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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Life of Pi - a mystery to me

The tiger on the lifeboat in "The Life of Pi"

I couldn't wait to see "The Life of Pi." I hadn't read the book, but I had seen the trailer featuring a tiger and a whale - that's all I needed.

I saw the movie with my husband and we both enjoyed the story-within-a-story about the boy stranded on a lifeboat with an adult Bengal tiger.

However, we are still both scratching our heads about the symbolism alluded to in the story-outside-the-story that enveloped that tale.

Friday, November 23, 2012

50 Reasons my Daughter is Grateful to be Car-less

Anna (second from left) in Uganda
My daughter, Anna Rose Sweet, is addicted to travel. Her blog post, "50 Reasons I'm Grateful to be Car-less", recently got special notice in WordPress. She had almost 800 viewers in one day!

Read it! You will be moved.

How did we ever raise our kids? "Parental Guidance" sounds like a page from real life

Marisa Tomei, Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Tom Everett Scott and kids in "Parental Guidance"
So. I was sitting with a bunch of friends my age - all of us grandmothers. We were talking about old-school punishment. One woman remembered being advised to spank with a wooden spoon that had a hole in it "to cut down on wind resistance."
The conversation evolved to today's parenting styles.
One person in the group told a story about being corrected by her children re: how to handle the grandchildren. "They told me not to praise them," she said. "That's a bad thing now."

We started laughing, and the examples flowed from there.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Spielberg's "Lincoln" - better than Sominex

Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln
Everyone is going to say "Lincoln" is a great movie, but I saw it last night and I have to say it's better than Sominex.

A screenwriting friend of mine, Patricia Fox, complained to me about Spielberg years ago. I didn't know what she meant. But now I do.

From Beethoven to Gotye: great melody + SIMPLE arrangement = great listening experience!

Gotye & Kimbra

Music and writing have a lot in common. This is what I tell my writing students: writing will be full of life if it has Clarity, Brevity, Simplicity, and ZIP!

I love music. For me, the same rules apply - especially the SIMPLICITY part. If you've got a great melody, don't bury it in mush. I hate overproduced music.

If an already-good melody is produced with simplicity, the result is something I never get tired of listening to. There are so many examples....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prescription for Happiness Found at an Eagle Court of Honor

Jon Skipper at his Eagle scout ceremony
On November 11, Veteran's Day, I had the privilege of witnessing an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for the first time in my life. The Eagle was Jonathan Skipper, the son of friends Walt and Irene Skipper. For his Eagle project, when he was still in eighth grade, Jon organized a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to benefit HOPE Network for Single Mothers, a charity I founded in 1982. Jon's efforts resulted in a gain of 31 new Pack n' Play portable cribs, dozens of diapers, sleep sacks, crib bedding, mailing supplies, and donations to benefit families headed by single mothers in the Greater Milwaukee area - a total value of nearly $5,000. John enlisted other scouts in the effort. The cribs and safe sleep education may well save lives in Milwaukee, where there has been a rash of deaths from unsafe sleep environments.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cakelike carrot bread with frosting but not all the guilt

frosted carrot cake image from the Web

My favorite cake is carrot cake, and my sweet pal Karen Cluppert made one for my birthday Saturday. It tasted good, especially baked with the love of a friend who would go to the trouble to make it! Below is the recipe that Karen adapted to be less guilt-producing than most carrot cakes. 

Karen says: "This is really carrot bread, so it's a little heavier than a cake might be. And I substituted olive oil and a little coconut oil for the vegetable oil. The vegetable oil recipe is delicious."

Monday, November 5, 2012

A little town honors her military sons & daughters - and an idea for Honor Flight Vietnam!

Emily's niece Annaliese pointing to Emily's name
Emily's nephew Landon getting in on the action

Emily F. Vanden Heuvel's name has been added to the Town of Erin Veterans' Monument.

         Mom Maureen, aunt Erin, sister Fawn, nephew Landon, niece Annaliese, and dad Tom at the Erin Veterans' Monument now bearing the name of U.S. Marine Emily F. Vanden Heuvel
On Saturday, Nov. 3, I went to a dedication ceremony of names to be added to the Erin Veterans' Monument. I never expected to be as moved as I was by the ceremony that honored a dozen service men and women.

I was there to honor the daughter of my friend Maureen. Emily F. Vanden Heuvel is a U.S. Marine from Erin who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. She survived her hitch over there and remains a Marine. However, her duty prevented her from seeing her name dedicated.

Tom Vanden Heuvel (with Marine jacket) stands for his daughter when her name is called
Erin is a little town, population under 4,000, located in the rolling glacial hills of Wisconsin. Ten years ago the town erected a humble and lovely little obelisk honoring the sons and daughters of Erin who served in conflicts from the time of the Civil War up to the present.

The ceremony opened with a short speech by Michael Eggleston, the Senior Vice Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars #8834. He called for us all to honor our warriors as the Native Americans revere their warriors. He reminded us that every one of today's warriors is a volunteer serving his or her country.
Michael Eggleston & the Erin Veterans' Monument
Eggleston said something I've never before heard uttered by a military person. He went through a catalog of our wars. Then he said, "War is never wanted nor is it popular with everyone. Only history tells us if the war was necessary or worth the sacrifice."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. In the past, I've only heard military people defend wars, no matter their outcomes.

Big Miracle - a fun family movie based on a true story

I wanted to see this movie on the big screen, but never did. I wish I had. It would have been beautiful. I have no idea how they filmed the scenes of  whales trapped beneath Alaskan ice. Fabulous.

I rented the movie (through Redbox - with no bonus explanatory material) and thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember reading a movie review complaining that the Greenpeace worker played by Drew Barrymore speaks in preaching paragraphs. I found that completely believable, and slightly comical. Some of the other characters are a bit cartoonish also, but it's forgiveable because overall, the movie has a big heart.

The film tells the amazing true 1988 story of how some California grey whales were trapped beneath Arctic ice but - despite daunting odds - were saved through the cooperation of Greenpeace; television reporters and cameramen; Inupiat tribespeople; Minnesota guys with their invention, a de-icing machine for ice fishermen; helicopter pilots; the United States government; the U.S. military; the CEO of an oil company; the government of the U.S.S.R. (funny line: "Gorby? It's Ronnie"); and an  enormous Soviet ice cutter. 

It's heartening to see a story of cooperation between "enemy" nations, whatever the cause of the cooperation. This is one reason why I love to read the publication of  The International Crane Foundation, located in Baraboo, Wisconsin. For instance, for the sake of endangered cranes, I've read that the two Koreas have come together to protect habitat. The two Koreas!

A fun side note: the movie includes archival television footage. We get to see very a young Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Tom Brokaw reporting on the real-life events. And there's one surprise: a TV report by a certain Sarah Heath, a very pretty woman with dark hair and glasses. She bears some resemblance to a future governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate!

Another fun feature is the collage of photos flashed during the end credits, showing the real-life people with their Hollywood counterparts.

I love anything that shows the best of human beings. "Big Miracle" is a great movie for the whole family. I would watch it again.

Teacher Gail's grade: a solid A.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My vote is the kiss of death

My mom always said, "I vote for the man." I'm an independent voter like she was. I vote for the man or woman based on what I perceive is integrity.

You do not want me voting for you. I have an almost perfect record of voting for the guy who lost in the U.S. presidential elections. In only one case, since I've been old enough to vote, have I voted for a winner. I've underlined my votes, below:

1972 McGovern vs Nixon
1976 Carter vs Ford
1980 Carter vs Reagan
1984 Mondale vs Reagan
1988 Dukakis vs. George H.W. Bush [*This was my only winning vote.*]
1992 Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush
1996 Clinton vs. Dole
2000 Gore vs. George W. Bush [I voted for Nader.]
2004 Kerry vs. Bush
2008 Obama vs. McCain
2012 Obama vs. Romney

I voted yesterday for the 2012 race. I have the feeling that my vote is the kiss of death for any presidential candidate. Maybe if I don't tell anyone who I voted for, my guy will win...? Tune in later for my confession.

POSTSCRIPT NOVEMBER 7, 2012: Yup. Kiss of death. My apologies, Mr. Romney. Carry on, Mr. President. And please, I beg you - cut our national debt. Don't leave that legacy for our children and grandchildren.