Category Archives: Books Music and Movies I Love

I Just Watched My First PG Movie


Well, I mean, today wasn’t the first time I have ever seen a PG movie. Today, I re-watched the first PG movie I ever saw.

It was a summer day in 1971, and the Ross family invited me to go to the drive-in with them. How I snuck a PG-movie past my parents, I have no idea. It wasn’t really my gig to sneak things past them anyway. More likely, we maybe just all assumed the movie was some Disney thing, and didn’t ask any more questions.

I’ve established elsewhere my childhood love for the Carpenters, as in Richard and Karen. Karen Carpenter sang the title song for this movie, and the melody motif was repeated throughout as background music. Listen here: Bless the Beasts and the Children

How things have changed since 1971. The movie takes place at a summer camp, run by people who most certainly were not asked to pass a background check, and no doubt, couldn’t pass one if they had been. “Wheaties,” the cabin leader for the boys, had a trunk full of pornography, alcohol, and firearms at the foot of his bed. Hey, I get that this wasn’t a Christian camp, but still.

The six boys were all misfits, or “dings,” as they were called by Wheaties. In a particularly hurtful address, Wheaties said, “You’re dings! You know what a ding is? That’s something that don’t fit anywhere, anytime, anything, any place. It uses up space, but it’s useless. Nobody wants it or knows what to do with it. So it’s got no use for living.”

Near the camp was a buffalo “reservation” where hunters, of whom Wheaties was one, were able to buy a ticket and shoot a corralled buffalo. At the time this film was made, buffalo were nearly an endangered species. In the film, the boys couldn’t bear to see these beautiful animals killed, as the killing was just for the heck of it.

When Wheaties dressed them down for being dings, he added, “Like those buffalo.” The dramatic arc in the film was about the boys leaving camp in the night and making their way to the buffalo preserve so as to let the buffalo go free. In an unforeseen twist, the buffalo ran out of the corral but then stayed close by to graze. Cotton, the young, angry, troubled camper who intended to join the Marines as soon as he turned 17, jumped in the jeep and took off after the buffalo to drive them away. The hunters had shown up by this time and in their attempts to shoot out the wheels of the jeep, they instead shot and killed Cotton.

I remember that moment, sitting in the Ross’s car, watching this film. Cotton was so passionate. It was almost more than I could take to see him falling out the door of the jeep, dead. I think I was just at the perfect age to have my emotions played like a guitar by the underdog nature of the group of boys, the cruelty of the other campers and the camp director, the desire for and capacity to carry out a big adventure, and the passion showed by these young men.

Best insult from the film happened when the boys were walking along a road, and a box truck roared by them, narrowly missing them. “Hippies! Hippies!” the boys yelled as the truck drove past.

Best inspirational poem from the film was attributed to a former camper, for dramatic purposes, but was written by one Walter Wintle.

“It’s All In A State Of Mind”

If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It’s almost a “cinch” you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost,
For out in the world you find
Success begins with a [person’s] will;
It’s all in the state of mind.

Full many a race is lost
Ere ever a step is run;
And many a coward fails
Ere ever his work’s begun.
Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you’ll fall behind,
Think that you can and you will;
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the [one] who wins,
Is the [person] who thinks he can.

-Walter D. Wintle

Do bless the beasts and the children today.

What was your first PG movie?


It’s Just That Everything Changed

I think I’ve come down off the intense high I was on when I got home from Alaska, but it still seems tricky to write about what I experienced. I’ll give it a try.

I gave myself plenty of room in my suitcases to be able to bring things home from Alaska. But the best stuff I bought home wasn’t in my suitcase. It was in me.

As we flew from Seattle to Anchorage in a completely full plane, I turned on my music about 45 minutes from landing. I’ve mentioned elsewhere how much I enjoy listening to my music on shuffle. It’s like the fun of listening to the radio as a teen but with all songs that I like and the ability to skip one if I like. Anyway, I noticed as we were coming closer to landing that a song called “Little Butterfly” had begun to play.

Photo credit: Meeee
Photo credit: Also meeee and my iPhone

Someone had told me that flying into Anchorage means flying over water until the very last minute. She said she always is afraid the plane is going to land in the water. So, I was expecting to be over water until the last minute. Didn’t know how beautiful it was going to be.

So, “Little Butterfly.” It’s a song about the transformation that a caterpillar undergoes in becoming a butterfly. Some favorite lines:

I have lived all alone in a world without light.
I have lived in a cell without bars, without sight.
While longing for meadows, and fields full of flowers,
Pain and confusion have filled lonely hours.

A whisper was there each time that I cried,
Saying, “Don’t give up, child, keep hope alive.”
Hope seemed a thing as distant and far
as the most distant galaxy, the most distant star.

I don’t know how many readers will click on the link and listen to this beautiful song, but here it is. 

The entire song is about growth and rebirth. I was going to Alaska knowing that I was ready for growth and rebirth. I was so tired and really needed something. As we came closer to landing, Jana sang:

When my friends now, they call my new name,
And I smile at the promise that my new name brings.
They call me, “Little Mariposa” “Little Butterfly”
And my heart takes wing.

The wheels touched the runway at the exact second she sang the word Mariposa. I was thrilled with the serendipity, but the best was definitely yet to come.

Full lyrics for the song:

Esther Alvarado, Ginger Baker, Jana Stanfield
(with an excerpt from “Butterfly” by Joyce Rouse and Jana Stanfield)

I have lived all alone in a world without light.
I have lived in a cell without bars, without sight.
While longing for meadows, and fields full of flowers,
Pain and confusion have filled lonely hours.
I have wanted to fly, to soar over green fields,
But the hard shell around me would not crack, would not yield.
I felt bound to the earth, wrapped in ribbons of steal,
It hurt when I hoped, it hurt when I’d feel.

Yet even as I yearned so much for release,
Something inside spoke softly of peace.
A whisper was there each time that I cried,
Saying, “Don’t give up, child, keep hope alive.”
Hope seemed a thing as distant and far
as the most distant galaxy, the most distant star.
I did not believe I would ever be free
of the heavy cocoon covering me.

Then slowly, so slowly, came a glimmer of light,
It scared me a t first, this first bit of sight.
There were others around me. Why had they come?
Why had they entered my dark, lonely home?
And then, one by one, they reached out a hand
and lifted the ribbons of steel, strand by strand.
When their hands touched the ribbons, the steel fell away,
And I began to feel different in this lightness of day.

They smiled, they rejoiced, and I heard a song,
One that had played in my heart all along,
These are the words the song sings to me,
This is what it says:

“I can feel a change is coming, I can feel it in my skin
I can feel myself outgrowing, This life I’ve been living in
And I’m afraid, afraid of change,
Butterfly, please tell me again, I’m gonna be all right”

And I know, I know, I’m going to be all right.
And I know, I know, I will take flight.
When my friends now, they call my new name,
And I smile at the promise that my new name brings.
They call me, “Little Mariposa” “Little Butterfly”
And my heart takes wing.

Singing the Hallelujah Chorus This Morning

Greg is home.

That means that this morning when Kepler was too tired to cooperate and get up, I could do the raspberries on the tummy and put on his socks while Greg protected my back from the puppy who is an excitable boy in the mornings. It means that I could pack a lunch for Kepler while Greg took the dog outside and played catch with him for several minutes to work out some of the energy Toast stores up overnight in the crate. It means that I can search YouTube for the perfect rendition of the Messiah while Greg takes Kepler and Toast out to the bus stop. It means that there are TWO people here to do the job of 10, instead of just one person! Happy Friday, y’all. And if you didn’t listen to the Hallelujah Chorus, go ahead. It’s only three and half minutes long and it’s beautiful. You will be energized by such a magnificent piece of music.


Look closely to see butterfly gathering in my front garden:


The butterflies are tiny and rather difficult to see, but there are four of them gathered on this flower. They were there yesterday as well. I was reminded of my very favorite Arnold Lobel book, Grasshopper on the Road. We checked out the audio book somewhere around 1999, and we listened to it over and over again. Here is Arnold’s imagination of how butterflies think and live. Considering that I saw these little guys yesterday at the same time and the same place, I think Mr. Lobel understood butterflies. Who do you identify with more? The butterflies or the grasshopper?


In the late afternoon Grasshopper saw a mushroom.
It was growing at the edge of the road.
“I will rest my feet,” he said.

Grasshopper sat on the mushroom.
Three butterflies flew down.
“Grasshopper,” said the butterflies, “you will have to move.”
“Yes,” said the first butterfly.
“You are sitting on our place.
Every afternoon at this time, we fly to this mushroom.
We sit down on it for a while.”
“There are lots of other mushrooms,” said Grasshopper.

“They will not do,” said the second butterfly. “This is the mushroom we always sit on.” Grasshopper got up.
The three butterflies sat down.

“Each and every day we do the same thing at the same time,” said the third butterfly.
“We like it that way.”
“We wake up in the morning,” said the first butterfly.

“We scratch our heads three times.”

“Always,” said the second butterfly.
“Then we open and close our wings four times. We fly in a circle six times.”

“Always,” said the third butterfly.
“We go to the same tree and eat the same lunch every day.”

“Always,” said the first butterfly.
“After lunch we sit on the same sunflower.
We take the same nap.
We have the same dream.”
“What sort of dream?” asked Grasshopper.
“We dream that we are sitting on a sunflower taking a nap,” said the second butterfly.

“Always,” said the third butterfly.
“When we wake up, we scratch our heads three more times.

We fly in a circle six more times.”

“Then we come here,” said the first butterfly. “We sit down on this mushroom.”
“Always,” said the second butterfly.
“Don’t you ever change anything?” asked Grasshopper.

“No, never,” said the butterflies.
“Each day is fine for us.”
“Grasshopper,” said the butterflies, “we like talking to you.
We will meet you every day at this time.
We will sit on this mushroom.
You will sit right there.
We will tell you all about our scratching and our flying.
We will tell you all about our napping and our dreaming.

You will listen just the way you are listening now.” “No,” said Grasshopper.
“I am sorry, but I will not be here.
I will be moving on.

I will be doing new things.”
“That is too bad,” said the butterflies.
“We will miss you. Grasshopper, do you really do something different every day of your life?” “Always,” said Grasshopper.
“Always and always!”
He said good-bye to the butterflies and walked quickly down the road.

Where the Streets Have No Name; U2, Chicago, 6/28/2015

The year was 1986. I had yet to shed even the first bit of fear and shame which had been instilled early in my life. I was taking a class in the theater department from a beloved prof who was challenging some of my dearly-held beliefs.

As part of the experience of my learnings, Greg and I lined up at 6am outside the then Rosemont Horizon to buy tickets for the U2 concert which would be in a few weeks. This was a huge deal for me. I hadn’t gone too many concerts (fear! shame!) outside the Christian contemporary genre, so this was  pretty far outside my comfort zone. (Imagine that, kiddies. We went to the actual venue to buy our tickets and we paid the face value of the ticket. No TicketMaster fees! No printing at home! No scanning anything! No cell phones then!)

U2’s venues back then were rather smaller and the extravaganzas that happened in later tours had not yet begun. On a simple stage, unadorned beyond lights and some smoke, with the Horizon’s lights completely extinguished on April 29, 1987, the concert began with those unforgettable organ chords of “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Greg had introduced me to the band soon after we meet in 1982. I wasn’t too sure about that “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” song, which, if I’m remembering right, was their first big hit. (Blood! Fear! Shame!) But I did love the Joshua Tree album, and it was the first leg of the Joshua Tree tour in April, 1987 when we first saw them.

Last night, at a different Chicago venue, was my 7th time to see them; this time during the iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour.

IMG_2657a cool pic of Edge I took accidentally

U2 are quite the band, having stuck together for over 30 years as mates, partners, and band members. In this day and age, I think that is a major accomplishment. Major. Besides staying friends and partners for all these years, each of them also has a long-term marriage, with Bono having married Ali while they were still in their teens. Ali was in the house last night, and he sang a couple of songs dedicated to her, (Song for Someone), and All I Want is You). Also major.

My ears are still ringing. There were three locations where the band sang, with the main stage to our left.

Valerie and I were standing along the rail between the i and the e stages. We could see the band great when they were on the walkway between stages, and we could see them pretty well on the e stage, but we were pretty far back from the i stage. When I turned my head to see them on the main stage, the sound pierced my right ear, so I had to actually cover my ears for parts of it! I don’t think it was any louder than a normal concert, but something about the location of the sound and the condition of my fine ears combined to make the sound too loud.

Fortunately, they also performed directly in front of me, and on the stage to the right. My ears did much better when they were in those locations.

If you’re not a U2 fan, I’ll just tell you that there are many people, including myself, who have been following the band for 30 years. The guy behind us in line had multiple U2 tattoos and was jubilant as he explained how he had gotten Bono’s attention by quoting the full text of the partial quote he had on the underside of his bicep. Maybe it’s like this with other bands — I don’t know — but the people who love U2 loooooooove U2.

I found the setlist online at

Main Set

  1. The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
  2. GloriaGloria (Van Morrison) (snippet)
  3. Vertigo
  4. I Will Follow
  5. Iris (Hold Me Close)
  6. Cedarwood Road
  7. Song For Someone
  8. Sunday Bloody SundayWhen Johnny Comes Marching Home (snippet)
  9. Raised By Wolves
  10. Until The End Of The WorldShe’s A Rainbow (snippet)

Second Set

  1. Invisible
  2. Even Better Than The Real Thing
  3. Mysterious WaysYoung Americans (snippet)
  4. DesireLa Bamba (snippet), Julia (snippet)
  5. Lucifer’s Hands
  6. Every Breaking Wave
  7. Bullet The Blue Sky19 (snippet)
  8. The Hands That Built America (snippet), Pride
  9. Beautiful DayTwo Hearts Beat As One (snippet)
  10. All I Want Is You
  11. With Or Without YouLove Will Tear Us Apart (snippet)


  1. City Of Blinding Lights
  2. Mother And Child Reunion (snippet), Where The Streets Have No NameCalifornia (There Is No End To Love) (snippet)
  3. OneInvisible (snippet)

I noted that the second to last encore last night was the very first song I’d ever heard them play in concert, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Last night, when those opening chords began, the crowd roared with a deeply felt love of not only the song, but also memories associated with that song, the band, the individual players, their musicianship, the influence they have used for the good. For me, it kinda felt like a complete circle.

The final encore was their brilliant song, One, which just felt like the dot on the i, the cross of the t, the last (final?) flourish on my U2 concert experiences. With the 360 tour (2009-2010), after one taste, I HAD to go again and ended up going to four different locations on that tour. I suppose it’s possible they will do more tours after this one, but it has got to be hard on their families to be apart for so long and they’ve been doing it for a long time. Last night may have been my last U2 concert. I don’t know. We’ll see. But I’ll always love them.

Love and Mercy

In case you missed it, Love and Mercy is the title of a film about the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. This is what clued me in:

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 9.30.02 PM

I really like Anne Lamott a lot, and her tweet was enough for me to decide to make time to see this movie.

Boy, when I think about the Beach Boys, I think about happy, fun days in the California sun, upbeat songs about enjoying your youth. As I think is typical for a child/teen, it never ever occurred to me that there might be some madness in with the incredible music. Of course, we didn’t have quite the same access to the private lives, inner thoughts, and endless detail about celebrities and musicians. We just kind of let art …. flow …. over us. (h/t Nick, The Big Chill)

It is a very good movie. Paul Dano and John Cusack do a great job portraying Brian at two different points in his life. You can’t help but just smile big at the end of the movie, listening to Brian sing, knowing what he has gone through.

Yes, go see it. There are a few parts that are hard to watch, as the filmmaker does a bang-up job of portraying what mental illness is like from the inside. But it’s a triumphant movie, and Love and Mercy are beautifully portrayed.

What can Creative, Inspired People do?

Sometimes I wonder why the heck I ever tweet. I supposedly have 180 people following me, and there is a fraction of that number who do actually favorite and re-tweet my tweets. But wandering around on Twitter the other day, I was reminded of its value to me when I came across a link to this article. View at

Well, I’m nothing if not an optimist. Or maybe I’m just the perfect moviegoer for this movie — I want to know how I can contribute to creating something beautiful in the world. I love the idea that little beacons of light in individuals can join together to bring about change for the better.

There were so many parts of this movie that made me smile. Real big. The scale of Tomorrowland was marvelous and the futuristic inventions would be familiar to George Jetson. There was much beauty in Tomorrowland.

Apparently, the film is not getting a great reception from reviewers. They feel it is too heavy-handed, and belabors the point that optimism could have a positive impact on our future. Well, I, for one, think it was just fine for director Brad Bird to make the point over and over again. There aren’t too many movies that are focusing on seeing the future as something other than a dystopian nightmare (see Mad Max, Fury Road: 98% positive on Rotten Tomatoes; Twitter is raving about it; it’s been described as one very long car chase; the previews gave me a bit of sadness to think about the children that will see this in the theaters).

NPR’s Bob Mondello closes his review with these comments:

This is, let’s note, more sloganeering than imagineering, but let that pass. The sentiments are certainly admirable and are, no doubt, heartfelt and are delivered so insistently and passionately that, while “Tomorrowland’s” sermonizing left me feeling grumpy and feeling a little guilty for feeling grumpy, it may well have an entirely different effect on impressionable children, who are, after all, its target audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if they emerge inspired by a sense of purpose they did not have on the way in and a mission to get one of those T pins. I’m Bob Mondello.

I don’t think of myself as a child, but I am glad to claim a sense of childlike wonder still lurking underneath the attention I have to pay to the traffic, getting groceries, paying the bills, and being an adult. Yes, I emerged inspired by a sense of purpose I did not have on the way in. Seems like a good thing to me. And I’m looking for one of those pins . . .

This is Water

Today, Maria Popova tweeted that this is the 10th anniversary of David Foster Wallace’s remarkable commencement address at Kenyon College. I am linking to her post about commencement addresses, as well as the 22 minutes “This is Water” speech. I first learned of DFW through this speech, and it was the beginning of a wild admiration and love for the brain and thinking of this writer. Some days I think that sharing the thoughts of others on my blog is just fine. Today is one of those days.

Do consider watching the commencement speech, even if you do not typically click on my links. This speech is simply wonderful, full of wisdom and heartfelt transparency which speaks directly to the hearts of his listeners.

Maria Popova on Commencement Speeches

My Fascination with Actor Idris Elba

I blogged about HBO NOW the other day and was all distressed about the programming I had encountered during my trial period. HBO came again to my attention today as I had sampled a Netflix show called Luther. It stars Idris Elba, whom I first knew as Stringer Bell on the HBO show “The Wire.” There are many people who think The Wire is pretty much the best show ever to be on television and I would have to agree that it is one of the best I have ever seen. (I think it may have had some unfortunate consequences for Baltimore as the show is a fictionalized (obviously) portrayal of the drug trade in that city and the efforts of the Baltimore PD to end the trade. I’ve never been to Baltimore myself, so I’m afraid much of what I “know” about Bmore comes from this television show.)

I found Elba’s Stringer Bell to be an extremely compelling character. He’s basically a businessman at heart who is the head of a huge drug operation. As far as I knew through my watching of the five seasons, he was an American African-American actor playing this role. But when I turned on Luther this weekend, here was Idris th-fronting for all he was worth. In case you’re not familiar, th-fronting means they say “bave” instead of “bathe” and “wevvah” for “whether.” (Russell Brand is another well-known person who naturally speaks with th-fronting.) When the Luther character opened his mouth and revealed his Britishness, I was shocked! Never one to be ahead of the curve when it comes to well-known info about celebs, I was very surprised to hear him speak so differently from Stringer.

Elba also starred as Nelson Mandela in the 2013 film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Although I have not seen it yet, I intend to watch this film at least in part because I want to hear Elba do a South African accent as well! I found this YouTube interview with him from 2013 which I think really captures his winsome personality as well as shows his versatility through clips from both The Wire and Luther. The most captivating comment he made was that he based his perception of Nelson Mandela on his own father, who is a dignified British man with silver hair. What a legacy his father has given him!

An additional clip of Idris Elba from The Wire can be seen here:

And in Luther here:

I would guess that most of my typical readers would not be interested in The Wire as it is quite intense, plenty violent, and oh, the language. But it really is a great show. Have you seen The Wire? Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom? Was this post interesting to you if you’re not a fan of Idris Elba?

Hurry Up and Wait

Do you know Maria Popova? She is the curator of the weekly newsletter Brain Pickings. I first heard of Brain Pickings from an online friend in a group I used to be part of. I now follow Maria on Twitter (@brainpickings), as well as receive the weekly newsletter.

Truth is, I find her newsletter layout to be difficult to read because it so chock full of material. But I will acknowledge that part of the problem is probably the fact that I am often in a hurry. Which is what makes today’s post rather ironic, but also illuminating to me.

Recently, she mentioned a book called “Hurry Up and Wait” by Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler. I scrolled back through her Twitter feed to find the original tweet, but it did not appear through the entire month of May. But I trust that I heard about this book from her.

I had reserved it at the library the other day, and was whisking around cleaning up my front room this morning, saw the book, and decided to quickly read through it so I could take it back to the library. Not so fast. I began to thumb through the pages quickly, and suddenly the text accompanying the photographs arrested my attention. Page 20 “I was going to say something more about hurrying, but why take up your time? You have things to do. You can flip through this and go on to the what it is that’s waiting for you, the next thing.” Page 21: “And by this, I mean everything.” Suddenly, I got it. I slowed right down, and began to experience the process of reading the book, rather than just focusing on getting it over with.

Instead of whipping through a book and moving onto the next thing, I read it, and re-read it, and looked at the photo credits in the back, and took time to experience each photo and painting in the book, and I was reminded through it all that the time is now. The present moment is the one I am experiencing, and if I am spending the present moment thinking about the future, I am missing the now.

I notice myself scrolling through Facebook and Twitter kind of like thumbing through a magazine I’m not all that interested in. What’s next, what’s next, what’s next. Brain Pickings offers me the opportunity to ask what’s now, what is now, what is the now, what is in the now. Just like that, I shall slow down, at least until I’m distracted enough to start again to rush.

Page 55:

“How long can we stay here?

We hurry around for awhile

and then it’s time to go.

Time to go. Everybody says it.

Time to go.

And then we do.”