Sunday, December 14, 2014

Classic SESAME STREET: Bert and Ernie's "The Gift of the Magi"

Good googeley moogely... it's been ages since I posted any Sesame Street clips!!  I think maybe at least two years, maybe longer than that.  How in the world did I overlook such timeless material?  Shame on me!

Time to make up for it.  And boy howdy, do I get to make up for it...

I was waaaay young when this aired but I vividly remember it.  It was part of a Sesame Street Christmas special from... I think it was 1980?  The other part of it that's still in my head is Big Bird sitting on top of the apartment building waiting for Santa, and wondering how in the world would the big guy get into those tiny little chimneys.

But this is the real highlight of the show: Bert and Ernie in an adaptation of O. Henry's classic holiday tale "The Gift of the Magi", as only Bert and Ernie can.  And poignantly, it also features Mr. Hooper.  Played by Will Lee, who sadly passed away later on in 1982 and subsequently became the subject of a very moving episode where Big Bird tries to come to grips with Hooper's death.

So here it is: Bert and Ernie and Mr. Hooper, reminding us that the beauty of Christmas is not in the getting, but in the giving.  I present to you, dear readers, with a most wonderful take on "The Gift of the Magi":

Friday, December 12, 2014

The book: Moving ahead...

It was three weeks ago today that Dad passed away.  I'm still in a great state of grief, more than that even, about it.  There's a real shock that comes with seeing someone so close to you suddenly leaving you like that.  But I still believe that there was something of God's hand in how things played out.  If the circumstances had been slightly different in any of a thousand different ways, my family would not have had those sixteen days to be with him.  In the end, if God had to take him after so long a bountiful, fulfilling and loving life, it came about in what I can only call the best of all possible outcomes.

That said, I still grieve.  There is no small measure of confusion about certain matters.  And I would be remiss if I did not mention that there have been a number of times during these past three weeks that clinical depression has hit and coincided with that profound sadness.  I was going to visit a church this past Sunday morning but couldn't muster myself to get out of bed, much less be aroused to shave and shower.  That did eventually come, but by then it was too late to attend a service.

I don't think these things are really avoidable.  They're part of the process, and it can't be rushed through.  I don't think God intended them to be rushed through.  This is pain, and it cannot be averted.  But it will pass, and I know that Dad would want me to move on with my life and take everything good that he gave me with me along the journey.

It hasn't happened yet, not enough that I can really do it, but I'm coming to a place where I can begin work again on the book.  Maybe next week it will happen.  I haven't written anything serious for it since a few days before Halloween, five days before Dad had his stroke.  He had told me to take a break for awhile.  Here it is more than a month and a half later and the only thing I've done in the intervening period is re-write the prologue in a different tense and compose one very brief "interlude" meant for between the chapters.  And I did those mostly to get my mind off of things, for however brief a time I had.

Next week, I'm going to start tackling this again.  I'm pretty sure of it.

Like I said, this is a process and it can't be hurried through for my own sake.  But I do see the signs of healing.  The sessions with my counselor have become weekly, and in them I see markers along the way.  I have been learning some Christmas songs during my dulcimer lessons.  Last week I was asked to help backstage with the local theatre guild's production of It's A Wonderful Life: The Musical.  Tonight is opening night, and it has been a good thing for me to be around such a great bunch of people and working with them to pull off such an amazing production.  It has been a good thing for me to be around people in general, rather than cooped-up with nothing but my dog and the depression.  Okay, Tammy has been a great presence in my life during all this time and she's definitely someone who has shown me an amazing amount of love and understanding but, well... it helps to hear a real human voice too, ya understand...

This isn't going to be much of a Christmas season for me.  I think that's okay.  I was becoming too burned-out on Christmas becoming so over-commercialized anyway.  The previous six weeks have left my entire family exhausted, truth be told.  We are going to have a small get-together on Christmas morning and I will be watching the Doctor Who Christmas special that night and that will be it.  No giving gifts and I ask to not be given any.  All I ask of my friends and family is to hold each other close and thank God for being in each others' lives and be grateful for having things better than any of us could possibly deserve.  I won't be celebrating Christmas, for the most part.  And right now, that's fine.

This is a process.  Like life itself.  It hurts to go through this right now, but I am trusting God that this will be something that in the end will make me a stronger person.  I see it already.  And I believe that eventually I will see that this period of my life will have been not only for my own benefit, but for that of those close to me and for the sake of things like the book.

Speaking of which: my book now has a new title.

The idea for it hit me during the past few days, I think maybe Tuesday morning.  At first I thought it was too... I dunno... small, perhaps?  But the more I thought about it the more I realized that there is not only power in its brevity, but that it encapsulates a tremendous deal about the nature of bipolar disorder.  It also reflects a passage from the Bible that was invoked during Dad's funeral service: something pertaining to the nature of his handiwork.

I think it's the perfect title.  And I think Dad would like it too.

Dad wouldn't want me to linger in grief.  He would want me to move forward.  To "always think positive" as he was fond of saying often.  I still have hopes of marrying and having children, maybe someday I will get to see many a Christmas through their eyes.  If I can finish writing this book, perhaps there will be more.  My bipolar is becoming more manageable, I can see it held at bay by the medications and the counseling more than ever.

Dad got to see that, before he left us.  I like to believe that even if he didn't see it happen, that he knew that I would be okay.  That he got to see me come to the place where God has been leading me toward for all of this time.

And now it's time to honor him by living my life to its fullest as it's never been possible to do before.

Starting with finishing writing my book.

You voted Republican last month? Why?

I'm going to say something right now, and I don't care if it offends ANY body.  If it happens to offend you, good: maybe you NEED offending to open your eyes...

There is NO difference at all between the Democrat and Republican parties and anyone who puts the SLIGHTEST amount of trust in one party or the other... and I'm going to single out those who support the Republican party especially... are worse than fools and idiots.

For the past few days I've watched the Republicans, AKA the party that was just elected to "fix things" in the House and Senate, PISS AWAY their alleged ideals and principles by caving-in to Obama and everything he's demanded, especially in the way of the "amnesty" for the ILLEGAL aliens who have BROKEN THE LAW and are STILL breaking the law in being here.

The elections last month mean NOTHING.  Think I'm wrong?  Watch the incoming class of freshman representatives: by and large they already support John Boehner: by far the most useless Speaker of the House in American history.  He has foiled efforts to reign-in the government at every turn.  In a sane country there would have been a vote of no-confidence in this a$$hole's "leadership".  And now the "conservative" leaders of the Republican party have given their alleged enemy Obama all the money he needs to fund shamnesty.  Boehner and his fellow "Republicans" have done NOTHING to end Obamacare.  And they never will.

To those of you who voted for the Republican party last month and seriously, seriously thought you were doing something to change the country for the better: what ARE you smoking?

You aren't doing a damn thing to turn around America by still voting for the Republican party.  Or for the Democrat party.  Or for ANY party.  We are in this mess because too many people... and yes some of YOU reading this... haven't engaged the brains that GOD Himself gave you and trusted you to use.  You thought that you could let a party of all things think for you... and this is where it has brought us.

You thought that voting Republican was your "Christian duty"?!  People who are that way are worse than useless.  De-friend me on Facebook if that honks you off too much.  I'm dealing with realities, not illusions.  There is no escaping from realities.

The reality is, too many of us have put faith in a thing of man, and not put a faith in God.  And then claimed that they are serving God by supporting something so corrupt as temporal politics.

Tonight I saw the "conservative" Republicans let this nation slide even further into turmoil and decay.  All that they care about is their position, is their power.  The elections last month mean nothing now and they will mean even less a few months from now.

This country is run by idiots who really think that they're doing something meaningful by throwing their trust and faith behind political parties who do nothing but sell out the American people at every step of the way.

God help us.

In so many words: we have been BETRAYED.  And we will consistently be betrayed, by those who are supposedly appointed to serve us.  By those who ASKED to serve us in the first place.

If THAT doesn't piss you off more than all of what I've written above, then you have significant issues as an American citizen.

Yeah, stop visiting this blog if you like.  Deem me your enemy if you wish.  I would rather that you not. But I also happen to appreciate more the company of those who refuse attempting to exist without the responsibilities of conscience.

And unfortunately, it seems there are too damn few of us left.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Memorial video for Dad

On the night after Dad's passing, Anita (my sister), my aunt and uncle and I went through a ton of old photographs to use in the video that the funeral home would put together for the tribute that would play during visitation on the following night. Wilkerson Funeral did a very solid job in doing so and I wanted to share it on my blog.

I don't want to say which one, but there is one photo in here that seriously broke my heart to include. It was Dad's favorite photograph. It hung on the wall of his knife shop. Heck, it was the knife shop, the heart and soul of it. We knew we wanted it in the video, but it honestly hurt me to take it down on the morning before the visitation that night. It was like taking out the last lingering vestige of Dad's presence from his beloved shop.

Sometime soon, I'm going to have that photo framed and place it back where it belongs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The FORCERY Four, together again!

I don't know how else to put it, but there are some things that happened at Dad's funeral that despite the occasion were an amazing delight.  And I truly believe that Dad would have had no small measure of pride if he could somehow know that this celebration of his life brought so many wonderful people together to celebrate not only his own life, but also of the most precious things in all our lives.

During the service I spoke a few words about Dad and since the other ministers were sharing stories from his life, I did likewise and related some tales of how forgiving and relenting - even if he didn't understand what the heck I was doing - of the many stunts that I pulled during the life that we shared.  One of them was during the filming of Forcery: my first (and Lord willing still the first of many more to come) film project.  So there was Dad watching as we did things like setting fire to the living room floor of his house, having sledgehammers flying all over the place, "breaking" my best friend's legs etc.  Dad saw this one day and he started to leave.

"Are you headed out Dad?" I asked him.

"Uh-huh, way out," was his reply.  That got a good laugh from the very many who came to the service.

Well, as it turned out, Dad's funeral turned out to be the occasion of a reunion of sorts.  Because among those who came were Chad Austin, Ed Woody, and though it was a long drive for them Melody Hallman Daniel and her mother attended... and boy was my heart jumping for joy to see each of them!  Ten years ago we were all making Forcery.  And as things would have it, we wound up all together once again.

It hadn't been planned, but I really believe that it was something God let happen: the reunion of the Forcery Four.

So here - from left to right - are Ed, myself, Chad, and Melody (with her service dog Sasha) ten years later, just after Dad's funeral:

We don't look all that different than we did when we were making that movie, do we? :-)

And here they are, the stars of our show: Chad and Melody, AKA George Lucas and Frannie Filks:

For such a low-budget project, it is absolutely amazing where our little film has gone and has accomplished since then.  Melody shared how many of her former drama students and fellow faculty members come up to her to tell her they saw her in the Forcery footage that was featured in The People vs. George Lucas.  Chad and Melody were seen on the screens at Cannes.  Forcery was mentioned in Time and The Village Voice and a lot of other publications, and made a whole bunch of bigtime filmmaking-related websites.

I won't say that I myself am proud of Forcery.  Instead, I will say that I am proud of what we accomplished together.  We didn't become only friends because of Forcery: the four of us and others became a real family.  Chad and Ed, have long been my brothers.  Melody became as beloved to me as any sister.  And all of them brought amazing consolation to me when I needed it most.

That is what makes Forcery so special in my life... and it always will be.

But it better not be another ten years before we come together again!  We've already planned to reunite again and watch Forcery once more.  No doubt next time we will have even more family to share it with :-)

EDIT 11-27-2014 3 a.m. EST:  After attempting it multiple times and failing, I finally got Forcery, the entire movie, to upload as a single YouTube video!  No more having to jump to parts.  Here it is.  Enjoy!