The 1971 Oacar Movie Nominatin Fiddler on the Roof Is Perfect–Again and Again

Tonight, I noticed that Fiddler on the Roof was playing. I have seen that movie dozens of times. My first thought was, “Nah, I’ll find something else to watch.”

Thank goodness, there was nothing else playing and I opted to watch Fiddler one more time. Within seconds, my entire mood had lifted, and I was overjoyed that the fates gave me another opportunity  to celebrate what I consider to be a perfect movie.

The music could not be better, and for those of us who did not grow up as Jewish people, the movie is a grand introduction to what I consider to be a beautiful culture that is a significant part of this world’s history and a vital part of Biblical history.

Seconds into the movie, I was hooked:

“Because of our tradition, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years….and because of our tradition, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects us to do.” – Tevye

As I heard Tevye say the above, I had a thought that I often have had. I believe that as our people have lost more and more of our traditions, we have begun floundering around–desperately in need of anchors. I am not Jewish, but when I was a child, my family had traditions that were crucial to my becoming who I am today. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, and Birthdays were celebrated the same way year after year, and somehow my knowing that it would always be that way comforted me. I grieve that our traditions changed. Of course, in Fiddler, the family lost many of their traditions, too. Somehow, Hollywood was able to mitigate the damage of that family’s loss of traditions. I am not sure that my family, in real life, has done so well.

And when the family gathered around the table for the Sabbath Prayer, I wept. Until that point, I was only half-watching Fiddler, but as I heard that blessing once more, I knew that I myself needed a blessing and that taking a moment for this movie could be part of my being blessed.

Even if the rest of the movie was a flop, the wedding scene and Sunrise Sunset would turn the production into an award winner. That has to be one of the most touching and memorable songs that I have ever heard. I have always liked Sunrise Sunset, but as I began watching my own children grow, the song took on an entirely different depth for me.

As I said before, during the course of the movie Fiddler of the Roof, several traditions break down.At the wedding celebration, men and women danced with each other–denying the tradition of men’s dancing with men and vice-versa. Young men and young women forego the matchmatker and choose their own spouses. They even vow to marry without the father’s permission. As arranged marriages are replaced by marriages based on love, Tevye asks Tzeitel if she loves him. An important question is raised:

Ultimately, Chava totally defines the family and marries outside her faith. Tevye grieves but swears that Chava is dead to him. There is no greater pain for a parent, than to be cut completely off from his child–regardless of the circumstances. The loss is incomparable.

And then, to make matters worse, the Jews are ordered to leave their homeland:

In the end, it is Tevye who refuses to recognize his estranged daughter.

“Some are drven away by edicts; other by silence.” – Mordcha

©Jacki Kellum March 21, 2o16

You Can’t Plant Flower Gardens without Getting A Little Dirt on Yourself

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You Can’t Plant Rose Gardens without Getting a Little Dirt on Yourself and the Roses that Smell the Sweetest Are Covered with Thorns

I was just thinking about the old song on the Layla album: There’s A Thorn Tree in the Garden.

How true it is that roses have thorns–the best things in life seem to come at some price–we can’t even plant a garden of flowers without getting dirty.

Oh, we could be rich and we could pay someone else to plant our flowers and to clip them and put them in vases for us. That way, we could sit in our ivory towers and merely watch our gardener, but in doing that, much of the joy of flower gardening would be missed. I do ALL of my own gardening. I dig every hole, and I move every shovel of dirt. By the end of each summer, I have several, beautiful and meditative spots here and there around my lawn.

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Last summer, I made a poster, saying that I garden so that I’ll have those beautiful and meditative spots available for myself, and then I reconsidered. The spots that evolve are nice, but the real reason that I garden is much more complex. It is the act of creating those beautiful spots–it is the doing of–the process of gardening–that benefits me most–and that is a dirty business.   

We gardeners begin to enjoy gardening in about February when snow is still on the ground. That is when we begin poring through our seed catalogs and hopping from garden site to garden site on the computer.

Sprout, Bloom, Bud, Spring, Flower, Plant, Nature

Soon, shoots of greenness pierce the earth. For a true gardener, that first greenness is as beautiful as a fully decked flower shop. Then, the parade of colors begins.

First, the crocus. Then, the jonquils.

Daffodils, Yellow, Flower, Yellow Flower, Spring Flower

Then, the tulips.

Then, the iris.

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Then, the foxgloves.

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By that time, summer is here, the daisies and the strawberries are in. It is time to dig into the earth again and to plant the vegetables. Along with that comes the thrill of going outside each day–just to see if anything has grown even another inch. The person who pays a gardener must miss that part of the parade.

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Hollyhocks and roses soon follow–and after that, the sunflowers and the pumpkins.

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Gardening is one of the longest joy rides that I take, and it costs very little at all. But none of it is possible unless I get down on my hands and knees and get dirty. In my garden, I want to do the dirty work. In my opinion, the one who gets dirty is the one who gets the most joy.

©Jacki Kellum March 19, 2016

Dirty

A Jacki-of-All-Trades Needs a House with a Lot of Shelves

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Being creative is fun. Most creative people will try to make or do anything. If their roses need arbors, they will build them.

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And if they need a deck, they’ll build that, too.

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If they want to play the guitar or any other musical instrument, they simply teach themselves how to play.

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If they want to paint, they paint.

Colorful, Colorful Scarves, Color, Art, Cloth

If they want to batik, they batik.

Patchwork, Fabric, Padding, Patchwork Quilt, Blanket

If they want to quilt, they quilt.

Sock Doll, Crafts, Happy, Funny

If they want to make dolls, they make dolls.

Agate, Stone, Pendant, Goddess, Asian, Garnet, Jasper

If they want to make jewelry, they make jewelry.

Jams, Marmalades, Farmers Market, Homemade Preserves

If they want to make preserves, they make preserves.

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They even grow their own fruits.

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And they create their own scarecrows, too.

All-in-all, being creative is exciting, but a creator’s mind is like a Pandora’s Box. Her house is even worse. Every single thing that a creative person does requires supplies–lots of supplies. And unless there are lots of shelves, the creative person’s home is a tangled abyss.

Book, Address Book, Learning, Learn, Reading, Culture

I have gotten to the point that I rarely buy any furniture at all, but buying shelves is another matter entirely.

My house has several large windows, but the rest of the walls are lined with shelves. I know that this isn’t the way that most folks decorate their houses, but my house is different. Unless I want all of my stuff circling around the floor, I have to put it on a shelf.

©Jacki Kellum March 17, 2016

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What A Blessing to ALMOST Have Kicked Envy in the Rear

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“With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy.”- Lope de Vega

Well, maybe Lope has completely kicked envy. It still raises its green head and roars at me a bit, but I am proud to say that as I have gotten older, I have given up that clawing toward the top or wherever it is that people claw to reach. I probably have less worldly goods than almost any other time in my life, but somehow, it hardly bothers me at all.

Envy is probably one of the most self-destructive forces to mankind. I often write about narcissism, and I believe that envy is at the root of narcissism. People want what someone else has, and they begin to sell their souls to get it. Over-achieving and over-working follow, and often the overworking itself blinds the person as to his own behavior.

“Each person’s drive to overwork is unique, and doing too much numbs every workaholic’s emotions differently. Sometimes overwork numbs depression, sometimes anger, sometimes envy, sometimes sexuality. Or the overworker runs herself ragged in a race for attention.” – Arlie Russell Hochschild

Don’t get me wrong, I still have plenty of vices, but one day I simply woke up and realized that envy was a totally wasted effort. The fact that I envied something didn’t deliver it to me, and even when I did get what I envied, I discovered that what I was envying wasn’t really all that great. It didn’t make me happy. What I envied wasn’t even making the other people happy.

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.” – Heraclitus

It sounds completely simplistic and too naïve, but I believe that the magic occurred when I realized that not very much at all was required to make me happy and that the things that make me happiest of all are almost free–like flowers and beautiful spring days and showers of rainbow-colored leaves flitting through the autumn wind.

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” – Harold Coffin

As long as we look outward, we’ll always see that someone has something that we don’t have. One day, my youngest son was upset that he didn’t win this or that or have this or that or perhaps he was upset about something about himself that he thought inferior, and I told him, “Everyone wishes that they were better.”

At that time, Tom Cruise was the top-of-the-charts-actor and Brad Pitt was somewhere behind. Since that time, Tom Cruise has become like Icarus. He flew too close to the sun and his wings melted, but at that time, he was the king. I told my son, “Look at Brad Pitt. I bet he’d like to be Tom Cruise, and I am quite sure that Tom Cruise won’t settle for being less than God.”

A degree of envy is simply part of our make-up. We all have a bit of it, but it does not have to be our driving forces. We need to see it for what it is and understand: Envy simply does not work, and it brings no joy.

“Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” – Joseph Epstein

If you feel the need to have a juicy vice, pick something other than envy. It is no fun at all. It hurts. Until we look in the mirror, gluttony would be fun.

“Envy’s a coal comes hissing hot from Hell.” – Phillip James Bailey

©Jacki Kellum March 16, 2016
Envy

When We Drop the Generalizations, We Begin to Understand

Matroeska, Vintage, Crafts, Hand Painted, Old, Retro

In my opinion, one of the very worst of bad habits is that of generalizing. In fact some of the worst lies that we tell ourselves and tell others stem from generalizations.

When I was preparing to move to the North, my Mississippi friends begged me to reconsider, “You’ll hate it there. The people are mean. It is too cold. You won’t be able to grow anything in your garden.”

After I landed in Philadelphia and began my journey toward my new home, I noticed that the license plates said that New Jersey is the Garden State. One of the major roads here is called the Garden State Parkway. I certainly didn’t expect that.

 

When I began looking for a house to buy here, fate brought me to my current house. When I saw that a gigantic magnolia tree spread across the entire back yard, I was convinced that this was the house for me. The magnolia is the Mississippi State Tree. Somehow, this seemed like the appropriate place for me to land. I named my big tree Mississippi, but a couple of weeks ago, Mississippi caught one too many harsh winds from the Northeast and fell. It almost hit my house.

Now, here is one of those generalizations for you, but in the South, lots of guys have chainsaws. That is not so very true in the North. Here is another generalization: In the North, people tend to hire things done, and the going rate for cutting down a fallen tree is about $1,000.00. Without having to generalize too terribly much, my neighbors realize that I don’t have $1,000.00 extra.

Contrary to what most in the South might believe of Northerners, most Northerners are very decent people. They are just as warm and as neighborly as people are anywhere else. Within days of Mississippi’s having fallen, my neighbors, chainsaw in hand, showed up in my backyard and began to haul her to the street.

These same Yankee neighbors are the ones who always invite me for Thanksgiving dinner and they load my doorstep with homemade cookies and candies at Christmas time, too. But beyond that,they are always there, ANY time that they even suspect that I need help–and that is just one set of my Yankee neighbors.

Another set of neighbors always ask me over for Christmas–in spite of the fact that I NEVER return the invitation. Early in the game, I muttered that I was remodeling and my house was a mess. The truth be known, long ago, I began remodeling my kitchen and ran out of money. After that, my kitchen became an ugly abyss. Finally, I invited this friend over to advise me as to what I should do first–to try to make my house more livable. Well, that neighbor apparently began texting her friends, asking who was remodeling their kitchen and might have something they wouldn’t mind giving to someone else or selling for a reasonable price.

Within moments, one of the families who bring children to my story hour gave me a kitchen–and not just any kitchen. It is a beauty.

There is almost a lesson of faith in this. I hoped and I prayed for some simple patch to cover the ugliness of the place that I needed a kitchen and what I am getting is beyond my greatest hope–and here is the real news: one of these cold, Yankee families is giving it to me–simply because.

The miracles did not cease. The builders who are installing my benefactors’ kitchen is delivering the kitchen to my house, FREE. Yet, I still did not know how I would get it installed. Another neighbor, the one who always throws me a little birthday party, stepped up for this part of the magic. Yes, she knew a contractor who she felt could offer me a good deal. He came over, took a look around, and he gave me some quotes. I looked at him with questions in my eyes, “Is this enough money?”

He responded, “You take care of our kids.” — he meant Linwood’s children. As of March 17, I shall have been Linwood’s Children’s Librarian for 13 years, and I thought that I was working for peanuts, but after this has happened, I realized that I am actually paid very well. I always knew that the emotional pay was superior, but I never dreamed that I might even profit financially.

The builder added, “I believe in Karma. This is your Karma. Enjoy!”

One of the first things that I learned after moving to the North was to drop my biases about Northerners, and I am learning to drop the generalizations, too. In most cases, generalizations are lazy lies.

P.S. Not everyone in the South is as sweet as hot, buttered, syrup. They just sound that way.

©Jacki Kellum March 15, 2016

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Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour of Splendour in the Grass, of Glory in the Flower

Yesterday, I re-watched Steel Magnolias. I knew that it was a sad movie and that it would make me cry, and I almost opted out of dragging myself through the whole thing again. But having survived that sadness, I am glad that I did. Check out the cast: Sally Fields is probably my favorite actress, and Dolly Parton is a joy to me. The cantankerous Ouiser is a reminder of the people that I hate to love, and Olympia Dukakis was also superb. Having lived most of my life in the South, I quickly recognized the character played by Daryl Hannah–the character who routinely summarizes the mysteries of life with her simple, scriptural platitudes.  And Julia Roberts played the child that God allows most of us to hold for only a short and fleeting moment of our lifetimes.

Julia  Roberts died in Steel Magnolias, but most of us parents know that our children do not have to die to leave home. That is simply the design of life. It is almost a bad joke. The parent’s precious child moves on. Parents are simply loaned a set of children–for just a short period of time–and then, they quicken toward another life. They go to marry and begin their own homes or they go to begin their own careers. The bottom line is that our children leave.

Although most children keep in touch with their parents after they move away, they can never really return, and a decent parent doesn’t want them to do so. But in some nagging, longing way, we remember and we ache for the days that we wrapped our children in soft, cotton blankets and brought them home from the hospitals. We remember their first steps. We remember baby food dripping from their chins, their highchairs, and from their hands and hair. We remember bathing our babies’ silky bodies and drying them and then laying them right on top of our hearts–where we could feel them as they breathed, and we remember slipping into their rooms at night and marveling at the sweetness of simply watching them sleep.

Looking back across the span of life, we recall our children’s innocent comments–the ones that allowed us to once again see life as a child sees it. We remember the drawings and the paintings that they made as children, and we remember their going to school. From that moment on, our children began slipping away from us and into themselves. That is the way that it is supposed to be. We know that, but still we remember the fleeting moments that God loaned us our children, and we long.

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind…
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet….
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears….William Wordsworth
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Thank goodness for the hours that we were parents and for the ever-renewing spring times of living and our abilities to continually find new delights in which to take joy.

©Jacki Kellum March 14, 2016

Fleeting

1961 Movie Raisin in the Sun Won No Ocars but It Should Have & It Helped Pave A Road

A few moments ago, I watched A Raisin in the Sun. I have made a commitment to watch all of the Oscar movies, and I felt sure that Raisin had been one of them. When I checked into the movie’s ratings, I noted that the movie received a 100% rating; yet, it won no Oscars. Something’s wrong about that.

Sidney Poitier certainly was not the problem. As usual, Poitier’s performance was 100%, too.

And Claudia McNeil certainly did not drop the ball in her portrayal of Poitier’s mother in the film.

“In my mother’s house, there is still God.”

I have said this before, and I am repeating myself here. The Oscar Awards are not always indicative of which movies during a year are of top quality. Sometimes other things enter the picture.

A Raisin in the Sun was released in 1961–the year of the Freedom Rides, and the year that buses were bombed. In 1961, the University of Georgia was integrated. and Herbert Lee was murdered in Mississippi.

In 1961, African-Americans were not even allowed to watch movies in the same room as the whites, and water fountains were labeled as colored or white.

I was 11-years-old in 1961, and I well remember the signs and their segregations.

In 1961, A Raisin in the Sun was probably a bit too fresh–a bit too prophetic to win or even be nominated for an Oscar, but it was still crucially important.

In 1962, the National Guard was camped on the lawn of the University of Mississippi–to protect James Meredith as he integrated the school.

James Meredith.jpg James Meredith integrates Ole Miss

In 1963, Peter, Paul, and Mary sang for the Civil Rights Movement in Washington D.C.

 In 1968, seven years after the release of A Raisin in the Sun, Martin Luter King was assassinated in Memphis. I graduated from high school that year, and I began college at the University of Missississippi that year, too. Ole Miss is just a few miles South of Memphis, and I grew up just a few miles North and West of there.

I grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, and I am absolutely aware of how difficult integration was for this country–and not only for the South. Unfortunately, the Oscars are not immune to social issues like integration. While A Raisin in the Sun did not win any Oscars, it did begin to pave the way for other important films, i.e. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Lilies of the Field, Roots, the Color Purple, etc.,  and it prepared the world to receive an entirely different way of life. In a way, it won an award of its own kind.

A few weeks ago, I watched the Oscar Award Presentations on television, and I thought that Chris Rock’s continuous ranting about the plight of the African-American actors was completely ineffective. If anything, I felt that his words and actions set the movement back a bit. In writing, there is an excellent rule of thumb: “Show, Don’t Tell.”

Chris Rock forgot that important tip. He tried to tell–to tell the American people “off.” Movies like A Raisin in the Sun Show–they are the key to the progress that America has made toward Civil Rights. There is a great deal of difference between telling someone what they should or should not do and enabling them to feel that for themselves.

There are other truths in A Raisin in the Sun, too. The movie is also about missed opportunities. Walter Lee feels trapped. He asks his mother why she had moved from the South and he further asked why he had not been allowed to get on the train and to leave, too, when he became an adult.

It is about the importance of having a piece of land and a home that belongs to himself. The tragic twist is that the house and land purchased were in a white neighborhood, and yes, that would have been poorly received in every part of America, in 1961. To illustrate that point, A Raisin in the Sun is not about the South. The Northerners did not want block busters, either.

When Walter Lee loses his father’s insurance money, a movie about social justice becomes Oscar-worthy, and when the African boyfriend proposes that they take lemons and turn them into lemonade–that he and the sister relocate to Nigeria, a greater truth is spoken. We make plans, but we do so with limited resources. Often, we do not even dare to wish for the great things that might be just beyond our imaginings.

In an attempt to recover his losses, Walter Lee almost sold his soul but he did not. A Raisin in the Sun is not a Cinderella rags-to-riches fairy tale. It is a fine weaving of one family’s account of their efforts to endure, in spite of adversity. The fact that Raisin lifts the veil that had hidden the humanity of African-Americans is important. It is important for the Civil Rights Movement, but the story and the acting are what are deserving of an Oscar. Those elements had little to do with Civil Rights–the Civil Rights issues were superflous.

I agree that A Raisin in the Sun is worthy of its 100% rating. I disagree that it was not Oscar-worthy. If that movie had been released forty years later, I dare say that it would have swept an entire shelf of Oscar awards.

©Jacki Kellum March 13, 2016

 

Distinguishing Between Memoir and Autobiography: A Story Can Be Complete without Being A Tell-All

 

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On Thursday mornings, I teach a class in Memoir writing. On the first day of the class and for several classes afterward, my main objective has been to illustrate that Memoirs are not Tell-Alls. As autobiographical records of a person’s life–told in chronological order, they are incomplete. Rather, they are filled with snippets of a person’s life, and each snippet is complete, in a different way.

What A Memoir Is Not

  • Memoirs are not the places that writers go to hash and rehash all of the brutal and unfortunate experiences of their lives. I have tried that kind of writing, and it is like wading in quicksand. The more you stir your pity pot, the quicker you are sucked into your own deep and black hole.
  • Memoirs are also not simple histories that begin with what a writer has been told about his birth and followed by the most cogent points after that–all listed, according to a timeline.

What A Memoir Is

  • In reality, the best memoirs are not chronological at all. They are simply groups of stories that are told in a searching and reflective way.
  • Quite often, memoirs skip all around the writer’s history.
  • In one chapter, stories from several times during a person’s life may be pulled together around one theme.  An entire memoir may examine several themes.
  • Memoirs may ask more questions than they provide lists of facts.
  • Through a person’s memoir, we are allowed to listen to the writer as he thinks–as he processes and tries to make sense of some of the events of his life.
  • Memoirs are also invitations into the writer’s heart. While an autobiography might be a cold and precise treatise–much like a textbook or a history book–good memoirs tend to be written more creatively–using figures of speech, poetic devices, etc. The facts are not made up, and liberties are not taken when repeating them. They are simply laced together with fine and textured thread.

Skills Needed for Writing Memoir

  • The memoir writer needs to be able to recall actual things that have happened to him during the course of his lifetime.
  • The memoir writer needs to learn to write sensitively and reflectively.

Following Is A Story about Churches from My Memoir:

Memoir Essay Churches

As a Story, the Above is Complete.
As Historical Detail, the Above is Incomplete.

The above quick and simple essay about one of the churches that is memorable in my life is a complete story. The imagery is complete. I allow the reader to travel along one of Mississippi’s gravel roads and find an old, white church with me. I allow them to form some opinions about why visiting that old church site was meaningful for me. However, as historical record, the above is incomplete.

If I felt obligated to tell the reader the whole story, I would have added the fact that several months before this incident occurred, I was almost killed in a car accident. My face had been ripped apart. My leg had been shattered. My body was covered in scars. The accident occurred at the beginning of my junior year at Ole Miss, a college that is probably more about appearances and beauty than it is about academic excellence.

Months later, when I went back to college, I was still on crutches. The wounds on my face were still red and raw. After my wreck, only part of me returned to Ole Miss. The drunk driver had claimed the rest of me, and I was left with only part of my original package.

Emotionally, I had also changed in the car wreck. The carefree 20-year-old was gone. She had learned something about the brevity and the tenuousness of life. While others at the University of Mississippi were still in beer-bust mode, I had been forced into another kind of awareness. I was not an Ole Miss co-ed anymore. Although I had returned to college to complete my degree, my party was over, and routine escapes from campus to the farmland and woodlands around had become necessary for me. It was on one of those escapes that I discovered the old, white church in the forest. No doubt, the rest of the tale helps explain why the experience was important for me, but the story is complete without all of the grueling details.

In an autobiography, I would have told all of the details in one chapter. In my memoir, the data about the car wreck may be told in another spot and it may never be told at all. A memoir writer is not obligated to write a textbook synopsis of what has happened to a himself, listed in chronological order. A memoir writer is free to weave the events of his life into a type of tapestry. The reader may or may not glean all of the facts of the writer’s existence, but all of the facts are not necessary, as long as the stories are complete.

©Jacki Kellum March 13, 2016 – My 66th Birthday

In complete

The 2005 Oscar Nominee Ray Is Outstanding – Oscar Recipient Jamie Fox is Brilliant

I am trying to watch and review all of the Oscar movies and oscar nominations from the past. I have noted that some of the previous Oscar winners were rather faddish. They were probably good, at the time that they were made, but they have not stood the test of time. On the other hand, I have discovered that I like the movies better now than I did when I first watched them. Re-watching those movies is a treat. Ray has proven to be that kind of treat for me.

I remembered that Jamie Fox did an incredible job of playing Ray Charles, but as I re-watched the movie today, I was astounded by how well he played the part. The other performances were also good. In fact, Ray is played by a string of stars, and the music is top-knotch.

Ray Charles is portrayed as a genius who was tormented by his drug abuse. At a time when the Civil Rights Movement was struggling to make life better for the non-white people in our country, hHe was an African American performer who was able to cross racial lines and even blend them to some extent.

The movie Ray is a quality biography and it has historic significance, but beyond that, it is simply a good movie.

©Jacki Kellum March 12, 2015

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If Fences Make Good Neighbors, What Are the Purposes of Gates?

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“When I walk through that gate…that’s my escape.” – Maria Sharapova

Have you ever considered the true nature of a fence? We often think of a fence as something to keep a creature inside an area–i.e. fencing cattle or a dog or chickens inside. I actually think that the more important purpose of a fence is that of serving as a screen–to keep others out–to create boundaries, to provide spaces for privacy, to establish sanctuaries. With that in mind, what is a gate?

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I am an avid gardener, and the top photograph is the gate that leads into my garden. The photo immediately above is on the other side of that gate.

“When the hornet hangs in the holly hock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

I am a professional storyteller. I perform at least twice a week and people who watch me on stage would never guess that I am actually almost reclusive. If I never left my home again, I would probably be fine. When I am out among people, I give it everything that I have, and my garden is the place that is necessary for me to go to recharge.

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The above photo was taken in August of 2015. From late March until late October, I have a continuous stream of blooms in my yard, and many of them center around my waterfall. Listening to trickling and running water is part of my rehabilitation from the world.

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But if I even see my neighbors and their houses, when I am outside, the therapy does not work. This past summer, I built arbors all around my garden. Here and there, they jut in and out, much like a maze. Eventually, I hope to have my entire yard surrounded by climbing roses or grape vines.

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The gate at the top of the post is covered by my grape vines. I plant the grapes in places that thorns will not work–in places like where I plant my vegetables.

“Come into the garden, Maud, For the black bat, night, has flown, Come into the garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone; Maud And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad, And the musk of the rose is blown. For a breeze of morning moves, And the planet of Love is on high, Beginning to faint in the light that she loves On a bed of daffodil sky.” – Tennyson

Rose, The Wild, Flower, Powder

Roses are essential for me. I like the old garden roses or the antique roses. I like the way that they are simple and unpretentious, and I like them because their scent has not been hybridized out of them. I rarely plant a rose that does not volunteer a generous amount of old, garden rosy aroma. In that respect, I guess that my garden is aroma therapy, too.

I also like the bulbous, English roses. The above rose is David Austin’s Heritage. I like that name. My garden is much about my heritage. My grandmother was also an avid gardener, and when I walk through my garden gate, I walk back into her garden, too.

Bottom line: I am not anti-social. When I am out among people, I generally enjoy them, but when I am truly at home, I love my garden, which has been designed as a screen from the demands of being social.

I do agree that fences make good neighbors. When we are behind our fences–screened away from society–we are shielded from people–from playing the game. But I also like gates. I like the fact that a gate allows us to leave our cloisters, and it allows our chosen friends to come inside.

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If your are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in! – Shel Silverstein

©Jacki Kellum March 6, 2016

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