Not Your Father’s Disney

August 13, 2018 – Think you’re the ultimate theme park connoisseur?

If you’ve been to Disney more than 10 times you probably are. You may also want to seek help for your addiction and admit it’s time to broaden your horizons before you plan your next theme park excursion.

Why not consider one of these 10 Bizarre Theme Parks from Around the World courtesy of listverse.com, the people who love compiling lists as much as I do.

It may be too late to plan your summer vacation to one of these oddly fascinating theme parks this year, but look at the bright side. You’ll have plenty of time to plan next year’s trip. Between the 10 stages of hell, Vlad the Impaler, a crucifixion, and war mongering, there is something for the entire family.

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Intolerance

August 6, 2018 – Flipping through television channels one night, I came across a feature on Turner Classic Movies, a silent film from 1916 scheduled to run from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

How intriguing that a silent movie from 100 years ago could run that long. The three and a half hours in length alone was enough to make me pay attention.

After I hit the information button, I learned the name of the movie, ”Intolerance”, which also piqued my interest and compelled me to watch a little longer, is considered one of the great masterpieces of the silent era. Not that I am an expert on silent films, but I had never heard of it before.

Directed by D.W. Griffith, the film tells the story of several events that highlight intolerance throughout history, from the Babylonian Empire to modern day crime and redemption up to and including the Ku Klux Klan. At its release, it isn’t surprising that it was a colossal failure.

It held my attention for about 25 minutes, but that’s about all I could take. It’s more of a revelation that hit me while I watched. I’m amazed that with everything this world has been through since the beginning of time, and all of the intolerance we’ve faced, we’re still no better off than we were a few thousand years ago. It’s as if we’ve learned nothing. Things may have improved slightly for now the United States and other countries around the world have better laws in place to fight against intolerance, but we’re still divided, with politics and racial tensions especially, and other social issues drawing attention to our differences.

When I was younger I used to cringe every time one of my parents would say that the world is a pretty terrible place and it used to be so much better in the 1950s. This drove me crazy, and I didn’t want to believe it because the present time they spoke negatively about was all I knew.

In an odd way, my revelation made me happier, and proved my parents wrong — at least about the world not being any worse off than it was in the 1950s, or in ancient Babylon for that matter.

We still have a long way to go, and if history is doomed to repeat itself, I can’ help but wonder if we’ll ever get there.

Happy Birthday, Carly Simon

carlyJune 25, 2018 – It’s no secret that I adore Carly Simon. She’s my favorite female singer/songwriter of all time. In fact, nobody does it better than she does.

The Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe winner turns 73 today. A legend in her own time, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.

The biggest success of her career was the classic “You’re So Vain”, which prompted rumors worldwide as fans speculated who she was singing about when she crooned, “I bet you think this song is about you.” Likely suspects include Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson and Cat Stevens. Recent speculation, however, claims that it’s actually music and movie mogul David Geffen.

Simon, who suffers from severe stage and rarely toured during her hey day. I was lucky enough to see her twice, once in the late 1970s and once in the late 1980s. With much anticipation I waited for her to announce new tour dates for venues in my neighborhood when she toured with her two children, Sally and Ben in the early 2000s. Alas, they didn’t come my way.

If you’re not familiar with Simon’s music, especially the wonderful deeper cuts on her albums, give her half a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

So join me in wishing Carly a Happy Birthday. It’s the right thing to do.

Ok, I may have overdid it with weaving in the song titles. Can you spot how many I mentioned? There’s at least one in every paragraph.

My favorite video of Carly on ; the harmonies are beautiful…

 

Put Down the Duckie

AER-p0009-STpril 23, 2018 – I never watched Sesame Street as a child, but I treasure the moments I shared watching it with my son when he was a toddler.

Sesame Street was never better than it was during those years. It was the mid 80s and we sang along to such classics and C is for CookieThe Ladybug Picnic and the Peanut Butter and Jelly song, sung tenor style to the tune of the graduation march, Pomp and Circumstance.

But the best songs were the Muppet inspired music videos that imitated Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun with Kids Just Love to Brush, the Beatles’ Let it Be with Letter B, and Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell with Rebel L. The creative geniuses behind these music videos stole the heart of every parent who watched with their kids.

Thanks to YouTube.com, these oldies but goodies are still available to view. Below are my two favorites, the blues inspired Put Down the Duckie and Springsteen inspired Born to Add.

Screenplays I Wish I Wrote

April 9, 2018 – With a passion for writing and a love for movies, you’d think I would want to attempt writing a screenplay. I’m still waiting for inspiration, but here are ten screenplays (in no particular order) that have made me crazy with envy over the years:

1. The Big Chill (1983)William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger, Mary Kay Place, JoBeth Williams
Seven thirtysomething college friends reunite for the weekend and the funeral of another college friend. It is the perfect scenario, the perfect cast, and the perfect blend of drama and comedy. Who wouldn’t want to have their name on this wonderful script?

2. Passion of Mind (2000)Demi Moore, Stellan Skarsgard, Sinead Cusack, William Fitchner
I may be the only person who saw and/or liked this little Indy film, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth viewing. Moore plays a woman stuck between two worlds – her real life and her dream life. The problem is she does not know which one is real and which is the dream. Just when I thought all of the original ideas were gone, this clever movie was released.

3. Notorious (1946)Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman
This is my favorite Hitchcock film, and my favorite film overall; therefore, by law it has to make this list. The script is compelling and at times witty, combining spies, romance and Nazis – and how could you go wrong with that?

4. The Breakfast Club (1985)Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall
Five very different high school students spend the day together in detention and it changes their lives and their opinions of each other forever. I am willing to bet everyone can relate to one of these characters, who represent the best and worst of our high school years. A tender and heartbreaking story, and one of John Hughes best.

5. Being There (1979)Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine
A brilliant performance by Sellers highlights a unique and wonderful script. He plays Chance, a simple gardener who had never left the estate where worked his entire life until his employer dies. Sellers is thrown out onto the street to survive on his own, and runs into a plethora of people who mistake his views on gardening – which is all he knows – as pure genius. The script is a clever take on suddenly becoming famous.

6. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)Mark Duplass, Aubrey Plaza
This Indy film is based on a real classified ad the writers found in a magazine that read: “Wanted – someone to go back in time with; must have your own weapons; safety not guaranteed.” Intriguing? Yes. When you find a real life gem like that, how can you not write a fabulous screenplay around it?

7. Amelie (2001)Audrey Tautou
A wonderful and heartwarming French film that focuses on a shy and lonely Parisian waitress (the adorable Tautou) who secretly does good deeds for her neighbors. The story is simple, yet it balances humor and drama brilliantly, and it will change your outlook on life forever.

8. The Sixth Sense (1999) Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment
This is perhaps the best “I didn’t see that coming” screenplay in history, and although everyone probably knows the twist, I won’t ruin it just in case. In addition, with the Philadelphia connection (M. Knight Shyamalan wrote the terrific screenplay), it’s as if my neighbor wrote it, which means I am close to his perfection.

9. Midnight in Paris (2011) Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams
Woody Allen’s fantasy about a writer vacationing in France who accidentally finds a wormhole back to the glory days of Paris in the 1920s, and the wonderful writers and artists who gathered nightly at “salons” to discuss their art. Hey, Woody, it’s my fantasy, too.

10. Airplane! (1980)Robert Hays, Leslie Nielsen, Julie Hagerty
This hilarious spoof on the disaster movies of the 1970s, is one of the best comedies ever. Whenever I try to add humor to what I’ve written, I fail. Since this is the ultimate funny script, it makes my top ten list. It proves simple humor can be very funny, and makes me believe that one day I will succeed.

A Little Sap with My Cheese

November 20, 2017 – I’m a reasonably intelligent person. I’ve read some of the classics, enjoy films with subtitles and stay up-to-date on current events. I also engage in the occasional political debate and can hold my own. My math and science skills may not be Nobel Prize ready, but no one expects me to create the next Facebook or cure cancer, so I get by.

That being said, forgive me for what I’m about to reveal. I love Christmas movies. I can’t get enough of those sugary sweet, sentimental stories that bring tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

Try not to roll your eyes too much. I realize these movies are as far removed from reality as they are from receiving an Oscar nomination. They’re predictable and cheesy because every Christmas movie follows the same formula: someone struggles with something big, then the Christmas magic happens and suddenly it’s a wonderful life.

That syrupy schmaltzy formula is exactly why I watch them. I enjoy when the town folk pitch in to help each other, or when that lonely single mom lands her dream man. I cheer when the orphaned children are adopted on Christmas Eve. And I get giddy when the small town is saved from the big bad corporation that wants to take over.

Watching these movies makes me hope for my own Christmas magic. Then by December 26, I come to my senses and realize I‘m happy to be back to normal again.

As someone who typically appreciates movies with artistic value – at least during the other 11 months of the year, I ask that you allow me this guilty pleasure. And know that if I’m not busy with holiday celebrations or with the chores of daily life, I’m sitting next to my tree with a box of tissues waiting for the magic to begin.

The Art of Storytelling

November 13, 2017 — Anyone who can stand in front of an audience and tell a personal story for five minutes is bold, daring and heroic. It’s almost as if you have no fear of standing naked in public, bearing your inner most secrets for all to hear. It’s not for everyone.

As a writer, I can relate. You want people to read what you’ve written, or what’s the point; but you never want to be in the same room when someone’s reading your work. At least I don’t. It’s too revealing. That’s my fear of standing naked in public.

I had the opportunity to attend a storytelling Grand Slam Saturday night, an event that brought together the season’s best StorySlam winners to go head-to-head for the title of “Best Storyteller in Philadelphia”. StorySlam is a live storytelling competition that allows storytellers (slammers) to tell a story in five minutes or less based on the a chosen theme. On a typical night, brave audience members sign up at the door to tell a true story based on a theme, and ten storytellers are randomly selected to share their most outrageous, heartfelt, and often hilarious tales. Judges, also selected from the audience, determine the StorySlam winner, and a chance to compete in the season finale Grand Slam.

Ten of the season’s best storytellers competed for the title Saturday night, and being the best of the best, they told compelling tales on a variety of subjects based on the theme “willing”. At times, I felt like I was attending a therapy session crossed with open mic night at a comedy club since the stories made me shed a few tears and belly laughs. The tales included living with depression and anxiety, family traditions and the Philadelphia Eagles, childhood memories of birthday cakes and dance classes, and the story of a 13-year-old genius who wrote a book, his teacher who secured a publishing contract for him, and the 33-year-old storyteller who admitted publicly for the first time that both the boy and teacher lived only in his imagination, a fact that didn’t go over well with the publishing house once he admitted the truth. The only flaw I noticed was that only one person could win. Life is like that sometimes.

I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the experience with other audience members,  so it won’t be my last visit to a StorySlam. Being a part of the storyteller’s world, even for five minutes, fed my creativity and my spirit. I look forward to the next season, which begins in January.