Friday, December 20, 2013

Thinking About Christmas

Ben fixed my internet and computer issues this morning. My 20 years of experience with the internet and more than that with computers have not resulted in my becoming the least bit internet or computer savvy

A month or so ago I tried to do something with my Facebook account that Emily could have done in less than 30 seconds, but me it took all morning—that’s how UNsavvy I am. So, thanks, Ben!—I shall regard it as your Christmas present to me!

. . .  Speaking of Christmas . . .

. . . There is this family tradition with meatballs . . . .

For the past 30 or more years, 15 pounds of homemade meatballs and gravy simmering all day long in a crockpot have warmed and charmed us on Christmas Day.

I have usually made the meatballs far in advance of Christmas Day and stored them in the freezer until the big day.

Somehow, it slipped my mind this year.

So, I fear there may be all kinds of sadness on Christmas Day: “What??? NO MEATBALLS???!!!”

Cue the background music: “You’re a mean one Mister Grinch …  your heart’s an empty hole, you’ve got garlic in your soul!”

Another confession: there’s no Christmas tree this year either.

“What??? NO CHRISTMAS TREE???!!!”

Cue the music: “You’re a monster Mister Grinch … (etc., etc.)”

To top it all off, there are also no outside lights decorating the eaves and bushes…

“… your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch.”

Hopefully, Christmas will come anyway.

Hopefully, there will be so much Whoville-like Christmas Spirit and love amongst our family members that no one will even notice what is missing . . .  .

Monday, December 16, 2013

Goodbye Mr. Chips

When I was 18, I saw “Lawrence of Arabia” starring Peter O’Toole in a movie theater in Duluth, Minnesota. I actually watched it twice in the space of a week or two because I was so mesmerized by the stunning, captivating image of heroic Lawrence on the big screen. However, the truth is that the story starts on an exultant high note, but descends slowly (in about 4 hours) into Hell, as Lawrence essentially is driven to a kind of madness. So, I “loved” only the first part of “Lawrence of Arabia.”


Truthfully, it was watching Peter O’Toole (as Lawrence)—who was so dashing, stunning, captivating, and mesmerizing on screen—that I loved. Therefore, when the movie “Lord Jim” came to Duluth, I went to it because it starred Peter O’Toole. I went because I hoped that he would somehow reprise the image of the heroic T. E. Lawrence. Instead, O’Toole’s portrayal of the anguish and psychological turmoil of Jim was so eerily believable that it was deeply disturbing to me. Additionally, “Lord Jim” reminded me of O’Toole’s depiction of T. E. Lawrence’s disturbing descent into madness and Hell, which I did not want to remember.

As I viewed each succeeding Peter O’Toole movie over the years, in my mind’s eye I fondly recalled O’Toole as heroic Lawrence and I sentimentally yearned for just a glimpse of him somewhere in each movie – to no avail. That stunning image was gone forever.* However, O’Toole’s haunting portrayals of madness in Lawrence and in Lord Jim seemed to echo through many of his subsequent movies.
Even though I foolishly yearned for a glimpse of the hero, in time I gradually—if begrudgingly— learned to “appreciate” O’Toole’s immense acting ability. It was clear that he was able to immerse himself so completely into a character that he seemed no longer to be “acting” – he became the part. These portrayals were always disturbing because they were so real.
According to the New York Times:
“His acting method …  was a process that blended ‘magic’ with ‘sweat,’ a matter of allowing a text to flow into his mind and body until he fully inhabited the character…. ‘I use everything – toes, teeth, ears, everything,’ he said."
Indeed! It was obvious: he truly deserved each of those eight Academy Award nominations as best actor!
My favorite O’Toole movie—one that I have watched several times and will yet enjoy watching again in the future—is “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” I love it because it is sentimental, and gentle, and full of love. It is a story about hope and charity. In his quiet, reserved way, Mr. Chips was truly heroic. And I think that in Mr. Chips, we can actually catch a glimpse the real Peter O’Toole.

 Goodbye, Mr. Chips -- rest in peace.

* There is one image from Mr. Chips that is reminiscent of Lawrence: Mr. Chips runs across campus with his academic robes flying about him; Lawrence runs across the top of a train with his Arabic robes flying about him.