Friday, June 29, 2012

Nora Ephron:  A unique writing talent who put into words and movies what so many women think about life and love.  We will miss you.

Nora Ephron died Tuesday, June 26th.  This link has some of her best lines.  My favorite book is Heartburn, funny, yet sad about her husband's affair. It was fictionalized, but the main characters were obvious.  Her ex- husband was Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame.

Clip from You Tube

Favorite Ephron Movies or books?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Anton Chekhov 1860-1904
Chekhov, Lost in Translation, the Right Word

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word. . .is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." 
                                                                              Mark Twain

While reading a short story by Anton Chekhov, called Heartache,  I was moved by his depiction of loneliness and grief, his concentration on character and mood.  And much later I read this story again by a different translator, Constance Garnett, and noticed that several key words in the version I had read earlier had been translated differently.  And what a difference it made.  

Translators have a difficult job; languages do not translate literally very well and the translator then must choose the right word to stay true to the original language, yet make it meaningful for the reader.  Vladimir Nabokov had written scathing critiques of Ms Garnett's translations.  And, as a dabbler in writing, not a true writer, it's interesting for me to compare the two versions to note how important the right word can be.

The story begins with the title, and epigraph, both different for each.  Ms Garnett--Misery and "To whom shall I convey my grief?"  The unknown translator of the second version--Heartache and "To whom shall I tell my sorrow?"  Already, I was suspicious.  Are you miserable when you have lost someone close to you or does your heart almost literally ache?

The story, set in the winter of  the late 19th century in St. Petersburg, is about a cab driver.  He has just lost his son and is trying to continue working, waiting with his horse and sleigh to take fares from here to there around the city.  It's twilight and snowing hard.  As the evening wears on, he has a few fares and he tries to tell them about his son, but they don't listen and are dismissive.  This continues with no one really understanding.  He finally decides to go back to the stable and as he is bedding down his horse for the night, he talks to the horse and. . ."tells her all about it."  (Constance Garnett) or. . ."he tells her everything."  What a difference between "all about it," and "everything."

I thought about this story for a long time.  I realized how important it is to listen.  My husband lost his best friend last week.  How patient my husband was when his friend would often call and talk about his aliments and how miserable he was feeling.  My husband would listen intently to his friend, asking just the right questions, trying hard to be supportive.

I found a You Tube video of  "Misery," read by Kenneth Branagh.  His reading is from  the Constance Garnett's translation.

Comments about the right word, struggles with writing, translations?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sir Paul, Homage to the Beatles

This article was written by a Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colorado) columnist, Gene Amole, as part of his weekly columns and included in a collection of columns, Morning by Gene Amole, Denver Publishing Company, 1983.  I edited the first part because of length.

Paul McCartney's 70th birthday was Monday, June 18th.
Red Rocks is a natural red sandstone outcropping, an outdoor amphitheater. 

"Phenomenon"  by Gene Amole

I love you George.
It was about 2 p.m. when Muffy called me at work.  She was very upset because she had lost her ride to Red Rocks to see the Beatles.  She wanted to know if there was any way I could take her.

Wednesday, Aug. 1964, was a warm day.  Muffy told me we had better leave right away. KIMN was saying Red Rocks was filling rapidly and there might not be room for everyone.

Muffy is my older daughter.  She was 12 at the time.  I knew she would rather have been there with her friends.  I had purchased tickets days earlier.  They were $6.60 each, expensive for the time, but Muffy said it was worth it.

We settled down for the long wait.  I had never seen so many policeman in one place.  The crowd was well behaved, if occasionally quite noisy.  Almost everyone was about Muffy's age.

I saw a cowboy hat sticking up above the other heads several rows away.  It was Pete Smythe, an old friend.  I remembered he had a daughter about the same age as Muffy.  And then I began to notice there was an adult male every 20 feet or so.  They were the daddies who had driven most of the little girls to Red Rocks.

As the sky darkened.  Tension began to build.  Any movement toward the stage was greeted with screams.  The most noise came when the instruments were set up.  A woman in her 40's somehow broke through the police lines, ran up on the stage and kissed the bass drum.

I steeled myself against the growing sound as the concert began.  The Bill Black Combo opened the show.  The came the Righteous Brothers, the Exciters and Jackie deShannon.

When they finished, promoter Vern Byers walked out on the stage and held up his hands.  It was suddenly very quiet.  He stood alone in front of the microphone and said, "And now, the Beatles."

There was an explosion of sound that lasted 33 minutes.  Everyone stood the entire time.  The Beatles started with "Twist and Shout," and closed with "Long Tall Sally."

It was almost impossible to hear the music.  Only Ringo Star's drums seemed to slam through.  It didn't matter.  Everyone could see those thin, black-clad stick figures.  It was everything those little girls had hoped for.

Even though the sound was overwhelming, I kept thinking I could hear a small voice saying over and over, "I love you George, I love you."  I looked around and then down.  It was little Muffy.  She was standing almost motionless.  There were tears in her eyes.  She was telling George from the safety of 30 rows up that she loved him.  Suddenly, I felt very old.

I have never pretended to understand what the Beatles meant to the children of the 60's.  A psychiatrist told me he believed all those protests during the troubled decade had somehow been triggered by their chemistry.  Maybe so.  My memory is more personal.  I can still hear Muffy's voice.  It was an innocent moment of poignancy, suspended in a time of chaos.

There is no questioning the importance of their music.  It ranged from the earthy to the mystical.  Younger generations carried it forward and gave it their own meaning.

But there will never be another time like the 16th of August, 1964."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dead Poets' Society:  Summer movies continued.

One of my top favorite movies. Dead Poets' Society. Robin Williams plays an unforgettable teacher who comes to a New England boarding school and changes the lives of his students.  I read somewhere that this was William's favorite role as well.  The director, Pete Weir, also directed "Witness,"  "Master and Commander," and many others as you movie buffs know.  I showed this movie to a group of my students in Los Angeles, and although the school in the movie is elitist, I asked them: "what if you went to a school that really challenged you, that expected you to study hard and do your best work?  Where teachers were passionate about teaching, and you were not distracted by students who disrupted the class and the facilities were excellent."  Of course, noting that the school taught boys only. We had some great discussions and then wrote our impressions of the film.  

There are some powerful themes in the movie, conformity, controlling parents (good or bad?) but the acting, the setting, the screenplay, all come together to make a memorable movie.  

Have you seen this movie before, what are your thoughts about private schools, charter schools?

Monday, June 11, 2012

A River Runs Through It:  favorite movies for summer viewing continued.

As  a lover of words, this is another one of my favorites.  Robert Redford created a stunning movie about two brothers in Missoula, Montana, time period: 1910-1930.  This is also a movie about fly fishing, but more about a family and their relationships and the constraints of their backgrounds and their inability to help the most troubled member of the family, the younger brother played by Brad Pitt.  Robert Redford begins by narrating the story and quoting directly from the book:  "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.  We lived in the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly   fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others.  He told us about Christ's disciples being fly fisherman and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first class fisherman on the Sea of Galilee were fly fisherman and that John, the favorite was a dry-fly fisherman."

Read the book if you can, it really is a autobiography.  This is  perfect summer reading as well, a collection of stories, but "River" is the best, just 104 pages.  The author, Norman Maclean, was a professor of English at the University of Chicago, and is the older brother in the story.  If you like Hemingway, Maclean's writing is like that, direct, clear yet evocative of time and place.

A River Runs Through It, and other stories. by; Norman Maclean, University of Chcago Press, 1976,

Summer movie recommendations?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

India:  Favorite movies continued: Outsourced
Movie, not TV Show

"Outsourced"  one of my favorite movies, perfect for summer viewing, lighthearted, inspiring, and leaves you with some things to think about, especially our perception of other countries.  The summary on You Tube gives you an idea.  Rent this one or borrow from your local library.  
I think the TV version  removed the charm of the original movie and made fun of the Indian characters in the TV series in unflattering ways.  Why, when the movie was so good?

If you have seen it, I would be interested in reading your comments.  Or any movies for summer viewing you would recommend?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Midnight in Paris, Russian Blini, and Good Friends

Midnight in Paris, Russian Blini and Good Friends, not necessarily in that order,  just had a perfect Sunday.  We had some good friends over for brunch; I made Russian Buckwheat Blini which turned out perfectly, and in the evening, my one and only, my husband and I watched the Woody Allen movie, "Midnight in Paris."  I am such a romantic, and this movie, which I had seen before was perfect.  The trailer does not do it justice.  In the comments in the DVD, Allen says he had the movie shot with yellow and red filters, which does give it an old postcard look.  Besides being transported to Paris when you watch the film, the theme is interesting--feeling nostalgic for an earlier time is unrealistic, the earlier time was not necessarily that wonderful, that really living the present is what is important.  But Paris is always wonderful; I think the idea of Paris is what I love best.

What nostalgia movies do you like--or what is your favorite romantic movie?

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Lovely Blog Award

This was given to me by a lovely lady, Jo Henderson, who lives in Canada and when I looked up "lovely" in the dictionary, trying to be more creative, I read that one of the meanings is "enjoyable, delightful," which describes Jo's blog @  Thank you, Jo.

The rules are:
1.  name and thank the blogger
2.  List 7 facts about yourself
3. Award 15 other bloggers this award
4.  enjoy

I realize that not everyone I listed wants to do this.  It does take time, etc.  Because of the title, I hesitated to give this to any men except Mark koopemans who is a stay-at-home dad of three boys and who could use all the encouragement he can get.  Other bloggers I admire do not have a connection I can use.  I don't know how to do the "blogger friends" thing.

Seven Facts About Myself

1.  met my husband at my 20th High School Reunion
2.  have two sons, a step-daughter, and four grandsons and a great sister!
3.  went back to college in my 40's, graduated with honors, did student teaching in Winchester, England, taught high school in Los Angeles
4.  books, art, opera, Mozart, Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, folk music, country/western, the mountains, travel, cooking and history are some of my interests
5.  secret vice--shelter magazines, and Vogue (only vices I can discuss here)
6.  what I miss about not being young, the "second look" and the energy I had
7.  am first generation, Russian, both parents were born in Russia

One more thing:  Love mysteries set in other countries, Japan, France, England, Iceland, South America 

15 Bloggers--to select, highlight blog address, then right click and choose "Go To..."