The hills are alive with the sound of… Carrie Underwood?
by Rebecca J. Clark
The Sound of Music is my all-time favorite movie. It came out the year I was born, 1965. Every year in my town, our local theater would show it. My Auntie Linda took me to it when I was five—my first movie at a theater. How fun! I loved the movie then, and I still love it now.
So when I learned NBC was going to be remaking it as a live broadcast with Carrie Underwood as – gasp! – Maria, I was pretty skeptical. I mean, I love Carrie Underwood, but she’s no Julie Andrews, right?
A teenage version of me unexpectedly introduced himself on Thanksgiving. A fellow alum of mine blasted out a digital version of an 8mm film the Gonzaga German Club made during our time there. I watched it for the first time in over forty years with my wife and my son.
It was a silent, black and white melodrama, with the title cards in German. I struggled to read the faded words and translate them, but it was almost unnecessary. The campy humor and nostalgia came through loud and clear.
Our German Club was great to be a part of. We went to Octoberfest at Georgetown University, had guests from nearby colleges, and even marched down to the White House once to wave American and German flags when Willy Brandt visited Richard Nixon. By tradition, each class did a special project. I believe these were done in the spring of Junior year. The class before us created a comic play (in German of course) that featured an American trying and failing to communicate at a restaurant. (When he asked for a stein, meaning a beer, he gets a large stone.)
The priest who taught us and sponsored our club pushed the limits. He was the one in charge when the students hung the Beat St. John’s banner in Rome. We wanted our project to stand out. At some schools, a movie would have been no big deal (and today a video would be trivial to produce). Given the resources we had, it was an ambitious project.
We had to make tough decisions. Sound required microphones, stands, editing, and the risk of spoiled film, so we chose silent. A chalkboard served as the medium for creating titles. We had one light, which sat on the camera. The demolition of the row houses across the street (where the football field is now) became our inspiration for the story. Today, there’s an eerie subtext to the story, but not in those days.
Evil Otto is seen cheating on an exam and tossed out of class. He vows revenge. Reinhardt, our hero, discovers Otto has made a bomb. He spreads the alarm even as he tries (and fails) to stop Otto. One kid escapes by jumping out a window. (Having experienced Jesuit justice, I came up with the idea and located a rare window with a large ledge, and I remember a teacher gasping when he saw that scene. One of my classmates is a Hollywood stuntman. Perhaps this was the start of his career.*) Otto fights with Reinhardt and, ultimately, stabs him with a pen. (The placard says, “Bic writes first time, every time.” – I take credit for that line, but I think other players do, too.)
In a moment of black humor, Reinhardt tells would-be rescuers to leave him behind and save themselves. They drop him immediately.
But a second hero emerges. Me. As Hans, I look everywhere for the bomb – lockers, trashcans, closets, even the ladies room (Damen) – which gets me a fist in the face. The manic Hans darts about, being startled by everything, though he does find a moment to take a drink from the water fountain.
For my family, this thin guy with a full head of hair was mesmerizing. My wife said, “He even moves like you.” I do have a distinctive walk, one time characterized as being “like a demented Sherman Hemsley.”
Oh… Otto wins. The last scene has him dancing with delight over the shattered school. A friend viewing this masterwork kept expecting the crumbling wall to fall on him and deliver justice, but we didn’t have the budget for that.
* Note – Tom Stohlman has since informed me that he was the one who jumped out the window. Though a man of many talents, he has not, to my knowledge, worked as a Hollywood stuntman. That’s another member of the Class of ’72.
November was National Novel Writing Month, and millions of authors, wannabe authors, and people who just plain love to write set out on November 1 to write 50,000 words in one month. Why? (The answer “Because they’re crazy” doesn’t count because it’s too obvious.) For as many reasons as there were participants. I did it. For the sixth time (remember—“crazy” doesn’t count here). Read the rest of this entry »
I hope everyone (in the US) had a great Thanksgiving holiday. I am recuperating!
Paul and I are empty nesters. Our daughters, Staci and Cori, and their families live about thirty minutes away and our son, Ari, lives in Boston. For the holidays they all move back home for the weekend. They decided ten years ago, when Ari went away to college in Boston, that holidays would be spent here, all together, and all weekend. I didn’t argue.
It’s lots of planning and cooking but there are no surprises. They crave the same menu, beef brisket or roast leg of lamb, sweet potato souffle, noodle pudding, salad, some green vegetable, pies and cookies. This year we added potato latkes to dinner. For breakfast it’s french toast made with challah, an egg bread.
Thank goodness they come with their own plastic containers to take the left overs home when they leave. I’ve been known to make extras of things so they can bring it home. For some reason, they don’t want this menu during the year, only for the holidays.
After dinner Cori told us how Thanksgiving and Chanukah were similar both speak about religious freedom. For the Pilgrims it was fleeing from England for the right to worship who they wanted. For the Hebrews it was against the Selecuid Empire (Greek) for the very same reason.
They did not, however, want to celebrate Chanukah this weekend. They wanted a separate holiday for another weekend get together. Frankly, I don’t think they had their shopping done and that was fine. I don’t have mine done either. They’ve decided to celebrate the holiday Christmas weekend.
We spent lots of time watching movies, playing games with the small kids, and eating. The grandchildren wanted to see Frozen so Sunday morning we all went to the movies. The girls went home afterwards. Staci had lesson plans to write and she needed to get the kids to bed early for school. Cori had to get things ready for Chris’ business trip on Monday morning. Ari went back to Boston on Monday.
It’s quiet and time to plan. They’ll all be back in four weeks. Maybe I’ll change up the menu and make chicken or salmon. Naw, why change a good thing. It’s perfect just the way it is.
Happy Holiday everyone!
by Nancy Hardy
Thanksgiving is not here yet, but already all of the stores have set up their holiday displays, and that’s just fine with me (although putting out Christmas trees before Halloween might be a bit too much.) Before I had two little girls, I was kind of meh about Christmas. My son, who has autism, has never been a big fan of the holiday, what with his disdain of noise and crowds and flickering lights. The first two bother me as well. But my girls love the music and lights and gifts, and even last year, my then-two year old already recognized Santa.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about the holidays, though, is the plethora of romantic movies. Is there a better time to fall in love than the season of roaring fires, good cheer, and mistletoe? I met my now-husband in early November a dozen years ago, and by Christmas I was done for. There’s just something about snuggly sweater weather and kissing in the snow that softens the heart. I’ve got a few favorites that I watch every year, and I hope you enjoy this journey through Christmas movie-land with me!
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Though not technically a Christmas film, some of the pivotal scenes in the movie take place around the holidays. The following clip is not of any particular scene (which is hard to find,) but instead is the movie’s “theme” song, which happens to be by one of my favorite singers, Harry Connick, Jr., and has some of the holiday scenes woven in.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Jimmy Stewart’s lesser-known Christmas-themed film takes place in Budapest, Hungary during the holidays. Stewart plays the lead salesman at the titular shop, and Margaret Sullivan is the co-worker with whom Stewart bickers. Little does the pair realize that they are secret pen-pals who have fallen in love via the now-lost art of the written word. A charming and sweet film, it served as inspiration for the 1998 Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks vehicle You’ve Got Mail. If you liked that movie, you’ll love The Shop Around the Corner.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Sandra Bullock’s breakout lead role was in this romantic comedy about mistaken identities and the meaning of family. Her character, Lucy, is coerced into working on Christmas at her job in the token booth at one of Chicago’s train stations. That day, she saves the life of the man, Peter, she admires from afar, and is overheard by a nurse saying, “I was going to marry that man.” The nurse tells Peter’s family that Lucy is Peter’s fiancé, and she perpetuates the lie because she ends up falling in love with Peter’s close-knit, loving family. And then she meets Jack, Peter’s brother, and ends up head-over-heels for him. A lovely film about loneliness and the search for your forever home.
The film also gets bonus points from me since I met both male leads: Peter Gallagher (Peter) at a hotel in Nashville in 1994, and Bill Pullman (Jack) at the airport in Charlotte just two years ago.
Love, Actually (2003)
Set primarily in London in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the films tells the stories of couples and friends whose lives intersect at multiple points throughout. An all-star cast only strengthens the tales of love lost-death, cheating, divorce-and love found in sometimes the most unusual places and in unexpected ways. Though not every couple has a happy ending (hearing Joni Mitchell even outside the movie makes me sad,) the overarching theme of love and joy makes this a perfect compliment to the Christmas season. One caveat: not for the kiddos. Lots of language, suggestive situations, and even some nudity when one of the couples meets at a most unusual day job.
My favorite scenes: Rowan Atkinson (of Mr. Bean fame) as a store clerk with a penchant for elaborate gift-wrapping; Collin Firth jumping in a lake (harkening back to his days as Mr. Darcy, but in a much more awkward way;) Bill Nighy as an aging rock star making good on a bet that involves nudity and a well-placed guitar; and Hugh Grant shaking his English booty to the Pointer Sisters. If you have not seen it, watch this movie now! And if you have seen it, why not watch it again?
Tell me, dear readers, what are your favorite Christmas films, romantic or family-oriented? I’m always open to suggestions for great entertainment!
My biggest jump into adulthood came because of a screw-up. It wasn’t one of those things parents fret about — sex, drugs and rock and roll were not part of my high school experiences. But surprising and disastrous confrontations with adults were.
I was able to go to Gonzaga thanks to the generosity of my classmate Doug’s family. Doug’s dad gave me a ride home from the train each evening, and he picked up every morning just a few blocks from my house.
The ride in was always quiet. Doug and his dad were not morning people, and I often studied for tests during the trip. There are only two disadvantages. First, waiting in miserable weather for people who did not have the same sense of punctuality as my family. Second, riding for 40 minutes each day and a smoke-filled car. Doug’s dad was the most enthusiastic smoker I ever met. The only thing they gave him pause was when I would have a coughing fit in the back seat. If it went long enough, he’d crank open his window and toss away a half-finished smoke. Then he’d give me the evil eye.
But, day after day, he delivered us within a few blocks of the school, mostly on time. And this was all for free. Doug’s family refused to take any payment (although my parents made a point of giving them a generous Christmas gift each year).
The arrangement came to an interesting end. Both Doug and I loved science and ended up doing research at Children’s Hospital. I got a ride to our Saturday orientation with Doug’s mom. On the way there, and incendiary subject came up.
The Archdiocese of Washington had announced they were closing our parish’s grade school. My mom had swung into action, joining a committee to formulate a plan for the school to continue by making it financially independent. As a graduate of that grade school, I was deeply involved in reading the documents as they were being prepared and providing a perspective to the School Savers. I was informed on the subject… and very passionate. I was also somewhat of an arrogant jerk.
At the beginning of the trip to Children’s Hospital, Doug’s mom brought the subject up. She was adamantly on the other side of the issue. She had already moved her kids into excellent public schools (which were unavailable to people in my neighborhood) and was happy to see the school close and “save parishioners money.” In retrospect, I think she was validating the decisions she’d made, and she completely believed neighbors who were convinced the school was a drain on resources.
I was in possession of specific facts. I was able to tell her in detail about the financial situation and the data that showed the school could be self-supporting. I had information about success of students, comparisons with the local public schools, and lots of other data points that countered what, evidently, she and her neighbors had talked themselves into.
Her outrage with the little snot in her backseat grew with every mile. I was oblivious to her mood. I do remember that when she called me out for being disrespectful, I mumbled, “You just can’t take an argument.” She spoke to Doug a moment after I got out of the car, and, when he rejoined me he said I would not have a ride home.
That created an interesting situation for a fifteen-year-old boy. Children’s Hospital was smack in the middle of the “riot corridor” in Washington, DC. Other than Anacostia, it may have been the most dangerous neighborhood. Nonetheless, at the end of the day I walked many blocks through burned-out neighborhoods to the Greyhound terminal, and it took a bus to within a mile of my house and then walked home. I didn’t tell my parents about this, but it was with some trepidation that I waited for my ride on Monday morning. Doug’s dad was a little late, but he did show up, and nothing was said about my faux pas.
It wasn’t over. Five months later, Doug and I both had to go into town for a test for a special Heart Association program. Unusually, my parents gave me a ride. I didn’t have to beg one from Doug’s family. It was on that Monday that Doug’s dad did not show up. I walked a mile down to the Greyhound stop and got to school on time. Doug told me his parents were outraged that my parents had not offered him a ride to the test we’d taken, and there would be no more rides for me.
That part of the story, I told my parents. But I also told them I’d figured out public transportation, so they said fine, and there was no more discussion. To my surprise. For most of the next two years, I rode the bus. It had two advantages. First, no more secondhand smoke. Second, I was free to set my own schedule. A big piece of my life was in my control, and I would take advantage of that.
by Hope Ramsay
“Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and fall into a vortex, as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for till that was finished she could find no peace.” – Louisa May Alcott, from Little Women
The first time I read these words I was about twelve years old and had already decided that I wanted to be a writer. But reading Little Women cinched it as a career and life goal. I identified with Jo March, the heroine of this book. I am not a beauty. I have never been one of the popular girls. I have always had a tendency to speak my mind rather bluntly. I have a temper that I struggle with constantly. For a long time, I was very put out that I had been born a girl, because boys got to wear pants to school and had all the fun going fishing. In short, I read Little Women as a girl of twelve and it was as if Louisa May Alcott was speaking personally to me.
Jo and her sisters endure as characters precisely because Alcott made them true to life – flawed and imperfect. And for 19th century children’s literature, this was a huge departure from the norm. Little Women has inspired many a female writer. But equally important, girls of all kinds could see themselves in Jo and in her sisters. And it’s why we love those characters. .
So, when I set about to write another story about a small town book club, of course I had them read Little Women. And since they were reading it, I decided to borrow a few things from it for my story.
Last Chance Knit & Stitch, the sixth book in the Last Chance series, is the story of Molly Canaday, a woman who is determined to make it in a man’s world. She’s a mechanic, with a dream of opening a body shop. Like Jo March, she’s blunt and has a problem with her temper, especially after her mother runs away from home leaving Molly in charge of the local yarn shop. Mom wants Molly be take the shop over and be the girl she’s supposed to be. Molly isn’t interested in being at all like her mother. She’s not interested in marriage or settling down or any other girlie thing. She wants to be free and independent.
Enter the hero – a man much older and wiser, dealing with a lot of life’s heartbreak. Simon Wolfe has come back to town, intending to settle his father’s estate and make a quick getaway. Molly sparks a powerful attraction in him that tempts him. But how can he hope to win the love of a woman who is so free spirited, not to mention so much younger than he is?
It’s not precisely a retelling of Little Women. After all Molly Canaday doesn’t have three sisters – she only has two brothers. But if they bear some passing resemblance to Beth and Amy in temperament, the reader will understand. Like Jo, Molly has a best friend with a girl’s name: Leslie Hays is another mechanic in town. And, of course, the matchmaking ladies of Last Chance are determined to match Molly and Les up in blissful matrimony. But we all know that just isn’t going to work, since they both have tempers.
Okay I admit it. I borrowed quite a bit from Alcott. Can you blame me? Little Women is a wonderful book. It deserves a few adaptations.
So, have you read Little Women? Do you love it as much as I do? Tell me your favorite part of the book. I have so many, but I do truly love the ending, where Professor Bhaer says: “I have nothing to give but my heart so full and these empty hands.”
And Jo replies: “They’re not empty now.”
* * * *
One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of Last Chance Knit & Stitch.
A couple of months ago, I blogged about my daughter, Jennifer, and her crazy summer project The Thoroughbred Makeover. You might remember that Jen is an equine vet who also competes in Three-day eventing. Last June she embarked on a mission to train an ex-racehorse in 90 days. She was one of 26 trainers both professional and amateur who participated in this project and then brought their horses to Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore the first weekend in October. I promised to let you know how the project went for Jen and Ali—so here’s the update! Read the rest of this entry »
by Lora Bailey
It occurs to me as I sit down to write my Thoughtful Thursday post, that we are just six short weeks away from another set of New Year’s Resolutions. Yikes! I’m still working on this year’s!
I am definitely a planner. I like to plan ahead and work my plan. This year, however, my plan flew out the window.
So, what was on my original plan?
- Lose weight
- Run a marathon
- Write the Great American Novel
- Relearn to play the piano
Instead of doing any of these, I changed jobs, bought a new house and gained another 7 pounds.
As I sit on the living room floor surrounded by moving boxes, I’m already starting to plan for next year:
- Join Weight Watchers. Check.
- Sign up for three running events in 2014. Check.
- Renew my writing group memberships. Check.
- Find a good piano instructor. Check.
But, is that enough? “Not likely!” my inner voice screams.
I dug a little deeper and came across an old blog post I wrote last year. It provides some simple, but valuable, advice to stay on track, and I thought I would share it with you here. Enjoy!
1. Focus on the road between you and the target, not the target itself:
Life is a journey, not a destination. Ralph Waldo Emerson
You need to enjoy, or at least have tolerance for, what it takes to meet the goals. Otherwise, it’s just torture.
I work for a food company that manufactures a LOT of chocolate. “Just say NO” is brutal. Instead I’m counting the points for those treats.
My road toward weight loss will include developing a taste for more nutritious food. I’m also going to have to find exercises that I can enjoy — or in my case not hate.
2. Break the goal down into smaller chunks:
Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. Henry Ford
Schedule mini-goals for yourself. Smaller targets reduce the pressure and ensure progress.
When I was working on my college degree while working full-time, I concentrated on each single course or semester. I didn’t let myself think about how much more I had to go until the end of a term. I kept a chart of the courses needed and celebrated each time I crossed one off the page.
3. Reward yourself:
There are two things people want more than sex and money — recognition and praise. Mary Kay Ash
Recognize your successes, especially the smallest ones. Praise your efforts, especially the ones no one else can see.
Even the small rewards can help ease the pain. For me, it’s shoes! I’ll find a great pair online and keep the image prominently displayed on my calendar. Each day I accomplish my tasks is another day closer to the reward.
4. Create new habits to replace the old ones:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle
It takes 21 days to build a new habit, the scholars say. I must have missed that memo — it takes me quite a bit longer.
A habit I once had (and must now rebuild) is daily running. About 5 or 6 years ago I ran at least 3 miles a day. I’ll never be a fast runner, but at least I was consistent. I had a habit. I felt like crap when I skipped a day. Now I feel like crap when I jog a mile.
My current habit is to dive back under the covers at 5:30 am. It’s going to take some major effort to reach the “excellence” Aristotle suggests. But, I have a major reward in mind!
5. Be kind to yourself:
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. Confucius
Be mindful of the goals you set.
More important, be realistic about what it will take from you to achieve them.
Most important – pay attention to your own self talk. You need to be your biggest cheerleader. Take positive action to redirect.
In the end, your goals are your own. Sometimes it’s helpful to share them with others and hold yourself accountable to your support network. Here are some of mine for 2014:
- Lose 40 pounds
- Finish two romance novels
- Learn piano improvisation
I will set smaller targets and create support networks for each of my big goals. And, of course, many rewards (shoes) along the way.
Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. Maya Angelou
How did you do with your goals for 2013? What tactics worked well for you, and what will you do differently in 2014?
Movie Review: Captain Phillips
Official blurb (via http:captainphillipsmovie.com website):
Captain Phillips is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is — through director Paul Greengrass’s distinctive lens — simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller, and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award®-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips’ unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
See the trailer here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV-ptQX-75Y