Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meet the Kitties: Comet

comet and coat2
When Julie received her White Coat, a milestone in her veterinary studies, Comet was first to test it out.

Comet had a rough childhood, growing up in Cincinnati. At age 3, he was brought in to a veterinary office to be euthanized because his owner's boyfriend didn't get along with him! Can you imagine anyone not getting along with Comet? He couldn't either! He was—of course—saved by his undeniable cuteness and lovable personality. The veterinarians displayed him in a cage in the front office, trying to entice customers to take him home. That's where my sister Julie met him.

While Comet still struggles to conquer his shyness and fears, life with Julie was completely different. Days were full of love and fun, as they spent them playing Hide and Seek and Tag. A couple of years down the road, Julie brought Ashes home to be Comet's new friend. It took some adjusting, but now—as you know—they're inseparable.

Comet prefers the quiet life, and works on building up his courage every day. He spends his days hiding, wrestling with Ashes and listening to her endless stories, napping, and watching the birds. Comet enjoys reading the works of great, reflective minds—such as Abraham Lincoln, Richard Feynman, and Leonardo Da Vinci—and brave adventurers, including Howard Hughes, Jane Goodall, and the Cowardly Lion. He practices yoga, watches classic MTV, and enjoys musicals, silent films, and The Honeymooners.

Brave (March 5, 2010)
Comet makes a cautious approach.
(Illustration Friday--March 5, 2010: Brave)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meet the Kitties: Simon

Simon
Simon, helping Dad in the garage with his latest construction job, takes a work break. 

A few years after Gordon left home, Simon showed up outside my parents' office building. As we exited the front door, he sprung out from the bushes and circled the parking lot doing a handstand on the seat of a unicycle. We took him home immediately.

With the hint of a French accent, Simon explained his tenure with the Cique du Soliel. He had to quit his high wire act after a fall that broke his front paw. On the mend, Simon enjoyed his new surroundings at our home with The Mother Kitty, though The Mother Kitty was not as thrilled. It took years, but I think she secretly tolerates him now.

On a typical day, Simon roams the yard, inspecting every change from the day before—in the air and on land. He enjoys sunbathing by the fish pond, reading and writing philosophy, and helping Dad with his craft projects in the garage. More than anything, though, Simon loves a lap. In his spare time, he continues to practice his old circus tricks and to exercise, walking in circles and making frequent u-turns. These skills have helped him score a spot as star point guard for the Boston Celtics. You may know him as Rajon Rondo, but don't tell anybody.

Acrobat (September 17, 2010)
Simon in the old days (Illustration Friday--September 17, 2010: Acrobat)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Meet the Kitties: Gordon

gordon
Gordon, camouflaged in one of our porch flower boxes
Born behind a piano in Northeast Ohio and named after a famous rock star, Gordon knew from an early age that he wanted to see more than his own backyard. A real outdoorsy type, Gordon spent his early years hunting and hiking, roaming our neighborhood daily. After his first few years at home, he bid his mom and the rest of our family adieu and set off on one of his many adventures.

Gordon excelled in the arts and has become a true performer—proficient in music like his namesake, Sting (real name: Gordon), and currently starring in the Johnny Kitties series, celebrating Johnny Depp. He attributes his lifelong love for classic films and Johnny Movies to his upbringing of afternoon lap naps in front of the TV for my movie marathons. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, which makes him the favorite for DJing parties. While—of course—Sting is his hero, he leans toward guitar gods Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix.

Now traveling the world, exploring new cultures, religions, and languages, Gordon shares a worldly, ageless reputation similar to his mother's. He returns home with a flicker of a new indistinct accent, treats from afar to share, and tales and legends to tell. What's true? What's legend? Only Gordon knows.

Some of his favorite destinations include Mozambique, Taiwan, Italy, New Zealand, and New York. To counter his life on the road, Gordon spends his spare time taking long walks, reading, reflecting, practicing yoga, and catching a quick snooze between flights.

Equipment (May 14, 2010)
From somewhere south of the equator, Gordon sends his mother a sweet message.
(Illustration Friday--May 14, 2010: Equipment)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meet The Kitties: The Mother Kitty

The Mother Kitty
The Mother Kitty finds a spot in the sun.
The son of one of my dad's friends, who was attending the University of Akron, was looking for a home for the cat that lurked outside his dorm. One day, Dad brought her home.

After a scrubby bath, what we thought was a salt-and-pepper kitty turned out to be fluffy winter white. Her friends at the University of Akron called her Ghost. But, since she was the only cat we knew, we referred to her as The Kitty, a name that she approved.

Soon, The Kitty became The Mother Kitty, bearing six kittens. (One was kept—more on him later—while the others moved in with friends.)

The Mother Kitty—and all the kitties to follow—became instant family. She roamed our two-story house and surrounding yard and woods as if she owned it. (She did.) Indoors, she hunted through our belongings for barrettes, paper clips, business cards, and jewelry. At times, she’d trap me for hours, napping on my lap. Outside, she helped Mom out with the mail and her daily gardening. She climbed her favorite pine tree and always kept her eye on all the neighborhood happenings.

The Mother Kitty is a true lady, caring and stern, street smart and full of wisdom, opinionated and no-nonsense. Mom, Bette Davis, and Eleanor Roosevelt are just a few of her role models. Her eclectic pastimes include reading, gardening, fine dining, music and formal dancing, astrology, staring contests, and messing with her roommate Simon’s head.

Baby (May 30, 2008)

The Mother Kitty with her kittens 
(Illustration Friday--May 8, 2008: Baby)

Her most distinctive feature, her multi-colored eyes, has always been a mystery. Some reports suggest that The Mother Kitty is thousands of years old and that her eyes mark the ages, serving as windows to the different eras and worldly locations she’s experienced. Others say her eyes reflect the level of her Jedi powers. Several studies explore their respective purposes and origins, but no conclusive or definitive comparisons have been drawn. Some have gone as far as to link her to Buddha, David Bowie, and Dorothy Parker. The Mother Kitty does not dispute any of these theories but will not discuss it. And she will stare you down until you stop asking her.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Toy

Toy (March 25, 2011)
(Illustration Friday: March 25, 2011)

When Lily first arrived, I bought her lots of toys. It turns out, I didn't have to because all she needs is an old pen cap. But, it wasn't all a waste--Her trusty Wubbas never seem to fail to grab her attention.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Meet the Kitties!

Hi everyone,

I've been meaning to create a Meet the Kitties page for months now, and The Kitties are getting impatient. Instead of posting their stories all at once, I thought each Kitty deserved at least a day. (They again protested--saying they deserved much longer. True, but when I explained that they'll get their own page on my blog after the nine days is over, they were pleased again.) So, look forward to Nine Days of Kitties starting Monday, March 28, when each Kitty will get their close-up! Here's the plan:
  • March 28: The Mother Kitty
  • March 29: Gordon
  • March 30: Simon
  • March 31: Comet
  • April 1: Ashes
  • April 2: Norman
  • April 3: B.J.
  • April 4: Lily
  • April 5: Mini
Enjoy!

Best,
Melissa

Monday, March 21, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #6: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details.]


When these ads showed up,
I officially started pacing the floors.

©20th Century Fox
In the summer of 1990, magazine advertisements for Edward Scissorhands started popping up in my entertainment magazines. "Edward is coming" or "Edward was here" read the tag lines, looming above topiar or heads with strange haircuts. I knew Johnny Depp was working on this film about a guy who had some sort of scissors for hands. I was excited that Johnny was working with Tim Burton, whose movies so far, I loved--Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Batman.  Pee-Wee was hilarious and caught the perfect spirit. Beetlejuice was one of a kind and entirely imaginative. And, when Tim's version of Batman came out, I thought it was exactly as Batman should be: dark, twisted, and funny. These were all big hits, and  I was thrilled for Johnny, having snagged this interesting opportunity in a movie that was a little more mainstream. Unlike Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands had potential to show up at a theater near me. Then, everyone would start seeing Johnny's movies! Apparently, my inner cheerleader slipped out. As soon as it was released, we got to the theater. Dad walked up to the ticket counter and asked, "Can we have four tickets to Johnny Scissorhands?"

Johnny meets Edward and makes a new friend.
Edward Scissorhands is a story about a man created by an old inventor (Vincent Price) who dies before completing his creation. Edward is left with sharp shears for hands. He lived alone in a mansion on a mountaintop overlooking the town of Suburbia. One day, the local Avon Lady, Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest) discovers him and brings him home to live with her family.

Tim Burton's Edward
©Tim Burton
Edward Scissorhands was written by Caroline Thompson, based on one of Tim's early drawings, and many say that the character is very close to Tim himself. (They do look alike, minus the scissors.) The story stemmed from his teenage feelings of isolation and misperception, a universal feeling that Johnny also connected to growing up and, more recently, when pushed into the TV spotlight surrounded by teenage mania.

"I read the screenplay to Edward Scissorhands and lost my mind," Johnny said in 2005. "It was one of the most beautiful things I ever read whether it was a book, a screenplay, poem--whatever. It was just a beautiful piece." After he read it, Johnny tried to cancel the meeting that his new agent, Tracey Jacobs, set up for him with the film's director. He figured everyone in Hollywood would want the part and assumed that he--mainly known as a TV actor and teen idol--would have no chance at the role. He wanted to avoid the rejection. Luckily, Tracey forced him to go! Not only did he get the part, but their 3-hour meeting over coffee and cigarettes was the start of a lifelong friendship and prolific working relationship that has led to 8 films so far. (They're working on their 9th collaboration right now!)

"After sharing approximately three to four pots of coffee together, stumbling our way through each other's unfinished sentences but somehow still understanding one another, we ended our meeting with a handshake and a 'nice to meet you,'" Johnny remembers in Burton on Burton by Mark Salisbury. "I left that coffee shop jacked up on caffeine, chewing insanely on my coffee spoon like a wild, rabid dog. I now officially felt even worse about things because of the honest connection I felt we had during the meeting. Mutually understanding the perverse beauty of a milkcow creamer, the bright-eyed fascination with resin grapes, the complexities and raw power that one can find in a velvet Elvis painting--seeing way beyond the novelty, the profound respect for 'those who are not others.' I was sure we could work well together, and I was positive, if given the chance, I could carry out his artistic vision for Edward Scissorhands. My chances were, at best, slim--if that."

It's true. All the big stars in Hollywood were fighting to play this part. People I can't imagine! William Hurt? Tom Hanks?? Tom Cruise???!!!

While Johnny waited for the phone to ring, he studied. After reading the script, his immediate impression of the character mirrored the unconditional love and innocence that newborn babies and animals possess. The character sparked memories of a pet dog he had growing up. He read child psychology books, children's books, fairy tales and whatever else he could get his hands on to prepare for the role.  "It was now not something I merely wanted to do, but something I had to do," he said. "Not for any ambitious, greedy, actory, box-office-draw reason, but because this story had now taken residence in the middle of my heart and refused to be evicted."

Johnny: "I am Edward Scissorhands!"
After weeks of waiting, he got the call. "When I met Johnny I knew right away that he was The One," Tim Burton said. "I had a feeling about it....He just had that quality. You could see it in his eyes."

How can you deny that face?
©20th Century Fox
I have to agree! Johnny has an amazing talent for saying volumes with a flicker of an eyeball. "It's a very tough thing to play somebody who is created--you know, other than the normal way," Vincent Price said of Johnny's performance. "What do you do? You're an unreal character, and yet he's in very real situations. And there are very few people with scissors for hands--fortunately!"

"I can remember when I finished Edward Scissorhands," Johnny said, "looking in the mirror as the girl was doing my make-up for the last time, and thinking, 'Wow, this is it. I'm saying goodbye to Edward Scissorhands.' It was kind of sad." Aside from all the critical acclaim--Edward Scissorhands still shows up on Most Memorable Movie Characters lists around the world--Johnny received his first of many Golden Globe nominations for his performance. He also won the 1990 ShoWest Award for Male Star of Tomorrow. (Yeah, he is!)

Most people I know find Tim Burton's work too dark or weird--or both--but I have always marveled at the worlds he creates. You know a Tim Burton movie when you see one. Edward's pale, scarred face, mangled hair, and scissorhands never frightened me. I don't remember even thinking that the idea of scissorhands was strange, but maybe I was just focused on Johnny's quiet, gentle performance. This movie does get dark. I find it hard to watch Edward Scissorhands in its entirety. If it's on TV, I often change the station before the neighbors start turning against Edward. No one should be mean to Edward.

This is sort of plopped in here, but I have to also mention the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack by the great Danny Elfman, Tim's frequent collaborator. (Didn't you already love him as the lead singer of Oingo Boingo in the '80s anyway?) The music is enchanting and timeless. It transports you to Christmas and gives you visions of snowflakes. Today, the themes are still copied and heard in other movies and TV commercials--everywhere. I'd yell at the thieves, but who can blame them?

How does Johnny Kitties Measure Up?
Of all the Johnny Kitties drawings so far, this one took me the longest--from coming up with an idea that would do such a special film justice to drawing what was in my head. I adore the first half of this movie, watching Edward experience Suburbia for the first time, meeting new people, and trying to fit in. There are so many memorable scenes--Edward trying to get dressed. Edward trying to eat his peas and carrots, Edward exploring Kim's room. (Kim is Peg's teenage daughter, played by Johnny's then-girlfriend Winona Ryder.)

There were too many moments and characters I wanted to capture in this drawing. Johnny worked with Vincent Price on his final film. Diane Weist, Alan Arkin, Kathy Baker--and everyone--made up a fantastic cast of extreme, yet believable Suburbia citizens. I couldn't make up my mind about any of it. Of course, Edward's world--the gothic mansion, the snow, the topiaries--was necessary, but all the other characters didn't live there. There's no way to mix them together on one sheet of paper. I feared that my Johnny Kitties project would end before it had hardly begun. While I was pondering how to avoid stalling Johnny Kitties indefinitely or creating some sort of Richard Scarry layout of Suburbia, Gordon busied himself by creating ice sculptures of some of our favorite moments. (He's so Method.) Problem solved!

Edward Scissorhands (January 14, 2011)


In our drawing for Edward Scissorhands, you'll find Edward in his mansion hard at work on one of his many ice sculptures. He's far away from his experience in Suburbia, but his memories are still clear:
  • Smiling for the first time as The Inventor (B.J.) reads him poetry. 
  • Meeting wonderful Peg Boggs (The Mother Kitty), who gave him a new set of clothes and introduced him to the rest of the world.  
  • Getting his first hug, from his true love Kim (Lily)
Suburbia's at the bottom of the hill, but really--who wants to live among those crazy neighbors?

What's Next?
Filmed in Florida, I don't know how Johnny survived making Edward Scissorhands dressed in that leather suit and massive wig with such heavy make-up on in 90-degree weather every day. What's a few cases of heat stroke for the sake of art? Well, now he leaves one hot climate for another.

Tune in next month, when Johnny hangs out with Faye Dunaway and Jerry Lewis in Arizona Dream

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Warning!

Warning! (March 4, 2011)
(Illustration Friday: March 4, 2011)

You can always tell when Lily gets excited. (It doesn't take much.) I'm not sure what caught her eye tonight, but you might want to get out of the way.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Paul and Me

Well, I read this book pretty quickly. Paul and Me: 53 Years of Adventures and Misadventures with my Pal, Paul Newman by A.E. Hotchner is exactly what the title says. It's not a Paul Newman biography but a  collection of moments from Paul and Hotchner's 53-year friendship. In the beginning, he recalls their love for fishing, even though they never caught anything and their boat was always on the verge of sinking. With a boat named Caca del Toro (and subsequent boats referred to as Caca II, III, and IV), I knew I'd like this book.

Paul and "Hotch" seemed to have fun with everything they did and never took anything too seriously, but the results were always solid. Paul had an amazing amount of luck and things seemed to happen on whims, as if he just woke up one day with random impossible ideas that came to fruition with relative ease. A good chunk of the book is devoted to their business venture into Newman's Own--from stirring the first batch of salad dressing in Paul's barn using a canoe paddle to convincing everyone that the first Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for seriously ill children could be built in a year's time. Paul's unwavering character--his infectious joy, thoughtfulness, and steady determination--come through on each page. "Paul Newman was an unadorned man. We was direct and honest and off-center and mischievous and romantic and very handsome," Hotchner writes. "He was the same man in 2008 that he was in 1955, unchanged despite all the honors and the fame, not a whisper of a change. That was something--the constancy of the man."

Years ago, I read the book Paul and Hotch wrote together called Shameless Exploitation in the Pursuit of the Common Good, which chronicles the haphazard creation of Newman's Own and its unexpected success. (One of my favorite books, I also highly recommend it.) Reading the letters and testimonials from the parents and kids who find refuge in the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps will touch anyone's heart. Paul and Me does the same. In the end, both books make me wish Paul Newman was still around.

Here's a scene from The Verdict, which I think is first movie of Paul's that I ever saw. It might make you fall in love too.



© 20th Century Fox


I'll pick a new book soon, but for now, I like having Paul Newman's picture on my blog. I hope he doesn't mind.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Swarm

Swarm (February 25, 2011)

                                   (Illustration Friday: February 25, 2011) 


I'm not sure where The Kitties are in this drawing. I asked them, but you know how they are. 
  • Comet said he was just following Ashes and they found themselves here. 
  • Ashes says they were participating in the giant Twister game finals. 
  • Mini claims they found Oz and came to a four-way fork in the road. 
  • Gordon says we were at the Mad Hatter's house. (He's method that way.) 
  • Norman said this was a dream in which he found where the Easter Bunny stashed all the huge eggs. (Now, he's hungry.) 
  • B.J. shrugged and said, "We just went for a walk." 
  • Simon never answered me, but went on and on about all the circles. 
  • Lily doesn't remember where they were, but that there a bug on the ceiling. 
  • The Mother Kitty hasn't returned yet, but she called to tell me she's still staring at it.