Commentary #93: Thoughts on “A Girl Like Her”

A Girl Like Her

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Thanks to my friend Hannah for posting the trailer on Facebook recently. I hadn’t heard of this movie until I watched the trailer. I cried.

I finally sat down and watched it last night. What a powerful, emotional movie.


The tag line reads, in part, “based on a million true stories,” and that’s so true.

Although it’s been a few years since it was released, it’s still so sadly relevant.

As I started watching, I immediately thought of a young man named Alex, who died by suicide when he was a freshman at Oscar Smith. He was 14-years-old. He had just started the IB program. I didn’t know him at all, but I felt compelled to go to his funeral. I didn’t know his story, but I wanted to be there for his family, and the IB family.

As the movie progressed, I thought about the other people I knew who have died by suicide. Not necessarily from bullying, but other circumstances. The most poignant bullying tragedy was Nick L’Hoste. He was only 12 when he died. It sent shockwaves through our schools, and especially our church. He was only a year younger than me. It’s hard to believe he would have turned 30 this year.


This movie makes me incredibly grateful I didn’t have the access to the far reaches of the Internet when I was in high school. But, it’s still sobering. Bullying has expanded to online and offline, and it’s so sad.

The other lesson I learned is that no one should be afraid to ask for help, whether you’re the victim or the bully. It’s a bit of a contradiction, so let me explain.

When I was younger, I was taunted and teased. I wasn’t classically “bullied.” I never considered suicide as an option or a way out.

However, when I brought up instances on the school bus and in the classroom, my parents typically said, “Oh, if it’s a boy, it’s just because he likes you.” I’ve NEVER liked that phrase, nor did I believe it was true. I’m writing another blog post about that – More to come.

But that’s not my point. Kids, regardless of their age, should be able to go to their parents, or any trusted adult, with their problems and struggles. They shouldn’t be dismissed or brushed off. They need to be believed.

Also, if they don’t want to talk about it right away, that’s perfectly fine. They need to feel like they’re being heard, and that’s huge!

And, the bullies need as much help as the victims. I’m glad the movie showed both perspectives. By the end of the movie, it was painfully obvious how much Avery was dealing with, and she felt like she had no one to turn to.

I appreciate what the principal said about there being two sides to every story. That’s absolutely true.

However, bullying is still incredibly complicated! Jessica was targeted in multiple ways – In person, physical abuse, text messages, emails, social media posts, and more. It gutted me to watch it all unfold.

I cried multiple times. I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the ending, but I understand why it was framed that way. The point is the movie as a whole, not necessarily how it ends.


I applaud Amy S. Weber for making this movie. I think many more people need to see it. I was able to find it on Amazon Prime Video for free. And I will likely watch it again. It’s a good reminder to be kind, and recognize that you probably have no idea what someone is going through.

So, thank you, Hannah. You introduced me to a movie that’s left a mark on me. Thank you for inspiring me to share it.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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 wrote Hot Topic #19: The Water Crisis in Flint, and Others 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 🙂

Tag #82: The Television Tag

The Television Tag

I wasn’t tagged for this, but I love Sara’s blog so much, I wanted to support her by doing this one. Plus, I love talking about television in general!

Here’s the link to Sara’s post:


Favorite Shows?

  • Forensic Files
  • Law and Order: SVU
  • Glee
  • Castle
  • Full House
  • Stranger Things
  • The Toys That Made Us
  • Wheel of Fortune
  • Jeopardy!
  • Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
  • Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?
  • Wishbone
  • Sesame Street
  • Unsolved Mysteries
  • Frontline
  • CSI: NY
  • Parks and Recreation
  • 30 Rock
  • Growing Pains
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  • Black Mirror
  • Community
  • The Good Place
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Favorite Genre?

  • Sitcoms!

Least Favorite Show?

  • Like the others, I really don’t like reality TV anymore.

Most Re-Watched Show / Favorite Show to Binge-Watch?

  • Forensic Files. I’ve seen every single episode.

Do You Prefer Watching Things Week-By-Week or Binge-Watching?

  • Currently, binge-watching. However, some of the series are current, so we have to wait a week for new episodes of The Orville and The Passage.

Favorite Television Characters?

  • April and Andy from Parks and Rec
  • Troy and Abed from Community
  • Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU
  • D.J. and Stephanie from Full House
  • Liz Lemon from 30 Rock
  • The entire cast of Stranger Things

Favorite Television Ships?

  • Benson and Stabler from Law and Order: SVU

Show You Could Never Get Into?

  • Gossip Girl – Not my thing!

Show You Fell Out of Love With?

  • The Flash
  • Fuller House
  • The Runaways

Cancelled Too Soon?

  • Freaks and Geeks
  • Firefly!!
  • Pushing Daisies
  • Better Off Ted

Guilty Pleasure Show?

  • Currently, a tie between Forensic Files and Law and Order: SVU.

What Are You Currently Watching?

  • The Orville
  • The Passage
  • Law and Order: SVU
  • Unsolved Mysteries (re-watching through YouTube!)
  • Carmen Sandiego (Netflix)

I’m not tagging anyone in particular, but please feel free to do this tag if you like! I had fun with this one.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #83: “Sunny Days on ‘Sesame Street'”

Sesame Street

Image Credit: The Wrap

My dad sent this hot link to me in an email recently, with the exclamation of “Big Bird!”


A little background on Big Bird first. Big Bird has been one of my favorite characters for as long as I can remember. I had such love for “Sesame Street” as a child, and I still do as an adult.

Seeing Big Bird in the video with Jane Pauley made my heart soar and brought a huge smile to my face. And, if we’re being completely honest, it made me tear up a bit, too. Big Bird has brought such joy to my life. And he’s been a part of a wonderful show that is celebrating it’s 50th season in 2019!

Big Bird said that Sesame Street “is the kindest place, where everyone’s welcome.”

I had three stuffed versions of Big Bird as a kid – A small one, a medium one, and a big one with a pull string where he talked. There are many photos that feature a version of him from my childhood. He was definitely a “lovey” for me.

I recently shared this throwback photo on Facebook. This is framed in my parents’ house. We went on two cruises as a family with my dad’s parents. This was on “The Big Red Boat” in the mid-1990s, when we went to Cozumel and Cancun. You can see my dad holding my big Big Bird at the bottom.

I also wrote a comparison-contract research paper on the educational effectiveness of Sesame Street versus Barney & Friends in my first college English class in the fall of 2007. One of my friends who was in that class, Adam, mentioned it recently when we reconnected via Facebook. It was so cool! I need to see it I still have it in my files. I know I used the book Sesame Street Unpaved: Scripts, Stories, Secrets and Songs (1998) as a reference source.

Sesame Street Characters

Image Credit: Celebrity Access

Started by TV producer Joan Ganz Cooney and Carnegie Corporation executive Lloyd Morrisett, Sesame Street is truly a cultural revolution. It’s now broadcast in 150 countries around the world.

CEO of Sesame Street, Jeff Dunn, said, “Our co-founders had the wonderful idea, ‘Could you use the power of television to help teach less advantaged kids and get them ready for school?’ And what they knew was that kids who arrived to kindergarten knowing their ABCs and their 123s, were ahead of kids that didn’t. So, if we could figure out a way to help kids arrive at school ready to learn, that would be a big contribution.”

Don't Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983)

Don’t Eat the Pictures (1983) was one of my favorite Sesame Street videos growing up. Image Credit: IMDb

Image result for there's a monster at the end of this book

The cover of The Monster at the End of this Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover (1971). This is one of my favorite Sesame Street books! Image Credit: Wikipedia

They partnered with Jim Henson and his Muppets. It’s true – Kids are captivated by Muppets. I know I was, and I still am. If you see my Facebook page, I regularly share things related to Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Beaker, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird, of course.

Image result for muppet videos lip sync

Image Credit: Muppets Wiki

Sesame Street Poster

Image Credit: IMDb

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Sesame Street is producing a new TV special and embarking on a 10-city tour. Also, a Manhattan street will be named after it.

Now four years into its five-year-deal with HBO, Sesame Street has had quite a history. It’s home for decades was PBS, which I watched exclusively during my childhood (See Commentary #44: My Life as a PBS Kid from October 2016). In addition, Sesame Workshop signed a deal with Apple last year – The financial terms were not disclosed, by the way – to have “multiple live-action and animated series as well as a new puppet show for its planned video service.” Also, PBS still airs new episodes, but the deal with HBO stipulates new episodes are aired nine months after their original release on HBO and their HBO Now on-demand library.

There have been more than 4,500 episodes! It’s YouTube channel boasts more than five million subscribers. That’s incredible! Roughly 80 percent of parents watch Sesame Street with their children. I know my parents did.


Resources


Do you have a favorite Sesame Street character?

Do you have a favorite Muppet?

Did you watch Sesame Street growing up?

Let me know in the comments!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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 – Fallout 
  • 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 🙂

Commentary #73: Thoughts on “Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist”

Evil Genius

Image Credit: Rama’s Screen

It’s time for another diatribe on a Netflix original series!

If you’re interested in other Commentaries I’ve published on other Netflix original series, here are the links:


“Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist” explores the case of Brian Wells, a 46-year-old pizza delivery driver, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Wells was the unfortunate pawn who was forced to rob a PNC Bank in Erie on August 28, 2003. He had extremely detailed notes for the bank employees, demanding $250,000. He walked out with a little over $8,000.

The police spotted him standing outside his Geo Metro, in the parking lot of an Eyeglass World retail store near the bank, and placed him under arrest. As police were calling the bomb squad and assessing the situation, Wells indicated that he didn’t have much time, as a timer was beeping on the bomb.

The bomb was locked around his neck.

In this four-part series, documentary filmmakers interview almost all of the parties involved, from the local police, state police, FBI, ATF, friends of Wells, and several alleged co-conspirators.

Unfortunately, Brian Wells was not available to be interviewed.

As we started watching Part One, I looked at Al and I said that I remembered seeing the news coverage about this case. At the time, in August 2003, it was the last week or so of summer break, right before I started my freshman year of high school.

I remember the “pizza bomber” case.

The reason why Brian Wells wasn’t available to be interviewed for this documentary, 15 years later? While handcuffed, sitting on the pavement in the Eyeglass World parking lot, police could only watch as the bomb around his neck exploded.

The documentary, in the span of about four hours, dives deep into the complicated world of mental illness, and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Once a striking woman in the town, Diehl-Armstrong was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, among other illnesses.

For years, Diehl-Armstrong professed her innocence. She vehemently denied she was involved in any bank robbery, or murder plot. She claimed she’d never met Brian Wells. She blamed Wells’ unfortunate demise on several others.

But, evidence doesn’t lie. In the middle of the Wells investigation, another party, William “Bill” Rothstein, called police and told them he found a body in the freezer, and Marjorie (or Marge, as the documentary filmmaker calls her) killed him.

Unlike Making A Murderer and The Keepers, I appreciated how concise Evil Genius was. I think dividing it into four episodes was the right choice. It was well-planned, and well-executed.

Along the way, the interviews conducted were well-done, accurate, and simply fascinating. This is one of those cases where it’s hard to delineate who is and should be involved, law enforcement wise, and how those jurisdictional arguments can hinder an investigation. It shows the need for constant communication between agencies, something that was sorely lacking in several areas with this particular case.

The series also heavily focuses on mental illness, hoarding, and narcissism. Diehl-Armstrong made me sick from the very beginning. To me, she is an evil individual, who is a true narcissist. She only cares about herself, and will place blame on someone else within seconds. She’s angry, combative, and definitely not a nice woman.

It’s sad, really. They interviewed her father, and showed photos of her when she was younger. Back then, she showed immense beauty and immense promise. She’s extremely intelligent, and that’s ultimately part of the issue. She was called a mastermind, and I believe it.

Personally, I believe Wells was an innocent victim. I believe he was simply delivering pizzas, doing his job, and was caught up in an unfortunate series of events that led to his murder that day in August 2003.

However, the documentary looks at both sides – Was Wells a true victim, or was he involved in the plot?

You decide.

At the end of the series, I felt like all my questions had been answered. The right people, I believe, were arrested and prosecuted accordingly. The law enforcement agencies have learned, at least I hope they have learned, that constant communication and cooperation is key. Justice delayed is justice denied.

I thought it was a fascinating subject to explore and discover, especially since it’s been nearly 15 years since Brian Wells was killed. I applaud the filmmakers for choosing to focus on this case, their research, their interviews, and being as unbiased as possible. It’s not easy to do, especially with a case like this, one that got more complicated and convoluted.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #52: Thoughts on “The Keepers”

The Keepers - imdb

Image Credit: IMDb

Al mentioned this new Netflix Original series to me a couple weeks ago.

I watched the first two episodes, out of seven, alone. In retrospect, I’m glad that I re-watched them with Al this past week. We just finished the last one today. I don’t think I could have handled it alone.

Much like my Making A Murderer post from last October, I want to try to summarize the series here, and give my thoughts and feelings about it. I will do my best to limit any spoilers!

In November 1969, Sister Catherine (Cathy) Cesnik mysteriously vanished near Baltimore, Maryland. There had been an experiment where she and another nun were allowed to leave their convent and become public school teachers at the all-girls Catholic Archbishop Keough High School.

At the time of her disappearance, Cathy was going shopping for some bakery buns, and an engagement gift for her sister. When her roommate, Sister Russell Phillips, discovered that Cathy had not returned to the apartment, she notified two friends, one of whom was a priest. A few hours later, the police were called and an investigation began.

Sadly, just three days into the year 1970, Sister Cathy’s body was found in a local garbage dump, in nearby Lansdowne, Maryland. The initial investigation concluded that her skull had been fractured at the left temple, but little other evidence was found. The case remains open and unsolved.

The Keepers follows several of Sister Cathy’s students, in the present day, trying to solve her murder, and untangle the web that surrounded their beloved teacher.

Throughout the seven episodes, we learn that Father A. Joseph Maskell was the chaplain at Archbishop Keough, as well as the Baltimore Police Department, and the Maryland State Police. Prior to his arrival at Keough in 1967, Maskell was a priest at multiple churches/parishes in Maryland. Maskell stayed at Keough through 1975.

Gemma and Abbie are the primary amateur investigators in the case. They simply wanted to see Cathy’s murder solved, and to figure out what really happened. Along the way, they begin to discover the secret world that was surrounding their school, and the potential scandal that Cathy knew about.

Without going into gory detail, it was alleged that Father Maskell was committing acts of sexual abuse in his office in the school. In the episodes, several women (Jane Doe, Jane Roe, Mary, Donna, and others) describe what Maskell was doing to them. One woman, Lil, recounted how Maskell asked her to type the transcripts of the “counseling sessions” and “psychological reports” of the girls. Almost all of the reports were sexual in nature.

Gemma and Abbie, among others, start to realize that Cathy knew what was going on, and she was likely murdered to keep the scandal quiet.

Watching the first two episodes alone, I was absolutely horrified. I almost didn’t want to keep watching. What these women were saying that this man did to them made me sick.

When Al and I watched them together, there were several moments where we paused it, and said, together, “What on Earth is happening? Why? Holy freaking cow! This is absolutely nuts!”

We found that our profanity increased as the episodes went over. We could not believe that Maskell, and several others, got away with these terrible acts for so many years.

We noticed that, unfortunately, there are deep ties between the Archdiocese and the police. We’re convinced that there’s money involved, as well as rampant corruption. And this is just in Baltimore!

According to Wikipedia, there are 197 particular churches in the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That’s a lot!

To summarize, The Keepers is a decent series. It could have been told in five episodes, rather than seven. But, it’s an important story to be told. When we were watching, we were reminded of the movie Spotlight from 2015. It’s an incredible movie, and it follows similar veins from Boston.

In talking with others on Facebook, my hope is that series and movies like these will help victims to gather the courage to come forward, to tell their stories. Abuse is not acceptable or okay in any form, but against children is especially heinous. These men (and women) should be punished accordingly. The church needs to stop “transferring” priests and others that are accused of abuse and other crimes. They need to be prosecuted. More importantly, these victims need to be believed. They need to be respected and applauded for their courage.

There needs to be justice for Sister Cathy.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂