Thursday, July 24, 2014

MOVIE WEEKEND: GRAVITY

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I wasn't going to watch Gravity (2013, Rated PG-13, Available On DVD). It's just a boring movie about a couple of people floating around in space, right?


But then Gravity won seven Academy Awards, including Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron (the first Hispanic person to win the award), and I decided I'd better check it out.

I'm glad I did. It's beautifully made.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer, is on her first space shuttle mission with astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in command. During what should be a routine space walk, the shuttle is destroyed. Stone and Kowalski float off into the blackness of space, seemingly without any hope of rescue.

The special effects and lighting in this movie are gorgeous. The Internet Movie Database explains:

Alfonso CuarĂ³n, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber decided they couldn't make the film they wanted using traditional methods. For the space-walk scenes, says Webber, "We decided to shoot (the actors') faces and create everything else digitally." To do that, Lubezki decided he needed to light the actors' faces to match the all-digital environment. Whether the characters were floating gently, changing direction or tumbling in vacuum, the facial light would need to perfectly match Earth, Sol and the other stars in the background. "That can break easily," explains Lubezki, "if the light is not moving at the speed that it has to move, if the position of the light is not right, if the contrast or density on the faces is wrong." Lubezki suggested folding an L.E.D. screen into a box, putting the actor inside, and using the light from the screen to light the actor. That way, rather than moving either Sandra Bullock or George Clooney in the middle of static lights, the projected image could move while they stayed still. The "light box", key to the space-walk scenes was a nine-foot cube just big enough for one actor.

More important to me, though, are the themes in the movie. The director and many other people seem to focus on the theme of rebirth. I can understand that, but I see Gravity more as a film about uncaring nature. The romantic poets, such as William Wordsworth, focused on the interaction between the pastoral and the individual. Remember Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality?


Though nothing can bring back the hour
          Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
              We will grieve not, rather find
              Strength in what remains behind

Later poets focused more on nature being nature and not something that relates to us. Let's take Wallace Stevens' The Snow Man as an example:


"One must have a mind of winter/To regard the frost and the boughs/Of the pine-trees crusted with snow . . . . "


In other words, we impose order on the natural world. The making of a snow man is an act of imposing the imagination on nature and giving it shape and form.


For all the beauty that Stone and Kowalski see in space, nature does not care about them:


[opening title card]: At 600KM above planet Earth the temperature fluctuates between +258 and -148 degrees Fahrenheit. There is nothing to carry sound. No air pressure. No oxygen. Life in space is impossible.
I wouldn't show this movie to young children. I think it would frighten them. But it should be okay for older children and teens. It has some profanity, but nothing they don't hear at school. :-(
I felt a little glow and a touch of magic after I watched Gravity, which earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval.

Happy Viewing!

Infinities of love,
I don't know why these great big spaces are here between my valediction and name and I can't get them to behave and I want my breakfast, so this post is staying the way it is.
Janie Junebug



Monday, July 21, 2014

BULLY FOR YOU: RICK WATSON, MIGHTY GENTLE

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Our BULLY FOR YOU guest poster today is Rick Watson from Life 101. I've never met Rick in person (although he and his wife Jilda were in Jacksonville once and FAILED TO LET ME KNOW but of course I forgave that long ago), but I know he's the kind of person who doesn't bother to open his mouth or tap on his keyboard unless he has something intelligent to say.

Read and learn:

I was born in rural Alabama in the early 1950s. Being small for my age, I was the target of bullying from time to time.

When I was in the fourth grade, one of my classmates was a gentle giant. I’ll call him Jack. Jack was big enough to whip all the boys in class at the same time, but for some reason he always walked away from confrontation.

Spring came a little early that year and we all had spring fever. That afternoon a group of kids lingered on the playground playing dodge ball with a ragged basketball. Afterwards we sat around talking about all the things we’d do when the last school bell rang turning us loose for summer.

The conversation ended abruptly when a kid who was a notorious bully started picking on Jack. The taunting got ugly, and soon the bully was hammering away on Jack’s head with his fist. There were no teachers or adults around so the bully was having his way.

I stepped in to break it up. “Look, that’s enough.” The bully, who outweighed my 30 pounds, wheeled and punched me in the face, knocking me backward. I struggled to maintain my balance. The fist felt as hard as a hammer. This was the first time I’d ever been struck in the face. The punch he threw cut my lip and I tasted blood in my mouth.

Before I found my footing, the bully jumped on my back and clamped his arms around my throat.  It was hard to breathe. Just like in the movies, kids gathered around. Some were shouting for him to stop, and some egging him on.

He wouldn’t turn loose of my throat. Anger flared from somewhere deep inside and I found strength I’d never known. Reaching over my shoulders, I grabbed his neck, and flipped him over my shoulders.

He landed flat of his back hard enough to knock the wind out of him. The throw surprised him, but it surprised me even more. Blood oozed from the corner of his mouth where he’d bit his lip. I thought for a second I had killed him, but at that moment, I didn’t care. I could feel my heart beating in my temples.

What’s interesting is that I didn’t experience a feeling of triumph, or satisfaction, as one might expect. It was almost as if I were embarrassed. Some of the kids who had gathered around to watch the altercation came up afterwards to congratulate, but I was so upset that I had tears in my eyes and I didn’t know why.

I left him whimpering on the ground.  Squatting down by the oak tree in the yard, I picked up my books and lunch kit and headed down the railroad tracks toward home. Jack grabbed his books too and walked home with me. Neither of us said a word.

The next day I feared the bully would team up with his friends and corner me to get revenge, but it never happened. In fact, the bully never bothered me, or Jack again.

That incident taught me something basic about human nature. A bully will never pick on someone strong enough to kick their ass, they seek the weakest one in the herd. It’s how they feed their ego.

I also learned that standing up for yourself is necessary, and often it’s the right thing to do, but don’t expect to walk away feeling like Rocky.


Thank you, Rick. You're right: winning the fight, no matter what kind it is, doesn't always feel good.

Rick has three books available on Amazon, or you can purchase them directly from Rick at Life 101.  They're compilations of his newspaper columns. The titles are Remembering Big, Life Happens, and Life Changes. Read and relax and learn. Rick is our Alabama philosopher.

Please leave Rick some bloggy love in a comment, and I urge you to visit his blog.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Sunday, July 20, 2014

RICK WATSON & THE SHEER YOGA PANTS

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I can imagine your brains clickety clacking away when you see the title of this post. What does Rick Watson have to do with sheer yoga pants? you'll ask.

My answer: nothing. I want to tell you about Rick Watson, and I want to tell you about sheer yoga pants. I put the two together because this blog is mine and I can do as I like.

Everybody's favorite boyfriend, Rick Watson––the amiable Alabamian––will be tomorrow's BULLY FOR YOU guest poster. I always appreciate a visit from Rick, who blogs at Life 101. He has a new book out called Life Changes.



You can purchase it from Amazon at http://goo.gl/f4rR8h. Rick's three books are compilations of his newspaper columns. Reading them is as relaxing as eating a good Sunday dinner and then taking a nap, knowing that everyone you love is safe and secure.

I know you won't want to miss his guest post tomorrow, so be there or be square.

Now for the yoga pants. Willy Dunne Wooters told me not too long ago that he read in the news about a new line of yoga pants. They were newsworthy, I guess, because they are sheer, as in see-through. Good God, I said, or something to that effect.

I didn't see any of these new yoga pants until last night. Some things when seen cannot be unseen.

Willy Dunne Wooters took me out to dinner. We were very hungry so we went to a buffet, something we usually don't do because buffets tend to lead to overeating.

I hoisted myself from the table to get more of the delicious broccoli and baked fish and, yeah, okay, a roll or two with honey butter, and on my way from the broccoli to the rolls I darn near dropped my plate because there in front of me were a pair of these sheer yoga pants. The woman wearing them definitely had booty. And she did not have underwear.

I did not tell Willy Dunne Wooters until we were out in the parking lot because I knew the news would put him off his feed. He's quite squeamish.

This woman seems to be wearing a thong.
Not much help.

If for some reason you have accidentally purchased a pair of these yoga pants, then please rid yourself of them immediately. Rip them up and throw them in the trash.


If for some strange reason you purposely purchased a pair of these pants and you like them, then please do not wear them outside of your home so that other people can keep their dinners down.



See you tomorrow.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Thursday, July 17, 2014

MOVIE WEEKEND: GIRL MOST LIKELY & ABOUT TIME

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today I have two movies for you that Willy Dunne Wooters and I love. They share the theme of the importance of family loyalty and love.

The first is Girl Most Likely (2012, Rated PG-13, Available On DVD And Netflix Screaming).


This movie is a hoot. It was Kristen Wiig's first after her huge success with Bridesmaides, which WDW describes as lowbrow humor. Although I won't say that Girl Most Likely is a highbrow film, it's certainly a lot of fun, and the acting is excellent.

Imogene (Kristen Wiig) is a native of Atlantic City who now lives in New York City and tries to fit into her posh boyfriend's life, but it's obvious that she's different and his friends look down on her. After all, Imogene didn't go to Andover or Spence. However, when she finished college, she won a grant that was meant to allow her to become a playwright.

But she didn't. She frittered away the money and avoided her family. When her New York-life takes a sudden turn for the worse, she finds herself back in Jersey . Suddenly she's forced to live with her brother Ralph (Christopher Fitzgerald), her loony mother Zelda (Annette Bening), and her mother's even loonier boyfriend George (Matt Dillon). Imogene also finds a man named Lee (Darren Criss, who plays Blaine on Glee and is so hot in this movie) sleeping in her bed because her mother has rented out her room.

Although I love Wiig and Fitzgerald and Criss, it's Bening and Dillon who make Girl Most Likely an absolute riot. Dillon's character isn't just George. He's George Bousche––pronounced Boosh––and he's a CIA operative who can't tell anyone his real name. Bening is great because she plays her role as Weird Mother and Girlfriend of the Year completely straight; she believes The Bousche is what he says he is. And The Bousche will not drop his CIA cover story for a single second. You'll love seeing what happens with Zelda and The Bousche.

This movie is funny and smart and silly and well made. I revel in the devotion that Imogene and Ralph show toward one another, and in the progress that Imogene makes in her life. I love a happy ending.

Girl Most Likely earns The Willy Dunne Wooters and Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval. Just go with it and have fun. I don't think it's for children, but teens might like to watch with you.

And now I have a movie for you that brought tears of joy and sadness to my eyes. I think Willy Dunne Wooters might have sniffled a little, too. About Time (2013, Rated R, Available On DVD) has a delightfully clever screenplay, beautiful acting, and one of the sweetest love stories ever––and it's not merely a love story between the two main characters. It's the story of a family's love for one another.


When Tim (Domhnall Gleason) turns 21, his "Dad" (Bill Nighy) informs him that the men in their family are able to travel in time. They can't go forward in time. They can only return to events that have already occurred, and they can't change history. When Tim leaves his rural home to work in London as a lawyer, he meets and falls in love with Mary (Rachel McAdams). Tim uses his gift to win Mary's heart, to create the perfect romantic proposal, to make sure he has the perfect best man's speech at their wedding, to spend extra time with Dad when it's of the utmost importance, and to help his sister, to whom he's wonderfully loyal.

Best of all, Tim learns from his time travels to enjoy each day, to appreciate his family, and to cheer on his friends. He knows how to fill his relationships, or simple chance encounters, with love and joy.

Tim: We're all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.

I like About Time so much that I ordered it from Amazon. I don't buy many movies, but this one is a must have. I know the Wooters man and I will watch it once or twice a year while we hold hands.

About Time is not for children. I would allow teens to watch it. This movie earns The Willy Dunne Wooters and Janie Junebug Highest Seal of Glowing, Loving Approval.

I wish you all a delightful weekend, filled with pleasant pursuits.


Infinities of timely love,

Janie Junebug

Monday, July 14, 2014

BULLY FOR YOU: THE ARMCHAIR SQUID TEACHES US ABOUT WONDER

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today I'm delighted to welcome The Armchair Squid to BULLY FOR YOU. Mr. Squid is a teacher, a tough job, and he's also the recent host of The Songs of Summer bloghop. He's always up to something, and I suspect he says the same thing about his students.

Wonder Bullies



            Recently on my blog, The Armchair Squid, I reviewed Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a novel that has dominated the Middle Grade book world for the past year.  Janie graciously invited me to write a post for her BULLY FOR YOU series and I felt the book would be a good launch point to discuss the larger issue of bullying.  If you haven’t read Wonder, I give fair warning: there will be MANY SPOILERS in this piece.

            A quick synopsis: Auggie, a boy about to enter the fifth grade, was born with severe facial deformities.  He has always been home schooled before but is fully aware of the social challenges he is likely to confront.  Not surprisingly, bullies are an important part of Auggie’s story.  Two kids in particular – Julian and Eddie – loom large.  The manifestation of bullying is very different between the two and the storyteller’s judgments of them are also divergent.

            Julian is one of three students at Beecher Prep who are encouraged by the school director to take Auggie under his wing.  He turns out to be a very poor choice for the job as he can’t resist picking on Auggie and works actively to turn other kids against him.  Julian is a verbal and social bully – never physically threatening.  We learn the apple doesn’t fall from the tree as Julian’s mother, a power within the parent community, is also offended by Auggie’s presence in the school - photoshopping him out of class pictures and writing letters to the director encouraging his removal.

            Ultimately, the tide turns against Julian.  Auggie is accepted – even celebrated – at his new school while Julian is marginalized for his offenses.  At the end of the year, Julian leaves the school.  In an interesting turn, though an appropriate one to the overarching theme of the book, Julian is granted a small moment of redemption at story’s end.  Over the summer, all of the students are encouraged to send postcards to Mr. Browne, their English teacher, with precepts.  Julian’s is “Sometimes it’s good to start over.”  We are left with hope for Julian.

            The story of Eddie is another matter entirely.  Auggie and his buddy Jack have a scary encounter with Eddie during a class trip.  Eddie presents a greater physical threat than Julian.  For starters, he’s older: a seventh grader.  More to the point, he has clear violent intent.  Luckily, Auggie and Jack are rescued by other boys from their school before serious bodily harm is done.  Auggie loses his hearing aids in the scuffle.  They are found later in Eddie’s locker, destroyed.

            Mr. Tushman, the middle school director, encourages Auggie to press charges against Eddie, or at least to talk the matter over with his parents before dismissing the idea.  Auggie (and through him, the author?) does not express much hope for Eddie.  When Mr. Tushman suggests that Eddie and his accomplices might learn from being held to account, Auggie says, “Trust me: that Eddie kid is not learning any lessons.”  So ends the story of Eddie.

            Full disclosure: I’m a teacher.  I teach elementary and middle school, music and drama, grades 5-8.  Not all of the venom our little dears direct at one another qualifies as bullying but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.  The power disparities are clear in the world they inhabit.  It’s easy enough to sort the Auggies from the Julians and Eddies.  When bullying emerges, one’s sympathy naturally goes to the victim.  In my own youth, I found myself in Auggie’s place enough that my heart turns against the “mean kids” quickly.  But here’s the rub for the educator: the bully is my student, too.

            I have great sympathy for Mr. Tushman in the Eddie chronicle.  Even though Eddie is a student at another school, Mr. Tushman knows what I know: the Auggies of the world are the life-affirming heroes who make your entire career worthwhile.  The Eddies are the real challenge. The Auggies get you out of bed in the morning.  The Eddies keep you awake at night.

            Palacio does not grant us a back story for Eddie but it’s a safe bet that it’s not a happy one.  Bullying - like abuse, neglect and harassment - is often cyclical.  At the very least, it’s reasonable to assume that a kid like Eddie lacks positive social role models in his broader life.  Bullying is a patterned behavior and a difficult one to break.  It’s easy to be dismissive – “that boy’s gonna end up in jail one day” – but punitive measures rarely fix the underlying problems.  The USA’s high incarceration rate is hardly a badge of honor or a sign of our health as a society.  Eddie is no easy fix (for that matter, neither is Julian).  Stern warnings, suspensions and even criminal charges are mere tactics in an ongoing, painful, discouraging struggle.  The overarching strategy requires patience and resilience from all parties involved - a tall order.

            I offer no answers.  If the answers were easy, our world would be a very different place.  But I know we have to keep trying.  In the day-to-day battles, we are obliged to protect Auggie.  But we lose the war when we give up on Eddie.


            Thanks, Janie, for this opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers.  I look forward to engaging with all of you in the comments section.

I hope you'll leave The Armchair Squid some bloggy love in your comments, and remember to thank him for being a teacher. Please consider visiting his blog, too. He's very interesting.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Sunday, July 13, 2014

LOOK FORWARD, ANGELS

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Please be sure to join for tomorrow's BULLY FOR YOU guest post by The Armchair Squid.

I haven't know Mr. Squid very long, but I assure you his post is worth reading, as is his blog.

Happy Sunday!


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


From fishducky, of course:


Friday, July 11, 2014

SONGS OF SUMMER BLOGHOP

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,





Welcome to the Songs of Summer bloghop, hosted by the Armchair Squid, Cygnus and Suze.  On Friday, July 11, 2014, please join us by posting 5 of your favorite summer songs and sharing some memories about them.  Maybe between us, we can build the perfect soundtrack to accompany us over the next few months.  If possible, include links so we can hear these gems.  And, if you're in the southern hemisphere, join us to dance those winter blues away!

I think the music of summer was especially important to me when I was a teenager. Music provided a connection with the world, gave me solace when I was lonely, and became the background music when I sang into my little tape recorder. Those lyrics were poetry and parties and, sometimes, pandemonium (according to my parents).

A lot of my songs of summer are associated with summer loves: the boys I dated, the ones who got away, the ones from whom I ran.

Here's my summer soundtrack:



5. Seals and Crofts made me dream of a future with someone I loved.







4. It's not summer without The Beach Boys.





3. The theme from the movie Jaws reminds me of my most hilarious date ever.





2. I've seen America in concert five times. I talked to Dewey and Gerry and got their autographs, but never saw Dan. He left the group relatively early and passed away a few years ago. How do I choose a song of theirs? They all make me think of summer. I guess I have to go with the song that has my name.





1. RFK Stadium. Fourth of July. Linda was still alive. I think it was 1989. I was young enough to think I'd be married for the rest of my life. I didn't know something better awaited me, but this one night was magic.





Here's a bonus song of last summer with Middle Child. I finally figured out how to put the video on my blog. Sorry I don't know how to make it wider.






I hope you enjoyed my choices. If you'd like to join the bloghop, just hop on over to The Armchair Squid to sign up. Willy Dunne Wooters, I wish I had a summer love song for you. I guess I sing my love to you when I play my piano.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

P.S. I suppose you want to know about the most hilarious date ever. I've told this story before, but many of you weren't following me when I posted about it, or you've probably forgotten it.

Jaws was the blockbuster movie of the summer. I went to see it with Mike, who was oh! so hot. We made out until the movie started. I could hear the adolescent boys seated behind us moaning and groaning about how they had to sit behind the lovers. Then the movie began and we were mesmerized, much too busy to kiss. The moment that the shark suddenly rose from the water and moved toward the boat was terrifying––so terrifying that Mike fell out of his seat. I saw him from the corner of my eye, looking up at me. Had I seen? I had, but I didn't let him know. I stared at the screen because I didn't want him to be embarrassed.

I have no idea what happened to Mike. It wasn't until many years after our date that I revealed Mike fell out of his seat during Jaws.