Yes; it is.

This has been here since shortly before Christmas, it didn’t get published – not because it not a really good article – but because we simply ran out of slots. Anyway, it’s just as valid today as it was then so enjoy. Neo.

As there are twelve days of Christmas, I’m going to push your patience a bit and have a little discussion of the old movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I saw that! – you just rolled your eyes, didn’t you? Don’t deny it – I caught you dead to rights. Anyway …

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying the yearly series “A Carol A Day”, written by Margaret Ashworth, a staff writer for The Conservative Woman UK. Along with the ‘backstory’ of the carol writer, and often times the words of the carols, she selects the most delightful samples of YouTube videos that relate to the carols. I highly recommend you go to that site – you can go back to December 1st and catch up or just enjoy the carol of the day. One of the carols she posted caused some interesting comments (below the line, as they say) and some of those comments got me going. Not in a good way.

Some of the TCW commenters hate It’s a Wonderful Life and proceed to share their mean-spirited appraisal of the movie. While some make valid – though obvious – points about the unrealistic portrayal of the characters and insist that if it were honest, the way the movie should go is ‘insert your objections here’. I just sort of bristled a minute or two and then moved on – as you do (a delightful English expression I may have to adopt).

Then, my very dear English friend, my Alys, sent me the link to an article in The Critic https://thecritic.co.uk/its-a-wonderful-life-the-perfect-christmas-film/

It’s meant to be supportive but it doesn’t quite reach its goal. To me, anyway. There’s just something missing from the article. It may warmth; it may be heart. I suspect what’s missing is heart.

First of all – in case you haven’t figured it out yet – IAWL is a work of fiction. Fiction means it is not true. But because something is not true, we are not prevented from taking a lesson from it. There is a great message in this film and especially important – I would think – in this time of me-ism. It is, after all, all about me, isn’t it? Hmmm – one wonders. In any event, we learn what we do has an effect in the world – like the thrown stone causes concentric ripples on the water. Truly no man is an island unto himself. Cast your bread upon the water and it will come back a hundred fold*

The big part of the movie that the Critic’s writer misses is the biggest part of what makes the movie. In his article, the writer says that the angel, Clarence, gives George Bailey the ability to see what life would be like without him; that’s wrong. The scene that matters is the one that shows the night sky with twinkling stars and the audience hears a discussion between God and St. Peter. God hears the prayers of the family and friends of George Bailey and sets about making things right. God and St. Peter choose Clarence, a not very effectual angel who needs help to get his wings, to accompany George on the journey he’s about to take. Clarence is there as a sort of haphazard “Behold, I bring you great tidings”. It is Clarence’s job to help George see what is most important in his life. Unless people understand that it is God ordained for this to happen to George, it’s very easy to pick apart the rest of the film’s premise.

I know you’ll be grateful that I’m not going to go through the whole movie – I’ve already spoken about what’s most important. But I do want you to consider your own life. Simple things we’ve done for others, without their knowing or without them having to ask. These are the things that make our lives wonderful. We didn’t think long and hard about them, we just did them, sort of spur of the moment or an opportunity presented itself. Or perhaps – just maybe – you answered a prayer. I call them ‘Holy Spirit moments’; seemingly coincidental moments when you did something good for someone without even thinking about it. Answered prayer.

My prayer is that your life is sprinkled with these lovely acts and that you acknowledge that you’ve done good in the world. Not to take pride in them but to be grateful that at that moment, you did a good and wonderful thing. For someone else.

*Ecclesiastes 11:1

Seven degrees of separation

Remember that one never knows where inspiration is going to come from? Well, I’ve just had my socks blown off by a recent article in the UK magazine The Critic. You can visit The Critic online and also – keep an eye out for the writer Michael Collins; he’s an author and an excellent writer that contributes to The Critic.

So, my beloved friend Alys, who lives in Wells, England, is so very dear and kind, she sent me this wonderful ceramic creamer in the shape of a resting cow. The manufacturer is Burleigh, a company over a hundred years old still doing what they did a hundred or more years ago. Burleigh has a very good name in England so my gift is extra special. Because I’m an Anglophile and because Alys knows I have a taste for English-made things (note to women who read this – check out the UK company The 1 for U. They make the BEST nightgowns you will ever wear! The cotton is superior and they wash and wear as if they were new every day. You can order on US Amazon), Alys sent me my beautiful little creamer.

Being much interested in Burleigh, which the article covers, early on in the narrative, I saw the name, Tunstall. A huge bell went off in my head. I know that name. And you probably do, too. Remember the movie Young Guns about Billy the Kid? Who did Billy work for before becoming a bad guy? John Tunstall – an Englishman from Hackney (London)!

John Tunstall is played by the wonderful British actor Terrance Stamp.

We know John Tunstall from the Lincoln County War. Here is the Wiki page with the history of Tunstall, McSween, Dolan, Murphy, and Riley. John Tunstall – Wikipedia. The historians and westerns lovers amongst you know the story well.

Then I wanted to know more about Tunstall, England, and found this very short Wiki page. Tunstall, Suffolk – Wikipedia. Note the last sentence of the piece. I’m still laughing. That last bit of information might, depending on to whom one speaks, tie into bigfoot. If you think I’m kidding, you haven’t done YOUR homework!

What an afternoon it’s been. I’ve spanned two centuries, two countries, noted craftmanship, and a tie between England and America that has nothing to do with the Founding Fathers, lol! It’s been a good day!

Merry Christmas from Doctor Who!

And so we join most of the country in asking Dr. Who?

And that is what happens when you have an Ed.D. and insist on being called Doctor. Especially if you bought the degree with favors from your husband and wrote a dissertation that would have been laughed out of my eighth grade English class. There are many more out there on the internet. These are amongst the kindest.

CNN Weather Report

 

Needs a strip club.

And of course

Merry or Happy Christmas from NEO!!!

The Last Man Standing

07 June 2007 – Hollywood, California – Sean Connery. 35th AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Al Pacino held at the Kodak Theatrer. Photo Credit: Russ Elliot/AdMedia

When I was young, I had two, sort of diametrical heroes on film. the first surprisingly nobody was John Wayne. He epitomized what I thought an American man should be: taciturn, always fighting (and honorably) for the right, and persistent enough to accomplish the mission, even if he never really got the girl, even when, as Jess has said, he deserved to. Heck, I even liked The Green Berets, although even as a kid, I recognized it as a propaganda flick. But his films, especially the ones produced by John Ford still reflect my idealistic youth.

The other was Sean Connery who died last weekend at 90. He was the suave sophisticated Brit that not only saved the world but not only got the girl, he got all the girls, and what girls they were. Much as I always really liked Kate Hepburn, only Maureen O’Hara could hold her own in this company. What teenage boy wouldn’t like that gig?

He took Ian Fleming’s not very well drawn and ambiguous (in many ways) archetypical OO agent. and made him the only real competition the Duke had in my mind. Sure I liked Jimmy Stewart and as I learned more about him he grew in my eyes, But in my 13-year-old world, he was a much lesser man than Bond, James Bond. I doubt I was alone, in fact, I’m sure I was not. And almost all the girls I knew wanted to be with him, no matter what they said. He was a man in the same sense as the Duke, but he had a hell of a lot more fun.

The rest of the guys who played Bond just didn’t work for me then or now, although Daniel Craig comes fairly close.

But Connery was so much more than Bond. He was Robin Hood, and Indiana Jones’ dad (who was even tougher than Indy) personified. He made you believe that the Red October really could run away from the whole Soviet Flett, and he was a convincing British Paratroop Brigadier. The only thing he couldn’t do is play a victim or a milk toast type character. That wasn’t in him. He was a man’s man, and even more, a boy’s wanting to be a man’s man.

And so as we wish him Godspeed, we recognize that he may have been the last man standing. And that man was a hero to many of us. Mission accomplished, Mr. Bond.

What is America for Mummy?

[This is Jessica’s first post here, and it started the theme we have been writing about this week, The Myth of America. I was looking through our records and it struck me that we often become bogged down in detail, in theory, in the mundane day-to-day stuff that we deal with. We tend to forget what it’s all about, and we shouldn’t. Almost from the beginning America has been a dream; a dream of ordered liberty above all, but also of material prosperity.

And in the last 150 years or so it has come to include those unfortunates who were sold by their neighbors into slavery and came here without that choice to make. From all I read, they too have done much better than those who were left behind. Not that America has not been unkind to them, and still is, especially in the areas controlled by the party of slavery – the Democrats.

It was such a potent dream that Italian peasants told each other that the streets were paved with gold, although they knew what really awaited them was hard work, and bias against them because of their language and religion but, they came anyway, and if they didn’t have much but hard work and cramped tenements, their children did. And that’s really what the dream has always been: for our children to have a better life than we did. In the nineteenth century, Russian immigrants who had never had anything but black bread, except maybe on holidays, wrote home ecstatically that “in America, we eat wheaten bread every day.” And that too was part of the saga of America.

That’s what we have built over the last 400 years, a dream of freedom, of individual liberty, yes, but also of freedom from material want by virtue of hard work. And you know, as Jess is going to tell you again here, that is really pretty damned heroic as well. Neo]

When I was ten, I lived in America for a year – in the mid-West. I remember when we got to O’Hare airport looking at its size and marveling; it seemed bigger than the town in which we lived in Wales. I recall going to St. Louis and seeing the Arch, and going up it and looking across the vastness of the city and asking my mother: ‘What is America for mummy?’ I can’t remember what she answered – she probably thought it was me trying to be clever, but it was a real question, and one I came to ask a few times whilst I was there.

I think I asked it for the reason many foreigners ask – there is something different about America.  I remember going with my mother to a Kiwanis Club and being struck by the way everyone put their fist on their breast as they swore the oath of allegiance to the flag. Indeed, I was so impressed that I memorised it so that the second time we went, I could do it too. I remember a nice man smiling but saying that I couldn’t do it because I was not an American citizen.  ‘How do you get to be one of those’, I asked? ‘Well, little lady, you could always marry an all-American boy’, was the answer.  I think I said something about ‘smelly boys’ and never wanting to get married because I wanted to be a nun. But a bit later I recall thinking that maybe the kind man had a point.  America, the very idea, seemed Romantic.

My father was fifty when I was born, and his tastes in movies became mine. When other teenage girls were swooning about Kevin Costner (really???), I was dismissive. John Wayne was my hero – and remains so. He summed up America for me. Strong, but never boastful about it. I remember crying when I saw ‘The Man who shot Liberty Valance’ – it was so unfair – it was Tom Donovan, not Ransom Stoddard who shot Liberty Valance, so why did the latter end up with the girl? Huh, I remember thinking, if I had been ‘the girl’ there was no way I’d have chosen Jimmy Stewart over John Wayne – what was she thinking?  But, as Tom Donovan might have said: “Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim”.

The film’s message, which passed me by in my indignation, was about the passing of the old West, and the place of myth in the making of a nation. America is a nation built around myths and legends. That is not to say they are wrong, it is to say that those movies told a bigger story about the making of a great nation and what made it that. All nations need myths, and the point about the American one seemed to be encapsulated in my second favourite John Wayne film – ‘She wore a Yellow ribbon.’ Captain Nathan Brittles was the quintessential quiet American. A man who, having lost his family, was married to the army, and who did his duty, no matter what. My teenage heart went out to him, and I was very sniffy about the heroine going off with those ‘boys’ rather than a ‘real man’.

What John Ford caught in those films – especially the great trilogy which began with ‘Fort Apache’ and ended with ‘Rio Grande’ – was the very idea of America.  Call me a Romantic (no, do) – but that idea of America remains with me to this day. God Bless America – the land of the free.

[I think Jess is very right, America is romantic, and yes, you can call me one too. But if we take the romance, and yes the legend and the saga out of our history, we are left with a strip of dirt, and just another group of people. That’s not my America, either. Here’s a piece of the legend. Neo]

Yesterday’s post started an excellent discussion amongst two of my colleagues, first at Jess’s “All along the Watchtower” and now at “On the Pilrim Road“. They have some interesting thoughts on our situation and indeed on the very name Liberty Valance. If you missed them I urge you to return to the comments on that post.

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If the Island has Electric

There’s an old game if it can be called that, that people like to play. It generally starts with, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what five (or ten, depending on who’s playing) five books would you want with you?” The sister question is, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what five (or 10) movies would you want with you?”

As far as books go, my list seems to change over the years; that only makes sense – more exposure, wider scope. Not so with my movie list; that list seems to stay fairly static. There are a number of movies on my list that still hold the same thrill for me now as when I first viewed them. I’d like to discuss one of them especially.

I just finished watching, for the umpteenth time, the movie Gandhi. It was released in February of 1983 but I didn’t see it until many years later. Neither of my husbands (ex and present) are movie people and it’s not much fun going to the movies by yourself. Movies are really a social thing, I think; we like to have someone with us to share the scares or the laughter or the tears that movies produce. As it turns out, I prefer to watch Gandhi alone, that way I can give it my undivided attention – something I think the movie deserves.

I am not, as you know, an adept student of history but certain stories having to do with history are favorites. I had, of course, heard about the real Gandhi and have seen old news clips of him but I didn’t know the person until watching the movie. It’s like the perfect storm of bad things coming together – a very bad phase in British history, a very sad phase of India’s history, and a haunting phase in the history of multiple religions trying to live in close proximity. And Gandhi is in the middle, the eye of the storm.

There are memorable quotes from the movie, such as Gandhi telling a clergy friend that he’d read the Bible and saying, “It’s too bad Christians don’t believe it.” Here is a very moving clip. Gandhi is fasting (his last fast) for peace between the Hindus and the Muslims https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0adv8zQsa9I. Another clip I like is Gandhi speaking to a journalist he became friendly with while he was in South Africa (can’t help but wonder what Gandhi would think of today’s journalist – and South Africa, for that matter) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pi6SInyE0sw. Here is another good clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6rhUz_IlAw.

It’s a long movie, three hours and eleven minutes. There are no boring parts, no slow parts, no bad photography; indeed, the movie displays what is beautiful about India – and what is abysmal. I can think of lots less uplifting ways to spend three hours. I hope you’ll take the time to watch it. This movie is Ben Kingsley’s crowning achievement; he plays Gandhi as if he was Gandhi. Riveting.

So, yes – Gandhi is on my list of movies – if the island has electric.

 

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