Random musings—hump day

Mrs. Sublette

Patricia Sublette was my high school English teacher. I started thinking about her the other day when I read Mary of Flat Rock Creek Notebook’s reminiscence of her teacher. Mrs. Sublette was a very reserved and quiet person who rarely showed any emotion, save a small smile when something happened to please her.

My alma mater was a small country school where one did not receive a stellar education. My husband is one of the smartest people I know. He graduated from the same school, and when he went to college to major in chemical engineering, he nearly flunked out, mainly because of the lack of preparation for college that our school gave us. Most of the students who attended there had no intention of going to college. Their aspirations hardly went further than the local steel mills and coke (coal) factories, and a pay check as soon as they graduated, if they bothered to do so. We did not have AP classes (I’m not sure there even was such a thing then). We didn’t have gifted or accelerated learning classes. Everyone was all mixed together. I don’t think the teachers were inspired to push us. They probably felt they would be wasting their time.

Mrs. Sublette was from Huntington, West Virginia, which was about a thirty minute drive from our school. Because she was very quiet and non-assertive, and probably in her first couple of years of teaching, the rowdy boys in our classes sometimes gave her a hard time. I don’t remember her ever sending one of them to see the principal. I do remember once when our principal, Mr. Hayes, happened to be walking by one day when some of the boys were being disruptive. He was a strict disciplinarian and I thought he was going to tear that room apart when he saw how disrespectful the boys were being to the teacher. They behaved for quite a while after that incident.

I always sat in the front row in Mrs. Sublette’s class. I wanted to hear what she had to say. I loved grammar and literature, and she taught me more about both than I had learned in all the years before. She taught me to appreciate Shakespeare and poetry. She taught me to read a poem the proper way. I was sad when she left our school after my junior year. I never saw her again, never thanked her for making me a better student. I asked where she went, and someone in the office told me that she had gone back to West Virginia to get her master’s in English education.

I googled her name just to see if she showed up. There is a Patricia Sublette in Nitro, West Virginia, age 74. I think it might be her. It seems like the right age. I’m thinking about writing her a letter to thank her for being my teacher. What do you think?

The woman you love to hate

I watched the mini-series “Olive Kitteredge”, which is based on the novel by the same name, written by Elizabeth Strout. Olive is not a lovable person. She’s downright hateful and spiteful, disdainful of her mild-mannered husband, ridiculing of her vulnerable son. She has no tolerance for stupid people, and pretty much everyone with whom she comes into contact falls into that category, in her opinion. Well, she’s a bitch. There’s just no other word that describes her better. By the last installment, Olive changes, in minute ways, but considering her persona, they seem very large. She almost redeems herself. Frances McDormand’s performance as Olive is compelling. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Richard Jenkins as her husband is perfect. The whole mini-series is perfectly cast. I think it’s something that I will have to watch again to catch all of the nuances. I haven’t read the book yet. It’s on my list.

See you soon,

Susan

Review roll

Yep, I’m on a roll, because I can’t get these off my mind, and I want to tell you about them, but I don’t want to do a whole post about each one, so we’ll call it a “review roll call.”

The Imitation Game

If you don’t see any other movie this winter, please go see this one. I knew almost nothing about Alan Turing and his contribution to the Allies’ winning of World War II. His invention of the machine that broke the unbreakable German Enigma code-writing machine probably ended the war at least two years earlier than it might have ended, and saved millions of lives, possibly upwards of 14 million. Not to mention that his invention was basically the very first computer, and we can thank him for the ability to do what we’re doing here. Benedict Cumberbach was perfect for this role, and he deserves his nomination for an Academy Award. I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie, and was moved to tears over what the British authorities did to this man because of the antiquated laws that were on the books at that time. I would have read Andrew Hodges’ book, Alan Turing: The Enigma, which inspired the movie, first, but I didn’t know about it until after. I’m on the library’s waiting list, number 70.

A Child Called “It”, The Lost Boy, etc.

I bought the series of books by Dave Pelzer about his horrific, disturbing childhood a few years ago, only recently read the first two. What his mother, if you can call her that, did to him, along with the passive consent of his father, goes beyond the scope of human imagination. His story is compelling and horrible, and I could only get through the first two books. I admire the fact that he was able to overcome his early life, and yes, even forgive his parents, but reading about it was so depressing that I probably should have stopped somewhere in the first book. But I did want to see how he managed to survive, and once I determined that he did and was fairly normal (maybe), I had to quit. Mr. Pelzer is not a very good writer. It’s only because of the nature of his story that one wants to continue reading.

Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and other thoughts on being a woman

I love Nora Ephron, and I hate that we can no longer hear her voice, except in the re-watching of classics like “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Heartburn”, “You’ve Got Mail”, etc., and re-reading her books. I have to confess, I’ve only read I Feel Bad About My Neck. I loved it, and it was a quick read, because she writes light and breezy, kind of the way we blogging ladies write in our blogs almost daily or weekly. Then I realized, all of us writers of blogs are basically just one book publishing deal away from being a Nora Ephron. Her style reminded me so much of the writing that I see in my Reader on a daily basis. So, thank you, ladies, for giving me laughs, and tears, and information about things I knew very little about, and camaraderie. Most of all, that. We’re all Nora Ephrons.

Into the Woods

There are so many movies out right now that I’m dying to see. I had planned to visit the theatre and indulge more than once over the holidays, but with one thing and another, it didn’t happen. However, I did take Nathan (11) and Kaitlyn (9) to see “Into the Woods” yesterday.

Knowing how complicated Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics can sometimes be, I wondered if they would be able to follow the story and not be bored. I certainly wasn’t bored. I’ve never seen the Broadway musical. Didn’t really even know that much about it, other than it was written by Sondheim, and that it had quite the long run on Broadway.

If you love musicals, as I do, you will love this one. The lyrics are delicious and definitely keep you on your toes. It intertwines the lives of a baker and his wife, who desperately want a child, with a witch who lives next door. Unbeknownst to them, the witch had placed a curse on the baker’s parents when he was a child, because the baker’s father (also a baker) had stolen greens and veggies from her garden. Also part of the story are the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Somehow, the baker and his wife must gather four items from each of these characters to give to the witch so that she can remove the curse.

The casting is superb, starting with the wonderful Meryl Streep as the witch. She tears up the scenery with her performance and has two showcase songs that she performs beautifully. The baker is played by an actor who I hadn’t heard of before, James Corden. He is kind of hapless, and wouldn’t get far without his take-charge, but gentle, wife, played by Emily Blunt. Cinderella is played by Anna Kendrick. Chris Pine makes a perfect Prince Charming who can sometimes be not-quite-so charming. Christine Baranski is Cinderella’s stepmother. Her scenes with the two step-sisters are too funny. Tracey Ullmann plays Jack’s mother. It was nice to see her again in a role that suited her to a tee.

Johnny Depp is a perfect Big Bad Wolf. A little too perfect, in my opinion. The song he sings is creepy, and brings to mind child molestation. I’m sure I’m not the only person viewing it who has had the same feeling. The play was first performed in 1987, and maybe that particular song didn’t have the same connotations that it does now, but for my part they could have left that one out. I was very uncomfortable listening to it.

All of the actors do their own singing, and they sing wonderfully. The most classically trained is Anna Kendrick, which was a surprise. She is best known for her role in the Twilight Saga movies, but she was also nominated for a Tony for her work in “High Society.” Emily Blunt who was not known for her singing abilities has a lovely voice. My favorite was Lilla Crawford who played Little Red Riding Hood. She was droll and funny and held her own against Johnny Depp’s Big Bad Wolf. She’s an actress to watch for. This was her first feature film.

In the movie theatre, I just happened to be seated by a woman who was obviously enjoying it as much as I was. After the credits rolled, I asked her if she had ever seen the musical on stage. She not only had seen it numerous times, but she had also acted in it in local productions as the witch and the baker’s wife! That was her second viewing of the movie. She said that it was very good, and they had only cut a small part. It was long, over two hours. It was a nice little bonus chatting with her.

So, I’m sure you get the idea that I loved the movie, but I was still a little concerned that the kids were bored with it. I think Kaitlyn was a little bit during a couple of the longer numbers, but Nathan gave it two thumbs up. He looked a little surprised when I asked him if he liked it. Grammy, he said, I never thought I would say this, but it just replaced “Frozen” as my number two movie of all time. Number one is Big Hero Six. Now you can’t get much higher praise than that.

See you soon,

Susan