Monday, August 22, 2016

Tiny!

All kitties start off as tiny fuzzballs, even these ones.

Tiny (August 22, 2016)
(Illustration Friday: August 5, 2016)

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Trapped!

Polly is often surrounded by the Kitties, but only one of them has the guts to trap her.

Trapped (August 7, 2016)
(Illustration Friday: July 22, 2016)

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Make 'Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of Longtime Friends

Hi everyone,

Debbie Reynolds with Gene Kelly in
Singin' in the Rain
Last Christmas, my sister surprised me with the book, Make 'Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of Longtime Friends by Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway. Debbie Reynolds is probably best known for two things, costarring in the 1952 classic musical Singin' in the Rain and being the mother of Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. Princess Leia). I love her for both reasons, though I've never followed her career. In fact, I think Singin' in the Rain might be the only movie of hers that I've seen in full! Am I forgiven since I've seen Singin' in the Rain at least 785 times, know it by heart, and will keep on watching it? (That's what happens when you grow up watching Gene Kelly movies.)

I know of Debbie Reynolds more from her daughter, who supposedly alluded to their relationship through the mother and daughter characters in her book (and film adaptation of) Postcards from the Edge. She also spoke of her mother's lovable quirks in her one-woman show Wishful Drinking.  

I was a little disappointed that, in this book, Debbie Reynolds doesn't discuss Gene Kelly or Singin' in the Rain – which showcases her first major film role as ingenue Kathy Selden. I'm sure she's already covered that in her other memoirs and is probably tired of talking about it by now. On the other hand, I loved reading about someone I knew so little about from the start. 

Instead of focusing on Debbie Reynolds the movie star, this book highlights her personal experiences with short stories about her many adventures and friends. Though not told in any particular order, they range from first getting noticed after winning Miss Burbank at age 16 to receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actor's Guild at age 82. 

In between, she weighs in on some fellow comedians of her time, like Jack Benny, Milton Berle, and Phyllis Diller. She recalls getting the royal treatment from various princes around the world as well as being seated next to Prince at the Oscars in 1985 (when he won one). Of course, she also weaves some great Hollywood tales.

One time, she packed a bus full of Hollywood's own royalty to attend a Judy Garland concert in Long Beach, California. The eclectic, rowdy group included Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, David Niven, Gary Cooper, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Jimmy Stewart, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Donald O"Connor. On The Tonight Show, instead of answering Jack Paar's unwanted question about her love life, she attacked him, pulled him under his desk, and tossed various articles of his clothing over the top as the audience roared. Another time, she demonstrated what Girl Scouts learn about fire safety by toppling on to guest Regis Philbin and rolling him around on the floor. While emceeing an event, she spontaneously jumped into the pool in front of her – ruining her handmade evening gown – just to liven up the party. It's true, Debbie Reynolds will do almost anything for a laugh.     

Because I've always watched classic movies, I recognized most of the Golden Age film stars and entertainers mentioned in this book. I loved reading about her relationships with Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Lana Turner, and Elizabeth Taylor. I appreciated, though, how she helped put things into context for other readers who may be unfamiliar with all the names she drops. For example, she compared the Gabor sisters to the Kardashians and suggested checking out George Burns and Gracie Allen's TV shows on YouTube. 

Most of all, I love that the voice and personality of Debbie Reynolds comes through in this book loud and clear. Maybe I have seen Singin' in the Rain too many times, but I can hear her on these pages. True to the title, she made me laugh out loud at times. After expressing her shock about receiving brash commentary on her chest from some Hollywood heavyweights, she reflects, "I guess it's flattering to have had Groucho Marx and others admire me that way, because now I live in Beverly Hills and my boobs are in San Diego." Speaking of her parents, she quips, "My parents were happily married for 57 years. They didn't speak for 42 of them, but that's all right." 

Make 'Em Laugh is a light, quick read. Even if you're not yet a fan, Debbie Reynolds will keep you entertained with her vivacious personality, admirable perseverance, and infectious enthusiasm. Give this book a try and it might warm your heart too. 

Best,

Make 'Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of Longtime Friends

Hi everyone,

Debbie Reynolds with Gene Kelly in
Singin' in the Rain
Last Christmas, my sister surprised me with the book, Make 'Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of Longtime Friends by Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway. Debbie Reynolds is probably best known for two things, costarring in the 1952 classic musical Singin' in the Rain and being the mother of Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. Princess Leia). I love her for both reasons, though I've never followed her career. In fact, I think Singin' in the Rain might be the only movie of hers that I've seen in full! Am I forgiven since I've seen Singin' in the Rain at least 785 times, know it by heart, and will keep on watching it? (That's what happens when you grow up as a fan of Gene Kelly.)

I know of Debbie Reynolds more from her daughter, who famously alluded to their relationship through the mother and daughter characters in her book (and film adaptation of) Postcards from the Edge. She also spoke of her mother's lovable quirks in her one-woman show Wishful Drinking.  

I was a little disappointed that, in this book, Debbie Reynolds doesn't discuss Gene Kelly or Singin' in the Rain – which showcases her first major film role as ingenue Kathy Selden. I'm sure she's already done that in her other books and is probably tired of talking about it by now. On the other hand, I loved reading about someone I knew so little about from the start. 

A bigger fan might get more out of this book, as I breezed past talk of her films that I didn't recognize. That didn't happen often, however, since this book focuses more on her personal experiences with short stories about her many adventures and friends. Though not told in any particular order, her stories range from first getting noticed after winning Miss Burbank at age 16 to receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actor's Guild at age 82. 

In between, she weighs in on some fellow comedians of her time, like Jack Benny, Milton Berle, and Phyllis Diller. She recalls getting the royal treatment from various princes around the world as well as being seated next to Prince at the Oscars in 1985 (when he won one). Of course, she also weaves some great Hollywood tales.

One time, she packing a rowdy bus full of Hollywood's own royalty, including Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, David Niven, Gary Cooper, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Jimmy Stewart, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Donald O"Connor, to attend a Judy Garland concert. On The Tonight Show, instead of answering Jack Paar's unwanted question about her love life, she attacked him, pulled him under his desk, and tossed various articles of his clothing over the top as the audience roared. Another time, she demonstrated what Girl Scouts learn about fire safety by toppling on to guest Regis Philbin and rolling him around on the floor. While emceeing an event, she spontaneously jumped into the pool in front of her – ruining her handmade evening gown – just to liven up the party. It's true, Debbie Reynolds will do almost anything for a laugh.     

Because I've always watched classic movies, I recognized most of the Golden Age film stars and entertainers mentioned in this book. I loved reading about her relationships with Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Lana Turner, and Elizabeth Taylor. I appreciated, though, how she helped put things into context for other readers who may be unfamiliar with all the names she drops. For example, she compared the Gabor sisters to the Kardashians and suggested checking out George Burns and Gracie Allen's TV shows on YouTube. 

Most of all, I love that the voice and personality of Debbie Reynolds comes through in this book loud and clear. Maybe I have seen Singin' in the Rain too many times, but I can hear her on these pages. True to the title, she made me laugh out loud at times. After expressing her shock about receiving brash commentary on her chest from some Hollywood heavyweights, she reflects, "I guess it's flattering to have had Groucho Marx and others admire me that way, because now I live in Beverly Hills and my boobs are in San Diego." Speaking of her parents, she quips, "My parents were happily married for 57 years. They didn't speak for 42 of them, but that's all right." 

Make 'Em Laugh is a light, quick read. Even if you're not a fan, Debbie Reynolds will keep you entertained with her vivacious personality, admirable perseverance, and infectious enthusiasm. Give this book a try and it might warm your heart too. 

Best,

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Party

The Kitties and I are ready.

Party (July 20, 2016)
(Illustration Friday: July 10, 2016)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Vintage

This drawing started as an homage to Al Hirschfeld after I watched a great documentary about him called The Line King last weekend. (Netflix has it, if you're interested.) But my cat caricature didn't cut it, so I added some Art Deco elements because I had also recently found an old A&E Biography of Carole Lombard, one of my favorite ladies from the 1930s.

In the end, this drawing really pays tribute to The Mother Kitty. When she'd had enough messing around outside, she'd jump up to the high window sill at the front of our house and stare at us. It was her subtle way of saying, "HEY! WHERE ARE YOU? LET ME IN!"

Vintage (July 17, 2016)
(Illustration Friday: June 24, 2016)

Monday, July 11, 2016

The French Lieutenant's Woman

Hi everyone,

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles is one of my dad's favorite books. He gave me a hard-cover copy once that I've been carrying around with me for years. I have tried to read it several times but typically ran out of steam by page 5 because I couldn't follow the long sentences and was too lazy to look up the words I didn't understand. This time around, I picked it from my pile – determined to push past page 5 – and I actually enjoyed this book.

Written in 1969, the story takes place in the mid-19th century in Lyme Regis, England. Walking along the coast, Charles Smithson and his fiance Ernestina Freeman encounter a mysterious woman staring toward the sea by the cliffside. Ernestina tells Charles what she's heard about her: Her name is Sarah Woodruff. She was a governess who helped nurse a wounded French lieutenant back to health. They had a an affair but he left town, and she is still waiting for his return. Ms. Woodruff has lived with a scandalous reputation ever since and relies on the charity of others who will give her a place to stay and work to do. According to Ernestina, it's best to stay away from this outcast. 

But, of course, Charles does not. Intrigued, he walks up to her, cautioning her away from the cliff's edge. This small gesture of kindness gets Sarah's attention, and eventually, she asks to meet with him in secret. She longs to share her story with someone who has an empathetic ear. As these meetings progress, their connection becomes undeniable for Charles. He becomes so obsessed with Sarah that it throws his life into full disarray, scandal, and uncertainty. 

The French Lieutenant's Woman has many ambitious unique features. The author is present throughout the story. He injects his thoughts about the writing of it and its characters, describes scenes or locations, and explains points in characters' conversations. This novel has footnotes, some of which take up half of a page. It also has related excerpts from other books at the start of each chapter. The author even becomes an actual character in the story during two of the three endings he offers.

While these elements are inventive and refreshing, I found some of it hard to follow, which made me lose interest. I just wanted to get on with the story rather than learn the history of something a character casually mentions or find out the types of foliage that grows best in certain areas of town. I also didn't like having three endings from which to choose, the last of which seemed most unresolved. However, I'm sure these features are what make this book the classic, best-selling, award-winning piece of literature it is. 

This book felt long to me (probably because I sometimes took long breaks between chapters), but the writing is impressive and intricate. The lengthy descriptions, detail, and explanations all serve a purpose, catapulting readers into the era and environment with fully developed characters. I could picture and hear all of them in my head because of the way the author described their appearance, gestures, attitudes, and speaking patterns.

The peripheral characters and their stories were more interesting to me than Charles's problems. After Charles's servant Sam begins courting Ernestina's servant Mary, for example, his own ambitions and frustrations come to light as he aims for a life beyond his current status. Charles's ignorance of Sam's needs reveal the faults of his character and the class system. Similarly, Sarah deals with Mrs. Poulteney, a mean, judgmental old woman who takes her in only to build up her lacking number of good deeds.

Finishing this book was an accomplishment, and I feel enriched by it. Since it was a struggle for me to read at times, though; I wasn't sure if I should recommend it to others....until I saw the movie version.

I rented the 1981 Oscar-nominated film adaptation, starring Meryl Streep as Sarah and Jeremy Irons as Charles, thinking it would help clear up any lingering confusion I had. On the contrary, director Karel Reisz seemed to take a cue from John Fowles and introduced multiple story lines. In addition to playing the characters of Sarah and Charles, Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons also played modern-day film actors and secret lovers. In this parallel story, they were adapting, researching, rehearsing, and filming The French Lieutenant's Woman, playing Sarah and Charles while their own personal relationship was similar to their characters' circumstances.

With its unique take on this story, the film version of The French Lieutenant's Woman is good on its own terms. More than anything, though, it made me appreciate the novel – with its immersive world and colorful characters – so much more. I watched it thinking of all things the director had to gloss over and missed those details. As usual, the book is better, so give it a try (past page 5). Better yet, test them both out as I did, and let me know what you think.

Best,

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Yarn

The Kitties refuse to believe me when I tell them that yarn is not a toy. You try to tell them to stop playing with it!

Yarn (July 06, 2016)
(Illustration Friday: June 17, 2016)
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