Monday, December 29, 2008

Duchess of Carnegie

I am, I admit, and old soul. I sit here in my "study" surrounded by history books, classic literature, and photographs of my family, some of members long dead.

I am, I admit, a romantic at heart. I love the stories that end with the hero succeeding. I love to think that true love conquers all, that bravery, courage, honor, and perseverance are all one needs to survive life. I know it doesn't always end up that way, but I want to believe that it can.

Perhaps that is why I want to move to New York and offer to fight to the death to keep this dear woman in her apartment.

Her name is Editta Sherman, age 96. Her home is in an apartment above Carnegie Hall. That is right, above Carnegie Hall. She has rent control. She pays.....ready for this....$650 a month.

She is a portrait photographer who has led her own fairytale life. She has known Andy Warhol, Henry Fonda, Paul Newman. She has photographed supermodels, actors, politicians, singers....and more. She is one of those rare people who not only captures history, but has become an active part of it.

And now, in the name of progress, she must go. Sanford Weill, the chairman of Carnegie Hall has decided he wants to use the apartments that she and several others occupy for rooms for music students.

I am all for music students. I am all for the Hall making some more money (which we know is why Weill wants to renovate. You can't make any money off of rent control).

But why, in the name of progress, must she go NOW. She is 96. She may live to be 106. If she does, you have lost ten years. In the meantime, almost all of the other tenants have moved out. Change their apartments. Let the music students get to know Mrs. Sherman, and let their lives be enriched by it.

It may not be fair, to let her stay and make others go. But fair, as my father would say, is where they give pigs blue ribbons. At 96 you have outlived fair. You get to do what you want. And she wants to continue living, maybe even die, in her home of over 50 years.

We live in a time when that useless punk Thoreau (that's right, I said it) has poisoned our minds with the thought that the elderly have nothing to teach us. In our new technological age, how could Editta Sherman possibly have anything wise to pass on? She is old, throw her out for the new!

Well, Thoreau was a fool, and so are we. We box up our elderly in group homes and we stop listening to them. We assume that they think nothing like us, and that they are just a burden. But people like Mrs. Sherman have seen enough of life to know what is important, and to know what lessons we really should focus on.

....rant on elderly over.....

So leave her be you heartless New York Chairman. Let her stay! Do not now, after so long, take her home!


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

This will be brief.

Slumdog Millionaire. I saw it for the first time alone on Saturday. Then I saw it with a great friend this afternoon. I would go see again tomorrow.

It is amazing.

The cinematography is fantastic. Each shot was well thought out and composed to not only progress the story, but to truly engage the viewer.

The acting is superb. Every person plays their part well, not over doing it, not trying to steal the screen. Each character is believable, and either lovable or hateable...or I suppose both.

And the story. Ah the story. It is what stories should be.

I won't go into more detail today. I want people to go see it, then we can chat. I will probably post on it again soon.

If you live in Manhattan, you are out of luck. The theater here has once again skipped out on anything that focuses on another culture. But don't worry, Twilight and Bolt in 3D are still available.

But if you want to go to Topeka...nope, not there either.

Fine, go to KC. Watch it there. It will be worth the drive. And if you live in KC, or are visiting...then go now.

And if you are in Manhattan and want to drive to KC on Saturday to see it....I will go with you.

That is how much I love this movie.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Merry Merry Christmas

I love Christmas Eve. It is what every evening probably should be. My extended family comes over, we eat amazing chili and soup that my momma makes (and if you have never had my momma's cooking, you are missing out on one of the single greatest experiences in human life. I know many people say this, but my statement is confirmed by hundreds of people outside of the family.), and we have a grand old time. This year my cousin Amy's little girl went around with a rubber snake biting people....but only people with beards....I was bit seven times before the snake decided it liked me.

Then they all go home and the gift extravaganza begins. This year was extra fun because my nephew is two, which means is old enough to actually appreciate the gifts he receives. This year the big ones were Veggie Tales and a toy vacuum cleaner. That is right, a toy vacuum cleaner. Gotta love it. I was also excited for the gift us chittlins got my parents. It was a Blue Ray DVD player. And I think they loved it. We watched Happy Feet in Blue Ray, and it was amazing. Technology is neat.

After the gifts we focus on Jesus. Every year we read the Christmas Story from Luke, although really momma just says it from heart. And this year my brother in law played his guit-fiddle and we had some song worship. It was a great way to focus our hearts on the true meaning of the holiday.

I love Christmas, and I love my family. Thus these past fews days have been fantastic.

Hope yours has been just as blessed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Nagging Thought

So last night I went to see the movie Seven Pounds, and ever since then, something has been bothering me. Something I need to get off my chest. It has been an inkling for a while. I have noticed it in other movies, but it was not until last night that I really came to terms with it.

Rosario Dawson may just be the hottest actress in Hollywood.

She is amazing. And educated. And hot. And, a really great actress.

I am still slightly obsessed with Jessica Biel. I still can't get past Angelina Jolie's forbidden sex appeal. I still think that Salma Hayek is WAY sexier than Penelope Cruz.

But Rosario Dawson may have them all beat, hands down.

Man, do I feel better getting that out there in the open.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Itch

I feel it.

I don't even want it.

I am happy where I am.

I am settling in, creating relationships, finding community.

I want to be here.

And yet....there it is.

The itch.

To move.

To move on to the next adventure, the next place, the next challenge.

Sometimes, when it happens, I can take a short trip, and it goes away.

Not this time.

The trip did not help.

It may have increased it.

So where to?

Do I just throw a dart and head that direction?

Sell what I own, grab the dog and go?

I told myself I wouldn't.

Said I don't want to travel alone anymore.

I want the settled home, the relationships, the community.

And yet.....this damn itch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Irrational Fears

Ranger's recent post about his favorite things started a trend that has reverberated through the known world. I have heard that Obama even decided to list his favorite things. Oddly enough, winning the presidency was 4th, after "eating licorice till I am sick", but before "sneaking a cig when Michelle is not looking"

Anyway, I am feeling a bit too pessimistic about life to list my favorite things....perhaps another day. No, I am forging my own trail. I will now list my irrational fears. Considering the fact that no one participated in my reading list except the amazing Sara, I fear this will be a very short trail. But then, my life has been built on short trails.

Anywho, my fears:

1. Spiders.
Of any size. The fear grows the faster they are. Big, slow ones I can handle. Fast little buggers, I cry like a wee babe. I am not proud of this, but it is who I am.

2. Closed shower curtains.
Maybe this is Alfred Hitchcock's fault. Or more likely Event Horizon. Maybe it is just my own over-active imagination. But I enter many bathrooms for my job, and every time there is a closed shower curtain, I get nervous. I always open them, but there is a moment before I see they are clear that I am filled with sheer terror.

3. Sub-terranian public transportation.
It is not the people. It is not the closed in spaces. I don't know what it is. But I do know this. I will not board one by myself. I think it is because I am afraid that I don't know where I will get off. And what if I get off in the wrong place and can't get back on in time? What if it suddenly transports through time and space, and I am stuck like Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap in alternate dimensions? IT COULD HAPPEN.

4. Spontaneous Combustion
You just laughed. I heard it. But it is real. Documented. And from the time I was about 12 to about 20 I was truly afraid it would happen. The fear has lessened now, but the possibility is always lurking.

5. Dark Water
I once skipped out on swimming with a very beautiful girl because she wanted to swim at night. We could have been married by now. However, we could also have been eaten by terrifying creatures of the deep that only surface at night. My rule is, if you can't see your foot in the water, it might get bitten off. This includes puddles, swimming pools, and bathtubs (all only if there is no light. I do not fear them if they are lit...that would be ridiculous). And muddy lakes. And deep ocean, where you can see your feet, but sharks swim really fast. As does the Kracken.

Hmmm, I do feel better after naming my fears. They may be irrational, but they are real. You know you have some too. C'mon. Share for the world.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bainy's Book LIst

My friend Bainy and I were chatting the other night, and the topic wandered into the realm of books. She said "I think God wants me to start reading again." I told her that God had told me to tell her yes. Later I felt that in truth, God had not specifically told me this, and that perhaps I should not lie about what the Lord God is saying. False prophets seem to have a great deal of trouble coming, according to the bible....

But I digress. Here for Bainy, and anyone else's viewing pleasure, is Bainy's Book List. I challenge any who reads this...yes, all three of read any book on this list, and then call me. We will go have coffee, tea, beer, or perhaps some nice tap water, and discuss them. I will buy.

First, a list of one's that most have heard of, classics if you will, that must be read:

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
1984 by George Orwell
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is not exhaustive by any means. I love the classics. If you have read all of these, I have more.

Now, onto some specific books. Some are serious, others less so.

Love in The Driest Season by Neely Tucker

To begin with, a book that will wrench your heart in half in the first few pages and spend the rest of the book rebuilding it. Neely Tucker is a journalist who, with his wife, traveled to Zimbabwe in 1997. There he saw a country devastated by AIDS and poverty. They also fell in love with a baby girl they knew was to be their daughter. As Tucker revisits the trials and tears of trying to adopt this beautiful baby girl, you will get a look at what real love is. The sacrifices and troubles he encounters will cause you to weep. The joys and love he experiences will cause your heart to soar. I start with this book because it is one all should read.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

A memoir of sorts, this is a fictionalized telling, in essay form, of the lives of soldiers in the Vietnam War. It is guaranteed to broaden your perspective and touch your heart. Read it without crying, laughing, and cringing, and you must be a robot. In which case go read some Isaac Asimov.

A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall

While technically a biography, this is also a love story written by Peter Marshall's wife. It is a love story that involves not just a man and a woman, but a man and God. Peter Marshall was a man who knew how to be in love with God, and how to experience God's love. And he was Scottish. His wisdom, tenderness, passion, and fervor come through in a personal telling of his life that only his wife could tell. If you love a good love story, read it. If you love to read about real people who chased the Lord with all they had, read. Just read it.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

First, go and purchase a box of soft Kleenex. You will rub your eyes and blow your nose raw with the store brand stuff. This novel explores the world of Afghanistan and war, but more importantly the world of man. It challenges its reader. It will make you want to curl up in a ball and stand up against evil all at once. The "hero" of the book is no hero at all, but his journey throughout the novel creates in him the ability to become one. If you read this, be prepared to come face to face with humanity at its ugliest. But do it, be brave. Perhaps you too will come out prepared to be a hero.

The Brothers K by David James Duncan

Baseball, family, and religion. Need I say more? Three of the world's most powerful forces circle each other in this book, changing lives and hearts. Reading this book is like sitting down with your grandparents and listening to them tell stories about their crazy cousins. You grow to love them, and kind of want to be a part of their adventures. Just a good old classic American tale. Thus, if you don't read, you are un-American. And foolish. And maybe smell slightly. Okay, I take back the un-American....and the foolish....but seriously....deodorant....

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I know what you are thinking. What this list is missing is a fantastic Gothic mystery novel. Well worry no more. This book has murder, sex, deceit, and mystery. You are in for a fantastic ride through Barcelona's underworld as you try to discover the secret behind the mysterious destruction of...books. That is right. But don't worry. People apparently get murdered, fall in love, and have fantastic secrets in Spain's book selling world. I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Round Ireland With a Fridge by Tony Hawks

What would you do if I bet you that you could not hitchhike around an island with a refrigerator. If you were Tony Hawks, you would take that bet. You would lose money, because the bet won't cover expenses, but then you would write a hilarious book that would make you more money. So you would be okay.

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

This book contains some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read. The story that Rushdie weaves about the set of children born at midnight on the eve of India's independence is both hilarious and sobering. He weaves history with fantasy to create a world of ancient mysticism and modern realism. I guarantee that reading this will add to your wisdom AND imagination. A twofer.

The Drowned and The Saved by Primo Levi

Primo Levi, an Italian Jew who was sent to Auschwitz during the Holocaust, wrote several books on his experience. This was his final book, written 40 years after his incarceration. In it, he does not attempt to tell of what happened to him (I think he assumed he had done that with his past books), but rather to understand the life in the Lagers. This amazing memoir explores who survived, how they survived, why they survived, and what they became. He explores how such atrocities can come about, and how people can allow it to happen. He was convinced that without such analysis, and without constant reminders as to what happened and how, that the world could easily descend into madness again. This is one that I believe is a no brainer. Read it. You will be a better person for it. Just read it.

Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie

I will end with a collection of short stories from an amazing writer. He is a Spokane Indian who blends his life experiences into stories that comfort and haunt. His stories will make you laugh out loud, while causing you to question the world you live in. He writes with a passion and wit that will keep you looking for more and more of his works. Start with this one, and then just keep going.

Alrighty, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Read away. Tell me what you think. And of course, add to the list. If you have a book that you think I should read, let me know. I will add it to the stack, and the YOU can buy me coffee.