Category: The Hodge Podge


Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

What a week.

I am so glad it is over despite this week coming being almost as hectic.

Our church help Vacation Bible School, which is time consuming no matter how well everything is planned out. And despite having good plans, we had some set backs and found our way to solutions.

VBS Surf ShackIt makes for hectic nights because life doesn’t stop. We still had work and 4H judging days. And then we found out the husband’s sister succumbed to cancer. She is gone and the family – her siblings and children – will feel that loss for a long time.

On Facebook, family and friends shared how she gave her heart and caring and tomato plants to them. Friends of her children told how she opened the doors of her home and her heart to support them in difficult times. The husband talked about how she took charge of the home when their mother was ill and made things better during those rocky times.

We had originally planned to go to the double feature at the Harvest-Moon Twin Drive-In. Those plans were scrapped by a need to drive in to Pennsylvania and another child’s friend’s birthday party. Suddenly it was just two of us, so I suggested going to a screening at one of the local theaters. The daughter suggested we go to a play instead.

We drove to the Kankakee Library to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The performance space on the fourth floor was utilized for this event. I have been there before when Rick Kogan came to town and for a work-event. It made me think once more how wonderful it would be to have our own library in town. I realize it would take a referendum and a lot of work. But the benefits would be greater. Greater access to books and other materials, an opportunity for kids with no internet access at home to get their work done.

Well, enough dreaming.

The play was a fun and25th annual spelling bee fast-paced musical about a spelling bee in New Jersey for sixth graders. Each child had a different story and reason for wanting to win – or not – as the case may be. First produced in 2005, the play has a modern feel to it while the kids seem straight forward. One child is raised by two fathers, one has a mother missing from her life. One of the kids is home schooled and a little cooky while another is a boy scout. Finally, we had the over achieving boy and girl.

I enjoyed seeing local talent showcased with some great singing and fun acting. There were many laughs as audience members were asked to join the group onstage. These people may have been given easier words to which the other participants reacted in a not-so-happy manner.There are a few moments to the play that are serious and heart-wrenching. It makes a person cry after so many times when we laughed.

To be honest, I enjoyed the play from the live combo, with one member who felt the need to blow bubbles, to the surprise appearance of Jesus. It made me laugh during a week when I didn’t feel like laughing at all. And that is the best praise I can give any performance.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.`

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past weekend, the husband and I did something new and different.

We took a trip without the kids.

It was necessary to do this as our niece was getting married but had to have a small wedding.

There is a lot more to the story than I can say at this time. Suffice it to say this wedding was the definition of bittersweet.

Because the wedding was not till later in the afternoon, the husband asked what I wanted to do while in the Washington D.C. Area. I had only one answer for this trip – I wanted to see Mount Vernon.

Yes, that Mount Vernon that served as the home of President George Washington.

Mount VernonSo we went, paid our money so we could walk a part of the estate and through the mansion. Because there were so many people, I felt as if we were on an assembly line. There was a cordoned path for us and the docents stayed in their rooms, talking about the rooms as we walked through. No time for questions. There were rooms we walked past too quickly to really see, it wasn’t till I was at home and on the computer that I learned one room belonged to Martha’s daughter-in-law.

What really impressed us were the grounds. The gardens to the east of Mount Vernon were incredibly beautiful as well as utilitarian. Flowers planted in a natural style formed the outer edge of a square while the inside were filled with neat rows of various vegetables. Bees happily gathered nectar and most probably took care of the vegetables as well. These edges were not simply flowers but fruit and nut trees scattered so as to not cause shadows throughout the day.

As we walked about we noticed specialty tours going on. I accidentally joined one that was about all of the gardens, not just the one we saw. That was an hour long tour. There was another special tour at 4:00 P.M. in which you could have tea with Martha Washington. And then there was the Nation Treasure: Book of Secrets tour.

National Treasure II Mt VernonThe 2007 movie has a crucial scene at Mount Vernon in which Ben Gates takes the President to some secret passages underneath Mount Vernon. His goal is to find out another piece to a secret treasure that will somehow prove his great grandfather was not a member of the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln. First he has to get there and does so by the Potomac, so we get to see the sandy beach by the wharf. Then there is the party which takes place on the grounds of the mansion.

It stars Nicholas Cage as Ben Gates, Diane Kruger as he long suffering girlfriend as well as Justin Bartha as Riley. Jon Voight returns as Ben’s father and Helen Mirren joins the cast as Ben’s mother. I have only seen bits and pieces of this movie. I love the first one so much I am afraid to see the follow-up. What if it doesn’t live up to my expectations?

What I love about National Treasure is the history, the walks and/or runs through historically significant sites. And when Nicholas Cage waxes poetic about the Declaration of Independance, stating that people may not talk that way but they think it, I believe him. I believe him during every part of this movie.

Could I feel the same about National Treasure: Book of Secrets? I’m not sure. But I am going to watch it so I can re-visit the plantation I recently toured.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.`

Sometimes life requires a movie that is not so serious. It requires a movie that makes fun of everything and anything.
That is how I felt when the husband and I went to see ‘Keanu’ the other day at Movies 10.
keanu-movie-posterThis movie features the comic duo of Key and Peele who have had a show on the Comedy Channel for the last five years. One of my favorite bits they do is President Obama’s anger interpreter. I laugh at a lot of their comedy.
However, one has to wonder if what they do can stretch over 90-minutes on the big screen.  Seven-ten minute bits are easy compared to a 90-minute film.
This film starts from a pretty flimsy plot. A man finds a kitten and adores his new friend. It is a very cute kitten. But when he comes home after a night at the movies with a friend, Rell finds his home ransacked and his kitten missing. So Rell goes to his neighbor’s house, a known drug dealer, to find out who tossed his home. From there Rell learns that a bigger drug dealer in town might have had reason to ransack his neighbor’s place.
So Rell takes along his friend and cousin, Clarence, to get the kitten.  They plan to go into a strip bar on the bad side of town to talk to a drug dealer named Cheddar about getting Rell’s adorable kitten back home.
This could go wrong in so many ways because Rell and Clarence are middle class guys. Their lives are pretty comfortable. Nor do they want to do much to ruin those lives. But Rell has a goal and that goal means doing whatever it takes to get his cat.
keanu-movie-key-and-peele1That includes imitating the roughest duo of thugs that no one has seen. It means training guys to be better thugs. It means doing the worst that a person has to do.
As many of you should know, this is not a movie to take little kids to see. There is a lot of swearing, drug use, violence, threatened violence, and more drug use. Just because there is a cute little kitten involved doesn’t mean this movie is for kids under the age of 12 bare minimum.
 And if you are sensitive to this stuff as an adult, you shouldn’t see it either. I didn’t count the number of each swear word used but it was a lot, in every scene.
That said, there is a lot to like in this movie. It makes fun of every black stereo-type we normally see in a movie like this. It makes fun of the tough thug, of the half-wit minions. And it also makes fun of the middle class guys who play video games that require you to kill people.
At any number of points these guys should have been called out for not being who they say they are and yet they aren’t. Each time there is something that keeps them in the game from mishaps to lucky flips to being able to explain how someone like George Michael can relate to a tougher crowd.
_B7A6370.dngAs much as I enjoyed this movie, I also had problems with it. The character of Clarence’s wife bothered me in the way she changed  by the end of the movie and I am not sure it felt right in this bit of farce. Nia Long gets credit for being willing to go out on a limb but I didn’t buy it. I wondered why the one character who knew they were faking it never let on what they knew.
So if watching a violent, profane movie with the cutest kitten on earth about two middle-class guys in over their heads is what you are looking to do, “Keanu” is totally the movie for you.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

I was prepared to watch and report on some film adaptation of Shakespeare for this week in an effort to encourage people to see something by the greatest writer of all time.

Doris-Roberts

I choose a great picture of Roberts, not the crap-ass one others have been using.

When Doris Roberts died, I thought about all of the times that she made me laugh on Everybody Loves Raymond. Her timing was superb and she made Marie into someone you could hate or love, depending on the moment. Roberts almost didn’t take the part that would earn her four Emmy awards. At the time she had a busy stage career and thought she would not have time for the role.

Thankfully, she changed her mind and we benefited with nine years of superb comedy. One would think that at the age of 80, Roberts might have considered retirement. But she didn’t. Her credit page is filled with roles since the end of the TV series. In fact, the movie I remember her in during this post-Raymond time period is Aliens In The Attic. It is not a great movie. The story is about two families who vacation together in a huge house with their grandmother.

The cousins realize something is not right and that there are aliens in the attic trying to destroy the house to get at something buried underneath. Worse yet, these aliens can get into a human with a special device and control them. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Nana Rose is taken over by these guys and performs some serious kung fu. It is classic Roberts, giving everything for the scene but it did make me wonder how much of the scene she did and how much was a stunt double.

I hope they gave her plenty of painkillers for those sequences.

The other death that occurred this week is the one I cannot wrap my mind around. The artist known as Prince died at the age of 57, leaving behind not only a legacy of superbly played music but also acts of generosity and kindness that were unknown to most of us. For me, Prince wrote huge chunks of my life’s sound track including songs by the Bangles, Sinead O’Conner and Stevie Nicks.

It is shocking he died at the age of 57; he seemed too young to die. That age still seems young in some ways, people are still able to get around and do stuff for the most part. He was still performing on a regular basis.

74145_D4_1_43

For Prince, this seems even crazier because while he was a shy man who did not advertise his life he was a larger than life figure. He was always the coolest cat in the room.In the 80s, he put his soul into the Purple Rain album and movie. There was no mistaking that he was singing his life and his emotions.

Later, he took on record companies who treated him unfairly while still performing shows with incredible musicianship. Did you see his performance during the 2009 Superbowl in which Prince played in the pouring rain? There was the George Harrison tribute in which he did a three minute solo that could make anyone weep. Even Eric Clapton, arguably one of the best guitarists ever, stated that Prince was the best.

He was strange and quirky, guarded his privacy, and built a studio in Minneapolis that people could easily see. He had a bevy of beautiful girlfriends, two ex-wives, and a small circle of friends throughout his life. Prince knew what he wanted his sound to be, playing several instruments on his records. As strongly as he controlled his sound, he controlled his image. Those of us at the end of the Baby Boom generation will miss him the most because he was our Bowie, our Stones, our Beatles, our Elvis. And like any other person who dies long before they should have, the knowledge of his absence will simply be shocking.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Finding a Prayer Life

Most of the time, I have to admit I try to avoid the Christian Film industry.
Why?
Because most Christian film makers are more interested in the message they have to share that they mess up on the story. If characters are not bent on pointing out how this or that reflects the way that Christ did something, then they get lengthy speeches or monologues pointing out Christ’s teachings.
I don’t know about you but I do not go to the movies to be hit with a sledge hammer.
A few years ago we watched the movie about the girl who lost an arm to a shark bite. There is one scene in which the youth group teacher, played by Carrie Underwood, is presenting her lesson to attentive teenagers. She was able to pontificate without interruption. I reflected on this out loud at one of my rowdy youth group meetings and was told by the kids “you know that is a movie and not real life.”
Another issue I have are the movies that are focused on End Days. The special effects are terrible and sloppy. But that does not even compare to the dialogue which is normally clunky and serves only to move the story into the next predictable movement. Only one scene from the “Left Behind” series has stuck in my brain and that is when the pastor makes his confession to God about the true status of his faith.It was a raw, honest declaration of a man who thought he was fooling everyone, even himself, about the amount of faith he carried.
But I recently watched a Christian movie that came in theaters a few months ago and was happily surprised that the couple and their life situation felt real. Whil;e younger children can watch this movie, I doubt that they would want to as it is contexually made for adults.
The movie I watched was War Room, starring a bunch of people I had never heard of before. In some cases that is a good thing and it worked out for this movie. I came to it with no pre-conceived notions of how these actors were going to play their roles.
War Room Women
The story involves a successful couple by all appearances. Tony and Elizabeth have a large house, a beautiful daughter, and very busy lives. He is a pharmaceutical rep and she is a real estate agent. But they bicker daily. They do not talk to each other well, each conversation is a battle filled with sarcasm and meanness. Meals with their daughter is just another part of the battle field.
But when Elizabeth takes on a new client, Miss Clara, she is taught something that changes her life. She is taught how to use prayer as a way of regaining joy in her life, of regaining her marriage, of regaining her family.
War Room father and daughterI realize this is hard for some to believe. But one of the things I liked about this movie was the doubt that Elizabeth felt in trying this new way of praying. I liked that when the changes inside of her began to reflect how she treated her husband, that Tony was suspicious and wondering. I liked that their new life took time and did not immediately start off all shiny and new.
Another thing I liked about Miss Clara is that she was real. Her victory dance in the kitchen was quirky but probable for her character. Most of us know that you can’t stop a mugger in his tracks by invoking the name of the Lord. But how many of us know someone who would do it anyway. Her character was not over used but put in for the right amount of spice.
It may not be a great movie but the Kendrick Brothers and the various production companies involved have also put out Fireproof, Courageous, and Mom’s Night Out. They are showing how to make a Christian movie that is more story that shows faith instead of telling us. It forces us to ask some serious questions about our prayer life and if we want to change how we are living without the aforementioned sledgehammer. And that is a big step up for the industry.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Remembering Alan

Oh, the Dance.

Lately, I have been on a book reading binge. A purposeful one.

I have been reading about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I want to know, I need to know, if it was her writing in those legendary books. Or was it a collaboration between herself and her daughter, Rose.Or was it all Rose.

Call me crazy, call me obsessed, call me a fan of the TV show and books that started back in the 1970s. But there is a part of me that loves these books and hates seeing an author besmirched, especially when it is Laura who inspired so many childhood adventures and dreams. I might not have taken it to the extremes that Wendy McClure did but her book, The Wilder Life:My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie. But McClure gave me the idea to someday camp at the South Dakota homestead in a Conestoga wagon.

1911

Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1911

I want to believe that Laura was the sole writer. After all, she did write a farming column for years. You try writing 500 words every week and see how easy it is not. Remember, too, she was an excellent student and a lover of poetry. I still remember when she accidentally found the book of Tennyson poetry, meant to be her Christmas gift in one of the later books. She loved that book.

I am willing to concede that Rose helped Laura with structure and plotting. I know from various sources that they discusses the books intensely. I know that Rose typed the books for her mother. I would not be surprised if she constantly edited whether it was needed or not. In Pamela Smith Hill’s biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, Hill discusses what both women talked about through the remains of letters and papers. But as time went on Laura relied on Rose less and less.

Which is why the last option really rankles me. After reading Susan Wittig Albert’s fictionalized account, A Wilder Rose, about the writing of the Little House books from Rose’s perspective, I wondered how far Albert had crawled up RWL’s ass. Her dismissive attitude towards Laura stood out from the first page. Norma Lee Browning was depicted as a simpering follower wanting nothing more than to fawn over Rose’s words of wisdom. Laura turns out to be a passive aggressive manipulator who is either constantly harping on her daughter and her choice of friends or interrupting Rose once she finally gets down to work. In the notes at the end of the book, Albert made sure to besmirch Manly as well as Laura. Did Albert only read Rose’s diaries and papers to get her story?

Wilder RoseAfter reading this and other biographies, I truly believe that Rose should have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder. Her world truly stopped six inches from her nose. Rose builds a dream house for her parents without consulting them and demands they live there while she lives in the farmhouse they built for themselves – perfectly suited for their size and needs. Did it ever occur to her that all the little sniping was because Mom wanted to live in the house she built for herself? A gift is no gift when gratitude is demanded.

Adding insult to injury, Rose writes a book (Let the Hurricane Roar,1932) based on her mother’s stories that had been collected in Pioneer Girl, using the same names as her grandparents, hides the notices from her mother (documented in her own diary) and then wonders why her mother is angry. Really? I think I would have taken a switch to that girl despite the fact she was over 40 years old at the time. I kept thinking “Get over yourself, Rose. Yes, you grew up poor and didn’t have a silver spoon. But people reached out to you and gave you opportunities. And stop blaming your mother for everything.”

Now, as to who wrote what. After reading Let the Hurricane Roar/Young Pioneers, I doubt Rose’s ability to write in a lyrical manner. Her prose is very straight forward, utilitarian. Why, like that of a journalist. Which is exactly what Rose did for a living for many decades. She might have edited, it is easy to edit some one else’s work to make it sing, much harder to write the flowery descriptions from scratch. And their letters back and forth show more collaboration than out-and-out work by Rose alone.

Rose Wilder Lane

Rose Wilder Lane

Am I angry over this book? Damm straight. You want to show that Laura Ingalls Wilder did not write those books then you had better come up with better proof than only the daughter’s diary and a fake conversation with a woman who died in 2001 and cannot be contacted for verification. This book might be fiction but its overly smug attitude towards LIW reminds me of what was said about Shakespeare. How can a person with so little education write so good of a book?

Nor could I deal calmly with her attitude about the royalties, how the library had to sue in order to get what was willed to them. That if it wasn’t for Roger MacBride allowing the rights to be sold to the TV show, there would not have been over $800,000. Well, there would have been no tv shows if Laura had not written the books. But why should a tiny, leaky library in a podunk town get the money that was willed to them?

To me, that is simply another example of Rose being a jerk. Her mother knew the importance of helping a community. Laura was one of the community members who helped create that library. Apparently, Rose could not understand that sometimes you have to help the community be better by giving them access to a broader range of information. Her method seemed to involve a permanent sneer and running away with the middle finger raised high.

Pioneer GirlI am awaiting the new Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography edited by Pamela Smith Hill. Will it give a balanced story? Will it satisfy my LIW Hunger without destroying her image? I don’t know. But I would rather know she was a woman who tried than one who had to have her way by hook or by crook, even if it destroyed her daughter.

Has a book ever angered you so much you are willing to slap not only the author but the subject of the book as well?

Rockstar Mom

I am sure that many of you have seen the meme that was going around saying how parents/moms are like rockstars.

Rockstar

I loved it because I live it. I know a minivan can be rocked by singing and dancing teens. I get followed in the bathroom still. The phone only rings when I step in the shower. Sit on the couch doing nothing and no one bothers you, start a project and there is nothing they don’t want – especially the husband.

But when I saw this meme, I decided that I should dress and live like a rock star.

Why not?

I already have the ridicuous back leather purse with black leather ribbon on the front. I have long hair that sometimes accepts a curl. Plus, I have lost weight that allows me to wear clothes that look better on this body.

So my skinny jeans are paired with long sweaters and shiny silky camis. I wear boots with a corduroy printed skirt and a coordinated tee. My black leather skirt is paired with statement cardis or colorful tees. If I am not wearing the boots, I am wearing a silver pair of flats.

Then I found this book.

Cook Like a Rockstar

It seemed funny to me that I found this book while I am on the journey to be my best with a little flair. So, of course, I had to check it out.

I love this book because Anne Burrell gives a bunch of great recipes. But before that she explains what items you should have in your kitchen as well as what staples should be in your pantry.

For those of you who have wondered what you need besides some of the basics, this list is really wonderful. The truth is, once you have these items in the pantry you don’t have to go buying them special. When I add something new, it tends to stick around and get used for something else. I have never made polenta but I am considering it just to add to my repetoire.

Many of Anne’s recipes has an Italien flair to them but with a little something different such as fish fillets in paper or braised lamb shanks. I was looking at the Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts, Sausage Ragu, and Pasta Fagioli as possible dishes to try. For me the Rockstar part of cooking is using fresh herbs whenever possible along with a little Balsimic Vinegar or wine in your cooking to give the dish a little extra flair.

Are you a rock star parent? How do you show off your style?

Dear Jane,

Happy Birthday and all that. It is another grey day here.

Joanna Trollope, S&SWell, I had just written a lovely letter talking about the new Austen Project that Harper Collins is working on when my computer decided to lose everything. I had a link for you( http://theaustenproject.com/) and a little discussion on it all. But so much for that. I have neither the patience or the time to rewrite everything.

The first book in the series is Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, yes, of that Trollope family. Why did they need to use the exact same titles I do not understand but there it is. I have request a copy from the Library and hope to get it soon so that I may devour it. Then, and only then, will I come back with a full review.

Jane AustenWell, I would write more but the shower awaits and then I am off for the day to do numerous errands before showing up to work. This is a long day at work, which I do appreciate. Lord knows the money is helpful. I will tell you about my novel which is going through various re-writes before I send it off to my beta readers. I only have five chapters to go. Perhaps someday I will see it published but that is next year’s goal.

Once again, wishing you happy, happy. Have a lovely day, doing whatever it is you do there in heaven.

Yours, etc.

Karyn