mali. After she watched the whole thing, she went to the internet, and found out that Mali is not Malaysia. She felt like a silly hen for not realizing where it took place, but this film is anything but silly.

TIMBUKTU takes place in Mali during the revolution in 2012. The story revolves around a farming family in which the father, Kidane, dotes on his beautiful twelve- year old daughter, Toya. They have a simple life with their herd of cows, but they don’t know that tragedy is about to come their way.

The Muslim extremists are taking over the country, announcing throughout the village that it is a violation for women to be without socks. They stop women on the street to see if they are wearing socks; and if a woman is not, she gets taken into custody. The tyrants tell a woman who is selling fish that she has to wear gloves, but she fights with them, and tells them she cannot sell her fish wearing gloves, and if they want to make her, they should cut off her hands.

The men in the government are after anyone who sings in private, or anyone who plays soccer. One of the most beautiful moments of the film is when the woman who is arrested for singing is receiving forty lashes, and starts to sing and wail from the depths of her soul. Many cinematic flourishes decorate this film. If it is possible for film to be considered poetry, this could be the one to accomplish such a feat.

The mis en scene takes one’s breath away. We see a miserable place in the desert where the society is disintegrating, but the beauty of the landscape and the people almost make us forget the devastation that is happening. Ms. Hen decided that watching TIMBUTKU makes her happy that she lives where she lives and she doesn’t have to worry about the authorities telling her she has to wear socks, and she has the option of dancing if she desires. Where Ms. Hen lives is not perfect, but she believes that it is as safe as it can be.

The family of farmers is not safe from the extremists. A fisherman warned the son Issan about letting the cow near his fishing nets, but Issan had no control over the cow. The fisherman kills the cow, and Issan runs back to tell the family. Kidane, irate, takes matters into his own hands, and goes to the fisherman with the intent to hurt him.

What ensues is chaos. Ms. Hen didn’t know what happened for a few seconds, but that is the beauty of this film. The viewer doesn’t alway know what is happening immediately, but has to read between the images.

Ms. Hen’s favorite part of the film was the woman from Haiti with the magical chicken. The chicken appears with the woman dressed in blue, and the woman talks to the chicken and the chicken appears to be the one who is all-knowing. Ms. Hen always loves when a chicken appears in a film, because she likes to know her kind is being appreciated.

Ms. Hen loved this film, even though it brought her down. The poetry of pain expressed in film always heartens Ms. Hen. If beautiful art comes from something horrible, the struggle might not be in vain. And to let the world know that horrors exist brings light to the struggle we all share. We all are on this planet together and if injustice occurs to someone, it hurts everyone. Ms. Hen gives this film five feathers up.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews Season 3 of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

Season 3

Ms. Hen watched the first and second season of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK last summer. She does not binge watch TV shows; however, she usually watches them one at a time. She thinks there are too many other things to do with one’s day than sit in front of the TV or the computer for thirteen hours at a time; she would rather spend her other time writing, reading, exercising and sometimes working. But she got involved with the characters on this TV show and she grew to love them, and she longed for more when she finished watching the second season.

Ms. Hen loves the characters on OITNB. She loves Piper and Alex and their relationship, she loves Red because she is a strong woman who doesn’t take any garbage from anyone, she loves Murillo because she’s crazy, and she loves Pennsatucky because she is stupid, but endearing at the same time. The characters on the show are so well written that they remind Ms. Hen of the people she knows, they are complex and despicable in their own way. What Gloria says at the end of season three is true, they’re all trapped together and they act like animals and that’s not the way they really would be if they weren’t incarcerated.

Piper changes in Season 3. She’s rid of the man in her life, who is doesn’t appear this season. Piper becomes a prison animal, trapped in a cage with a bunch of other inmates desperately trying to scratch out a living. She comes up with an idea to sell panties that female inmates have worn to perverted customers. She ropes in her brother to help with the online distribution, and some other inmates to wear the panties that she makes from the extra cloth from the prison panty factory. Nothing but chaos can ensue when this happens.

Piper is in control and when she’s in charge all hell is about to break loose. She puts her freedom at risk, chancing more prison time with her scheme. With the help of her Aussie inmate new friend, Stella, they scheme together. Piper and Alex have problems, and all the other inmates have problems with Piper taking all the money. Other stories surround the season, such as Daya and Bennett’s ill-fated relationship, Caputo and the new bosses, Sophia and Gloria getting into a fight over their sons’ friendship.

Ms. Hen read the memoir ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK by Piper Kerman, and was not as impressed with it as she is with the TV show. The real Piper is an executive producer on the show. Ms. Hen imagines that Piper has a lot of fun thinking up cool and dangerous escapades that her television alter-ego can embroil her character into. Ms. Hen thinks that this is what fiction should be, taking real life experiences and making them more interesting. If not a novel or a story, a TV show works well also. TV is more accessible to the masses, but Ms. Hen does not care much for the masses.

Ms. Hen does care for chickens. The magical chicken makes an appearance in this season. One of Ms. Hen favorite parts of OITNB is the chicken. She thinks that everyone should experience a magic chicken once or twice in life.

Ms. Hen enjoys the mostly female dominated cast with the strong women characters. She also likes the tragic-comic aspect of the show, which reminds her a lot of Russian novelists, such as Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. She thinks that OITNB would please the fans of such authors, who pine for agony and soul-drenching pain tinged with laughter in their entertainment.

Ms. Hen does not spend a lot of time watching TV, and she does not recommend a lot of TV shows. However, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK is a rare combination of great writing, acting and collaboration that brings a subculture of society to light. Ms. Hen has never been in prison, but the show is written and acted so well that it makes her empathize with the characters. Ms. Hen loves ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK because it shows the gritty reality of how terrible it is to be a prisoner, but also the beauty of humanity working together for survival.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Ms. Hen had read this novel about ten years ago, but she thought she would revisit it, because she wanted to know how she would feel about it as a more sophisticated reader. She didn’t remember it that well from the first time she read it, she remembered the story about the family and the ending, but not much else. She doesn’t usually read long, intense novels more than once, but this one called to her.

When she first read this book, she was confused by all the names that were very similar, and most of them begin with the letter “A”. But in this reading, she paid attention to which Aureliano was which and she could differentiate between them. All it takes is a little concentration, and being a more educated reader helps.

Reading this novel reminded Ms. Hen of a snake swallowing a large rat or a rabbit, it happens very slowly, and with a lot of effort. Many different stories about one family fill this novel, and they all take place within about one hundred years. Ursula’s fear that a member of her family would be born with the tail of a pig hangs over the novel, and the family members that are alive at the end of this novel aren’t aware of the fear Ursula had, and the consequences of incest.

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE could be the story of the history of the world, or the story of anyone’s family. Atrocities occur, love bursts through, war breaks out, and solitude permeates everyone’s life. Even though the family lives together in a big house, which is sometimes open to visitors and fresh air, and sometimes closed, they all wallow in their solitude. This goes to show that everyone is alone, even when a loving family surrounds us, or a family that simply tolerates us.

This novel could also be compared with an intricate tapestry. It seems familiar, even though it could be new to the reader. Ms. Hen could smell the dust from Macondo, the town somewhere in South America where the novel takes place. She understood how life in this place was, how things changed with war and the introduction of the banana company, and how lives disintegrated with the rain, then the lack of rain.

The family is like any family, but with magic interspersed. Ms. Hen especially liked Mauricio with the butterflies flying around him. She thought she would like to meet a person with butterflies around him because she thinks it would be lovely to see. Ms. Hen also enjoyed Remedios the Beauty’s ascent to Heaven, because Ms. Hen thought there was nothing else that could happen to her. She was meant to be in Heaven, because she was an angel, or seemed to be heavenly.

Ms. Hen was confounded by all the times chickens, roosters or hens were mentioned in this novel. She has never read a book that mentioned her kind in so many places. She counted at least twelve places were a chicken was mentioned. Some of her favorite places are:

1.     When Ursula says to Jose Arcardio, “Roosters have already brought too much bitterness to this house for you to bring any more.”
2.     After Mauricio was shot trying to have a tryst with Meme, “He died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest, without a single moment of betrayal, tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies, who did not give him a moment’s peace, and ostracized as a chicken thief.”
3.     Pilar Tenerna gives Aureliano Segundo advice to conjure away Fernanda’s curse, “she told Aureliano Segundo that he should soak a broody hen and bury her alive under the chestnut tree, and he did it with such good faith that when he finished hiding the turned-up earth with dried leaves he already felt that he was breathing better.”

Ms. Hen wondered why there were so many chickens mentioned in ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE.  She thinks it might be because chickens are fantastical animals and the novel is brimming with magic. She also thinks that the reason could be that the novel takes place in a rural South American town, and it must have been full of chickens, and the characters must be thinking of them constantly.

Ms. Hen loves reading about chickens. She also loves reading a novel that makes her have faith in magic. She believes that ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE is a novel that can be read again, but not too often. It is a mammoth undertaking, and should be done when the stars are aligned correctly, possibly once every ten years, or when you’re on the brink of a different life.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews WILD TALES and tastes revenge

Directed by Damian Szifron

Ms. Hen didn’t know what to expect from this film, and she forgot the reason she wanted to see it was because it was the foreign film nomination from Argentina for the Oscars this year. Ms. Hen tries to see most of the foreign film Oscar nods because she thinks they are usually the best movies of the year.

This film is like a collection of short stories. Six films make a whole, and each one is connected to the other. The characters aren’t the same in each piece, but the situations are all similar: revenge. These are characters that want to inflict their revenge on another person or several people.

On a airplane flight, everyone realizes that they are all acquainted with the same man and that the situations they all had with him all ended badly. The next film is about a waitress in a restaurant caught in the problem of trying to decide to poison the man who ruined her life. Another film is about a man and a car and another man and another car and violence.

One short is about a man whose car is towed and wants to get back at the towing company and the government.  Another film is about a hit and run accident, and the wealthy man who tries to get his gardener to take the blame for the wayward son. The last film is about a wedding at which a bride discovers her groom has cheated on her.

All these shorts have a negative ending except the last one about the wedding. These films show the darker side of human nature. Ms. Hen loves that. She wondered if some of these situations would actually take place in the United States. The films brim with machismo, especially the one about the men and the cars. Ms. Hen couldn’t help but think this film was unnecessarily violent.

Even though she did think a number of the films were violent, some of them reminded her of her favorite writers. The film about the men and the cars reminded Ms. Hen so much of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” that she couldn’t help but like it. It is about driving down the highway, thinking that everything is fine, and it turns out that everything is not fine and the character’s life is ruined.

The film about the man and the towing company reminded her of Kafka’s THE TRIAL, because it was about a man trying to cope with the complex system of bureaucracy. Ms. Hen thinks that Kafka would like the ending of this film much better than the ending of THE TRIAL because the little person sticks it to the man in charge.

WILD TALES is a dark film that might not be for everyone. But it is dark in a way that is real, and it shows us that we live in a screwed up world. But the last film, about the wedding, portrays life as it is, the people think everything is over, but they deal with it and keep going. That is what we should learn from this film, that we should keep moving ahead. Ms. Hen gives this film an enthusiastic five feathers up.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ms. Hen writes poetry

When Ms. Hen is not watching her movies or reading books, when she is not eating chicken at restaurants, or critiquing museums, sometimes she writes poetry. She had two poems published recently.  

Here is a link to one:

Here is a link to another:

Ms. Hen says, "Don't be a chicken. Do what you want."

She has no rules for her blog. Even though she is not reviewing something this time, she thought she had something to share.

Ms. Hen

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews PAULA and quietly raves

Isabel Allende

PAULA is Isabel Allende’s letter to her daughter, which she started writing to tell Paula about her own life while her daughter was in a coma. PAULA is sad and joyful at the same time. Ms. Hen loved this book. It’s one of those rare books that can change your perspective on life. Ms. Hen has problems, but through reading this memoir, she learned a way to deal with her problems. Sometimes it takes a different viewpoint to see your own troubles in a new light.

Isabel Allende is a Chilean-American writer whose novel, THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS was an international bestseller, and she has published many other books. Ms. Hen loved THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS, and this memoir is very similar to that. Ms. Allende’s family is just as magical and interesting as the family in the novel.

Ms. Allende’s life was so complex and fascinating that Ms. Hen started to grow jealous reading this book. This is a life that a writer should have! Yes, there are some interesting things in Ms. Hen’s background, but not a wide range of fantastic events like the ones that occurred in Ms. Allende’s life. Ms. Hen knows she shouldn’t be jealous of the problems of someone else’s life, but Ms. Allende has such rich experiences that she could write about her own life forever.

Aside from her jealousy of Ms. Allende’s wild life, Ms. Hen loved this memoir. She got to know the family and the problems and learned the love the family had for each other. From Tata to Meme, to Granny to Paula, her family life was steeped in love and passion. Even when she and her husband Michael divorced, they still loved each other.

What Ms. Allende said she learned was important in life was to learn love and sorrow. She learned both, and writes about the experience of both with such vivid prose. When she goes to the forest to scream about Paula, we are there with her, pulling our hair out, and screaming for the loss of her brilliant daughter.

Paula seemed like a bright star. Ms. Hen wondered, how could someone be so purely good? But Ms. Hen has known some people who are that purely good, with no pretenses, people who don’t care about what anyone else thinks, who only want positivity to come to the world. Paula only wanted to do benevolent things, but her life was snuffed out at the age of twenty-eight.

Ms. Hen doesn’t think it’s fair that someone so good should die at such a young age, but she knows that life isn’t fair. Sometimes life is not as it should be. Sometimes the world can be a cruel place. But Isabel Allende’s love for her daughter and how she writes about that love is a reminder that life can be beautiful, even though it can rip your heart out.

Ms. Hen’s heart was ripped out reading this memoir. She read the ending in a coffee shop, and she found herself crying. She turned to the wall, so the other people around her wouldn’t see her tears. This is a book that shows what it means to be human: what it means to love, what it means to lose, and what it means to live. Ms. Hen would recommend this memoir to anyone who has a heart, which is hopefully everyone.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews Earl's Kitchen in Somerville and gives her tastebuds some variety

Earl’s Kitchen
698 Assembly Row #102
Somerville, MA

Ms. Hen had been eyeing Earl’s Kitchen for quite some time. Every time she goes to Assembly Row to see a movie or go to Paul, she looks in the window of Earl’s Kitchen and notices that it is a huge place and it is almost always empty during the week. The menu is enticing to her, but on the pricy side. One Saturday, she took a dining companion out to eat and they arrived at Earl’s.

Since it was Saturday, they had to wait about ten minutes to be seated. The hostess asked if they wanted to sit outside, but they said they preferred to sit inside. They ended up sitting next to a window, and even though the sun wasn’t shining, the light was in their eyes.

The place was huge and clean. The waitresses and hostesses were not dressed like they worked at a restaurant; they looked like they were all dressed up for a night on the town. All the waitresses looked like models, and it made Ms. Hen wonder if they would hire anyone fat and ugly. Ms. Hen thinks the restaurant might be prejudiced against ugly people.

But the food! Never mind the lack of unattractive waitresses. Ms. Hen got a chicken sandwich with Brie and fig spread with apples and spinach on a rustic ciabatta roll. There was a lot going on in this sandwich, but Ms. Hen thought it was delicious.

She likes to eat different things sometimes to stimulate her taste buds because she read that if you vary what you eat all the time, it make a hen or a person smarter. When Ms. Hen eats at a nice restaurant, she likes to eat chicken because she thinks it’s the best. The sandwich came with French fries, and they were good, but they weren’t outrageous.

Ms. Hen’s dining companion got the Sweet Virginia Bennie, an eggs Benedict dish, from the brunch menu, which is available on Saturdays and Sundays until 3. Ms. Hen’s companion said the eggs and the hollandaise sauce were tasty, but the potatoes got cold fast. The meal also came with toast and ham. She said that the hollandaise sauce seemed like it was very fresh, like it was made in the restaurant.

The menu at Earl’s Kitchen is varied. There are Asian dishes, a burger selection, a salad selection, steaks, some seafood, and enough vegetarian options to keep the Somerville hipsters happy. Most items are on the expensive side, but Ms. Hen and her companion ordered food that was on the lower price range of the menu, not because Ms. Hen was cheap, but because they didn’t want to eat a lot since it was lunch.

Ms. Hen and her companion enjoyed Earl’s. It’s a nice place to spend a Saturday afternoon, even though Assembly Row was crowded. Ms. Hen liked eating lunch and watching people. She gives Earl’s four feathers up, because she’s a hen with good taste. Earl’s wasn’t perfect, but the food was made with care and attention.