Friday, February 24, 2017
Here is a poem about our grandkids, L and V. It’s hard to say whether this actually happened or whether it’s made up from alternative facts.
V and L’s Fantastic Adventure
L and V had just turned eight
They were nervous that life might get boring
They snuck out at midnight and boarded a ship
Prepared for some serious exploring
The ship ran into a raging storm
The children were tossed in the ocean
Over the waves V saw a White Whale
She beckoned with a friendly motion
The whale carried the children back to the shore
And deposited them right on the beach
L and V ran into the jungle
They ate coconuts and a peach
The jungle was filled with many different creatures
Hippos, giraffes, kangaroos
L made friends with an eight-foot lion
And V gave the zebras tattoos
Just then a band of pirates captured the kids
And locked them up tight in a tank
They were chained to the walls and hung upside down
Mere hours till they’d walk the gangplank
But L figured out how to undo his chains
He undid his sister V’s too
They snuck right out of that prison cell
And escaped without leaving a clue
On the jungle trail they heard loud snorting
A giant dragon breathing fire and smoke
V asked the dragon to be their friend
He grinned as he gave her a poke
The children jumped onto the dragon’s back
And they flew to the top of the mountain
There they discovered the ancient one
Saying prayers at a mystical fountain
The ancient one told them secrets of life
And instructed them in potions and spells
L read the future from a crystal ball
And V learned to ring magic bells
The dragon then flew them down to the beach
And soon they were back on a freighter
Three weeks at sea, they were home again
Their parents’ gift? A pink alligator!
Saturday, February 18, 2017
The Oscars are almost upon us, so I thought it time to post my list of movie favorites for 2016. We usually try to see most of the best picture nominees, but we fell short this year, missing out on Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, and Hell or High Water. Even so, I don’t think 2016 was a great year for movies. My ten favorites are below, listed in order. I notice that only two of my top ten choices were nominated by the Academy for major awards (which leads me to conclude that the Academy’s judgment is suspect).
(1) Hail, Caesar! Josh Brolin, George Clooney. Eddie Mannix, a 1950s Hollywood fixer, struggles to keep the studio’s stars in line. A witty spoof by the Coen brothers of everything about the movies of our youth. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%; Blog: A-.
(2) Café Society. Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carrell. In the 1930s a young Bronx native falls in love with the secretary of his powerful Hollywood uncle, an agent to the stars, then is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life in NYC. Woody Allen reminds us once again that love and relationships are complicated beyond human comprehension. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%; Blog: A-.
(3) Hidden Figures. Tara P. Henson, Octavia Spencer. The untold story of three brilliant African-American working women who were the brains behind John Glenn’s space orbit. You know a movie depiction is powerful when it makes mathematics brimming with suspense and excitement. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%; Blog: A-.
(4) Loving. Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga. An interracial couple in the 1960s fight all the way to the Supreme Court for their right to live in their Virginia home town. A horrifying reminder of times not so long ago (Katja and I were newly married in this era) and superbly acted and crafted. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%; Blog: A-.
(5) Marguerite. Catherine Frot, Andre Marcon. Marguerite Dumont, a wealthy woman and opera lover, loves to sing for friends, but problems begin when she decides to perform in front of a real audience. A gem of a movie with universal human truths and an Oscar-worthy performance by the lead. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%; Blog: A-.
(6) Paterson. Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahan. A quiet observation of the triumphs and defeats of daily life for a bus driver and his wife, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details. We learn again that life is quirky, routine but mysterious, comic and tragic, and filled with poetry. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%; Blog: A-.
(7) A Man Called Ove. Rolf Lassgard, Bahar Pars. An elderly, isolated retiree has given up on life until a boisterous young family moves in next door and an unlikely friendship forms. A touching story about the potential for change and self-realization in one’s older years. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%; Blog: A-
(8) Things To Come (L’Avenir). Isabelle Huppert. When Nathalie’s husband announces he is leaving her for another woman, she must reinvent her life. Despite the film’s low-key pace, Isabelle Huppert’s masterful portrayal makes this a spellbinder. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%; Blog: A-.
(9) Nocturnal Animals. Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams. A divorced couple discovers dark truths about each other and themselves. A complex interplay between Susan’s current painful life, her ex-husband’s violent novel, and their early failed marriage — deep and dark. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%; Blog: A-.
(10) Moonlight. Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris. The heartbreaking story of a young black man’s struggle to find himself during three periods of life while experiencing the pain and beauty of falling in love and grappling with his own closeted sexuality. Painful, touching, well-acted and beautifully filmed. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%; Blog: A-.
Here’s the rest of the batch that we saw during the year (listed in order within each ratings category):
-Rated B+: The Eagle Huntress; The Jungle Book; The Nice Guys; La La Land; Dark Horse; The Accountant; Our Kind of Traitor; The Beatles; Florence Foster Jenkins; Manchester by the Sea; Allied; The Innocents; Elle; Lion
-Rated B: Sully, Maggie’s Plan; Wiener-Dog; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Viva; The Magnificent Seven; I Am Not Your Negro; The Legend of Tarzan; Captain Fantastic; Dr. Strange
-Rated B-: The Finest Hours; Jason Bourne; 45 Years; Southside With You; Ghostbusters; Heart of a Dog; The Lady in the Van; The Conjuring; Silence
-Rated C+: Sing Street; Queen of Katwe; The Salesman
-Rated C: Dheepan; A Bigger Splash
-Rated C-: Francofonia; Jackie
-Rated D or below: Money Monster; Independence Day: Resurgence
Monday, February 13, 2017
Although Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since 496 A.D., almost nothing is known about the original St. Valentine himself. Historians do know his name, that he was martyred on February 14 around the year 270 A.D., and that he was initially buried on the Flaminian Way north of Rome. That’s about it for verified facts. However, there are a number of myths and legends about St. Valentine, most of which appeared in church writings over the next 1200 years. If you put all those legends together, the story of St. Valentine has the definite makings of a blockbuster movie. Here is my outline for a script.*
Valentine was the Bishop of Interamna (modern-day Terni) in central Italy in the third century. On a temporary visit to Rome in 273 he was imprisoned by the evil emperor Claudius who was engaged in persecuting Christians. In violation of Roman law, Valentine had been aiding Christians to escape from prison and marrying Christian couples so that the husbands would not have to go to war in Claudius’ army. Surprisingly, the emperor took a liking to his priestly prisoner. However, Valentine refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods and instead attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity. In response, Claudius demanded that Valentine renounce his beliefs or be executed. When Valentine proved unwavering in his faith, Claudius condemned him to death. In the days before his execution, Valentine, through his prayers, restored the sight of the blind daughter of his jailer, Asterius. Asterius was so amazed and grateful that he converted to Christianity on the spot. Valentine had fallen in love with the daughter who had been visiting him in the jail. On the day of his execution, Feb. 14, 273, Valentine left her a note that was signed, “From your Valentine” (this being, of course, the first Valentine card). He was initially beaten with clubs and stoned. When that failed to kill the valiant priest, Valentine was decapitated by Roman soldiers and buried at a nearby cemetery along the Flaminian Way. Several nights later his disciples dug up his body and returned him to Interamna. St. Valentine’s skull is on display today in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, and other remains are located in Poland, France, Austria, Malta, and Scotland. We know St. Valentine as the patron saint of lovers, beekeeping, epilepsy, and the plague.
This story, of course, has all the ingredients of a Best Picture winner at the Oscars: romance, suspense, villainy, violence, faith, soldiers, heroism, even a miracle. It would be particularly moving if set to music and directed by Damien Chazelle of La La Land fame. Actually Ryan Gosling could be Valentine, and Emma Stone would be perfect as the jailer’s daughter. I would cast Johnny Depp as the Emperor Claudius. I don’t know if Hollywood will follow up and make this movie, but, even if they don’t, it’s still enlightening to resurrect the plot line on this special holiday.
*SOURCES: www.catholic.org, “St. Valentine”; www1.cbn.com, “St Valentine, the Real Story”; www.history.com, “History of Valentine’s Day”; www.history.com, “6 Surprising Facts About St. Valentine”; www.wikipedia.org, “Saint Valentine”
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Duct tape portraits of V and L by their dad
We flew down to New Orleans on the day after Xmas for a family visit. We traveled on the new discount airline at our airport. Bare bones, fees for everything, narrow non-reclining seats, and $2 for water. But it still was a bargain of sorts. J picked us up at the airport. His father-in-law, Ted, had experienced a mild stroke shortly before our arrival, and K was spending a lot of time at the hospital with him. Ted did make a strong recovery though and joined us at the house soon after.
“Be Nice to Bees”
We were greeted by our granddaughter V’s “Be Nice to Bees” sign in the front yard, just another indication of her love for the animal world.
Iko and Little Paws
Our family had acquired a new dog, Little Paws, since we were last there. Little Paws is the smaller dog in the picture. As I understand it, V found her online and convinced her parents. Iko was peppy enough to begin with, but, with a new puppy in the house, the two dogs have endless high-energy fun.
L and J play chess
L has become an enthusiastic chess player, and he will probably be a master before we know it.
J took the children to the neighborhood drug store for flu shots. It was a less than enjoyable outing.
L and V practising
L and V’s regular instructor cancelled their tennis lesson, so J worked out with them instead at the City Park courts. The children like to try to hit the ball over the fence. They also liked to sit at the bottom of the backboard while J bounced balls a foot or two above their heads.
At the Sculpture Garden
On Friday we returned to City Park and visited the Sculpture Garden. It’s one of New Orleans’ many highlights, and we return each visit.
Back from the groomer
Iko came back from the groomer and was miraculously transformed into a Schnauzer (see earlier photo above).
The Princess Leia parade
On Friday afternoon I joined J and the kids at the Princess Leia parade at the Bywater. Carrie Fisher had died three days earlier, and local groups held a second line in her honor.
On New Year’s Eve day we began the celebration with a visit to Extreme Air Sports and its many bouncy bounces for kids.
At Crescent Park
Then we went to Crescent Park, a new city park on the Mississippi, and enjoyed views of the downtown skyline and the harbor.
We tried the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on the day after New Year’s, but it was closed, and we settled for the nearby Confederate Memorial Hall Museum next door instead. I liked the photographs and the rifles the most.
J and Katja at Peche for lunch
We toured the Julia Street art galleries and wound up at Peche for lunch. Other culinary outings included Desire, Zoe’s, Ming’s Chinese Restaurant, Mandina’s, and Morning Call.
Once again our trip went too quickly. Katja had a touch of pneumonia which put a damper on her running around. On our last morning I interviewed the children (see below), and then we were off on our two-hour flight home.
INTERVIEW WITH L (1-2-17):
HOW OLD ARE YOU NOW? Eight.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE AGE SO FAR? Seven.
WHY IS THAT? I was young. There aren't that many years that I'm young.
WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO BE A TEENAGER? Kind of fun, kind of boring.
HOW IS YOUR NEW SCHOOL? I like it.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT? Elevators, a church, less kids.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SUBJECT? Math.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST SUBJECT? I don't think anything is.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD? Dumplings.
WHAT IS THE MOST FUN THING THAT YOU FAMILY DOES TOGETHER? Go on vacation.
DO YOU COLLECT ANYTHING? Pokemon cards.
HOW MANY POKEMON CARDS DO YOU HAVE? About 900. I think 958.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT NEW ORLEANS? It gets hot in the summer.
WHICH OF THESE IS YOUR FAVORITE: ZOO, AQUARIUM, MUSIC FESTIVALS, MARDI GRAS PARADES? Mardi Gras parades.
WHO IS A FAMOUS PERSON THAT YOU ADMIRE? Barack Obama.
DO YOU LIKE GOING TO THE DENTIST? I don't.
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO GO ON A TRIP? I like to go everywhere.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE NEW PRESIDENT, DONALD TRUMP? He's going to be bad.
WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE MORE SERIOUS OR MORE FUNNY? More funny.
MORE CAUTIOUS OR MORE BOLD? More cautious.
DO YOU GET AN ALLOWANCE? Yes, five dollars every Friday.
IS IT ENOUGH? Five dollars every day.
TELL ME WHETHER YOU DO OR DO NOT LIKE THESE THINGS:
FLU SHOT? Yes and no. Medium.
FLYING ON AIRPLANES. Yes and no.
DOING MATH. Yes.
VIDEO GAMES. Yes.
TESTS IN SCHOOL. Yes and no.
RIDING A BIKE? No.
WALKING THE DOG? Yes, because I get to go Pokemon.
WHAT IS SOMETHING ELSE THAT YOU DON'T LIKE? V annoying me.
IF YOU FOUND A GENIE IN A BOTTLE, WHAT WOULD YOU WISH FOR? To have all the Pokemons in the world.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE? My age.
WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO CHANGE IT TO? Nine.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE IN LIFE? A nice person. And a mean person to V. WHICH WOULD YOU WANT TO BE: A MOVIE STAR, A POLITICIAN, AN AIRPLANE PILOT, A POLICE OFFICER? A movie star.
WHAT ANIMAL ARE YOU MOST LIKE? A lion.
WHICH WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO THE MOST: END POVERTY, END CANCER, END WAR, END BLINDNESS? End war.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SPORT? Tennis.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO IMPROVE ABOUT YOURSELF? Being nicer to V.
INTERVIEW WITH VIDA (1-2-17)
HOW OLD ARE YOU NOW? Eight
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST AGE THAT YOU'VE BEEN? Four. WHY? Because there are not that many rules.
WHAT DO YOU THINK BEING A TEENAGER WILL BE LIKE? Awesome.
WHY IS THAT? Earn our own money and spend it on ourself.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SUBJECT IN SCHOOL? Probably art.
DO YOU COLLECT ANYTHING? Nana's gong to mail me those bunny rabbits.
WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE MORE FUNNY OR MORE SERIOUS? More serious.
WHAT IS THE MOST FUN THING YOUR FAMILY DOES TOGETHER? Watch movies.
IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING ABOUT YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Nothing. Wait, I have something. My hair. Longer.
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES AS A LITTLE CHILD? When I was four. Going around on a swing. I fell, and my pumpkin's head broke.
HOW MUCH IS YOUR ALLOWANCE? Five dollars. WHAT DO YOU SPEND IT ON? Stuff at the Dollar Store.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU WANT TO DO IN 2017? (long pause) I want to start my garden.
DO YOU LIKE HAVING TWO DOGS? Yes.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT IT? I take care of one, and my dad takes care of the other.
TELL ME IF YOU LIKE OR DON'T LIKE THESE THINGS:
GETTING A FLU SHOT? No.
DOING MATH? Medium.
TESTS IN SCHOOL? Yes and no.
RIDING A BIKE? Yes.
WALKING A DOG? Yes.
DO YOU LIKE TO GO TO THE DENTIST? Yes. Because I get a sweet lollipop.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU DON'T LIKE? I don't like my brother annoying me.
IF YOU FOUND A GENIE IN A BOTTLE, WHAT WOULD YOU WISH FOR? To have every animal you could possibility have as a pet.
WHICH DO YOU LIKE BEST: ZOO, AQUARIUM, MUSIC FESTIVALS, MARDI GRAS PARADES? Zoo.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO IMPROVE ABOUT YOURSELF? Nothing.
DO YOU EVER GET MAD AT YOUR BROTHER? Yes. WHY? When he annoys me.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD? Mashed potatoes.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE IN LIFE? A vet.
WHAT ANIMAL ARE YOU MOST LIKE? A squirrel.
WHAT WOULD LIKE LIKE TO DO THE MOST? END POVERTY, END CANCER, END WAR, END BLINDNESS. All of the above.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SPORT? Softball.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO TAKE A TRIP TO? New Mexico.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW PRESIDENT, DONALD TRUMP? Poop.
WHO IS A FAMOUS PERSON THAT YOU ADMIRE? Ruthie B. WHO IS THAT? A singer.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT NEW ORLEANS? All the animals.