Read-a-Thon Summer

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but my posts have been slightly fewer the past month or so. There’s a good reason for that, too. Between the two of us, Hubby and I are having a read-a-thon summer, and between that and the multitude of other things that intrigue us in our retirement, like movies, Nintendo WII games, just sitting around and swinging in our new swing on the back porch, my blogging is liable to fall behind a bit.

Last week I re-read an old book of mine, THE LEGEND OF NANCE DUDE (by Maurice Stanley) after I’d written a semi-review of it and published it on my Book page. It has been one of my most consistently read posts over the year or so it’s been published, and I’ve gotten comments and emails from several members of Nance’s family from all sides. Some of the remarks made me want to go back and re-read it to see how I’d react a number of years later. One thing that surprised me was how much I’d forgotten; it was almost like reading it for the first time. I’d forgotten that Stanley mentioned in his notes at the end of the book that he’d made up several of the main characters as a dramatic device to tell his version of the story of Nance. While I can understand why that was probably necessary, given that there was little information about Nance’s private thoughts and life available, I wish he hadn’t done that. It would have been just as good as a “novel based on” book. All the same, the intrigue remains. What in the world would drive anyone to take a two-and-a-half-year-old child into the mountains and trick her into a cave, then close her in with boulders to die alone.

People had different expectations those days, especially people born into some economic and social environments who believed it was up to each of us to make our own way in the world, to pull up our bootstraps and make the best of the way things were, not the way we wished they were. As I re-read it I couldn’t help but wonder why no one seemed to know or care how desperate the circumstances for Nance, her daughter and granddaughter.

To the end she insisted she was not guilty. Her only crime–in her mind at least–was giving the child away to a strange man. Would a 90 pound woman, all by herself, be able to roll heavy boulders to cover the cave opening? There’s just enough “reasonable doubt” in my mind to believe that she might have been innocent, after all. That didn’t keep her from paying 15 years of her life to hard labor at age 65 a life completely alone from age 80 (she lived to 104) and taking care of herself.

After finishing NANCE, I went on to THE SPACE BETWEEN US by Thrity Umrigar, a recommend by Terri at Island Writer. This is a haunting novel of the frailties of relationships and family bonds as told through the observations of two women in modern-day India, one an upper middle class Parsi woman and her faithful, slum-living servant of twenty years. It’s an insightful look into the ways we let these relationships keep us tethered to the same socio and economic limitations from generation to generation. It was a good follow up to Nance Dude. Poverty and problems know no bounds.

The past several times I’ve attended movies in local theaters, particularly those located in Sandy, I’ve noticed the posters and large cardboard cutouts advertising the new movie docudrama, My Story, about Emma Smith. Ever since I’ve moved to Salt Lake City where polygamy is still practiced to this day although not condoned nor sanctioned by the LDS church, I’ve been wondering what kind of woman could willingly enter into such a relationship.

Then yesterday I tagged along with Hubby to a branch library to browse while he attended a committee meeting. I noticed a book on Oprah Winfrey displaced on a shelf by a large window so I picked up and sat in a nearby chair. I leafed through it and scan read sections of different periods of her life but soon grew bored and got up to return it. Just below it, a book suddenly caught my eye. It was MORMON ENIGMA, Emma Hale Smith, co-written by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery. In my opinion it’s a very balanced accounting, neither sanctifying nor denigrating either Emma or Joseph Smith.

Now that I’m reading Emma’s story, I feel that now I can sense what it must have been like to have lived in such a duplicitous relationship, and yes, duplicitous is exactly the word I use to describe Joseph Smith’s relationship with Emma as I see it. I will no doubt write a more extensive post on this book after I’ve completely finished, as it is affecting my sensibilities very much. I will have to excise those feelings somehow, and writing is the best way I know. First I have to finish it, mull it over, and then read the one about Brigham Young which is waiting on the shelf and is next on my read list.

Meanwhile, although it’s slow going, Hubby’s reading a book published in 2006, THE JESUS PAPERS, by Michael Baigent, “exposing the greatest cover-up in history” according to the blurbs I’ve read and heard about it. Baigent is the author of several books, the most known of which is probably HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL, but is probably most recalled by most of us as the author involved in the lawsuit with Dan Brown over copyright infringement for some of the ideas presented in Baigent’s earlier book in his bestselling American novel DA VINCI CODE (Brown ultimately won). This book puts forth another hypothesis about Jesus, suggesting a secret deal between Pontius Pilate and the supporters of Jesus, so that he did not actually die during the crucifixion, but merely sedated so that he looked dead and then later revived after being taken down from the cross. He not only lived, but went on to marry Mary Magdelene and have a child whose descendants live on today. Baigent offers several postulations to support his theories, including valuable clues he says are in the Bible.

A long time ago I decided that if I had to choose between writing and reading, reading would win hands down. So, the writing and the blog posts may take second place this summer to my read-a-thon. If I get behind in my postings, it’s because I’m probably reading, but I’ll get back here, because so far no one’s held a gun to my head and said I can’t do both–read and write!

It’s Not the Years, It’s the Mileage!

There are some movies that are on our “must see” movies list–films like Harry Potter, James Bond tales, the Star Wars series, Indiana Jones and others of that ilk–just ’cause–regardless of the reviews one way or the other. We went Monday to see the new Indiana Jones film, but were surprised by a new and unexpected phenomenon of our retirement thus far–the first time a movie we’ve driven to see has been sold out. Not just the showing we were there for, but the following two, and a line stretched out ahead of us.

We decided it was a no-go, an unusual combination of luck– national holiday (Memorial day), kids out of school, and last but not least, it was raining (and would continue to rain all day long). So we stopped at the grocery store, bought some popcorn and went home to watch Queen Elizabeth (The Golden Age) from a Red Box dollar rental instead. I’m usually a great fan of limey movies but have to admit I drifted off to sleep somewhere in the middle of this one, and I’m pretty sure it had little to do with Cate Blanchet’s performance. I saw the beginning, most of the middle, and all of the end, so I’m good.

So today we decided to try Indiana Jones again. We were having our car windows tinted at a window tinting shop near a theater where it was being shown, so we left the car in the shop and walked about four blocks to the theater. There was a small line forming, and it was only 11:15 in the morning. It turned out there were a couple of teachers treating their high schoolers to a movie as a special treat. There were 50 or so students, remarkably well-behaved I must say, as well as a sprinkling of other people mostly in our age group. The theater wasn’t full, but we haven’t been to a show with so many people sitting in the seats around us since we retired.

Now I know there have been a lot of negative reviews, most of the more negative ones I suspect come from the twenty and under crowds (the ones that aren’t attending with high school teachers I mean). One of the more stupid remarks I read was on YouTube from several whipper snappers who could hardly spell, much less impress with any credibility as movie reviewers. It’s just a movie, people! There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief a viewer must engage in, just as we do when we read books of fantasy fiction.

According to an account I read in Wikipedia, Harrison Ford argued that “The appeal of Indiana Jones isn’t his youth but his imagination, his resourcefulness. His physicality is a big part of it, especially the way he gets out of tight situations. But it’s not all hitting people and falling from high places. My ambition in action is to have the audience look straight in the face of character and not at the back of a capable stuntman’s head. I hope to continue that no matter how old I get.”

Ford also refused to dye his hair for the role, since he felt his reprisal of Henry Jones in the newest version would also help American culture be less paranoid about aging. He stated further that “This is a movie which is geared not to [the young] segment of the demographic, an age-defined segment. We’ve got a great shot at breaking the movie demographic constraints.” He asked that more references to his age be added to the script. Spielberg said Ford was not too old to play Indiana:

I was glad that Spielberg hadn’t cast the role with a younger actor, and furthermore impressed that Harrison Ford did all his own stunts. That’s why the movie worked so well for me. As Spielberg said, “When a guy gets to be that age and he still packs the same punch, and he still runs just as fast and climbs just as high, he’s gonna be breathing a little heavier at the end of the set piece. And I felt, ‘Let’s have some fun with that. Let’s not hide that.'”

Add Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to a growing list of movies with older actors playing characters who get older just like the rest of us. It looks like Hollywood is finally noticing that many of us boomers and those a little beyond boomers do go to movies after all! Getting old really isn’t all that much about the years, as Spielberg recalled in the line from Raiders of the Lost Art. “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage”, and felt he could not tell the difference between Ford during the shoots for Last Crusade and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Hubby and I agreed we liked the movie very much, just ’cause!

Breaking With Routine

A couple weeks back I was sitting at the breakfast table with coffee and newspaper when suddenly I felt I was being watched. I instinctively looked toward the window of the family room to my right and there was a most peculiar sight for 7 o’clock in the morning. For a moment I froze. There was a deer looking straight at me! 

Trying to avoid moving my lips or making any overt move that could scare it away, I said to Hubby, there’s a deer watching us through the window! We routinely keep the camera nearby for things just like this, so my next thought was, where’s the camera? By the time I had camera in hand, I guess the deer had decided there was no use to try to get to the geraniums or other greenery inside, so she headed on down the side of the house on her way to the street. This picture is proof that I hadn’t been tipping the bottle that early in the morning, there really was a deer looking in my window! 

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We began last weekend breaking routine by finishing a long ignored basement project rather than wasting spending time online with faces buried in a computer monitor, so we decided to alter our routine further by seeing a movie Monday evening–not during the afternoon matinee as is our normal routine. I couldn’t even remember the last time we’d seen a movie in the evening. Would we be able to stay awake? Who did we think we were? Teenagers? 

It actually did feel really weird driving to the theater at a time when on any other night we’d be having dinner, then sitting down to watch whatever we could find on tv for a couple of hours before one or the other of us would begin to nod off and be nudged and prodded by the other one to go off to bed. Same old, same old. Routine but safe. I continued to feel completely out of my element all the way to the theater, half wondering what–or if–some ominous or out of the ordinary thing might happen while we were out of our safe nest. Would we ever see our grandchildren again?

Whether it’s storming in the middle of the night, or blazing hot and the middle of the day, time is suspended once I enter the close confines of a multiplex theater, and as soon as we were seated I forgot all else and settled down to concentrate on Front Row Joe being seduced into dancing with Popcorn Penny (who I must say has a lot of cleavage for a cat), and I was fine. Hubby leaned over and whispered, What happened to Joe’s tail? 

He was referring to Front Row Joe, the humanized male cat in Cinemark Theater’s commercial prequel to the feature film. Joe’s the one who tells you to hurry and buy some popcorn or candy and soda pop before the show begins. In the commercial he and his female counterpart, Popcorn Penny (the concession girl . . . errr . . . cat), are magically transformed into tuxedo and gown and begin to dance and cavort on stage.

When Joe entered the onscreen theater he sported a long bushy tail, but when he’s dancing with Penny in his tux his tail has disappeared and he has no shoes on with his tuxedo. Maybe he stuffed it into his pants leg? I answer. Nothing about the evening was routine so far. 

We’d decided to see No Country for Old Men since it had won four Oscars–best picture, best director, adapted screenplay (from Carmac McCarthy’s novel), and best supporting actor. It was one of the few nominated films that we’d missed. I won’t go into any sort of review here, lest anyone choosing to see it based on what I say be disappointed and blame me for wasting their time and money.

I will say this. It’s not a movie for the faint hearted. There’s a lot of blood involved. In fact I turned my head away or closed my eyes several times. I certainly understand why it was chosen best movie though, and I also concur with best supporting actor choice, Javier Bardem. If I ever meet him in person I’ll be scared out of my wits, I’m sure. He was superb! I was figuratively on the edge of my seat during the whole movie. Not once did I fidget or wonder how much longer until the end. In most movies I see I sit there and try to figure out beforehand how I think it’s going to end. I could not begin to guess at the ending for this one.  

After the movie we drove home, arriving at what would ordinarily be our bedtime, and stayed up an extra hour or two before going to bed. And guess what? The next morning the sun rose just the same as it does every morning. We turned on the news and nothing untoward that had anything to do with our break in routine had occurred. So I guess breaking with habit doesn’t have to shake up our whole world, does it? Maybe we’ll just live wildly and go out to a movie at night again sometime. Does you good to break out of routine, don’t you think?

Movies and Oscars and Movie Stars, Oh My!

Throughout the day Sunday as I was thinking of the upcoming 80th Oscar Presentations to take place in the evening, I couldn’t help thinking of an old friend of mine from Las Vegas. Ardis was one of the core members of the senior writer’s group, for which I was the facilitator. She was close to her mid 80’s when I last saw her around 2003. She lived alone–and insisted she liked it that way–in a complex of condominiums for senior citizens.

Looking every inch like a glamour girl from yesteryear herself, Ardis enjoyed dressing up every year in her finest clothes for a party of one, complete with a nice dinner and champagne, while she watched the Oscar presentations on television in her home. She had grown up in Los Angeles in the glamourous days of a Hollywood where young ladies could be “discovered” sitting on the stool at the fountain of the local drugstore.

Movies made a vivid impression on me as well, and at a very early age. The first movie I remember seeing was one of a series from Republic Pictures called Red Ryder. I would go home afterwards and make horses from scrap pieces of wire with string loops for the “flowing” mane and play out my own horse stories in the back yard. There was also Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hoppalong Cassidy to keep me entertained–on the screen–as often as I could get anyone to take me to the movies, and–in the yard–during solitary play.

In 1954, after I saw Elizabeth Taylor in The Last Time I Saw Paris, I pretended she was my real mother, having been forced by an evil mother to give me up for adoption when I was born. (Actually, she would only have been 10 years old herself when I was born!) I wanted a glamorous mother, not the slightly overweight one I had, and my imagination was one way to have one.  

One day a few years later, when I was around 14 years old, I saw Rebel Without A Cause, and fell head-over-heels in love with its star, James Dean. A year later, George Stevens came out with Giant starring Dean along with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. Of course I had to see it because I had to see my one true love onscreen once more. Problem is, these movies had come out in 1955 and 1956 respectively, and by the time I saw them, Dean had already been dead for several months. He was actually dead the first time I laid eyes on him. I cried myself to sleep every night for at least six months after learning that.

I didn’t fall in love onscreen again until 1962 when I saw Lawrence of Arabia and those blue eyes of Peter O’Toole. Then I fell in love a second time in the same movie as soon as Omar Sharif showed up with those dark eyes of his. I hadn’t known until that moment that a girl could be in love with two men of such contrast. As it turns out, those two would be my last onscreen crushes. About five years later my own “Omar Sharif” showed up, the one I now call Hubby. 

Since we see a lot of movies in retirement, including a fair number reflected in the various Oscar nominations, I was eager to see how the Academy’s choices matched up with my own. We turned on the television at 7 o’clock to watch the awards show already in progress. I was wearing my pajamas, and we had eaten leftover cream of spinach soup for dinner with a delicious salad Hubby made. I couldn’t help wondering while I was watching the show what my surely-still-glamorous old friend was having for dinner and what she was wearing that night?

Ghosts, Evil Spirits, and Haunted Houses

This post is the first in a series to come that will be derived from “The Book of Questions,” which is a little book I gave to Daughter #1 while she was an undergraduate at Case-Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Eventually it came back to my possession as she went on with her life abroad and eventually here in Utah. The author is Gregory Stockton, PhD. and it’s available at Amazon.com.

Do you believe in ghosts or evil spirits? Actually, I believe I can say in all honesty that now I don’t believe in ghosts or evil spirits, although there have been times in my life when I thought differently. Being brought up Christian, especially in the deep South, prepares you for that belief with their teaching of the afterlife. In fact, it seems to me they did and do prepare you more for life “after you die” than for the only life you are actually guaranteed to have, which is this one.

No matter how poor you are, or how many material things you do without so you can drop that extra nickel in the collection basket, you are always promised that a place is being prepared for you in heaven that will make all your sacrifice “here below” worth it. It’s preaching “manna for the poor,” but it works. It’s just too bad, it seems to me, that you have to wait until you die to live the good life. You know, in mansions built on streets paved with gold:

“I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we’ll never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold”

[This is the chorus from Mansion Over the Hilltop, a gospel song by Ira Stamphill in 1949, and sung by Sister Margie frequently at Everybody’s Tabernacle in Ellisville, Florida where I was living in the 1950’s.]

It isn’t much of a stretch then to think that after death you’ll take on a kind of “see all, hear all, know all” quality except that you won’t actually be “here”. You’ll be in a “better place.” Saying goodbye–at the cemetery before the undertaker gives the signal for the laborers to begin covering the lowered casket with the mounds of dirt piled to one side of the green grassy carpet-is not forever. When Gabriel blows his horn on judgment day, the believers and chosen ones will rise up to the sky, and a reunion will commence that will include every family member “gone on before you”.

In that great a-getting’ up morning,
Fair thee well, fair thee well.
In that great a-getting’ up morning,
Fair thee well, fair thee well.

When you see the lightnin’ flashin’,
When you see the thunder crashiin’,
When you see the stars a-fallin’,
When you hear the chariot’s callin’,

Well! If you can’t believe gospel singer Mahalia Jackson when she sings with that magnificent voice of hers many, many years after her own death, who can you believe? Even now, she can come the closest to making me at least want to believe than anyone before or since.

You can see then, that most my life, after a family member died, I could imagine him or her in the breezes around me, or in the glint of sun shining on a pond’s surface as I went about my daily chores. I’d even talk to them inside my head. Talk about the haunting of a kid!

In fact, just to illustrate how bamboozled this church doctrine made me, I had a ritual as a pre-teenager that I felt compelled to go through at any time I was doing something I felt slightly self-conscious about doing under any kind of observation, especially that of the supernatural. I’d snap my fingers three times, first on the right hand then the left, to turn the paranormal spout control switch to OFF. Only then could I resume whatever I’d been doing in a modicum of confidence.

When we were children, my peers and I were never spared the anguish of attending funerals, either, the way children sometimes are today. Funerals were, after all, a social occasion in which you learned how others act, and how you need to act in order to get along in the world. You learned, first of all, that death is something that happens to everybody, but usually only after people are really old and sick, and probably tired of living anyway. Now and then, it’s true that our worlds were rocked by the deaths of young people, even babies, but they were usually accidents or, we knew that sometimes God changed his mind and wanted the baby back for whatever reason.

You learned what to say to people suffering in their bereavement. “She’s in a better place, where she won’t have to suffer any more.” “He’ll be waiting for you when it’s your turn to go.” “Oh, if only Sister could see how beautiful she looked laying there in the casket.”

I once saw the 1934 version of “Death Takes a Holiday.” Frederick March, as Death, takes on human form in order to discover why people fear him so. The deal Death made in order to take on human form (and I can’t remember who the deal is made with) is that while he is mortal, there will be no death. Therein lies the plot.

It takes awhile, but eventually people begin to notice that no one is dying. War rages, but no matter how bad the casualties no one dies; even plants and flowers no longer wither and die. If memory serves, there’s a young boy, the grandson of the protagonist I believe, who falls from a tree and is badly injured, but-since death is on holiday-he must lie there and suffer dreadfully until Death can be persuaded to resume his duties.

By this time of course, Death has met and fallen in love with a beautiful woman who is the only person who has never been afraid of him, so it’s a hard choice for him to leave that world with a loving partner to become the hated death again. Through the movie we have a glimpse of what life would be without death to balance it, and thus we learn to appreciate it while we have it.

Eventually I came to believe that death is the real and natural end for every body, human or animal that, like the finest tuned and turned out machine, eventually wears out, and when it does, thank heavens death is no longer on holiday. Strangely, when someone I know dies now, one of my first thoughts is about all those things he or she will never have to suffer anymore. A belief you might think of as depressing can actually be quite comforting. I think it might depress me more to think I have to go through it over and over again.

Would you be willing to spend a night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted? In spite of not believing in ghosts and evil spirits, I still have one blessed imagination! I love spooky movies, not the slasher kind, but those that play with your head, that make you believe “it could happen.” Those are very few and far between, unfortunately. So no, I probably wouldn’t agree to spend the night alone in a remote house that is supposedly haunted. But I would if somebody would go with me. Anyone interested?

Preaching to the Choir

Just saw a movie yesterday, Hubby and I, that–despite gaining 4 and 5 stars from well respected movie critics–is probably destined to be a box office failure. I’m not afraid to be wrong, however, and in this case I hope that I am!

To appreciate the movie and its theme even more, it may be pertinent to revisit the scriptures of the old testament a little bit, and especially note the interesting comparisons of King Saul with our current King President Dubya which actually have nothing at all to do with the movie, or does it? (It seems some Israelites questioned the annointment of Saul as being the true appointee of God, but he was made king anyhow by the political pundits of the day.)

The title, “In the Valley of Elah,” comes from the setting of the biblical story of David and Goliath in the time period of approximately 886 BCE. The Phillistine armies were encamped on the south side of the Valley of Elah (so called after the oak or terebinth tree growing in the area), and King Saul’s forces occupied the hill on the nothern side. This is where young David was camping in the Cave of Adullam with a nearby brook and the customary rocks along its banks.

If you’re familiar with the Bible or the stories from its old testament, you remember that David took a stone from a nearby brook and decided he would take on the Phillistine giant, Goliath, with no other instrument than a slingshot with which he had a quite good aim. Some say he took not one, but five stones, just in case any brothers of Goliath might want and come for revenge. Well, his aim was further aided by God who already knows all things anyhow, and the precise and well-aimed rock hit Goliath at the strategic spot between the eyes, his skull split open, and he fell to the ground deader than a doornail.

David, as the lowly little flute player, the little guy who accompanied King Saul and played the flute to soothe his temperamental outbursts, went to war for the king who believed himself appointed by God as the leader of the Israelites.

Enough backgroud. The movie opens with an older couple, Joan and Hank Deerfield (played by Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones) of Munro, Tennessee and an early morning telephone call from officials at Fort Rudd where their son, recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, had been reassigned and has been designated as AWOL. Hank himself was an MP in his own military background and, trying to add things up, he convinces himself and his wife that something just isn’t right. He soon leaves Joan behind in Tennessee while he takes his truck and drives to Fort Rudd to find his son.

As the audience we’re along for the ride and the search for the rest of the movie. There are no heroes, no beautiful jiggly and bouncy starlets, no foreshadowing other than what we see slowly unfold on the screen before us as we watch Mike Deerfield’s video-taped experiences in Iraq.

We see every line and every nuance of pain and struggle in Tommy Lee Jones’s face, and in Susan Sarandon’s as well. And the detective assigned to the case (Charleze Theron) doesn’t sail through the movie sheathed in glamour. As the lone female in the investigative crime unit of the local police, she fights her own quiet battle with sexism. 

To say the movie leaves you feeling a little bit unsettled would be an understatement. Immediately upon exiting the tiny little theatre, an older lady waiting on a leather bench to be seated for the next showing asked us, “Was that a good movie? Did you enjoy it?” She must have been worried that the stonelike faces of those exiting before us meant she had chosen the wrong movie to see.

At matinee prices, no waste of money to be sure, but the question turned out to be one asked too soon, and one that neither of us knew quite how to answer. We knew she probably wanted to be reassured that she hadn’t wasted her money, and wouldn’t be wasting her time as well, but I needed to let some time pass before I could talk about it.

“Yes . . . it was a good movie,” Hubby finally managed to say. I could see by her puzzled look she wasn’t yet convinced. I managed to add, “Well, there’s no action to speak of, it’s a little slowly paced, there’re great character studies, and it really gives you a lot to think about,” knowing fully well those words didn’t do the movie justice. As we walked away, she remarked, “I’m afraid I already do too much thinking!” Another member of the choir, I thought, and walked on.

Having watched an episode or two on public television of the newly filmed The War, about WW II, by Ken Burns, and noting the difference in public awareness and personal vestment in that war and the wars in the middle east today, I believe that this movie will eventually prove timeless in theme. It is one that needed to be made as a political statement if for no other reason. 

One thing I believ I know for sure, especially looking back on the history of soldiers returned from the Vietnam fiasco, which is surely what the current situation in the Middle East is destined to become, we must be committed to taking care of the men and women “who fight for our freedom”. Too bad the director, Paul Haggis, is probably only preaching to the choir with this movie. Most Americans may be too uninformed and too personally uninvolved to care about the impact of war on our soldiers, period.

West Bank Story

Anyone familiar with Wintersong is probably very much aware that a few weeks ago I added video clip additions to my techno-ability. I promised myself not to overdo this wonderful feature; my thought was to reserve it for weekends which I hope to use to do my own blog reading, and see what’s new with my blogger friends.

Tuesday I attended my first Fall Osher class and fell in love with a documentary movie that almost defies description. You may have watched, as I did, the Academy Awards on March 6 last year. And because they were so darn cute, you probably remember Will Smith’s seven-year-old son, Jaden (his co-star in Pursuit of Happyness) and Ten-year-old Abigail Breslin, stumbling a bit as they announced the winner for best live action short film, “West Bank Story,” directed by Ari Sandel. At the time I was so taken with Abigail and Jaden I didn’t give much thought to Sandel.

Just 22 minutes long, think Romeo and Juliet or Tony and Maria (West Side Story) and you have a blueprint for “West Bank Story.” I could hardly wait until the weekend to share as much as I could about this musical comedy with my blogger friends. It’s about David, an Israeli soldier, and Fatima, a Palestinian fast food cashier, the most unprobable of couples, falling in love amidst the animosity of their families’ dueling falafel stands in the West Bank.

Tensions mount when the Kosher King’s new pastry machine juts onto Hummus Hut property. The Palestinians then ruin the machine (the explanation of how is much too complicated to note here, regretably), and the Israelis respond by building a wall between the two eating establishments. Amid the resulting chaos, the couple profess their love for each other and trigger a chain of events that destroys both restaurants, forcing all to find common ground in an effort to rebuild, thus planting a seed of hope for a new and better future. 

I enjoyed it so much and wish I could show the whole thing here, but since that would entail copyright issues, you can review it just a little here through short trailers. Like Ari, I want to believe there’s a solution for the Israli-Palestinian conflict. May it begin with all of us trying to see things not as they now are, but how they could be. No one is 100% right 100% wrong. And keeping our sense of humor is always a plus! (By the way, this video can be purchased online for about $20.)