Monthly Archives: September, 2012

Never say “Never”

Even James Bond knows not to do this, for crying out loud.

The first time I said I’d never do something was during my freshman year in college. As a design major, I was required to take the basic art history survey class, you know, the kind that covers cave paintings to modern post-impressionism all in the span of 16 weeks.  After surviving that class, I swore I would NEVER take another art history class for the rest of my life.  Let’s jump ahead a few years:  I am now an art history major, and I have to take another 9 or 10 art history classes. (Much too long of a story to get into here; I may post about it in the future.)  Bottom line:  I LOVED all those classes!

I thought I would never want to write a short story.  I don’t think in brief terms so the idea of writing a limited number of words frightens me. It’s hard work to encapsulate your ideas into a shorter form. One of my favorite quotes to describe my feelings is: “I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” (attributed to George Bernard Shaw)

I belong to a writers group that is putting together an anthology of short stories.  Too much was happening in my life between work and family, and I didn’t think I’d have the time to devote to this project. But my subconscious decided to work on it anyway and, before I knew it, I had an entire short story mapped out in my head. So, even though I said I’d never be able to contribute to the anthology, I’m writing like a maniac to finish it by the deadline at the end of this week (yes, this week).

Whether my story will make the final cut in the anthology, I can’t say at this point – that part isn’t up to me. But I am doing it and thoroughly enjoying the sense of accomplishment from doing something I didn’t think I could (or didn’t think I even wanted to) do.


A Time for Reflection

Tonight marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

Because this is a time for reflection, I started to look back on this past year of writing (an other things as well, but let’s focus on writing).  Was I disciplined about it? No. Did I set a time each day (or each week) to write? No. Did I do anything at all? Yes, but definitely not as much as I should (or could) have done.

My writers’ group always talks about making goals and keeping them realistic and accomplish-able. I can’t really say I did that either.

Lest you think I did nothing at all, you’d be wrong. But, in all honesty, I should be a lot further in my manuscript than I really am.

I can make excuses – lots and lots of excuses. My day job keeps me hopping and working more than a typical 40-hour work week, so I’m dead tired when I get home and all I want to do is curl up on the bed with my black cat, Hamish Macbeth. My mother was ill this past month and I spent a lot of time driving back and forth to see her (she lives about an hour away). Of course, Mom’s problems were only in the past month so that doesn’t say anything about the previous 11 months.

So, as I begin year 5773, I’m ready for a new beginning on my writing. A year where I am committed to my work, finishing it and (most importantly) getting it out there, whether that be positive or not-so-positive.

Even if you’re not Jewish, we’re nearing the end of 2012 and there’s no better time to think about your writing. If you’re like me, give yourself a mental kick in the butt to get yourself going.

L’Shanah Tovah – have a GOOD year.


Deserted Island Movie List

As I noted before, my love of movies comes from my mother.  It’s not uncommon for us to have long telephone conversations while watching the same movie.  A few years ago, we started a game:  if you were stuck on a deserted island (and, naturally, had access to electricity or could have the Professor from Gillian’s Island build you something), what 10 films would you want to have with you, i.e., what movies could you watch over and over and over again and never tire of them?

Depending on my mood, my list may vary slightly, but there are five titles I ALWAYS have.  These are, in no particular order of preference:

  • Singin’ in the Rain – a great satire of the advent of sound to motion pictures, and some of the best dancing on screen; it’s not uncommon for me to rewind Moses and watch it once or twice again (which makes up for always fast-forwarding through You Were Meant for Me and some portions of Broadway Melody)
  • Casablanca – just about a perfect film; six – count ‘em 6 – of AFI’s  100 best movie quotes are from Casablanca (see the full AFI list by clicking here)
  • 1776 – I was hooked in 1971 when my dad took the family to see the stage version in Chicago and we nearly wore out the original cast album; I often annoy family no end by reciting lines verbatim
  • Pride and Prejudice – this absolutely must be the Colin Firth version (but if that one weren’t available, the 1940 version with Laurence Olivier would place a VERY close second, even if it’s not exactly accurate to the book)
  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby  – but it has to be the 8½ hour filmed version of the Trevor Nunn’s theatrical extravaganza ; I’ve watched it at least three dozen times (yes, all the way through) and even seen it twice in the theater; like 1776, I know most of this by heart (complete with dialects)

These are the movies that, when on television, I get suckered into watching even though I own them on DVD and (with the exception of Nickleby) are also on my iPad.

Think about it and get back to me. Which movies would YOU list??

Mr. Capra Goes to War

American film director Frank Capra died on this day (September 3) in 1991 at age 94.  There are those who refer to his films as “Capra-corn,” a reference to the fact that his films will often have themes of man’s basic goodness.  But they’re just good films.  I dare you to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and not get just a little teary-eyed when James Stewart decides he wants to live again.

Capra was nominated six times for the Academy Award for Best Director and won three:  It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and You Can’t Take it With You (1938).  Six of his films have been included in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry:

  • The Strong Man (1926)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
  • Why We Fight Series of seven films (1942)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

But what has always amazed me was his work on his film series, Why We Fight, created during World War II.  I had the opportunity to watch these films in college as part of an Art History class – American Film as Art.

But I need to provide a little background first….. (Okay, I’m a librarian, so this kind of trivia is in my blood.)

Shortly after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Capra – aged 44 – quit Hollywood (and resigned as President of the Screen Directors Guild) to join the US Army.  At that time, the Army’s Signal Corps traditionally created documentaries for the Armed Forces.  But Chief of Staff George Marshall assigned Capra to create films that “will explain to our boys in the Army why we are fighting, and the principles for which we are fighting …” (from his autobiography, Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography ; Macmillan, 1971).

What was unique about that series is that Capra took EXISTING footage, much of which were confiscated films from Germany and Italy.  All he did was change the narration and you get a TOTALLY different film – many of the shots of Adolf Hitler were taken from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Wills.  Added to that, the Walt Disney Company was enlisted to create some of the animations and Capra had some of the best film composers scoring the films, including Alfred Newman and Dimitri Tiomkin.  These were NOT your average Army documentaries.

It’s no wonder these are part of the National Film Registry.  If you’ve never seen these films – at the very least, Prelude to War – you need to high-tail it to your local library.  If they don’t have this series, try to get them through interlibrary loan – it will be worth it.

What’s your favorite Frank Capra film?