October 19, 2017

One season following another, laden with happiness and tears

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(Talk of the Town photos provided)

Old Type Writer: ONE SEASON FOLLOWING ANOTHER, LADEN WITH HAPPINESS -- AND TEARS (a lyric from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF)

By Susie Duncan Sexton

October concluded with much pageantry in the early '50s as "gypsies, tramps and..." pirates (sorry, Cher!) paraded around West Ward classrooms, often returning home through snowflakes.  Meandering around yard signs advertising this guy and that guy running for political office, we diminutive students, suffocating beneath our masks, not only dressed up for Halloween back in the day but we also voted in mock elections.  What a season!  

"I Like Ike" buttons pinned to our costumes, we bad-mouthed Adlai Stevenson and Harry Truman simply cuz our parents did.  Columbia City notoriously voted the Republican ticket then as now.   

My mother and father, always quite secretive, would not be happy with my reporting that they continued their Southern Democratic style in spite of all the hoopla. Both, however, adored Dwight in spite of themselves, and my mom copied Mamie's hair-do, disregarding the neighbor lady's taunts that according to McCall's magazine or Ladies' Home Journal, "Middle-aged women should never attempt hair-styles with bangs to disguise one's high forehead!"  

My folks delighted in the 1960 presidential election when Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra musically parodied JFK into office, barely, with "High Hopes", minus the "rubber tree plant" reference but retaining the "Oops" and Kerplop"!  Respect for whoever inhabited the Oval Office characterized our family. Flexibility is a trait to be admired and luckily part of my upbringing.  Would that such a stance might be revisited in this current heated political climate which makes "global warming" itself seem a cool walk in the park. 

While experiencing a recurrent attack of nostalgic reverie, I recently dashed to our camel-back trunk brimming with black and white photographs.  I hoped to retrieve my sister Sarah dressed as the sweetest-ever, pint-sized deviladorned with pointy ears and a lengthy tail and posing third from the left in the front row, captured for posterity with her classmates.  Some of the other masked "kids" smiling for the "Brownie" camera?  JoEllen Adams, Barbara Carver, Myra Lorber, Marsha Sevitts, and Margaret Ann Moyer. I loved that snapshot, but I probably passed it on to her daughter Kelly...yes, "niece Kelly"!  "Bachelor Father" John Forsythe, move over! 

Instead, an 8" by 10" glossy, which always gave me pause, materialized.  Former neighbors Ed and Carmen Landreth donned in night-clothes stand beside Charlie Chaplin and Daniel Boone 

I have had dreams about that picture.  No one ever explained it to me.  You see, my mother is the "Little Tramp", and my father is the rugged Tennessee frontiersman holding a rifle and wearing fringe and what later became known to my generation as a "Davy Crockett" cap, apparently fashioned from a deceased raccoon.  

"Killed him a bear when he was only three...Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier!"  Many of us kids wondered, all those years ago, WHO was three?  Disney's "Davy" or the bear 

What continues to disturb me is that this photo depicts both of my parents as demonstrating 5 o'clock shadow 

Blue Bell's cafeteria, a replica of my dad's favorite eateries dotting the Southland, became the setting not only for lunch-time crowds of employees and members of the community but also...PARTIES.  Doll tea-parties happened there, and Santa visited children with wish-lists early in December. Evidently, costume balls, featuring my slightly older sister as a scarlet-garbed, horned, cloven hoofed Beelzebub--carrying a pitchfork--as well as my parents looking like bums on a Hollywood back-lot teeming with extras, also transpired in that factory basement.  Probably, I was stuck at home driving some baby-sitter to distraction 

Sad, cuz I loved sorting through jingling pocket change to purchase Spearmint Gum from the canteen area as well as about four Dixie cups of Sealtest or Borden's vanilla ice cream solely for the purpose of scraping (a tiny wooden paddle-type spoon my only tool) the congealed stuff off the movie stars' pictures which hid on the reverse side of the tabbed lids.  So disappointed when Guy Madison or "Duke" Wayne or Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd)appeared.  Giggling, squealy, and ecstatic when Jane Russell, Esther WilliamsJune AllysonJudy Canova or Betty Hutton peeked up to meet my eager gaze.  

Roy RogersDale Evans and Trigger or Elizabeth Taylor and Lassie I found totally acceptable, as well as Tonto and the Lone Ranger. "Hi-yo, Silver, away!"  

Life's funny.  Each night hobbling upstairs to bed, remembering longingly that I once cleared three steps at a time, I pass an ornate plaque propped precariously upon a rickety shelf.  Reading the calligraphic "Ancient Scottish Prayer", composed by an unknown author, I am impressed how the words perfectly highlight this season featuring "All Saints' Eve" which segues into the comparable "May the Best Man Win" mania typical of early November(though political shenanigans seem to have become a 24/7 year-round phenomenon of late): 

"From ghoulies and ghosties

 Long leggitie Beasties

 And things that go

 Bump in the night --

 Good Lord deliver us."

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Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.comJoin a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back:Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

September 22, 2017

Snow Globes, Grape Vines and Hockey Pucks

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By Susie Duncan Sexton

"Susan Duncan, your mother's on the telephone?" head-librarian Mrs. List half-questioned. One of the sweetest ladies in town, she slowly wandered throughout the entire square footage of Mr. Peabody's namesake "bibliotheque", ducking in and out of the aisles among towering shelves of books and artifacts: juvenile fiction, biographies, autobiographies, novels, reference works, globes, ship replicas, Indian dolls--you name it. I scampered about, hiding from her. Why? I have no idea. I never roamed far from home. Not even to this day. My friends might judge me as "over-protected", I feared, IF I accepted the incoming call. Thus, I continued to avoid her approaching steps, and possibly stern visage, while I maintained my stealthy "rebel" status crouching behind stacks of literary paraphernalia in that multi-"storied" building!

Maturing in a small town, "where everybody knows your name", carries the potential for both advantages as well as the accompanying disadvantages of life-time embarrassment. "Communication" in the 50s was facilitated not only by John and Hester Adams' two daily newspapers, one Democrat and the other Republican, but also by frequent telephone calls completed with the assistance of local operators asking, "Number, plee-iz?". The grape-vine aspect, sporadically aided and abetted by an intrusive "party-line" feature, meant that several locals might be eavesdropping on private intriguing conversations in addition to the caller and "call-ee". Galloping gossip. Who in this world needed that? Branded forever.

Scrubbing behind my ears one evening prior to falling into bed on a "school night", I turned off the bath tub faucet to hear my dad shouting, "Charlotte Fahl's on the phone and wishes to speak with you!"  Me?  Why ever would a popular high school cheer-leader ring up a pesky fourth grader?  Truth's sometimes stranger than fiction. A grown-up person invited this goofy, klutzy, gangly, long-legged book-worm to proclaim at the top of my voice, "Eagles, we cheer for thee..." and "Two bits, four bits, six bits...a dollar!" as a type of mascot yell-leader for the very tall Columbia City Eagles whom my Southern mother curiously referred to as "Iggles"! 

One of life's high points, however momentary. (My "let's do the splits if at all possible" career briefly endured, throughout a total of probably seven and a half varsity-caliber basket-ball games.) Now where to custom-order the maroon and gold outfit of my dreams which would sport a huge felt megaphone stitched onto my chest and a golden eagle swooping across the backside?  Easy answer.

Blumenthal's "elegant" ladies' apparel shop, a glorious fixture for mothers and daughters, offered one-stop shopping throughout my "Betsy McCall-wannabe" elementary school days. Poodle or box-pleated skirts, angora sweater sets, party-girl organdy dresses, Princess-Style winter coats, corduroy jumpers, and fabled CAN-CAN crinolines (several of those to be worn simultaneously) cluttered the closets of most of C. C.'s "ingénues".  Ben Blumenthal, his wife Bea, and their kids lived about a block from us in a beautiful brick home. Their family dog bit me as I skipped home from school one afternoon. My badge of honor!  Their store, divine and air-conditioned, seems like a fairy tale setting now ...but I currently possess one of their purple-tinged cardboard boxes, emblazoned with silver printing, which contains my "mustard seed" necklace. Yes, Rod Serling, Blumenthal's actually existed.

Driving home heading west on Van Buren Street toward the setting sun, I am transported to an earlier era when our quaint downtown never may have inspired the infectiously perky beat of a Petula Clark tune but most certainly resembled a village nestled upon the toy floor of a snow globe. Frank Capra captured our little Thornton Wilder vintage town in his film "It's a Wonderful Life", warts and all. Friday OR Saturday night-time shopping. Kroger's, William's, or Yontz's Grocery stores. Raupfer's or Schultz's Dimestores for paper dolls, comic books, and mouth-watering cashews--within glass cases--funneled into white sacks via a silver scoop!  Dropping by for a fancy, be-ribboned box of chocolates purchased from drugstore partners "Uncle" Walt Meyers and Garland Stickler, while ceiling fans whirred above our heads. Sugar cookies from Jones' Bakery! Can't you still hear that tinkling bell attached to their screen door? Egg salad sandwiches enhanced by cherry cokes and potato chips in Seyfert's ruffled paper containers at Hollis Peeler's Walgreen's soda-fountain, twisting our bar stools from side to side then twirling 360 degrees?  Ah, "Memories are Made of This!"

Sadie Rush, with her son Allan, operated The Style Shop. Mr. Rush, who passed on his love of and talent for music performance to his son Michael, managed to contribute significantly to my outlook on life. His knowledge of jazz musicians, that droll sense of humor, and our mutual appreciation for the exact same television comedians all appealed to my inquisitive teen-aged mind. He honestly chatted with me while my mom and sister disappeared into "dressing rooms".  I always imagined that he, funnyman Carl Reiner, and talk-show host Steve Allen somehow got "separated at birth". 

WHENEVER I glance into a mirror, I am reminded of an "enchanted evening" encounter with seven year old Mike Rush "across a crowded room". Rambunctiously, the two of us commenced sliding toward one another from opposite ends of the freshly waxed Elks ball-room floor circa 1952, immediately after viewing some black and white, reel-to-reel Abbott & Costello movie, courtesy of the Hancocks, while our respective parents partied downstairs. This cavernous "ice-rink" remaining darkened until an adult could switch on the lights, our two foreheads slammed together, and, personally, I never have been quite the same since. The resultant dent located dead-center above my eyebrows lends me a serious Clint Eastwood furrowed-brow scowl which rather sets me apart. For that signature look, I have Mike to thank...or was that Tommy Roe?  Jury's still out. 

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Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.comJoin a great group of animal advocatesSquawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

 

July 6, 2017

A review of 'Wonder Woman'

"Be careful in the world of men, Diana, for they do not deserve you." Wonder Woman (2017) review

By Roy Sexton

I loved Wonder Woman as a little kid - the escapist kitsch of the Lynda Carter TV version with the spinning costume changes and the disco theme song and that Pepsodent-grinning Lyle Waggoner.

As I entered adolescence, the DC Comics version went through her own renaissance, led in great part by one of my favorite writers/artists George Perez (and later advanced in equal measure by Phil Jimenez and Greg Rucka). Diana, Amazonian princess, rediscovered her mythic Greek roots, fully embracing all of the soapy sudsy sturm-und-drang that being the daughter of Zeus and Hyppolyta can bring with a whole heaping helping of jealous demi-god cousins, stepmothers, and half-siblings biting at her heels. Those stories were great fun (for the reader ... not so much for Diana herself.)WonderWomanRoy617.jpg

I'm happy to report that the new (and first?!) cinematic treatment of Wonder Woman honors all that has come before, even incorporating a bit of original creator William Moulton Marston's skeezy blend of feminist kink (see: Chris Pine's Steve Trevor exiting an Amazonian glowing warm springs hot tub while Diana's gaze sizes him up - literally - but she is ultimately more interested in his wristwatch than anything else.)

Whether or not Wonder Woman finally breaks the Zack Snyder-invoked curse of stinkeroo movie-making that has blighted DC Comics' cinematic output to date or is merely the brilliant exception that proves the rule remains to be seen. Nonetheless, director Patty Jenkins (Monster) working from a script by Allan Heinberg (who rocked the comics world over ten years ago with the similarly humanistic Young Avengers) gives us a return to form for classically majestic comic book movie making (Richard Donner's Superman, Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy) with a nod toward Marvel's postmodern humane whimsy (Captain AmericaAnt-Man) but with a surety of voice and purpose that is wholly its own.

Is it feminist? Of course it is! Unapologetically and utterly inclusively so.

"Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." Diana, as portrayed with warmth and fire and wit and steel by Gal Gadot, is a stranger in a strange land to whom all creatures (man, woman, child, animal) deserve respect and love ... and if you are incapable of showing that love, she'll unequivocally kick your ass.

Making the interesting choice to set the action during WWI (Wonder Woman has traditionally been more associated with WWII), Jenkins and Heinberg make absolute hay with a setting where war was arguably at its peak of muddy, bloody brutality and where the nascent suffrage movement continued to make waves (pro and con) for women in society.

In Wonder Woman, Gadot fulfills the promise of her all-too-brief screen time in the comparatively glum and humorless (and horrifically titled) Batman v. Superman: Dawn of  Justice, delivering a star turn for the ages. It is not a showy performance (ironic, I know, since she is wearing a glittering metallic bathing suit, wielding a mammoth sword, deflecting lightning bolts with her bracelets, and, you know, flying) but is layered with beautiful notes of heartache, ironic detachment, utter bemusement, and complete bewilderment over a world designed chiefly to destroy.

She is joined by a stellar supporting cast - the aforementioned Pine who turns his character actor good looks into matinee idol charm as mansplaining sidekick Steve Trevor, glowering Danny Huston as a German warmonger, David Thewlis as a British idealogue whose rhetoric seems to urge a quick and speedy armistice, Elena Anaya as a bruised soul whose distaste for humanity leads her to develop poisonous gasses of mass destruction, and Lucy Davis stealing every scene as bantering "secretary" Etta Candy whose delight at being in the presence of a woman (Diana), who could give two whits about societal decorum, is utterly infectious.

The film is at its most thrilling when Diana leads a ragtag band of adorably mismatched soldiers across the Western Front, herself marching directly through the battle lines, armed only with her wits, her magic bracelets, and her righteous indignation over the horrors she has just witnessed befalling everyday families (and horses). I may have cried a little (a lot) during that sequence.

Wonder Woman's only misstep is in its length. At nearly 2.5 hours, the film's running time strains audience patience. Though beautiful and transporting, the movie's opening third, set in Diana's home Themiscyra or "Paradise Island" amidst a utopia of warrior women, is, well, kind of a bore. While it is essential to show Amazonian society, which is designed through reason and equality, contrasted with man's ugly world, locked as it is in the plague of war, we could have used about 20 fewer minutes of pristine beaches, jewel-hued skies, horseback-riding, and Queen Hyppolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her dutiful General Antiope (Robin Wright) stumbling to mimic Gadot's irrepressibly undefinable accent. (At times, I wondered if the Amazon nation settled off Greece by way of Transylvania.)

Hyppolyta warns Diana early in the film, in a line that foreshadows thematically all that is to come, "Be careful in the world of men, Diana, for they do not deserve you." Indeed, we do not deserve Wonder Woman, but we do need her and her mess

age of inclusion and peace, tolerance and integrity  ... now, more than ever.

P.S. And, rest in peace, to that other superhero icon of my youth, Adam West, whose Batman introduced me to a universe of colorful characters that I still love to this day.

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Thank you to Rose McInerney of WomanScape​ for her kind words and for referencing the above Wonder Woman​ review in her fabulous site's latest and greatest. Rose writes, "So, while Wonder Woman is undoubtedly good storytelling with a sizable marketing budget, its success is also explained by key factors in our changing world. The first of these is the growing number of men like movie reviewer Roy Sexton who are joining with women to help promote the Diana-like warriors in our world. Roy lends his unabashed support and writing talents advocating for feminism and equal rights." Read here.

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Reel Roy Reviews is now TWO books! You can purchase your copies by clicking here (print and digital). In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the first book is currently is being carried by BookboundCommon Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton's Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

May 24, 2017

Celebrating the grand opening of Blue Bell Lofts

BBLCollage1.jpgBy Susie Duncan Sexton

 What follows is the text of my speech from the glorious May 9th grand opening of the Historic Blue Bell Lofts - there were more than a few asides not captured here ... for those, go to video!

 
"Four Score and -- Five Years Ago"...seems like only yesterday...and we are all still wearing our durable Wrangler jeans as we gather here today INSIDE A HANDSOME BUILDING CONSTRUCTED IN 1932!   "Little" Roy Sexton --who provided the perfect tribute to or epitaph for my dad, his grandpa, in October 1983 --  co-created  this short speech with me for this special day dedicated toward the official opening of BLUE BELL LOFTS!

 

He declared, "Daddly (his adverbial nickname for Roy Duncan, long time plant manager) did NOT seem like the kind of person who would ever die..."  He was correct...because " Mr. Blue Bell"  (JoEllen Adams McConnell's nickname for my dad) seems present today...we know he is smiling broadly, relishing with gusto this moment.  As a young engineer from Greensboro, North Carolina, R.E.D. arrived around 1938 with his trusty slide-rule and stop-watch and stayed on as manager from 1942 until 1974 as an integral, long-time member of the Blue Bell family - both my father and this very building itself, as well as former employees and business associates and customers -- and now new inhabitants -- yes, indeed, FAMILY!


Roy Sexton emailed me the following talking points...he is always looking after my best interests...he is smart enough to know my own remarks might proceed for hours and hours...so please just sit still for only about 10 minutes instead...(I do take after my father...my husband has always said that he wished he could hide the household job ("honeydew") jar and find me plants to manage BTW.  And I don't mean African Violets or geraniums!


"FORWARD: USE AS YOU SEE FIT - Potential thoughts for your May 9th remarks:" by Roy and Susie Sexton!


Today is a special day for many reasons. The opening of this beautiful residential facility in our Blue Bell building signifies the ongoing growth of Columbia City, a reminder of our history as a manufacturing hub, and how powerful it is when different members of the community collaborate to make life as we know it better for everyone. For me, though, this day has special significance as my father Roy Duncan ran the Blue Bell plant for decades, employing hundreds of our Columbia City friends stitching up those beloved Wrangler jeans. He would be so pleased to see all of you cute kids in your denim today!


My father, like anyone's father, loved his own family and appreciated the work that allowed him to provide for us. But anyone who knew my father well also fully realized that he could be very passionate and very mischievous, and there were days at work where his playful streak was rewarded and darker days where the deep-feeling side might be tested. Regardless, he was always undeniably proud of the persons who stepped through these doors and of the garments they created and shipped to all corners of the globe.


Here's the real kicker, though. He believed landmarks must be preserved. He gleefully remodeled and rehabilitated homes. In fact, I still question some of the choices he made in the early 60s to turn our 1935 Line Street bungalow into something that occasionally resembled a very well-lit postmodern UFO.


Even after he retired, he would fret and worry about how the factory's grounds were maintained here at the Blue Bell plant, commiserating with Mr. Ermael Day regarding the landscaping and then snapping photos that he sent back to Wrangler HQ., so he would be pleased as punch to see how this beloved lengthy, streamlined building has been restored with absolute care and genuine compassion, revelatory of an obvious reverence for the past, and with such appreciation for the spirit and the joy of the people who worked here.


I've been writing about Blue Bell since moving back here in 1986, first with a piece for JoEllen in the Historical Society Bulletin and later in my columns. As a kid, this facility was a magical place where: ice cream and chewing gum and Baby Ruth candy bars could be purchased in the canteen; lunches planned by Lucille Scott enticed at noon and got served in the divine cafeteria; dungarees were snapped up at cost in the company store; new parking lots materialized; the Vandalia Railroad tracks disappeared and in their place a tree-lined park and benches emerged; and huge bolts of fabrics would whisk from one end of the plant to the other. I've continually tried to manifest and illustrate the heart and soul of this place and constant productive, bustling activities on each of its floors and the various steps along the assembly line, covering anecdotes from the colorful personalities that walked its halls while I have simultaneously stressed the impact this dependable factory and the important business conducted within its walls had upon countless numbers of us who "once upon a time" lived...as well as presently live...in this community.


My father spent the bulk of his life working here. I have enjoyed a great deal of my life recapturing what made the Blue Bell era so special for me (from birth to age 70!)--I have pored through my two trunks (one of which was a gift from Marilee Boyd with the words "GLOBE-SUPERIOR" stenciled on the lid) of memorabilia nearly every time I passed by them lately, during this thrilling time of repurposing, happy to add my two cents worth ...(and denim is and has always been my favorite fabric, and that pungent  fragrance permeates the air of every room of our home).  A huge sign above this establishment's entrance once proclaimed, "World's Largest Producer of Work and Play Clothes".  A lesser known slogan, but one quite familiar among Blue Bell personnel, religiously referred to as "family", was "The Big Company that pays attention to little things".  And now I am beyond thrilled to see this generation and future generations literally spending their daily lives in the former Blue Bell building's sheltering embrace. Thank you to Commonwealth and Gina Gowen and our community leadership for not only preserving but also creatively reinventing and reinvigorating Blue Bell for today and tomorrow.  And, thus, we return to the title for this speech --"FORWARD: USE AS YOU SEE FIT" - and as we can attest to this May 9th afternoon -- Mission Accomplished!

 

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Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes.Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.com. Joi n a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

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April 20, 2017

Stream of Consciousness Trapezoidal Haiku Riff/Rap

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Impressions of The Season

 By Susie Duncan Sexton

"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to ... let it rain." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Never forget that old adage -- April showers bring May flowers!)

 

Spring & Wing

Ages & Stages

Trampolines & Magazines

Nestlings cuddle & Raindrops  puddle

Bicycles whizzing & Lemonade fizzing

(Limericks?  Sonnets?  Sweet Easter bonnets!)

Lame paperback novels & Sod-transferring shovels

Whirligigs swirl, twist and spin & Brazen dandelions win

(Tulips, jonquils, daffodils!  Frolic! Giggle! Roll down hills!)

Uncoiled green hoses fill bird baths & Benches appear on pebbled paths

"God's in his heaven..." This world's all right! (PIPPA PASSES--a Robert Browning poem from childhood days) "Mud-luscious (and puddle) wonderful..." -- grand sound-bite! (Thank you, e.e. cummings!)

Leashed pooches, cats poised on window ledges & Joggers huff, puff. Finches flit through hedges.

Officious ants line up -- for picnic hustling.  Honking horns target entitled geese bustling!

  One dozen syllables reawaken the soul!  Conscious Trapezoidal Haiku Riff/Rap -- my goal!  ~Susie Alexander Hamilton (with welcome assistance from beneficial though mercurial Mother Nature, mood-swinger in residence)

  (POSTSCRIPT in Prose:  Just a thought -- Wondering if Abe Lincoln might have penned his Gettysburg Address on post-it notes-- rather than the backs of envelopes--had such office supplies been available in the mid-1800s?)

  "WHAT IS A SOUL?  It's like electricity -- we don't really know what it is, but it's a force that can light a room." ~ Ray Charles   

 "It Could Be Verse" (an inspired title of a book of humorous poetry) ~ Victor Buono

 (NOTE: One of the photos in the illustrative collage is of me and Bobby Morsches ... tiny greeters for May 1952 junior/senior prom. Taken by local photographer Carter O. Diffendarfer ... a very popular local fellow ... that name straight out of a Dickens novel!)

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Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes.Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.com. Joi n a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

March 1, 2017

Pet Peevishness...plus the redeeming glories of the cat in the box

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Photos provided

 

By Susie Duncan Sexton

 

 

"I'd be a terrible superhero.  I'd see the signal calling in the sky from home and be like, 'I literally just sat down.' "  Credit: buzzfeed, googleimages, and darling fellow blogger Beth Kennedy!Peevishness2.jpg

 

 

People who bore us all with their pet peeves?  THOSE very dopes are MY pet peeves.  Granted that life overflows with inconveniences, annoying humans, political shenanigans, rudeness, put-downs, materialistic impulses, lame attempts at entertainment, underappreciated and abused animals, neglectful kin, self-centeredness, long lines, confusing coupons, junk mail, irritable spouses, entitled white male baby boomers, and smug newscasters and journalists and columnists whose hugest crime is redundancy.  I'll give you that.  But endurance matters...cataloguing gripes or engaging in whining never moves mountains. So, buck up...or to quote Megyn Kelly, "Suck it up, Buttercup!"  Climbing hills only to slide backward is a daily occurrence that connects us all...even with mythological concoctions named Sisyphus...who rivals any Biblical character I ever encountered in Sunday School.  Is that name Greek to you?  Sorry.  I tend to allude to literature I have been forced to read or movies I usually happily attended for over half a century now. I climb hills...I always have...I never stop...I have no time for...pet peeve listing...nor pretensions.

 

 

But peevishness is an entirely different beast...and some hot button perturbing issues encountered recently or throughout the "tempus fugit"-ing  years never go away...and they really should.  IN MY OPINION, the natural emergence of peevishness follows as the night the day:

  

 

1)  Mothers-in-law who behave cattily, meowing "Why do you love animals so inordinately much?"  The impolite yet truthful answer would go over like a lead balloon bopping a well-coiffured henna-rinsed possessive mama right on the bean.  Walt Whitman, help me here.  "I could stand and look at the animals long and long.  They are so placid and self-contained" for starters.  And did a mother cat ever once in the history of the world intrude upon her kitten's existence after she chewed the cord and "Let it (the son or daughter) go?"

   

 

2) Why does the "groom"-ster, perched atop the over-decorated and stale wedding cake, memorize and totally master all of the character descriptions in His playbook, such as gruff, insincerely charming,  condescending, controlling, evasive, arrogant, private, escape-prone, preening, non-communicative, posing, and blowing-off (beyond all sense of reason)?  And another incidental question:  why is He (with a capital "H") necessarily God (with a capital "G")...a closer reading of the Good Book allows one to reinterpret that time-honored, popular, crowd-pleasing theory into a possible SHe (capital "SH") as that particular gender deserves the following adjectives:  kind, sensitive, creative, clever, patient, long-suffering, nurturing, peace-making, and wise ( in spite of pesky and damaging stereotypical put-downs) and jolly well might have whipped up the universe Herself (in just one week!) as well as all of the galaxies and big dippers with one swoosh of a magic wand followed by a big bangWell, that's my theory anyway!

  

 

3) Charles Krauthammer I am not...I was never injured in a diving accident nor am I uncannily brilliant and eloquent.  I salute him, the only Fox pundit (and "rag" columnist) worth his salt However, Joe Scarborough must stop his chauvinistic abuse of Mika Brzezinski every morning on MSNBC--SNL should depict Morning Joe shirtless astride a white horse...Putinize him, tap the equine on the rump, and send Joe back home to Florida!  (I truly miss Don Imus these days!) Chris Matthews ought to rename his 7 o'clock hour something other than...HARDBALLRachel Maddow equals perfection itself.  The State of our Union frightens anybody with any sense whatsoever, and the Donald may be onto something by slamming the media...instead of bashing Hillary who got robbed and probably is delighted to get to stay home.  The cabinet picks are reminiscent of Col. Mustard, Miss Scarlet, and Prof. Plum...and Mrs. Peacock ... each so dimensionless but scooting around the board at dizzying, mindless speed.  Where is an FBI director exactly and precisely when we need one?  As for "intelligence" sadly lacking? Welcome Soviet planes or occasional ships either circling overhead or submarining just off the East coast.  Ah, Connecticut -- better duck!  Similarly, IF the Donald wishes to casually stroll among the frisky, feisty protestors at Trump Tower, Mar-a-lago or one of his assorted, illustrious golf courses, the Secret Service guys may need to preemptively shout, " Donald, Duck!" And a banished National Security adviser who carries shoulder bags and wears dorky brown shoes (and whose adult, though junior-high-ish time-warped, son) blog(s) misogynistic attacks?  Gone with the Wind-Bag...and "Lock Him up", Comey.  Sooner rather than later?

  

 

4) I pause here at number four to grab my digital camera in the midst of winter to shoot the umpteenth photograph of my Cary Grant-ish (straight from TO CATCH A THIEF...Hitchcock's svelte cat burglar poised upon bright orange Mediterranean roofing tiles prior to those imminent nightly jewelry heists through open windows of nouveau riche' dames) feline who may or may not be a tad autistic.  (Am I politically incorrect?  How Republican of me!)  "Cary" cuddles up wherever there might be a triangular spot for him to nestle; he seeks out such configurations and also bats at the caned seat holes on old rustic chairs.  He waits patiently for our Scottish UPS man to deliver a wondrous package that, when unwrapped, provides this cat'o mine with a four-sided box to curl his feline 20 pound body into lasting for hours upon hours.  I do not ever grouse about members of the animal kingdom.  In another life, I MUST have been a rabbit, giraffe, wolf...and got punished by the gods that be and reincarnated as a...HUMAN...dammit!  My peevishness captured in this bullet-point #4 resides in that I CANNOT ABIDE ANYBODY WHO DOES NOT REVERE SENTIENT BEINGS as much as we love ourselves.  Sexism, racism, anti -Semitism -- and the greatest of these is SPECIESISM...which is the root of all evil.  BTW, needless to say, I do NOT enjoy the Westminster activities...and now they plan to add cats!  Supervised Breeding!  Playing God whose name backward is...you guessed it! First, puppy mills and soon, cat mills...for the rich and clueless among us.

   

 

5) I really and truly resent being blown off...by docs, by snide baby boomer boys, by green-eyed, double-talking women, by relatives, by repairmen, etc.  I would be there for anybody who ever needed me to ... be thereMy mother spent her last days in a nursing home which actually shortened my life...I did not sign her up for such...nor do I ever wish to be relegated to one if at all possible.  The second day of Edna's incarceration was Christmas day, and she still possessed a phone and summoned several family members to visit her immediately, and she really let us have it!  (Not unlike Melissa McCarthy channeling Sean Spicer on SNL---  feel free, dear READERS, to google any and all references you may need in order to comprehend more fully?) Good for her!  However, she gave me a sad but true after the fact compliment, "Susie, you have never had moral support from anyone and for that I am very sorry."  In that way, I take after my dad who himself supported everybody (including me) at all times...with money, yes, and love and enthusiasm and kindnessHe should have received some of that attention himself.  Often, I know how he must have felt.  For two weeks I have been medicating a beautiful Rottweiler/ Black Lab Mix dog we adopted.  We provided this shelter dog with her heartworm treatment and all of her shots and now she is settling in just fine but lately needed a total of six Benadryl tablets per day at eight hour intervals and four antibiotic capsules every twelve hours which, needless to say, involved this 70 year old dispensing pills a staggeringly five times per day with an accompanying meal each dosage.  Quite an assignment!  I bought an alarm clock, and I still have peanut butter under my fingernails from fooling her with a dollop of yumminess concealing the drugs. Not as tricky as giving shots to a diabetic Husky a few years past, but grueling.  I am exhausted.  And I was asked once by a church lady if my pets or the homeless animals I have saved from death ever "thanked" me?  And wouldn't I rather travel and not be inconvenienced by pets dependent upon my everlasting presence?  I stifled my response...Jesus generally, when not otherwise occupied with something more pressing, positions one arm around my shoulder and usually places His other hand over my mouth, so I am a slow retorter.  Thank You, Jesus!  Really, when I stop to think about it, I do not need an acknowledgment of kindness...but I certainly wouldn't mind a gracious lick on the hand and a genuine empathetic response now and then.  Thank YOU, Duchess...the look in her sweet eyes as she patiently and trustingly consumed all of those meds was enough for me, church lady.  So there.  Perhaps, you might unpack your bags and adopt a homeless pet, may I suggest?

 

  

6)  My final complaint...for the moment? This hypochondriacal, quick-fix, instant gratification, pharmaceutical-popping, vainglorious, idolatrous American culture of which I assume I am a part?  I wish to implore that such nonsensical self-serving behavior cease...I yearn to stare not one second longer into blank, clueless, egomaniacal faces...even across the kitchen table.  Heated arguments concerning whether a humorous yet skinny valentine's day gift plaque should get shipped in a precariously cardboardish tube with a teensy label rather than placed lovingly inside an oversized bubble-wrap envelope addressed calligraphy-style with a water-proof laundry marker and the mister has his way as usual and the package bounces all over the greater Detroit area for days?  Well, such relentless contentiousness is ludicrous.  (And I was correct in the first place.)  I detest someone barking "Gimme that remote control" without a please or my name perhaps, followed by a comma...bellowed by the "great profile" who also claims to be able to unscrew any lid...and then cannot...after blustering out, " Gimme that jar or bottle or whatever"...again without mention of my Hebrew name "Susan" which means "lily" BTW, once again followed by ...a comma and the word please?  I do not care that Chauvinism is alive and well...I do miss politeness, though.  In the midst of a hectic spate of days, I mentioned to my kid Roy, my only confidant and a great one, that my older sister Sarah had said that she was glad I was pregnant (some 44 years ago), and that the couple of which I was half would maybe care about somebody besides ourselves and spend less time being competitive with each otherRoy's reply which left me humbled and also chuckling. "Well, we can see plainly that never quite worked out!"

 

  

I do love the words "the awful grace of God" which Bobby Kennedy quoted from a Greek philosopher-playwright-poet whom Jackie Kennedy had always admired. She gifted a book, in which that phrase appears, to her brother-in-law who was more than a little bit in love with the former first lady who had become, against his wishes, Mrs. Onassis. Sometimes being alive can hurt so much and so deeply that we can become peevish if we are not careful. We review and lament the scars and remember the slights...and the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune".   We lose sight of the immediacy of a previously unwanted dog named Duchess who needs her 5:30 A.M. meds...we get out of bed or rise arthritically from a kitchen chair and we unscrew the lid and we bury the pills in the peanut butter, evolve, and we become what being human requires of us...in as many ways as we can and as often as we can while we live...the only heaven we can ever know is at hand...it can and really must be here and it must be now.

 

  

"And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."~ Aeschylus (And may my own words as a world-weary mortal not merely become falling raindrops which evaporate upon contact -- might these thoughts instead penetrate consciousness and soak into an occasional psyche here and there once in a while.)

  

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Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.comJoi n a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

January 19, 2017

Hidden Figures: A Review

"What's there tells a story, if you read between the lines." Hidden Figures review

By Roy Sexton

The human mind. Regardless the gender, race, age, creed, ethnicity of the physical form carrying that brain around, intellect can be the great unifier, driving humanity's greatest contributions to this planet. Sadly and too often, our simplistic yet unrelenting cultural need to categorize and compartmentalize makes us lock away - belittling, ignoring, neglecting - the contents of brilliant minds in a vault of misogyny, prejudice, fear, and hate.

Hidden Figures is more than a film about how endemic institutional sexism and racism nearly derailed the American space program - a program so often held, perhaps erroneously, as the beaming example of progress and inclusion, inspiring multicultural fables from Star Trek to EPCOT Center.

Hidden Figures, based on the nonfiction bestseller by Margot Lee Shetterly, is a heartbreaking yet inspiring, trenchant yet forgiving, tear-jerking yet intellectual, timebound yet timeless allegory/cautionary tale for the mistakes we Americans are doomed to repeat when we let our baser, viler instincts cloud our appreciation for how diversity - the essential fabric of the much-vaunted U.S. of A. experience - enriches/enhances/enables our collective ability to problem-solve, defy the odds, and dream huge.

This movie got to me. Bigly.

The film's marketing campaign - effective as it has been (giving Rogue One a run for its money at this weekend's box office) - gives the impression of yet another in a too-long line of Lifetime-telefilm-meets-Oscar-bait-lets-wrap-American-racism-in-the-golden-hued-bubble-wrap-of-safe-historical-distance flicks. And, yes, the selfsame gorgeous cinematography, the jewel-toned zing of too-crisp-1960s fashion and decor and cars, the winking let-us-take-a-breather comic relief, the anachronistic pop music score (Pharrell Williams doing double duty as the film's producer and composer) are all there.

Don't be fooled. There is a stronger, more cutting message at play here than, say, in DreamWorks' similarly positioned, cozy race fairy tale The Help. Whether Hollywood realizes it or not, too often big budget films dealing with race and gender bias unintentionally perpetuate the very bias they are attempting to decry. The persecuted class is too often "rescued" by someone (usually a pleasant, conflicted, well-heeled white person, male or female) who steps outside the cultural norms of the persecutors to pave the way for social justice. You know what? That's an annoying trope that needs to retired. Doesn't mean it's untrue, but we've seen it. A lot. And whether we accept it or not, said trope seems engineered to let everyone off the hook, selling tickets because we all leave the theatre feeling good with our heads still buried in the sand.

Hidden Figures is slyer work, and I, for one, am grateful for that fact. You do leave the theatre "feeling good," but for a different reason - one you may not see for days or even weeks. Crackerjack Taraji P. Henson (Emmy-nominee and Golden Globe-winner for Empire, Oscar-nominee for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ) portrays one of NASA's resident human "computers" Katherine Johnson. She states, while faced with a particularly vexing mathematical problem, "What's there tells a story if you read between the lines." Amen. The protagonists of Hidden Figures - African-American women thinking and feeling in an era, not unlike the present one, where their thoughts and emotions are not only unappreciated but vigorously unwanted - do not need a rescuer or a hero. They save themselves - not to mention the space program and American pride - with their wits and their will and their very American drive to realize their own ambitions.

The film in its entirety is perfection, but Henson is the rocket fuel that keeps the enterprise propelled. She is a star, eminently watchable, with a character actor's gift for definition, nuance, and differentiation. She inhabits and frames every scene with such spark and such drive, with such believable caution and frustration, with such compassion and inquisitiveness that you never want her to leave the screen. Henson rarely overplays any moment - there are very few over-the-top snippets where you say, "Oh, that's the clip they will play at the Oscars." The few outsized aspects to the performance are so righteously earned that they land like the perfect punctuational flourishes in a fine symphony. I wonder if I would have enjoyed this film nearly as much with anyone else in the role.

Nonetheless, Henson is aided and abetted by strong turns from Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) as data expert Dorothy Vaughan in another derivation of Spencer's trademark world-weary "take no mess" tenacity and Grammy-nominated R&B wunderkind Janelle Monae (Moonlight) as engineering savant Mary Jackson whose peppery perspective gleefully, warily challenges the status quo at every fork in the road ("Civil rights ain't always civil").

Oscar-winner Kevin Costner was born to play 1960s sad-sack, pocket-protected, horn-rimmed, progressive misanthropes slogging through government jobs, searching for one bright spot in a sea of bureaucrats (see JFK and about half of his filmography). As space program director Al Harrison, Costner's scenes with Henson crackle at the heart of the film: two human beings, neither of whom could really give two damns about race or gender, in love with the idea of solving big problems but burdened by a corporate culture (and society writ large), cutting off its collective nose to spite its collective face so threatened by authentic wit and wisdom, consumed by petty jealousy, and immobilized by resentment. Costner ruefully intones at one point, "We can't justify a space program that doesn't put anything into space."

Golden Globe-winner Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) is also great as a mid-level NASA manager who inadvertently blocks progress at every turn, dutifully following a governmental system rigged against forward-thinking yet somehow intended to land a man on the moon. Dunst is so underrated; I wasn't even sure it was her until I looked up the cast list on my phone halfway through the film (with apologies to my movie-seat neighbors). Dunst rejects the indulgence of playing juicy, stereotypical "racist villain" notes in the film, presenting instead a believably bedraggled functionary who knows her paycheck is contingent upon her being a rule-following twit.

Less successful in that regard, Jim Parsons (Emmy-winner for The Big Bang Theory) is underwhelming in his role as Henson's rival and nemesis Paul Stafford. Without Sheldon Cooper's OCD-nerd-centric tics, Parsons just comes off as a dull, hateful milquetoast. That may have been by design on the part of director Theodore Melfi but could have been accomplished more effectively and interestingly with a lesser-known actor. On the other end of the spectrum, Glen Powell is a bit too twinkle-eyed in his "Prince Charming buying the world a Coke" portrayal of astronaut John Glenn. To his credit (and the film's detriment), Powell leaps off the screen every time he appears - like Ed Norton's prettier, caramel-dipped brother - but he is just "too-too" for me, disrupting the workaday credibility of the film's depiction of NASA.

However, these are minor quibbles, made more obvious when the film surrounding them is so good. Film's about the space program (The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, Gravity) always use America's race to the stars as a metaphor for human progress but frequently get side-tracked by the technical mumbo jumbo and with countless shots of retro Americans slack-jawed and gawking at the sky. Hidden Figures isn't that movie, with the exception of a few corny shots of retro Americans slack jawed and gawking at the sky as Glenn makes his nail-biting return to earth in the film's final moments. Hidden Figures is a movie about brilliant minds, unfairly marginalized by American superficiality, for whom mathematics is a language unto itself (the film runs rings around A Brilliant Mind in that regard). That language presents a path whereby three transcendent voices cut through the crap and the clutter of America's sad "traditions" of sexism and racism. Hidden Figures is the movie America needs right now.

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Reel Roy Reviews is now TWO books! You can purchase your copies by clicking here (print and digital). In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the first book is currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton's Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

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