Taking the Long Way

A celebration of late bloomers.

Archive for the ‘Curiosities’ Category

Memorial Day Film Fest

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In honor of Memorial Day, I’ve made a list of my favorite war movies. That might seem like a strange thing to do, but I find that the news fails to bring the stories into our homes often enough and well enough for us to understand the sacrifice…but I find films – ones done well and not as propaganda pieces and that really seek to find the humanity within the stories of the soldiers as well as the one’s who remain at home – make us more aware.

Note: This list is by no means a comprehensive one. Pleas share with me the ones that matter to you.

 

1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Director: William Wyler

Truly the first movie ever to deal with post traumatic stress syndrome as well as how hard it is for service people and the ones holding down the fort to readjust to life together.

2. Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

Director: Clint Eastwood

These back-to-back films illuminated how both the Americans and the Japanese – bitter enemies – weren’t so different after all. They play upon our concepts of “the other” and reveals that the Japanese soldiers, who knew Iwo Jima was a suicide mission, thought about their moms, wrote letters to their wives…same as the Americans.

3. To Hell and Back (1955)

The story of the most decorated soldier of World War II – a Texas boy named Audie Murphy. Interesting to note, actor Charles Durning was the second most decorated and the most decorated living veteran.

4. Platoon (1986)

Director: Oliver Stone

I remember seeing this film in college and walking into the lobby to find Vietnam vets crying, as if finally someone understood.

5. Hurt Locker (2009)

Director: Katheryn Bigelow

I had the good fortune of seeing this film at the Savannah Film Festival and of meeting the film’s cast, including Jeremy Renner. I found myself white-knuckled and unable to breath through much of the film…and that final scene, when you know he’s forever altered by battle.

6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg

That first half hour and those last five minutes…they earned it.

7. A Few Good Men (1992)

Director: Rob Reiner

What I love about this film, which isn’t directly a war film, is that the writer Aaron Sorkin allows each of his characters to actually be right. That scene between Demi Moore and Jason Pollock sums it up: the deep need to feel protected versus picking on someone weaker.

Worth Mentioning: The television series China Beach, Schindler’s List, Beautiful, Patton…

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Written by The Long Way

May 31, 2011 at 3:13 am

Here’s your sign

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So today I was following a big, black gas-guzzling SUV on President Street. Not because I was stalking him. We just happened to be going in the same direction.

Made in the USA.

He had pressed a preponderance of bumper stickers across his tinted rear window, and I wondered how he could even see out the back.

Although his line of sight may not have been clear, he was clearly showing the world who he is.

One read: Jet noise – the sound of freedom. (I simply thought jet noise meant you lived in the fly way of the airport. I thought the sound of freedom was casting a vote.)

You can get it in a tee shirt, too.

Another pictured an M16 machine gun surrounded by the words: Peace, the American Way. (I could just hear the strains of Toby Keith singing about a boot in the ass.) 

Another sign, covered in camo announced that he had served in the Gulf War. (The first one, under the other Bush.)

Another sticker urged all of us followers to STOP SOCIALISM, with a line drawing of President Barack Obama. (Define socialism, please. Oh, and fascism, capitalism, nationalism…and can I have my privacy back? Y’know the one that got gutted under, what was that called? Oh, yeah. The Patriot Act.)

You get the picture. (I was basically carrying on a one-sided conversation with this guy’s back end.)

It got me thinking, though, how I’ve never seen Vietnam, Korean or World War II veterans with such war-whoop stickers.

But, I have heard them speak through Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation,” and Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, “The War,” and through “Letters Home from Vietnam,” and from “M*A*S*H.”

The older veterans spoke of hoping to create a world where a war like that would never have to be fought again and with a weariness from which they could not recover.

The Boomer vets from Vietnam still seemed to be seeking peace – of mind, of soul and spirit. Some sort of absolution that reconciled the horror with the sacrifice.

It seems as if the positive affirmations of the Reagan era, the tough talk of the Bushes, and the hawkish winds of the last few Pentagons has turned us into a bunch of trash-talkers. Might makes right. The best defense is a strong offense and all that jazz.

Maybe it’s easy to talk loudly and carry big sticks because we’ve sanitized ourselves about the real casualty of war…our soul.

Written by The Long Way

May 15, 2011 at 1:13 am

Excalibur

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So last week I learned that I was in the running for the Excelsus Laureate award – basically the valedictorian for the SCAD graduate class. I learned on Friday that I ranked in the top three. (Very surreal.)

For the final interview with President Paula Wallace (who proved truly delightful and fun to talk with) and the university’s vice presidents, I prepared a portfolio, answered an extensive questionnaire, and wrote a personal statement that would serve as the basis for my speech should I be selected.

Jenny D. dubbed it the Excalibur award – that great sheath of mythological lore.

Alas, the sword would not be mine to pull from the stone.

I learned on Friday afternoon that I was named first runner up (the salutatorian, of sorts) and would receive the Presidential Medal instead.

Excalibur

As Jenny D. put it – you can’t make a margarita with a sword, but you sure can with El Presidente tequila.

I’m not disappointed. That award comes with some sweet perks, too, but that’s not really the point.

It sounds completely cheesy, but…it really was an honor to be nominated. I didn’t even know this award existed, so to receive any sort of recognition for working hard over the past two years and taking some serious risks is just icing on the cupcake.

When I met the other two nominees-in-waiting, I felt complete awe with what they’ve accomplished as students and professionals. Nice company to keep, and I was genuinely hopeful for them as well as for myself.

We each had compelling stories to tell.

Because you won’t get to hear mine at graduation, I thought I would share my personal statement with you here in this blog:

During the winter of 2008, I took two weeks off from my job as a park planner with a national nonprofit land conservation organization. I did not travel on vacation. I did not set up lunch dates with friends. I sent my husband off to his office while I sat cross-legged on a folded blanket in the living room of our Miami condo and tried to meditate. Most of the time I wrestled with my wandering and anxious mind in an effort to concentrate on not concentrating on anything at all.

She’s much more serene than I ever was.

A month earlier, I had stood paralyzed with fear, unable to board a flight to Atlanta for an important meeting. I drove straight to the office of Dr. Mansfield, a therapist I had not seen in two years. Lying on her cool black leather couch, we mined our way to the core of my panic. At the end of our session she said, “You know Amy, this isn’t really about flying, don’t you?”

black leather sofa

Serenity now! Insanity later.

So there I sat on my floor, trying to hear the whispers of my soul above the white noise in my head. My thoughts kept returning to fragments of a quote spoken by E.M. Forrester or E.L. Doctorow; I could not remember which. As I breathed more deeply, I found it there encased in the strata: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

He said this about writing.

I think it is good advice for life.

Within six weeks of that brief sabbatical, I had applied to the Savannah College of Art and Design for an MFA degree in writing. Within six months, my husband and I had both quit our stable, well paying jobs and moved to Savannah so that I could go back to school and he could start his own business.

Although we have never been poorer financially, we have never been happier personally. We know that the bank balance is only a temporary condition.

The return on investment in us? That is priceless.

As a mid-career shape-shifter, I was unsure of how I would fit into the SCAD environment. I was older, and definitely not hip. But I discovered mentors, who helped to shape my writing and uncover my voice. I found a community of fellow writers in a city with a burgeoning literary scene. SCAD opened doors to magazines and other publications, so that my work could find an audience and I could make a living doing what I love – and what greater gift can we give this ailing world than labor and love combined?

Those two weeks in December 2008 marked the first time I had allowed myself to rest since I had started working at age 15, when my first job was as a birthday party clown at McDonalds.

For most of my life I had subscribed to the theory that a moving target was harder to hit. This theory, though, had worn itself as thin as the blanket on which I sat – as thin as my frayed nerves.

But hitting that wall did not stop me from moving forward. It only changed my direction. As most difficult moments do, this one imparted a valuable lesson.

  • I learned that rather than fear or avoid frustration, you should use it as one of life’s most precious tools for renewal.
  • It is the tempest that stirs before a creative breakthrough.
  • It is the brick the universe throws when you are not paying attention.
  • It is the distraction that God gives so that he can work behind the scenes to create something perfect.
  • It is the impetus to jump first and fear later.

It almost always walks hand-in-hand with faith. Its greatest gift, though, is that it leads you back to your essential self…the one you were always meant to be.

Written by The Long Way

May 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Curiosities

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Wedded bliss

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Lady Diana, Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, Prince Charles, Wedding

Diana, Princess of Wales, riding in her carriage next to her prince on her wedding day, July 29, 1981. Photo Courtesy of Brittanica.com.

Early on the morning of July 29, 1981, my closest friend Melynda Poet, her two sisters Tami and Melani, their friends, and I awoke to watch a real-life fairy tale occur half a world away from our homes in Saginaw, Texas. It was the summer between our seventh and eighth grade years, and I was getting braces put on later that day.

We had followed the story of Lady Diana Spencer from the moment she was introduced to us – shy and blushing in her blue suit as she showed the world her sapphire engagement ring. We devoured every magazine to follow her fashion sense. I wanted a prom dress some day that looked like her emerald formal engagement gown.

Princess Diana's formal engagement photo.

C'mon. It was the '80s for goodness' sake - puffy sleeves were IN.

I wore white hose with red dresses and red ballet flats. I cut my long hair to a shorter, London look. Needless to say, we were enchanted.

We did not yet know that princes and princesses are all-too human, with faults and needs and secrets. We believed in Cinderella story. By the time we went off to college, we were a little wiser.

We knew a little more.

By the end of college, we had kissed a LOT of frogs.

I rose at 4 a.m. the morning of her funeral, and I watched her sons walk behind her casket – not sharing their grief, but understanding that some fairy tales don’t have happy endings.

But, I’m pulling for Wills.

Written by The Long Way

April 28, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Hoppy Easter

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To the blogosphere, I wish you a Happy Easter with a cartoon that just tickled me.

Around this time of year, I also love the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial that shows a chocolate bunny and jar of peanut butter gettin’ it on to the sounds of Marvin Gaye. It speaks to the fertility of Spring and the solstice, don’t you think?

Easter Bunny Cartoon

Written by The Long Way

April 25, 2011 at 1:00 am

Intelligent film

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Dear Hollywood Studio Executives,

Over the years, I’ve made you very wealthy. Since birth, I have enjoyed going to the movies – not so much as an escape from my life, but as a way of interpreting it…and to be entertained.

Lately though, I’ve noticed that I spend less time and money at and on the movies than in years past. Browsing through my Netflix roster is beginning to feel an awful lost like channel-surfing on cable – 57 channels and nothing on.

There was that brief, shining moment in 2009 when I think you were on to something. “Julie and Julia” and “It’s Complicated” showed that women, especially women between the ages of 25 and 64, who make 80 percent of all buying decisions in households, had disposable income they were willing to spend on movies – sometimes more than once – if the film was interesting and addressed big ideas.

Then, you went and made “Valentine’s Day” and you dumbed down “Eat, Pray, Love” into a formulaic chick flick. (I’m not even going to discuss “Bride Wars.” Change the f*@#%ing date, for goodness’ sake!)

Because there are a plethora of these types of films and so few of the kind I really want to see – I thought I’d give you a hint.

Y’see…I miss the movies. I want to spend money. I want to see Matthew McConaughey rise to the brilliance he showed in “Lone Star” rather than watch him take his shirt off with Kate Hudson one more time.

If I could make a modest request: Could you please consider more than 18-24-year-old boys as your target audience. Where do you think they get the money to see your films?

From women, like me, who would spend more if there were something worthwhile to watch.

I really love the kinds of films made between the mid-1960s through the late 1970s. Maybe you aren’t familiar with these films, because they weren’t shown as part of the MBA’s programs at your Ivy League school. Maybe all you have to fuel your imagination are those bad 70s sitcoms, rehashed 1980s action figures, and remakes.

The New Hollywood era occurred when the golden age of the studio system fell apart and independent films emerged. These films were influenced by Truffaut’s French New Wave, Japan’s Kurosawa, and a commitment to storytelling.

Their most marked characteristic: the directors and producers thought the movie-going public intelligent and hungry for substance.

Films, such as “Easy Rider,” “Harold and Maude,” “All the President’s Men” and “Shampoo” were made by the likes of Dennis Hopper, Hal Ashby, Robert Redford and Warren Beatty. This time period also gave voice to Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese and Robert Altman.

I can see their films time and again. (Ditto Billy Wilder’s.)

I also hold a soft spot for the teen movies of the 1980s, especially the ones by John Hughes, that showed even dazed and hormone-infused adolescents had wit, heart, brains and brawn.

(It’s probably why I will see any movie with John Cusack, including that Michael Bay suckfest, “Con Air.”)

Lloyd Dobler will "Say Anything."

I matured with the audacity of Stephen Soderbergh’s “sex, lies and videotape.”

I swooned with the film adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s “Out of Sight.”

I’m secretly in love with Cameron Crowe.

And I really need a night at the movies.