Monthly Archives: November 2012

Christmas With The Kranks

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The anticipation is building. Soon it will be December and I won’t have to hold back much longer to watch all my Christmas Carol’s. I save them for the weeks leading up to Christmas. I can’t help myself. I KNOW I was British in another life.

I was disappointed to find that my Jewish holiday movie is no longer available (except in VHS) and I was complaining about this to my Jewish friend Cam. I came up with the brilliant idea to have her pick her favorite holiday film. She said she would think about it (but I am working on her) since she doesn’t celebrate Christmas. She is one of the most spiritually loving people I know. Ecumenical while being devoted to her synagogue. If I convince her, I’ll be excited to see what she chooses (plus it takes the pressure off me) and the blog that will result.

She invited me to her Shabbat service last Friday. It was a very small, intimate gathering due to the Thanksgiving holiday but it was wonderful. Beyond the discomfort of feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing (I didn’t) the Rabbi presiding was warm and welcoming as the people present were. I felt quickly at home. The Rabbi read Ahavat Olam. The interpretive version by Rami M. Shapiro in the Torah, stopped me in my tracks. The first paragraph began:

We are loved by an unending love. 

We are embraced by arms that find us

even when we are hidden from ourselves.

It spoke directly to me and I wanted to cry. I have been hiding from myself for some time. But I’m peaking out a little more each day.

Toward the end of the service they read Prayers for Healing:

Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.

I have been carrying these words around with me all week, and wrote them down, to remind me when I forget who I am.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I was Jewish in another life as well. Cam lost her husband sixteen years ago last week, from kidney disease. I was lucky to have known him and our young families spent some treasured moments together. He wasn’t Jewish either, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he is now. Thanks Cam for inviting me.

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My movie for the day was Christmas With the Kranks. For those of you who don’t like holiday movies, try the book it’s based on called Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. It’s an enjoyable read.

I like this movie version too because I was a Tim Allen, Jamie Curtis fan. It is what you would call a Christmas farce but has a lot of special moments and messages. I love the giant snowmen that becomes a nightmare and the crazy but lovable neighbors. The Botox/suntan bed scenes are humorous.

Skipping Christmas

Skipping Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Black History of the White House and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?

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Yep, it’s a book AND holiday movie review. One is reality and one is folklore, something that we do well. Actually, I am going to mostly rave about the book and wax nostalgic about Rudolph.  It has taken me two months (count em) to finish this book. The Black History of the White House by  Dr.Clarence Lusane should be required reading for every history class in America, and beyond. It is astounding in scope and I learned far more than I ever dreamed. I am still processing it all. It is a book that I will purchase and read again. I would love to do an in-depth book study of this. The discussions!

Many fairy tales I learned in American history class were blown out of the water in the face of the realities written in this book. African American slaves built the White House and most of the government buildings in Washington D.C., not to mention the city itself. The plantation owners who provided this slave labor were paid, but of course the slaves were not, which isn’t surprising but the fact there was no record of their names and contributions was. Some of the greatest architecture and workmanship in our nation’s history was done by slaves that were invisible and nameless. Our first president owned many slaves but it was downplayed politically. I am ashamed to say I knew very little of the legacy that unfolds here. It’s a case of white-folk denial syndrome. Shame on us!

This book is an amazing testament to the talent, intellect, workmanship and culture  African Americans sacrificed for our country’s capital, decades and decades before they would even be invited to dine there!  I admired this book from beginning to end and am changed forever by it’s content. The author also has an impressive three page narrative of accomplishments and credits in the back of this book.  He does an outstanding job of interweaving facts and political realities from the birth of our country up to our current President Obama. It’s unflinchingly honest and brilliant.

I wish I could say the same for J.K. Rowling‘s new book The Casual Vacancy. I wanted to like this, after all this is the author of the best kids book of all time, but I couldn’t. I frankly thought it was awful, and barely finished it. I wanted to quit numerous times. Too many characters, dumb story, bleak, brutal, depressing. I am a big fan of British authors and read a lot of them but this left me with the question “What’s the POINT of this”?!  I’m glad I won this copy and didn’t have to pay for it, I won’t be keeping this one. What the hay…look what priceless legacy she has gifted us with. I forgive her.

I was a child when Rankin-Bass produced the stop-motion animated t.v. special, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in 1964. I have a vivid memory of lying on the living room floor and being spell bound by a young reindeer who is ashamed of his red nose but ends up saving Christmas,  the aroma of my mom’s Christmas cookies in the background. It is one of those priceless childhood memories, a moment in time that I have never forgotten. My grown children don’t like this movie.

To me it’s sacred. We weren’t yet jaded by technology. They didn’t know what it was like to shiver with excitement and anticipation when they heard what night it would be on, or be mesmerized by it’s special effects and songs. You saw it once and had to wait another year before it would be shared through the wonders of childhood again. Visions of Rudolph danced in my head many nights afterwards and he always got a special cookie all his own Christmas Eve. Enjoy those precious child hood memories!

Walt Disney’s Holiday Celebration With Mickey And Pals

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I chose this one in honor of my friend who is terrified of mice, and because I didn’t feel like watching a full length movie tonight. You are NEVER too old to enjoy cartoons. I had an adventure last evening. I stopped at a craft store to buy some glue, was walking across the parking lot when I heard/felt a pop and my knee buckled. I felt excruciating pain and wasn’t sure I could make it to my car. The thought of laying in the parking lot and not being able to get up motivated me to limp to my car. I got home where my room mate put me to bed with an ice pack and ibuprofen. The pain wasn’t bad, as long as I didn’t move my leg.

This morning I called around to find a pair of crutches so I could get to a Dr. appointment. My friend…I’ll call her Cam, said she’d drive me but first she had to find someone to remove the dead mouse we had poisoned and had died right in front of her fridge. She was paralyzed with fear and felt nauseous. After hanging up I realized I would much rather go to her house and dispose of little mickey than limp to the pharmacy to get crutches. I called her back and offered her a deal and she jumped on it. My room mate had lent me a cane that I gingerly used to climb Cam’s front porch. I started laughing as I got out of my car (it was my left leg) and she started laughing as I got to her door. I looked pathetic and worse for wear and I was there to save her! We doubled over in laughter, that kind that makes you feel energized. The blind leading the blind.

We had both agonized how to kill little mickey in the hardware store over the weekend. I couldn’t face a bloodied carcass in a trap nor did she want to lay awake at night and listen for that creepy “snap”. On some level I knew I would be discarding it if it died on my watch, or hers, for that matter. I have always been creeped out by rodents in the house but by some strange reason I felt less afraid because Cam was terrified. I became the fearless expert giving her all my worldly advice and experience (from “watching” my former husband deal with them) and felt protective of her, besides we had a whole box of disposable gloves, so we went with poison.

I put on said gloves, grabbed paper towels and then the mouse and sealed it in a plastic tomb and put it on the front porch for transport to the garbage can. I felt very proud of myself. I thought it only fitting that I watch vintage Mickey Mouse cartoons in honor of our bravery. These are in technicolor so it wasn’t the dark ages. 1931-1949?

The first of seven cartoons is called “Mickey’s Good Deed“.  Mickey wants to help a destitute family (of cats) for Christmas by selling Pluto to a wealthy family because their bratty baby (pig) wanted a dog.  Unfortunately this (pig) liked to torture Pluto and he soon escaped back to his mousey owner, with a turkey tied to his tail none the less. The next selection is a Silly Symphony about penguins followed by a Donald Duck farce called “The Clock Watcher” followed by Pluto in “Rescue Dog”  and then Donald and Chip and Dale, the ultimate torture. Donald’s anger problems with these more respected rodents makes this a classic in “Corn Chips”.  My favorite is “Toy Tinker’s” with Chip and Dale again bringing Donald to his knees, but all ends well. Just like in cartoon life.

It appears I pulled (or popped?) a ligament and will have to stay off of it for a few days but nothing serious thankfully. More time to watch cartoons. Tomorrow… a couple book reviews thrown in.

The Bishop’s Wife

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I love this movie simply because it stars Cary Grant. I had the biggest crush on him when I was younger. I thought he got better looking the older he got. I have quite a collection of his films, To Catch a Thief, Arsenic and Old Lace, Father Goose, That Touch of Mink, and the Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer, another favorite. In this romantic comedy he plays Dudley, the angel sent by heaven to help the Bishop (David Niven) in his quest for a dramatic monument (church) to be built, while his long, suffering wife Julia (Young) longs for the simpler times when her husband wasn’t a Bishop. Personally I thought the angel was a stretch for Cary.

I remember thinking who wouldn’t want Cary Grant instead of cranky ole David Niven?  In this 1947 film Loretta Young has the face of an angel…it’s hard for one to believe she had an affair with Clark Gable while filming The Call of the Wild, got pregnant and had a daughter, put her in an orphanage and then adopted her because she had to hide the scandal. Mr. Gable was married at the time and Ms. Young was a devout Catholic. Clark never acknowledged the girl as his, even though he knew about her. How screwed up is that? The power and illusions of old Hollywood.

Dudley charms everyone in this movie but the Bishop. There is a hilarious scene with Mr. Niven stuck in a chair, that Dudley sets up to have more time with a neglected Julia, a divine no-no! Of course there is a little church choir in this one too that also sounds like the Vienna Boys Choir.  The scenes where Julia, Dudley and the taxi driver go skating look fake but this is still a holiday classic and has it’s charms.

I’ve been thinking that someone should do a “Retail Survivor” reality show. We’ve been bitching about this at the department store where I was working. We would personally like to order numerous customers out of the store and off the island. Or better yet, they could be punished by working retail for the holidays!  Why is it acceptable to heap anger and rudeness on anyone? Unless you have Tourette’s. And seriously…why would you think it would be o.k. to interrupt me when I am waiting on someone else who has patiently waited their turn because you are in a hurry?! No immunity HERE pal!

I gave my notice because they have totally misrepresented everything from the amount of hours I would get, to what hours I would be  ordered, to work. Overnight’s? I don’t THINK so! I’ve gotten another job lined up that is better suited to my needs AND attitude. When you want to tell them things like “Get your own damn bag, better yet, put it over your head”, or “Hang this up yourself… I’m not your frickin mother”, and my personal favorite…”Sure I would LOVE to delay my lunch hour so I can call forty stores to find something you could find yourself on-line, and people waiting get even more steamed, WHILE making minimum wage…then it’s time for you to quit.

I went through a line at Wal-Mart this week and gave the cashier a candy bar I had bought in thanks for working retail. I said, you matter. Yes there can be rude sales people, but that is because they have been doing it for too long, or they are a teen.

But isn’t it nice to know that there is a nice hokey holiday movie someone will blog about to keep you in that holiday mood? Viva-la-denial! It’s better than booze…but not chocolate!

The Bells Of Saint Mary’s

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This is the triple header of Bing Crosby movies. Tomorrow we will switch to my heart throb, Cary Grant. I told you I was born in the wrong decade.

I love this 1945  movie because it portrays a nun with power…something that you didn’t see in the old Catholic church, actually it’s still that way. Sister Benedict played by the charming Ingrid Bergman, goes toe to toe with Father O”Malley in this sequel to “Going My Way”. They disagree, good naturedly, about everything. She wants to save (through prayer) her broken down inner-city school that is about to be condemned. He thinks it should be demolished to make room for modern progress. The scenes of her teaching one of her students to box is classic.

This movie doesn’t have all the sub-plots that were in “Going My Way”. It is more simple and to the point. I was not raised Catholic but a lot of my friends were and none of their stories matched this one. The Catholic Church is not what it once was, which is a good thing. This movie was released in December and was considered a Christmas movie because of the pageant scene. It’s worth watching just for this.

You will recognize Henry Travers as Clarence, the muddled angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life”. He plays the crabby “heavy” in this film. Of course Sister Benedict comes down with tuberculosis near the end but I won’t tell you the twist. This is a sweet, funny movie about faith moving mountains, or mortgages in this case.

My room mate put up her Christmas tree this weekend while I was gone. It smells like pine and all the lights are twinkling. This will be the first holiday I haven’t had my own things. They are in storage a ways away. I am experiencing life through others right now and it’s been ok. I expected to struggle more because I have always been a “nester” and feathering it was one of my joys.

I’ve had other things that have been a priority and realized that “stuff” doesn’t have the same allure it used to. It will make getting my own place again, all the sweeter though. Simplify has become my middle name. Moving seven times in nine years (try explaining that on an application) cured me of getting, or staying too attached to my stuff. All but the most precious survived. It’s the old story of unpacking boxes that had things I hadn’t seen in years, and hadn’t missed. We owned/lived in two homes, 16 years collectively while I was married and I don’t think much of it remains and I’m still breathing. Life goes on, stuff doesn’t. Love remains.

Going My Way

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I adore Barry Fitzgerald in this vintage old Catholic version of life in a parish church. Young whipper-snapper (what DOES that mean?) Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O”Malley, shows up to secretly to take over the parish from aging Father Fitzgibbon, played by Fitzgerald. Father Fitzgibbon thinks he is the new assistant and distrusts the modern priest and his new ways. Father O”Malley wins Fitzgibbons respect which takes up most of this movie. This won best picture in 1944, (one of seven Academy Awards) and cemented Bing as the biggest box office draw for the remainder of the 40’s.

This is a shmaltzy totally unlikey story with a funny side-kick named Father O”Dowd, an old flame that is now a famous opera singer, a gang of wild boys getting into trouble and a budding romance, with a sentimental, emotional ending. I love it, although I do fast forward past the long opera scenes and I love the turkey that ends up on the parish dining table. Throw in Father O”Malley turning all the hoodlums into the Vienna Boys Choir and you have the perfect Hollywood fantasy. Gosh I loved the 40’s. This was so popular they made a sequel.

O’Malley’s turns the crisis ridden parish around and becomes the hero. Bing goes on to star in a sequel called “The Bells of Saint Mary’s” with Ingrid Bergman that I like even better, that’s my movie for tomorrow. I tend to watch all the oldies up front and build up to the “new fangled” color ones. Mr. Crosby was a staunch Catholic in real life but it was also discovered he beat his boys from his first wife who died from alcoholism and was known to be a tad too rigid. Too bad he wasn’t like the warm, loving Father O”Malley. Come to think of it there were a number of tough old birds that played endearing priests. I love denial, it makes for great movies.

Holiday Inn

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This is another old (1942) movie I watch every Thanksgiving weekend. It is an Irving Berlin musical starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale. This is the movie the iconic song “White Christmas” was introduced and it then went on to have it’s own movie.

I am not sure why I was so enamored by old movies as a kid, no one else in my family was, but I used to love to stay up late on weekends when all the old musicals and movies were on. I fell irrevocably in love with the style and class of Fred Astaire in the movie “Daddy Long Legs” with Leslie Caron and I was never the same again. I always had a secret desire to be a professional dancer and would spend hours in front of my bedroom mirror singing and dancing to it’s reflection…with Fred of course.

Bing’s character is fed up with the show business grind and retires to a farm in Connecticut. After discovering farm life is a different kind of nightmare (they refer to his stay in the sanitarium, and exploding preserves he put up himself) he decides to make the farm pay for itself by turning it into The Holiday Inn. His old show business partners think he is crazy.

It’s the best of both worlds because it touches on all the holidays while creating a backdrop for great singing and dancing by Bing and Fred and their partners. There is competition for the girl(s) and lots of comedy thrown in. Even though Bing’s housekeeper (played by Louise Beavers) at the Inn is playing a stereotypical role for African Americans of that era, she is treated like a contemporary. Although I found the black face number disconcerting. She plays Mamie, with two adorable children and is Bing’s confidant.

Fred Astaire does one of his most famous dance numbers inspired by fire crackers at the 4th of July performance and watching Fred trying to identify a woman he has only seen from the back on a crowded dance floor is not to be missed. This is a charming movie I never get tired of.

Today will be day of relaxing and doing what I want. We had a mouse in the house last night and my friend gets freaked out by them. We were problem solving last night and laughing the whole time. Could it have gotten in here…or here? Or the million and one other little holes and crevices in a vintage house?! There is an ominous closet that she has heard some rustlings from. I told her I’d clean it out for her. Meaning…I’ll touch the stuff.

My friend had an incident in her past where she was in the shower and one came up through the drain and she ran screaming. That would creep anyone out! Of course this was in Chicago, the mice are more nervy there. So we will head to ACE Hardware to explore mouse exterminators. Laughing all the way!