The World According to Renee

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Review: No Easy Answers

In the wake of the Columbine massacre, everyone wanted answers. How could these two kids commit such a horrifying act? What was going through their minds? Could this have been prevented? Why did this happen?

Brooks Brown was friends with Columbine gunmen Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. He uses this 2002 memoir to dissect their lives together to find answers. Although titled No Easy Answers, Brown’s recollections clearly indicate warning signs and puzzle pieces that no one put together.

I read this memoir after reading that of Dylan Klebold’s mother Sue, who asserted in her 2016 memoir that had she known what Dylan was up to, she could have prevented the massacre. Brown makes no such claim- he feels that his friends were entwined in destiny due to their toxic friendship.

Brown endured his own troubles post-massacre. Eric Harris, undoubtedly a psychopath, had made tangible death threats online towards Brooks Brown yet the police had not taken them seriously. In the days and weeks after the massacre, Brown and his family were discredited by the police although they were later vindicated and shown to be telling the truth.

It’s not easy being the friend or family of a killer. You’re forever implicated no matter what you knew (or didn’t know) and the subject of hate.

Brooks Brown clearly wrote his memoir still grieving for his friends and those they killed. Unlike Sue Klebold’s effort, he makes no apologies for being their friend. He’s just as angry and hurt as everyone else.

Further viewing:
YouTube “Brooks Brown” for a range of his media interviews.
Recommending viewing: Brooks Brown’s interview with Tom Brokaw the day after the shootings.

Further Reading:
A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

9/10 bookmarks



March 24, 2017 Posted by | Reviews | , | Leave a comment

Beauty and the Beast: Review

Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme…

You know how it goes.

This is a live action remake of 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, which holds the distinction of being the only feature length animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars; after that, a separate category was introduced for Best Animated Feature. Will this remake be a contender for next year’s awards?

Emma Watson’s Belle is something of a feminist. She’s the only woman in the village who can read, and is an inventor as well. She’s smart, which the villagers think is a little odd. Apparently, Ms Watson refused to wear a corset for the film, and had creative input into some of her character. Belle’s dress is hitched up tomboy-style frequently, so this Belle is not the ultra feminine princess we’ve come to know. I feel there could have been more, maybe Belle telling Gaston not only was she not thinking about children, but she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend either, let alone husband. But, this is a provincial French village where girls were probably married at puberty, so I may be asking too much.

In fact, Disney seem to be thinking themselves quite progressive: they’ve confirmed LeFou is gay (although there is nothing explicit in the film, it’s rather like Smithers and Mr Burns in The Simpsons) and there are interracial relationships. However, they also used cross dressing as a punchline, which I subtracted a full mark for.

All the songs one has grown up with appear in the new film along with a few new ones and extra lyrics written, but not used, in the 1991 version. Be Our Guest was the highlight of the film. Emma Watson can sing, handling the singing & acting seamlessly. Josh Gad as LeFou almost stole his scenes; he’s certainly been the face of the film’s promotion during the past few weeks. Visually, the film is gorgeous with sweeping cinematography. Technically, I found the direction a little clunky in places. I’m probably the only person who noticed, though.

It’s yet another Disney live action remake we didn’t need. I didn’t love Cinderella but I did enjoy The Jungle Book. Beauty and the Beast is not terrific, adds little to the beloved classic. I wish Hollywood would come up with some original ideas instead of milking classics for all they’re worth.

6 out of 10 popcorns, having lost a mark for using cross-dressing as a punchline.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | 1 Comment


For some people, family is their tribe; it’s where they belong. For others, family are people who are physically and psychologically abusive. Some families are distant, some are close, some are families by name (and DNA) only.

My father’s family have always been close. There are nine siblings and twenty-something children between them. During my childhood, there were regular get-togethers, especially at Christmastime. I remember Christmases (or, more likely, Boxing Days) at my uncle’s house which were especially exciting because he had a pool. Long after my cousins had gone off to listen to music or watch a new video or play a computer game, I’d still be in the pool splashing around by myself.

Even now, my aunts and uncles still get together at least once a year, when they can. They’ve spread over the Eastern Seaboard now: I have an aunt who lives about three hours’ north of Brisbane and an uncle who lives in Hobart, but the majority still live in or around Sydney. (I’m now mentally trying to work out who lives where…)

My cousins are a different story. I have twenty-something cousins and trying to keep track of them all is quite a feat. All but three were able to attend my grandfather’s funeral last year. It’s always lovely to catch up with my cousins although I admit it’s through Facebook these days; trying to get us all in one place takes a lot of planning! I hope we’re all able to get together sometime in happier circumstances.

This past weekend, my aunts and uncles came together for their annual weekend on the NSW mid north coast. It was a lovely weekend, marking the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death. For the past few years, my grandfather had made the trip along with his children and much laughter was had. This year was only slightly sombre as we remembered our patriarch. My sister and I were the only grandchildren who went, but we’re both glad we did. It’s always lovely to see our family and catch up. There are no dark secrets in the family (that I know about, anyway….) and many memories.

One of my uncles and his son put together a slide show of Grandad’s life, which we watched over the weekend. Because so many photos were paused and memories discussed, it lasted well over two hours. I loved hearing those memories: from a camping trip in the Blue Mountains to a particular panel van to a game of ‘Which Grandchild is That?” In every photo, my grandfather is smiling; it’s how I remember him.

After the slides, another uncle showed some footage taken the last time Grandad was able to come. He spoke about his proposal to my grandmother. Yes, aunts and uncles, I saw you shed a few tears while watching it.

I am lucky. I’m lucky to have a family who are good people. I’m lucky to be able to attend a weekend like this and share memories. I’m lucky to have a family who still make time to see each other and connect. I’m lucky to have aunts and uncles who are so willing to share.

Thanks to everyone for a weekend not hastily forgotten.

March 9, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | | Leave a comment