Quotes & Passages

couple on bench

Thinking Thankfully

With the arrival of November and what I might call the start of the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about thankfulness and what it means to be grateful. As much as it annoys me that I’m about to quote Oprah Winfrey, I stumbled across this quote this morning and it’s stayed with me:

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

Some people are easily contented, and others are constantly thinking about what’s next regardless of what they have at the time. I’m part of the latter group. It’s either called ambition or the formula for a miserable life, but as I get older I’m making more of an effort to be appreciative of what I have and where I am. Sometimes those “what’s next” hopes and dreams are fuel, and sometimes they get in the way of happiness.

clock time hours minutes

Those Few Great Moments

The Hours is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I liked it so much, in fact, I read nearly the entire thing again. At times I would start to cry without recognizing my reaction right away, as if the story was in more control of my emotion than I was. It was definitely a book for me, because like most people, I’ve always tried to figure out what it is about life that makes people happy, what makes people persevere or strive, and why some people can never seem to find any satisfaction or contentment. Michael Cunningham condenses the life’s source of happiness (or pleasure, or contentment, or whatever you want to call it), in a way that’s neither too bleak to handle nor too optimistic to allow yourself to believe it:

We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep–it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.

When thinking of my own life, there are memories that jump out at me–moments of complete happiness that I’m grateful I got to have. They belong to me, they are exclusive to me, and I will have them as long as I’m capable of remembering. Of course, I want more. I would risk spoiling one of these moments to try re-creating it, or topping it. With this, my destructive nature in mind, I want to honor those moments the best I can and dwell in them a little longer. It has given me a prompt for at least three creative non-fiction essays I should have already written.

Talkin’ Bout My Generation

I’ve been reading Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, a collection of essays assembled by Meghan Daum that offers 16 unique perspectives from the childless by choice. Right now I’m not sure whether I will or won’t have kids, but the book has challenged me in other ways. Mainly, my assumptions about other people’s motivations.

I read a really fantastic selection by Lionel Shriver, “Be Here Now Means Be Gone Later.” Shriver illustrates the Be Here Now movement as less hippie-free-bird and more this-modern-life. The woman of the essay both annoys me and reminds me of myself. What I was most impressed with was Shriver’s one-paragraph summation of, well, you be the judge:

To be ridiculously sweeping: baby boomers and their offspring have shifted emphasis from the communal to the individual, from the future to the present, from virtue to personal satisfaction. Increasingly secular, we pledge allegiance to lower-case gods of our own private devising. We are concerned with leading less a good life than the good life. In contrast to our predecessors, we seldom ask ourselves whether we serve a greater social purpose; we are more likely to ask ourselves if we are happy. We shun self-sacrifice and duty as the soft spots of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture, or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and we’re not especially bothered with what happens once we’re dead. As we age–oh, so reluctantly!–we are apt to look back on our pasts and question not did I serve family, God, and country, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but with whether they were interesting and fun.

Motivation! (Can I Get That In Writing?)

With my current set of goals, I’m feeling stuck in a rut. Sometimes a solid quote and a deep breath can elevate the world of crap circling my brain; probably because something so simple can be so refreshing. We’ll see when I re-read these tomorrow…

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
-Arthur Ashe, Champion Tennis Player

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
-Mark Twain, American Author

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
-Chuck Swindoll, Evangelist

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
-C.S. Lewis, Apologist Writer

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
-Ayn Rand, Novelist

10 Lovely Love Quotes from Better Writers

For (Valentine’s Day, Eight-Year-Three-Month-and-One-Day Anniversary, early President’s Day and belated Chinese New Year) Lovers:

Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so.
-Ray Stannard Baker, American journalist & reformist

Love is always being given where it is not required.
-E.M. Forster, author of A Passage to India and A Room with a View

Love is space and time measured by the heart.
-Marcel Proust, revered French novelist

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.
-C.S. Lewis, Christian writer & philosopher

We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love.
-Tom Robbins, best-selling American author

The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.
Gilbert K. Chesterton, 20th century English writer

Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move, Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love.
-From William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Love is when he gives you a piece of your soul, that you never knew was missing.
-Torquato Tasso, 16th century Italian poet

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
-Robert A. Heinlein, American Sci-Fi author

Love conquers all.
-Virgil, ancient Roman poet

From Russia, With Love

“I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.”
-Boris Pasternak

I can’t pinpoint the reason, but there are some historical cultures I’ve just always been fascinated by, like Ancient Egypt or 20th century Germany. At any point in it’s timeline, I have a feeling surpassing curiosity about Russia. Though I’m no expert in Russian history, it’s difficult to ignore the impact of the country’s past on it’s artists. While I love the whimzy of The Nutcracker, I’m drawn to the dramatic minor chords of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. I read Atlas, Shrugged by the great Ayn Rand last year, and developed a major girl-crush on assertive Dagny Taggart. I’m recording the War and Peace TV miniseries adapted from Tolstoy’s popular novel, and I’m currently working on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which I’m finding to be a pleasantly surprising page-turner even though I’m a slow reader.

With all of this Russian through my head (!), I thought a lame pun could be excused (?). Really, though, when I found out it was Boris Pasternak’s birthday today (1890-1960), it seemed fitting to pay it forward, and not in rubles.

Pasternak penned the novel that became one of my favorite films, Doctor Zhivago. In the story, Zhivago is both an upper crust doctor and love-torn poet at the mercy of the Russian Civil War. Wrongly labeling Pasternak a novelist, I learned that he only wrote the one, and is well-known in Russia for his poetry. I found the below poem at PoetryFoundation.org and thought first of a woman, then of the White army:

Fresh Paint
I should have seen the sign: “Fresh Paint,”
But useless to advise
The careless soul, and memory’s stained
With cheeks, calves, hands, lips, eyes.

More than all failure, all success,
I loved you, for your skill
In whitening the yellowed world
As white cosmetics will.

Listen, my dark, my friend: by God,
All will grow white somehow,
Whiter than madness or lamp shades
Or bandage on a brow.

“One Slip” by Pink Floyd

A restless eye across a weary room
A glazed look and I was on the road to ruin
The music played and played as we whirled without end
No hint, no word her honour to defend
I will, I will she sighed to my request
And then she tossed her mane while my resolve was put to the test
Then drowned in desire, our souls on fire
I lead the way to the funeral pyre
And without a thought of the consequence
I gave in to my decadence
One slip, and down the hole we fall
It seems to take no time at all
A momentary lapse of reason
That binds a life for life
A small regret, you won’t forget,
There’ll be no sleep in here tonight
Was it love, or was it the idea of being in love?
Or was it the hand of fate, that seemed to fit just like a glove?
The moment slipped by and soon the seeds were sown
The year grew late and neither one wanted to remain alone
One slip, and down the hole we fall
It seems to take no time at all
A momentary lapse of reason
That binds a life for life
A small regret, you won’t forget,
There’ll be no sleep in here tonight
One slip … one slip

(Listen to One Slip )

Written by David Gilmour & Phil Manzanera
for A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)

Lyrics Make the Song Go Round

Recently, I’ve been on a kick of reading lyrics as I’m listening to songs. I think this is because I’ve been listening to full albums I’ve always liked on YouTube, and occasionally they spit out lyrics as well. It has led me down a path of having a perpetually open tab for azlyrics (not sure if this is a curse or a blessing). I’ve always bought CD’s in the past, dwindling down to maybe 3 or 4 buys in the last few years. I miss having that little booklet inside the case and forcing myself to listen to the whole track list from beginning to end no matter how eager I might have been to hear the popular singles over and over again.

At any rate, I seem to be more interested in what songs have to say. Thus far, I’ve been surprised and even amazed at how powerful a song can become when the lyrics behind it are broken down and digested. There are songs I’ve sung along to without even thinking about the sexual, disgusting, romantic or psychotic things I might have been stating. Obviously some bands have more talented lyricists than others, but I was just blown away when I let myself hear the text.

Pearl Jam released the song “Sirens” a year or two ago. I listened to it plenty of times and I liked the melody, but when I stopped to read the lyrics while I listened to the song, it actually made me tear up.

…Let me catch my breath to breathe
And reach across the bed
Just to know we’re safe
I am a grateful man

The slightest bit of light
And I can see you clear
Oh, have to take your hand
And feel your breath for fear this someday will be over

I pull you close, so much to lose knowing that nothing lasts forever
I didn’t care before you were here.
I danced in laughter with the everafter
But all things change
Let this remain

(Full Lyrics at AZLyrics)

Since high school I’ve always liked Tool and A Perfect Circle, and I’m sure I read some lyrics at some point, but I was completely stunned when I read the lyrics to this sequence of songs and did a little research to make these connections. Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer and lyricist of both bands, is a very peculiar person and an incredible writer. Even if you’re not a fan, I recommend listening to these three songs with this backstory in mind. I was so amazed by the way his personal history was put to music that I think it’s worth sharing.

When Keenan was 11, his mother Judith Marie suffered a cerebral aneurysm that left her paralyzed. She was devoted to her faith and never strayed from her relationship with God, something that Keenan didn’t understand as he watched her suffer. After 27 years, approximately 10,000 days, she passed away and Keenan apparently settled his past understanding.

Read/hear “Jimmy” by Tool (1996)

Read/hear “Judith” by A Perfect Circle (2000)

Read/hear “Wings for Marie” and “10000 Days/Wings Part II” by Tool (2006)

In Honor of Frank Sinatra

“You gotta love livin’ baby, cause dyin’s a pain in the ass.”

Ol’ Blue Eyes. The Chairman of the Board. The Voice. One of my all time favorite stars. You just can’t beat Frank Sinatra. He enjoyed a long, dynamic career as a singer, actor, playboy, and professional VIP, passing of a heart attack on May 14th, 1998 with an elegant send off on May 20th. Not bad for 82 years on this earth, many of them spent with Jack, Johnny, Jim and the Marlboro Man.

Francis Albert Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey (there’s something about a celebrity who keeps their given name that I find very endearing). Sinatra never finished high school, though his instincts didn’t steer him wrong–leading him to a singing career early on. While performing in night clubs during his early twenties, he caught his big break by signing with Tommy Dorsey and his famous orchestra in 1939 (one of my favorite years). The Voice burned up the charts and Sinatra became the teen idol for the 1940’s. Later that decade, he starred in a trio of musicals with another one of my favorites, Gene Kelly, giving lovable performances in Anchors Aweigh (1945), Take Me Out to the Ball Game and On the Town (both 1949). He starred and sang in other memorable musicals including Guys and Dolls opposite Marlon Brando, High Society with Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby, and Pal Joey with Rita Hayworth.

Sinatra proved he could be a dramatic heavy hitter as well, winning the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Maggio in 1953’s Pearl Harbor romance From Here to Eternity, and scoring a Best Actor nomination for his performance of a heroin addict in 1955’s The Man with the Golden Arm. During the 1960’s, he starred in a variety of comedies, dramas, and war time films, including The Manchurian Candidate and a handful of films with fellow Rat Packer Dean Martin.

I enjoy watching Sinatra on screen, but I think most people associate Sinatra with his voice, a smooth-as-silk and easy sound. As his heart-throb image wore off in the late forties, his larger than life Vegas image gained momentum in the fifties. I haven’t heard a single Sinatra recording I didn’t like. Whether he’s singing melodic hits from the Great American Songbook or crooning through “Luck Be A Lady” or “Witchcraft,” listening to Sinatra is comforting. It feels cool, romantic, and genuine.

Since his was a very public life, I’m adding His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra to my summer reading list in the interest of gaining some more perspective on this fascinating man.

Happy Birthday, Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard, Pulitzer Prize winning author and acclaimed writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, was born on April 30th 1945. In 1974 alone–at 29 years old–she published Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, a book of poetry, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. She has published several nonfiction books, including works of journalism, essay and travelogue, her popular memoir An American Childhood (1987), and Living by Fiction, a work on literary theory, among others. I recently read the essay “Total Eclipse” which was originally published in her collection Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982), and was impressed by the way the narrator evolves in so few pages. She is a master of pacing and word choice. Thematically her work has great depth and isn’t exactly fit for beach reading, but I highly recommend sitting down with one of her essays when you have the time to really taste and digest it.

From The Writing Life (1989):
One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Happy Birthday to Francis Ford Coppola

“Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.”

Francis Ford Coppola, Oscar winning director, writer, and producer, was born on April 7th, 1939 in Detroit. His Italian-American family moved to New York while he was still young, and he developed an interest in film early. After studying drama at Hofstra University in New York, he received his MFA in film from UCLA in 1966.

Regrettably, when I hear Francis Ford Coppola I only think of The Godfather, but I never realized the depth and diversity of his resume. In addition to his trio of credits as writer, director, and producer of the Godfather Trilogy, he served the same three roles for Apocalypse Now, which is somewhat based on Joseph Conrad’s “Hearth of Darkness.” He was also a writer on This Property Is Condemned (one of my mom’s favorite movies), the award-winning Patton, and the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby. His direction ranges from musical (Finian’s Rainbow with Fred Astaire), to horror (Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992), to comedy (Peggy Sue Got Married starring nephew Nicholas Cage). He’s worked as a producer of feature films, shorts, and television.

I also didn’t realize that he purposefully places the author’s name in front of a film, such as Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I read several quotes to choose the two seen here, and I couldn’t help taking away the feeling that Francis Ford Coppola is a down-to-earth, genuine guy who just wants to write and make movies. Must be that Midwestern sensibility…

“I don’t think there’s any artist of any value who doesn’t doubt what they’re doing.”

Goodness Over Greatness

Goodness: Much easier said than done

“Goodness is about character–integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.”
-Dennis Prager

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Human nature is evil, and goodness is caused by intentional activity.”
-Xun Zi

“You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long, and the great charm of all power is modesty.”
-Louisa May Alcott

Greatness: Journey or destination?

“There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth.”
-Leo Tolstoy

“The essence of greatness is neglect of the self.”
-James Anthony Froude

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world–that is the myth of the atomic age–as being able to remake ourselves.”
-Mahatma Ghandi

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
-Bob Marley

“The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.”
-Phillips Brooks

“It is not the greatness of a man’s means that makes him independent, so much as the smallness of what he wants.”
-William Cobbett

Happy Birthday Jack Kerouac

On March 12, 1922, Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts (which is home to a surprising number of famous figures). Kerouac had a tough start; his older brother Gerard died when little Jack was just 4, his father was an alcoholic and his parents struggled financially amidst the Great Depression. Focusing on the positives in his life, reading and sports, Kerouac earned a football scholarship to Columbia University. Football didn’t pay off when Kerouac broke his leg early in his freshman year, but gaining exposure to the life and culture of New York as a 17 year old proved to be the catharsis for his free-spirited literary career. Kerouac dropped out of Columbia and spent the next 17 years travelling and writing under the influence of sex, drugs and jazz. He came into fame in 1957 when his novel On the Road, a somewhat fictionalized account of his travels supposedly written on a single 120-foot scroll in three weeks, fell into the hands of eager readers.

Historically, Kerouac is credited as one of the fathers of the Beat Generation along with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. The culture of the day is a subject in and of itself, but it’s his ideas on writing that I’m interested in. (more…)

Having a Moment with Sylvia Plath

I’m working on a feminine drama with portions set in the mid 1960’s and decided to do some supplemental reading, which brought me to The Bell Jar and works of poetry by Sylvia Plath. I remember Mad Girl’s Love Song being the first example of modern formal poetry that was both accessible and captivating for me. The more I read, though, the more fascinated I become with the author. This latest read caught my eye, because the title was borrowed for an episode of “Mad Men” (which I am also having a moment with).

Lady Lazarus
by Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day. (more…)

From Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

Cursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God in pity made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of your’s, more horrid from its very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him, but I am solitary and detested.

I’m curious and fascinated by the concept of rejecting something you yourself created (sort of how I feel about The Girl: As Observed from Inside the Refrigerator ). Shelley was only 18 when she started writing her famous novel and considered this concept.

Another great self-contained quote:

“Beware; for I am fearless and therefore powerful.”

Happy Birthday Colette

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

Sidonie Gabrielle Colette (1/28/1873 – 8/3/1974), better known as simply Colette, led a controversial, successful and fascinating life in her native France. She danced through the Moulin Rouge in the Belle Epoque, aided Jews during the German occupation of France during World War II, and later in life became an officer in the French Legion of Honour.

At twenty years old, she married Henry Gauthier-Villars, a roguish figure who encouraged her to write under his pen name, Willy. Colette wrote a series of short novels from the perspective of a teenage girl, Claudine, growing up and being a woman in France. Each of the four popular books in the Claudine series were published every year from 1900-1903. With a taste for literary success, Colette divorced Willy in both marriage and publication. In her not-so-private personal life, Colette had a famous affair with Mathilde de Mornyk, or Missy, with whom she performed in the Moulin Rouge. In 1913 she had a daughter, also named Colette, and she married twice more in her lifetime.

Over the course of her career Colette wrote 50 published novels with collections of her letters and essays published posthumously. Her 1920 novel Chéri contained details of a somewhat autobiographical nature and exploited gender roles. Chéri was adapted for film in 1950 (French) and 2009 (English), and has played in a variety of incarnations on stage. Her 1945 novel Gigi translated well to the stage in its 1951 debut as a Broadway musical. In her international casting search for the perfect Gigi, Colette famously discovered Audrey Hepburn in a Monte Carlo hotel lobby. Gigi was also a successful Hollywood musical in 1958, starring Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier and directed by Vincente Minnelli.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”

In Honor of Carole Lombard

On January 16th, 1942, the lovely Carole Lombard was taken far too soon in a tragic plane crash just outside of Las Vegas. The news shook an America that was ankle-deep in World War II. Lombard was on her way home to husband Clark Gable after touring the Midwest to sell war bonds when her plane crashed into a mountain near an airport refueling station.

Lombard was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on October 8th, 1908. Her family relocated to the west coast after her parents divorced. Her Hollywood career began at just 12 years old, when she was spotted by a film director while playing baseball outdoors. She started out in silent films, making a successful transition to talkies in 1929. In 1931, she starred in Man of the World with William Powell, a star with whom she had a brief first marriage. Even if her relationship didn’t last, her career took off as she starred in several screwball comedies of the 1930’s, earning her a reputation as the first great screen comedienne. She maintained a relationship with superstar Clark Gable, and the two wed in 1939.

According to Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen, Gable had been carrying on with his young co-star Lana Turner. Lombarde, who was supporting a war bond rally in her native Indiana, was eager to return home to reconnect with her philandering husband. In her haste, she refused a safe train ticket in favor of a seat on a commercial airplane. The book describes her insistence, stating that she refused to budge when asked to give up her seat to military travelers during a fuel stop in Albuquerque. The rest is tragic history. Gable was beside himself, and the whole country mourned the loss of the patriotic actress.

“I love everything I do. I’m immensely interested in and enthusiastic in everything I do, everything. No matter what it is I’m doing, no matter how trivial, it isn’t trivial to me. I give it all I got and love it. I love living. I love life. Eating, sleeping, waking up again, skeet-shooting, sitting around an old barn doing nothing, my work, taking a bath, talking my ears off, the little things, the big things, the simplest things, the most complicated things—I get a kick out of everything I do while I’m doing it.”

Lombard was a really wonderful woman. Read her full interview here.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929, and would have been celebrating his 86th birthday this year. King’s work as a civil rights activist, a nonviolent demonstrator and a brilliant speaker have cemented his name in American history–few historical figures are venerated so to have a national holiday declared in their honor. Beyond King’s work as an activist, he has contributed many meaningful texts as a writer. He is synonymous with “having a dream,” but there are many other gems in his repertoire.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?'”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

“Means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.”

Happy Birthday, Gypsy Rose Lee

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly… Very slowly.”

Rose Louise Horvick, a.k.a. Gypsy Rose Lee (1/9/1911 – 4/26/1970) kept the curtains of vaudeville open just a little longer–and a little more suggestively–with her tasteful take on the striptease. Much of what I know about Rose Louise I learned from Natalie Wood in the movie Gypsy, which is based off of the biography of the same name (spoiler: films based off of books may not be 100% accurate). All the same, Rose Louise had a fascinating life that’s worth examining. She began performing on stage as a child, spending her days singing and dancing in the background for her little sister June as willed by her ostentatious mother (also named Rose). June grew older and more resentful of her baby-girl characters and her mother’s constant pressing, deciding to quit the act at the ripe age of 13. Her mother had no choice but to give Rose Louise top billing in a new show, less baby-girl and more burlesque. Taking the name Gypsy Rose Lee, Rose Louise took off her gloves on stage–and a performing art was born.

Besides pioneering the classy gal’s striptease, Rose Louise was also a film actress and writer, but the story of “Gypsy” is perhaps her greatest legacy. In addition to the bestselling book and popular film, “Gypsy” was transformed into a Broadway musical with the help of Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim.

For more on Gypsy, check out the bios at IMDB, TIME or NPR.

Life Quotes: The Big Picture

“We should all start to live before we get too old.” -Marilyn Monroe

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” -Soren Kierkegaard

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” -John Lennon

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” -Charlie Chaplin

P.S.

“What is it about a well written quote that transcends all of my understanding?” -AshLeigh Brown

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen

Jane Austen (1775 – 1878) is a writer who needs no introduction. It may be surprising to some to learn that the woman only wrote six full length novels in her lifetime (in addition to shorter fiction). Austen’s novels transport the reader to another time completely. In her world, parents would labor to find an eligible bachelor with money and social status to marry their daughters off to. Quite a contrast from today’s parents, who may toil finding the perfect college or condo so their daughters can start their lives. Regardless, Austen’s writing is clever, honest, original, and truly withstands the test of time in spite of the fact that she wasn’t famous during her lifetime. The current Jane Austen fan base is a die hard bunch, and I’m sure the author would have been pleased to know that her words continue to delight new generations of female readers.

Austen certainly has a way with words…

“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.”

“I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

“Where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?”

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.”

“An artist cannot do anything slovenly.”

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

Happy Birthday, Grace Kelly

I wish I knew more about this woman. I’ve decided that a Grace Kelly biography is on my list of holiday-break-reading. Such a classic beauty, in a Euro-American way, and a role model for women young and old. I searched Google for some time and couldn’t find any candid images that revealed a woman other than the stylish, smiling icon I’m familiar with. She is so well known, in fact, it’s hard to believe she made fewer than a dozen films. I like to imagine her real personality a likeness of her character Lisa in Rear Window: Glamorous, sophisticated, independent, and maybe a teeny bit haughty.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been very in tune with my inner feminist lately, so I was pleased to find such an appropriate quote from the actress turned royal:

“I am basically a feminist. I think that women can do anything they decide to do.”

Grace Kelly, 12 November 1929 – 14 September 1982

Don’t Call Me Sugar

Over the weekend, I worked on a creative non-fiction essay. I wanted to write a series of personal experiences, each headlined with a Scarlett O’Hara quote from the film Gone with the Wind. The intention was to show how Scarlett O’Hara’s audacious character is really a role model for me and, I think, for many women. I created an extensive list of Scarlett quotes, delivered perfectly in Vivien Leigh’s incomparable on-screen performance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the flow of telling my anecdotes while working in the quotes, so I had to botch the idea.
The list remains, and reminds me why Scarlett O’Hara is my absolute favorite character of all time. Even if you’re not a fan of the lengthy film, there are so many memorable moments that the movie itself can’t be denied as one of the greatest of all time. Here is a selection from the list of quotes I pulled:

“Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war; this war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream!”

“Why does a girl have to be so silly to catch a husband?”

“I never heard of such bad taste.”

“If I said I was madly in love with you, you’d know I was lying.”

“I can shoot straight, if I don’t have to shoot too far.”

“Great balls of fire! Don’t bother me anymore and don’t call me Sugar.”

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

*It should be noted that Margaret Mitchell’s novel was adopted for the screen by Sidney Howard, among other uncredited contributors. See more quotes at IMDb or browse this extensive list at the GWTW Fan Page.

“Get Busy Livin’…”

The Shawshank Redemption premiered on September 23rd, 1994, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary today. This isn’t my favorite movie, but it’s definitely in my top 20. If you haven’t seen it, AMC seems to be playing it every Saturday. The movie is based of off Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I’ve heard a lot of writers scoff at Stephen King’s talent, but you can bet they’re at least 50% jealous. There are so few famous, successful writers with such a career legacy that it’s easier to criticize. I’ve never read King’s story, but the film is so absorbing and interesting that I have to assume it was made out of respect to his manuscript.

I think the theme of Hope (or Hope against all odds) is the most prevalent, but because there are so many themes present it’s difficult to choose. Friendship, justice, corruption, isolation, there’s so much here that it’s hard not to pick out something that appeals to you. In fact, this is one of only a few films that I really love and appreciate that doesn’t focus on romantic love or relationships. I still feel like there’s something for everyone.

I wouldn’t call Shawshank a feel-good movie, but the ending is so satisfying that I’m always cheerful as the credits roll. The acting is equally satisfying, and makes me wonder why Tim Robbins hasn’t been in more movies than he has. Several recognizable quotes also distinguish the writing…

“Lord, it’s a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!”

“How can you be so obtuse?”

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

“Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”

 

Creativity, Courtesy of Marilyn Monroe

“Creativity has got to start with humanity and when you’re a human being, you feel, you suffer. You’re gay, you’re sick, you’re nervous or whatever.”

On September 15th, 1954, Marilyn Monroe shot the famous skirt scene shown above for The Seven Year Itch. I am a huge MM fan for a number of reasons. When you watch her on screen, it’s difficult to pay attention to anything else. To me, she’s timelessly beautiful, mysteriously complex, and endlessly fascinating. I’ve read several biographies and have yet to tire of her story. When I find quotes like “Creativity…” or when I read anything that people who knew her have to say, I am reminded of why she never fails to interest me.

When I write, I am almost always trying to tap into an emotion, and usually one that I’ve just experienced or have been able to relate to well enough to write about it. Even with this quote, though I didn’t create it, I’m trying to evoke the curiosity and simple thoughtfulness I experienced when I read it. I think all writers try to stimulate their readers with universal truths or emotions in some way, but when those feelings have been fought, survived, or embraced first hand, they are that much more powerful.

In thinking about this base of creativity compared to the old writer’s mantra “write what you know,” I’m tempted to say “write how you know” instead. Anyone can research 18th century farming or designer sewing techniques or 1950’s celebrities, but no one can feel the exact way you do and express it the specific way you can.  Thanks, MM, for inspiring me again.

Reality, Courtesy of Margaret Mitchell

“Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.”

Well said, MM. Gone with the Wind is by far my favorite story of all time, and I have Margaret Mitchell to thank for writing her dramatic, powerful novel.

If you’re a student like me, from time to time your expectations may swell up  in front of you while you imagine what you have to look forward to. As a student, it’s about potential, promise, and something you will accomplish later. But later starts now, and potential and promise mean very little with out action. Be careful not to let a lot of grand plans excuse your procrastination like it has for me in the past.