Commentary #87: Thoughts on “Flint Town”

Flint Town

Image Credit: IMDb

I was off work on a recent Friday, and it was so nice to have a little bit of a break. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to watch. This title kept popping up in my Netflix profile, so I figured, “Why not? Let’s try it.”

Before Al came home from work that day, I’d watched the entire season. All eight episodes.

At first, I thought the documentary series was going to be about the police force in Flint, Michigan. It was certainly about that, but also so much more.

Flint Town is a real, gritty, almost unedited profile of these officers and their lives. I got so invested in the story, especially the emotional side, it’s no surprise I plowed through all eight episodes in one day.

In addition to being police officers, you ride along with them as they deal with the continuing water crisis, limited and dwindling resources, and changes in the city administration. Both good and bad.

I wroteย Hot Topic #19: The Water Crisis in Flint, and Othersย in March 2017. The series started before that. And it was compelling, and pretty sickening, to watch.

My heart went out to everyone in Flint. Seeing these interviews – Officers, officers’ family members, city officials, local activists, and members of the community – It’s beyond obvious this city has been struggling for years.

At the same time, toward the end of the series, I started thinking beyond Flint. There are THOUSANDS of other cities in the U.S., not to mention so many others places on this planet of ours, that don’t have safe, clean, acceptable drinking water. I started thinking about my own city – Portsmouth, Virginia – and my water, my city administration, my police force.

Just before I watched this series, the story broke one morning that our own police chief in the City of Portsmouth, Tonya Chapman, had suddenly resigned. When she was hired in 2016, she was the first female, African-American police chief of a municipal force in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently, Angela Greene, the former Assistant Police Chief, is serving as interim Police Chief until a replacement is hired. But we don’t know when that will be.

And, there continues to be finger-pointing, frustration, and controversy from many different sides, including the city administration, citizens, the local NAACP chapter, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Flint Town is a story that can easily resonate with many across the United States. It’s a tough one to watch, but it’s a series that is relevant, and thought-provoking.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #86: “Reforestation Drones Drop Seeds Instead of Bombs, Planting 100,000 Trees Per Day Each”

Reforestation Drones

Image found on Return to Now.

This is a really intriguing idea. I first saw this story on Facebook, through Return to Now.

The U.K.-based BioCarbon Engineering (BCE) has developed a relatively simple, two-step process for accomplishing this:

  1. Send the drones into the target area to create a detailed, 3-D map.
  2. Send the planting drones back to the mapped site to fire “agri-bullets” into the ground.

In addition, the engineering firm has committed to biodegradable seed pods, and planting multiple species simultaneously. That is awesome!

In June 2017, BCE planted 5,000 trees in one day in coal mine-ravaged Dungog, Australia. The company has also worked in South Africa and New Zealand. They also started working in cyclone-ravaged Myanmar, working to replace destroyed mangroves.


Other websites have published similar accounts within the last year:


For more information, check out the links below:


What do you think about using drones to help fight deforestation and climate change? Let me know in the comments!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #85: “My Journey Through the Marvel Universe”

My Journey Through the Marvel Universe

Image Credit: The Book Raven

I love Tiana, who is the awesome author of The Book Raven, wrote an incredible post about the Marvel Universe!

Here’s the link to Tiana’s post:


I love how Tiana watched all the Marvel movies, and then decided to make separate blog posts to discuss each movie individually.

Inspired by her, I wanted to give my take on these movies here, together. We’re only about a month away now from the premiere of Avengers: Endgame and I CANNOT FREAKING WAIT!!!


Iron Man (2008)

The film's title is shown below juxtaposed images of Tony Stark and Iron Man.

I’ve seen every single Marvel movie in theaters, several of them multiple times. I know superhero movies aren’t for everyone, but I’ve really enjoyed what Marvel and the variety of directors have done with these movies!

Iron Man was a big deal in 2008. It got a lot of buzz, and rightfully so. To me, no one else can play Iron Man other than Robert Downey, Jr. He’s pretty much perfect for the role.

Initially, Gwyneth Paltrow bothered me, but I like her as Pepper Potts. Jeff Bridges was great as the eventual villain. This was our first introduction to Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. I love how Jon Favreau played Tony Stark’s bodyguard and chauffeur Happy Hogan, as well as directed this movie.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

The Incredible Hulk poster.jpg

I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. Edward Norton was okay as Hulk, and I enjoyed Liv Tyler.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Tony Stark is pictured center wearing a smart suit, against a black background, behind him are the Iron Man red and gold armor, and the Iron Man silver armor. His friends, Rhodes, Pepper, are beside him and below against a fireball appears Ivan Vanko armed with his energy whip weapons.

I’m always slightly skeptical of sequels. However, banking on the massive success of the first Iron Man movie, this one was pretty good. I was sad to not see Terrence Howard, but thought Don Cheadle was a good choice. I enjoyed seeing Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell. Mickey Rourke wouldn’t be my first choice, but it worked.

Thor (2011)

Armor clad and wearing a red cape, Thor is crouched, holding the handle of his hammer to the ground, and rock debris is being blasted away. In the background are four panels showing the faces of Jane, Loki, Odin, and Heimdall.

Thor was a tough character for me to get behind. However, Chris Hemsworth was a great choice to portray him. I loved Natalie Portman as Jane Foster. And Idris Elba was a perfect choice for Heimdall, the sentry of the bifrost bridge. Asgard is a magical, amazing place!

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America The First Avenger poster.jpg

Unlike Thor, Captain America was an easy sell for me. Captain America has become my favorite Marvel character. Chris Evans is incredibly handsome, and portrays the super solider so well! Plus, anytime history is incorporated into a movie, I’m there. I really enjoy 20th century history, so it’s no surprise I’ve seen this movie multiple times. In addition, I loved Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter.

The Avengers (2012)

TheAvengers2012Poster.jpg

I love it when a team comes together! While other Marvel movies are my true favorites, this one is near the top of the list, easily in my top five. Joss Whedon did a FABULOUS job with this movie!

All the previous movies to this point come together here. The noticeable difference is The Incredible Hulk is now portrayed by Mark Ruffalo, but I appreciated that change. We also see Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, which was another great choice. I also immensely enojyed seeing Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill.

This movie ends Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Tony, as Iron Man in his battle damaged suit sitting with water around him, while his house behind is destroyed. Stark's Iron Legion is flying, while the Marvel logo with the film's title, credits and release date are below.

This was not my favorite. This movie is a good example as to why I’m skeptical with some decisions about sequels and additional movies. The only true exciting part for me was recognizing several locations in Miami.

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor - The Dark World poster.jpg

This one was also okay. Not my favorite. I did enjoy Kat Dennings and Rene Russo.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America The Winter Soldier.jpg

This one almost outranks The First Avenger, but not quite. However, I loved the spy angle and espionage feel! Seeing Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson was awesome. And Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter was nice addition as well. Seeing Robert Redford was great, too.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The five Guardians, sporting various weapons, arrayed in front of a backdrop of a planet in space with the film's title, credits and slogan.

This movie! Holy freaking cow. This is definitely in my top five, next to Captain America! I’m not usually one for space adventures, but this cast, plus the EPIC soundtrack did it all for me. It was FABULOUS.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers Age of Ultron poster.jpg

The gang is back together. This one was good, but it’s hard to top the first Avengers movie. The additions of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen were cool. And seeing Paul Bettany on screen was great, too.

Ant-Man (2015)

Official poster shows Ant-Man in his suit, and introduces a montage of him starts to shrink with his size-reduction ability, with a montage of helicopters, a police officer holds his gun, two men in suit and tie and sunglasses and the film's villain Darren Cross is walking with them smiling, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, and Evengeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne with the film's title, credits, and release date below them, and the cast names above.

I wasn’t sure about seeing Ant-Man on screen, but Paul Rudd was a great choice for this role! This movie is hilarious, and I appreciated adding comedy and humor to a relatively dark and brooding series of movies. Not to say this movie doesn’t have darkness, but seeing the heist plot and Ant-Man’s origin story was great. Paul Rudd and Michael Pena are tied for my favorite characters here, and Michael Douglas is a close third.

This movie ends Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Official poster shows the Avengers team factions which led by Iron Man and Captain America, confronting each other by looking each other, with the film's slogan above them, and the film's title, credits, and release date below them.

Cap is back! This isn’t anywhere close to the other two Captain America movies, but still good. Seeing the division among the team – Not cool, but it certainly drives a good story. And seeing Spider-Man’s and Black Panther’s character debuts were awesome!!

Doctor Strange (2016)

Doctor Strange, wearing his traditional costume, including his red cloak coming out from a flowing energetic portal, and around him the world and New York turning around itself with the film's cast names above him and the film's title, credits and billing are underneath.

Like Thor, I was initially skeptical of Doctor Strange. However, I really enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch in this role. Seeing this world, and how it connects with the rest, was exciting.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

The Guardian members in front of a colorful explosion

Unlike some of the other sequels, this one was AWESOME! The soundtrack didn’t disappoint, either. I high enjoyed Michael Rooker, Pom Klementieff, and Kurt Russell in this movie.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Spider-Man Homecoming poster.jpg

Tom Holland is awesome as Spider-Man! One of the best casting choices yet. I also enjoyed seeing Zendaya, Michael Keaton, and Marisa Tomei here. As many of you know, I’m a sucker for movies set in New York!

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor Ragnarok poster.jpg

This is by far my favorite of all the Thor movies. Period, end of story. The soundtrack is epic. Also, seeing Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, and the alien Korg were great.

Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther film poster.jpg

Seeing this world of Wakanda was stunning. Everything about this movie was visually spectacular! Is it in my top five or top ten Marvel movies? No. But it is a spectacular addition to the MCU. I think my two favorite characters were Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright)!

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers Infinity War poster.jpg

Holy freaking cow. This movie destroyed me, along with everyone else. But it’s so good. It’s a great culmination of all the other movies to this point. But, it’s a soul-crusher for sure. The great battle in Wakanda was one of the most amazing battles / fight scenes ever!

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant-Man and the Wasp poster.jpg

Seeing this after the trauma of Infinity War was a pleasant change. This is a really good sequel, and what’s not to like with comic relief! I wasn’t super fond of Hannah John-Kamen and Laurence Fishburne, but it worked.

Captain Marvel (2019)

Captain Marvel poster.jpg

This movie was super kick-ass! Brie Larson was a great choice to play Carol Danvers. Plus, the total 1990s nostalgia was spot-on! And the cat literally stole the show.


I’m mentally preparing for the destruction that Endgame will bring on April 26th. I think I’m ready?

Also, Endgame is the movie that marks the end of Phase Three of the MCU.

I’m looking forward to Spider-Man: Far From Home in July. This is the start of Phase Four of the MCU.


What about you? Do you have a favorite movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Commentary #84: “As GM’s Lordstown plant idles, an iconic American job nears extinction”

Lordstown GM Plant

Image Credit: CNN

I saw this fascinating CNN article on Wednesday, March 6th:


The Lordstown, Ohio plant has been closed for nearly a week now. It made its last Chevy Cruze sedan on March 6th. Another sign of the times. General Motors (GM) has shrunk from more than 618,000 workers to just north of 100,000 people.

Auto manufacturing in the U.S. has been declining for a while now. The closure of Lordstown is part of GM’s shift in strategy – Away from sedans, more focus on higher-margin trucks and light SUVs, as well as researching and developing electric and autonomous vehicles. GM has also invested in a ridesharing platform called Maven.

In addition to a declining workforce, U.S. auto workers have experienced a drop in wages (Roughly 18 percent since 1990, adjusted for inflation), and less retirement benefits. Just two years ago, only eight percent of factories offered pensions.


Lordstown sits in the Youngstown, Ohio region, halfway between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The average worker in Youngstown made $38,000 per year in 2017. Compare that to $61,000 to $88,000 per year for full-time GM production workers, according to their United Auto Workers union contract. And that doesn’t include overtime pay and bonuses.

The Lordstown plant started to see changes about two years ago. As the demand for the Cruze sedan declined, the second and third shifts were cut, and 3,000 people were laid off. Of the remaining 1,400 people, about 400 accepted transfers to other plants, and they are able to hold on to their healthcare and pensions. There were 350 workers eligible for retirement. Those transferred workers will receive $30,000 in relocation assistance.

One of the workers interviewed for the article, at GM since 1995, thought she had enough seniority to transfer to another facility, such as the metal fabrication plant in Cleveland or the transmission factory in Toledo. However, relocating is not ideal, either. She’s stuck, quoted as saying GM has her in a “chokehold.”

“I make $32 an hour. I’m not going to go get a $12-an-hour job. I couldn’t survive on that at all. I’m going to get up and go, ride it out, try to get the best gig I can get, and be done with them.” She’s hoping to net her 30 years at GM – which won’t happen until 2025.


The Youngstown region has watched manufacturing slide downhill since the 1970s. The auto industry started to crack less than a decade later, with stiffer competition from Japanese automakers. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dealt another blow, as work was outsourced to lower-paying suppliers. In 2007, as the automakers were having systemic issues related to the financial crisis and impending Great Recession, a lower-wage tier was created for entry-level workers, where they made 45 percent less per hour and got a 401(k) rather than a guaranteed pension. GM’s bankruptcy two years later tightened things even further.

For Lordstown, the community has thrived on GM. At one point, GM helped bring more than $2 million in tax revenue, among other benefits to schools and community ventures. Twenty years ago, Lordstown was competing with other cities to win another car model to replace the Chevy Cavalier. The community banded together, and along with plant officials, were successful in winning that car model. The community tried it again in 2018 – Posting signs, writing letters, and working with politicians. Unfortunately, one of the big factors was plant management wasn’t interested in participating this time.

Many are uncertain and fearful. They’ve watched GM shutter, and then re-open, their plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. What if that happens in Lordstown?

Another problem is many GM workers were hired without secondary education. Nearly two-thirds of the 13,000 purported job openings in Youngstown, including information technology and healthcare, will require a post-secondary credential by 2021.

One bright spot is trade adjustment assistance, available to GM workers through the state and U.S. Department of Commerce. Truck driving certificates have been popular recently, due to the quick turnaround to earning them, and relatively good pay.


As Lordstown begins to adjust to life without GM, the local high school has started a training program for the logistics industry, helping prepare students for jobs in the various distribution centers in the area. Roughly 15 percent of students have parents worked in the plant. And they’ve already begun to experience losses, as families leave to accept those transfers at other GM plants.

TJ Maxx is building a facility that will employ 1,000 people locally. However, the wage difference is drastic. Where many at GM made $30 per hour or more, entry-level listings for other TJ Maxx facilities sit between $10 and $13.50 per hour.

However, Lordstown doesn’t want the shuttered plant to be turned over to Amazon, Tesla, or any other company. Not yet, anyway.


This story isn’t just about one GM plant in one Ohio town. It’s about history, the manufacturing industry, the changes in the American workforce, and what can be done for those who need jobs now.


Resources


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Writing Adventures #4: “A Step By Step Guide to Creating A Media Kit”

I’ve been following Brianna Marie Lifestyle for quite a while! I saw this post in my email inbox recently. I felt it was such an important post – I needed to share it!

Here’s the link to Brianna’s post:


I’ve heard of Canva for a while now, but now I need to sit down and actually use it!

I really liked Brianna’s post, and I intend to follow every step. I really think it will help elevate me, and the blog!

Also, this post is reminding me to get a new headshot done – It’s beyond time to update it!


What about you?

Do you have a media kit?

Any recommendations?

Let me know in the comments!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Review #68: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”

evicted

Image Credit: Amazon

I think I first heard about this book from friends on Facebook, who all said what a powerful book it was.

Then, author Matthew Desmond was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in April 2018. My local area, Hampton Roads in Virginia, was specifically mentioned in the interview regarding high numbers of evictions in three separate cities. It stung, and propelled me to want to learn more. As soon as possible.


I bought the book in August, and finally started it in late December. But once I started, I could not put it down. By the time we came home from the farm on December 26th, I’d flown through Part One. I was itching to go to bed that night, eager to dive in to Part Two. It only took me a few more nights of intense reading to finish it. I came away from it with a greater understanding, and appreciation, for being able to own my own home with my husband. It’s one of those books that makes me realize how good I have it, especially as a white woman with no children.

I’m drawn to books like this because of the human interest. I was reminded of the term “ethnography,” which is the systematic study of people and cultures. Author Matthew Desmond settled in Milwaukee, in the trailer park and other low-income neighborhoods, to not only interview people for the book, but to learn about their lives, and specifically what they go through day by day. The housing crisis and recession of the late-2000s began while he was conducting interviews, and it’s referenced in the book as well.

However, the housing crisis and recession are not all to blame here. It’s just one factor. There are many other factors involved with eviction and those who struggle with it. Landlords have profited by buying cheap, often dilapidated houses or buildings, charging rent, and then sometimes refusing to fix inherent problems in these properties. The tenants complain, nothing gets fixed, and rent can go unpaid or withheld. There are certain processes for evictions, but they vary greatly. There are voluntary and involuntary procedures. It’s definitely not black-and-white.

When someone is evicted, that goes on their record. It’s exponentially harder for parents with children to find an affordable place to live, and eviction(s) exacerbate that problem. Multiple evictions are even more problematic. It’s a vicious cycle, where parents want to protect their kids from negative influences and crime, but can’t break out of those areas because of their eviction record. Welfare benefits can also be affected. If you’re lucky to have a job, getting evicted can cause immense stress, affecting job performance and more. Choices have to be made, painfully – Pay rent, or the utilities, or the car repair, or a need for your kids. Kids are uprooted, shuffled, changing schools, and also stressed. It’s a horrible experience all around.

Desmond’s dedication to these interviews, living in their space, researching the processes and procedures, and soaking up everything he could about eviction shines through this book. It’s depressing, in more ways than one, but incredibly informative, educational, and eye-opening.

This is one of those books, in my opinion, should be studied and taught in schools, especially upper levels of high schools and colleges/universities. It’s an important issue that needs more focus, discussion, and change.

My eyes were opened widely to the multiple problems regarding eviction. I thought I knew a few things, but this book turned my thinking completely on its head. The book focused specifically on Milwaukee during a set number of years, but there are eviction problems and issues throughout the entire U.S.

That was one of the focuses of Desmond’s interview with Terry Gross – Thanks to receiving a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2015, Desmond has started The Eviction Lab, where a dedicated team of researchers and students from Princeton University are creating the first-ever eviction database in the U.S. At the time of the interview, in April 2018, the Lab had already collected 83 million records from 48 states and the District of Columbia.

The book was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2017. That says something, too.

“Stabilizing a home has all sorts of positive benefits for a family,” Desmond said in the interview.

Desmond has written two other books, and co-authored one on race. I look forward to reading and seeing more from him.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚

Getting Personal #152: My Favorite Things of 2018

Favorite Things - Quote Master

Image Credit: Quote Master

I’ve seen several blog posts like this pop up in the last week or so. I wanted to do my own!

Also, I wanted to capture how many books I actually read in 2018. Several blog posts mentioned this, and I wanted to tally mine. One young lady read 110 books this year. That’s incredible!

So, before starting the lists of favorites, here’s my tally for books and Book Reviews for 2018:

Ratings Tally

  • 5 stars: 2
  • 4 1/2 stars: 8
  • 4 stars: 5
  • 3 1/2 stars: 1
  • 3 stars: 1
  • 2 1/2 stars: 0
  • 2 stars: 0
  • 1 1/2 stars: 0
  • 1 star: 0

ARC Reviews (First year ever!)

I really enjoyed reading these two books. I hope to read more ARCs in 2019!


Now, on to my favorites!

Favorite Books

Favorite Movies

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Aquaman
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Black Panther
  • Blockers
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Christopher Robin
  • First Man
  • Game Night
  • Incredibles 2
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
  • Maze Runner: The Death Cure
  • Mission: Impossible – Falloutย 
  • Ready Player One
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Favorite TV Shows

Favorite Podcasts

  • Assassinations (Parcast)
  • Conspiracy Theories (Parcast)
  • Female Criminals (Parcast)
  • Hostage (Parcast)
  • Kingpins (Parcast)
  • Small Town Dicks
  • The Adventure Zone – “Amnesty” (Maximum Fun)

Well, that wraps up my favorite things for 2018!

What about you? What were some of your favorite things of the year?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth ๐Ÿ™‚