Daughter and I have been saving up movies for the winter - movies that will cheer us up in some way, whether it's comedy, romance, adventure, beautiful (lush, green) scenery,* etc. And mid-January is definitely the time we need these the most. I've added YouTube links for some of them. Some links are spoilers, and some aren't. I'll warn you if they are.
So far, we've watched:
Stardust, which I loved. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to see this in the theater, and I'm sure our small TV didn't do justice to it. I will never look at Robert DeNiro in the same way again (clip here - don't watch if you haven't seen the movie!).
Pretty Woman, a long time favorite movie of mine. Julia Roberts is wonderful in it (bathtub clip here).
Murder By Death. We've tried watching some other movies that I enjoyed in the 70's and found that they weren't that enjoyable anymore. This one, however, didn't disappoint - screenplay by Neil Simon, starring Maggie Smith, Peter Sellars, David Niven, Peter Falk, James Coco, Elsa Lanchester, Alec Guiness, and Truman Capote in a murder mystery. All but the last two play famous detectives (Sam Diamond scene here - it doesn't give much away).
Daughter watched Emma (I haven't read the book yet).
Tonight, we brought out the heavy guns - one of my all-time favorites with great scenery, wonderful acting by Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman & Co., and, of course, Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility (right)(clip of Alan Rickman reading poetry outside here - not a spoiler).
Upcoming movies to cheer us:
Bridget Jones' Diary. The movie is not as R-rated as the book, and, except for one scene we're going to skip, it's pretty PG-13. So, even though I just watched it last fall, we're going to watch it again (Beginning of the movie here - language warning)(Previous post here).
Galaxy Quest - lots of fun! A Star Trek spoof, but also a good sci-fi comedy/adventure in its own right. Trailer here.
How To Steal a Million (right) - one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies. Or, is it one of my favorite Peter O'Toole movies?
Cats was wonderful, of course*. This was the third time I've seen it - I took older son and daughter to see it ten years ago (they were 5 and 9), and dear husband and I saw it on Broadway before older son was even a thought.
We've danced to parts of two songs in Broadway dance ("The Jellicle Ball" and "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteaser") so I enjoyed those songs even more than I did the last time I saw Cats.
I haven't listened to the soundtrack for a while (we only have it on record and only recently got a new record player) so I forgot about my favorite song to sing with - "Macavity, the Mystery Cat." It's the jazziest song on the soundtrack.
* Footnote for Cats fans: This production had "Growltiger's Last Stand" but omitted "The Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles" - which, since I enjoy the former and have little interest in the latter, suited me just fine.
Kentucky-born Terrence V. Mann, the hard-rocking Rum Turn Tugger, has
spent $6,000 in voice coaching to get rid of his Southern accent. At
the North Carolina School of Arts he learned mime, clowning, juggling,
acrobatics, jazz dancing and classical acting. The juggling got him
into "Barnum," and during one audition for "Cats" Nunn asked him if he
had walked the wire. "I told him I did," says Mann, "and that it worked
much better if you fell off because then the audience was so with you
when you got back on to do it again." Mann
describes how Trevor Nunn had the cast crawl around during rehearsals
improvising catlike movements. "We also talked about cartoon cats like
Sylvester and Tom and Jerry," says Mann, "the kind of movements that
were caricatures of real cats."
Tired of angsty or semi-angsty posts? Me too. Here's something completely different (I like my result).
Which Phantom Scene Are You?
You are the "All I Ask of You" scene! Congrads! You are a romantic! One of those people who care deeply about those they love. You are an innocent spirit, with a beautiful mind! Amazing! You are a kind well brought up person, who is sensitive and can be shy. But when you're with someone nothing else really matters.... does it? Great Job;) Take this quiz!
... for anyone who's still reading (grin)(after yesterday's post to which this one refers)(which, for those who didn't read it is about volunteering for the choir while feeling out of place at church)(not easy for a recovering shy person).
I got really nervous as the afternoon went on, and did some aerobics to cheer myself up. I brought Fosse along to listen to on the way there, but it wasn't Sing, Sing, Sing that really helped. It was Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries. We've used that song so much as an opening song for Broadway dance that it made me feel very grounded as I did the usual moves in my head ("Reach up right," "Reach up left" bring the arms down, plie...).
And everything went fine. I found that I need to warm up more at home, singing-wise. The notes in the top of my range gradually appeared as the evening went on. I was a bit hoarse by the end. But, overall (except for those dratted high G's!), I really enjoyed it!
Of course, the choir has been practicing these pieces for at least a few weeks so I was way behind. I started out sort of playing it on the flute in my head and singing with that, but ended up just plain sight singing. I ended up sight singing much better than I thought I could. I was rather amazed that I knew where the notes were going since I haven't done this for so long! (I took sight singing and choir at the NC School of the Arts - back in the 80's.)
Conversation-wise, I don't think all that fast on my feet. I'm great at figuring out the proper rebuttal - three days later! But I really enjoy the challenge of thinking on my feet in aerobics or music - how did that move or that note work, and how can I make the next one better? * How to improve what I'm singing/leading, and how to get more into the routine/music?
Oh, and the too many sopranos part? The hardest part of the evening (besides walking into the choir room in the first place) was at the beginning when there was only one other soprano (fortunately, two others arrived fairly soon). "Okay, just the sopranos" - just the two of us, and I'm sight singing?!
People were friendly, and I met someone new.
Older son and I enthused about choir for a while on the way home. Then, we got seriously down to the business of singing with the CD, Cry, Cry, Cry - sung by Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky, and Richard Shindell. One of the few songs that all three sing together is By Way of Sorrow. We were singing with this as we pulled into the driveway.
A good evening.
* Though the stakes are higher in aerobics where you've got a class-full of people to keep moving!
[Note: I was going to make this a two part post for yesterday and today, but I ended up blogging about Terry Pratchett. Therefore, this will be another long post.]
I never blogged about church on Christmas Eve (and yes this does have relevance to today).
Daughter was sick so we couldn't go to Mass at St. Leo's in Winston-Salem. In fact, older son and I decided to go to our church, and dear husband decided (as a present to me) to come with us. We've always gone to a Lutheran Christmas Eve service with my mother so this is the first time we've been to our church's later service.
Now, I should be used to sitting by myself at church by now since I've been doing it for at least two years, but I'm not. Most of the time, I don't think about it, but this winter it's been really bothering me. It's not that I'm alone at church since older son is up there in the choir, but it's still nice to be there with someone else in the pew.
It was absolutely wonderful to be sitting with both of them. I actually got teary a few times - at the beginning and again during Communion. The service, of course, was beautiful. At Lutheran, Christmas Eve services, the congregation lights candles for "Silent Night." At our church, the candles were lit for all the Communion hymns and the closing prayer and hymn. The candlelight part is always the highlight of a Christmas Eve service for me so this was great!
I was also surrounded by singing bloggers. Of course, I was sitting between Color Sweet Tooth and Hamjamser (both basses). Confessing Reader (also a bass) was sitting behind dear husband. Breakfast with Pandora (tenor) was sitting in front of us. Some Myrhh was sitting on the other end of the pew in front of us - singing soprano descants with another choir member. It was lovely to hear.
I also felt kind of at home there, which is unusual for me. I try to remain positive, but I've had a difficult time there. Being quiet with a tendency towards shyness, I usually get to know people at church by volunteering for things and gradually getting to know them. Walking up to a table of strangers at a church dinner, introducing myself and joining them, is so far from anything I can even picture, much less do. Unfortunately, I was turned down for everything I volunteered for at church so I've never gotten to know many people or really feel at home. The people I do know there, I've gotten to know more through other activities - blogging, homeschool groups, and aerobics.
After a while, I stopped volunteering for things because it was starting to affect my other social relationships. I used to be extremely shy (to the point of paranoia) in junior high, and it took a lot of intentional hard work in high school, college, and afterwards to get to where I am now. I was starting to get shyer again, and that wasn't good! I decided I was done trying to get involved. I'd try to get used to just going to church on Sundays, which is something I've never done in the over two decades I've been involved with churches as an adult. It felt strange.
Because dear husband and older son were in the choir (and because I played flute with the choir a few times), the choir doesn't seem as foreign to me as the rest of the church. And the choir members are usually friendly. But I still wouldn't casually walk into the choir room.
Last weekend, I felt totally out of place at church. Why was I there? Why was I going? It wasn't just that I missed two Sundays due to the asthma/incense combination. Actually, I wasn't really sure what it was. People said hello; the people around me shook my hand at the sign of peace. The problem was inside me, not outside (I later concluded that it had more to do with light box neglect than anything else). I found it very difficult to be there.
That's one thread. The other thread, which I won't elaborate on because that would make this even longer, is that I've been doing voice therapy since last summer. It's been going very well, and it's almost over, although I, hopefully, will be taking voice lessons with the therapist afterwards. I'm able to sing much better than I have in years. In fact, it turns out that I'm really not an alto like I thought I was - I was just scared to sing too high because I thought it would hurt my voice.
Anyone see where I'm going with this? (grin)
After feeling so out of place, I came back from church last Sunday and told everyone that this dumb idea I'd had (but not told them) was definitely out of the question. My dumb, previously untold, idea was to join the choir for Lent.*
The problem was that nobody else thought it was a dumb idea. They all argued with me - even younger son. My mother joined in at dinner that evening. Daughter was the most persistent - and she's gotten really good at arguing! She's cruel - she uses logic. I shouldn't have given her those critical thinking and logic books. She learned them too well.
The result is that I e-mailed the choir director on Monday - fully expecting to be turned down again (they have lots of sopranos). Like I was going to break my record?!
Ummm, yes. I'm going to the rehearsal this evening. In fact, next week, daughter is going to join too!
I know this is a silly post, really. Joining the choir shouldn't be such a big idea - except for all the other issues I have around church. I had a very difficult time, above, typing "our church." I'm a registered member. I put my check in the offering plate. But it still feels presumptuous to me to type "our church" (I can handle "older son's church") because I've felt I don't belong. Tonight's going to be a challenge.
Song? Of course I've got a song. In Gigi, the main character (played by Leslie Caron) is worried about what will happen one particular evening (I won't give the story away). She sings Say a Prayer for Me Tonight.
* Actually, I considered it for Advent, but that's way too busy a time.
[ I know - this post is angstier than usual. But it kept me busy while daughter did her second two hour stint of driving. She's exhausted!]
[ Oh, and thought Gigi had the song for the post, longtime readers may be able to guess what CD I'll be listening to on the way there to cheer myself up. Particularly this song.]
Sooner or later someone decided it needed
organizing, and the one thing you could be sure of was that the
organizers weren't going to be the people who, by general
acknowledgement, were at the top of their craft. They were working too
hard. To be fair, it generally wasn't done by the worst, neither. They
were working hard, too. They had to.
No, it was done by the ones who had just enough time and
inclination to scurry and bustle. And, to be fair again, the world
needed people who scurried and bustled. You just didn't have to like
them very much. Terry Pratchett's short story, The Sea and Little Fishes
Today, Monarch's Nature Blog discussed the winter blues (with some great pictures of summer and winter scenes). One of the commentors mentioned that yesterday has been calculated to be the most depressing day of the year. From Time magazine:
...it would be easy to believe the theory set forth by Dr. Cliff Arnall, a
researcher from Cardiff University, that the third Monday of the month
(Jan. 21, this year) — a day he calls Blue Monday — will be our most
depressing day of the year. Arnall bases his yearly prediction on a
formula he developed, which factors in the weather, consumer debt from
holiday spending and failed New Year's resolutions and arrives at that
conclusion that we'll hit rock bottom on Monday the 21st.
Maybe it's the unusually cold and gray weather, the time of year, some emotional occurences,* and my neglect of my light box that are all combining to make me depressed?
I needed something to cheer myself up this evening. My current fiction book, Foolscap, supposedly a comedic book about the tortured life of a Western NC, college professor, is not only not funny (at least not in the first 50 pages), it's depressing too.
I've been keeping Terry Pratchett's Maskerade in reserve for a week like this.
Terry Pratchett has been one of daughter's and older son's favorite authors for a while, but I hadn't gotten around to reading any of his books. A year ago, during our October mountain vacation, dear husband read Pratchett's short story, The Sea and Little Fishes, out loud. I enjoyed the story and loved the quote above (which we often refer to). But I still didn't read any of his books - until last October when I got sick on vacation.** I needed something to cheer me up, and Wyrd Sisters was just the thing.
All of these books take place in Terry Pratchett's Discworld - a world traveling through space on the back of a turtle. The world, and Terry Pratchett's writing, can be hilarious.
The three Discworld books that I've read so far are all takeoffs on classic stories. The wyrd sisters are three witches in a retelling of MacBeth. Lords and Ladies involves a wedding and elves as in A Midsummer Night's Dream. And Maskerade, as you can tell to the right, is a retelling of Phantom of the Opera.
All three novels and the short story, though they can have much larger, more involved casts, start with two witches. Granny Weatherwax is a seemingly misanthropic, seemingly spinster witch. Her sometimes friend, Nanny Ogg, is a more bawdy witch (with a large family) often given to singing off-color songs...
[Note: If you mind the occasional bit of harmless bawdiness, you probably won't like these books. And you should skip the next sentence]
. .. such as "A Wizard's Staff Has a Knob at the End."
I hate knowing too much about a plot before reading a book or watching a movie so I'm not going to describe any more of their plots. However, I will mention a few quotes which give a feeling for Terry Pratchett's wonderful writing. The kind of writing in these quotes is not occasional; it goes through the whole of the books. I'll give you a few examples that don't give away the plots:
It was a rich and wonderful voice, with every diphthong gliding
beautifully into place. It was a golden brown voice. If the Creator of
the multiverse had a voice, it was a voice such as this. If it had a
drawback, it was that it wasn't a voice you could use, for example, for
ordering coal. Coal ordered by this voice would become diamonds. (Wyrd Sisters)
[Granny Weatherwax] walked quickly through the darkness with the frank
stride of someone who was at least certain that the forest, on this
damp and windy night, contained strange and terrible things and she was
it. (Wyrd Sisters)
A year went past. The days followed one another patiently. Right back
at the beginning of the multiverse they had tried all passing at the
same time, and it hadn't worked. (Wyrd Sisters)
"You're wondering whether I really would cut your throat," panted
Magrat. "I don't know either. Think of the fun we could have together,
finding out." (Wyrd Sisters)
Other theories about the ultimate start involve gods creating the
universe out of the ribs, entrails and testicles of their father. There
are quite a lot of these. They are interesting, not for what they tell
you about cosmology, but for what they say about people. Hey, kids,
which part do you think they made your town out of? (Lords and Ladies)
No matter what she did with her hair it took about three minutes for it
to tangle itself up again, like a garden hosepipe in a shed [Footnote: Which, no matter how carefully coiled, will always uncoil overnight and tie the lawnmower to the bicycles].(Lords and Ladies)
Nanny Ogg looked under her bed in case there was a man there. Well, you never knew your luck. (Lords and Ladies)
Of course, Granny Weatherwax made a great play of her independence and
self-reliance. But the point about that kind of stuff was that you
needed someone around to be proudly independent and self-reliant at.People who didn't need people needed people around to know that they were the kind of people who didn't need people. (Maskerade)
A man was theoretically sweeping [the steps]. What he was in fact doing was moving the dirt around with a broom, to give it a change of scenery and a chance to make new friends. (Maskerade)
* Resumption of dear husband's travel, daughter starting the actual driving the car part of driver's ed., and the last day for 2 1/2 months for the only other aerobics instructor currently teaching morning, high/low aerobics. Oh, and also one other crazy idea which I'm not feeling optimistic enough to carry out, but I will anyway, and it will be the subject of tomorrow's post.
** This photo from Rough Ridge in the Blue Ridge Mountains has nothing to do with the subject of this post except that it was taken last October. But it makes me feel happier.