Friday, March 22, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Barbie’ not cutesy and carries a message

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes

For Barbie, every day in Barbie Land is perfect. She has parties, hangs out with friends (who are also named Barbie mostly) and just enjoys being Barbie ... until one day she has a thought of death and from there on, everything changes. Barbie needs to go to the Real World and find the girl who is having these thoughts. And then there’s Ken, who accompanies Barbie to the Real World. Can Barbie figure out what’s wrong and make things go back to normal, or is everything forever changed?

“Barbie stars Margot Robbie, Helen Mirren, Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney, Ana Cruz Kayne, Dua Lipa, Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Scott Evans, John Cena, Michael Cera, Will Ferrell, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, and Rhea Pearlman.

Dolls have been around for a long, long, time. However, these were baby dolls and only gave girls the opportunity to play mothers – until Barbie. Barbie changed everything twice. There are many different types of Barbies and Barbie can be anything she wants; women can be anything they want. As far as Barbie knows, all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved.

In Barbie Land, Barbie (Robbie) has a perfect day every day. Ken’s (Gosling) good days only exist if Barbie looks at him. It’s obvious that Ken has machismo.

Barbie’s perfect day is brought to a screeching halt when she asks the other Barbies if they ever think of dying. When Barbie’s heels touch the ground, it’s apparent this Stereotypical Barbie is malfunctioning. She has to visit Weird Barbie (McKinnon) who tells her there’s a rip in the membrane between Barbie Land and the Real World. Whoever is playing with Barbie must be sad, and Barbie has to help her to help herself.

Don’t blame Weird Barbie, it’s Mattel who makes the rules.

Barbie agrees to go to the Real World, and Ken sneaks in the back of her car.

In the Real World, Barbie is objectified, and Ken is celebrated (in his mind). Ken learns about patriarchy and gets a little too into it.

Ken sees a male-dominated world and Barbie sees the life of the girl who used to play with her and despair.

When Barbie goes looking for the girl playing with her, she is chastised by Sasha (Greenblatt) who tells her she’s been making women feel bad about themselves since she was invented. Barbie wants girls to feel powerful.

The FBI alerts Mattel that two of their dolls have escaped and this sends the executives, including Mattel CEO (Ferrell) into a panic.

Mattel finds her and has a plan for everything to go back to normal, but she escapes with the help of Ruth Handler (Pearlman).

Barbie learns it’s a woman, Gloria (Ferrara) who’s been feeling sad. This explains Barbie’s existential crisis. However, it still needs to be fixed.

Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winning for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures for Bille Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s “What Was I Made For?” plus a slew of other awards, the “Barbie” movie has definitely made its mark on the world. This was certainly not what I was expecting, in a good way; I think I was expecting a cutesy story about Barbie. It’s poignant and deals with adult themes, like misogyny, objectification, feminism, equal rights, patriarchy, empowerment, toxic masculinity, existentialism, self-identity, depression, anxiety and others I’m sure I missed. “Barbie” opens up several good talking points to have discussions about real world situations with kids of all ages. It’s funny, well-written, well-acted and cast.

Two thumbs up.

Now streaming on Max and available to rent. <

Friday, March 15, 2024

Easy to propagate plants are meant to be shared

By Kendra Raymond

I don’t know about you, but I have a bit of a penchant for grabbing opportunities to propagate plants for little to no cost. The challenge of growing a full plant from a tiny cutting can be an enjoyable and rewarding journey.

A healthy citronella plant which has been
propogated by cuttings is shown.
Recently, I found myself at the auto parts counter face to face with a mono-color spider plant. Having never seen this type before, I politely requested a “spiderette” from the clerk, who muttered, “Whatever turns you on”. Well, I was pretty delighted marching out of the place with my license plate bolts and a ready-to-plant cutting.

Many plants can be propagated by cuttings, which means you snip off a section and place it in a medium such as water or soil. To grow, the plant must eventually produce roots to anchor itself, take up water and nutrients, thus becoming established. If your plant thrives, the process can continue, and you can root endless plants for yourself or to share with others.

As a professional horticulturist, I can attest to the value of home plant propagation. My daughter is well-known in her circle of friends for gifting various rooted plants. This is an inexpensive way to share something that you have invested time and love to cultivate. She enjoys visiting thrift shops and yard sales to find quirky planting vessels that fit the recipient’s personalities.

A Purdue University Extension publication lists the benefits of propagating by rooting as:

** The new plant will be identical to the parent plant. Plants grown from seed will often be different from the parent plant and from each other.

** Propagating a new plant via cuttings avoids the difficulties of propagating by seed. Additionally, some seeds are difficult to germinate, taking two to three years for the seedling to appear.

What types of plants are best?

Some plants can reproduce by cuttings and others cannot. If you wish to root cuttings, it is essential to be aware of the species that will respond to this method. Some of the easiest selections are: pothos, monstera, jade, spider plant, snake plant, jade, hoya, African violet, and ivy. When in doubt, or to learn more, check out the list of 40 top plants to propagate here:

How do I take the cuttings?

Choose a healthy well-established plant that can withstand the loss of a small section. I just use a set of kids craft scissors and snip a bit off the tip. This can be a leaf and a bit of stem, or a larger section of stem can be included. It is a good idea to make your cut where leaves connect. The freshly cut section can be dipped in a commercial rooting compound or not.

What about the rooting?

The type of plant you hope to grow will determine the best rooting method. Plants like geranium and spider plant enjoy being placed directly into soil. Choose a specially designed starting compound which contains the right amount of air and nutrients to grow roots. Make a small hole with a pencil or your finger, pop the plant below the soil surface and before you know it – poof, a new plant. I have been cultivating a scented geranium (Citronella) all winter. It is growing like wildfire, so every couple of weeks I take a cutting and plant it directly into its own pot. The cutting encourages lateral growth, and the new plants continue to grow from the base.

Other plants will respond well to rooting in water. Plants such as African violet and monstera will root from just one leaf. Once the roots emerge, simply plant in potting soil. A snake plant can be a lot of fun to grow. Cut a leaf section and place it in water. This is one of the easiest plants to propagate.

With all propagating operations, keep your plants in diffused sun, average humidity, and warmth.

“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” - Saint Basil

Texas A&M University has published a fantastic guide for beginning propagators: <

Friday, March 8, 2024

Syfy’s ‘Resident Alien,’ a strange but worthwhile winner

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-14
2 seasons on Netflix with a third season currently airing on the SyFy channel

It’s a mystery within a mystery. It does get a little weird in spots. When an alien’s ship crashes in the small town of Patience, Colorado, the alien takes the form of Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, who has a cabin by the lake. In order to do so, the alien kills Vanderspeigle and throws his body in the lake.

When the town doctor, Sam Hodges is found murdered, the town calls on Vanderspeigle to solve the murder, but he has to learn how to fit in his new human body. I know this sounds a bit out there, but I enjoyed this very much, and it’s not as gory/violent as it sounds.

This Syfy original stars Alan Tudyk, Sara Tomko, Levi Fiehler, Elizabeth Bowen, Judah Prehn, Corey Reynolds, Alice Wetterlund, Meredith Garretson, Gary Farmer, Gracelyn Awad Rinke and Jenna Lamia.

The alien’s mission was to drop his device on Earth and go back home.

“Nobody in their right mind would live in a place like this, unless they have something to hide,” says alien Harry (Tudyk) at the start of the series.

After the alien assumes the body of the actual Harry Vanderspiegle, he learns to talk by watching “Law & Order.” He becomes mildly obsessed with Detective Lennie Briscoe and in one episode later in the series even dresses, and acts like the detective, using very similar speech patterns and mannerisms.

One of my favorite lines was when alien Harry says, “A birthday party is just a participation trophy.”

Town Doctor Sam Hodges is found dead and the local sheriff and medical professional Asta (Tomko) and Mayor Ben Hawthorne (Fiehler) ask alien Harry to help figure out how he died. Alien Harry knows in order to survive and complete his mission he must fit in. Alien Harry’s awkward movements and responses to questions or statements he might not fully understand made me root for him, despite the fact that his goal is to vanquish human life.

The actual Harry Vanderspiegle is at the bottom of the lake near his cabin. The alien must also find his body before it washes ashore.

Despite his weirdness, he does make friends with Asta and others in the town. And then there is Max (Prehn) who can see alien Harry in his true form and knows he’s an alien.

This is based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse. I don’t know how closely the show follows the comic, but before watching this, I had only seen Alan Tudyk in a couple movies and didn’t think much of him. After seeing him play alien Harry Vanderspeigle, I have a whole new appreciation for his talent.

He is only made better by his great supporting cast. His “alien” mannerisms and dialect make this fun show that much funnier. There is mild language and sexual content. It has a great soundtrack with a lot of endearing, sweet moments. Harry learns what it means to be human and maybe even develop a feeling or two.

Detective Lennie Briscoe gives it two thumbs up. Kung! Kung!

Currently airing on the Syfy channel, with the first two seasons available to stream on Netflix and all seasons available to stream on Peacock. <