Monthly Archives: November 2012

Ridley Scott 11.30.12 Thought of the Day

“A hit for me is if I enjoy the movie, if I personally enjoy the movie.”

-Ridley Scott


Cover of "Alien (The Director's Cut)"

Cover of Alien (The Director’s Cut)

Ridley Scott was born on this day in South Shields, Tyme & Wear, England in 1937.  He is 75 years old.

An army brat, Scott moved often as a child. He lived in Northern England, Wales, & Germany. He went to the Royal College of Art. Upon graduation he worked as a trainee  set designer. Later he started Ridley Scott Associates with his brother Tony.

His first feature was  The Duelists, but it was his  second film, ALIEN, that made his name in film. He followed Alien with BLADE RUNNER. Next he named a big budget commercial for Apple Macintosh in 1984. 1991 brought  THELMA AND LOUISE with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis. GLADIATOR won 5  Academy Awards. He followed that with BLACK HAWK DOWN.

Other  titles by Scott include:

A Good Year

American Gangster

Body of Lies

Robin Hood

G.I. Jane

In June of 2012 Scott released Prometheus, an Alien semi-prequel.


C.S.Lewis 11.29.12 Thought of the Day

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the ward...

The statue of C. S. Lewis in front of the wardrobe from his book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in East Belfast, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither”
C.S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis was born on this day in Belfast, Ireland in 1898. Today is the 114th anniversary of his birth.

When he was four years old he adopted the nickname “Jack” (short for “Jacksie”) in honor of a beloved neighborhood dog who got hit by a car and died. As a child he and his brother Warren (also known as Warnie) created a fantasy world with talking animals called “Boxen.”

Lewis and Weldon Borland

Lewis and Weldon Borland (Photo credit: Kevin Borland)

When Lewis was nine his mother died of cancer. In 1910 he was sent to Campbell College, a boarding school in Belfast. He withdrew after a year because he developed a respiratory condition. In 1913 he attended Malvern College for a year. There he abandoned his Christian faith and became an atheist.  The following year he left Malvern and was privately tutored.

Lewis received a scholarship to University College Oxford. He started there in 1916, but took a leave of absence to join the Army when World War One broke out. He was injured at the Battle of Arras on April 15, 1918. After his release from the Army in December of 1919 he went back to Oxford. Where he received Firsts in Greek, Latin, Philosophy, Ancient History and English.

He was appointed Fellow and Tutor of English Literature at Oxford University in 1925 (a position he held until 1954 — for 29 years). In 1954 he became chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge.

In 1931 after an evening of discussing Christianity with J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dawson  Lewis converted to Christianity. The following day he and Warnie took a motorcycle ride to the Whipsnade Zoo. ” I did not believe that us Christ was the Son of God, and when we reached the Zoo I did.” [Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis]

At Oxford he was one of the founders of the literary group The Inklings.

He wrote more than 30 books including novels, fantasy literature, Christian literature, literary criticism, and essays. He is best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves and Mere Christianity.

English: Map of Narnian world as described in ...

English: Map of Narnian world as described in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

C.S. Lewis died on November 22nd, 1963 in England.

Jon Stewart 11.28.12 Thought of the Day

“I always knew I shouldn’t have said that.”
— Jon Stewart

Host Jon Stewart in the studio of The Daily Sh...

Host Jon Stewart in the studio of The Daily Show in 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA in 1962. He is 50 years old today.

He grew up in Lawrenceville, New Jersey where he went to Lawrence High School. He went to William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia where he majored in Chemistry before changing to Psychology. He graduated in 1984.

He worked in a number of jobs after graduation from contract administrator to bartender to puppeteer. He began stand up in 1987, adapting stage name Jon Stewart. He wrote for Caroline’s Comedy Hour on TV then co-hosted the Short Attention Span Theatre on Comedy Central. MTV’s Jon Stewart Show followed.

When Craig Killborn left The Daily Show Stewart took his place behind the big desk. He has won 16 Emmy Awards for his work on The Daily Show.

Stewart has written 3 best selling comedy books: Naked Pictures of Famous People; America (The Book) and Earth (The Book).

Jon Stewart (detail of original picture)

Bruce Lee 11.27.12 Thought of the Day

Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon

Bruce Lee: Quest of the Dragon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.

The key to immortality is first living a life worth living.

I fear not the man who has practiced a thousands kicks once; but I fear the man who has practiced one kick a thousand times.

A goal is not always something to be reached, it often serves simply to as something to aim at.

If you want to swim jump into the water.

–Bruce Lee

Lee Jun-fan (Bruce Lee)  was born on this day in San Francisco, CA, USA in 1940. Today is the 2nd anniversary of his birth.

Although he was born in San Francisco he was raised in Hong Kong. He began to train in the martial arts at 13. He studied philosophy at the University of Seattle. Upon graduation he opened a martial arts studio in Oakland and Los Angeles and developed his own art called Jeet Kun Do.

Bruce Lee trained several celebrities before entering the film industry himself. He was born under the sign of  the Dragon and the word dragon appears in several of his movie titles.

Lee  died at the age of 32  from a cerebral edema from an allergic reaction to medicine in July of 1973.


Bruce Lee (Madame Tussauds Hong Kong).

Bruce Lee (Madame Tussauds Hong Kong). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles M. Schultz 11.26.12 Thought of the Day

MSP: Snoopy

MSP: Snoopy (Photo credit: jpellgen)

All you  need is love. But a little chocolate now the doesn’t hurt.

Life is like a ten speed bicycle, most of us have gears we never use.

I love mankind. Its people I can’t stand.

There is no problem so big it can’t be run away from.

A whole sack of memories never equal one hope.

Try not to have a good time this is supposed to be educational.

 “My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?”

Charles Schultz

Ba Jin 11.25.12 Thought of the Day

Sichuanese people

“You have your thoughts and I have mine. This is the fact and you can’t change it even if you kill me.
Ba Jin

Li Yaotang was born on this day in in Chengdu, Sichuan, China in 1908. Today is the 104th anniversary of his birth.

  He began his career in 1927, and has a collected work of 14 volumes of novels and proses. The first volume contains his novel The Family, completed in 1931, and his novellette Autumn in Spring in 1932. The second volume contains his two novelettes Garden of Repose, completed in 1944, and Bitter Cold Nights in 1946. The third volume contains the novelette The Grit Men, and 22 short stories. The fourth volume contains 43 articles on literary creation and other subjects by Ba Jin.[Selected Works of Ba Jin]
He was an anarchist who was often at odds with the Communist Party.But after the Communist Revolution he renounced his anarchist ideas and was considered a politically reliable person.

He was nominated for the Nobel prize in Literature in 1975.

Only Ba Jin statue I've ever seen in China

Only Ba Jin statue I’ve ever seen in China (Photo credit: Foto Jenny)

[today’s blog is a little light because I am traveling.]

Horatio — Secondary Character Saturday 11.24.12

[Welcome to Secondary Character Saturday! If you usually get the Thought of the Day birthday bioBlog, please note that I’ll be doing a special blog on Saturdays instead — Secondary Character Saturday! Isn’t that exciting? Why? Well, after 200 biographies for real people I really miss fictional people, and I want to get to know them a little bit better too. But not just any fictional people, but the people who stand just off-center. The supporting characters who make good literature so much fun to read — or in this case, watch.]


This Saturday’s Secondary Character? HORATIO

The "gravedigger scene" The Gravedig...

The “gravedigger scene” The Gravedigger Scene: Hamlet 5.1.1–205. (Artist: Eugène Delacroix 1839) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From: Hamlet

By: William Shakespeare

Written: 1603 (ish)

Why: Horatio is there at the beginning, he’s there at the end, and he’s there for Hamlet. So he acts as both witness (to the ghost, to Hamlet’s true state of mental health, to the bloody body count at the end of the play, etc) and as sounding board (and best mate) for the protagonist.

[Image courtesy Hamlet Study Guide]

Pros: Loyal to his friends. Steady. Intelligent. Brave. Not politically motivated or ambitious. In a world where power and political position are everything…the unconnected, poor, fellow student of the Prince of Denmark navigates the court by being observant and unobtrusive. His loyalty to Hamlet is his sole commitment and he is willing to give everything for his friend, even his life. It is that friendship, steadfastness, and lack of deception in the den of sycophants and players at court that ground Hamlet and let him know that there are still good, true people in the world. He is also a voice of reason that tempers the storm of anger and emotion in his friend.

Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet and Nicholas Farrell as Horatio in the 1996 version of Hamlet [Image courtesy: Daily]

Cons: Compared to Hamlet, Horatio is a bit vanilla. He lacks flare and ambition. And as loyal as he is to Hamlet, perhaps he could have stood up to him a bit more and guided him to a safer path.

Sketch from Act 1: Scene 2 where Horatio tells Hamlet about his father’s ghost. [Image Courtesy: Hyperion to a satyr]

With out Horatio we (the audience) would only know what Hamlet was really thinking through his soliloquies. He can be staged as “the shadow of Elsinor”, appearing (some times in a crowd, sometimes half hidden) in scenes where he doesn’t have a line  and gaining information for both the audience and the Prince.

Here’s a clip from the BBC’s Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet with Derek Jacobi as Hamlet and Robert Swann as Horatio. I think it nicely shows Horatio’s patience…

And for you CSI hipsters here’s Horatio take on Hamlet (just for Maggie):

Harpo Marx 11.23.12 Thought of the Day

“He looked like something that had gotten loose from Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
–Harpo Marx

English: Photograph of Harpo Marx playing the ...

Adolph Marx was born on this day in New York City, New York, USA in 1888. Today is the 124th anniversary of his birth.

The second  of five brothers in the Marx family, Adolph didn’t make it past second grade in school. He was small for his age and he was picked on by the bigger boys because he was Jewish. Two boys literally threw him out of the (first floor) classroom window on several occasions before he gave up and left school.  He joined his brother Chico in doing odd jobs to help the family.

His uncle Al Schoenberg (stage name Al Shean) was in a Vaudeville act. His older brother Chico played piano, and his younger bother Julius (Groucho) was a boy soprano. Adolph joined Julius and Milton (Gummo) to form “the Three Nightingales” in 1910. Lou Levy joined them to make the group “The Four Nightingales.” When their mother, Minnie, and Aunt Hannah joined the act they changed the name to “The Six Mascots.”

The five Marx brothers with their parents in N...

The five Marx brothers with their parents in New York City, 1915. From left to right; Groucho, Gummo, Minnie (mother), Zeppo, Frenchy (father), Chico, and Harpo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1911 he changed his name to Arthur because he didn’t like the sound of Adolph. He adopted the stage name of Harpo when his mother sent him a harp. He didn’t know how to tune it or play it. He didn’t even know how to hold it until he found an image of an angel holding a harp at the 5&10 store. He tuned it the best he could and taught himself to play.

At that point Harpo’s two-fold schtick — he “couldn’t talk” so he blew his horn  or whistled to communicate; and he played the harp — was in place. (He could, in fact, talk. And he did so — a lot — off stage/scene. His “speaking career” stopped after he received a bad review for a largely ad-libbed performance in the play Home Again.)

A critic in the local newspaper described the show by saying, in part, “Adolph Marx performed beautiful pantomime which was ruined whenever he spoke.” Harpo then decided he could do a better job of stealing focus by not speaking. [The Marx Brothers; Harpo Marx from an article in Theatre Arts Monthly, October 1939]


The four Marx Brothers stowing away on an ocea...

The four Marx Brothers stowing away on an ocean vessel by hiding in barrels in this promotional still for Monkey Business. Left to right: Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, Groucho. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Vaudeville stage the Marx Brothers moved on to Hollywood. They made the short, Humor Risk, in 1921. (The film has since been lost.)  Harpo was then in Too Many Kisses as the character “The Village Peter Pan.” He actually has a line in this movie, but, as it’s a silent film, you don’t actually hear him speak it. His brothers did not appear in the film.

In 1929 the brothers put out The Cocoanuts.The film was based on their Broadway play of the same name. In it…

the Marx Brothers run a hotel, auction off some land, thwart a jewel robbery, and generally act like themselves. [IMDB]

They shot during the day and performed in the stage show of Animal Crackers at night. It was an exhausting schedule and the Brothers were not happy with the result. They were “so appalled … that they offered to buy the negative from Paramount so that they could burn it.” [Ibid]

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, fa...

Marx Brothers, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. Top to bottom: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Brothers made Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers , Duck Soup, A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, Room Service, At the Circus, Go West, The Big Store, A Night in Casablanca, and Love Happy in quick succession.

Starting in 1952 Harpo started doing guest spots on Television, most notably on the I Love Lucy Show.

His last film was The Story of Mankind in 1957.  He played Sir Isaac Newton.

Off screen Harpo, the elementary school drop out, rubbed shoulders with some pretty high level literary types. In the 1920’s he held his own at the Algonquin Round Table with writers such as George S. Kaufman and Dorothy Parker. In 1928 he spent the summer on the French Riviera with George Bernard Shaw.

He attributes his welcome hanging out with the fast literary crowd at the Algonquin Round Table in New York in the 1920s to his ability to listen — in fact, to being the one real listener in that set. [Robert Wilfred Franson’s review of Harpo Speaks]

In 1933 Harpo did a 6-week goodwill mission in the Soviet Union. He was the “first American to perform in the Soviet Union after the United States government officially recognized it.” [Harpo’s Place] According to his autobiography, Harpo Speaks, the trip was part performance and part spy caper.  He smuggled papers out of the USSR by taping them to his leg.

Marx died while having open-heart surgery on September 28, 1964.

Here’s a clip of Harpo actually speaking (and honking):

Bonus Thanksgiving Thoughts…

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.

He enjoys much who is thankful for little;
a grateful mind is both a great and happy mind.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
–Marcel Proust

Let us rise up and be thankful; for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.

I am grateful for what I am and have.
My thanksgiving is perpetual…
O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.
No run on my bank can drain it
for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.
–Henry David Thoreau
Be grateful for whomever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
–Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light. Give thanks for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.
–Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Indian Chief

%d bloggers like this: