A brief update

Have you seen this photo going around?

It came across my Instagram feed a couple of days ago and I saved it to one of my collections. And then I must have forgotten I’d saved it, because yesterday it appeared in my feed from a different account and I saved it again.

So I suppose this maxim spoke to me. Twice.

It’s a good reminder to me that I will come through on the other side of what I’m currently experiencing, and that perhaps I’ll be able to help someone else.

Yesterday as we filed out for a fire drill, a student said to me, “Ms. Rowse, I miss your six word stories!”

For the past two years, I’ve written a six word story for every school day. These stories force me to be present while teaching, as I look for possible stories to create. They force me to practice brevity and pointed language since I limit myself to six words. And they force me into a daily writing habit, even if it’s only six words.

But I started this school year in significant personal tumult, and while I wear a pretty good Happy Mask, it’s hard for me to see much joy, let alone create anything resembling quality writing.

But the photo above reminds me the tumult is temporary, and before long joy will start to break through.

Like the student, who on the first day of school walked into my classroom and said, “I wanted to take another class with you so I signed up for this one!” Or watching my editors teach a young newspaper staff how to be good reporters. Or getting grateful emails from colleagues.

Or a student who tells me she misses my six word stories.

So do I, kiddo. I promise I’ll start writing them again soon.

Mildred Pierce (1945)

Plot: Monte Beragon has been shot dead in his home, and the police pull in his wife, Mildred Pierce-Beragon for questioning. Because, you know, it’s always the spouse, right? During questioning, Mildred recounts her life story: from a stay-at-home mother who loves her children, to a single working mother, to a successful businesswoman.

Best moment: OH. MY. GOSH. That ending. I did not see that end coming. I mean, I suspected it a little, but seeing as this was 1945 I did NOT think they were going to go there. Also, the film was directed by Michael Curtiz, who is becoming my favorite director (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy), so every frame and his use of light and shadow is just *chef’s kiss*.

Worst moment: VEDA. All of her moments. Though I will say I’m adding this film to the list of resources I pull when people lament about “kids these days are the worst” or “moral decay has never been what it is now.” To those people I say, “Really? You should watch Mildred Pierce and then get back to me. I’ll wait.” Though I will say this about the writing–we’re never really given a good reason for why Veda is so awful. And maybe to a 2019 audience, we don’t need a reason; after all, Veda just reminded me of any number of teen Instagram influencers so it wasn’t a stretch for me to buy her “I’m so embarrassed that you work in the food industry” criticism of her mother as the sole reason she was so mean.

Trailer screenshot [Public domain]

Fun facts: Joan Crawford was not Curtiz’s first (or second, or third) choice for the title role, but she was really quite good. HBO did a miniseries starring Kate Winslet (the film was based on a book) so now I want to check that out.

Recommendation: See it. I see movies by myself all the time, and I’m never bothered by not having someone around to react with. But I kinda wish someone had watched this with me, because at least three times I said “WHAT?” out loud. That doesn’t happen often. Also, it held my attention, probably because so many of the characters were flat-out unlikeable and I wanted to see if that changed at all.

Anchors Aweigh (1945)

Plot: Joe Brady (Gene Kelly) and Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) have been granted four days’ leave in the wake of receiving the Silver Medal. Joe is wanting to find his portside girl Lola, and Clarence just wants to find any girl. They get delayed thanks to a six year-old who wants to join the Navy, and they meet Aunt Susie. Clarence is immediately enamored with Aunt Susie, while Joe is annoyed as he wants to see Lola. Who will Aunt Susie end up with? Will the two midshipmen ever stop calling her Aunt Susie? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Best Moment: Well, shoot, I think I have to say every time Gene Kelly dances. He’s just. so. good.

Worst Moment: Maybe the song Joe and Clarence sing about hooking up with girls that they didn’t actually hook up with? The song is a little bit yikes, but here’s where I really saw just how good a dancer Kelly is–Sinatra could not keep up, try as he might.

Fun Facts: If you’ve seen stills or clips of Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry Mouse, it’s from this film. There’s also a great scene at the Hollywood Bowl of a dozen pianists playing Franz Lizst’s Hungarian Rhapsody #2.

The film was released in between V-E day and V-J day, and as I watched, I couldn’t help but think this film was somewhat of a collective exhale of entertainment. There’s no ulterior war-supporting subtext, just singing and dancing and piano playing and falling in love.

Recommendation: It really is just nice fluffy escapist fare with some fantastic costuming (I want ALL of Aunt Susie’s dresses) and the sequence with Jerry Mouse is quite adorable. If you’re into that, see it.

Oh, and there’s Frank Sinatra singing this song, which is just a little on the nose for my life, tbh.

A Call To Action.

Today after school, a conversation took place in our lab that shook me to the point of speechlessness. I don’t want to give specifics out of respect to those involved, but I feel compelled to call upon all adults as a result.

We must pay closer attention to how we talk about our faces and our bodies to others.

We must pay closer attention to how to how we think about our own faces and our bodies.

We must call out photoshopped faces bodies when we see them, tell the young people in our lives that those images are not real, that people do not look like that.

We must explain the often unsustainable regimens actors endure for superhero films.

We must call attention to the strengths of children and teens in our lives that have nothing to do with their appearance: talents, abilities, personality traits.

We must call attention to what the children and teens in our lives can do with their bodies: dance, help, comfort.

We must explore ways to help children and teens internalize that their faces and bodies have beautiful elements despite what Instagram influencers are subtly telling them. Seek out those challenging beauty norms, like Lindsay and Lexie Kite.

Teach young people how to challenge, challenge, challenge every image they see.

And we need to do this for all young people, regardless of gender.

Young people need us to show up in ways we might not have imagined, because the world they are living in resembles nothing we may have imagined when we were younger. We might think we don’t need to be specific with some of the things we say and do; we might think our young people just “get it.”

But I’m at a point now where I don’t want to assume they do. We should err on the side of being too obvious, rather than risk that assumption.

Gaslight (1944)

Hey, remember this project?

I didn’t forget about it. Let’s see, how can I phrase this…I like the way my friend Amy put it: the “crazy year winds down (really ramps up until it crashes into the wall and we are left to recover). “

I’m close to recovering.

Anyway. I admit I delayed watching “Gaslight” because I knew what it was about, and I knew I had to be in a certain frame of mind to watch it. Today I just ripped off that Band-Aid, and, well, here’s some thoughts.

Wikimedia Commons

Plot: We first see Paula dressed in mourner’s clothes, being shuttled off to a different country after her aunt’s murder. Then we see her years later, an aspiring (but failing) singer in love with her accompanist. The accompanist, Gregory, convinces her to marry him and have the two of them move back into her aunt’s house. He then systematically convinces her she is losing her sanity, for reasons I do not want to spoil because YOU SHOULD SEE THIS MOVIE.

Best Moment: When the tables turn and Paula uses his tactics against him to make a point.

Worst Moment: Anytime Gregory speaks to Paula after moving into her aunt’s house. Though probably the worst-worst moment is when he manipulates her right into a mental collapse at a concert.

Fun Facts: As I watched this, I wondered if my ex had seen this movie and taken notes, because he certainly deployed the same tactics to keep me in his life for as long as he did. I also wondered if I’d seen this movie before dating him, maybe I would’ve been inoculated against those tactics.

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and Ingrid Bergman won for Best Actress–quite deserved. And wow, the talent she was up against that year: Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Greer Garson, and Barbara Stanwyck (for “Double Indemnity,” which is equally amazing). She also won the Golden Globe for Best Actress that year.

Recommendation: According to Wikipedia, “gaslighting” (which is more in today’s collective lexicon than it was 25 years ago), derives from this film and the 1938 play it was based on. For that reason alone, this is a must-see. Plus, Ingrid Bergman really slays this role.