DAY ONE

Quote

WELCOME, writers, editors, and publishers! Come on in! WELCOME readers!

A note is a trace, a word, a drawing that in a gentle flash becomes part of the thinking process.  It is a flexible mental move generating space for the possible.

“Notetaking encompasses witnessing, drawing, writing, and a diagrammatic thinking; it is speculative, manifests a preliminary moment, a passage, and acts as a memory aid.”

Source for the above:  I found the quote, and that above (paraphrased) in a catalogue for architects, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Spring 2011, in reference to dOCUMENTA (13) EXHIBITION: June 9–Sept. 16, 2012.

 

 


With Trepidation, I Went To See The Film AMERICAN SNIPER

I wasn’t sure but I went to see this film anyway . . . by myself, a matinee, $8, the midtown theatre that serves wine (thought I might need some).  I have a military cognizance, and my husband not so much so.  My dad served as a US Army truck mechanic in India, drafted in 1942.  My husband’s dad had a deferment, and my husband had one also.   I have a film degree, and my husband does not.  All things considered, I felt the cultural stir about this film, and needed to check it out.  The controversy this academy-award-nominated film in six categories has generated may stem from the political right wing’s ruckus about patriotism.  Of course, that would stimulate the left wing to confront.  The political right wing may be behaving as a usurper of the film’s high value– the film is excellent.  It is long, two-and-a-half hours, and must have cost a fortune, blowing up sets, equipping so many actors with armaments, teaching actors how to be machine-gunners.  Watching credits roll, I learned that some of the filming was done in Morocco.  I can imagine that one of those Oscar nominations is for the set: the pale orange hues of a desert sandstorm, the stucco-looking structures having faint resemblance to a Tuscan landscape, the creamy American helmets capping crisp, green-streaked camouflage fabric, in contrast to dark colors of the opposing flowing apparel.  The giant white military Humvees powering through the towns stirred my heart through my screening eye.  A huge scary skull stenciled on a rotating shield atop them added a strange beauty to the shots.

One of the Oscar nominations is for best actor.  Bradley Cooper deserves it; I cannot imagine the role of Chris Kyle, legendary sharpshooter, better played.  Funnily enough, I can relate to the Chris Kyle character.  I too got narrow beliefs from my family and church.  Anyone who knows me or read my memoir knows I was steeped in Christian ethics.  I wasn’t a rodeo rider like Chris, but I am a Texas girl.  Cowboys and cowgirls were continual metaphors.  As a junior-high Eaglettes Captain, I wore white vinyl gauntlets over white gloves, and got fit and strong for marching in white boots across the Dallas football fields for half-time shows.  This is my take on the main character of AMERICAN SNIPER Chris Kyle:  he became a SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) to express his gifts of mental strength and supremely developed physique to serve a desperate need his country had.  A quote from Coretta Scott King fits this character:  “There is a spirit, and a need, and a person at the beginning of every great human advance.  Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history or nothing happens.”  Chris Kyle left the Texas rodeo scene as a thirty-year-old for sharpshooting in Iraq, committing spirit, mind, and body to the need.  Terrorists had penetrated his country.  They flew passenger airplanes into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.  The Chris character said that it was important to keep them out of Los Angeles, right?  You don’t want them in San Francisco or farther in, right?

THE CHRIS KYLE CHARACTER WORE A BASEBALL CAP AND PHONED HOME FROM A CELL DEVICE HE CARRIED WHILE PERFORMING SHARPSHOOTING The Chris Kyle Character Wore A Baseball Cap and Phoned Home on a Cell He Carried In closing, when we go to the movies, let’s call to mind the teaching channel that the movies provide.  We must also remember that each pair of screening eyes sees individually.  A powerful film means different things to different people.  To end this essay, instead of including the instigative quotes of the more “black & white” thinkers, I choose one from a seasoned linguist, one in his last years as writer and lecturer to university-oriented audiences of thousands, an academic renown for studying our country’s cultural wars, Noam Chomsky.  According to a January 29th article in The New York Times, Professor Chomsky was aware that Mr. Kyle noted in his memoir that he was fighting “savage, despicable evil.” Mr. Chomsky added, “We’re all tarred with the same brush . . . for largely keeping silent about official policy . . .”  He was particularly referring to the USA “global drone assassination campaign,” but not having studied this initiative, I am hesitant to close with that view.

A closing thought I like resembles the one I began with– if you feel an opinion heating up in you about this controversial film, go and see it.  Exercise a freedom, and do not lay aside critical mindedness; same way you treated your teachers.  Then, do what I did: write down your feelings about the character of Chris Kyle (b. 1974, d. 2013).  Mr. Kyle did not succumb to terrorists.  He did four tours and holds the record of kills among sharpshooters.  At home stateside, figuring out how to live as a husband, father, and giver of community service to veterans in hospital, he was shot dead at the hand of a disturbed veteran he had volunteered to help.  The newspaper article mentioned above addressed this irony with a ring of truth, “Are guns useful for self-defense?  Here was one of the most skillful shooters in American history holding guns, surrounded by guns, and was unable to protect himself.”  Oh, and one more from the producer, Clint Eastwood, “The biggest antiwar statement is what it does to the families left behind.”  I do not mean to present an antiwar statement, rather I mean to herald writing, and in writing, aiming small for the particular expression of meaning.

Reflections of a Group Tour of Memphis’s NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

IMG_5379MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr., Strategizing With The President


This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to MLKJr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.

This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.



Thanks to friend Meg for her suggestion to write this post.  Meg is one of about a dozen of us UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER folks who toured the world-renown, one-of-a-kind museum, THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.  What follows is  a brief sketch of our experience.  For readers in far-away places who may not be familiar with Memphis, Tennessee history, we are the place in which the gifted and unrelenting  leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought bravely, risking his life time after time to gain equal rights under the law for all races, was assassinated.  In about 1968, Martin led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge of Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.  He won that fight when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law an assurance that no potential voter could be hindered from registering.  This was a breakthrough, long-overdue, for Blacks who indeed registered and voted out of office White oppressor officials of Selma, and against Alabama Governor George Wallace, who maintained that the status quo was the way folks preferred things to be.  Martin fought further for the dignity of being human and the equality of all people under the Constitution of the United States.  Sadly, his work was divisive, disruptive; James Earl Ray assassinated Martin in Memphis April 4, 1968.  Martin stepped out onto the balcony of the downtown Lorraine Motel and took a bullet that detonated inside him.  Martin and entourage at the Lorraine were lodging at Mulberry and Huling Streets, perhaps the only hotel admitting Blacks at that time.  The Lorraine is now the site of the world-renown museum, having received millions of dollars from local corporations, after languishing for many years.

The Lorraine Motel is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

The Lorraine Motel of Downtown Memphis, Tennessee is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and exuberant.  He was an older African American whose passionate storytelling pulled us into the fray, starting with life-size models of chained slaves brought to the Americas to increase wealth of plantation owners and continuing to the centuries-later burned-out Greyhound Freedom Riders bus.  After touring the room with exhibits about the Civil Rights Movement gaining footing, a footing that was a nonviolent strategy rooted in Mahatma Gandhi’s success in gaining India’s independence from England, we visitors had our attention drawn to Malcolm X, a leader planting the seed of Black entrepreneurial necessity, turning from White institutions, a “Black Power” strategy that did not embrace nonviolence.

Malcolm X Embraced A Different Approach From MLKJr.

Malcolm X Embraced a Different Approach Toward Advancing Blacks That Countered the Nonviolent Peaceful Demonstrations Led By Martin Luther King, Jr.

 The walls of the museum presented us with the rise of and demand for Black arts and literature, termed “Black Is Beautiful.”  This visual art was so engaging that it was easy for me to fall behind the tour group.  Thus I had both a group and a single experience.  The advantages of group touring are obvious: one gains so many details from the storyteller and energy for extensive exhibits requiring hours. Going singly would have the advantage of focusing on a particular slice of the history of African-Americans, from the beginning of slavery in 1691 through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the present.

In Selma, Alabama, Applicants Attempting To Register To Vote Were Humiliated.

Young Protestors Coming Of Age To Vote

SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE FACES

ICONIC RAISED FIST SIGNIFYING BLACK POWER

ICONIC RAISED FIST SIGNIFYING BLACK POWER

Coretta Scott King, Widow  of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.

Coretta Scott King, Widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.

 

MEMPHIS PULLED OFF SOMETHING FANTASTIC FOR WRITERS!

Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

In my own hometown of my small city by the majestic Mississippi, those of us who write, collect books, know publishing, and otherwise have a passion for literacy experienced an opportunity of a lifetime.  We met Newberry-winning author Vance Vawter (Paperboy, Random House), author Amber McCree Turner (Sway, cover designed by SHREK artist of Dreamworks, + Circa Now, both by Disney Hyperion), and Barry Wolverton (Neversink, Harper Collins imprint).  They told me things I wondered about:  getting lucky with finding an agent after perusing Children’s Writers Market, that editors think globally and thus ask for removal of words and phrases easily misunderstood, and wait patiently for six months after submitting pages of a finished manuscript.  The three panelists, together with moderator Julie Lester, agreed that big-house publishing is a strange business.  Authors submit to guidelines precisely.  Authors must realize the agents talk among themselves (this is scary)!  In addition, a good tip came:  a would-be agent who asks author for up-front payment is not “real”– an author’s agent payment comes through the publishing house when author’s first installment is paid.

McCree Turner’s chosen genre of “magical realism,” defined by her as the fine line between fake magic and “this side of heaven” magic, segways the thoughts in this essay to Daniel Wallace’s hour-and-a-half talk.  In his easy demeanor with us listening, he chose to deal with an author’s ability to follow what comes unconsciously, what continues to interest, what keeps on continuing (obsessively).  For example, Wallace discovered a passion in himself for glass eyes.  He noticed more interest in these than any other thread possibility for his novel, except for perhaps his relationship with his father.  He has collected 75 of them, and passed one around in our session.  The obsession with glass eyes appealed to filmmaker Tim Burton, who cast Albert Finney as amazingly big-imagining storyteller, mixing things magic with things real. Jessica Lange  was cast as his wife, together with Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup, popular actors of many known roles. I watched BIG FISH The Movie (2003, Columbia, rt 2 h 6 min) on Amazon, and am beginning to understand more from Daniel Wallace.  It will be fun to scan through the book in my hand.  What do you think . . .  Is it true?  Some say, “The book is always better than the movie.”

 

Three Nights In City of “Big Shoulders,” The Windy City

The Aon is the third tallest building in Chicago, within walking distance of Millennium Park

The Aon is the third tallest building in Chicago, within walking distance of Millennium Park

Chicago is the second largest city in the country, if you speak from history and don’t mention that johnny-come-lately western megametropolis that has outgrown the City of Big Shoulders. Travel to the great city of Chicago has prompted me to write. Hubby and I spent three nights there vacationing in late June. For a vacation highlight, after Millennium Park and The Art Institute, we chose the AIA-designed Architectural Boat Tour down the Chicago River, having first, early in the morning of our boat tour, doing our spin mini-workout in the hotel’s fitness center two levels down. Dear readers, come with us now, in present tense, as we are perked, motivated, and ready for the rave-reviewed Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, boarding at noon.

The Chicago “First Lady,” a member of the river’s finest fleet, is our safe, US Coast Guard-inspected vessel. We have a knowledgeable volunteer architect with a good personality and a nice summer fedora as our narrator. I am at the ready with my ballpoint to snag on paper any unfamiliar architectural terms I hear. “Cladding” and “pediment” I know, but I jot down “dark recessed spandrels,” and “chair effect.” I was also off and running to the bar and back. Thus I am very busy, sipping iced raspberry-flavored gin lemonade, listening to the brilliant narrator, and spotting the first buildings depicted on the excellent brochure received with ticket purchase. The narrator, introduced by the ship captain, varied his presentation slightly from the brochure’s pictures of skyscrapers rendered in six major delineations of architectural styles. The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docents are one of the most respected volunteer groups in the world, receiving hundreds of hours of training about Chicago architecture and history.  Our guide seemed to be interested in Beaux Arts period, not listed, as are these: 1) Early Warehouse of 1910, 2) Historic Revival, taking hold by 1925 with the Chicago Tribune Building as the amazing example, 3) Art Deco of the next two decades, (may overlap with the Beaux Arts category), and 4) Mid 20th Century Modern, under the indelible influence of Mies van der Rohe who believed “less is more.” Noteworthy eye-catching twin towers of this era are Marina City, a multiuse complex.  It has semicircular residential balconies above high-rise parking, and was completed in 1967 by Bertrand Goldberg. Continuing the genres depicted on the brochure: 5) Post-Modern of the 1980s, whose architects believed “less is a bore,” and 6) Contemporary, as evidenced by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang’s Aqua at Lakeshore East Building completed in 2009. That same year, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill built the Trump Hotel and Tower of over 90 stories.

The Chicago Tribune Building, 1925 is an example of "Historic Revival" architectural style.

The Chicago Tribune Building, 1925 is an example of “Historic Revival” architectural style.

Entrance to Tribune Building

Entrance to Tribune Building

The Tribune Building embellishment at front entrance is unique, as are other embellishments from around the world.

The Tribune Building embellishment at front entrance is unique, as are other embellishments from around the world.

I could not possibly write all of the many anecdotes that amused us as we cruised down the Chicago River for 90 minutes, but I will mention a favorite building of mine that was next door to our Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel: The Aon, third tallest skyscraper in the city, first constructed with Italian Carrera marble cladding for about $120 million. During the first year or so, to the building’s insurers’ regret, it was realized that the marble could not withstand the Chicago winters, and it was removed. The second cladding was done with North Carolina white granite for about $80 million.

I also liked the skyscraper built next to Chicago’s tallest. The tallest is the former Sears Tower, renamed Willis Tower, at a height of 1,451 feet, built by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. The pretty pink building with blue glass, next to the Willis, was described as wearing a tiara. She is affectionately referred to as “Pink Lady.”

Pink Lady Stands Next To, in Contrast To Chicago's Tallest Skyscraper, Willis Tower, 1,451 ft./442 meters.

Pink Lady Stands Next To, in Contrast To, Chicago’s Tallest Skyscraper, Willis Tower, 1,451 ft./442 meters.

Lastly, 333 West Wacker Drive, a 1983 debut in Chicago of Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects, represents “contextualism,” and is a favorite of the area said our narrator. It presents a curved, shimmering, green-tinted façade flowing in harmony with the river’s hue.

A curved building, 333 West Wacker Drive flows in harmony with the river's hue.

A curved building, 333 West Wacker Drive flows in harmony with the river’s hue.

Skyscrapers evoke emotions. As I walked past a favorite, the third tallest, the perfectly pristine minimalist Aon Building on the way to explore the Millennium Park, Art Institute of Chicago, The Gage Restaurant, and Potbellies for lunch, my widening eyes scanned the thousand plus feet of the clean, narrowed rectangle’s creamy surface. The overall effect is one of immaculate grooming and unsurpassed excellence of “punctum,” a word for the artist’s way to penetrate an image.

Chicago, I love you, and yes, I would move to live in you, if I am not too old to change from a smaller Southern city to the “second” greatest American city (Chicagoans do not like becoming third after Los Angeles that outgrew them). Chicago, you grew from an onion- and garlicky-smelling swamp the Native Americans lived close to but apart from to a grand urban place. Chicago, you became the meat-packing and mail-order giant of the New World. You launched the muckraking novels of Upton Sinclair with your industries needing reform. Montgomery Ward, the retailer, started the first catalog in 1872 to benefit farmers needing supplies. He coined the phrase “money back guarantee.” Chicago, your river, Chicago River, had to be reversed to overcome its toxicity spoiling the drinking water from Lake Michigan decades back. Current Mayor Ram Emmanuel, in his fifties, announced that in his lifetime, the river will be free of pollution. Our guide told us that the mayor belongs to the most elite fitness club in the world, the East Bank Club, Barack Obama’s club. He said the club was built, in times past, to turn its back on the river, so toxic the river was. Times have changed, and the structures across the river from East Bank Club now face the river, no longer toxic but somewhat polluted. The culture of Chicago embraces and appreciates the continuing potentiality of the Chicago River. Developers, taking their cues from San Antonio, Texas, have begun their own River Walk for tourists. Each new construction is required by ordinance to include a walk-by design. This is an inspiring city. Chicagoans know how to change, problem-solve, think up good, democratic for-the-people plans and complete them. Chicago, you are a complete, huge, vibrant, attractive urban community.

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) (architecture.org) offers education in design of buildings on a 90-minute boat tour.

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) (architecture.org) offers education in design of buildings on a 90-minute boat tour.

Aqua Building, hotel and residences, designed  with wave-like balconies

Aqua Building, hotel and residences, designed with wave-like balconies

 

 

A STORY TO RENEW FAITH IN PUBLIC GOODNESS

A Chicago Getaway being a road trip, I decided to pack my computer in hopes of getting the typing done while I was documenting Chicago travel with my husband. Here is how the writing/typing went:  Today is Day 3 of the Getaway, and I am watching hubby sleep. He deserves a long morning sleep, not just because he loves to stay up late, but on this particular day because he rescued me from a seriously inconvenient potentiality. Here is the story; it will renew your faith in public goodness:

I left my beige, lightweight-polyester fanny pack on a resting bench in Tenza Piano Park outside The Art Institute of Chicago. I had the fanny pack to be able to carry only essentials– driver’s license for ID, a credit card and cash, a lipstick, a Kleenex, and a ballpoint. The fanny pack wasn’t perfect, and I had to hold a small camera, so I bought a perfect lightweight tote for over the shoulder and deposited the fanny pack into it. Exhausted from a full day of viewing, three hours before lunch, then another three hours after, we exited the Art Institute. I lay down and used the fanny pack for a pillow. Still tired, needing a cool drink of water and also planning for a gin and tonic for revival before dinner, I got up and walked toward hubby to depart the area. I was a definite Grumpy Cat until we did find a cool bottle of water for sale from a vendor. Then we sat for a while watching young acrobats show off in a groomed public-art area dotted with metal statues. The statues were wonderfully engaging in that, of all the dozen or more, their demeanor was depressed. Most individuals entering the area felt the engagement, went to them, put an arm around them, or sat on their laps. One person rested his hand on the statue’s thigh seated next to him. I also felt drawn to the standing statue close to where we were sitting, and so I stood beside one, mimicking his posture.

 

A Public Sculpture Needing A Friend To Stand Beside Him

A Public Sculpture Needing A Friend To Stand Beside Him

After that pleasant rest, we walked on our “last” legs toward our dinner destination, agreeing that a drink in an ancient and accepted hotel, Hotel Congress, would be where we would order the gin and tonics, which we did begin to enjoy. Thus, about an hour had passed since departing Tenza Piano Gardens, and I dug into my lightweight carrybag bought at the museum, and immediately realized the silly undersized fanny pack had gone missing! My second realization was that the contents, my life essentials, of the missing fanny pack were now available to whichever “finders-keepers” type had picked it up from the bench! Note: Here is one reason why a girl needs a bloke—he immediately set out to the careless spot, never thinking twice about our fatigue level. In just a short time, he called to say, “I’ve got it! You are a lucky girl!” Lucky indeed I was, and totally surprised. This was a grand shared moment. Good ol’ Chicago people of public life. No needy thief had selected my silly tan headrest left on the bench in the garden! Chicago, I think I love you.

REGARDING COLOR IN ROOM DESIGN

 

What Six Favorite Colors Would You Fill In?  Yellow, Blue, Red + Green, Orange, Violet?

What Six Favorite Colors Would You Fill In? Yellow, Blue, Red + Green, Orange, Violet?

Taking time for literary effort in the midst of a bathroom remodel, I put down design thoughts, in preparation for selecting just the right paint for a bathroom’s walls. The bathroom is an upstairs, five- by five-foot personal space.  The tile is laid down on floor and shower walls, and it strikes me as statement tile, as in a statement piece of jewelry, now that I see the many tiles together.  “Statement” in jewelry means that the piece attracts other people’s eyes to the wearer, or has power to evoke emotions, i.e., it is not an everyday ornament.  My tiles make a statement because they have “movement.”  The thirteen- by thirteen-inch porcelain tiles, not shiny but more like very fine-grit sandpaper, are cream colored and sport tan and grey veins running through on the diagonal.  My tile-layer man headed the veins, some effused, more cloudlike than threadlike, all in the same direction.  Imagine how busy my small room could have stated itself had he done otherwise!

Tile having been laid, it is time to decide on wall paint color.  This is a big decision.  I believe the pleasure found in a living space is a result of the harmony of colors and structures amalgamated.  To help me find where to start, I scan through a several-years-old Architectural Digest.  One can count on design inspiration from that magazine.

A quote from the late Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, the “Queen of Paris” as the press of decades past was fond of calling her, appeals to my design preferences for layers of texture, subtle contrasts of many related colors, and the inclusion of some lustrous metal and solid black:  She said, “I love mixing things together—they always end up in harmony.”

A Medium-sized Pot With Interesting Shapes

A Medium-sized Pot With Interesting Shapes

A Turquoise Not Calling Attention To Itself

A Turquoise Not Calling Attention To Itself

Of course the amount of living space available at her supreme level, wherein the entire globe was her shopping mall, she was probably thinking of ancient materials in 17th-century paired or grouped statues, giant Grecian urns, or tapestries sold from the Massif Centrál of her beloved France, the Netherlands of her birth, or exotic foreign places.  Her station in life gave access to opulent, rare, or exquisitely handcrafted objects and furniture, textiles fringed or tasseled, Indonesian batiks, and more.  Her eponymous style of décor, le style Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, is unvaryingly associated with wealth and richness.  I encourage my furtherance in color insight with the following quote for the day, also copying it to my talented cousin in design, Robbie Hansen, who has helped our family live with good design:  The Baroness said of a newly built chalet, “When I saw it, I said to myself, Now you’ve got to do it up.”  She called in François Catroux, never far from her in such ventures, states the magazine article, and said of him, “I think a designer, no matter how gifted he is, can’t do a thing unless he has a strong personality to deal with.”

The Architectural Digest: The International Magazine of Interior Design, Collector’s Edition, May 2004, where I found the above quotes, has helped me understand what I am looking for in my five-by-five personal bathroom—a comingling of visual excitement presented by my tiles, together with a cream-colored showpiece that is my Ronbow vanity with black-granite top.  Add the unexpected solid-black recessed mirrored medicine chest (yes, these once common then disappeared cabinets are back), and the cozy comfort of a pale  straw-colored, thickly painted wall.  But, wait a minute, there’s a world of change out there, and I could take a risk . . . perhaps I’ll finish with a mid-tone deep grey purple, inspired by my cousin’s dining-room walls.  Admittedly hers are much taller walls, loaded with gold sconces, Egyptian or Roman vases, and an exorbitant chandelier.  Or maybe I’ll search out an Indonesian batik shower curtain for the end splash.  However the outcome,  the big decision of what color to paint the walls has put me deeply involved in the world of color. I am learning, and it reminds me of being in young love—you feel the vitality of being alive and able to select and finally commit.

Purple is a highfalutin color.  It is marketed as causing an intuitive mood.

Purple is a highfalutin color. It is marketed as causing an intuitive mood.

ANOTHER DISNEY BIG FILM: Saving Mr. Banks

The Disney production group has had a pretty good idea.  I wouldn’t say SAVING MR. BANKS ranks with the best films I’ve ever seen, but I can say that this movie was sublimely acted by Emma Thompson (Helen Goff, alias P. L. Travers), and Tom Hanks (Walt Disney), performing at the peak of their craft.  Paul Giamatti of the film SIDEWAYS played Ralph the limousine driver for Mrs. Travers in Los Angeles when she came to (not) sign the rights to the Mary Poppins book from London.  I liked seeing Bradley Whitford of the TV series West Wing as top team member in the collaboration between Disney Studios and Mrs. Travers.  The film was directed by John Lee Hancock and is rated PG.

This film was recommended by my brother-in-law who let on that I would be watching a story unfold about the Mary Poppins’ author’s life and some cruelties in it.  We mentioned the recommendation to two friends, and they also had a desire to catch it on the big screen, given that the “serious” “must-see” film TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE starring Chiwetel Eljiofor had left our area.  All four of us felt engaged and amused throughout the approximately two hours, and praised the work of Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.  We had a bit of a feeling of wanting to see MARY POPPINS again on the big screen, even though the dancing penguins were flat cartoons in that old flick.  Anyone who has seen MR. POPPIINS’ PENGUINS can attest to the amazing upgrade in film technology comparing the two.

What I liked about Mrs. Travers was:  her look that fit her achievements as a famous author of inspiring children’s books, a reined-in look of thorough organization and the public reserve often thought of as “keeping up appearances.”  She had brown curls never straying far from her head, black eyeliner– no smudging, and a slightly downward-to-the-right lipliner mistake.  Her skin-toned, not-sheer hose over thin calves, and her pencil straight skirts called out, “all business and things appropriate.”  She said to her driver when she was starting to warm up to him, “You’re someone who asks a lot of questions, and you do not limit yourself.” To which he responded, “Two.”  I liked Mrs. Travers’ leadership style.  It is one I could have used as a teacher to succeed longer in my classroom career.  She knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that she would retain the rights to the production of her beloved Mary Poppins, a children’s savior popping in under a magic umbrella out of thin air.

 

 

 

Review of THE LONE RANGER (Director Gore Verbinski, 2013)

As an eight-year-old, I watched The Lone Ranger on the early, small TV screen. From the big screen, the “silver” screen, fifty-seven years later, comes Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as John Reid, the masked man.

Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger

The reviews were right– this is a crazy pieced-together quilt of a film. It is easy to become restless watching it for its lack of a clearly told narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. But looking back on my viewing experience, I feel that this film, a comedy, contained all the humor anybody involved in the making of it could muster. Crew and actors obviously had a great time with this piece. It had plenty of scenes resembling slapstick. “Slapstick” stresses farce (satirical/patently ridiculous events) and horseplay. Believe me, with the white Spirit Horse who communicated truths to Tonto, and launched the career of lawyer John Reid as The Lone Ranger, brother and son of Texas Rangers, you will see plenty of “horseplay.” The white horse told Tonto John was back from the land of spirit and could not be killed.

"Hi ho Silver, away!"

“Silver,” Mount of the Masked Man

Johnny Depp, of Edward Scissorhands, Whatever Happened to Gilbert Grape, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chocolate, Nick of Time, and much more, must have had a great time in the role of Tonto. And Armie Hammer must have as well in the role of Lone Ranger. Their vibe was terrific as partners, both reluctant heroes. If not for “Spirit Horse’s” ability to discern a man, a good man, come back from the other side of existence (satire), neither would have had his job of riding for justice and fighting for law and order in the Wild West. Their attempts take place in the early part of the 1900s when railroad barons dreamed of an iron-horse empire. Moreover, the precious metal silver, transported in trainloads of nuggets, is a character in this film. “Silver,” as we who watched the show in the 1950s know, is the horse’s name, given the white Spirit Horse at the end of the film. Comanches and US Cavalry fight in this film. Tonto is long ago an outcast Comanche, a boy who made a fatal error and caused great destruction to his tribe. The raven-carcass headpiece he wears, quite dead (more satire), signifies “spirit.” Tonto feeds it corn kernels. I didn’t get this during the screening, but I came home and wrote down themes, one regarding the raven-carcass headpiece, and now I understand:

A person must feed his/her spirit. At times, the spirit may appear to be dead. Jerk its head up. With consistent feeding, the spirit does cover your thinking.

What follows are a number of other themes that erupted as I continued to think about how  such a crazy piece of work could get produced. Thus, you could say I came a bit late to the fan club of the producers’ and director Verbinski’s THE LONE RANGER of 2013.

Themes Treated in the Movie– Even an Indian tribe can term one of its own a mental case. (The Comanches ousted Tonto and laugh at him.)

If someone chooses a partner for self-gain, the choosing partner behaves loyally, looking after the chosen mate. (Tonto has no hope of survival but for the Spirit Man he teams up with.)

Trading objects can solve worry and alleviate uncertainty between two individuals. (Tonto believes this down to his marrow and never fails to give back when he takes, even while holding on under a moving train.)

Nature out of balance can produce cannibalistic rabbits, that same kind of bad, murdering gunslinger, and a cursed silver nugget. (Attack scene by rabbits, and human eating human organ, thankfully off screen)

Truth and justice are more often than not traded for empire building. (Outlaws, those of good spirit, do better for the world than corrupted big-wigs.)

A woman with a big gun determined to shoot straight, living in community with gunslingers, may have lost a leg in the process. (She saved the day with just the right angle on her shooting leg.)

A woman can love two brothers, and timing determines which one she marries. (A tiny touch of romance is included, and the lady is a gentle mother of a young boy.)

A young boy does not know what to do if receiving conflicting instructions (while pointing a gun). To shed increasing tension and avoid a catastrophic wrong choice, he turns and cries out to mama. The child did some good acting.

 

A Dead Raven On His Head and Black Streaks Drawn Down Cheeks Reminded Tonto of His Catastrophic Decision He Made As a Boy

Stuck in my mind is the strange beginning of this film. We meet a lovely brown-eyed boy dressed in a white hat and black mask. In sharp contrast, he, alone, spectating among the exhibits of a museum of natural history, meets a hugely wrinkled, ancient-looking Indian in a diorama. The diorama is titled “The Noble Savage.” This unexpected approach to the story of the Lone Ranger (you understand the old Indian better at the end), contributes to the montage effect of this film’s style, separate scenes cut apart and strung like diverse  beads on a strand of wire.

In addition, the tough-to-look-at early characters in the first filmic images are bad, bad  gunslingers with greasy complexions, tarter-tainted teeth, sliced and scarred upper lip, long, unruly scruff, filthy-looking heads of hair, and flasks of whiskey. Later, a couple of them seem to be transvestites. I don’t really get this, so I guess it was one of the many jollies or increasing ironies the producers enjoyed in the making of this pieced-together quilt of a long film (about two and a half hours).

In closing, THE LONE RANGER may have every joke that everyone involved in the work thought of, a definite overplaying of humor. An example is Tonto wearing a birdcage over his crow headpiece to protect against the cat that has gone missing. Tonto is departing from the saloon girl’s salon. She has a noteworthy leg, an ivory, rifle-shooting leg with scrimshaw work all over it. Her leg is excruciatingly sexy to soldiers in the cavalry who do not know about the rifle inside. They want to touch her leg. Did I explain the strangeness? Can you see how this is one of the craziest movies you will ever see? No wonder movie-goers held back on this one, based on critical review. I wonder . . . would I be able to make it through a second screening? I loved the Dolby sound. I can hear the trumpet call and galloping strands of “The William Tell Overture” as a great-looking guy in a form-fitting black leather mask atop an amazing white horse ride down the desert slope . . . “Da da dum, da da dum, da da dum dum dum . . .”

2ND-TERM INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARACK H. OBAMA

President Obama has increased in wisdom, from insights that disappointments bring, after four years in office.

President Barack Obama is one of seventeen presidents of the United States elected to a second term. January 21st is a holiday designated to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. The eloquence and passionate grain of voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. created discourse and action for civil rights. He will never be forgotten. Many Americans felt it apropros that our first black president be inaugurated for his second term on this day, January 21st, 2013. President Barack Obama is only half black, the offspring of Barack Hussein Obama of Kenya and Stanley Ann Dunham of Seattle, Washington who met at the University of Hawaii. His parents are obvious factors in the president’s commitment to the equality, dignity, and civil rights of every individual. In his inaugural speech, Barack

emphasized the old values of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” for each citizen. He emphasized that his oath of office is not that different from each citizen’s civil duty to country, that of serving country responsibly.

Merlie Evers Williams, widow of Medgar Evers, read a very long prayer enriching listeners’ thoughts

Merlie Evers Williams opened Inaugural Events with prayer.

toward the new administration spanning 2013 to 2016 under the leadership of Barack Obama. She is a gifted writer who without a doubt can speak from a heart of her race’s loss, through her husband’s assassination in Mississippi.

An openly gay young poet, Richard Blanco, read his original poetry that simply and warmly carried listeners’ thoughts to today’s ordinary concerns, commonplace concerns of people at work, notice of small elements of nature, horror of our country’s recent mass shooting in an elementary school, and more.

A hispanic clergyman of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Rev. Luis Leon, pronouncing the benediction, perfectly captured the positivity and possibilities of this inaugural moment for Barack’s second term.

Columnist Mark Shields speaking to Gwen Ifel on the evening news of PBS described Barack’s inaugural-day demeanor as “a happy warrior.” Mark’s cohort, columnist David Brooks, said Barack as a politician may be more associated with openness, progressivism, or a new liberalism for the 21st century, and yet by his personal makeup and character, he is a most traditional man, a family man, and the personalities of his two daughters, particularly how they conduct themselves in public, is admirable and noteworthy, manifesting good parenting (and likely influence by their grandmother, Mrs. Robinson, who lives upstairs). Commentators say that Barack, not having a traditional early family life, found “home” by marrying Michelle Robinson.

Michelle Robinson, First Lady, with her husband, the 44th President of the United States.

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Arrow logo ornaments fine pieces.

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Beautiful long chain; can be doubled

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"Retired"

Beautiful earrings, now retired, that evoke compliments

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Divorce Our President? Will We Be Better Off Four Years From Now?

Journalists are writing many articles about the coming presidential election, just a few  weeks away. For many weeks, The New York Times writers have captured perceptions about the two presidential candidates. Journalists think of metaphors to use that help readers advance their thinking about the subject of voting for the president. This type of writing, objective writing, is not supposed to reveal which way the journalist would vote. Jim Rutenberg (presumably a journalist) filed one such nonpartisan article in The New York Timeson August 31, 2012 from Tampa, Florida, the Republican National Convention in Tampa having closed the night of August 30th. His article had a good hook: if Mitt Romney wins, we have divorced our president, a serious matter worth some reflection.

Former Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama

The term “divorce” used in the sense of making President Barack Obama a one-termer got my attention, because I have never experienced divorce, having worked to keep my marriage, wanting very much to see the big picture of things. I compromised when I could not get what I wanted, and prayed hard for evolving integrity to endure together with the husband of my youth.

I believe my party has the better candidate in the big picture. A difference in me and many others who follow politics is that I entertain the idea that I may be wrong. It would be really nice to go back to a more familiar American economy in which the word “jobs” did not dominate the media. A good job is so important (that’s why I do not hold one; no goodjob available). Mr. Romney is smart and religious. He has done a lot of business over more than two decades.

After the last debate between presidential candidates finished, the wives and other family members congratulated the two men.

Governor Romney got to do some business in our most culturally advanced state:  Massachusetts. It is a Democratic state, for the most part. He may have a short-term fix. But I like Barack and I trust my party right now more than I trust the Republicans (I once voted Republican). I am not afraid of Barack’s motto:  Forward.

It is a big world. I have read a book cover-to-cover, scanned others, and read several articles about Barack’s parents and other influences. I am proud of what Barack Obama brings to the presidency: exceptionally high intelligence; devotion to father role; charisma; life experiences in Indonesia, Pakistan, Kenya; in problem-solving style an introvert, confident, and patient; and last but not least, moderate in party politics. I want to see him at work for our country another four years. I want him to be a two-termer, and we need to hold steady.

Barack greets his wife lovingly after his last debate with his opponent.

President Obama reveals tenderness for Michelle, his wife. I snapped this photo off of the TV screen as the last debate between presidential candidates went off the air.

Holding steady in a relationship can bring reward. In regard to the marriage metaphor, I have received what I ultimately sought in a life partner. In regard to electing Mitt Romney, let’s read Jim Rutenberg of the above-mentioned article “A Suitor Seeking Acceptance Must Make a Case for Divorce.” Consider this line he wrote:

“And, Republican strategists acknowledge, they have to contend with a general sense in polls of swing voters that Mr. Obama inherited an economy in dire shape, and that his policies could improve the economy more substantially if given time.” Reading this, I thought it was the best way to look at whom to elect.

 

This blog being designed for my writerly self, especially love of the essay, I am posting a recent lightweight one dealing with a strong emotion about wanting a change. I wanted to change where I live. The reason? Too many trees and wildlife. I wrote this shortly after returning from a Brooklyn and New York City vacation. I do not really want to move right now, but it was Spring 2012, I am primarily a city-slicker, and the dozens of grey squirrels and red chipmunks were madly traversing our property, worrying us, and putting some plantings at risk. But I am over it. The spring lushness and fully developed families of squirrels are not so much in my face now at the end of summer.

The essay may serve to demonstrate that desire for change can pull at our minds and hearts and feel like extremely strong pressure. I say take a deep breath and give feelings time to level out. As the British say, “Keep calm and carry on.” The good, bright things hidden behind strong, dark emotions, when one is faced with major decisions such as buying and selling a piece of property, or electing a president, may come back to awareness with calm breathing.

 

Who Wants To Live In A Forest? Not Me!

Printed on notecards. Published by Chronicle Books, 2010.

Forest, light, by Lisa Congdon

During Memorial Day holiday weekend, still thinking about the week-long Brooklyn and Manhattan vacation my husband and I had in mid-May, a gentle time of year for travel, I walked in my Memphis neighborhood. I  realized, while tuned in to my local environment, that I am sick of all the tall trees full of grey squirrels,

Sciurus carolinensis, Familiar Eastern Grey Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis is a wild animal with few natural enemies that self-regulates to the natural food source. The squirrel is especially dependent on the supply of acorns.

Forest on notecards by Lisa Congdon; Chronicle Books 2010

Forest, dark, by Lisa Congdon, published on notecards by Chronicle Books

jittery critters that clatter down the tree trunks and scamper about yards fearlessly.

 

I’m also sick of the burrowing chipmunks who make a subuniverse of connectedness in the yards of my neighborhood, especially my own! If we say Brooklyn has an underground system, meaning the subway trains, then I say Memphis has an underground system– a separate communication system created and maintained by four-inch-small, reddish-brown chipmunks that hollow out perfect tubes four inches under any yard or garden, visiting with their reproducing relatives in nearby green acres.

Having been away from my property on vacation for a week, a week when the sun shone in Memphis and beckoned the chipmunks to come out and expand their subterranean subdivision, I feel I am fighting a losing battle. The holes in our backyard are too numerous to count. The small critters have multiplied, and the scary part is that they seem to be more intelligent than the tree squirrels. The ground-skittering pests seem to taunt us by running across the deck when we are inside looking out through the glass doors, run across the driveway when we come out the back door, run everywhere. They could actually set up house in the storerooms of the carport  by running under the doors, if they so chose!

What can be done about it? Not much. Now and then a stray cat walks through the yards, which we like. A sticky glue trap brand-named “Tom Cat” has been strong enough to hold one or two of these dozens of pests that dig up the yard, and it seems a bit cruel, if you stop and think about dying from exhaustion. A “flood ‘em out” with water spray wedged into one of their main encampments was a recent strategy. Then, two large chipmunks ran out at me, gave me a fright!, and then disappeared. Strategy failed. The chipmunks still dig and disturb. The Memphis soaking rains quell the little rascals’ activity, but when things dry out, here come the invaders! I need a yard professional, it seems.

In spring in Memphis, give me a hotel-type abode. Free me from life in the renown hardwood forest of the mid-South. Give me concrete and open sky. Brooklyn, bring me to you! May I live among your high buildings, narrow flats (barely affordable even with just a few hundred square feet), streets full of purposeful walkers and bikers, and honking traffic? May my daily life experience not be dominated by worry over yard maintenance and repair of damage done by pesky wildlife?