Thursday, February 24, 2011

I am reading!

One of my new year's resolutions is to read more. Something about living in D.C. prevents me from picking up a book from the piles on my floor and tuning out everything else to focus on it. I keep buying books and planning to read them, but they just get dusty. I only read when I'm on a plane or at home visiting family. When I'm in D.C., I always have drawings to do, yoga class to attend, movies to watch, Lily to play with, and whatever else to distract me.

I just got around to starting my reading resolution this week. Even if I only read 10 pages a night, I tell myself, I'll at least be chipping away. I added an "I am reading..." section to my blog sidebar. I figure posting it here will remind me to keep going.

The first book I picked up from my floor selection is Paul and Me: 53 Years of Adventures and Misadventures with my Pal, Paul Newman by A.E. Hotchner. I was crushed when Paul Newman, one of my most favorite people on the planet, died in 2008. (The Kitties were too, see?) He was somebody I was always happy to see anywhere, anytime. I miss his thoughtfulness and wisdom, his charm and class, and his jokes. I ran out to buy this book as soon as it was published last year, but I resisted starting it: Written by one of his best friends, I thought I should savor what I was sure would be an honest account of the man. And, I also dreaded the imminent sad ending.

After spending the holidays in Ohio, I came back to D.C. and returned to my routines. I nearly tripped whipping around the corner from the kitchen when I heard a snippet of Paul Newman being interviewed on PBS Newshour. The report was about Newman's Own food company, which just celebrated hitting the $300 million mark in proceeds given to charity, proving that Paul's philanthropic efforts have outlasted him.

Robert Redford said that the world was a better place with Paul Newman in it, and I think he's right.

So, a year after I bought it, I'm finally ready to open the book. It might take a while to finish, but I'll let you know how it is when I do.

Look for a new book every once in a while if I can keep this up! What are you reading?

Monday, February 21, 2011


For this week's Illustration Friday topic, "Layer," all I could think of was clothing and fashion. But since Simon modeled his holiday sweater last week, I resisted working on tiered kitty dresses.

Saturday, I went to Yin Yang Yoga class, during which we are asked to hold positions for several minutes at a time. It's supposed to help release your inner tissues, tendons, and cartilage, which are harder to reach during the more active classes. Pigeon pose is common in Yin Yoga.

  • Seated, place one leg so that your shin is parallel with the front of your mat--or as parallel as you can get it. 
  • Your other leg goes straight back, in line with your hip. 
  • At first, you prop  yourself up on your hands and "open your heart" toward the sky for a slight back bend. 
  • Then, roll forward until your forehead touches the mat. (Depending on how far you can go, you can rest on your forearms or on a prop, such as a block.) 
  • Our instructor added a twist to this pose, suggesting that we rest on one side with our bottom arm outstretched. (I could do the twist well on one side but not the other.)

A huge hip opener, Pigeon pose is always a struggle for me. Whether it's slightly better or much worse depends on the day. I suppose it doesn't help that I work all day at a desk and then draw all night on the couch.

While I was lying there trying to focus on my breathing but really wondering  how long five minutes could last, I started to imagine my hip breaking free of whatever crud and cartilage I was feeling. The longer we stayed put, the looser my hip felt. That's when the instructor started talking about his theme for the day: Layers.

He spoke of how yoga helps to peel away the layers of obstacles--stress, fears, preconceptions, and whatever else is holding you back. However slowly, these layers fall away and you then can focus on individual elements of yourself--be it your hip, your breath, your flexibility, your mind, your openness, or something even deeper. You work toward peeling these layers one by one until your completely open physically--and maybe more important--mentally.

I told The Kitties all about this when I got home, and Gordon got all fired up about getting on his mat. He took charge of Sunday's Kitty Class, and here they show off how good they all are at Pigeon pose.

Layer (February 18, 2011)
(Illustration Friday: February 18, 2011)

Yeah, well, they're cats.

I must point out, though, that Norman was already too exhausted for Pigeon pose and opted to rest in Child's pose instead. (We'd all stay in Child's pose for the whole class if he had his way!) And, The Mother Kitty, who has bad knees, opted for an alternative pose. As they always say in yoga class, every body is different.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Of all of The Kitties, The Mother Kitty and Simon could use sweaters since they spend their time outdoors or in the garage. The Mother Kitty rolled her eyes at the thought of wearing one because, she says, "Cats who wear outerwear are idiots."

I think that gave her ideas. One Christmas, Simon was proudly wearing a personalized gift from his housemate.

Sweater (February 11, 2011)
(Illustration Friday: February 11, 2011)

I took away her knitting needles for a while after that.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #5--Cry-Baby (1990)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details.] 
"You big ol' cry-baby..." Johnny Depp as Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker.
"The reason this movie plays on television all over the world is because of the great star Johnny is and what a great actor he is. I'm very thankful that we got to work together--late in my career and early in his. It seemed like the right thing to do at the right time.
Director John Waters

Most people know film director John Waters from his most popular movie, Hairspray, which went on to great success on Broadway and spawned a popular remake in 2008. Because of Hairspray's success, every studio wanted to make his next movie, Cry-Baby. "There was a bidding war!" he said. "It's never happened before or since."

The Cry-Baby Gang
A teen musical that spoofs Elvis Presley movies and the 1950s stance on juvenile delinquency, Cry-Baby follows the lives of teenagers from Baltimore society's two social groups--the Squares (the law-abiding goody two-shoes type) and the Drapes (the greaser, delinquent type). In the film, Drape gang leader Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker (Johnny Depp) falls for Square princess Allison (Amy Locane), and they struggle to cross cultural lines and bring their two worlds together.

Throughout his career, John Waters has earned the nicknames "The Pope of Trash" and "The Prince of Puke." His movies are an acquired taste, often shocking, and sometimes hard to take. But you've got to  admire a guy who is so outside of the box, casts actors from all walks of life, and never quits in getting his movies made or bringing his views to light. "I was a big admirer of John's films," Johnny said. "He was so outside the system and such a great radical of a filmmaker." 

His movies were out there! After we saw Hairspray, my sister and I sought out some of John Waters's earlier films. I don't remember their plots so much as I do their strangeness. In these movies, things were unpolished and unHollywood. I saw people I didn't know existed--people from the outskirts of society--and I wasn't sure if I wanted to know them. I remember feeling simultaneously unsettled and intrigued.

Many fans consider Cry-Baby pretty tame compared to the director's earlier works, but I always felt Cry-Baby was  an unmistakable John Waters movie. Where else are you going meet a family in which the grandmother and uncle are in a steamy, committed relationship bringing up a gang of juvenile delinquents with hearts of gold? And, don't forget the detailed lessons on French kissing this movie offers!

What I find most interesting about Cry-Baby is how much is based on real life. Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, John Waters knew Drapes and Squares and filmed in locations that accurately portrayed 1950s Baltimore. The story was inspired by a newspaper article from that time about the murder of a 14-year-old girl. He overheard people dismiss the sensational story: "This is what happens when you're a Drapette." John Waters says he was not a Drape would have loved to be one.

A Fresh Start
For Johnny, this film was the beginning of a new life. Having escaped the constraints and unwanted attention of 21 Jump StreetCry-Baby gave him a chance to wipe the slate clean: "It was a chance to really make fun of the image that had been shoved down America's throats by the company that I worked for," he said. "Cry-Baby for me was the first time out of the gate where I was able to say, 'All right, this is what I want to do. This is the direction I want to go in.' It was the first one."

John Waters found and chose Johnny as his leading man from the racks of teen magazines that Johnny so hated. (Ironic, no?) He said that of all the stars he's worked with in his career, Johnny was the one who fit into his group the fastest and easiest--from Day 1. Johnny confirmed this notion, "For the first time in quite a while, I felt free when I went there to Baltimore. I really felt like I had been accepted into that family."

To me, Cry-Baby reflects that joy and spirit. Sure, it's extreme and over-the-top, but at its heart is a simple, universal love story. And--above all--it's fun and funny!

Stranded in Ohio
I didn't get to see Cry-Baby in the theaters when it was first released. I don't think my parents yet realized that my unwavering devotion to that guy from 21 Jump Street was not going away. (Or, maybe they were just hoping it would.) There was no convincing them to drive me 45 miles to the only little theater in the area showing his movie. Instead, I sighed at the Cry-Baby TV commercials and waited for its video release. (Don't worry--I did  finally get to see this movie on the big screen a few years ago.)

Now, I have and highly recommend the director's cut DVD. For some reason, there are several versions of this movie out there, including the one from the theaters and one that was edited for TV. Don't watch the latter; John Waters hates it. Instead, watch the director's cut, which includes a fantastic dance scene missing from the theatrical release. Uncle Belvedere (Iggy Pop) has some serious moves!

 Watching Cry-Baby for Johnny Kitties, I was surprised by how many scenes I loved that didn't include Johnny! The family atmosphere on the set he described is probably what made the cast work so perfectly. Aside from Johnny and the eclectic cast, my favorite ingredient in Cry-Baby is its '50s rockabilly soundtrack. John Waters has good taste in that area. Several songs from the this movie are on my ipod. "Cry-Baby is my favorite musical," John Waters said recently. "With Johnny Depp in his prime--You can't get better than that!"

The Kitties are with the Drapes
Cry-Baby (December 21, 2010)

This illustration depicts a mixture of two scenes, includes many of the memorable cast members, and--I hope--captures spirit of the film. I never thought I'd do a kitty drawing featuring a confederate flag, but John Waters--who felt the same way about including one in his movie--defends its use because it was historically accurate. "That was Baltimore in the '50s," he said. "It was the South."

For the Drapes, The Jukebox Jamboree is an annual musical celebration. If you watch the movie, you'll find all these dancers in the crowd. I loved that while they all danced in different styles, their bodies were glued together--as only Drapes would know how. Slow dancing here to the great song "I'm So Young" by the Students, the Mother Kitty is featured as grandmother Ramona Rickets (Susan Tyrell) dancing with B.J.'s Uncle Belvedere (Iggy Pop). The other kitties were happy to play extras on the dance floor. You'll find Comet paired with Ashes, Norman swaying with his girl, Simon with a twin partner, and Mini as Cry-Baby's little niece dancing with her brother.

Meanwhile, Cry-Baby--having rescued Allison (played by Lily) from the Squares' own annual talent show--arrives and introduces her to his world. The Cry-Baby girls come to greet her. They include Wade's pregnant sister Pepper (Ricki Lake), Hatchetface (Kim McGuire), and Wanda (Traci Lords). "Dig it, Babes," Wanda greets Allison. "You need a new look!" They offer to give Allison a Bad Girl Beauty Makeover. Here, she goes for it and Cry-Baby is all about it. Ah, young, true love. It'll be smooth sailing from here, right? See the movie and find out!

Next month, see Johnny in one of his favorite roles as Edward Scissorhands. It marks the start of a beautiful friendship....

(Aside from my drawing, all images ©Universal Studios.) 


Congratulations all around to Coach Doc Rivers and some of my favorite Celtics--Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo--for being chosen by the league's coaches for this year's NBA All Star Game!!! Watch for them February 20!

And, welcome back to Kendrick Perkins, who made his long-awaited return to the team last month! We missed you!

In honor of all these happy moments, here's a drawing of a recent game.

Reverse (February 4, 2011)
(Illustration Friday: February 4, 2011)

Check out how Simon--er, Rondo--flies past the team and scores an easy reverse layup. I was going to specify the other team, but he does this all the time to everybody.

Yay, Celtics!!!

Thursday, February 03, 2011


Surrender (January 28, 2011)
(Illustration Friday: January 28, 2011)

I don't know who will surrender first during this staring contest. Experts give The Mother Kitty (reigning champ) the edge with her years of experience, but don't count Lily out. She is the new prodigy in this area. Place your bets.