Charleston shooting victims

Charleston shooting victims

I’d like to stand with black men and women to refute the age-old “You rape our women” rhetoric. We all know what the implication is.  It infuriates me this stupid idea is still being perpetrated among white racists.

Fortunately, I personally have NEVER been raped.  I’ve slept with black men.  All consensual.  Each and every one of them and each and every time we did it.  It’s a choice women make, and we make it with all our faculties intact.

White racists need to drop the “you rape our women” belief, because it’s a lie.  What’s really happening is sex between consenting adults.

Dylan Roof, you killed 9 black men and women in the AME Church who welcomed you with open arms to their Bible study group, and you did it for all the wrong reasons, for fallacious ideas you never bothered to think through.  They didn’t consent to what you did to them.  You are a byproduct of an old, antiquated mindset that’s lingering in the U.S. because of ignorant beliefs like “you rape our women”, which were not before, and are not now, true.

I know, because I was never raped by a black man, not ever.  The men I slept with enjoyed my favors precisely because I made the decision on my own to give my body to whomever I chose to share it with, at the time and place of my choosing. Nothing was coerced, nothing was forced.

But you, Dylan, and those like you who need an excuse to hate, think it’s fine to kill people you dislike for reasons that aren’t even based in fact, and you call yourselves “heroes” when you do.  People like you make me sorry to be called white alongside your ilk.  The real heroes are the family members of the victims who refuse to hate you, and who publicly forgave you.  Those are strong, compassionate people.  You are weak and mentally muddled.

I stand with all the men and women who refute the statement “You rape our women”.  Grow up.  Think for yourself.  Look up some statistics on the internet.  Educate your mind instead of subscribing to knee-jerk fear-mongering old-school beliefs.  You and the people who think like you are what’s wrong in America, not what’s right.

This whole surge of Trans popularity has got me thinking:  why is it male-to-female transgender people have become the poster children for acceptance, lately?  I’ve seen almost no interest in, excitement about, or media coverage on female-to-male transgender people.

Case in point — in this article entitled “10 Celebrities You didn’t Know Changed Their Sexuality”, out of 10, 1 was female-to-male.  The rest (9) were male-to-female.:  http://www.buzz-hut.com/celebrities/10-celebrities-you-didnt-know-changed-their-sexuality/

It occurred to me when I became aware of how accepted transgender folks are becoming, there seem to be quite a few male-to-female transgender folks in fashion.  I feel some apprehension about this trend because women have a lot of pressure to look a certain way, to have zero body fat, no hips, big tits, wide shoulders, very toned legs and arms, a well-defined jawline, etc.  I’ve said many times in my life that women’s clothing designers basically want men with tits to model their clothes.  Now I see this is happening before my eyes with transgender models!

It’s a standard women can’t live up to.  I met quite a few drag queens when my husband and I went to Provincetown, MA, over the Memorial Day weekend.  I am always amazed at how wonderful the legs are on men who dress as women.  They’re slender, toned and shapely.  As women age, our legs tend to gain some fat and soften up, and they simply don’t look as toned as they did when we were young.  But with men, that doesn’t happen.  Legs and arms maintain that toned musculature, and when a man dresses up as a woman, the legs and arms look good no matter how old the guy is.  I notice this in transgender male-to-females, as well.

Notice the fabulous legs of “Lip Schtick”, Provincetown, MA:

Me with Lip Schtick in P-town, 5-23-15

Me with Lip Schtick in P-town, 5-23-15

My feeling is female models are already living with an unreasonable and unrealistic set of expectations regarding their bodies.  Adding more pressure by competing with men (even if they are transgender) skews the playing field even further.  The pressure to maintain a man’s musculature and no hips is just plain impossible.  Oh sure, when you’re very young you might be able to do it, but as a women age, we naturally tend to soften and spread a bit.

Look at how great Caitlyn Jenner looks in the bustier on the cover of Vogue — no body fat and no hips, along with long, lean, toned legs helps that outfit a LOT!:

Caitlyn Jenner Vogue cover model

Caitlyn Jenner Vogue cover model

I have no bias against transgender people.  I think the way a person wants to live their life is how they should live it.  If you are white and you want to be black, go on and try it.  If you are a man who loves another man and wants to marry him, I say have at it.  If you are transgender and want to live as the opposite sex, embrace it.

My concern here is about the fashion and acting industries, and the unrealistic pressure women face when the standards for a how women “should” look are unrealistic and becoming even more so.  Women are under a huge amount of pressure to be unhealthily thin; and on top of that they are now competing with men, who have less body fat (testosterone burns fat), too?  I don’t notice this happening with female-to-male transgender people.  It seems we just don’t see or hear as much about them, and I haven’t been aware that they are inundating the acting community or the modeling industry in the same way male-to-female transgender people have done.

If clothing designers are designing for women, then women should model the clothes.  All sorts of women.  Black, white, Asian, large, small, short, tall, etc.  If the clothing is not about women and it’s just about the clothes, then I suppose anyone can do the modeling.  But please, please let’s not pretend the fashion industry and the models, whether they are female or male, or transgender, are what real people look like, and please don’t expect women going into modeling to be held to a new set of criteria based on male-to-female transgender people who have the perfect bodies in the minds of fashion designers.  It’s not fair and male models, even transgender ones, should not be setting the standards for how women “should” look.

I don’t understand why there is such a big outcry about Rachel Dolezal. It occurred to me she did exactly what Bruce Jenner has done: recreated herself. It’s obvious who she was born as isn’t who she feels she really is. I understand she lied and that tends to upset people. Politicians lie all the time and pretty much get away with it. We read in the news that “Politician A” said thus and such 5 years ago, and now he’s saying the exact opposite. And yet, these men (and women) get elected over and over again. “Oh, I changed my position.” “I never said that.” “I realized that was a mistake.” They say things before getting elected, then do the opposite once they’re in office.  Basically, they lie.

The big omission seems to be that when some mistakes were made re: labeling (Ms. Dolezal’s ethnicity) she didn’t correct them. At first I was suspicious and thought she must have gotten something from calling herself “black”. But as I learned more about her, I realized the only thing she really did was let people’s perception be what it was and she didn’t bother correcting them when they made an assumption (that she was black or bi-racial).

Look at her life, specifically. She was raised with 4 black, adopted siblings. She married a black man and has two (biracial) sons. She has legal guardianship of her black, adopted brother, Izaiah. She is estranged from her parents, indicating a less than warm or close relationship with them. Perhaps she felt left out, inauthentic, or somehow different and set apart from her birth parents.  She says from a very early age she drew herself with a dark colored crayon (not peach) and dark, curly hair.  With the t.v. shows about children remembering past lives, perhaps she was a black woman in a past life and still wants to continue with that identity.

So she now has very curly hair – in early pictures it’s blond and wavy, but that could be because it was straightened for pictures. She got involved with fighting for the rights of minorities. People assumed she was black when she became President of an NAACP chapter. I’m guessing at that point she just felt so comfortable with her adjusted identity and feeling black, AND she likely had every intention of doing her job to the best of her ability, that those circumstances reinforced her idea of being black, so she went with it.

Do I think she should have lied? No, though I find it ironic, since there was a time when any white person would have been horrified to be thought of as black. White people didn’t even want black people to be black! As my mother used to say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I think people it would be o.k. to view what Rachel Dolezal did as a form of flattery. She wanted to be black so badly, and identifies as black so strongly, she decided to “became” black. I’ve seen quite a few nasty comments online calling Ms. Dolezal out for pretending to be black, saying things like, “It’s not a switch you can turn on and off”. But she didn’t really turn it off and on. She didn’t use “being black” at will to get something, and then turn it off when it benefited her to be white. It seems to have happened gradually, and over time it appears she has grown into what she feels is her most authentic identity – that of a black woman.

Bruce Jenner had facial surgery to look more like a woman. He hid what he felt was his true identity from everyone he knew (and the public) for many years, until he finally felt comfortable coming out. Ms. Dolezal didn’t gain anything by becoming (in her mind) a black woman. She didn’t go to school and take a place from a minority student. Statistics are pretty clear that it’s a huge disadvantage, financially, to be a black woman in the U.S., so one can assume she didn’t make any extra money once she was perceived as a black woman. She’s not putting anything over on anyone to gain something she could only have gotten if she were black. Some of the founding members of the NAACP were white, and there is nothing that says a white person can’t be a member of the NAACP (and many are).

I think the real problem is she lied, at least by omission. OK, it’s true, she did. And no one else has ever done that? What about the good she’s done? What about her bi-racial sons, and her black ward? Her 4 black, adopted brothers? Couldn’t the circumstances of her life have made her feel like she had been born the wrong color? Can’t a white woman feel like a black woman if a man can feel like, get surgery to look like, and model on the cover of Vanity Fair as a “woman”?

I think she can. It’s not like white women are rushing in droves to “be black”. This is one person, with a unique upbringing and a strong, inner need to identify as black. It’s not a big, national problem. It’s her trying to be her authentic self. Let’s give her the leeway she needs to be who she is, just as we’re doing with Bruce Jenner and Laverne Cox. After all, in the newly tolerant America, men can marry men, women can marry women, boys can be girls and vice versa.

Let’s also be fair. There is no biological basis for ethnic labels. A black person, a white person, an Asian person (etc.) are all biologically the same, genetically speaking. Whereas if you are trans-gender, no matter what you do (or how much surgery you get) you will never, ever become the opposite sex. It’s simply not biologically possible (at this time). You might look like a woman, but you are not and can never be biologically a woman.

If these transitions (same sex marriage, trans-gender people) are being accepted by the public, then I think maybe the small number of folks who were born white but feel inside they are black (as well as other ethnicities who want to be something else) should have the right to live the life they feel is authentic for them.

Bruno MarsI don’t know much about Kanye West. His music doesn’t interest me. I know he’s married to Kim Kardashian (hardly a plus) and they named their kid “North West”, which I personally feel is monstrous. I don’t listen to his music (not that I’m snubbing him alone — I rarely listen to pop music). Whenever I read anything about him on the Internet it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and you can hardly escape seeing something about him after the Grammys, due to his offensive comments. The impression I’ve gotten is he thinks he’s some sort of God. I had to laugh when I read this quote from him: “. . . they [musicians] deliver monumental feats of music . . .”. Seriously? I beg to differ. I doubt any piece of pop music today could be categorized as a “monumental feat of music”. That’s in my estimation, of course. To be honest, I tend to prefer opera, jazz, and classical music in general. I do like some pop and am in love with Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funky Walk”. I liked Adele (is she still singing?). Admittedly I am not a big fan of listening to most pop music, and that includes not listening to Kanye West. I prefer old standards (Frank Sinatra, et al.). Just the fact he could utter such an overblown statement about the field he’s in indicates he’s delusional.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, most pop musicians are almost as delusional and feel their contributions to society are way out of proportion relative to their actual impact. That still doesn’t justify his behavior. I remember hearing how rude he was to Taylor Swift, and now it seems he is the aribter of who the Grammys should give their awards to? Who appointed him to make these decisions, again?

My real question is When will we learn to stop paying attention to these idiotic attention mongers? As my mother used to say, “Ignore her/him/it and s/he/it will go away.” That’s my advice. Ignore Kanye West and he will go away. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see him fade into the woodwork. I don’t understand why a guy with an ego the size of Africa gets paid gadjillions of $$$ for what he does. I certainly don’t comprehend why he feels so superior. But one thing I do know is this: if we ALL ignore him, he WILL go away. Wouldn’t it be nice NOT to read about him the day after the Grammys?

By the way, I know the picture isn’t of Kanye West. In the spirit of ignoring him, I chose to post a picture of Bruno Mars, instead. I like him. I LOVE “Uptown Funk You Up”. He’s the type of musician I’d rather support. Someone who has fun, creates joy through his music, and doesn’t take himself too seriously. Plus, it makes me want to dance!

I read a lot but have not, until now, reviewed a book on my blog. I think that changed because someone from FaceBook friended me, based on the fact that I read a lot and we both discuss, from time to time, books we’ve read on yet another Facebook page.

I love my Nook! It took me a long time to get one, but a few years ago I did, and now wonder why I was so resistant?! It’s so much easier to carry 50 books in my purse in a Nook than to lug around even 2 paperbacks! The only thing is it must be plugged in overnight if I read a lot during the day. The battery on mine does not hold a charge for days on end. Perhaps this has been improved. I bought a case for my Nook, too, which I strongly recommend — I’ve dropped it countless times and this helps a lot — so far haven’t broken the screen, although a couple of the edges (corners) are cracked.

In the past year I discovered a book recommendation site called “BookBub”. If you subscribe to it and take a short survey, checking off the types of books you are interested in, Bookbub will send recommendations as often as you specify (I get one email a day) with 4-6 recommendations based on the survey and books you’ve ordered. When I click on a recommended book, it takes me straight to Barnes & Noble (because that’s what I specified) and if I buy the book, I buy through B&N. The BEST thing is they are only .99, $1.99, or $2.99! and I’m spending so much less on books now than when I first bought my Nook; guilt-free, too!

I’m reviewing these books in no particular order, and have read all of them very recently.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, is a memoir, and it’s lovely. I found it unusually introspective. Ms. Bailey suffered from a long, life threatening illness, she was barely able to move, and someone brought her a wild snail from her garden. These are her observations about the snail, and how it helped her to pass the time when she had no energy to do anything and was unable to get up and engage in the world. It’s engrossing. To say I learned a lot about snails is an understatement. It was unbelievably interesting, which was a revelation. To realize one can hear a snail eating seems absurd, but if your life is quiet enough and you listen, you CAN hear it! This book feels like a meditation on how one person coped when her entire world had shrunk to almost nothing, and how the smallest creature can come to one’s aid just by being itself. I loved this book and almost cried when it ended. I wanted Ms. Bailey to write on and on about snails and how watching one affected her in such a profound way.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, is fiction, in the “Young Person” category. I read the “Twilight” series, not realizing they were in the YP category, and enjoyed them immensely. I found out from some of the women I work(ed) with that those books were all the rage among teenage girls. Who knew?! Some of the YP writing is so good I really didn’t miss the egregious sex authors of books written for adults tend to include. It’s not that I don’t enjoy sex scenes, it’s just when it’s trite, why bother?

Miss Peregrine’s Home . . . is based on vintage photos the author found, and includes, in the book. All the characters are based on these photos, and most of them are peculiar, indeed! The premise didn’t seem forced, and the plot is fanciful. It’s very fantasy oriented, but in the real world, if that makes sense. I enjoyed it very much. There is a sequel, for which I will have to pay full price (and I’m tempted). I’d like to see what happens to these characters. The sequel also includes vintage photos, and I have to say they were so interesting in the first book that I’m very curious to get the 2nd book just to see if the photos in it are as peculiar as in the first one.

Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle, by Mary J. MacLeod, is also a memoir. However, Ms. McLeod is nothing if not robust!

Call the Nurse - True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle

Call the Nurse – True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle

She takes a job as the only nurse on the Isle of Sky with her husband and two children, and it’s a difficult life by today’s standards. The weather is frightful, she does just about everything and then some (at all times of the day and night, and in every type of weather). It’s fascinating, this look at a very secluded slice of life. She loves the people who live there and they love her, which comes through in every situation she finds herself in. The folks on the island don’t ask if someone needs help — they just show up and do what needs to be done. There is such a strong sense of community, and she and her husband fit in and are so accepted, it felt as if they were all one extended family. So very different from the life I lead and the life I think most of us do, in our modern age. Heartwarming and evocative. I could see exactly what she described in my mind’s eye.

The Autobiography of Mrs Tom Thumb The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, by Melanie Benjamin, my last “wee book” (as the Scots might say — in the prior book the word “wee” is used nearly every time someone speaks!), is about a wee lass named Lavinia Warren. It is fiction and not actually an autobiography, although it is an imagined autobiography about Lavinia Warren’s life, based on fact. Her given name was Lavinia Warren Bump, which seems almost prescient since she stood only 32″ tall, and her younger sister was only 28″ tall, although the family seemed surprised that 2 of their children were so tiny, so it may be they were unaware of any dwarfism in their families. She had proportionate dwarfism, which means she was perfectly proportioned, only in miniature, w/out the large head and shortened legs/arms common in other types of dwarfism.

She was well-educated and became a schoolteacher in her home town, but eventually began travelling with a show that exhibited her (she sang), and finally landed in P. T. Barnum’s show, which gave her worldwide exposure. She married “General” Tom Thumb and they traveled and exhibited together. He already had worldwide renown through Barnum, and together the two of them were quite a sensation. She dined with Abraham Lincoln, was presented to Queen Victoria, knew and hobnobbed with royalty throughout Europe, as well as high society in New York. She and her husband made quite a lot of money and were very social, but gradually shows that exhibited “freaks” fell out of favor, and they began to lose their money and status, as well as their society friends.

Lavinia Warren Bump

Lavinia Warren Bump

What’s most interesting about the story is it’s told from Lavinia’s perspective, as though she is narrating the book; I imagined a miniature Ms. Benjamin crawling inside Lavinia’s brain and taking up residence, where she has the inside tack on what it must have been like to be (a) a little person when very few people had ever seen one, (b) a well-raised gentlewoman who traveled the U.S. and the world as a performer, which was considered a scandalous profession for women (akin to prostitution), and (c) what is was like to live in the mid-1800’s, a far different time and place from 2015. Just the advances in travel alone during her lifetime were remarkable! Having clothes specially made, when she wore a corset, was informative. Her imperiousness and education must have been surprising to many who may have assumed she was simply a living doll. Lavinia seems to have been a woman who commanded respect, never mind her tiny stature. I enjoyed this book and the imaginings of Ms. Benjamin regarding the life of this unusual and very famous and successful woman.

Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave
Wasn’t I lucky to see “The Grand Budapest Hotel” over the holidays?! It has been nominated for 9 Oscars! It and “Birdman” both received 9 nominations, the most of any film(s) nominated. However, Ralph Fiennes was considered snubbed for “Best Actor”, which is crazy — the movie would be nothing w/out his performance. Here was a comment in the article I read: “Was there a more disappointing snub on Thursday? Ralph Fiennes is wonderful in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”: acerbic, heartbreaking, profane and hilarious.” I could not agree more!

Roger Ebert - Thumbs Up

Life Itself” was left out in the documentary category. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any of the other contenders, but fail to understand how this wonderful, warm, movie about Roger Ebert, who was himself an important contributor to movies, was overlooked.

Oh well. At least I enjoyed the movies and recognized their entertainment value!

The Grand Budapest Hotel movie poster - Ralph Fiennes

The Grand Budapest Hotel movie poster – Ralph Fiennes

Over the holidays I saw “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, which I thought would be fun to see when it came out, but since I don’t go out to the movies all that often, and it passed by so quickly, I forgot about it (which is pretty common for me). Managed to catch it from the beginning when I was home for the holidays (which is unusual — I seem to have a talent for catching movies in the middle!) and enjoyed this movie so much that it’s stayed with me (also somewhat unusual — I often see a movie, enjoy it while watching, then remember very little about it later).

It seems to me it’s a comedy of manners, although it doesn’t completely match the description on Wikipedia. Still, I think it qualifies. Here is the definition: The comedy of manners is an entertainment form which satirizes the manners and affectations of a social class or of multiple classes, often represented by stereotypical stock characters

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comedy_of_manners

Where I think the movie diverges is the characters are not all stock characters. Ralph Fiennes, who plays M. Gustave, around whom the movie is centered, is rather complex and not really a stock character at all, although many other characters in this movie are typical stock characters. His sidekick, named “Zero Moustafa” (there’s a joke in the movie about his first name, so I won’t spoil it here) is played by a young actor I’d never seen, named Tony Revolori — he’s wonderful and I feel sure he will have a successful career playing a wide range of roles. But Ralph Fiennes is meritorious. I have admired him in everything I’ve seen him do, but this was an unusually eccentric character and he handled it, from the subtleties to the broad comedy, with exceptional poise. I never felt his gears grind — in portraying M. Gustave, which could have been very disjointed in the hands of a lesser actor, he was always smooth and consistent.

VaniaZouravliov_GrandBudapestHotel_movie_poster

I found M. Gustave interesting because he is, among other things, bisexual, suave almost to the point of unctuousness, seemingly caring, greedy, dishonest, yet possessing high standards. He’s a fascinating mix, and as an actor must be sexy, dapper, and subtle, yet able to pull off very broad comedy, as well. It’s quite the acting job and Feinnes manages it in such a fun way that I was amused or outright laughing through most of his antics, even though the movie is somewhat dark at times.

Zero is his sidekick throughout, and mostly the straight man, which can be a thankless role, but his soulful eyes and solemn attention to M. Gustave reminded me of a little dog studying a bigger dog on how to be a dog. It was a very sweet relationship between the two.

the-grand-budapest-hotel_movie_poster

The crazy plot takes you all over Europe, and the wonderful settings are sumptuous. Two fabulous buildings (one of them the Grand Budapest Hotel) allow you to experience palatial and lavish rooms full of posh furnishings. M. Gustave and Zero end up at a mountaintop monastery at one point, a starkly beautiful setting. I guessed the Alps, but who knows? I am not familiar enough w/ individual mountain ranges to tell the difference.

Tilda Swinton as Madame Céline Villeneuve "Madame D" Desgoffe und Taxis

Tilda Swinton as Madame Céline Villeneuve “Madame D” Desgoffe und Taxis

The cast is varied, quirky, and exceptionally zany. Tilda Swinton, as the very elderly Madame Céline Villeneuve “Madame D” Desgoffe und Taxis, is nearly unrecognizable. Adrian Brody is darkly evil as her grasping eldest son. All the supporting players are excellent, and many get to act broadly, in a style that we don’t see often any more in movies. The style of this movie felt like a throwback to those 20’s and 30’s movies where everyone is glamorous and well-dressed, and the actors belied the stuffy seriousness of their characters by tearing up the screen, being hammy and over-the-top, while still managing to retain some truth in their characters.

the_grand_budapest_hotel_movieposter

I felt magically transported to another place and time, and was swept along in the quirky, whimsical and unexpected events that unfolded. It felt like an exciting (not scary) roller-coaster ride, and I so wished the movie would continue so that I could live vicariously through M. Gustave, Zero, and the other wonderful and odd people who populated this story. When the movie ended I was smiling and realized I’d been smiling almost non-stop throughout most of it. It left me feeling uplifted because I’d had so much fun.

The Grand Budapest Hotel movie poster

The Grand Budapest Hotel movie poster

There are a ton of posters for this movie! I was struck by that, and think it’s because the movie is never just about one thing. It goes off on tangents, takes you to odd little pockets of life, opens the door for a peek at a different world, then moves on to another feeling or situation and transports you, along with everyone in the movie, to all sorts of quirky places, things, people, etc. Somehow it managed to retain a connective thread throughout so nothing ever got dropped, things were not confusing and I, for one, felt comfortable that everything was happening for a reason. I think M. Gustave was the common thread, and certainly the movie revolves around Ralph Fiennes’ performance. It was somehow like a square dance, where everyone dances in circles and hands off to the next person — touching each person at least once but never remaining long with the same partner; but it’s wasn’t chaotic — there is a choreography that pulled it all together and made complete sense.

Life Itself - Roger Ebert

Life Itself – Roger Ebert

I was lucky enough to catch “Life Itself” this past weekend, the documentary based on Roger Ebert’s memoir. It was phenomenal. I’d liked him a lot when I lived in Chicago (for 8 cold years), after discovering his show (with Gene Siskel), “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies”. I realized at some point every movie review he wrote (or spoke) that I’d either seen or decided to see (based on his recommendation) reflected exactly what I thought of the movie. I was kind of a movie genius, apparently {{said completely tongue in cheek}}! Not so with Gene Siskel, who I found pompous and elitist. He and I didn’t always agree. I could always count on Roger to guide me and he never disappointed. After moving to NYC I endeavored to find another movie critic whom I could trust as I had Ebert, but never did, although I read many other movie critics’ reviews. While I can’t say I was as intellectually into the movies as Ebert, nor am I particularly knowledgeable about the entire genre, I certainly know what I like (and dislike). It was in the “like” and “dislike” (or “Thumbs Up”/”Thumbs Down”) categories that Roger Ebert’s views coincided with my own. I was lucky to find a reviewer I could trust, and never realized (until many years later) he was considered a movie critic God.

I should mention the documentary was hard to watch, as the filmmaker was talking to Roger Ebert in real time as the documentary was filming and Ebert was, by then, confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, and his jaw had been completely removed, which left his chin hanging and his mouth open most of the time. What was interesting and made it bearable is I felt he always looked happy. His eyes were bright and he seemed to be smiling most of the time. His ability to communicate was still intact, and the computer voice that spoke for him was fairly easy to adjust to. Also, his real voice was used frequently in voice-overs (I assume from when he read his own book, “Life Itself”, aloud, which I assumed was for books on tape) which lent the feeling that he was completely present — maybe for me hearing his voice had that impact because I’d heard him speak many times on “At the Movies” and was familiar with how he sounded.

A lot of footage was shown of him as a younger man and also of “At the Movies”, but most of the documentary focused on him in the last year and it was tough to watch. He was in the hospital for much of the footage, and there were times he was in pain. It was uncomfortable. I felt bad for him and his suffering. He soldiered on through many years of fighting cancer, and his good nature and upbeat optimism seemed to be very real. I wondered how he managed to stay so happy through multiple cancers, operations, losing the ability to walk and speak, etc. He loved writing movie reviews and continued to write them up to his death. He also wrote in his blog. He truly seemed to love his life and vocation.

His wife was amazing. He said of her in a July 2012 blog entry titled “Roger loves Chaz”, “She fills my horizon, she is the great fact of my life, she has my love, she saved me from the fate of living out my life alone, which is where I seemed to be heading”. Her name is Chaz and she was a Chicago trial attorney. They married when he was 50. It’s clear from the documentary she kept him going and motivated. She seemed to pour her immense energy into him and it was obvious he would probably not have lived as long without her — she would not take “no” for an answer when he got discouraged and somehow found a way to keep him going in a loving, albeit forceful, way. That she loved him hugely was obvious. That he loved her just as much was also evident.

If you have an interest in movies, movie criticism, or Roger Ebert, I urge you to see this. I learned a lot about him. For example, he was the first movie critic to win a Pulitzer prize, and it took another 30 years for another movie critic to win one (I’m bad at remembering exact numbers and can’t find the exact figure — but it was a long time!). The guy was a prolific movie-watcher. I read (or heard) that Ebert estimated he’d watched 10,000 movies (again, numbers — might be off here) in his lifetime. He wrote over 7,000 reviews – quite the expert, as almost everyone in this documentary attests. AND — he copyrighted his own right thumb! Yeah, baby, top that. Copyrighting your own body part!!!

Into the Woods movie poster

Into the Woods movie posterILoved it!

Loved it! I’d like to say “enough said”, but honestly have more to say. First off, we saw the late show (10:00 p.m.) on Christmas Day. The theater was not packed, but there was a family of 6 with a number of young kids in tow. I was surprised, thinking this was a bit late in the day for little kids. One of the children was developmentally challenged and made a lot of strange noises, which I did my best to ignore. He was sweet and the Dad kept shushing him, but it was a bit distracting. However, I managed not to focus too much on it, which for me was a triumph, because I can be ridiculously noise sensitive. The sound was turned up quite high and during the musical numbers he was drowned out. Why do they make the sound so loud in movie theaters?

Initially I wanted to see the movie mainly because I’d seen Meryl Streep in the previews and it looked like she tore up the scenery. I was not disappointed. She was mad good. Simply a scene chewing, scene stealing wonder. She chewed it up, spit it out, spun around like a tornado, disappeared in a puff of smoke, then reappeared to chew it up and spit it out again! When she was younger I used not to like her in everything she did. I’ve read/heard many people complain that you can see her technique, and felt that way myself. What I’ve noticed as she’s gotten older is the obvious technique-iness has disappeared and she has become an actress who makes the most interesting (and sometimes very subtle) choices while managing not to lose the thread of the character. I believe she is lucky to have worked this long and consistently, because she has truly been given the time to hone her craft.

Her singing was phenomenal as well! I knew she’d studied opera and could sing (have heard her do so in plenty of movies), but what astonished me is her ability to find exactly the right voice (light, deep, strong, meek, whispery, belting) in every moment, yet still keep singing, as well as her very, very good voice (instrument) in its own right. Of course she hasn’t damaged her voice by overusing it, as singing wasn’t her primary vehicle, but to me she sounded like a 30-year old singer at the top of her game, which is effin’ unbelievable since she is 66. Seriously, the singing voice does wear out with age and use. It’s a set of muscles, people! They wear out! I was very impressed with Streep’s singing and in general I tend to be very critical of singers.

The rest of the singing in the movie was quite good, and I was surprised, as movie musicals usually suffer from an “actor first” mentality. The only singer I didn’t care for was the girl who played Little Red Riding Hood. Her voice was extremely nasal and reminded me of “Annie”, and although that might work well in live theater (where the voice must carry), it was very annoying in a smaller, movie-theater venue. I put my fingers over my ears for most of her singing and could hear her quite clearly. The voice was cutting, with not much “roundness”, which equates to pretty (to me). But her acting was good.

Cinderella’s voice was of a similar type (very “pointy” and nasal) but somewhat warmer, although it is a tiny, tiny, very highly placed voice. Sondheim seems to like writing for a very light, high soprano voice. In “Sweeney Todd” the Johanna character has a similar voice. You have to find a woman with the right type of voice to handle such a light, high tessitura. It’s not my favorite voice type, but then it’s not my fach either (the type of repertoire I sing). I prefer a meatier, warmer, more complex sound. However, in an ensemble, it’s desirable to have a mix of voice types, and hers worked, whereas LRRH’s voice just irritated.

Everyone’s acting was good. It seems pointless to go through the entire cast, as this is very much an ensemble movie. I’m a fan of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals, and this one was, to me, very “Sondheimy”. It had a lot of his trademark ensemble numbers, with character’s motifs overlapping other character’s motifs, which all managed to go together to create a gloriously intricate number. There were few solos and I didn’t find the music memorable, didn’t walk out of the theater humming a great melody that stuck in my head, and still can’t really recall anything musically that stood out in my mind. Whereas in “Sweeney Todd”, for instance, I walked out humming “Johanna” and it kept running through my mind for weeks. While I was watching the movie I enjoyed the music, though. The music and plot are so inter-meshed that I felt, in this musical, one doesn’t really stand apart from the other.

I’m not sure why Emily Blunt is being singled out for her work. She was good, don’t get me wrong, but not any better than anyone else in the movie and, as I said, it was such a huge ensemble piece that I don’t see why she has gotten singled out. The one exception is Meryl Streep. If she doesn’t win for this I can’t imagine why. It’s so much fun to see an actor tear it up, go to the edges, come back, find a tiny, little subtle moment, and play every second like a virtuoso. It was a great deal of fun to see her having so much fun!

I loved the idea of overlapping fairy tales and wondered how Sondheim came up with this idea? Or did he? I hadn’t read a thing about the genesis of the “book” part of the musical. As usual, his lyrics are wonderful and go perfectly with his music. I find it hard to envision how he conceived of “Cinderella”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Rapunzel”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “The Baker’s Wife” — putting them all together, overlapping them all, and having the main characters head into the woods where they all meet at various times. Kind of ingenious and very layered. A bit disjointed if you don’t know the fairy tales, I’d think, but of course I did. The movie could be hard to follow if you weren’t familiar with the back story on all the fairy tales.

OK, I just looked it up online – James Lapine wrote the book, and no mention was made of how he thought it up. So Sonheim is a musical genius, but not a plot genius. Whew! Anyway, just a tiny bit of info. I’ll read more about James Lapine another time.

This musical is a dark take on fairy tales, for sure. Not the sunny, “Happily Ever After” version(s), which was fine by me, but the ending was a little depressing, although I understood why. Still, it would have been uplifting to have a happy ending, but then I’d probably have been insulted by that! You can’t please all the people . . .

Tracey Ullman as Jack’s mum was a hoot. Very earthy and something of a child abuser — she kept smacking him in the head! But she was so funny. She usually is, and I enjoyed her earthiness in this role. She is unusually willing to be ugly (physically) if the role calls for it, and it’s refreshing that she is able to let go of her ego and allow herself to portray an unattractive woman. Loved her. But I’m a little afraid of her now — don’t want her smacking me in the head like she did Jack!

Last plug — Johnny Depp as the Wolf was a howl! He is so slyly sensuous and overtly lustful … I could see him eating Red Riding Hood like an especially fine confectionary from a big, lush chocolate box, savoring each bite and making it last. His final pose is memorable. I adored his performance and wish he could be nominated for this cameo. He was a standout. You all probably know I adore Mr. Depp, but I don’t always find him perfect for every role. In this he was, and I’d let his sexy wolf into my house any time!

My sweet Indy gained 2 lbs. in 3 weeks!  He was only 2 lb. 11 oz. when I found him (the vet came the next day, and I doubt he’d put on much weight in one day, although he eats like horse!).  She came last Tuesday (for a distemper booster, a rabies shot, and to take a stool sample to see if the coccidia was gone) and weighed him. He weighs over 4 lbs. now!  He gallops into the kitchen every time I go back there or if he hears a plate clink on the counter.  He would eat every hour if I let him.  We were giving him at least 3 oz. (wet food) at each meal, and now even more, but he always seems to want to eat.  And he’s not fat. He’s very lean, although right after he eats he gets the big tummy.  He is so active (what kitten isn’t?) and seems to metabolize all his food, so I’m not worried he’s overeating.

I found out from the vet he has another type of worm, but the coccidia is gone. She said they have different life cycles and one stool sample doesn’t always pick up all the worms.  She gave him another worm medication (oral).  This Friday I have to give him one pill and 2 weeks after the pill will send off a stool sample (FedEx). Hopefully he won’t have worms after the dose on Friday.  Worms could be why he’s so hungry, but I’ll keep an eye on him to see if his appetite stays the same or is lessened.

These are the most recent pics.  I took them 2 nights ago.  He was sleepy on the couch and we’d had a rousing session of “chase mama’s arm and fingers under the blankie [in bed]”, and then another rousing session of “chase the feather wand” on the couch, and he finally slowed down. I was able to wind the feathers around his neck and aimed my reading lamp at his face. Using the flash doesn’t work — I have taken many pics of him with a flash w/ his eyes closed, and the all details blown out, and if there is no direct light on his face the pics are too dark.  I got the idea to try the reading lamp and it worked!  These are by far the best pics of him so far.  I’ve wanted to post pics before this, but they were too blurry, or too dark, and frankly simply not much good.

It makes me wonder how folks are able to clearly video their cats/kittens when they are running around like mad things. They are SO FAST — we have many a blurry pictures and videos of Indy.  I guess you have to know what you’re doing.  Now at least you can see how pretty he is, and I love the feathers around his head (the colors)!

He is still so affectionate.  He doesn’t always sleep on my chest now, but sometimes still comes and flings himself down on me and purrs like crazy.  He is also very smart.  He knows “No” now, and also seems to “get it” that when I’m asleep in the morning he should just come up on the bed and sleep with us (me and Lulu).  Lulu still isn’t really welcoming him, but she’s not as bad as in the beginning.  I feel sure he will win her over because he is very persistent and seems to want so much to be friends with her.  I am so happy I heard him outside and was able to rescue him and bring him in.  Someone at work said they thought Isadora sent him to me.  I am very pleased if she did, because he is a joy.

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