Farewell, Andrew Breitbart…

I woke up, went online, and I think I first saw the news on Yahoo. If I hadn’t checked the BIG websites, I never would have believed it could be true. But it was. Andrew Breitbart has died. I still haven’t recovered from the shock. But while I never even met him, his dear wife and four children have just lost a husband and father. I’m praying for them, and hope you will, too.

Really, I say that I think the news was on Yahoo, but there’s no proof of that, now, because I can’t find it listed anywhere on Yahoo’s search page. And I’ve been checking all day. When there was just the possibility that Whitney Houston had died, it was listed at the top of the page. When there’s a rumor that Snooki might be pregnant, it’s on the front page. But when our country loses one of it’s greatest culture warriors, a giant of the conservative media, and a flat out good man, I can’t find a thing. Yes, that is our mainstream media for you.

I’ve got to get this out of my system. I love Emerald, but the only Aussies in town who have any idea of how American politics work, well, they’ve lived in the U.S. at some point. So, I have no one that I can talk to about the loss that my country barely realizes. And as far as I know, I’m the only one of my friends and family who reads Breitbart’s websites religiously, has read his book, and keeps up with his appearances at conservative and Tea Party functions. I’m floundering, and if I can’t talk about it on my blog, then what’s left?

I didn’t pay attention to politics, when I was growing up, though my dad talked about it enough for me to be aware of who was President, and what the problems were. I didn’t really know anything about Reagan, as he became President when I was a baby, and my awareness of George H. W. Bush only materialized when he lost his second election. I overheard discussions about Clinton, but I still didn’t soak much of it in. And though I’ve voted in every election since I turned eighteen, I didn’t really take a serious interest until I was well into my twenties.

Whether it started with Ann Coulter or Human Events, I’m no longer sure. Whichever it was, the one led me to the other. I picked up a copy of Coulter’s Treason, and was surprised and delighted to find it full of Cold War history. I barely remembered what I’d been taught in school, and I’m pretty sure that it was all wrong. So, finally figuring out what the Cold War was, as well as how it began… this was marvelous. From there, I read everything Coulter ever wrote, including High Crimes and Misdemeanors, even though the subject of Clinton’s sex life was pretty off-putting.

If Coulter’s books came first, I’m betting there were quotes from Human Events in them, which I then heard was Ronald Reagan’s favorite newspaper. I immediately got a paper (yes, the actual paper) subscription, but quickly found that I preferred reading the online articles. I’ve never looked back, getting hooked on reading internet pundits, as well as anything I can find on Cold War history and books that give the politically incorrect truth about our country.

Somewhere along the line, searching the pundit sites, I discovered BigHollywood.com. This website was created by Andrew Breitbart as a conservative group blog, where Hollywood conservatives could write about everything concerning movies, music, actors, and all the politics that are mixed into the lot. I loved the different viewpoints which were still all basically conservative, though the writers were of all types and religious backgrounds. Some were people I would get along with, some were people that I would be confused or intimidated by, but every one of them loved their country, and wanted to see change wrought in our culture.

I discovered BigHollywood right before Breitbart launched BigGovernment, and then in the following years, BigJournalism, and BigPeace. Each one of the BIGs had a different purpose and slant to its writing, and I’ll admit that I still read BigHollywood the most. But no matter where I was reading, Andrew Breitbart wasn’t avoiding his own creations. He regularly wrote articles for the sites, showing that he was still keeping up with the times, and his writing was always interesting, pertinent, and on-target. Also, fun!

As I did more reading, over the years, and watched his interviews, online, and finally read his book, I found out what Andrew Breitbart’s real purpose was in creating these websites. He called himself a “culture warrior”, as he believed that culture was upstream from politics. If you change the culture of a country, you’ll affect the politics. So, as the years have gone by, and our movies and music, and Hollywood itself have become more liberal, the conservative have been fighting over politics, but not attempting to fix the culture.

Andrew’s goal was to allow the conservatives of Hollywood to come out of hiding, be able to write on his blogs, and show that there were still people from the Right living there. He believed that the more people support conservative music and films, the more that Hollywood will take notice. Also, he wanted people to be aware of the things that liberal Hollywood says about us, as the actors have become activists, no longer hiding their contempt for Middle America.

If you read his book, Righteous Indignation, you’ll see how Andrew immediately understood the advantages of the Internet, which allowed him to get the conservative media narrative out there, when the mainstream media was only feeding us lies. Organizations like ACORN were brought down, because live footage of their corrupt dealings were published by Breitbart’s websites.

Next to Sarah Palin, Andrew Breitbart was probably the most popular speaker at any Tea Party rally, and whether on talk shows or just confronted on the street, he never backed down from any liberal argument. He was a fighter, and pulled no punches with anyone. I don’t like confrontation, myself, and will avoid them at all cost, so I’ve even been startled to watch videos of him verbally “hitting back”, when someone struck at him. Blunt, never intimidated, and right! Liberal activists didn’t know what to do with him.

And now he’s gone. Fifty years of “what-should-have-been” has flashed before my eyes. All the books he’ll never write, and the arguments he’ll never finish. So, it’s for us that he left behind to finish what he began, and take our culture back. To keep our government accountable for its actions. And to not allow the mainstream media to “rule the narrative”, as Andrew was wont to say.

I never met him, but because of everything I’ve been reading, seeing, and hearing from him for the last several years, I felt like I knew him. And I’m crushed that he’s gone.

Thank you, Andrew. For everything. We will miss you.

the saturday books…3…

Either my time at the bookstore wasn’t well-spent, or I’m just too familiar with most of the books that I saw. I’m afraid the selection of new books that caught my attention, well, they were few and far between. Or I just can’t remember. I did spend a good bit of time going through the Australiana section, trying to remember the name of a particular classic that my friends tell me “everyone should read”. Of course, I didn’t think of it until I was at the store, and I lost all my phone numbers recently. So, instead of being able to consult anyone, I just gave the bookstore workers some really limited description. So, I’ll try that another day.

The first book that caught my eyes was The Little Shadows, by Marina Endicott. Of course, it was the beautiful cover that attracted me, so I picked it up and took a look. It’s the tale of Aurora, Clover, and Bella Avery, who have recently lost their father. Unable to support them otherwise, their mother takes them on the vaudeville circuit with her. So, it’s a coming-of-age tale of young girls in the age of vaudeville, and during a time of war. The book won some literary awards, and all the reviews I’ve read say that it’s excellent. I hope that they’re right, as I’d really like to read it.

And then, I came across The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Now, I’ve heard some wonderful things about the movie, so I’m really excited that it’ll finally be at our local theater, tomorrow. So, when I heard it was a book, I tried to get it on Kindle, and was annoyed that it doesn’t come in Kindle format. But what I didn’t know was that this book won the American Caldecott Medal for it’s beautiful illustrations, which explains why you can’t get it in an e-book. When I flipped open the book, I found it loaded with pictures, and fascinated as I was, I had to force myself to put it down. Because it’s a sizable book, and I don’t need the extra weight in my luggage, when I head home. I can get it when I’m back in the U.S.

If you haven’t seen the film (directed by Martin Scorsese), which is supposed to be one of the best ever filmed in 3D (they say that Scorsese knows how to use it properly), then I can only tell you the little that I know. Hugo Cabret is an orphan, living in a train station, whose life intersects with a young girl and an old man in a toy booth. Hugo’s life is surrounded by secrets, but he has to risk losing his secrecy, in order to discover the message that his father has left for him. It’s a mystery, and I can’t wait to see it on film AND read the book.

Now, to make up for not having a bunch of books to tell you about from the bookstore, I have another angle to go with this. Because I look after children, I get to watch a lot of Playschool, when Sadie isn’t at kindy (they say that instead of kindergarten, here in AUS). It’s a really awesome show, by the way, with actors telling stories and introducing children to all sorts of educational subjects. Many songs are sung, and the actors really throw themselves into it. Whether the actors are pretending to be animals, dancing and singing, or telling stories with costume or stuffed animals, I find it quite wonderful, and wonder if I can get the series on DVD, to take home for my children, someday.

Yes, I know we had Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street, in the U.S., but I honestly don’t remember much about Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Someone will have to remind me. I remember his sweaters, the sound of his voice, and the train.

During the half hour show, they always read a story, at some point, and some of them are wonderful. Two of my recent favorites are Bears on Chairs, which is written by Shirley Parenteau and illustrated by David Walker, and It’s Time to Sleep, You Crazy Sheep!, which is written by Alison Ritchie and illustrated by Cornelia Haas. I really don’t sit down and watch it with them, but if I’m folding laundry or cuddling a fussy baby, I can’t help but watch.

Bears on Chairs is nothing short of delightful. It’s a simple little story, involving some adorable teddy bears that are trying their best to make sure that all the little bears and Big Brown Bear can fit on the chairs. It’s a wonderful story to help a child learn about sharing, making room for others, and not pushing. My Bubby is just learning that she can’t always have a lap to herself, nor can she always sit in a chair by herself. And climbing up behind someone and trying to shove them out (which, of course, she can’t do), well, that’s just not acceptable.

It’s Time to Sleep, You Crazy Sheep! is a hilariously drawn story about a little girl that is trying to go to sleep, so she begins to count sheep. Well, she tries to count them, but her sheep are very uncooperative. They go skating, skiing, jumping on trampolines, swimming, and eventually end up getting on a plane to go to Mexico (at least, I’m guessing that’s where they’re headed). During the whole adventure, the little girl begs her sheep to behave and hold still so that she can count them, but they never do. I also noticed that this book must come from a UK publisher, as the sheep play a game of football, instead of soccer. This one will definitely be read and worn out by my own children, once I find myself a copy.

One thing about Playschool, though, is that not all of the episodes are recent. I think it actually started in the late 60’s, but I don’t think they show episodes quite that old. From how the actors dress, I’m guessing we watch episodes from the last 10-15 years. Either way, some of the books they read on the show may be out of print, as the two I just talked about were only available used, on Amazon. Nothing wrong with a used book, though, but I’m just pointing it out.

Well, I know this was a good bit shorter than my usual Saturday book post, but I’m sure the quality of what I want to read is still pretty good. But just think of all the books I’ll be able to talk about, when I get home and go visit Barnes & Noble! Can you believe it’s less than two months away?!

a solemn promise…

I didn’t know it was possible for me to want to go outside (during this Australian summer) in order to thaw out. But that’s just what happened after I went to the movies last time, and forgot to bring a hoodie or a pashmina scarf to huddle into. By the time we left the theater, my friends probably thought I’d been crying during the movie, because I kept blowing my nose. In actuality, it was like when you’re outside on a cold winter day, and your nose feels like it’s probably dripping, but since it’s numb, you can’t quite be sure. Hence, the blowing of the nose, and the presumption that I’m in tears. In fact, as good and as enjoyable as the movie was, I didn’t shed a tear. So there.

The movie I saw was The Vow, starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. I knew, going into this, that it was based on a true story, and what the main plot was. But because of how it was advertised and filmed, I kept thinking I was in a Nicholas Sparks movie. Which is why I continued to be pleasantly surprised, as bit by bit, the story was revealed.

[Spoiler Alert, if you haven’t seen The Vow yet, don’t read any further!]

I’m not saying that I don’t like movies based on Nicholas Sparks’ books. I’m just picking on his movies as an example of how Hollywood films “chick flicks”. And while I think that a chick flick of that sort can be very enjoyable, they can be and should be so much more than eye candy. Like most women out there, I saw The Notebook, and loved it. But only later, did it begin to register that I was so caught up in the romance, that I was blinded to the characters’ morals.

Ok, I’m going off on a rabbit trail for a bit. I will come back to The Vow, eventually.

In The Notebook, you are immediately touched by the beauty of James Garner’s character looking out for the woman he loves, even when she no longer remembers him. And as he tells her their story, you’re delighted by young love and the mischief the two of them get into. But then they’re apart, and she begins to find love with another man, and agrees to marry him.

Of course, then Noah comes back into her life, and she has to choose between the two. Everybody remembers the iconic fight and kissing-in-the-rain resolution that ends up with the two of them in bed, and she wonders what she’s missed by not having sex like that before. But while you’re caught up in the romance, you’re missing something. She is lying and cheating on her fiance. Has anybody ever realized this?

Sure, all movies nowadays seem to tell you that love is the only important thing, and you should never say no to it. Well, they’re talking about passion and lust, not love. Love is an action, an unselfish one, that has nothing to do with mushy feelings, but everything to do with looking out for the best for the other person.

Yes, I believe that sex should be saved until marriage, and only for the frame of marriage. Whether you agree with that or not, the definition of true, everlasting love, is not found in the selfishness of cheating and lying. Allie is cheating on her fiance, and considering that she promised to marry him and love him forever, she is now living a lie, by her actions. And I despise a cheater, especially one who denies that they’ve done anything wrong. When the story finishes, nowadays, I’m glad that Noah and Allie stuck with each other, through thick and thin… but I feel sorry for the man she ditched, just because she couldn’t keep her clothes on with another man.

Let’s return to The Vow, shall we? I like Rachel McAdams, but since she stars in The Notebook, you can see why it would be easy to mix up the two movies, right? And though I’ve never seen Dear John, I’m aware that Channing Tatum was in that, so there’s some more Sparks movies for you. I also think that Channing Tatum is gorgeous, but when it comes to him, I’m most familiar with seeing him in She’s the Man. And the two leads may have a great scene in the kissing booth, but when I think of him, all I can hear is “I like cheese.”, in that confused tone, as Viola attempts to coach him on how to talk to girls. That movie’s a scream because of Amanda Bynes, by the way, and because it’s based on Shakespeare.

When the lights come down on The Vow, I know some of what’s coming, but not exactly how the story resolves itself. Leo and Paige are a young married couple that get into a car accident, and Paige loses her immediate memory, including every memory of how she met and married her husband. We see numerous flashbacks of loving moments in their married life, before the accident, and every girl will wish that she was in Paige’s shoes. Their wedding in the Art Institute is beautiful, and yet funny, when they’re almost caught by security.

I want to congratulate someone on this film. Either the couple it’s based on, or the screenwriters, or someone. Because if they’d made it like every other chick flick or rom-com out there, I wouldn’t have liked it so much. It must have been almost irresistible to fall into the usual cliché moments in the story, but I think they escaped a lot of them. So, congrats to someone.

Leo is crushed by his wife’s not remembering him, and the possibility that her parents may take her away from him. He could’ve turned to another woman in this story, just for a one-night stand, but he didn’t. Where was Hollywood? Paige only remembers her previous fiance, but she doesn’t remember dumping him. She does kiss him, almost accidentally, but there’s no bedroom scene with these two, either. Paige’s sister may seem a trifle flighty, but when her future husband expresses nervousness over their upcoming nuptials, the film doesn’t turn it into a fight scene. This would have been the chance to show this man wasn’t really wanting to get married and that his future wife was a witch, just out for money and the “achievement” of marriage, or the approval of her parents. Instead, Leo’s character uses some wisdom that he’s used from the music world, and leaves both almost-newlyweds smiling.

So, if you can’t have the snarky sister who’s really a bitch, when no one can see her, what do you have left? The parents that are trying control your entire life, of course, and who would rather you went to law school than art school. Paige doesn’t remember why she left home and avoided her family for so long, and we find out later that Leo knew, but didn’t tell her. Because despite the things that the Thorntons did wrong, he didn’t want to drive her away from her parents, just to get her back. He wanted to win her love again, the right way.

As for her parents, her dad (played by Sam Neill) wants to separate Paige and Leo, even suggesting Leo divorce Paige. Leo knows the truth about the past, and walks away from a fight, though he calls Mr. Thornton a hypocrite and a coward, first. Paige discovers from a former friend that he friend and her father had an affair, and her friend apologizes. Upset by not being told, Paige confronts her mother.

This is my favorite scene, bar none. Yes, the romance is beautiful, but I think this scene has something even better for the viewer. Mrs. Thornton tells her daughter that she didn’t want to lose her again, and Paige wants to know why she didn’t leave her father. Her mother says that “chose to stay with him. I chose to stay with him for all the things that he did right, not for the one thing he did wrong. I chose to forgive him”.

That’s powerful. Because forgiveness in the face of that type of betrayal should be impossible. But love is an action, and this woman acted in love. Love for her children, and the hurt that their separation would put them through. Love for her husband, and all they’d had together before his fall from grace. This is true love in action, and the willingness to fight for a marriage, even in the face of something that most of us would crumble under.

If you are reading this, and you’ve been in this situation, I am not judging anyone for what they did, as a result. Only the love of Christ would enable me to forgive, if I was put into that situation. I am only saying this is a type of strength, love, commitment, kindness, and forgiveness that you will rarely find in movies nowadays. And I applaud the filmmakers for allowing it to reach the screen, without editing it out.

Paige has heard about all the things that her own husband did right. And now, though she doesn’t remember her love for him, she has to consider that she could choose to get to know him again, to love him, because of how he loves her, and has taken care of her for so long. And she does go away, to find out how she is again. In a way, she really did have to “find herself”, because she doesn’t remember who she had become in the last few years. But eventually, she’s ready to go back and fall in love with her husband again.

During this whole time, Leo does his best to show her his love, in action, even when he doesn’t feel like it. Sure, he snaps and yells, now and then, but don’t we all? He puts up with embarrassing situations with her family, drives her places he doesn’t want to be, and encourages her by showing her what she did and loved before. When she changes, he takes it in his stride. He loves her, so he’ll grow with her and love her as who she is, no matter what. Isn’t that what he vowed to do? A solemn promise, a vow, an oath, whatever you want to call it. He made that vow, and he’ll keep it.

I don’t think I’ve done this subject justice, but I tried. I hope many people go see this movie, whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not. This movie has some good things to say about the true meaning of love, and I think everyone needs a dose of that, all year round.

a well-known favoritism…

If I asked you which of Jane Austen’s books your favorite is, would you automatically tell me that it’s Pride & Prejudice? Or would you take the time to tell me that the only one you’ve ever read is P&P, so you really aren’t qualified to judge? Or perhaps you’d give me the same original answer, based on it being the only Jane Austen film you’ve ever seen?

You see, having read Austen’s novels (the six main books), for many years now, I find that my favorite doesn’t seem to be the common favorite. Or, at least, it isn’t the one that is perceived to be the favorite. But despite the many film adaptations, the fact that Pride & Prejudice is one of Austen’s shortest (and easiest to read), and the irresistible attraction of Mr. Darcy, I don’t believe that P&P really is the favorite. It is, however, the most well-known, and yes, thousands of women go through Darcy withdrawal symptoms, every time they watch the Colin Firth version.

Now, if I asked someone about their favorite book by C.S. Lewis, and they weren’t well-read, they might tell me that they loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but they had never read the rest of the Narnia series. Don’t get me started on how this is even possible. They may not have known that Lewis wrote SO much more than children’s stories. So, they would they ever have such an opinion as mine? Of the Narnia series, my favorite is probably The Horse and His Boy (it’s probably a tie with LWW), I don’t particularly like The Silver Chair (with the exception of Puddleglum), and I can’t stand The Last Battle, except for the last few chapters. I’ll read the last chapters repeatedly, and skip the rest.

If I asked you which of L.M. Montgomery’s books you liked best, would you tell me it’s Anne of Green Gables, because you’ve seen the movie, or only read that particular book? Would you know the gates of awesomeness you have entered into, if you read the entire Anne series, especially Rilla of Ingleside (my favorite)? And let’s just forget the Anne series for a moment, because you still haven’t touched on her best books, The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill, the Pat duology, the Emily trilogy, and The Story Girl. If someone has truly read the rest of an author’s books, I don’t know if they’ll ever pick the most well-known book as their favorite. Possible, but not guaranteed.

I vaguely recall having seen a few movies, over the years, where the heroines were asked about their favorite book, and they named Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Each time I heard this, I found it odd, as I’d always had trouble getting into Persuasion and understanding it. If this were truly a movie heroine favorite, there must be something in it. I have no qualms about mentioning that it took me watching the 1995 and 2007 BBC adaptations of Persuasion (repeatedly) before I was willing to take a swing at the book again. And even though the older version of the film is more true to the book, I don’t find Ciaran Hinds all that attractive, so it was the newer version I was drawn to. Since then, I have adored the book, and read it numerous times.

However, I have been rambling on in this fashion for all this time, because I just finished rereading Northanger Abbey, after having watched the movie again. It was a night when I was feeling better, but not completely top-notch yet, so I was in the mood for a favorite movie. But what a good movie will do is whet your appetite for reading the original story… at least in my case. So, out came the Kindle (sorry, my book copy’s in a storage unit, somewhere in the U.S.), and away I went into Jane Austen’s world.

I think Northanger Abbey gets overlooked as often as Mansfield Park does. The latter, because the book is pretty large and about a heroine who is quiet, tires easily, and hasn’t much to say for herself. I speak to outward appearances, as I happen to love that book. But compared to the feistiness of Marianne Dashwood, the poor relation in the form of Fanny Price may be a dull dish to some. I happen to think Marianne is annoying, a lot of the time, so I find Fanny’s good sense to be refreshing, even if she has trouble putting forth her own opinion.

The former book gets overlooked, not for its length, but for what may be seen as the simplicity of the story line. A young girl goes to Bath, meets a young man, and then goes to visit his family in the country. Her heightened sense of romance from reading too many novels causes her to have a few scares, while staying in the Abbey. She loves him, he eventually loves her, his father has a problem, but eventually it’s resolved. This probably is what the book blurb will sound, with the mention of some mystery surrounding Catherine’s visit to the Abbey.

How can this seemingly simple romance even compare to the misunderstandings between Lizzy and Darcy? To the ups and downs of Marianne and Willoughby, while Elinor breaks her heart over Edward Ferrars? Emma Woodhouse is in full command of her own home, and though young, willing to try her hand at anything. Fanny Price has to put up with the courtship of an unwanted suitor, while watching Edmund fall for another. And Anne Elliot, of course, never forgets her first love, though the years go by, and her looks fade away.

But there is so much more to the story of Northanger Abbey, and the love story of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney! Do not overlook this one, even if you’re tempted to do so. I think this book contains Austen’s greatest hero, who is the epitome of a gentleman, and has the kind of character that every woman wants to find in the man of her dreams. He also happens to be a bookworm, which doesn’t harm him, in my eyes.

I’m working on a post specifically about this book, but it’s giving me a headache, at present, and not turning out how I want. I will do my best to finish it satisfactorily, for my sake and yours, so stay tuned.

in a desultory fashion…

I was listening to the rain pounding on the roof (which is why I’m not going running today), but then I realized the girls had Playschool turned on louder than usual. So, I put on the headphones, and cranked up Transformers 1 & 2 (the scores, not the rock soundtracks). Now, I can hear that AND the rain, which is coming down quite hard at present.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the Playschool show, but I’ve had enough for one day. There are some good shows over here for kids, really! But even with the good ones like Mr. Maker and The Wiggles AND the annoying ones (I hate Yo Gabba Gabba), I spend a lot of time wondering how much these people get paid to act or dress like that. I mean, come on, Mr. Maker is very crafty, but he puts too much gel in his hair, wears a polka dotted vest, and spends half the show with his eyes open so wide, it looks like his eyeballs are about to pop out! And some of the Wiggles have Beatles haircuts, but dress like they’re on Star Trek (this is not a slam against Star Trek, I just don’t think the Beatles and Star Trek should go together).

But they’re still good shows, most of them, and I find it hard to NOT watch, when I’m folding laundry or filling the dishwasher. And if Sadie’s still asleep when Bubby wakes up, it isn’t unusual for me to turn the TV on, so I can watch Tinga Tinga (African tales in the jungle, which explain why the zebra has stripes, why giraffe has a long neck, why tortoise is slow). The order of shows change every once in a while, which is probably good, because I was getting addicted to watching Babar. Maybe because I remember reading the books, when I was little?

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, being random. In a little while, I’ll continue reading The Help (by Kathryn Stockett), on my Kindle. I didn’t plan on reading it just because I’m about to go see the movie. That was a coincidence. But as it happens, it’s going to be in the theater this week. Yes, I know, if you’re in the U.S., it’s probably been out since, oh… August? Sometimes the movies over here come straight to Emerald’s theater, and other times, it takes forever. For example, I’m pretty sure the new Jane Eyre (with Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska) has been out in the U.S. since March or April, but I didn’t get around to seeing it before I left. It may very well be on DVD over there, and it still hasn’t arrived here. In Emerald, I mean. It’s probably hit all the big cities, already.

So, I’m really enjoying The Help. I knew I would, of course, but it’s a good read, and I’d recommend it to anyone. It gives you a bird’s eye view of what life was like in the segregated American South, right around the time of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington. I enjoy how the perspectives change between Skeeter (the white girl who’s only just getting her eyes open to what’s really around her) and Aibileen and Minny (the black maids). It makes me cringe, knowing that people are capable of treating other human beings in such a way. And I’m glad that there are stories of both good and bad, in the book that Skeeter is writing. Even when it’s told from the side of the maids, they point out the kindness and love shown by some people.

Previous to this, if you’ve been noticing my book list, I’ve been reading a bunch of fantasy, and then switching over to some young adult adventure (John Marsden’s Tomorrow series). I was debating what to read next, after The Help. I have quite a few non-fiction books on my Kindle that I really want to read, like In Defense of Thomas Jefferson (William G. Hyland), Unplanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey across the Life Line (Abby Johnson), and The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing (Jayna Davis). But then I got an e-mail from the library, letting me know the books I’d put on hold have arrived. I’m getting the next book in each of the three series’ that I’m reading. So, starting another non-fiction binge will have to wait. If I can finish each of the series (series-es?), I can hit up some more serious reading matter. Not that The Help isn’t serious, of course.

Up until today, I’ve been keeping up with my jog/walking, except for when I got sick. I missed two days, that week. But at present, I don’t want to get my only pair of sneakers soaked. Also, it was thundering majorly, earlier. Don’t you think there should be a way to say it was “lightning-ing”? I find lightning much more alarming than thunder, sometimes.

So, I can now have an argument with myself over whether to jog/walk tomorrow, or just skip a day. Guess it depends on whether it’ll rain tomorrow, or if it’s predicted for Wednesday. Who knows? Oy. I just checked the weather report, and we have rain and thunderstorms predicted almost every day. I guess I’ll have to face the serious issue of wet sneaks or no exercise. Blast.

I discovered, the other day, that listening to Andrea Bocelli music can actually make you homesick. Not crying-my-eyes-out homesick, just longing (inside) for home. I had cranked up Sogno on my headphones, and away I went, dreaming of home, and wishing that April would arrive sooner. Not only does his singing make you feel emotional, but I have so many memories attached to listening to his music with my closest friends. How many times have Hannah, Sarah, and I bellowed along with Romanza, even though we don’t understand any of the words? We would just make them up as we went along.

Speaking of homesickness, I still haven’t had a serious spell of it. Some people predicted that I would have a hard time with, because I’m such a homebody, but seriously? I lived 10 hrs from my family for five years! Sure, I could spend a half day driving home, whenever I felt like it, but I think those people guessed wrong. It helps, my brain being confused by all the wrong seasons and stuff. I keep forgetting it’s October, and close to November. Summer is about to start here, and for me, Christmas can’t be coming if it isn’t fall, you know. I think the mental confusion helps, make me think I haven’t been here very long… and then the next day, I think I’ve been here forever.

The only difference, being Down Under, is I can’t “run away” home for the weekend, if I feel like it. If I have a moment when I need to SEE my family, then I arrange a video Skype date. But for the most part, phone calls (from my laptop to my parents’ phone), e-mails, and Facebook have sufficed. Spring (in the U.S.) will be here before I know it.

Excuse the rambling. It’s all I’ve got, at present, but at least I’m good at it.  : )

Waiting for Spring (at Home)

of country, disney, & davy…

Several weeks ago, I burned a CD for my Aussie family, full of country songs that I like. It was mostly a self-defense move, as they love country, but I recognize very few of the artists. I have now listened to Taylor Swift, even. But the only voice I knew right away was Toby Keith’s… and do they have any of his CDs that I recognize? Unfortunately, I’m only familiar with his Greatest Hits 2 disc… you know, the one with “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)” on it. I still remember the first time I heard that song. It was a while after 9/11, and the moment I heard it, I knew I needed to listen to that CD.

Of course, it was my mom that introduced me to it. I promptly got hooked on the aforementioned song, as well as “Beer for My Horses”. And then I fell in love with the duet “Mockingbird”. That song and I have a strange and wonderful relationship, as I listened to it for years, and then my parents had a dance (they took ballroom dance lessons) choreographed to it. After listening to it for 10,000 times in the next month (while they practiced), the boys and I got sick of it. It took me a couple ‘nother years before I could start to listen to it again. But their dance number at the Showcase was awesome!

And for those of you who know what I’m talking about, I’m the one who introduced Ethan to “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue”, back when he was on summer staff. Those who remember, you know who you are. Can anyone ever forget, “We’ll put a boot in your UH!”? Ahh, the memories.

Ok, back on track, now.

Since I sometimes pick the girls up from school, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce them to country music that I like. So, their new CD is full of Billy Gilman, Carrie Underwood, Lonestar, and Tim Rushlow. It seems that when I transferred music over to my laptop, a few artists got missed. Toby Keith included. Le sigh. But the girls took to Billy Gilman, immediately, and I’ve always liked his One Voice CD, no matter if anybody else does or not. Can you believe he recorded that disc when he was twelve, and now he’s in his twenties? I can’t. Anyway, the only problem with the girls listening to these songs is that they have trouble telling Gilman and Underwood’s voices apart. However, we’re working on that.

Well, I still enjoy the songs, but now we grownups have been listening to these songs a LOT, because the girls like to listen to the same ones, over and over. So, when they were about to set out on a long trip, I thought they could use another disc as an alternative. And what would I fill it with? Disney music, of course.

Think about it… what kid, of any age, from 3 on up, hasn’t watched a Disney movie? I mean, in families that have televisions? They all have, so if I picked the right songs, they’d be familiar with those, and probably would be willing to listen to some of the ones they didn’t know. My hope, ever since I arrived her, has been to introduce to new things, things that I’m interested in. So, I want them to read more, and enjoy reading. And I also want to introduce them to new songs, if I can. For me, I get most of them from musicals, but failing that, I’ll see that they learn a lot of Disney songs.

And so, I burned them a CD, full of Disney songs. In addition to the ones they knew, I had to throw in some interesting ones, that I was sure they’d like, if given a chance. For example, “On the Front Porch With You”, which I sing Bubby to sleep with, all the time. And another awesome Burl Ives number, “The Ugly Bug Ball”. Every little kid should be able to sing “Once a lonely caterpillar sat and cried, to a sympathetic beetle by his side. ‘I’ve got nobody to hug, I’m such an ugly bug’. Then the spider and the dragonfly replied, ‘If you’re serious and want to win a bride, come along with us to the glorious, annual Ugly Bug Ball’.”

I did include plenty of well-known numbers, like “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” (the little girls LOVE singing along with this one), “Chim-Chim-Cheree”, “A Whole New World”, and “Kiss the Girl”. But I had a sneaky feeling that the kids have probably never seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks, so I put “Portobello Road” on the disc.  An Angela Lansbury classic, I’ve always loved that movie. And wished I could get MY bed to fly wherever I wanted to visit. The final battle scene, with the suits of armor is great, too.

But there was another song that I put on there, almost as an afterthought. That, and I thought it would be a good example of an American classic song, that my Aussie kids should be introduced to. I did NOT expect them to come home singing it constantly.

When the family arrived home from their trip, Mrs. B commented, immediately, about my putting the Davy Crockett song (officially called “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”) on the CD. A coincidence? Yes. But how was I to know that Mrs. B was raised on that song, as her dad likes all sorts of “old-school” ballads, and though the kids had never learned the words, they’d heard about it, or heard it sung once or twice. So, while in the car, they fastened onto that song, and listened to it over and over and over, until all four (Bubby can’t talk yet, remember?) knew ALL the words.

And they’ve been singing it ever since. Now, none of us grownups mind it, but it still seems so odd to hear it sung all over the house, for the last two days straight. Yesterday, I went out for an hour or two, and they were singing it, while their dad accompanied them on the guitar. When I returned, they were still singing it, they’d just changed to a different room. Turns out, they’d been making up a dance, so they could dance it and sing it for their dear Gramps. And they did that, today, and he happily joined in singing with them.

The other night, we were also looking for a movie to watch, on BigPond.com, and Bea found Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier listed there. Only her mom’s insistence that they wait to watch it with their grandparents prevented her from renting it immediately. No, they’ve never seen it.

Another thing… they keep singing the words “killed him a BEAR, when he was only three”, though the pronunciation on the movie version is “BAHRR”. You know, good old Western backwoods speak. I mentioned this to them, today, and Mrs. B explained why they sing it as “bear” instead of “bahrr”. While on the trip home, there was confusion from the kids over what the singer was actually saying. They thought it might be a “boar” that Davy Crockett killed, so their parents had to explain what it really was. So, they ditched that pronunciation, to prevent further confusion.

Yesterday morning, I woke up with the Davy Crockett song stuck in my head. I think it’s here to stay.  : )

of boxes & bling…

This has been quite a week for packages and letters. The box from my mom arrived a day before our movie binge began, and the one from Amazon arrived on that Friday. So, I was completely set for movies, as well as many other things that I asked my mom to send.

I think all those postcards I sent, about a month back, must’ve convinced some people to write. But never mind, I suddenly started to receive cards, letters, postcards, and photos in the mail. Such delight! You have no idea. I tell you the truth… it took over four months before I received a real letter from the U.S.  I guess that’s what happens when you do tons of communicating over the internet. But it is SO fun to receive real snail mail.

My mom’s been waiting to send the latest box until there were more things to go into it… and then I asked that it be sent, pronto. But it still came full of exciting things, both items I’d asked for, and some that I hadn’t.

Aside from a couple of movies that I’d left at home, I wanted all my recipes and some cheap plastic measuring cups & spoons sent to me. Now, I can do some cooking with the girls, and introduce them to foods (mostly dessert) that I grew up with. We can translate them into metric, later, but for now, I need to use recipes that are in my own language. We’ll still have to convert the temperatures to Celsius, but that shouldn’t be too difficult, now that rest has been dealt with.

Someone I know picked up some beaded necklaces at Mardi Gras in Louisiana (no, it’s not the Mardi Gras like in Sydney). But the talk about how you get the necklaces isn’t that great in the U.S., either, so I won’t go into it. Not a holiday I celebrate, so I don’t quite see the point. But my parents remember getting those beads from somewhere, when I was a child, and how much my cousins and I enjoyed dressing up in them. So, my recent package from home arrived with a large bag full of them. My girls got a royal kick out of them, too. Especially the littles, but they all enjoyed them. Hence, the bling photo shoot.

Back to the cooking stuff, I made a random request for one of our old-fashioned cookie presses, so that I could make press cookies. Press cookies are a type that my family always makes at Christmas time, using an aluminum twist handle press (instead of one with a button or “trigger”). We don’t HAVE to make them for Christmas, while I’m here, really. I keep remembering that we’ll be well into summer, and running the oven won’t be fun. But I think the girls will enjoy making them, seeing the neat shapes, and then putting icing and sprinkles on them.

Biscuit cutters made it into the mix, though unrequested, but they’ll come in handy when I show my friends over here how we make buttermilk biscuits back home. I look forward to having biscuits and gravy, some day soon.

One day brought a crazy postcard, and I knew which cousin had sent it, before I even looked at the address. Another day brought a note and some photos. A letter from an elderly friend of mine, with handwriting reminiscent of my grandma’s writing. And a fun card, with a picture of a child and a horse. My girls loved that card, as they’re into horses, and this family is into little girls.  : )   Anybody else who wants to send me some mail, please feel free!

yup, yup, yup…

You can tell it’s a classic movie, which will stand the test of time, if you can watch it repeatedly without it ever getting old. Especially if you can watch it repeatedly… for over twenty years’ time. I have trouble believing it, but The Land Before Time came out in 1988, when I was eight years old. And by the way, I’m talking about the original Don Bluth film, not the stupid follow-up “sequels”. I grew up on Land Before Time (I still remember our rubber “Ducky” toy, that the boys played with all the time), and I never grow tired of it.

Are you familiar with the Don Bluth animated films? Aside from The Land Before Time, his others included An American Tail and The Secret of NIMH. I was raised on both Bluth and Disney, but they’re very different. Though, I think he might’ve worked for Disney at some point, he went in a new and interesting direction with his animation and story style. Occasionally, a character in his movies will sing, but more than likely, that song will the heart and soul of the story, the theme that the film revolves around. The song isn’t generally required to move the story along, just to tug your heartstrings further into the story.

Ever heard the song “Somewhere Out There”? That’s from An American Tail, originally sung by Fievel and his sister. No, it wasn’t a romantic song, in the beginning. It was sung by a mouse (yes, you heard that right) who was separated from his family, hoping against all hope that he would find them. Everyone should see this movie.

We rented an online version of Land Before Time, and I watched it with my girls, this morning. Occasionally, I’d sit down between the little ones, to reassure them that everything would be ok, after the Sharptooth (T-rex) arrived. The older girls had seen it before and already love it. Me? I noticed the beautiful background, more than I ever did, as a child. Yes, James Horner did some beautiful music scores, even before Titanic.   : )

I’ve always loved Land Before Time‘s theme song, “If We Hold on Together”, and I’ve been playing it on the piano for years. So, of course, I know all the words, too. And even before the credits rolled, today, and I started singing along, I could hear the melody of the theme song, woven throughout the film. Just amazing.

What can I tell you about the movie? It’s a simple story, a tale of loss and friendship, learning to work together, and growing up. There’s always some hilarity to liven up the scary and sad parts, and even young children can watch it. My girls enjoyed it, and because I talked my Sadie through it, she is able to tell her parents, clearly, that “there was a very naughty dinosaur” in the movie.

Have you avoided this movie, for yourself and your children, based on the terrible straight-to-video follow-ups? I should create a new mantra… something like “Don’t judge a movie by its sequel”. This applies to Disney, as well as Don Bluth. Don’t miss out.

the final tally…

The sad day has arrived. The movies must end, and we must get a lot of fresh air, to make up for all our staying inside. Of course, my friend’s going to get plenty of fresh air, as she’s going on a cruise in a few days. I just need to get back outside regularly.

Having gone to bed at a decent time, last night, I didn’t feel like one of the living dead when I woke, today. We immediately started Little Dorrit, and managed to finish it before everyone arrived home for dinner tonight. Yes, that means we watched the entire 7.5 hour mini-series in one day.

I have to say, we really did have a marvelous time over the last few days. Talking and debating characters and plot, and many other things. You always see movies with new eyes, when you watch them with someone who hasn’t seen it before. She enjoyed them all, and will probably have a large list of books to read, now that we’ve finished.

I find that I really want to get into long discussions about each film, but it would probably be in an endless rambling style, so we’ll see which ones actually merit a blog post, over the next few days. But now… I am very tired, and I’m back to work, tomorrow morning. So, I shall say good night. Sorry for not having more edifying things to share about the movies I’ve seen. When my brain clears again, I’ll be happy to share more.

~

Return to Me

Alice in Wonderland

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

Jane Eyre

Lost in Austen

Pride & Prejudice

Despicable Me

King Arthur

How to Train Your Dragon

Penelope

Peter Pan

Stardust

Emma

Little Dorrit

Bleak House

Sense & Sensibility

North & South

Cranford

Wives & Daughters

the great movie binge: monday…

I have seen Wives & Daughters before, but I think that after this, my memory of it will always be intertwined with the arrival of the kittens. Shortly before lunch, we had started the movie, but discovered that Dusty’s time was close. Carried her upstairs, where she ignored the box we’d prepared, of course. She found a basket that had a sleeping bag stuffed into it, and appropriated it for her purpose. We’re still trying to count the kittens (it’s dark now), but there are at least 5 or 6 kittens, all a lovely tortoise-shell pattern.

We did eventually finish the movie, and continued on to watch Alice in Wonderland. Oh, and if anyone cares, Imogen agrees with me on the subject of Hatter and Alice, on whether they cared for each other as just friends, or if there was more there. So there. But that’s for another blog post. And, finally, we finished up with… well, let’s just say, my friends… Dynamite & Doughnuts has come to Australia.

~

Return to Me

Alice in Wonderland

Persuasion

Northanger Abbey

Jane Eyre

Lost in Austen

Pride & Prejudice

Despicable Me

King Arthur

How to Train Your Dragon

Penelope

Peter Pan

Stardust

Emma

Little Dorrit

Bleak House

Sense & Sensibility

North & South

Cranford

Wives & Daughters