Thursday, April 30, 2009

True Confession: I'm Addicted to Wikipedia Swine Flu Maps

I admit, I'm sick.

No. I don't have Swine Flu, but while I can't help but think the Swine Flu Hype is just that...hype, I can't help but check the Wikipedia page for the 2009 Swine Flu Outbreak and the 2009 swine flu outbreak in the United States.

I like these pages because they have numbers and maps.

The maps on this page were pulled off the site just now. By tomorrow they will surely be different. The yellow states/countries represent suspected cases. Some will turn red. The red states and countries represent confirmed cases of the H1N1/Swine flu virus.

I hope that no more states or countries turn "black" signifying death by Swine Flu, and I hope that the health crisis, specifically in Mexico City is reigned in.

But beyond those hopes, I think the Swine Flu is out of control.

One kid with a suspected case of this strand of flu and the whole school gets let out for the day, or maybe even weeks. It's pretty crazy, especially since recent cases have been comparable to a typical flu (not a lot of fun, but part of the human experience, I suppose).

All the same I can't keep on looking at the numbers, the maps, and checking to see how the numbers are adjusting. I'm an obsessive-compulsive checker sometimes. I check by blog stats, I check my library holds, I check my checking account, I don't know what I'm waiting to appear but when I am checking this or that stat on a regular basis I can tend to get addicted.

Recently, I'm addicted to those wikipedia pages with up to date Swine flu facts. I love table, graphs, and maps. This is my true confession.

The first picture on this post is from Jonathan Alcorn's photo blog. The maps, are of course, from wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Lovely Bones - Oscars For Acting?

It's hard to tell exactly where Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lovely Bones will figure in at this upcoming years Oscar ceremony, especially as the film is yet to be released. In some of the first pictures, you can tell that this film will be interesting. Jackson certainly has a huge challenge in this film in his story-telling and in his production design.

Recently I discussed some of the theological challenges associated with this film, but when it comes to the Oscars I think this films success hinges on it's popularity as well as it's ability to handle the supernatural elements in a way that enhances the story, rather than detracting. The Academy has gone for ghost stories in recent years (The Sixth Sense), but special effects and technical wizardry tends to mean that Actors and Actresses are excluded from the competition. Instead, these films receive technical awards, without a mention to the performances.

Think of Jackson's most recent projects, The Lord of the Rings and King Kong, only a single acting nod amongst the four films, Ian McKellen as Gandolf in The Fellowship of the Rings.

The Lovely Bones has the potential to have some more meaty parts...and with it's character driven plot, with some pretty wide emotional ranges, namely grief, rage, and indifference there is a chance for some acting nods here, although I can't see it as a huge acting powerhouse come awards time.

My ranking of actors from this film who have a chance at an Oscar nomination for a performance are...

(1) Susan Surandon, supporting actress, as Grandma Lynn Susie's Grandma
(2) Stanley Tucci, supporting actor as George Harvey the doll house building neighbor
(3) Mark Whalberg, lead/supporting actor as Jack Salmon, Susie's grieving father
(4) Rachel Weisz, lead/supporting actress as Abigail Salmon, Susie's mother
(5) Saoirse Ronan, lead/supporting actress as Susie

I think other characters like Carolyn Dando (who plays the strange and awkward Ruth), Michael Imperioli (the police investigator), and Rose McIver (Susie's younger sister) have an excellent opportunity to be noticed in their strong roles, but I don't think their name or role is quite big enough to grab the attention.

Of the five actors listed above, all have won or been nominated for Oscars previously with the exception of Tucci, and if they want to award his dark character, this seems like an excellent opportunity for the Academy to recognize a very talented actor.

Similarly, the Academy has proven a love for Susan Surandon and this seems like a perfect role for her that has enough dramatic pull to warrant some attention for a loved member of the Hollywood club.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Theology of The Lovely Bones

I recently read Alice Sebold's popular novel The Lovely Bones. It is one of the many fiction novels being adapted into a feature length film this year.

The film version of The Lovely Bones is scheduled to come out in December of 2009, prime season for a big box office and awards.

Peter Jackson who's famous for his direction, adaptation, and production of the Lord of The Rings trilogy really demonstrated his ability to tackle difficult (and popular) source material.

The Lovely Bones might not be as complex as J.R.R. Tolkein's trilogy, but the power of this popular novel is in a very unique literary device.

The main character of the story is Susie Salmon, a young girl who is raped and killed at the beginning of the story. This "mystery-esque" thriller takes away all the who, whats, and wheres right of the bat, and the audience knows it.

Yet, as the story unfolds, Susie is the narrator. She tells the story from heaven as she witnesses how her death and murder investigation is handled.

As I read The Lovely Bones, it was pretty clear to me that Sebold's intentions in writing this novel was not to expose a philosophy or theology of heaven, but rather write with a unique literary device that allowed a dead girl to be the narrator of her only story.

In order to shape these worlds on paper Sebold created a heaven with her own set of "rules" and "practices."

Because people tend to fuss less about books then they do about movies, I anticipate that come this holiday season we can certainly expect some uproars over the "theology" that is espoused in this potentially popular film.

The heaven that is created by The Lovely Bones, is largely ambiguous and irreligious heaven, relatively devoid of any sort of traditional religious perspectives.

At the same time, this afterlife borrows from the creation tradition. This place is clearly called heaven, and this afterlife does have "angels" but, there is no presentation of God, judgement, or eternal worship.

In reading The Lovely Bones, the heaven we see initially largely reminds me of the heaven that is shown in the Robin William's film What Dreams May Come. There is a sense that the dead go to an eternal place where they can create there own private paradise. Where Robin Williams could live in a world of paint splashing around with his dog, Susie Salmon and her "heaven friend" Holly can read fashion magazines in a world that looks like Susie's local high school.

In fact, Susie's heaven is separate and different from the heaven's of others. She imagines her grandma Lynn's heaven as a place where her Grandma will spend the day drinking mint juleps all day.

This is not your Christian view of heaven. This is not a place where God is sitting on a throne and worshiped, and there is no pain or suffering. In fact, there is a degree of pain and suffering for Susie.

For Susie, much of the pain she experiences in "heaven" is the result of the fact she has missed out on experiences, she is denied the opportunity to grow up, and she cannot experience physical pleasures and experiences.

With Susie as the narrator, in many ways this story plays out as a ghost story, a "Casper" of sorts, where the narrator has unfinished business and as she "expands her heaven" is able to watch down at the people in her life as they experience life. Susie is able to watch her family deal with her death, her sister Lindsey and Buckley grow up, and her killer as he hides the evidence of the murder, including her own body.

Unlike most "ghost stories" of this nature, the packaging of this story, in movie format is different. Most ghost stories don't portray heaven, or have an angelic "intake counselor." Similarly, most ghost stories are movies with horror tendencies, not movies that are packaged with young actors and actresses, and fantastic special effects of heaven, and based on best selling novels, coming out in the holiday season.

I expect some controversy in association with this film, some productive conversations, and unproductive conversations, perhaps even a boycott or two.

Personally, as I've stated, I do think that purpose of Sebold was to create a literary device, not a theological perspective. All the same, I think the theology portrayed in this film is really reflective upon current secular humanist ideals. I think most people want there to be an after life and to have an after life where it can be tailored and formed to our individual desires and preferences is very modern.

For Sebold to create a less ecumenical all-embracing heaven might not only have been limiting to her plot, but probably off putting to many of her readers, and I feel like the heaven she created is the synthesis of societies wishes for what many would want heaven to be like.

Yet, The Lovely Bones (not attempting to be theological) doesn't address whether her killer, George Harvey will also get to go to heaven, have an intake counselor angel and have his perfect life of torturing and harming young girls.

In addition, the thought of an eternity reading fashion magazines in heaven sounds really drab. Susie, as the narrator, does reflect some on the lengthiness of eternity, and while she has the opportunity to re-unite with her dead grandfather in Heaven, her general joy she experiences in heaven is fairly limited. Most of her time in heaven is spent pining for what was missed of her lost experience on earth.

If this is heaven, who would want it?

Peter Jackson's portrayal of heaven, and the way he incorporates this essential plot device into the context of the film is sure to enrage some audiences, regardless of how he employs his skills or transfers the story to screen.

(Movie Still from the Lovely Bones via Empire.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Leo, Ellen Page, Sir Caine, Cotillard, Gordon-Levitt, & Cillian

What do the following actors have in common?
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Michael Caine
  • Ellen Page
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Cillian Murphy

It's quite a list of talented performers with various assortment of accolades and achievements.

Can you guess the connection?

They're all rumored to star in Christopher Nolan's next movie. No it's not Batman 3, It's a film called Inception set to come out Summer 2010.

No one really knows what this "mind thriller" is about, other than Leonardo DiCaprio plays a character named Jake.

But with Nolan behind the project as director/writer - I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reel People: Johnny Depp is John Dillinger

The film is Public Enemies, directed by Michael Mann, based on the non-fiction book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 by Bryan Burrough.

John Dillinger

John Dillinger was born June 22, 1903 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The son of a grocer, who was known to punish John with stern physical punishment. When his mother died in 1907 his older sister Audrey (born 1889) helped raise him.

John's father remarried in 1912. His dad and step-mother had three children.

By the age of 16, John dropped out of school and began working at a machine shop. John was known to stay out late at night, getting in various forms of trouble, such as stealing coal from freight cars, and who knows what else. John's father's concern led him to sell their property in Indianapolis and move to a more rural setting of Moorseville, Indiana.

John Dillinger became in trouble with the law after an auto theft incident. Despite the rural community John continued to get in trouble and have issues with his father, so he solved his problems by enlisting in the Navy...but got in trouble after deserting a ship shortly after enlisting while it was landed in Boston.

John returned back to Moorseville, and married Beryl Ethel Hovious in April 12, 1924. John and his new wife moved back to his previous home of Indianapolis.

John met Ed Singleton, a pool shark and together they coordinated a grocery store robbery. They were arrested. Singleton plead not guilty and in court got two years. Dillinger, at the advise of his father please guilty and got 10 to 20 year sentence. This made him very bitter. His wife Beryl also divorced him during his time prison (in 1929).

After 8 1/2 years, on May 10, 1933 Dillinger was paroled from prison where he immediately robbed a bank in Ohio, he was arrested and on his person the police also found information that looked like it related to a prison break. Dillinger was held in prison in Lima, Ohio.

Four days later 12 prisoners from Indiana State Prison with smuggled in guns. And then on October 12, 1933, three of those prisoners and a parolee came to rescue Dillinger out of the Ohio prison. These men (Harry Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, and Harry Copeland) pretending to be parole officers coming to return Dillinger to Indiana police custody. The sheriff of the jail was killed in the incident, Dillinger escaped while a deputy and the sheriff's wife were locked up in a cell.

At this point the crime spree began with Dillinger forming a gang of men who became involved in a series of bank robberies and acquired vast amounts of weapons.

While in Tuscon, Arizona in January 1934 a fire broke out in a hotel and firemen recognized Dillinger and some of the men, who were arrested and Dillinger was again in an Indiana jail that was said to be "escape proof" but in March of 1934 Dillinger got out of jail by convincing the guards he had a gun, although he claimed later it was a wooden gun he had widdled in his cell. The guards ended up locked up in the cell, Dillinger took machine guns and escaped.

Dillinger stole a police car and headed towards Chicago. Because Dillinger committed an interstate transportation theft crossing the state line of Indiana and Illinois Dillinger suddenly committed a federal crime that warranted FBI involvement.

From Chicago, Dillinger with his girlfriend Evelyn Frechette, headed to St. Paul where he joined up with other criminals like Homer Van Meter, Tommy Carroll and "Baby Face Nelson" among others.

March 30, 1934 the FBI tracked down Dillinger and his associates in St. Paul, but Dillinger escaped with bullet wound but alive. He and Evelyn headed to Mooresville to seek shelter with John's father and step-brother. When Frechette went to Chicago to meet a friend she was arrested by the FBI and sentenced to prison for harboring a wanted criminal.

After further incidents involving Dillinger in Wisconsin, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover placed Special Agent Samuel A. Cowley in charge of catching Dillinger. Cowley located his office in Chicago where he worked with Melvin Purvis who was in charge of the FBI's Chicago office.

In July 1934 Anna Sage (Anna Cumpanas), a prostitute who was in the process of being deported to her home country of Romania offered to help the FBI if they helped her remain in the United States. Cowley and Purvis cautiously proceeded with Anna Sage's tip, which led them to know that Dillinger was having relations with Polly Hamilton, one of her friends.

Anna Sage led the FBI men to know that John, Polly, and Anna would attend the the Biograph Theater the following night (July 22) to see Clark Gable in "Manhattan Melodrama." Anna wore an orange dress as promised to help the FBI to identify her and Dillinger (because of the lighting making her dress look red Anna is often refered to as the "Lady in Red").

The FBI men cautiously waited outside the theater, and as he left the theater that night 5 shots were fired by three FBI agents (Charles Winstead, Clarence Hurt, and Herman Hollis). Dillinger was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Public Enemies

In the film, Johnny Depp plays the title role of Dillinger. The film co-stars Christian Bale who plays Melvin Purvis, the Chicago FBI man, while Richard Short plays Sam Cowley, and Billy Crudup plays J. Edgar Hoover. Leelee Sobieski plays Polly and Branka Katic plays Anna Sage.

The film features a variety of other star talent in various roles: Giovanni Ribsi, Channing Tatum, Marion Cotillard, and Emilie de Ravin.

It is certainly hard to tell if this film will be the type of film Oscar and critics get excited for, especially with it's Summer Blockbuster style release. But Michael Mann has an interesting track record with the academy, also attracting attention for his films, while others are ignored.

Johnny Depp's role in this film is certain to attract attention in this high profile film. Having received three Oscar nominations this decade it's hard to ignore that the Academy is interested in Depp and his performances. Will Depp's portrayal of this famous criminal earn Depp an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reality or Escapism: State of Play vs. 17 Again (with a Susan Boyle sidenote)

This past weekend Zac Efron's film 17 Again was crowned prince of the box office with a weekend gross of over 23 million dollars, while the other big film of the weekend, State of Play only grossed 14 million.

I think it would be easy to tie the success of current box office pictures to the age demographic, suggesting that teens and tweens have disposable income while the recession is hitting the pocket books of adults who are too afraid to check the balance of their retirement accounts.

Perhaps that's true, but I doubt it.

I think it has more to do with entertainment. Yes, imagine that, people might chose what movies they want to see based on the entertainment value.

State of Play, surely has entertainment value, but it's also realistic, serious, gritty with hardcore reporters and criminals investigators solving the crime of the murder of a politicians mistress.

Does this sound like Friday night fun after a week of bizarre financial news, government news, stressful work situations, economic fears, and so forth. Plus, you might feel guilty watching the movie thinking about how all the reporters in the film will probably be laid off when there paper goes stops running a print version.

Now, Zac Efron has no acting skills compared to Russell Crowe. I enjoyed Zac in Hairspray, but his "Troy Bolton" character in High School Musical 1, 2 & 3 are all a little more than I can handle.

Yet, I think Zac Efron is a bright and exciting face of our time because he's so ridiculous he makes us sure that what we're watching can't be real, because this happy-go-lucky kid has to be a joke.

In a recent post about heavy WWII films Grete mentioned after a netflix line-up of Burn After Reading, King of California, Donnie Darko, In Bruges, and The Visitor, her and her husband have lightened their upcoming films to include films like Bolt, Fantastic Four, Marley & Me, Seven Pounds.

I understand. My wife and I have found ourselves enjoying lighter films ourselves, choosing to watch films like Get Smart, or the television show Arrested Development.

Related/Unrelated Note: Susan Boyle

I think by now everyone on the planet has been subjected to the singing of Susan Boyle, who we've all watched the YouTube video singing "I Dreamed A Dream" on Britain's Got Talent.

Sure, people didn't have to pay money to watch Susan sing, but the demographic that's skipping out on State of Play are the one's watching the You Tube video, forwarding it to their friends, and following her story.

People want to see people's dreams come true. Hollywood, take note. Entertain people, fill them with hope, as opposed to trying to only create heavy realistic films.

There is a time for film noir, but there is also a time for song and dance. Right now, there is a longing for entertainment that creates escape. We have enough reality in our reality.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Diversity of Thoughts & Reflections 10 Years After the Columbine Massacre

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. It's often refereed to as the Columbine Massacre. There are a variety of tragedies over the past years that have spawned such discussion, had such widespread awareness and sorrow, and have a mark as a day in our modern history.

On the ten year anniversary of the shooting, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to say. And really what can I say that hasn't been said. It's interesting how some of the initial questions remain to be answered, while others have.

I encourage you to click over to read and comment on the blogs of any of these post. I think you will find there is still much to be discussed and the benefit of time is that we are capable of having new perspectives, been changed by these events, and relook at them in important ways.

The below post are diverse, if each of the below blog authors were in a room, I can guaranty you they would not all get along or agree about how to view the events. And it's this diversity of opinions that exist 10 years later that helps us understand why this event has becomes so important for so many.

I want to believe that the deaths, injuries, and pain created from April 20, 1999 was not in vein. My thoughts and prays are for the families of the victims.

Thoughts from Bloggers 10 Years After The Columbine Shooting

Randy Turner, a middle school teacher in Missouri discusses how teachers often are blamed in the wake of school shootings for not identifying early warning signs, when the reality is that they are doing this, but their success is neither reported or praised. He reminds readers that schools are safe places, and the reason stories like Columbine effect us is because incidents of this nature are rare.

A.K.A. Mr Jeff was a senior in high school the year of the shooting in Ohio. He discusses how he found out about the news of the event, and how is fear loomed that similar events would occur, his personal appearance and view of his classmates made him a suspected student by some that he might do something similar. Jeff discusses some of his feelings on this, as well as commends the students of Columbine High School who were there on April 20, 1999 and have come out of this event.

Annette Budd's husband had been youth ministers at Littleton Christian Church just prior to the shooting. She knew and had contact with many of the kids who were Columbine students and at the school the day of the shooting, and those students individual experience that day. (She also discusses the response of mothers of students as well). She also knew the family of one of the shooters, and discusses how horrible it was, especially since there family didn't show signs of any dysfunction, in fact showed the opposite. Annette discusses her deep sorrow she experienced, and how even ten years later the incident still hurts.

Woody is a photographer in Colorado Springs who feels very little has changed in the 10 years since the Columbine shooting, and that while schools acts as though they have a plan, they are far more talk then they are actions.

Rachel Moore's blog only has a couple post, but she has taken the time to share her thoughts on Dave Cullen's book Columbine which was just released a couple weeks ago. Cullen's books has been received very positively for it's research and third-party fiction-like writing style. Rachel confirms the positive reviews as she describes a book that she couldn't put down and took her back to the time when she was in 8th grade and the shooting happened.

Ellen Stewart also just read Dave Cullen's book. She shares a quote that shows that what she took from the story is that these kids were not outcast goths associates with some conspiratorial trench coat mafia or connecting the event to any greater significance. She also talks about Cassie Bernall who's story of saying she believes in God has recently been refuted, and Ellen says "wrong of the church to continue to perpetuate a story that does not belong to her."

Lola Jax was halfway around the world when the Columbine shooting happened. She discusses on her blog how as a high schooler who had attempted suicide she was immediately pulled in to the event and realized she was not that different from Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and how she realized she needed help. She discusses how the lives and stories of two of the victims, Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall, helped her turn her own life around and model her life after these two women, having developed a relationship with God, and leaving the life that resembled the two killers behind.

Peter an ex-military medically-retired pastor (and fan of weaponry) blogs from Louisiana and talks about Columbine is a different way than you will find elsewhere. Peter believes that the problem with Columbine and other school shootings is that those at risk have been disarmed. That guns have been falsely blamed for the problem, rather guns and the opportunity for self-defense are the answer.

Tracey Wik a speaker and consultant discusses the Columbine shooting, particularly having read drafts of Dave Cullen's book. Wik reflects on Cullen's realization that no one is immune to random acts of violence. Wik believes that if we remember that everyone has a motivation behind their actions, if if the information they are acting on is wrong. She reminds people to listen to others, talk to others, and doing what we can to understand each other. She believes this is essentially, particularly in the workplace and during economic uncertainty.

Jennifer Kenney attended a vigil at Columbine, and was deeply moved by the speakers. She was specifically moved by the story of the teacher who died Dave Sanders. She writes "He was a true hero. If only he was gotten to sooner. If only he would have survived."

Jamie Huston is a highschool and college literature teacher in Las Vegas. He discusses a handful of bullet points on the event, including that teenage boys with skills and self-esteem are harmful to everyone, "we've raised a generation of sociopaths," the merchandising frenzy attached with tragedy, and that "not every tragedy is an excuse for everybody to have a big weepy love-in about how it made them feel."

Beth a mother of a Columbine student in 1999 writes about her experience at the time of the events, and how she learned the value of home and cacooning, and that out of cacooning, you also need to go out. Her real-life personal story explains her son Drew's hiding in a closet waiting for the SWAT team as well as her and other moms going around the neighborhood walking and meeting neighbors in their community after the shooting.

Heath Mullikin is a youth pastor at Denton Wesleyan Church who talks about how the cause of the Columbine shooting is evil, which exist inside of every person. He talks about how evil is only prevented by the transforming work of Jesus Christ in our lives. Heath says we shy away from using the word evil, but until we acknowledge evil, evil will remain.

Walt Mueller is a writer on youth culture and daily radio show broadcaster (Youth Culture Today with Walt Mueller) and founder and president of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. Mueller spent time in Littleton, Colorado after the shooting and 10 years later reflects on lessons to be learned: Kids are hurting, kids are forced to deal with tough situations at a younger and younger age, no one is immune, all kids will have to make difficult decisions.

Matthew D. Jarvi conspiracy theorist from Rochester, NY asks tough questions looking at eye-witness reports that would indicate that there Klebold and Harris were not the only two involved in the school massacre, and that other inconsistencies in the sheriff's reports do not line up with eye-witness reports.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Counterfeiters and Depressing "Must-See" WWII Movies

There's all sorts of many movies that are deemed as "must see" movies. Often depressing one's sneak into the "must see" category because there stories are "important."

I have some favorite movies of this "must see because they're important, even though they are depressing variety," for example Sophie's Choice or Schindler's list. Or non-WWII related films of this variety like Hotel Rwanda.

It seems like if you are trying to make one of these "must see because it's important" movies, that Holocaust and concentration camps make the perfect subject. It's depressing, true stories, and have immense importance (the future repeats the past unless we learn our history).

If you follow my reel people series, you have recently read about Haley Joel Osment's role in the movie Truth & Treason, a film due out later this year. Depressing! Depressing! Depressing!

The Holocaust certainly doesn't lack depressing stories. Many of these also feature great heroes of all nationalities, but even in the face of heroism there is loss and death in these tales.

The film The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher) is a Austrian film that took home the Oscar for best foreign language film at the 2008 Academy Awards ceremony.

If you have seen this film, it is very interesting in that while it portrays the horrible reality of concentration camp life and some of the individual and national pains associated with the Holocaust, the film's principal character Salomon 'Sally' Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is a fictional counterfeiter who leads the real Operation Bernard, an attempt to counterfeit the British pound and American dollar.

This character is a challenging one, because amidst all the brutality, fear, sorrow, and death, Sally is more interested in preserving his own life, although at the same time not compromising the other men on the project who are less-then-helpful.

Sally is not your typical hero or sympathetic lead. I watched the film and while finding some parts interesting, I had a hard time classifying this film in the "depressing but must see" category.

When I think about other Holocaust related projects that are in the works I wonder about what value future projects have. Do we need to keep on telling the stories? What stories haven't been told that need to be told again, or told better? Do efforts at being original, or tell stories differently compromise the events or make them commonplace?

I'm not sure, but I wonder.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Reel People: Haley Joel Osment is Helmuth Hübener

The film is Truth & Treason, filmed in Berlin, Germany by director Matt Whitaker who wrote and directed the documentary about Helmuth Hübener in 2002 called Truth & Conviction.

Helmuth Hübener

Helmuth was born on January 8, 1925 in Hamburg, Germany. Helmuth's family were members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and through school was well informed of Nazi politics, specifically after his Boy Scout group was compromised and became a different program called Hitler Youth.

In 1941, Hübener finished middle school and started an apprenticeship at the Hamburg Social Authority, during this time he was able to gain access to BBC radio, where he received an idea of the British perspective of WWII, Adolf Hitler, and Nazi Germany. This behavior was obviously forbidden.

Hübener, previously had some uncomfortable feelings with events going on, became very disconcerted upon hearing the British news source. In the Summer of 1941, Hübener began publishing anti-war leaflets. He would make copies of these and distribute them discreetly.

Hübener began involving a few of his friends in his listening of the BBC news and pamphlet creation/distribution. These friends were the similarly aged, Karl-Heinz Schnibbe, Rudolf Wobbe, and later Gerhard Düwer . Karl-Heinz Schnibbe had joined the Hitler Youth against the opinion of his father at the age of 12 in 1936, but became disassociated with the group and was later expelled when he punched his leader in the face.

Schnibbe and Wobbe had a commitment to the cause, and the three boys made a pact that if any of them were caught they would take full responsibility of the work in order to protect the other two. They distributed the pamplets throughout Hamberg, and the gestapo began to try to investigate who wrote the pamphlets.

On February 5, 1942 Hübener was arrested by the Gestapo who was translating pamphlets one of the 60 pamphlets to French to inform prisoner's of war. At this time, the LDS church day's later excommunicated him and he was tortured for information by the gestapo for months.

After torture and investigation Hübener case was tried by Volksgerichtshof (The People's Court) on August 11, 1942 were he was convicted of conspiracy to commit high treason and furthering the enemies cause. A few months later October 27, 1942 Hübener was executed by being beheaded in a Berlin prison.

Helmuth Hübener was the youngest opponent of the the Third Reich to be sentences to death and executed.

Truth & Treason

In the film Haley Joel Osment will play this young and brave Third Reich opponent. The Oscar nominee will co-star in the film with the Swedish Oscar nominee Max von Sydow.

Jamie King will play the part of Karl-Heinz Schnibbe.

Will Haley Joel Osment prove he is still a serious actor with this challenging and serious role of Hübener. Could this portrayal even earn him critical attention and even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Martin Scorsese Directing Best Actor and Actress Winners?

Not to long ago, StrangeCulture featured a discussion on how Steven Spielberg has never directed one of his performers to an Oscar nomination.

The situation is different for Martin Scorsese. He has lead 20 actors to get nominated, and of those 5 have gone on to win Oscar...twenty-five percent, certainly not bad.

Not only that, even though I consider Martin Scorsese a director who has male-dominated cast, he has so far exactly 10 acting nominations for men, 10 acting nominations for women.

I keep all of this in mind for thinking about what we might expect from Scorsese's 2009 film Shutter Island based Dennis Lehane's novel.

Obviously often the possibility for a nomination can come from how heavy the competition is, and general perception of recent performances, and not just the role itself, but I thought I would rank the likely of Oscar nominations from Shutter Island based on the role and the actor portraying the character. Obviously, I have not yet seen the film

Shutter Island Performances: Ordered Likeliness of Nominations

1. Leonardo DiCaprio, Lead Actor, Teddy Daniels
2. Michelle Williams, Supporting Actress, Dolores Chanal
3. Mark Ruffalo, Supporting Actor, Chuck Aule
4. Ben Kingsley, Supporting Actor, Dr. John Cawley
5. Jackie Earle Haley, Supporting Actor, George Noyce

Scorsese Oscar Winners and Nominees

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Lead Actress - Ellen Burstyn (won)
Supporting Actress - Diane Ladd (nomination)

Taxi Drive
Supporting Actress - Jodie Foster (nomination)
Lead Actor - Robert De Niro (nomination)

Raging Bull
Lead Actor - Robert De Niro (won)
Supporting Actress - Cathy Moriarty (nomination)
Supporting Actor - Joe Pesci (nomination)

The Color of Money
Lead Actor - Paul Newman (won)
Supporting Actress - Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (nomination)

Supporting Actor - Joe Pesci (won)
Supporting Actress - Lorraine Bracco (nomination)

Cape Fear
Lead Actor - Robert De Niro (nomination)
Supporting Actress - Juliette Lewis (nomination)

The Age of Innocence
Supporting Actress - Winona Rider (nomination)

Lead Actress - Sharon Stone (nomination)

Gangs of New York
Lead Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis (nomination)

Supporting Actress - Cate Blanchett (won)
Lead Actor - Leonardo DiCaprio (nomination)
Supporting Actor - Alan Alda (nomination)

The Departed
Supporting Actor - Mark Whalberg (nomination)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

10 Favorite Things on My Life in France by Julia Child

In writing about the life of Julia Child as part of the Reel (Real) People series in association with the upcoming film Julie & Julia, I became surprisingly interested and fascinated with Julia Child's life.

As a result, I got my hand on her posthumous biography My Life in France, and thought I would lay out my 10 Favorite things about this book.

My 10 Favorite Things about My Life in France

1. The historical story that is nestled into this book is fascinating. It's certainly interesting to see how America's foreign policy following WWII changes and adapts through the administrations of Harry S Truman and Eisenhower through the eyes of Paul and Julia Child. Paul Child's diplomatic role in furthering a presentation of American culture and art through ECA (Economic Cooperation Administration) is interesting as a direct arm of the Marshall plan, yet the lack of promotional opportunities for Paul, the increased emphasis on military expansion, as well as the growing fear that was associated with McCarthyism in the United States really was shown through the life of Paul and Julia and their experiences in Europe as American citizens, especially when Paul gets a surprise trip to Washington DC were he is interrogated.

2. I was pleasantly interested in the character/person in the book names Judith Jones. Jones, the editor who is credited with the decision to publish the Diary of Anne Frank for Double Day, despite the initial decision not the publish the manuscript. Judith's own unique experience in France, in which a trip was extended, almost by fate, allowed her to connect with the French culture, a husband, and a new job, going to work for Alfred A. Knopf. At Knopf, Jones became a powerful voice and advocate for Julia Child's work, as well as helped change the title of "French Cooking for the American Woman" to "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." I think a Judith Jones biopic could be really fascinating.

3. I thought it was fun that Julia and Paul went to Cannes Film festival,mainly as an extension of Paul's professional role with the government. Julia was able to see two films at Cannes, the Disney short (and Oscar winning short) Water Birds which she seemed to like a great deal, and the Hitchcock thriller I Confess staring Montgomery Cliff which she felt "fell flat."

4. It's crazy to think that Julia Child didn't get her first cookbook until her 37th birthday as a gift from Paul. Julia's previous life experience prior to there move to France was certainly far from flat, and yet here in the middle of her life Julia develops a new hobby/passion that changes her life's role and legacy. Julia's ability to adapt, work hard, and never feel sorry for self holds a powerful message for our opportunity to succeed at any stage of our life.

5. Paul's encouragement of Julia is in itself an inspirational message of this story. Paul does not discourage Julia, or tell her that her dreams are too big, her hobby to expensive, or her interest to bizarre. Rather he encourages her passion, even when other American foreign service workers and French citizens might have criticized Julia for taking on domestic hobbies that housekeepers could have easily performed.

6. The relationship Julia has with her co-authors of Mastering the Art of French cooking is really interesting. It is clear that the personalities, styles, and life purposes of Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia are all very different. Originally Beck and Bertholle are the one's who are working on the project, but as the project takes many years to complete, Julia's role continues to increase in the project. It's hard to tell from the biography exactly how Bertholle and Beck feel about Julia's role in certain steps of the project. It is clear that the book probably would have never happened, or been nearly as publicized or successful with out Julia's role in the book, but the relationship with these three women is a long and arduous journey that Julia is honest to lead the readers through.

7. The book is co-authorized by Alex Prud'homme, the grandson of Paul's twin brother Charlie. The interviews for the book were conducted in the last eight months of Julia's life, and then published in 2006. I am so glad that Alex took the time to conduct these interviews. It is clear from the book that both Paul and Julia wrote so many letters during their time in Europe, as that was their primary method of staying in touch with their families and friends. You can tell that these letters provided a great window of capturing Paul and Julia's true experiences and attitudes.

8. Julia is obsessive. Her dedication to excellence is amazing. Her commitment to convert French recipes to American recipes with American measurements and American ingredients is so commendable. To hear how many different pie crust she made (sampled warm and cooled) to get the butter measurements just right, or to read about her time with Nestles' Chocolate scientist to try to understand why American chocolate and French chocolate was different, or her studies in fish (comparing American-available fish versus French-available fish and their different names), or to read about the great lengths she went to make a home oven French bread recipe is truly impressive. A passion and dedication to excellence is something that in the long-run is what I believe allowed Julia to, in time, distinguish herself from other cookbook authors.

9. The French Chef cooking program is so interesting to read about. You can tell Julia loved her cooking program. It's interesting to read about, because you realize how far ahead of the curve Julia was with her television cooking program. What she was doing hadn't been done before, and especially in that scale. Julia's dedication to tape these shows in a single take (with significant practice before each taping) is very interesting. Her willingness to make mistakes on air is interesting and honest. It is also interesting how she kept the success of these programs a secret from her co-authors, which only became a problem when her American celebrity status rose and her co-authors were partially excluded from the visits of American magazines like McCalls, Time, and Vogue.

10. In the original book deals with different publishers prior to Avis Devoto's huge help and support of Julia, it is interesting to hear the resounding reason other publishers were not interesting in Julia's book. The primary reason is because of the belief that the American woman wanted something simple, with short cuts, boxed mixes, and convenience foods. In many ways, these publishers felt like Julia and her co-authors were late to the game, with the assumption that people were not interested in cooking something that might be complicated, or might require special technique or utensils. In many ways, this was part of the intentions of the three-authors work, preserving the art of French food and to take a French tradition of certain foods and allow them to have fool-proof recipes that anyone, with minimal training could make with success. I think it's interesting how it turned out that the small minority of people who the publishers believed might be interested, ended up being a much larger group then expected.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reel People: Christopher Plummer is Leo Tolstoy

The film is The Last Station directed and adapted by Michael Hoffman and based on the novel with the same name by Jay Parini.

Leo Tolstoy

Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born in 1828 Yasnaya Polyana in what was then the Russian empire (today it is still in the European portion of Russia, near Tula, Russia). Tolstay came from a wealthy background. He was the fourth of five children.

His mother, Countess Maria Volkonsky, died in childbirth with her fifth child, daughter Mariya, in 1830. Leo Tolstoy's father died in 1837 when he was 9. Leo and his siblings were then raised by relatives, who were able to continue raising the children in the luxurious and cultural history of Russian nobility, surrounded by literature, art, social functions, and a variety of activities. At the same time it certainly was difficult on the children, especially as shortly after the death of the father they also saw their grandmother pass and then in 1941 their guardian "Aunt Aline" also die.

In 1844 Leo went to study law and oriental languages at Kazan State University, where he was relatively unsuccessful, he left school, returned to Yasnaya Polyana, traveled to Moscow and St. Petersberg regularly, and collected some hefty gambling debts.

Leo greatly admired his oldest brother, Nikolay (Koko) and followed him in joining the Russian army in 1851. It was during this time that Leo Tolstoy began writing.

Tolstoy's first works were autobiographical novels that chronicle growing up in Russia and learning about the differences between nobility and peasants. Tolstoy later discredited these three books (Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth) as sentimental.

Tolstoy served in the Crimean war (1853-1856, between Russia and France/United Kingdom/Ottoman Empire/Sardinia) as a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment. This role not only developed an attitude towards pacifism, but it also gave him horrific war experiences which he was able to use to create realistic and powerful scenes in later work.

Tolstoy continued to write, and his writing more and more began to demonstrate his thoughts on pacifism and Russia's war history.

Tolstoy's perspective on the world continues to change after he made a couple trips to Europe. In an 1857 trip to Paris, Tolstoy viewed a public execution, which was said to have horrified him and reinforced many of his changing ideas about pacifism, as well as his shifting religious beliefs that was leading him to a spiritual anarchist trying to reclaim a pacifistic message of the Bible.

A second trip in 1860 gave Tolstoy the opportunity to meet Victor Hugo who had recently completed Les Miserables. Their connection was said to greatly influence Tolstoy prior to his beginning of his greater literary masterpieces.

In 1862 at the age of 34 he married 19 year old Sofia "Sonya" Andreyevna Behrs, together they would have 12 children between 1863 and 1888. Tolstoy wanted Sonya to know him better before they were married and he had her read all of his diaries before marriage, although much of the content was unsettling to her.

Tolstoy began working on War And Peaceshortly after getting married. It was published in 6 volumes between 1863 and 1869. Often refereed to as the greatest novel ever written, with it's complex story with 580 characters, telling the story of five Russian families during the War of 1812 in the Napoleonic Era. Many people credit this work for changing literature, largely in it's wide use of themes and characters.

Despite the success of War And Peace, Tolstoy was said to be quite depressed and disheartened by the world and his life.

In 1875 Tolstoy's second masterpiece Anna Karenina began being published, before being published in it's entirety in 1878. During this time, his depression and self-doubt grew deeper, often suicidal. He was very critical of his own morality, his role as a husband and a father, and his motives in his work.
This depression and ideological frustration led to a variety of non-fiction essays and writing including A Confession (1882) and What I Believe (1884), The Gospel in Brief (1896) as well as other stories and short stories that criticized both the Russian government and the church.

Tolstoy's faith and Christianity became based largely on the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel books. Tolstoy also believed that people ought to abide by the Greatest Commandment, loving one's neighbor and God first. He encouraged people to be guided by the words of Jesus rather than the teaching of the church. All this, along with his beliefs in pacifism, and turning the other cheek were largely rooted in these teachings and created great controversy, including his eventual excommunication from the Russian Orthodox Church.

One of the most popular of over a hundred essays Tolstoy wrote was "On Anarchy," which did not encourage anarchist violence, but rather that the individual would live free of the restrictions of political and religious institutions in their efforts to improve the inner man.

Tolstoy also lived a rigorously restrictive life that swore off tobacco, alcohol, the eating of meat, as well as a lifestyle of chastity. Tolstoy developed a number of followers of his teaching, much of what became known as "Tolstoyism" to some.

A wealthy army officer, Vladimir Chertkov became Tolstoy's most deeply devoted follower and close friend and companion.

Despite all of Tolstoy's writing, thoughts, and new realization, he was still very discontented as he wrestled through his ideology, and what it meant for his past and present life, continually trying to reconcile feelings of guilt and life's value.

In 1910, at the age of 82, and days before his death, Tolstoy left his family, wealth, and personal possessions in an effort to wander, discover truth, and apply his beliefs actively in his life. His family did not support this decision as he was not in good health, and less than a month after he left he died of pneumonia at the Astapovo railway station in Russia.

The battle for Tolstoy's diaries and personal writing was a unpleasant battle between Tolstoy's follower Vladimir Chertkov and his wife Sonya. Eventually Chertkov was given access and served as editor to The Complete Works of Lev Tolstoy.

The Last Station

The last station is a German film about the end of Tolstoy's life.

Not only does the talented Christopher Plummer play Tolstoy, but there are other strong cast members in the other roles. Helen Mirren will play the part of Tolstoy's wife Sofia/Sonya/Sofya. Paul Giamatti plays the part of Tolstoy's greatest follower Vladimir Chertkov. James McAvoy plays Valentin Bulgakov, a secretary sent by Chertkov to work for Tolstoy, and McAvoy's wife Anne-Marie Duff will play the role of Tolstoy's daughter Sasha.

Plummer is a talented actor with an active career, but has never received an Academy Award nomination. Will Christopher Plummer's portrayal of Leo Tolstoy earn him critical attention and even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this
Real (Reel) Person?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Anticipated Film: Scorsese's Adaptation of Dennis Lahane's Shutter Island

The two Dennis Lehane film adaptions we've seen so far have been both impressive, enjoyable, and heavily emotional dramas.

Clint Eastwood's direction of Mystic River and Ben Affleck's direction of Gone Baby Gone were both exceptional, and retold these stories in powerfully cinematic ways.

It is this tradition that a third Dennis Lehane is adapted for the big screen, the film Shutter Island, based on Lehane's 2004 novel comes out this year.

I am excited that Martin Scorsese is directing (with his favorite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio staring), because I think that it would easy for a no-name no-skill director to ruin the intensity and poignancy of a Lehane novel.

I have high expectations for Shutter Island. I just finished reading the book, and found this island thriller to be an incredible exciting and interesting story.

It'll be interesting to see what tone and emphasis of the story Scorsese and screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis show in the screen version, as the stories emotional tone and presentation certainly has a variety of directions that could be taken.

Overall, I am excited for this film because it follows a cinematic tradition of high energy psychological thrillers, while packing the punch that comes with a high quality cast and crew.

The General Premise & Characters
(no spoilers in premise...promise)

Shutter Island takes place in the 1950s, as two marshalls, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, are sent to a unique island. The island houses Ashecliffe, a maximum security prison/mental hospital. The prison/hospital has a dual charter as a maximum security prison for mentally unstable patients who cannot be constrained and treated at a typical prison.

The federal marshalls, Teddy and Chuck arrive on the Island to help investigate and find a missing patient, Rachel Solando, who seems to mysteriously disappeared from her cell, although the facts presented by the warden and chief physician, Dr. John Cawley, seem to be anything but helpful to the federal marshalls. Especially as they search for a doctor who has recently left the island, and no information is provided to them on the status of the missing doctor, and it would appear that there is a massive cover up as to the where abouts of Rachel Solando.

Rachel has appeared to leave codes that the Teddy seems particularly adept at breaking.

It is early on, that these two marshalls develop a close relationship, and it becomes clear that Teddy's intentions in seeking out this particular mission is no coincidence, as he is looking for a man named Andrew Laeddis, a prison who Teddy believes to be on the Island. Teddy has reason to believe that Andrew Laeddis killed his wife Deloris and that he has recently been transferred to the prison/hospital and is held in the extra-high-security Ward C on the Island.

The Cast & Why There Casting Is Exciting

The two field marshalls Teddy and Chuck will be played Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. For some reason, I think I pictured these field marshalls a little older when I read the story, but I think they both will do a fabulous job. I loved Mark Ruffalo's performance in Zodiac, and think that this is a great encore performance, that will allow him to flex an acting muscle he doesn't get enough of a chance to flex. Leonardo DiCaprio will also do an exceptional role in the principal role. It certainly is an exciting, thrilling, and emotionally wide role that he should excel in.

The two creepy-less-than-helpful 1950s psychiatrist will be played by Max von Syndow and Ben Kingsley. I think they will both be exceptional in their performances as well. Syndow's role is probably too small for excessive recognition, but I think that Kingsley has a great opportunity to impress us again. Kingsley is a favorite actor of mine, and I think he is very well cast for this central role.

Emily Moritmer has impressed me as such a sensitive and soft spoken actress in Dear Frankie and Lars and The Real Girl, but in Shutter Island she plays Rachel Solando, the escaped prisoner credited with mental manipulation and horrific crimes, having killed her three children and maintained delusions that they are all still alive, and that life has continued as normal. Mortimer's sweet soft-spoken nature could potentially seem unsettling and uneasy, as supporting females in Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone made us feel.

Michelle Williams will be portray Teddy's wife, Deloris, who appears in flashback sequences. It is hard to say what type of role this will be in this film, as it really depends on how the screenwriter has written the film and what type of prominence he gives to the flash back sequences. But it could be a tiny but important role, or it could be a little more meaty, I don't think we can truly know without seeing the film or the screenplay.

James Earle Haley is cast in this film as a patient with some meaty scenes. Ted Levin, John Carrol Lynch, and Curtiss Cook play central warden's and staff who work at the facility.

Patricia Clarkson is billed in this cast, and I have a pretty good idea as to who she plays in this film, although I think a character name in billing is purposefully not provided. I have some ideas, but don't want to present plot spoilers here, if you're interested we could discuss my theories in the comments.

I think this film is exceptionally cast and should be one of the most exciting films of 2009.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Why Islands? - Some Thoughts

I've been surrounded by Islands in the media. My wife and I recently caught up on Lost Season 4, I read Duma Key, and Shutter Island (more thoughts on Shutter Island soon).

Lost, Duma Key, and Shutter Island all take place on fictional islands. Tonight the TV show Harper's Island (a 13 murder mystery miniseries) premiers on CBS.

The Island presents an excellent opportunity for thrilling controllable stories. Even if the island has some access with the outside world, the writer who writes these Island stories are able to not only create a new believable environment with out the restrictions of real land marks, laws, and local characteristics, but they are able to control who is on the Island, who gets off the Island, and who comes onto the Island.

A simple airplane crash, ferry boat, or vacation home can entice the characters to the Island, but a failed communication system, a hurricane, or a broken bridge can keep people on and off the Island.

In trying to think of other famous deserted and isolated island stories I think first of the most classic Island story of all...Lord of The Flies. Even Lord of the Flies has the horrific thriller elements that these other Island stories have.

Of course, not all island stories have to be horrific thrillers (Swiss Family Robinson, Castaway), but I think most have some sort of thriller element in them, even the children's film Nim's Island.

Other isolated Island films I can think of include: The Beach, Jurassic Park, Gilligan's Island, The Most Dangerous Game, even The Truman Show in a way. I'm sure you can think of many more.

In fact, when it comes to Island films, list 735 island films, and 201 island television shows (island as some part of the story line) Of those, you can notice trends common in Island stories that also might tell us some common themes in this setting: Beach (127), Beautiful Women (120), Blood (83), Boat (133), Doctor (63), Explosion (71), Father Daughter Relationship (71), Gun (55), Helicopter (61), Husband wife relationship (61), Kidnapping (65), Male Female Relationship (117), Monster (56), Nudity (67), Ocean (73), Pirate (54), Rescue (76), Revenge (51), Sex (82), Ship (104), Violence (71).

And if those common descriptions don't describe the typical Island movie, I don't know what does. Who else thought of Lost reading those words?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Amy Adams is Amelia Earhart Too!

As part of the Reel People series, I have added Hilary Swank's portrayl as Amelia Earhart to the list of bio-pic performances that could earn awards buzz in 2009.

The Swank/Earhart post was not the place to include the details, but there is actually another Amelia Earhart performance in 2009, and that is by Amy Adams. Adams portrays Earhart in Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian.

The movie is sequel the 2006 Ben Stiller film Night at the Museum, the movie will feature many...not neccesarily bio-pic performances, but maybe a better term is imitations.

Robin Williams is reprising his imitation of Teddy Roosevelt, Eugene Levy reprises his Einstein imitation, Patrick Gallagher as Atilla the Hun, and Mizuo Peck will again imitate Sacajawea.

I expect that Amy Adams performance will be central to the plot of the film, and I'm sure the performance will be incredible, although probably not one that picks of award season accalades.

(Battle at the Smithsonian will add new imitations of other air flight pioneers Wilber Wright and Orville Wright, as well as Tuskegee Airman. Only further leading me to believe the airplane premise is important to the film).

Other imitations in this film, not to be included in the reel (real) people feature sure to be entertaining include: Christopher Guest as Ivan the Terrible, Jon Bernthal as Al Capone, Nick Dash as Ulysses S Grant, Bill Hader as General Custer, and Alain Chabat as Napoleon.

Reel People: Hilary Swank is Amelia Earhart

The film is Amelia. It is directed by Mira Nair and directed by Ronald Bass (Oscar winning screenwriter of Rain Man).

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897, the eldest of two girl. Amelia ("Meeley) and her sister Grace ("Pidge") spent most of their childhood growing up with their wealthy grandparents in Kansas, while for much of her childhood her parents lived in Des Moines, Iowa. Amelia's father Edwin was initially an unsuccessful lawyer, who's chronic alcoholism lead him to lead an unsuccessful career working for various railroad companies.

She had an interest in trills and adventure at a young age. In 1904 she is credited with constructing her own ramp modeled off of a roller coaster she'd seen in Saint Louis. She made her own box car and positioned the ramp on the roof to which she experienced her first rough and tumble flight.

After some health problems of her grandparents, Amelia and her sister again lived with her parents while they moved around, specifically to Chicago. Socially she did not fit in and adapt to her new environment in Chicago, but did graduate from high school and quickly moved onto junior college in Pennsylvania in 1916. She did not finish her education, but instead began work as a nurse caring for wounded WWI patients in Toronto where her sister had moved.

In 1918 Earhart had to be hospitalized for about two months with the Spanish flu, and then spent about a year living with her sister, at this time in Massachusetts. Because this was a time before antibiotics, the damage the flu caused to Earhart's long-term health was substantial, especially after a minor surgery, and long-term sinus problems and headaches. She often had to have a drainage tube attached to her cheek.

In 1919 Amelia Earhart visited a Canadian National Exposition where she saw a flying ace, and instantly began developing an increased interest in flying herself.

Earhart returned to school at this time as well. She originally intended on going on to Smith College, but at the last moment switched and ended up attending Colombian University with a medical course study. She did not complete her schooling, instead she quit to go to California where her parents were then living.

In December of 1920, Earhart's father had arranged for a plane ride with the adventurous air racer Frank Hawks. After this flight she was determined to learn how to fly, and began working as many jobs as she could, saving up $1000 for flying lessons. In January 1921, Earhart had her first flying lesson in Long Beach, California with Anita "Neta" Snook Southern, a pioneer in aviation, and one of the first women to pilot a plane. Neta charged Amelia $1 in Liberty bonds per minute in the air. Neta did not consider Earhart her best student at first, but did enjoyed Amelia and continued to give her lessons.

Amelia kept at her lessons, as well as tried to have the style of a pilot, with her leather jacket and short hair. She also purchased her own plane, a second-hand Kinner Airster Biplane she named the Canary.

A couple years after she bought the plane, she sold it. 1924, her families financial assets and inheritance were dwindling, and Amelia also got very sick again and was hospitalized for continued sinus problems. Amelia's parents got a divorce, and Amelia drove with her mother on a road trip, that ended in Massachusetts, where Amelia ended up having another surgery.

She had hoped to finish up her degree at Columbia or MIT, but because the financial hardships, she ended up working instead as a teacher and a social worker, while continuing to do everything she could to be involved in the Aviation community in Massachusetts.

After Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight in 1927, there was interest in a woman doing the same, as a passenger. In 1928 Earhart was a well-publicised passenger, keeping a flight log in a 1928 transatlantic flight that was flown by Wilmer Stultz. Upon their return to America, Calvin Coolidge held a reception at the White House in their honor.

Press for Earhart increased dramatically, as she started to become known as "Lady Lindy" (after Charles Lindbergh) of "Queen of the Air." This opened up opportunities for Amelia to tour the country, and promote products like Lucky Strike Tobacco, and women's fashion, including her own line that was carried at Macy's.

Earhart also took advantage of this time to promote flying, as well as setting various records, like flying across North America and back, first for a female. She also began competitive racing with male aviators and became involved with the female aviation group The Ninety-Nines.

During this time Earhart also began to have relations with her promoter George Putnam, who was divorced by his first wife in 1929. Earhart had been previously engaged to Samuel Chapman, a chemical engineer in Boston, but broke it off in 1928, and eventually married Putnam in 1931. Earhart was very clear to Putnam that there relationship was not to be typical. For example, Amelia refused to be called Mrs. Putnam as the news papers tried to do, instead George Putnam was often refereed to as Mr. Earhart.

George and Amelia lived in New York, until after a fire destroyed much of their home they decided to move to North Hollywood, California were George would work as an editor for Paramount Pictures.

May 20, 1932 Amelia set out on her solo trans-Atlantic flight where she landed in North Ireland (despite her desire to end up in Paris). This opened up a whole new world of respect for Earhart, with significant press coverage, congressional honors, and new relationships, including a close relationship with Elanor Roosevelt.

Earhart set many other records, including the first solo flight from Hawaii to California. She also set a number of speed and distant records.

In 1935 Earhart had a faculty position at Purdue University in Indiana, focusing on careers for women. She also was an advisor for Department of Aeronautics.

in 1936 Purdue financed a Lockheed L-10E Electra for Earhart, and Earhart began planning a 27000 mile around the world flight. The first attempt March 17, 1937 failed due to technical problems that resulted in canceling the attempt.

Earhart made a second attempt, this time beginning the flight in Miami, Florida. Fred Noonan, a flight navigator was Earhart's only crew member on this second attempt. They left June 1, 1937. By June 29 they had completed 22000 miles of the journey and were in Lae, New Guinea with only 7000 miles left to travel over the Pacific Ocean.

Earhart and Noonan were supposed to land on a small island called Howland Island in the Pacific to refuel. Transmission was received from Noonan and Earhart by the coast guard, but there was problems in the transmissions and they could not find the coast guard ship. Transmission signals and radio communication was lost.

An hour after the signal was lost, the coast guard began searching for Earhart, Noonan, and the plane in the proximity of Howland Island. Official search efforts lasted until July 19, 1937. The United States government spent $4 million dollars in the search and found nothing. After the official search George Putnam began his own private search, but still found nothing. It wasn't until January 5, 1939 that Earhart was determined deceased, although no traces of her or the plane have been found. There is much speculation, but no definitive answers as to what exactly happened to Amelia Earhart and how she died.


Mira Nair's biopic of Amelia Earhart's life focuses on her rise in popularity and love relationship with George Putnam. Hilary Swank will be playing Amelia Earhart and Richard Gere will be playing her husband George Putnam. Other notable cast members include Virginia Madsen who will be playing Putnam's first wife Dorothy Binney, Christopher Eccleston will be playing Fred Noonan, and Ewan McGregor will be playing Gene Vidal one of Earhart's romantic interest.

Both times Hilary Swank was nominated for an Oscar she has won, in her performances that have been considered "the roles of a lifetime." Will Swank's portrayal of Amelia Earhart be a 3rd "role of a lifetime" earning her critical attention and even an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Kosher Salt - Yum!

I've recently been reading Alton Brown's book I'm Just Here for the Food: Food + Heat = Cooking.

His book inspired me to pick up some kosher salt. I've never really messed with kosher salt and generally have tried to be conservative with my salt application.

I picked up a huge three pound box of kosher salt for under $2, and don't know how I cooked without it so long.

Kosher salt is different then regular table salt in that it's size is irregular, this allows you to have the opportunity to sprinkle the salt on the food, particularly meat, during cooking, especially in the earliest stage of cooking.

Alton Brown says in his book "I can always tell when food has been sprinkled with table salt because salt is the first thing I taste. Kosher salt works more behind the scenes and is therefore (to my tongue at least) a more effective seasoning."

I have to agree. Alton also points out that even though the crystals are larger, the crystals are fine, so when the crystals hit moist surfaces, they dissolve quickly.

Kosher salt is different from table salt in the size and irregular texture, and surprisingly I feel like it cooks differently in food. I would never recommend using it in your chocolate chip cookies, but it's great with vegetables and meats.

Get yourself a box, it's so good, it's affordable, and it's yum.